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Summer Research: The Treasured Wisdom Initiative, a Gerontology Study

Summer Research Institute student Caitlin Presley ’15 worked with Hood professor of psychology Professor Wanda Ruffin this summer on the Treasured Wisdom Initiative, a qualitative gerontology study.

It is well known in the field of gerontology that African Americans are more likely to die younger than Caucasians. When African Americans reach 85 years old, also known in psychology as the oldest-old, the trend reverses and African Americans are seen to outlive their Caucasian counterparts.

“I had taken Social Gerontology and Psychology of Aging with Professor MacDougall, so I knew about the basic trends of older African Americans and the psychology of aging. I was then recommended to Professor Ruffin by two professors in the department,” said Caitlin, a psychology major.

Professor Ruffin and Caitlin believe that the life stories and wisdom of the oldest-old African Americans are an untapped potential in the gerontology field. The Treasured Wisdom Initiative hopes to begin to understand the factors that contribute to the resiliency in these African American seniors.

“This research experience helped in two ways, not only did it give me a research experience to put on my CV, it also allowed me to work on the interviewing skills needed in many fields of psychology,” said Caitlin. “Even though I want to work in school psychology, it is important to be able to communicate and converse with people of all ages, while still getting the information you need.”

Some students involved in SRI this summer also had the opportunity to travel. Research led students and their supervisors across the United States and abroad.

“The most valuable aspect of my research experience was traveling to Mississippi,” said Caitlin. “I haven’t spent much time out of the state of Maryland and it was interesting to not only see the difference in cultures, but also the similarities of African Americans’ experiences from different regions. And outside of research, it was thought-provoking to see and hear about Gulfport, Mississippi, post-Hurricane Katrina.”

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Students Engage in Summer Research

Each year faculty can apply for research grants that are supported through a number of funds.

The Summer Research Institute, an eight-week program that began in 1996, was initially supported by donations from an anonymous alum. In more recent years Life Technologies Foundation, formerly Invitrogen, funded the science-based research projects, and the Hodson Trust has directed funds toward this collaborative initiative as well. SRI, which provides students with a $2,000 stipend and free on-campus housing, allows students to work one-on-one with a faculty adviser on cutting-edge research.

Students benefit greatly from participating in these programs. They gain real-world experience by collaborating closely with experts in a research-based environment. Meet some of the students who participated in summer research and read what they have to say about their experiences.

This year Tim Hulyk ’15 and Samantha Norris ’15 (pictured above) were two of the 30 students assisting 16 faculty who were awarded research grants under the SRI program.

Students like Samantha and Tim gained valuable skills and experience from their research this summer. Both students worked under the direction of Hood chemistry professor Prof. Kevin Bennett studying ways to improve our understanding of chemicals that we use every day like over the counter medications and plastics.

Samantha and Tim gained vital laboratory experience that they will be able to apply through the course of the rest of their college career and that will set them apart in the job market. They used a Noble prize-winning technique referred to as electrospray ionization.  Their work has led to a better understanding of the chemical principles behind electrospray ionization, which are key to better analysis of plastics and pharmaceuticals.

“This research experience will help my career path because graduate schools look for applicants to have some research experience, and having two summers will look very good on my application. Also it provided me with the chance to witness things not work, and be able to use some problem solving skills to figure out how to fix it,” Tim, a chemistry major, said.

In addition to learning how to conduct research, students learn about data analysis and presentation. SRI students present a poster to the Hood community at the end of their research, enabling the entire campus to learn about what their peers have been working on over the summer.

“This research position allowed me to become more comfortable with laboratory work and with producing a final presentation based on my research. Those two aspects will aid me with future laboratory-based classes and with presentation heavy classes like CHEM 470. The experience is also beneficial to my future career goals as it will enable me to present my research in two renowned poster sessions at UMBC and possibly the ACS Conference,” Samantha, a biochemistry major, said.

Summer research provides students with an unique opportunity to collaborate with their professors and classmates in a setting more typical of a work environment than a classroom one.

“The most valuable aspect of the research experience was getting to know the other SRI chemistry students a little better. You spend so much time together over the course of the eight weeks in lab that it’s very easy to start to build better friendships with the other students and I think that more than anything has made this an enjoyable experience,” Tim said.

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Frederick Makes Top 100 List

Frederick is one of the top 100 best towns in which to live according to Livability.com’s 2014 survey.

Although big cities usually comprise top 100 lists, Livability chose to focus on small- and mid-sized cities (it’s time to share the limelight, Pittsburgh!) and what makes them a great place to live and work. The website drew information from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, leading private-sector sources and nonprofits, and partnered with a research team at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. Selected from more than 1,700 small and medium cities from across the country, Frederick was ranked in the top half of the 100 cities that were honored with the title of “Best Places to Live.”

Ipsos Public Affairs, one of the leading global market research firms, conducted the exclusive survey and scored cities based on eight different criteria—amenities, demographics, economics, education, health care, housing, social and civic capital, and transportation and infrastructure.

While it’s been obvious to us for a long time that Frederick has all that to offer and more, we are grateful that others recognize it as well! Congratulations to our great city and all its residents!

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Winter Heroes

While everyone on the Hood campus is essential, there are times when one segment of the population is more essential than others. Never has that been more evident than this winter when our facilities and dining staffs were called upon to deal with a record amount of snow and the complications caused by cancellations and delays.

A special thank-you breakfast was held March 21 for the folks who cleared the sidewalks and parking lots more often this year than in they did in the previous five years combined—to date, 45 staff put in a total of 1,075 man hours in snow removal efforts—and for the dedicated dining services staff who, despite the often treacherous road conditions, reported to work to feed the hungry students who live on campus.

President Volpe and the senior staff were there to greet the diners, and President Volpe and Jason Schultz, dining services operations manager, manned the buffet line.

Hood is grateful for such dedicated community members!

Photo: President Volpe greets Ken Holz, HVAC senior technician who has worked at Hood for more than two years.

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A Day With Wil Haygood

Hood’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act continued March 19 when journalist and author Wil Haygood spent the day on campus. Haygood was catapulted into fame last year when a film based on his book, The Butler, was released. The critically acclaimed movie earned Critics Choice, People’s Choice and Screen Actors Guild award nominations, among others.

Haygood spent time in the classroom, meeting with student organization groups and dining with key faculty, students and staff before delivering an outstanding lecture before a very enthusiastic crowd. He spoke with humor and passion about his inspiration for The Butler, his connections and the process that led to its publication, and a bit about the perks of hanging around celebrities on the movie set.

He had wonderful things to say about College and the Hood community, and seemed genuinely honored to be a part of this celebration. Haygood is welcome to make a return visit any time!

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Spanish House Challenge

Who inspires you? The Spanish House residents are on a quest to find out just that with a new initiative that is a win-win for everyone.

7thARTStreet, a drive to gather original artwork that will be hung in the Spanish House, is open to the entire campus community. The Spanish House residents are challenging students, faculty and staff to engage their creative genes, pull out their dusty art supplies and let their arty side take over!

All artwork must be submitted by April 7 and adhere to three specifications:

  • Inspired by a Spanish or Latin American artist (like the Picasso pictured above)
  • Size: 6” x 6”
  • Any text appearing in the piece must be in Spanish (translation assistance is available!)

The submitted artwork will then be showcased at the Spanish House’s traditional end-of-the-semester cultural event and reception in April before being permanently displayed in the residence.

And everyone benefits. Faculty, staff and students have an opportunity to express their creative side, the Spanish House will have new artwork to display and the campus community will learn more about Spanish and Latin American culture. And the best part is, you don’t have to be an artist to participate—if you dig deep enough, you can find a creative spark!

To participate, send an email to 7thartstreet@gmail.com indicating your intent to submit one or more pieces of art and the name of the artist who served as inspiration.

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Celebrating 50 Years of Civil Rights Legislation

Hood College launched its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with a lecture Jan. 29 by U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, representative for Maryland’s 7th congressional district. The prominent and long-serving congressman spoke passionately about growing up in Baltimore during a time when the nation was struggling to eliminate segregation and its manifestations. He credited his teachers, librarians, parents, grandfather and other mentors for believing in him and inspiring him to “Realize the Dream.” Throughout his career he has worked to pay it forward by empowering the people he represents to be the best they can be.

The yearlong celebration of the landmark legislation includes films, discussions, workshops and lectures by noted public figures.

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Taking Care of Business During Winter Break

During winter break, Amanda Wobbleton ’14 has been carefully nurturing the plants that are part of her departmental honors research project.

Under the direction of Eric Kindahl, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Amanda is looking at the nutrient uptake kinetics of two species of emergent plants. Mycorrhizae fungi, which colonize the roots and better enable plants to take in crucial nutrients, were introduced to some of the plants and not others. Later, once the fungi colonize the root system, she will feed the plants using nitrogen-rich water and measure how well they take in the nitrogen.

Knowing which plant species readily absorb nitrogen from the water will help environmental biologists select the most appropriate plants for wetland restoration.

Amanda will present her research and findings during departmental honors presentations in April.

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Winter Break Doesn’t Always Mean Idle Time

Some college students spend their long winter break meeting up with friends, traveling or catching up on much-needed sleep. Others, like Tom Marino ’15, pursue a more academic endeavor.

Under the direction of Hood ecologist April Boulton, Ph.D., Tom is investigating how planting wildflower borders can attract bees and other beneficial insects in agricultural settings. As part of a four-member student team, their goal is to examine how such native flowers can increase beneficial insects—both pollinators and predators, alike. Using a combination of sticky traps, sweep nets and field observations, they collected insect specimens this past summer as part of the Hood Summer Research Institute. Surveys were conducted in both experimental (flower border) and control (no flower border) fields on a soybean farm in Frederick County, Md. Tom is identifying the remaining summer traps (pictured above), but the preliminary results indicate that native pollinators and insect predators were significantly more abundant and diverse in the experimental plot. In addition, they have unanticipated evidence that such insects significantly increased the soybean yield and quality in the experimental plot when compared to the control plot.

Tom is one of more than 30 Hood students who are spending their winter break conducting research, participating in internships or volunteering in their communities and beyond.

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Kristen Squires, Sophomore Archaeology and Religion major, minoring in Women’s Studies

Scene at Hood: Take 19

I always knew I wanted to be an archaeology major and that’s what I came to Hood for. Then, I took an introduction to religion class, and I fell in love with that subject too. Then, I took a women’s studies class, and I felt like it was awesome.

“My biggest challenge at Hood? Not having the time and schedule to allow me to take all of the classes I want. There’s just not enough time in the day.

“I’m involved in the Equal Sex organization. We sponsor activities to promote equality.

“I know I want to be an archaeologist. I want to get my doctorate somewhere down the line.”

~Kristen Squires ’16, archaeology and religion major, minoring in women’s studies

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