This Just In: Gordon Faculty Continue to Offer Public Scholarship

Even at the start of a new academic year, Gordon faculty members are contributing their gifts and scholarship to the broader community in a variety of ways. Below is just a sample of what’s been happening lately for some professors outside of the classroom:

Tal Howard, professor of history and the executive director of the Center for Faith and Inquiry, wrote about The Promise of Religious Colleges for the leading web site, Inside Higher Education, which they published Sept. 19.

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) published a story Sept. 21 on the Accessible Icon Project that features Brian Glenney, assistant professor of philosophy, and his work with that project: Is it Time for a New Wheelchair Icon?”

Ruth Melkonian Hoover, associate professor of political science and international relations, is a featured panelist this week at the John C. Danforth Center on Politics and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis, addressing the topic of Welcoming the Stranger: A Panel Discussion on Religion and Immigration. She will also be the keynote speaker for the Zylstra Symposium on Politics and Culture at Redeemer University College in Ontario, Canada, this week addressing the issue of “Proximity, Globalization and the Common Good.”

Wm. B. Eerman Publishing Company released the new hardcover book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman”co-authored by Bruce Herman, Lothlórien Distinguished Chair in the Fine Arts, and G. Walter Hansen. One reviewer calls Herman one of the “wisest practitioners of art today and Hansen one of the key influencers and patrons of Christians in the arts.”

In the September edition of the national Green Chemistry Commitment, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, as well as Gordon’s green chemistry program were featured in an article called “Gordon College: Transforming chemistry through the next generation.”

Public Scholarship: Faculty Lend Expertise to the News

July has been a busy media month for several Gordon professors as they’ve discussed their expertise with national and regional journalists, and offered unique perspectives for the public with their observations on current issues. Here are a few examples of how Gordon professors are helping shape public discussions:  

On July 19, Ruth Melkonian Hoover, chair and associate professor of political science and international affairs whose most recent scholarship focuses on evangelicals and immigration, discussed her perspective on the immigration reform efforts in Congress with a national reporter with the Religion News Service. The story also appeared on the Washington Post’s On Faith blog.

On July 18, Chemistry Professor Irv Levy discussed Gordon’s commitment to green chemistry and its inclusion with only a select few other colleges and universities in the nation for a story in GreenBiz.Com.

Dorothy Boorse, professor of biology, was quoted July 10  in a Sojourners Magazine article regarding a recent letter sent to Congress from evangelical scientists on climate control.  

On July 8, Political Science Professor Timothy Sherratt wrote an opinion column on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on marriage that ran in the Salem News.

That same day in the Salem News, English Professor Mark Stevick was the focus of a front page story regarding the two decades success of his play “Cry Innocent” and its adaptation to film, which the paper also endorsed later that week in its own editorial page. Stevick’s new play, “Good Night, Captain White,” an historic comedy of one of Salem’s most notorious murders, opens this weekend July 26 at the Griffen Theatre and has also received positive press, including this prominent story in the July 25 edition of the Salem News. 

The Big Deal About Green Chemistry

The many shades of green are hardly exclusive to the art world. For Dwight Tshudy, associate professor of chemistry, the path to becoming green has involved many steps, including inspiration, research and outreach. Tshudy explored each in his October 25 talk entitled, “Green Chemistry and Sustainability, What’s All This Then?” which he gave as the fall lecture for the North Shore Chapter of Sigma Xi. His talk reflected just a few of the many things happening in green chemistry at Gordon. Below is the abstract for  Tshudy‘s lecture:

Dwight Tshudy

“The term ‘green’ has been used by many as a synonym for ‘good for the environment.’ Green chemistry has also been touted for a number of years as a new and better way of doing chemistry. Sustainability has now become a buzzword to cover a multitude of activities, and its use has become fashionable in many circles. But what is the connection between ‘green’ and sustainability? How might it make a difference that would really matter to us?  These are big questions that should be discussed, debated, disagreed with and modified as we learn more of the world around us.

Sustainability and green chemistry are not black and white ideas, but ones that come with many shades and variations. There will be successes and also opportunities, both for green chemistry and sustainability. Ultimately we must act on the best of these ideas. At Gordon, we are exploring how TAML (tetra-amido-macrocyclic-ligand) catalysts can be used for chemical synthesis and degradation. These catalysts were developed by Terry Collins at the Institute for Green Science (at Carnegie Melon University) using biomimetic principles to try to mimic what naturally occurring enzymes are able to accomplish. Chemical approaches using catalytic reactions like these fall under the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry. Our understanding of sustainability and green chemistry can guide what takes place in the classroom, in the teaching laboratory, in the research laboratory, and beyond.”

Voting and Coolness, Lectures and Leadership

Faculty contributions beyond the classroom have been many during the past few weeks. Here’s a sampling:

On election day, Paul Brink, associate professor of political science, was a featured guest on the “John Hall and Kathy Eamons Show” at 5 o’clock p.m. for the Salem Network Radio affiliate in Pittsburgh, PA, to discuss a Christian approach to voting.

Jonathan Gerber, assistant professor of psychology, published the results of his study, “Measuring the existence of cool using an extended Social Relations Model” in the current edition of peer reviewed online journal Psychnology. Gerber was also recently interviewed about his study by a reporter for the Boston Globe for a story that was published in the print and online editions, Thursday, Nov. 8.

Judith Oleson, associate professor of social work, has been asked to lead a pre-conference session at the American Academy of Religion’s Annual meeting Nov. 16th in Chicago for evangelical theologians/scholars involved in the Postcolonial Theological Network. The session entitled, “Enhancing and Equalizing the Roundtable in Postcolonial Theological Dialogue” will explore themes such as the power of dialogue, and power dynamics within dialogue across culture, traditions and historical contexts.

Dwight Tshudy, associate professor of chemistry, was the invited speaker for the Fourth Annual Sigma Xi (Northshore chapter) Lecture in October. Dwight’s lecture on green chemistry and sustainability was delivered to an audience of students and faculty from Endicott College, Gordon College and Salem State University.

Peter Iltis, professor of kinesiology and horn, gave a talk entitled, “Musician’s Dystonia: What do we know, and what can be done?” on October 24th at the New England Conservatory. Attendees included students, faculty, several clinicians and medical people who work with dystonia patients, and at least one patient suffering from dystonia as a violinist.

During the last weekend of October, Joel Boyd, associate professor of chemistry, lead a group of nine students to Boston’s Museum of Science where they facilitated the museum’s outreach activities. The Museum’s annual event during National Chemistry Week brings hundreds of visitors to participate in hands-on activities.

Sean Clark, associate professor of  kinesiology, gave a lecture entitled, “Exercises for Balance and Mobility: From Fitness to Fall-Prevention” at the Massachusetts Clinical Exercise Physiologist 2012 fall meeting. Clark’s talk included a practical, learning by doing component where attendees performed various progressive exercises similar to those in our program at the Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness.

Summer Scholar: When Green is More Than a Season

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories exploring what Gordon professors are up to in between semesters.

June and July in New England are typically as green and lush as it gets. But for Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, green is the schedule he keeps during the summer months—and all year long for that matter. Green chemistry, that is. As the program chair of the organizing conference for the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meetings, Levy is busy preparing. The next meeting is in Philadelphia in August, then the ACS moves to New Orleans in the spring 2013 for its bigger gathering.

That’s not all. Levy has joined the board of directors for Beyond Benign, a green chemistry education organization, and is working with them and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on a new project called the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) where Gordon will be one of its first models. And oh yeah, he’s on the faculty advisory board for the GCC as well. In between his scholarship and leadership, Levy took the time to answer a few of our questions:

Faculty Central: What exactly does your ‘continuing work as program chair’ of the ACS include?

LEVY: I do the organizing of all the Chemical Education symposia for the ACS national meetings twice a year. Typically I’m working on three meetings at a time — final planning for the next meeting, lots of work getting everything in place for the meeting about one year out and pre-planning for the third meeting out. Each meeting lasts for five days with (usually) four concurrent sessions running all day each day. In addition we host a large number of undergraduate student posters. In the fall meetings we typically have about 1,800 authors presenting about 1,200 unique papers. In the spring we have about 2,700 authors presenting about 1,800 papers. At the most recent spring meeting (San Diego this past March) there were seven Gordon College students and all of our faculty in attendance.

Faculty Central: Sounds busy but exciting.

Levy: It is! I work as a member of the Executive Committee of the Division of Chemical Education, working with the division chair and with the meeting co-chairs for the national meetings, as well as with symposium organizers, and even individual authors (at times). I’m also the liaison between the organizers and the ACS national office staff who actually produce the meeting, coordinating details down to catering. So I get to have some of the big ideas about our meetings but I also spend a lot of time attending to hundreds of little details for each meeting. Our portion of the meeting is one of the larger ones but the entire meeting is massive. A typical national meeting draws 10,000 – 20,000 attendance for one or more days of the meeting.

Faculty Central: What can you tell us about the upcoming meetings? Continue reading

Whodunnit . . . in the Chemistry Lab?

Students on campus are seeking justice . . . in the chemistry lab. At least that’s the hope of Dwight Tshudy, associate professor of chemistry, who’s teaching Forensics this semester for the fourth time since it was first offered in 2006. With 15 students from a variety of majors, Tshudy says his goal is to blend science with other related topics (such as justice) in lectures, discussions, labs and of course, in the field as the class investigates various “crime scenes” he sets up around campus. Here’s how Tshudy describes his unique class:

“Forensic science is a multi-disciplinary enterprise that exposes students to scientific concepts and tools that cover a number of different scientific disciplines. Forensics naturally has student interest across disciplines, and it works well as a thematic course that covers the Natural World and Civic Responsibility requirements in the core curriculum. This semester, students in the class are majoring in psychology, chemistry, kinesiology, music, English, physics, linguistics, political science, and history. This allows for some great cross disciplinary discussions especially around justice and its connection to the criminal justice system. Courses that have this mix of majors are good examples of having the thematic core.

“The first part of the lab portion introduces different tools and instrumentation that can be used in an investigation and then teams with four students per team process and analyze a ‘crime scene’ somewhere on campus using the skills they’ve gained. We emphasize  scientific aspects of investigations, but  explore other aspects of how forensics is used in the criminal justice system, and how law and science intersect. I’ve designed the course for those who want to learn about forensics and have a desire to be ‘hands-on’ in the lab and field. The class is really a combination of general forensic investigations, fundamental scientific principles, and the role terms like ‘justice’ plays into it all. It teaches students some scientific principles and ideas while exploring where science can (and should) play a role in society.” 

Light + Plexiglass + Titania = Water Purification Possibilities

These are good days for the field of chemistry. With October 16-22 designated  National Chemistry Week by the American Chemistry Society, and 2011 declared the International Year of Chemistry, Gordon’s chemistry department is in good company with both its enthusiasm and research. And for Gordon’s newest member of the chemistry department, associate professor Joel Boyd, the United Nation’s emphasis on water purification is in line with his own work. Boyd’s research involves the photocatalytic purification of water. In this process, light is used to activate a photocatalyst, such as titanium dioxide, in order to remove or destroy organic, inorganic, and microbiological contaminants in water. Students working with Boyd have presented their research at conferences, published their work in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and even applied for two U.S. patents in recent years. Their research means turning inexpensive and ordinary materials available at the hardware store into water treatment technologies with possibilities for developing countries. Of his research he writes:

“Photocatalytic water purification has proven to be successful in the laboratory, but many obstacles oppose common applications in the field.  In order to leave the laboratory, existing materials must be refined in a number of ways.  Maximum photocatalytic activity requires nanoscale photocatalysts, which makes post-use removal of the photocatalyst problematic at best since such small particles are very difficult to filter out.  For this reason, various photocatalyst deposition techniques have been implemented to adhere the photocatalyst to larger materials.  Students in my research group devised one such approach to solvent deposit titania on polymeric support materials.  An ideal photocatalyst-support composite material would possess a long working lifetime, and have a large surface area for maximum activity . . . Fundamental investigation into the effect of crosslink density on both photocatalyst adhesion strength and photocatalytic stability is essential for ongoing development of photocatalyst-polymer composite materials, and is the subject of ongoing research by students in my research group at Gordon.”

The “long and winding” road to publication

photoIrv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, had an article accepted this month for publication in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Irv co-authored the article–entitled “Seed oil and fatty acid content in okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) and related species”–with Bob Jarret and Ming Wang, both from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit. From seed to fruit, the project revolved around a number of collaborations with students and colleagues. Irv offered an interesting account of the development of this research project:

“This collaboration has an interesting history. It was during a spring break trip to ECHO five or six years ago that Grace Ju suggested that I ought to look at okra seed as a potential underutilized seed oil. After her prompting, I brought a project to [students] Jenn Soerensen and Rebecca (Havens) Sanford to investigate biodiesel made from okra seed oil. The work that they did with me and [associate professor of chemistry] Dwight Tshudy became a poster presentation at the ACS national meeting in New Orleans a few years ago. Bob Jarret from USDA was starting a project on okra seed oil and he found me through the citation of the poster at the ACS meeting.  Since that time I’ve done a number of oil extractions for Bob, nothing fancy to be honest, but it has been enjoyable to work with him and his team. I spent quite a bit of time during February responding to reviewer’s critiques so that the paper could get into its final acceptable form. The long and winding road!”

It’s the Year of Chemistry!

photoThe United Nations has adopted a resolution proclaiming 2011 as the International Year of Chemistry (IYC). At the end of January, Irv Levy, professor of chemistry and computer science, will attend the International Launch of the IYC at UNESCO World Headquarters in Paris.  This two day event will feature speakers from more than a dozen nations addressing the UN’s resolution, which calls for national  and international efforts to emphasize the  importance of chemistry for sustainable development in all aspects of  human life. Among the program’s speakers are a Nobel laureate, directors of research corporations, governmental administrators, scientists, educators, historians, and the granddaughter of Marie Curie. Beginning with the International Launch, the IYC will focus upon four goals throughout 2011:

* Increasing public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs

* Encouraging an interest in chemistry among young people

* Generating enthusiasm for the creative future of Chemistry

* Celebrating the achievements of Marie Curie and the contributions of women to chemistry