Page 1

research scholarship cr e at i v e ac t i v i t y volume 17 :: issue 1


s t u de n t sp ecial e dition


cover story

Exploring true stories 24 Go behind the lens with a documentary filmmaker

also featured

the american

chestnut tree returns

building a bet ter pl astic new insights into heart health and obesit y

c r e at i n g

s o cial c h ange in l atin america www.o h i o . e d u / r e s e a rc h



RETURN OF THE NATIVE Biologists revive the chestnut tree at former coal mine sites


How do forest management strategies used to combat wildfires impact tree growth?



Environmental Restoration and Land Management

16 Education + Linguistics

student spotlight


pages through




Can engineers develop a more flexible, eco-friendly plastic for packaging?

PROBLEM SOLVED How math literacy can improve quality of life


An international team of students explores how working memory may help us learn second languages


Athletic Training

Health Psychology

Athletic trainers work to protect young athletes from injury

How psychology researchers use mind/body strategies to break down barriers to blood donation




Physics and Astronomy


Heath Kersell uses and builds sophisticated equipment to analyze materials for new technologies



s t u de n t

w w w. o h i o . e d u / r e s e a r c h

special edition

Nutrition + Medicine



Lara Householder explores how the quality— not the quantity—of fat tissue in the body may harm health

THE HEART OF THE MATTER Adam Jara balances heart research with clinical training in unique program

28 Communication


How an activist organization uses video to create social change in Latin America


News programs reveal how Colombians view corruption




From the war in Iraq to internet security, Jeremy Zerechak uses documentary filmmaking to explore issues





Sociology and Anthropology






Sociologist Heather Dumas explores the Renaissance festival subculture

Sarah Green finds creative expression through poetry and song

How can cities determine the best locations for wind turbines?

Sound design plays an integral role in progressive theater



student photos: Rob Hardin


u p fr o nt


from the office of research


Our commitment to graduate education


ith this issue of Perspectives, we are pleased to showcase examples of the research, scholarship, and creative activity resulting from

the efforts of our talented graduate students.

The nature of advanced study means that graduate students are at the forefront of their fields, working in partnership with faculty and staff to create knowledge and advance culture. The contributions of graduate students are a key part of the vitality of the institution, underscoring that human understanding is never static. Undergraduates benefit from the opportunities to interact with their graduate peers in the classroom, the lab, the studio, and the community. Graduate education is an integral part of Ohio University. The first graduate degree was awarded by the university in 1825, and graduate education has expanded in parallel with the institution’s growth over the ensuing years. Today more than 4,000 graduate students are enrolled in 66 master’s programs and 31 doctoral programs. Alumni of our graduate programs go on to be Nobel Prize winners, such as Venki Ramakrishnan (Ph.D. in Physics, 1976); academic leaders, such as Ohio State University’s new Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz (Ph.D. in Psychology, 1983); Pulitzer Prize recipients, such as Washington Post photographer Michel duCille (M.A. in Visual Communication/ Journalism, 1994); entrepreneurs, such as Athenian Ventures partner and former Diagnostic Hybrids CEO


photos: Rob Hardin

David Scholl (Ph.D. in Microbiology, 1981); and NASA Project Scientists, such as Lori Ploutz-Snyder (Ph.D. in Biology, 1994). Ohio University is expanding graduate opportunities to enable individuals to advance in their careers while generating innovation and creativity to benefit the state and humanity at large. Part of this effort is occurring via creation of new programs to meet the evolving needs of society, such as a graduate certificate in health informatics now under development by the College of Health Sciences and Professions. A second focus of our efforts is to provide new modes of delivery to broaden access to our programs. Several programs are now available in a blended delivery structure with virtual and weekend residential components at the Athens campus or Pickerington Center. These include the Master’s of Business Administration, Financial Economics, Public Administration, and Sports Administration. In addition, nine master’s programs are now available fully online, with more options under development. Details can be found at the eLearning Ohio website www. The growing complexity of society and the needs of a 21st century economy call for individuals with skill sets provided by master’s and doctoral level education.

Projections by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the largest percentage of growth in employment over the current decade by educational category will be at the master’s degree level, with a 22 percent increase between 2010 and 2020. Employment growth for holders of doctoral or professional degrees is close behind, at 20 percent. Beyond employment numbers, we all benefit from the expertise, innovation, and creativity of fellow citizens, co-workers, and friends whose aspirations for excellence are nurtured by graduate education. The pages of this special issue provide examples of such talented individuals and the opportunities they have found at Ohio University.

m ore than

Vice President for Research President of Ohio University and Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College


g r a d uat e s t u d e n ts

are enrolled at Ohio University in

66 31

master’s p r o g r a m s

d o c to r a l p r o g r a m s

about perspectives Perspectives: Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Ohio University is published twice per year by the Office of Research Communications, which reports to the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity. The magazine serves its readers by providing information about the research, scholarly, and creative activities of Ohio University faculty, staff, and students, and about the contributions of university research in general through the publication of accurate and balanced journalistic content that informs, stimulates intellectual discussion, and promotes scholarly inquiry. For more information about the research program at Ohio University, please contact: Office of the Vice President for Research and Creative Activity Web: | E-mail: | Phone: (740) 593-0370

s t u d e n t

research highlights

:: athletic training | by Karen Fatula

Safe play

Player safety is a big concern for the nation’s youth football leagues. Medical experts have endorsed using different tackling techniques, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes concussion awareness protocols to avoid athlete injuries. To better understand the risks of youth (or “peewee”) football, Ohio University’s Division of Athletic Training has partnered with USA Football and the Datalys Center on a nationwide study. Of 10 data collection sites across the country, Ohio University is responsible for three, says Brian Ragan, an assistant professor of athletic training. “This is the first injury epidemiology study looking at youth football,” he says. Matthew Jackson and Kristen Wells, both first-year master’s students in the athletic training program, helped Ragan collect data during fall 2012. The graduate students worked 20 hours per week on the study, attending all practices and games with the selected teams in West Virginia and Ohio. “Our program has traditionally only offered clinical graduate assistant opportunities. This year was the first year where there was a chance for research assistantships, and Kristen and I both jumped on the opportunity,” Jackson says. In addition to the data collection, the graduate students taught players and coaches proper safety protocols, which helped to reduce injuries. Not many youth football leagues enjoy the benefit of having their own athletic trainers, they note.

Athletic trainers work to protect young athletes from injury

(Above) Kristen Wells and Matthew Jackson jumped at the chance to participate in a national study on injuries in youth football.

“This is the first time they have had an athletic trainer on the sideline at all practices and games, and they really enjoy the opportunity,” Jackson says. Jackson and Wells both say they chose to attend Ohio University for the research opportunities the school offered. In addition to the youth football safety project, they’re embarking on related studies for their master’s theses. Wells is examining the adherence

of student athletes to concussion rehabilitation protocols. She has designed an Apple iApp so athletes can record their activity and symptoms. Jackson is applying social cognitive theory and the idea of mental toughness to promote weight loss among obese people. He plans to turn weight loss into a competition and will use motivational e-mails to encourage participants to keep up with the program.

: : student


kristen wells












Belleville, Ontario Sheridan College

Research and clinical experience while advancing my education Brian Ragan

Master’s degree

Townsend, Massachusetts University of New England Good professors, nice campus, and it will help me pursue my goal of obtaining a Ph.D. Brian Ragan

Master’s degree

inset photos: rob hardin; additional image,


research highlights

:: health psychology | by Jennifer Doyle

Drawing donors

How psychology researchers use mind/body strategies to break down barriers to blood donation


hile blood donation needs in the United States are being met, this is largely credited to a rise

in first-time donors. The American Red Cross recently lowered the age of donor eligibility, which has led to an increase in high school blood drives in those states where 16-year-olds are now eligible.

What the field isn’t seeing, however, is an increase in donors returning. “The most frequent repeat donor group is the 40- to 49-year-old age bracket, and so there’s an interesting shift that has the potential to happen in the coming years,” says Jennifer Kowalsky, a doctoral student in psychology. “Our most frequent donors are going to hit the age of increased medical procedures. They’re going to shift from donors to recipients of blood products.”

Although there are various factors that motivate or deter people when donating blood, Kowalsky is focused on removing one particular barrier. During blood donations, oxygen levels in the brain are characteristically diminished, and for some donors this can result in lightheadedness and nausea. Kowalsky is the first researcher to focus on proactive strategies to maintain steady levels of cerebral oxygen in donors. For her master’s thesis she tested a method called “applied muscle tension,” which involves cyclically tensing quad, glute, and core muscles during donation. She found promising results. “Jen’s study demonstrated for the first time that this technique helped to maintain elevated levels of oxygenated blood flow in the brain during the blood draw,” says Christopher France, her academic advisor. Her work has potentially important implications not just for blood donors, he notes, but a wide variety of people who are at risk of fainting due to existing medical or psychological conditions. In her quest to develop more intervention techniques, Kowalsky has embarked on a new study that uses an optical illusion. The experiment consists of covering a volunteer’s arm and instructing her to focus on a fake model limb—the kind that phlebotomists use for practice—that is situated in the real arm’s place. The administrator

:: student

PROFILE j e n n i f e r kowa l s k y Hometown


University of Calgary


To learn from Christopher France, a leading psychology researcher in the blood donation experience DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in psychology F u t u r e pl a n s

To continue to evaluate donor recruitment and retention strategies, and to develop a research line examining global health issues

simultaneously strokes both the real and fake arms, which produces the sensation of the fake arm being part of the subject’s body. Essentially, the volunteer’s mind “adopts” the rubber appendage as her own. The psychological effect of the optical illusion is so strong that when a simulated blood draw is conducted on the rubber arm, Kowalsky is able to chart physiological changes in the subject’s respiration. She hopes to determine a potential association between these changes and subsequent adverse reactions in blood donors.

Jennifer Kowalsky uses a rubber arm to create an optical illusion, which allows her to simulate blood draws and gauge responses of volunteers.


photos: Rob Hardin

:: student

PROFILE heath kersell Hometown


Ohio University (Lancaster and Athens campuses) REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

Excellent research opportunities Fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Saw-Wai Hla


Master’s and doctoral degrees in physics and astronomy

This illustration shows the structure of the molecular motors under study by Heath Kersell and his advisor Saw-Wai Hla. image at left: Saw-wai hla; portrait, rob hardin

:: physics | by Jessica Salerno

Under the microscope Heath Kersell uses—and builds—sophisticated equipment to analyze materials for new technologies Few physics students can say that they helped analyze a first-ofits-kind molecular motor, published a research article in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology, and helped the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory to construct a major new piece of scientific equipment all in one year. But those are exactly the achievements you’ll find Heath Kersell adding to his resume. Kersell, a doctoral candidate in physics and astronomy, is a student of condensed matter physics, which is the study of the properties of materials. He was attracted to the area because of its applications to everyday life. “I think that the knowledge gained from physics research is sometimes used to make extremely useful advances in technology.

And I like that the research that I do could one day be applied to actually make people’s lives better,” he says. Kersell, who works with physics professor Saw-Wai Hla, studies the development of machines at the nanoscale, where matter behaves in unexpected ways. “Just like other machines, they need some sort of energy to operate,” he says. “My research focuses on a type of molecular rotor that’s a candidate for not only a source of energy inputs for nanoscale machines, but also as a potential component for other more complicated devices under development at the molecular scale.” In December, Kersell, Hla, and an international team of researchers revealed images of the molecular motor, which can rotate clockwise

“I think that the knowledge gained from physics research is sometimes used to make extremely useful advances in technology. And I like that the research that I do could one day be applied to actually make people’s lives better.” heath kerse l l

and counterclockwise. It’s the first time nanoscientists have designed and been able to control the movements of such a complex device. In April, Kersell won the 2012 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award from the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools for his contributions to the project. He’s Ohio University’s first recipient of the award in more than a decade. Working in the Hla lab not only led to interesting new findings in nanotechnology, but helped Kersell gain experience with the scanning tunneling microscopy equipment necessary to carry

out the experiments. This type of microscope helps to image individual molecules. That experience led Kersell to his current internship at Argonne, located just outside of Chicago, where he is building a new scanning tunneling microscope. “The opportunity to build an entire STM system, especially one having additional capabilities like laser access for the microscope, is relatively rare for students,” he says. Kersell hopes that his work could one day help scientists grappling with how to make smaller but effective electronic devices for industry.


research highlights

:: student

PROFILE heather dumas Hometown

Lexington, Kentucky P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Shawnee State University


The excellent sociology program and the great college town environment Fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Christine Mattley


Master’s degree in sociology F u t u r e pl a n s

Doctoral degree in sociology

: : s o c i o lo g y | by K a ren Fatula

Role play

Sociologist Heather Dumas explores the Renaissance festival subculture


hen Heather Dumas started attending Renaissance festivals 10 years ago, she became

fascinated by this alternative world of knights, pirates, princesses, and jesters. Not only do “rennies” dress in

period clothing and participate in activities such as jousting and pub sing-alongs, but they might also take on personas quite different from their everyday lives. Dumas, a student of sociology, decided to embark on an ethnographic study of identity, role play, and social interactions in these “shared fantasy environments.” Although her project focuses on Renaissance festivals— events held across the United States that offer recreations of the 15th and 16th centuries for educational and entertainment purposes—she notes that her work also is applicable to other social historical reenactments and online gaming.


photos (this page and opposite page): Rob Hardin

She’s looking at the roles people choose to play at the festivals, which can range from royalty and entertainers to blacksmiths and pirates. Her work fits into a larger body of sociology research that examines how people retreat into subcultures to pursue different identities. “Fantasy play is an environment where adults can try out new things, test who they are and who they could be, and possibly integrate some positive aspects of play into their mainstream identities,” she says. To access the complex social world of Renaissance festivals, Dumas found that she needed to participate, often by wearing pirate garb. “If I had walked in with a notebook and voice recorder wearing plain clothes and just started talking with these people, I would not have gotten the depth of information and the detail and insight that putting on a Renaissance pirate

hat got me,” she says. Dumas, who is keeping a blog about her experiences attending these historical fairs, offers one firsthand account of how social roles can change. She once wore a different costume that signified that she was part of the nobility, and was fascinated by how the other festival participants treated her with much more deference and formality than if she had been wearing her pirate gear. For the project, which has been supported by the Shelly Fund for student research in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and a campaign, Dumas traveled to several festivals around the country, conducting in-depth interviews with participants. For some, participating in Renaissance fairs is a fun hobby, she’s found, while others make a living working the circuit and finding employment in related activities.

: : e n g l i s h | by K a re n Fatula

The write way

Sarah Green finds creative expression through poetry and song


arah Green has an artistic energy that inspires her to write for both the page and the stage.

The doctoral student in English is a nationally award-winning poet and songwriter.

“My music influences my poetry by giving my poems an awareness of rhythm, tone, and the sounds of language,” Green says, “while my poetry influences my music by developing my attention to images and metaphors.” Green and fellow musician Andy Cambria formed the duo Heartacre in Massachusetts. She received a grant from the Iguana Music Fund at Club Passim that allowed her to record their first album, Climb. The album was released as a digital project available at While Green can be heard singing and playing her original compositions at coffee houses around the Ohio University campus, she came to Athens to continue to hone her poetry craft and teach. Her creative writing has garnered her national acclaim over the last few years. In 2009, she was awarded the prestigious Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses for her poem “Chances Are, Lafayette, Indiana,” published in the Gettysburg Review. In 2011, the Oberlin College Letterpress Project published Temporary Housing, a chapbook of her poems. Last year, poet and editor Matthew Dickman included her piece “What to expect when you become a motel balcony” in Best New Poets 2012: 50 Poems from Emerging Writers. She was one of 50 poets chosen for inclusion in the annual anthology. Themes of love, luck, and travel infuse Green’s writing. She strives to write poems and songs that are accessible to a general audience. “It’s hard to know why one creative impulse leads to a poem and one to a song, but it seems like I will be more inclined to write a song when I want to tell a story or develop a theme or realization, and a poem when I want to sit with a mystery and be open to surprise,” Green explains. As Green continues to write with an eye toward publication of additional chapbooks and recordings, she’s also discovered a love of teaching. She’s taught poetry workshops for a variety of audiences, from fellow artists to teenage girls in rehab. Her goal is to continue to inspire students while pursuing her own creative work.

:: student

PROFILE sarah green Hometown

Lexington, Massachusetts P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Oberlin College, Purdue University DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in English fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Mark Halliday

“My music influences my poetry by giving my poems an awareness of rhythm, tone, and the sounds of language, while my poetry influences my music by developing my attention to images and metaphors.” Sarah green


research highlights

:: geography | by Jennifer Doyle

Energy hot spots

How can cities determine the best locations for wind turbines?


s someone who spent her childhood sailing the coast of Lake County, graduate student

Jessica Kelley is very familiar with Lake Erie’s knack for serving up a good gust of wind. But upon viewing Lincoln Electric’s installation of a massive wind turbine near the shoreline of Euclid, Ohio, she still couldn’t

help but wonder why the company had located it there.

“When I see a wind turbine, I see this wonderful piece of technology, years of engineering refinement that have gone into making this possible.” jessica kelley

Kelley’s master’s thesis aims to answer that question with a model and methodology for determining optimal placement of wind turbines. If it works, she is hopeful that professionals in the renewable energy field can use the tool, as there currently is no systematic method of making such decisions. Kelley plans to take a variety of different factors such as population density, industrial development, and migratory bird flight patterns and assign them various weightings. She will then collect data for each factor, enter it into a computer program called ArcGIS, and run an analysis on the data. “The program should spit the results right out onto the map,” Kelley says. Once she gets those initial results, Kelley will take them to the zoning directors and city planners of the nine different Lake County municipalities included in her study—Willowick, Eastlake, Mentor-onthe-Lake, Mentor, Grand River, Fairport Harbor, Painesville, North Perry, and Madison. Because she will tailor the weightings to the needs and priorities of each city, based on rankings provided by the city officials, she hopes that city planners will be more inclined to use the model. “It offers a unique perspective, and it begins to extend the use of geographic information systems into a very new and exciting area,” says James Lein, Kelley’s academic advisor, about the project concept. One of Kelley’s biggest challenges has been finding data sets that are relevant and in the format required by the computer system. She is also aware of a different type of challenge—the so-called “N.I.M.B.Y.” (“not in my backyard”) reaction. She acknowledges that not everyone welcomes the proliferation of wind turbines in Lake County. “I don’t see that side of it, but I know that it’s there. When I see a wind turbine, I see this wonderful piece of technology, years of engineering refinement that have gone into making this possible,” she says. “Other people can see this scary, giant fan in the sky.” Kelley expressed frustration with those whose primary concerns are the aesthetic effects of turbine installations. She points out that our need for sustainable energy is too great to dismiss wind power. She also argues that there are plenty of areas that have “low scenic value” where installing turbines won’t be perceived as an intrusion on the horizon. “I think that we should appreciate what the wind turbine is doing for us, the future of our world, and generations to come,” she says.

:: student

PROFILE jessica kelley Hometown

Concord Township, Ohio P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

University of Toledo


To expand my education in environmental geography/planning DE G REE P URSUED

Master’s degree in geography image:; portrait, Rob Hardin


fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

James Lein

:: th e at e r | by Ta y l o r Eva n s

Now hear this Sound design plays an integral role in progressive theater

Although audiences may not always be aware of the work of the sound designer in the theater, it’s a role that can be just as complex and important as that of director, says doctoral student Dan Dennis. Dennis is part of a small but growing field of scholars examining the art of sound design—music cues or sound effects, such as the slam of a car door or a clap of thunder—for the stage. “Sound, I’m trying to argue, is an important element of an imaginative world that is being created,” he says. “It already exists in life.” Dennis is studying the SITI Company, a progressive theater company in New York City known for pioneering the Viewpoints Method, in which actors use practices from modern dance. The company fosters a strong collaborative environment for its actors and designers. “I think that their work is awesome, as it’s open to multiple readings,” Dennis says. “I can see how some people might not like their work because of that, because it’s not trying to say just one thing.” Dennis closely follows SITI Company sound designer Darron West, who recently won a Tony Award for his work on Peter and the Starcatcher. West taught Dennis that a sound designer makes just as many decisions about a show as the director does, collaborating with artists from the beginning of a play to the very end. “The choices any designer makes should be about developing the theme or concept of the play—not just making clear the story (if there is one), but exploring the ideas. West is certainly not the only one doing this, but he does this very well,” he says. Research on his dissertation, which has been supported by an Ohio University Kantner Fellowship, included travel to New York City, Chicago, and Maryland to visit theaters. Dennis hopes that his project on the unique company may help other theater troupes understand and even work to emulate SITI Company’s creative environment. It demands that all members participate in different aspects of the play production process, and also seeks participation from the audience. “I like theater that requires you to do your own thinking,” he says. Dennis has an extensive background in the theater. He’s earned degrees in acting and theater pedagogy, and has worked as a music director, sound designer, voice coach, and teacher. He has written and directed for the stage. “I spent a lot of time in the theater in the last 20, 25 years,” Dennis says, “so all of that has influenced the way that I’m thinking about approaching this project.”

:: student

Dan dennis



Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Virginia Commonwealth University DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in interdisciplinary arts fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

William Condee

F u t u r e pl a n s

Currently applying for university faculty positions photo: Rob Hardin


Biologists revive the chestnut


tree at former coal mine sites

by Phi l i p B ar n e s

of the

Keith Gilland is working to bring life back to old coal mining sites in Ohio by reintroducing a longlost species, the American chestnut tree. This “redwood of the east� used to cover 25 percent of the forests in the eastern United States. Save for a few survivors, the tree has been extinct from the state since the early 1930s, a victim of blight. :: student prof i l e

land reclamation

keith gilland Hometown


Miami University


Continuing to work with Brian McCarthy on chestnut restoration/mine land reclamation DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in environmental and plant biology fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Brian McCarthy

F u t u r e pl a n s

Applying for tenure-track jobs at four-year institutions and postdoctoral research positions


“Reintroducing the American chestnut is a learning experience in itself,” Gilland says. “They disappeared before people did what we call modern ecology, so no one really knows anything about growing them.” But the American Chestnut Foundation has been determined to revive the species, says Brian McCarthy, Gilland’s advisor. “The foundation is finishing up a 30-year breeding program to create a blight-resistant tree,” McCarthy says. “They’ve finally done it. I thought about putting chestnut trees out on reclaimed strip mines, killing two birds with one stone in a double-barreled project.” Gilland first met McCarthy eight years ago in Wisconsin, where a rare 100-acre strain of chestnut trees avoided the blight. In fall 2008, the student first started growing American chestnuts on strip mines. It was—and still is—a guessing game of how to make it work. So far Gilland has planted more than 5,000 American chestnuts on old coal mines in locations such as Zanesville and Cadiz, Ohio. It is a meticulous process. He monitors tree growth on a monthly basis and uses small plastic tubes to surround the saplings, protecting them from small rodents and deer. About half have survived. “I went into the project thinking that every one of the seedlings could die. I’m actually very happy with our progress and what I’ve learned,” he says. Through trial-and-error, Gilland discovered that chestnuts prefer open areas with little shade. They also tolerate dry soils, making them a perfect candidate for mine site reclamation. Sometimes, however, growing them just isn’t possible. “On some of the older sites we’ve worked at, mining companies just left giant, acre-wide holes in the middle of forests,” Gilland says. “Fifty years later, it still looks like the surface of the moon. The remaining soil is too acidic, even for the chestnut.” Due to the 1977 Mine Site Reclamation Act, coal companies are required to cover at least 80 percent of their former mining sites with vegetation. Many companies have used quickgrowing invasive grass species, which aren’t particularly picky about soil type. Truckloads of sandstone, stockpiled topsoil, and “whatever else is there” are used to fill in holes, Gilland says. The mix is then compressed by giant bulldozers, and the nutrient-rich soil that was once on top often ends up far beneath the

Keith Gilland has participated in an effort, spearheaded by the American Chestnut Foundation, to breed and repopulate a blight-resistant chestnut tree in the United States.

ground. The sites can remain as blotchy patches of grassland for decades, he says. Because planting trees may be more costeffective and yield better results, coal companies are funding studies on ideal growing conditions. Gilland is researching the benefits of introducing root fungi to help chestnuts take in more nutrients from soil, though his success thus far has been limited. “With trees, there’s no need for fertilization or expensive hydroseeding [mixing seed and mulch for faster growth],” says Gilland. “There just needs to be a policy change, a new set of government guidelines and inspection based on tree survival over a long term.” Why choose the American chestnut over an oak or elm for such reclamation work? While oaks generate a varying number of acorns per year, Gilland’s surviving trees produce a steady annual supply of carb-heavy chestnuts, which are easier for wildlife to digest. And while there have been some challenges along the way, the researchers are also encouraged by their successes. A big comeback for the chestnut just might be around the corner. “A lot of my trees look totally awesome now,” Gilland says. “Many of the ones I planted when I was an undergrad at Miami University are now 10 to 15 feet tall.”

“I went into the project thinking that every one of the seedlings could die. I’m actually very happy with our progress and what I’ve learned.” Keith Gill a n d

field photos: Julia Chapman, Jockey Hollow Wildlife Management Area; additional images,


How do forest management strategies used to combat wildfires impact tree growth?

by Phi l i p B arne s photography by R ob H ard i n

survivors In an effort to combat destructive wildfires, forestry management professionals began using techniques such as thinning or methodically setting fire to dead branches and twigs that could set off a big blaze.

forestry management


:: student profile

alexander anning Home country



Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

University’s Environmental and Plant Biology program suited my career aspirations DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in environmental and plant biology fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Brian McCarthy

“Before the Smokey the Bear campaign, fires used to be an integral component of forest ecosystems in North America,” explains Ohio University doctoral student Alexander Anning. “Prescribed forest fire is a relatively new management technique, occurring within the last 20 years.” Because past studies have focused on how these controlled fires have increased rates of new tree growth, Anning wondered about how the treatments impacted the trees that survived. “There is a lack of attention to trees that remain after a controlled burn or thinning,” he says. “These large trees are important for maintaining the prevailing conditions in forests.” Finding suitable specimens was easy, as Anning was able to use a site previously managed by his advisor, Brian McCarthy, who was part of a nationwide study on prescribed fires in 2000. “The project’s funding ended in 2005, but the infrastructure was still there—it was a perfect fit,” McCarthy says. Anning extracted 700 straw-sized tree cores from five different species in Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest and Zaleski State Forest. Back in the laboratory, Anning used a microscope to examine ring structures within each of his core samples, dating from 1991 to 2012. Tree rings are useful for understanding the effects of the environment on tree growth, he explains, because they can provide accurate records of past growth conditions at interannual, annual, and decadal scales. In four out of the five species investigated, rings were a similar size up until 2000, when the burning and thinning began. From then on the rings appeared bigger and healthier. “It showed that the trees were growing at a faster rate after the burning and thinning,” Anning says. “Bigger rings also mean that the trees were storing more carbon after treatment. Anything that takes carbon out of the atmosphere is important, especially as global warming becomes more of a problem.” Anning evaluated the effectiveness of three different treatment types: controlled burning, thinning, and a combination of both. When compared to the control group, chestnut oak, yellow poplar, black oak, and hickory trees all experienced varying growth rate increases depending on the treatment. White oak was the only outlier, as it did not show any appreciable increase after thinning or the combined treatment. “Understanding growth of remaining trees is crucial in choosing the right type of treatment,”

Anning says. “Certain trees grow better with certain treatments. Also, you don’t want to accidentally kill all the white oaks in a forest after a controlled burn.” Anning hopes his research will be used to refine the use of prescribed forest fire and thinning. He’s been able to attract funding from a variety of Ohio University sources to advance this work, including the Donald Clippinger Fellowship, the Student Enhancement Award, the Graduate Student Senate Original Work Grant, and support from the Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies. After completing his dissertation, he will return to his home in Ghana, where he plans to implement his research. “Forest fires are a problem in Ghana, too,” Anning says. “Now, I’ll be able to go back and share my knowledge.”

(Above) After extracting 700 straw-sized tree cores from five different species, Anning returned to the lab to examine ring structures within each of the samples. (Opposite page and Below) Tree rings are useful for understanding the effects of the environment on tree growth, as they provide accurate records of past growth conditions.



Can engineers develop a more flexible, eco-friendly plastic for packaging?

by Je ssica Sal ern o photography by r ob hard i n




of “going green” for one person can mean anything from driving a hybrid car to simply recycling glass bottles. But Barbi Wheelden, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, is thinking more globally. She’s seeking a way for manufacturers to use a more eco-friendly and biodegradable plastic in their packaging. Wheelden is using a component called polylactide, a bio-based plastic that comes from any crop with a starch, such as corn or sugar. However, polylactide (also known as PLA) itself is too brittle, making it necessary to blend a more flexible polymer or other plasticizing additive with it in order to use it for flexible packaging. She’s researching how to come up with a bio-based, eco-friendly plasticizer so that PLA can be used for an even broader range of applications. “My goal is to create a more flexible, tougher polylactide blend,” she says. Currently, Wheelden explains, it’s more expensive to make bio-based plastics than synthetic plastics like polyethylene. She and her advisor, Sunggyu Lee, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, hope that their work could make bio-based plastics a more viable alternative. “By creating polymers from bio-based resources, they would come from a renewable source and would decrease dependence on petroleum-based products,” Lee says. “The biodegradability of packaging materials would be greatly beneficial so they could be fully composted rather than taking up space in landfills.” So far Wheelden, who is working with natural rubber, has studied two different blends and has made numerous presentations on her research, including at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual conference. She traveled to Korea last summer to complete a research internship. In Athens, she conducts her research at Lee’s Sustainable Energy and Advanced Materials Laboratory, where she uses newly acquired equipment to make samples and test various properties of them. She’s known Lee since her undergraduate days at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. During her senior year, she decided to follow him to Ohio University for graduate research and now is in the midst of her third year. In addition to her research in the lab, she gives tours to visitors, works with undergraduates,

researches different companies that supply analytical or processing equipment, and takes care of any necessary lab maintenance. The lab is involved not only in bioplastics work, but pursues other chemical engineering research such as developing alternative fuel technologies, improving conventional fossil fuel utilization technology, and chlorine dioxide technology, which is a more environmentally and health-friendly water purification option than many existing technologies. After Wheelden graduates in 2014 or 2015, she may consider either working in a national laboratory or teaching, as she enjoys interacting with people. Regardless of her career path, Wheelden remains confident that she has a wide array of valuable skills to offer. “Whatever I end up doing,” she says, “I’ll try my best and hopefully bring something to the table.”

Barbi Wheelden works with Sunggyu Lee (top left) in Ohio University’s Sustainable Energy and Advanced Materials Laboratory, where researchers are studying how to develop a new plasticizer, among other projects.

:: student p ro f i l e

barbi wheelden Hometown


Missouri University of Science and Technology REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

Develop a more eco-friendly form of plastic packaging DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in chemical engineering fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Sunggyu Lee

F u t u r e pl a n s

Either teaching or industry




story by Taylor Evans illustrations by alix northrup

problem How math literacy can improve quality of life

efore studying math education at Ohio University, Daniel Showalter spent five years teaching and backpacking all over the world. On one trip, he witnessed something that sparked his passion for using math to help people.



“Math is a powerful tool that can help illuminate hidden injustices, make sense of patterns around us, and organize problems efficiently.” daniel showalter

Showalter was working in a remote area of India when he saw moneylenders take advantage of a tribe. After the lenders convinced the tribe to purchase clothing in local markets, they demanded to be refunded with interest. The tribe owed the lenders four times more than what they borrowed and wound up doing hard, physical labor to pay them back. The moment served as a turning point for Showalter, as he felt that the tribe could have benefited from a greater understanding of consumer mathematics. He’s now involved in various research, scholarship, and teaching projects that strive to improve quality of life through math education. A lack of understanding of math can impact people in many common life situations, he says, such as successfully earning a GED, understanding bank interest rates, or running a business. “Learning math can remove these obstacles,” he says. “In a more positive light, math is a powerful tool that can help illuminate hidden injustices, make sense of patterns around us, and organize problems efficiently.” Showalter is interested in place-based education, which puts learning in the context and culture of a community. When teaching his statistics class at Ohio Valley University in Parkersburg, West Virginia, he creates lessons based on student ideas and interests to help make math more relevant to their everyday lives. For example, Showalter used a student’s idea that required classmates to write down acquaintances’ names that started with “F” in order to understand statistical probability. Such lessons also help build a sense of community, he says. “I want my students to always feel like they can come to class and whatever they’re carrying in their hearts is something we can make meaning of and make sense of in discussions,” Showalter says. For more than a year, Showalter also has worked at the Stevens Literacy Center, which helps adult students develop their reading and math literacy. The program serves students across Ohio and has a variety of participants that include prisoners and senior citizens. Although Showalter trains the instructors and

:: student p ro f i l e

d a n i e l s h owa lt e r Hometown


Eastern Mennonite University, Drexel University, Urbana University REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

Rural setting and research interests aligned with those of faculty members DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in math education fa c u lt y a d v i s o r s

Bob Klein (master’s) Greg Foley (doctoral) F u t u r e pl a n s

Teach at a small liberal arts college and develop a social justice program

doesn’t directly work with the adult learners himself, he helps write the curriculum. He was able to use his work on an unrelated project about diabetes and apply it to a lesson in probability at the literacy center. “For me, the real heart of the lesson was for them to learn to read a diabetes risk tool and make connections between lifestyle choices and risk,” Showalter says. “And of course, learn the necessary probability skills along the way.” His influence in the classroom expands far beyond teaching. Showalter is currently working on co-authoring a mathematics textbook for seniors in high school. “When I write my story problems, it’s not just a matter of starting with a math problem and building a pseudo context around it,” Showalter says. “It’s starting with problems I’ve really experienced in life and finding out what kind of math problems are there.” In addition to his teaching and writing, Showalter is developing his dissertation project. He’d like to study a data set compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics that tracked sophomores for ten years. He wants to discover how decisions about their math education and interest in the subject relate to their quality of life as they enter their mid-20s. “My research interests are so broad,” he notes, “that I see the dissertation as one step along the career journey.” photos: Rob Hardin



language story by Taylor Evans illustrations by alix northrup

An international team of students explores how working memory may help us learn second languages


earning a new language can be a challenge, as new vocabulary and grammatical rules can be hard for some people to grasp. :: student p ro f i l e s

To address this issue, a group of linguistics graduate students is examining how a person’s working memory capacity, which is how well a person can process and retain knowledge, is connected to learning a second language. Do people with larger memory capacities have an advantage over their peers? The diverse group of researchers, which includes graduate students from across the globe, came together almost two years ago under the guidance of Department of Linguistics faculty members Scott Jarvis and Michelle O’Malley. Although the research is ongoing, student Ramyadarshanie Vithanage already is considering how it can be applied in the classroom when she returns to her home country of Sri Lanka. “My duty here is to get as many ways as possible to give my students opportunities to learn English better,” Vithanage says. “This project helps me get more ideas.” The group started its research with Chinese students who were intermediate-level English speakers. The students were required to participate in a series of experiments to test their memory. The first two tests, called digit span experiments, asked the students to listen to Chinese characters and English digits and then determined how long of a sequence they could remember. The subjects also participated in an experiment called an operation span task. The students were presented with a math problem and had to determine whether the problem was solved correctly. The students then read a letter that appeared on the next screen. They were asked to remember the letters as the experiment continued. This tested working memory because the math problems served as a distraction during their memorization of the letters. The last experiments tested the effects of similarities between languages, specifically examining the participants’ performance with sentences that share the same word order between Chinese and English, versus sentences with different word orders. For the task called self-paced timed reading, students would read 40 sentences at their own pace. The research group found that students slowed down on parts of the reading in which there was no syntactical correlation between Chinese and English. Finally, for the task called elicited

imitation, students would hear 36 sentences and immediately repeat them aloud. “We found a significant correlation between the elicited imitation task and operation span task, which suggests that their working memory capacity has some influence,” says Lu Cao, who has since graduated and is now teaching at the university. “It is still not that clear yet. We still want to see more.” The group presented its research findings, which indicate that students with higher working memory capacity may perform better in language processing tasks, at the prestigious annual Second Language Research Forum, held in October at Carnegie Mellon University. Tanya Dovbnya, a student involved in the project, notes that the conference was useful for immediately learning about research outcomes, which often take time to appear in academic journals. “There are a lot of other people doing similar research,” she says. “I think it is very good to hear the most recent status.” The group is currently conducting a new round of studies with Arabic students learning English. In the future they would like to recruit more students from different proficiency levels and collect their TOEFL scores, which measure English comprehension.

lu Cao Hometown


Beijing Language and Culture University REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

Second language teaching and acquisition fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Scott Jarvis

F u t u r e pl a n s

Moving to the second phase of our study, in which we designed new tasks and experiments. We will collect more data from both Chinese and Arabic students.

T o n ya D o v b n ya Hometown

Zhytomyr, Ukraine P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Zhytomyr State University, exchange program at Ithaca College REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

A desire to go deeper into linguistic theory and conduct research that I was unable to pursue in Ukraine fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Scott Jarvis

F u t u r e pl a n s

To teach English as a second language and continue research

R a m ya d a r s h a n i e Vithanage Hometown


University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

To learn more about second language acquisition fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Scott Jarvis

F u t u r e pl a n s

Return to Sri Lanka and teach English at University of Peradeniya

Scott Jarvis leads a team of international and American linguistics students in a discussion about the group’s research on second language acquisition. photos: Rob Hardin




t be

es and obe si t

the •


Lara Householder (right) works with Darlene Berryman (left), an associate professor of food and nutrition and director of the Diabetes Institute, to learn more about the role of fat tissue in the body.


photography by r o b h ar d i n

Lara Householder explores how the quality—not the quantity—of fat tissue in the body may harm health by J es s i c a Sa lern o

Obesity is a rising health problem in America. We shouldn’t be concerned only with how much fat tissue we have, however, but whether the tissue itself is healthy, according to recent research. In the last two decades, scientists have learned that fat isn’t simply a passive storage system for excess energy, but that fat tissue can become dysfunctional when people are obese, explains Lara Householder, a graduate student in nutrition. That dysfunction can lead to complications such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. One problem that can occur in obesity is fibrosis, which is a buildup of the fat tissue structure, primarily made of collagen fibers, that holds fat cells in place. This condition has been connected to metabolic and inflammatory changes, such as the ones associated with diabetes, Householder notes.


The student is part of a research team at Ohio University’s Edison Biotechnology Institute that specializes in studying the role of growth hormone in various disorders. Householder is studying laboratory mice that have been bred to have an excess of growth hormone. They are lean but have short lives, and are prone to diabetes and cancer. Householder is examining whether these unhealthy animals also have the fat tissue fibrosis typical of obese subjects. The long-term goal is to find ways to treat individuals with obesity and diabetes, explains the student, whose research is funded by an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award. So far, Householder has found more collagen in the mice, especially as they age. Next the team will look at mice that lack growth hormone, and are both obese but healthy, as a comparison. Householder says she finds obesity interesting because of all the changes that take place in the body that can, in turn, impact overall health. “I like being a part of the process of learning about and deconstructing this major issue, which can potentially help to ameliorate some of the burden, both to the individual and to the healthcare system at large,” she says. Householder, who graduated from Ohio University in 2007 with a degree in dance, has always been fascinated by how the body works. She took extra courses in science while an undergraduate because she enjoyed the subject so much. After graduating and getting her license as a massage therapist, Householder felt she wasn’t done learning. She returned to Ohio University with the intention of completing requirements for medical school, when her advisor Darlene Berryman, director of the university’s Diabetes Institute, suggested she try out graduate school instead. “It’s very clear she’s not your typical undergraduate student,” Berryman says.

I like being a part of the process of learning about and deconstructing this major issue, which can potentially help to ameliorate some of the burden, both l a r a h o u s eholder to the individual and to the healthcare system at large.” “I felt it was a disservice for her to go back and do all the requirements for another undergraduate program, when really she wanted to go to medical school.” This way Householder can use her graduate degree to finish her medical school requirement classes, while also pursuing a thread of research that she finds stimulating. It’s also given her an opportunity to travel to Munich, Germany, to present the results of her work at an international scientific conference. With the growing obesity epidemic in America, research such as Householder’s can impact not only those with obesity but also the complications that come with it, such as diabetes, Berryman says. Understanding fat tissue and what makes it unhealthy is a key part of the process.

:: student profile

lara householder Hometown

Cambridge City, Indiana P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Ohio University


Nutrition studies, medical school preparation DE G REE P URSUED

Master’s degree in food and nutrition fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Darlene Berryman F u t u r e pl a n s

Medical school and possible Ph.D.



y olog resea i rd & clinical rc a c training

the •

of the

matter Adam Jara balances heart research with clinical training in unique program by J es s i c a Sa lern o photography by ROB HA RDIN

As Adam Jara was planning for a career in laboratory research, he had the opportunity to work with a general surgeon who allowed him to observe procedures such as gall bladder removals and hernia repairs. Jara recalls that the doctor encouraged him to pursue medical school, arguing that practicing medicine is a direct way to positively impact the life of a human being. Torn between earning a Ph.D. or a medical degree, Jara soon learned that at Ohio University, he could do both. The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine offers a dual degree program that allows participants to pursue an intensive research program in addition to medical school education. After completing two years of courses in osteopathic medicine, Jara is now in his third year of research for his doctoral degree. He’s engaged in a study of how growth hormone regulates heart function, under the guidance of John Kopchick, Goll-Ohio Eminent Scholar and Professor of Molecular Biology. While Jara admits that the duration of the dual degree program—about seven years—was intimidating at first, he describes his experience as “wonderful” and says that the last five years have flown by. “I am excited to begin my clinical rotations where I can hopefully approach the experience from a research perspective and become involved in translational projects,” he says. Kopchick, who has been very supportive of Jara’s pursuit of the dual degree, serves as a model for how to combine success in both research and medicine. His discovery of a growth hormone receptor antagonist in the laboratory led to the development of a drug for people with acromegaly, a form of gigantism. The drug, SOMAVERT®(pegvisomant for injection), is marketed by Pfizer. At the Edison Biotechnology Institute, Kopchick and Jara study mice that lack the receptor for growth hormone, specifically in the heart tissue. The goal of his research is to understand how growth hormone affects the function and structure of the heart. The research has potential clinical applications. A growth hormone supplement may be prescribed to children with delayed growth, and it’s also been used in experimental treatments for heart failure. However, growth

(Right) John Kopchick, left, oversees the laboratory research conducted by Adam Jara, right, that explores the impact of the lack of growth hormone on heart tissue.


:: student profil e

hormone has been known to have several side effects, including diabetes, fluid retention, and thickening of the skin and bones. Jara receives support from a graduate fellowship from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In addition, he has received funding for his research from the university’s Student Enhancement Award program and the Summer Endocrine Society Fellowship. He’s presented findings at several professional conferences across the country and has received awards for his work. Once he’s completed the program, Jara may pursue a residency in internal medicine and then either focus on cardiology or endocrinology. The student notes that he has a passion for the latter subject, given that he comes from a family with a history of diabetes. He’s also fascinated by the science behind the condition. Ideally, he’d like to be able to continue research and also treat patients. “I would love to be able to have a clinic where I see patients most of the time, two or three days a week,” Jara says, “and the remainder of the week I’d like to have a research lab.”

A d a m ja r a Hometown


Wittenberg University


D.O./Ph.D. program


Doctoral degree in molecular and cellular biology/Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

John Kopchick

F u t u r e pl a n s

Continue to conduct research while running clinic

I am excited to begin my clinical rotations where I can hopefully approach the experience from a research perspective and become involved in translational projects.” adam j ara



From the war in Iraq to internet security, Jeremy Zerechak uses documentary filmmaking to explore the issues

photography by RO B HAR DIN

by Jennifer Doyle

When Jeremy Zerechak was called to relieve the first rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, he took a leave of absence from his film studies at Penn State University, packed his duffle bag with video equipment, and arrived for training at the United States Army base of Fort Dix, New Jersey, with the intention of “capturing as much content as possible.”

(Right) In addition to making documentary films, Jeremy Zerechak has donated film props to the School of Film and helped upgrade the program’s film equipment room.


His outfit eventually was placed in direct security support of the Iraq Survey Group, which was the presidentially mandated committee tasked with finding weapons of mass destruction, and stationed at Camp Slayer. This location made Zerechak and his company neighbors to two of the most contentious groups of the Iraq War: the privately contracted military company Blackwater, and Kellogg Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Haliburton contracted to oversee all base facilities in Iraq. “We were in the matrix of controversial elements of the war,” he recalls. Upon returning to Pennsylvania, he assembled the 56 hours of raw footage into a feature documentary and titled it Land of Confusion. The film chronicled the search for weapons of mass destruction from Zerechak’s “front-row seat” to the operation. The frustration and discontent in the film is palpable. Its presentation of soldiers’ candid perspectives is likely to be the last of its kind, however. Since Land of Confusion was filmed, troops have been forbidden to possess media-capturing devices on tour. Initially, the documentary triggered questions from the Pennsylvania National Guard public affairs office. The Office of the Secretary of Defense, at that time Robert Gates, had gotten wind of the film. Because Zerechak had used his own equipment, obtained releases from everyone in the film, and released it after

“Documentaries allow us the intimate opportunity to engage in real life with real people that otherwise we never would have known about, met, or identified with. And that experience is priceless.� jeremy zerechak



cover story


: : s t u d e n t p ro f i l e

jeremy zerechak Hometown

Scranton, Pennsylvania P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N


Creative development and diversification DE G REE P URSUED

Master's degree in film fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Steve Ross

F u t u r e pl a n s

New York City


(Right) Zerechak recreates the historical 1957 CBS Sputnik Special Report with anchor Douglas Edwards (actor Mark Tierno) for CODE 2600. The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments, and marked the start of the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.

his military contract was up, however, the inquiries didn’t go far. Land of Confusion went on to win a number of awards, including a special jury award for “bold truth in documentary filmmaking” at the Florida Film Festival. It was at a Los Angeles festival screening when Zerechak heard the call of his second film. He met a patron who had worked as an intrusion protection specialist for the Federal Reserve. After picking the man’s brain over the course of the festival, Zerechak returned to Pittsburgh “almost convinced” he had found a new project: detailing the intricacies of privacy and security in the age of information technology. In his preliminary research, he uncovered an expansive story that was largely untold in the mainstream media. And when the media did touch on it, Zerechak says, it was subject to gross inaccuracies and hyperbole. “I thought: This is going to be my next project. It’s timely, pertinent, and has a rich history,” he says. He likens the process of committing to a project idea to buying a used car—it involves taking a big risk when “there could be all sorts of problems under the hood.” The average time it takes to produce a documentary film from development to end, he notes, is two and a half to three years. “It’s a little unnerving, but it’s also bliss,

because you finally decide that this is my new project, my baby, my monster—whatever you want to call it—this is what I am going to immerse myself in intellectually, creatively, and from an investigative standpoint for the next three years.” Zerechak’s new “baby” was given a thoughtful name: Code 2600, which he chose for the 2600 megahertz tone discovered to be the key for hacking into the monopolistic “Ma Bell” telephone company’s network in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. As a result, the number 2600 has become something of a centerpiece in hacker culture. Code 2600 strives to tell the story of privacy and security in the information age and to make people aware of how they fit into that story. “People think that we’re the customers of internet services like Gmail, but we’re not. Gmail isn’t free because the company likes you. We are their product,” he says. According to Zerechak’s research, Google saves every search ever done on its engine, builds a profile based on an IP address, and sells it to advertisers for psychographic analysis—oftentimes without the informed consent of the user. He also draws attention to the vast amounts of data stored on servers, often referred to as “data pollution.” They are connected to the grid, accessible, and not going anywhere. “It is actually more expensive for companies to go through their servers and delete information than it is to just let it hang out,” Zerechak says. He likens this information pollution to the environmental pollution of the industrial age. “In the same way that we look back on our grandparents and ask them how they couldn’t have paid closer attention and given more consideration to the environment, our grandkids might look back on us and say, ‘How could you just let all of this data just float around?’” he asks. The film draws upon the wisdom of “heavyhitters” in the information technology (IT) field, including Bruce Schneier, one of the most well-known and respected technologists in the hacker security community, and Jeff Moss, founder of DEFCON and the Black Hat Conference, two of the largest hacker conventions in the world. Moss currently sits on the Homeland Security advisory board for IT security. Despite the concerns it raises, the film also acknowledges the positive, measurable changes in the world that Twitter and Facebook

zerechak “It’s a little unnerving, but it’s also bliss, because you finally decide that this is my new project, my baby, my monster—whatever you want to call it—this is what I am going to immerse myself in intellectually, creatively, and from an investigative standpoint for the next three years.” jeremy zerechak

have made, including the role that the social networks played in the Arab Spring. “Code 2600 puts these privacy and security issues on the table, tells you why they are a problem, suggests how they could be affecting you, and gets into the sociological, historical, and philosophical aspects of that,” he says. What it doesn’t do, he adds, is force an agenda on the viewers or suggest where they should stand on the issues. He rejects the idea that documentaries should serve as normative “solution films.” “When you roll the first foot of film knowing exactly what you want to say about the subject, you are approaching it from a premeditated angle, and that’s rhetoric, that’s propaganda filmmaking,” he says. “It’s not storytelling, it’s not exploration, and it doesn’t serve the genre of documentary film very well.” At the Atlanta Film Festival, Code 2600 was named winner of the 2012 Grand Jury Documentary Film Award. This distinction is one of the more significant qualifications for Oscar Award nomination eligibility. “I was ecstatic that day,” Zerechak says. In the months since that win, Zerechak has been invited to screen the film around the world. He’s traveled to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., where the documentary was shown to the former

director of the National Security Agency. While Zerechak promotes Code 2600, he’s pursuing his master’s degree in film at Ohio University. He joined the program because he believed it would exert a positive pressure on him to complete more projects. Steve Ross, director of the School of Film, says that the relationship between Zerechak and the graduate program is mutually beneficial. Students like Zerechak who come into the school with prior experience in the field often become “additional professors on the ground,” he notes. He also recalls Zerechak’s donation of an extensive personal collection of film props to the school, as well the time he used his carpentry skills to voluntarily upgrade the film equipment room. “So much of what he’s doing is really just a gift to the School of Film,” Ross says. Zerechak is currently in the exploratory phase of a project that focuses on the “old world sensibilities” of Amish and Mennonite communities, and is hopeful that his time at Ohio University will better prepare him for the future he intends to devote to documentary content. “Documentaries allow us the intimate opportunity to engage in real life with real people that otherwise we never would have known about, met, or identified with,” Zerechak says. “And that experience is priceless.”

film descriptions:

the films

land of confusion a b o u t t h e f i lm

From the heart of Baghdad to rural Iraqi farms, Land of Confusion offers a neverbefore seen account of working with the then-secretive Iraqi Survey Group as they travel the country searching for evidence of weapons of mass destruction. The film reveals the extraordinary perspective of soldiers on the ground in Iraq as recorded by one of their own, and goes far beyond what the conventional mainstream media shows audiences about the war in Iraq.

CODE 2 6 0 0 a b o u t t h e f i lm

Code 2600 documents the rise of the Information Technology Age as told through the events and people who helped build and manipulate it. The film explores the impact the new connectivity has on our ability to remain human while maintaining our personal privacy and security. As we struggle to comprehend the widespanning socio-technical fallout caused by data collection and social networks, our modern culture is caught in an undercurrent of cyber-attacks, identity theft, and privacy invasion. Both enlightening and disturbing, Code 2600 is a provacative wake-up call for a society caught in the grips of a global technology takeover.

film Images: Courtesy of jeremy zerechak


Cameras for

CHANGE story by Phi l i p B arn es

illustrations by c hr i s t i n a u l l m a n

H ow an activis t o rg a n iz at i o n u s e s v i d e o to create soc i a l c h a n g e i n L at i n A m e r i c a


rowing up in Medellin, Colombia’s second largest city, Camilo Perez Quintero observed a long and complex :: student profile

internal armed conflict among guerrillas, paramilitary forces, and drug cartels that have plagued the city since 1947. As these groups continue to target youth to join their ranks, more and more children view gang association as an obligation rather than a choice—one that Perez hopes to challenge. “Violence here is in the head,” says Perez. “It has become normalized in daily life because people feel it is the only thing they can turn to. For me, achieving peace was a matter of changing the scope; it was about changing the tools. I never really liked guns and understood that I could transform my own reality without them.” In 2008, Perez helped form Pasolini Medellin, an activist organization that also targets Colombian youth, allowing them to counter violence with cameras rather than guns. His team brainstorms movie ideas with community members to achieve the goal of letting them become “artisans of their own lives.” After months of script writing and character development, the cameras finally start rolling. “The participants are the actors for all our films,” says Perez. “By acting, they are taking the first steps to changing a violent reality.” So far Pasolini Medellin has produced 67 films, from emotional documentaries to music videos. They aren’t always factual—elements of fiction are used in instances where honest testimony becomes a danger to participants. Stories are told through tragic comedies with metaphors and irony to avoid retaliation by militant groups. In one community, for example, armed militants were raping 12- and 13 year-old girls. Parents didn’t believe it was happening. “If a kid accuses a soldier, he is always wrong,” Perez notes. In order to side-step censorship, Pasolini Medellin worked with the victims’ classmates to create a short video clip, using puppets to express sexual violence. “We presented the video to the parents and the school. It was so well-received—the kids felt empowered and parents finally understood,” Perez says. Pasolini Medellin’s slogan is “using art to disarm minds,” giving people the chance to express themselves and rewrite their stories

not only through video, but also with hip-hop, graffiti, and radio. “By getting involved in the arts, we are stealing kids from the violent circle. We are ourselves a gang,” Perez says. “Kids think that they need a gang, and ours gives them the chance to make a change for the better.” Perez joined Ohio University’s Communication & Development Studies program in 2011 to reflect on and analyze his work in Colombia. His thesis project involves creating an ethnographic map based on interviews with Pasolini Medellin participants. Perez is seeking to uncover reasons behind the organization’s success, which, as he believes, can always be improved upon. “As an organization, we were paying too much attention to the doing and never really understood the consequences. Having a camera also can mean having a gun. I’ve learned that there are ethical considerations to keep in mind when filming, especially in violence-prone areas. You need to be respectful,” he says. In addition to his thesis, Perez shoots video for several Ohio University programs, including Communication & Development Studies’ 25th anniversary celebration and the international UNICEF conference, which focuses on using communication to promote social change. He’s also been working with his research advisor, Jenny Nelson, to produce short collaborative videos about people living with Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, supported by Ohio University’s 1804 Fund. “Camilo brings a practiced hand to the

camilo perez quintero Hometown

Medellin, Colombia P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

University of Antioquia


Practitioners/scholars recommended the Communication & Development Studies program; there are few programs like this. DE G REE P URSUED

Master’s degree in communication and development fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Jenny Nelson

F u t u r e pl a n s

Doctoral program

table,” Nelson says. “He really knows how to disappear behind the camera. He’ll get six or seven angles on the same thing with no problem. He’s very creative.” Nelson is helping Perez to incorporate communication theory into his writing. Because English is his second language, writing in this more academic style can be a challenge. But Perez is working diligently with the intention of someday continuing his work for Pasolini Medellin. For now, though, he is calling Athens “home.” “My wife and kids are happy here,” he says. “But here, the individual is above everything. We are more collective in Colombia. You have good things in the United States, but despite what you hear, we have good things in Colombia, too. We can learn from each other.”

The organization Pasolini Medellin, formed by Perez, so far has produced


films, from emotional documentaries to music videos in Colombia.


RA 20 HO


story by Phi l i p B arn e s

illustrations by c hr i s t i n a ull man

New s p ro g r a m s r ev e a l h ow Co lo m b i a n s v i ew c o r ru p t i o n


Colombians depend on radio and television news; about

2 million

listeners tune in to Hora 20 daily.

ith the signing of the United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement in 2006, government subsidies were intended to aid poor Colombian farmers who owned little land. Rich families, however, segmented their own farmland to reap the same benefits. Judicial institutions now are investigating whether government officials were aware of this situation, says graduate student Adriana Ángel Botero.

: : s t u d e n t p ro file

Adriana Ángel Botero Hometown

Manizales, Colombia P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Master’s degree in communication REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

Outstanding doctoral program with an emphasis on rhetoric DE G REE P URSUED

Doctoral degree in communication studies fa c u lt y a d v i s o r

Ben Bates

F u t u r e pl a n s

I will teach and do research in the Department of Communication at Universidad de Manizales

The student, a native of Colombia, is studying the way in which such corruption is communicated through radio programs. The issue is not limited to agriculture, she says, but has been raised in the health sector as well. Thirty four insurance companies dominate the entire health care system. Acting as a cartel, they charge the exact same amount for their services, making medicine seven times more expensive than usual. Agricultural and health-based corruption is discussed in several episodes of Hora 20, a Colombian radio program similar to those on U.S. National Public Radio. Colombians depend on radio and television for news more so than any other medium; about two million listeners tune in to Hora 20 daily. Ángel Botero’s research involves dissecting these programs in order to better understand the representation of corruption. “I’ve discovered that there is no agreement on what corruption is in Colombia,” Ángel Botero says. “It’s like health care in the United States—no one knows exactly how to approach it.” After transcribing 13 different programs in 800 pages, Ángel Botero separated the opinions of Hora 20 speakers (businessmen,

journalists, laborers, lawyers, etc.) into six categories, ranging from corruption as being normal to immoral. She notes that in her literature review, she read that 63 percent of Colombians believe they are naturally corrupt. “In Colombia, we have normalized corruption,” Ángel Botero says. “It is in our heads and is creating a huge separation between law and culture. I was crying when I was transcribing, asking myself: what has happened to my country?” Because the issue is so complex, Ángel Botero’s new study adds a valuable perspective to the discussion, according to Ben Bates, the student’s faculty advisor. “We have to understand the multiple facets of corruption and the multiple interpretations of corruption if we are going the solve problems of corruption in Colombia,” he notes. Ángel Botero believes that education is the only way to make a change. The first step is getting people to understand that corruption is not a normal practice. Only then will people challenge crooked politicians and dishonesty within the private sector. In December, Ángel Botero graduated and returned to Manizales, where she will work for a university, teaching about corruption in society. She comes back to Colombia knowing that, despite its problems, her native country has “some of the happiest people in the world,” she says.

portrait: courtesy of Adriana Ángel Botero



issue sponsors and contributors

Issue sponsorship This special graduate student edition of Perspectives magazine was supported by a grant from the 1804 Fund, as well as matching

The content creators

support from several university sponsors: :: The Graduate College

:: The College of Arts and Sciences

:: The Russ College of Engineering and Technology

:: The Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

:: The Scripps College of Communication

:: The College of Fine Arts

:: The College of Health Sciences and Professions

:: The Office of University Advancement

rob hardin Hometown

Pickerington, Ohio P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

a b o u t t h e 18 0 4 f u n d

Since its first grants in 1980, the

1804 has supported more than



p ro jects and programs

The 1804 Fund, which was designed to foster innovation and collaboration across disciplines, supports the university’s core mission of “maintaining, strengthening, and enhancing a learning-centered community.” Endowed in 1979 by a visionary gift from the estate of alumnus C. Paul Stocker, the 1804 Fund has supported the university’s promise of providing the best student-centered learning experience in America by focusing on excellence in undergraduate education, faculty research, and graduate studies. In 2010, the 1804 Fund celebrated its 30th anniversary, bringing the grand total of awards to approximately $15 million. Since awarding its first grants in 1980, the fund has supported more than 600 projects and programs. The fund is managed by the Ohio University Foundation. For more information, visit or contact Dorothy Schey at

Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College REASON FOR ATTENDING OHIO UNIVERSITY

To pursue my master’s degree in commercial photography from the instructors in the School of Visual Communication, which is one of the outstanding programs in the country. DE G REE P URSUED

Master’s degree in photography, with a specialization in commercial photography F u t u r e pl a n s

To pursue both teaching photography and working as a freelance editorial and commercial photographer after graduation

j e n n i f e r d oy l e P REVIOUS EDUCATIO N

Ohio University DE G REE P URSUED

Master’s degree in journalism


:: e d i t o r i a l This issue of Perspectives not only focuses exclusively on Ohio University students, but was created by them. We recruited a team of student writers and photographers from the School of Visual Communication and E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, both within the Scripps College of Communication, to produce the articles and images. The goal was to provide real-world experience to writers and photographers preparing for a career in the communications field. We give special thanks to this staff of students, whom you can read more about below.

Editor Andrea Gibson Senior Designer and Illustrator Christina Ullman, Ullman Design Assistant Designer Alix Northrup writers Philip Barnes Jennifer Doyle Taylor Evans Karen Fatula Jessica Salerno Photographer Rob Hardin

T ay l o r e va n s

k a r e n fat u l a



Marysville, Ohio

St. Clairsville, Ohio



Marysville High School

Ohio University



The campus is beautiful and has a welcoming atmosphere. The journalism program was also a draw for me. I knew that if I wanted to get proper training as a writer, it would be here.

To attend renowned E.W. Scripps School of Journalism


Bachelor’s degree in journalism


Master’s degree in journalism F u t u r e pl a n s

Feature writing and public relations

Cleveland, Ohio



St. Edward High School

Westerville, Ohio



Beautiful campus, and Scripps is a great place for aspiring journalists


The journalism school’s reputation DE G REE P URSUED

Bachelor’s degree in journalism F u t u r e pl a n s

Ellen Gerl Associate Professor Journalism Gary Holcomb Associate Professor African American Studies Duane McDiarmid Associate Professor Art

P h i l i p ba r n e s Hometown

j e s s ica s a l e r n o

Advisory Committee Kevin Crist Professor Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Michele Morrone Associate Professor Social and Public Health

F u t u r e pl a n s

To either pursue a career in book publishing or culture, arts, and entertainment writing

Photography consultant Terry Eiler Professor and Director Visual Communication


Bachelor’s degree in journalism

Text, photographs, and artwork may not be reprinted without written permission from the editor. Comments and queries regarding editorial content should be addressed to: Andrea Gibson, editor, Perspectives magazine 120 Research and Technology Center Athens, Ohio 45701 E-mail: Phone: (740) 597-2166 Web:

F u t u r e pl a n s

To write for a magazine, preferably in the vein of science, anthropology, or creative writing

ISSN 1520-4375 Printed on recycled paper.

To find a writing job in Columbus


Non-Profit Organization US Postage


Vice President for Research and Creative Activity

Athens, OH Permit No. 100

Perspectives magazine Research and Technology Center 120 Athens OH 45701-2979

at a


:: A clean

photo: rebecca miller


:: electrical engi neering | Graduate students test navigation technologies

Electrical engineering students from the Russ College of Engineering and Technology brought home the winning trophy for the third year running from the Institute of Navigation’s third annual autonomous snowplow competition in St. Paul, Minnesota. The team—(above, left to right) undergraduate Ryan Kollar, graduate student

Adam Naab-Levy, faculty member Wouter Pelgrum, graduate student Sam Craig, faculty member Maarten Uijt De Haag, and graduate student Phil Duan—designed a 600-pound, four-wheel-drive robot that uses state-ofthe art navigation and control technologies. The contest is a testing ground for aviation innovations.

Perspectives 2013 graduate edition  
Perspectives 2013 graduate edition  

Ohio University Perspectives magazine graduate student special edition 2013