NSF Project

New Spectrometers Boost Chemistry Lab Experience

Alex Jarnot ’17 and Angela Mansfield ’17 spent the summer working with professors Christopher Stromberg and Kevin Bennett on ways to incorporate new technology into Hood College’s chemistry curriculum.

“The goal of our summer research was to design labs around a new piece of equipment, the handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, so that students would be able to have hands-on experience with it,” said Jarnot, a chemistry major. “We also designed a user manual for easy setup and troubleshooting.”

During the project, Jarnot and Mansfield designed the labs that they will be doing the next few semesters, so they will already be familiar with the theory behind X-ray fluorescence when the time comes to learn it in class.

The research is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation, and it includes professors and students from Frederick Community College and Mount St. Mary’s University. The research includes four different spectrometers. This summer, Hood researched the XRF spectrometer, which analyzes what elements are present in a sample.

“These instruments will allow our students to do work beyond the laboratory,” said Stromberg. “Because the instruments are portable, they can be used in field studies in disciplines as diverse as art, archaeology, geology and environmental science.”

The research has given Jarnot and Mansfield unique and valuable student experience with XRF research.

“I have a better understanding of how the technique of X-ray fluorescence works,” said Mansfield, a chemistry and mathematics major. “The project has given me a look into what it would be like to conduct research. And, by using the XRF, I have experience using different instrumentation that could be beneficial to my career.”

Jarnot added: “Not many people have in-depth and hands-on experience with X-ray fluorescence.”

Jarnot was grateful for the experience he gained, noting the theory and the science behind the equipment, and the experience of working with other institutions and doing real research for the first time.

Mansfield appreciated that the experience taught her how to cope with adversity in the researching world.

“The most valuable aspects of the experience were learning that, while researching, sometimes things do not give the results you were hoping for and learning how to deal with things when they go wrong,” said Mansfield.

“Alex and Angela both took on a great deal of responsibility for the development and refining of the experiments that they developed,” said Stromberg. “We talked with them about possible ideas, but they were the ones who actually tested the ideas, improving them and transforming the raw ideas into full-fledged laboratory experiments. Along the way, they took initiative to suggest modifications and entirely new directions for the labs.”

The other three instruments being researched with this grant are a fourier transform infrared spectrometer, which uses molecular vibrations to identify the types of compounds in a sample; a Raman spectrometer, which gives additional insight into the types of compounds in a sample; and an ultraviolet and visible spectrometer, which looks at electronic transitions available in a molecule.

All four instruments will be swapped between the three institutions the next two summers, so each college will have the opportunity to develop experiments and activities for each instrument.

“The goal, of course, is to use these experiments in our courses over many years,” said Stromberg. “We will also be disseminating the experiments in journal articles, talks at conferences, and a project website.”

Jason Trent and Nicole Wilson

Psychological Study: Trust Judgments of Women

Through Hood College’s Summer Research Institute, psychology major Nicole Wilson ’16 worked with Jason Trent, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology, to conduct psychological research into trust judgments of women and which personal traits play into those judgments.

According to Trent, judgments of trust can play an important role in determining which social situations to approach and which to avoid. Previous research into these judgments and which perceived traits play a role in them has primarily focused on men.

In this research, the first study had 100 participants rate female target photos on how mature, intelligent, feminine and attractive they were perceived to be, as well as what kind of emotion they appeared to be feeling. The second study had of 105 participants rate the photos on whether they appeared to be criminals, as well as what emotions they appeared to be feeling. The third study, yet to be completed, will have a different sample of people rate the targets on whether they appear to be trustworthy. When Wilson and Trent collect the data for the third study, they will combine the results to see how the trait and emotion judgments relate to judgments of trust. They will then compare the results of this study with the results of their previous research using male target photos to come to a better understanding of how people determine whom to trust.

Trent has been working with Wilson on research for the past two years, so he was confident that she had the skills and ability necessary for this project. He said he has observed her ability to critically assess problems, organize her thoughts and interpret complex data, along with many other qualities that make a successful researcher.

“I am very impressed with how she has developed as a researcher,” he said.

Under Trent’s supervision, Wilson conducted a literature review of the relevant research, created the studies, analyzed the raw data and put together an abstract and a poster to submit to the Eastern Psychological Association’s annual conference.

“One of the most difficult challenges I faced was when we analyzed data,” said Wilson. “A lot of problem solving goes on—figuring out which analyses are most appropriate, which data needs to be used, etc. But those challenges are also what made it rewarding. My favorite part was getting answers to the questions we had about the data!”

Working through the phases of this project—developing a series of studies, running the studies, analyzing the data and presenting the findings—taught Wilson research methods that she will use in the future.

“The SRI opportunity directly related to what I hope to do after Hood,” said Wilson. “I want to go to graduate school and eventually do research of my own, so learning how to do that now with Professor Trent was really helpful.”

The Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer. The SRI provides students with a $2,500 stipend and free housing.



Early childhood education majors Shelley Hynson ’16 and Emily Richardson ’16 taught an education camp as part of Hood College’s Summer Research Institute this summer.

Marisel N. Torres-Crespo, Ph.D., assistant professor of education, developed and directed the STEAM camp—science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics—at Hood’s Onica Prall Child Development Laboratory School.

The camp included 12 four-year-old children, six boys and six girls. Hynson taught the boys, and Richardson taught the girls.

To prepare, Hynson and Richardson spent a couple of weeks before the camp writing each day’s lessons. During the camp, they worked after hours each day modifying and preparing the lessons for the next day.

“The most valuable aspect of this summer research was all the planning I had to do as the lead role in the classroom,” said Hynson. “I had never realized how much needed to be planned ahead of time.”

One of Torres-Crespo’s focuses was to study how boys and girls differ in learning in the classroom. Hynson and Richardson observed a number of differences.

“Emily and I found that girls would always take much longer and wanted their projects to look pretty, whereas the boys rushed through it and just wanted to get it done,” said Hynson. “Boys also had a harder time working together in groups. This research is something I can keep in mind in the future when planning lessons for my own classes.”

The camp is fun for the students, and it teaches them problem-solving skills through the use of play, according to Torres-Crespo.

“If you ask them, they are playing all the time,” she said. “For two weeks, they are immersed in hands-on activities. They learn not only the skills, but how to work in groups, to be creative, how to solve the problem and respect others’ ideas.”

The camp taught Hynson and Richardson about ways to teach their classes in the future.

“I definitely got a greater understanding of STEAM and how it should be implemented into a classroom,” said Richardson. “It was interesting to see the students work through these concepts and see how they discovered things on their own. The incorporation of STEM and STEAM is now in public schools, so I have that experience going into my internship this year.”

Torres-Crespo hopes to implement her camp in a broader setting outside of Hood in the future.

The Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer. The SRI provides students with a $2,500 stipend and free housing.

Elizabeth Slick and Ammarah Spall

Research in Biofuels

The Hood College Summer Research Institute afforded Elizabeth Slick ’17 and Ammarah Spall ’16 the opportunity to do biological research on proteins this summer.

Slick, a biochemistry major with minors in mathematics and physics, and Spall, a biology major with minors in chemistry and psychology, took on this project under the supervision of Craig Laufer, Ph.D., professor of biology. They were in Laufer’s microbiology class in the spring, and he asked them to help out with a research project. They learned many of the fundamental techniques necessary for the research in that class.

The Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer. The SRI provides students with a $2,500 stipend and free housing.

The main goal of the summer project was to utilize bacterial proteins to eat waste products of the sugar industry to produce methanol, which can then be used to power cars and houses.

“Our research revolved around biofuels—energy that comes from living things,” said Slick.

The backbone of the research was finding the protein that will produce the most methanol. The project yielded multiple proteins, called pectin methylesterases. In the next few years, a graduate student at Hood College can continue the research by creating a super protein—one that will produce more methanol than the others—and that protein can be patented and put into production.

“This research experience taught me to think critically and hone my problem solving skills,” said Spall. “Most importantly, I learned to value the scientific process and was grateful to be able to conduct research that could be extremely useful in the future.”

Spall said her experience working in the lab and using laboratory techniques will help her in her future classes and in her career.

Slick wants to research immunology in the future, so she was grateful for the lab experience to complement her classroom experience.

Due to their quick and successful work, they were able to try some additional science activities that were not in the original plan, including purifying and characterizing proteins to determine which ones are realistic for production.

Slick added: “Science is much more exciting when it works, so the fact that we had a very productive summer means we had fun!”

Sara Eckard

Testing the Waters of Frederick

As part of the Hood College Summer Research Institute this year, Sara Eckard ’16 completed research for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to determine the safety of water in Frederick County. She found above-average levels of harmful bacteria in several freshwater streams.

Eckard, a biology major and coastal studies minor, completed the work under the supervision of Drew Ferrier, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the coastal studies program. Eckard wanted to do something science-related during the summer, so she accepted Ferrier’s request for her to work in his lab.

The Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer. The SRI provides students with a $2,500 stipend and free housing.

Eckard got hands-on experience in several areas, including building temperature monitors and deploying them, but her main project was taking the lead on the enterococcus bacterial monitoring for the CBF.

The goal of the project was to determine what was in the water and make people aware of it.

“We want everyone in this community, from citizens to lawmakers, to really think about what they can do to be better stewards of our waterways,” said Eckard.

She tested the water at six sites in Frederick County that are not designated recreational areas but that people do use to swim and fish. After rainstorms and during dry periods—periods of at least 72 hours free of rain—she took water samples, cultured them, incubated them and reported to the CBF how many harmful bacteria she found. The bacteria levels were well above what the EPA recommends as safe for swimming, and the CBF posted the numbers on its website to inform the public. While the bacteria are not life threatening, they can cause upset stomachs or intestinal problems if ingested.

The CBF sent out a press release to local news sources about the high levels of bacteria in the water, and Eckard’s findings have been reported in articles from the Frederick News-Post, the Baltimore Sun and WHAG in Hagerstown.

“I think the most valuable aspect was getting to do something that really matters and affects the community,” said Eckard.

In addition to helping the CBF, her experience helped her learn about biological research.

“I got a lot of hydrology field experience, bacterial plating and procedure experience, as well as experience in project management,” she said. “I have doubled my skill set and am more confident in the lab.”

Eckard was also able to develop an independent study from her experience, which she is continuing this semester.

ECAP Organizers

ECAP—Excellence in College Admission Preparation

Hood College’s Summer Research Institute gives students the opportunity to work with faculty advisers on a research project. The projects involve laboratory or field work for eight weeks during the summer.

One SRI project this year involved building a program from the bottom up to help high school students prepare for the college admission process and find a college that is the right fit for them. Students Logan Samuels ’17 and Ryan DiGirolamo ’16 collaborated with professors Diane Oliver and Kathleen Bands to build ECAP—Excellence in College Admission Preparation.

ECAP held two bootcamps, one June 22-24 for rising seniors and one Aug. 3-5 open to all grades. The camps included work on essay writing with Jo Ellen Smallwood, the program’s senior writing consultant, and mock interviews. Students also attended informational sessions with members of Hood’s admission, athletics, financial aid and study abroad offices.

“We’re collecting data to find out what is making a difference to the kids,” said Oliver, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and ECAP co-director.

Oliver thought of the idea for the camp originally when she watched her nephew go through the college search process. He had a college adviser, and Oliver watched that experience help him own the process and gain confidence.

“I was thinking I want this for every kid,” she said. “If they had more advice and guidance, this wouldn’t be so hard. I just want to see them empowered, emerging into adulthood.”

Bands, Ph.D., professor of education and ECAP co-director, noticed a need for a camp of this sort during her time working with college admission and wanted to organize something at Hood.

“A college campus is an authentic place to do this,” she said. “We use the great resources that the institution provides. Hood is a gem, a jewel, and a mosaic of life.”

Samuels and DiGirolamo, both first-generation college students, got involved with this program as research associates because they believe in its cause.

“It’s a program we both wish we had,” said Samuels. “We want it to work because it’s a great program.”

Having completed the process in the past few years, Samuels and DiGirolamo can relate to the students and help them through the process by sharing personal stories and experiences.

“We cater to all students,” said DiGirolamo. “This program teaches everybody something.”

Oliver said they are trying to complement the work of the school guidance counselors, and ECAP participants leave the camp much better prepared for the college application process.

The main message of the camp is that applying to colleges is all about fit. Different students fit better in different places, and the college application process should be completed with that in mind.

Exploring Utopia

Exploring Utopia

Heather Mitchell-Buck was recently named an Apple Distinguished Educator, recognizing her as one of the most innovative educators in the world, for her use of technology in the classroom.

Mitchell-Buck, Ph.D., assistant professor of English, uses technology, specifically the iPad, to challenge students to be more active in the learning experience by using digital and online resources such as e-books, apps, the college’s course management system, blogs and online class projects. She also encourages students to continue discussions outside class time using their devices. Her students enhance their work and research using the varied media available on their tablets, including images, sound, text and video.

In her ENG 364 Exploring Utopia class in the spring, students used Twitter to communicate outside of class by raising concerns, asking questions or live-Tweeting books or films.

“Every week, students were required either to initiate a conversation or respond to some of their colleagues’ thoughts outside of class,” said Mitchell-Buck. “We used our special class hashtag, #Utopia364, to keep up with each other. It’s been really beneficial.”

The innovative style of teaching caters to a wide variety of students.

“The way she teaches class, using the more informal blogging and Twitter assignments, really provides the opportunity for any type of student to succeed,” said Sara Eckard ’16, biology major and member of the Honors program.

Zach Willis ’15, an English major, enjoys the sway that the students have in the discussion topics.

“Dr. Mitchell-Buck helps facilitate and designs the syllabus, but as a whole, the students get to steer the discussion,” he said. “It’s cool that in a utopia class, she kind of mimics the structure of a utopia. That’s different and makes it way more enjoyable.”

As the class progressed, Mitchell-Buck said the topics expanded from talking just about the texts the class was reading to having related discussions about the real world.

“It’s truly a liberal arts class,” said Logan Samuels ’17, an English major. There’s a lot that comes up in class that I see in my other courses. There are a lot of overlapping themes and topics. We get to talk about things that are relevant in today’s society and compare them to what we’ve seen in literature.”

Mitchell-Buck will teach the class again during the 2016-17 academic year.

Michél Lavarn

Biology Student Makes Impact

For many students, schoolwork consists of going to class, studying and completing homework assignments. For others, it includes fieldwork, summer research and discovering new areas of interest.

Michél Lavarn, a student in the Honors program who graduated May 16, was active in Hood’s biology department throughout her academic career. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in environmental biology and a minor in coastal studies.

She first developed an interest for coastal studies during her entomology class, which was taught by Professor Ron Albaugh, coordinator of the Coastal Studies Semester. With a little encouragement, she enrolled the following year in that program. Albaugh was her professor in her Coastal Oceanography and Coastal Research Practicum classes.

“When I took coastal studies, I decided to be an environmental studies major,” said Lavarn. “I love it. The professors really like what they’re teaching, and that comes across and makes it fun to learn.”

Participants in the Coastal Studies Semester earn 16 to 17 hours of academic credit by taking block courses specifically designed for them. Lavarn took full advantage of the opportunity.

“Throughout her experience, Michél was always enthusiastic, energetic and exceptionally well-organized,” said Albaugh. “Academically, Michél never deviates from an A average.”

During the 2013 January term, Albaugh coordinated the Hood portion of a Neotropical Natural History course at the La Suerte Biological Field Station in Costa Rica. Lavarn, along with 11 additional Hood students, enrolled in this two-week field course.

In the summer of 2013, Lavarn assisted Albaugh with a native pollinator research project on Albaugh’s farm in northern Frederick County.

“It required tedious data collecting for many long hours under a variety of sometimes extreme weather conditions,” said Albaugh. “She completed every task, and at no time did I ever hear her complain.”

Lavarn later prepared a poster demonstrating the results of the research, which she presented at the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America.

During the senior year, she worked with the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies on numerous hands-on projects, including water quality monitoring and analysis of Culler Lake, Carroll Creek Linear Park and Lake Linganore. She has also assisted with Project BOOST, which involves raising rainbow trout in high school classrooms and releasing them in local streams.

Now that she has graduated, Lavarn plans to teach English in Costa Rica for six months. Upon her return, she plans to continue teaching and researching.

Hood College MSL

Hood Delegation Wins Awards

Hood College’s delegation of the Maryland Student Legislature won the most outstanding delegation for the third time in six years at the 26th Annual Session May 1-3 in Annapolis, Md.

Kristen Geatz, Tyler Graham and Caitlin Battey stood out for Hood, each winning individual awards. Geatz, Hood’s delegation chairwoman, earned the William Troy Simmons award for distinguished career of service. She has held leadership roles in Hood’s delegation for three consecutive years, one as vice chair and two as chair. Graham received the award for most outstanding act, and Battey received the award for most outstanding senator. The MSL board of directors selects the recipient for the distinguished career of service award; student peers vote on the other awards.

Hood students Sharifa Clark, Helena Hammond, Samuel Kebede, Melissa Lopez, Brice McAndrew, Ayomide Sekiteri, Elliot Tombs, Emma Ward, Derrick Wood and Dylan Wood also participated in the events.

The MSL is a nonprofit that allows college and university students opportunities to experience Maryland state government and legislative processes and gather to write and debate public policy. Each year during its annual session, members experience the legislative process of the actual house of delegates and senate chambers.

The MSL includes delegations from Frederick Community College; Hood College; McDaniel College; Mount St. Mary’s University; St. Mary’s College of Maryland; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Maryland, College Park; and Washington College.

Photo of the Hood delegation: From left—Brice McAndrew, Ayomide Sekiteri, Kristen Geatz, Elliot Tombs, Samuel Kebede, Melissa Lopez, Tyler Graham, Helena Hammond, Sharifa Clark, Emma Ward, Dylan Wood, Derrick Wood.

Commencement 2015

Commencement 2015

Hood’s undergraduate and graduate Commencement ceremonies took place May 16. The morning’s 118th undergraduate ceremony saw 352 students earn bachelor’s degrees in front of the College’s largest-ever undergraduate Commencement audience. The afternoon’s 42nd graduate ceremony included 239 graduates.

These Commencement exercises were President Ronald J. Volpe’s 14th and final at Hood. He received an honorary degree at the undergraduate ceremony and the status of president emeritus at the graduate ceremony. President Volpe has awarded 6,705 academic degrees at Hood.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement, the undergraduate ceremony speaker, received an honorary degree. Currently serving his second term as mayor, McClement has been an active member of the Frederick community for more than a decade. He has served on a number of boards and commissions that have given him an impressive breadth and depth of knowledge about the city of Frederick.

Thomas Geisbert, a 1988 Hood graduate whose recent research into the Ebola virus has earned him international notoriety, was the graduate ceremony speaker and also received an honorary degree. Geisbert is a professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and the Galveston National Laboratory. He earned his doctorate in molecular pathobiology from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and he was one of the Ebola fighters named collectively as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2014.

Members of the undergraduate Class of 2015 hailed from 16 states, the District of Columbia and six countries. One hundred twenty-nine completed internships. Many will continue their education, while others will begin their careers.

Paula Miller Dennis, a nursing major from Hagerstown, Md., and Alisha Marie Dunkle, an early childhood education major from Watertown, N.Y., were awarded the Hood College Academic Achievement Prize for the highest academic records in the Class of 2015.

Senior Class President Jada Burton asked that the 2015 class “please continue to take care of each other” and recognized that Hood students made lifelong friends and learned important life lessons in addition to their academics.

During the undergraduate ceremony, President Volpe awarded presidential excellence awards to Purnima Bhatt, Gary Gillard and Al Weinberg, who all retired after a combined 91 years of service.

During the graduate ceremony, Tony Miller, a social studies teacher at Linganore High, was presented with the annual Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award. Given jointly by Hood and Frederick County Public Schools, the award acknowledged his passion for teaching in the classroom as well as on the field as a lacrosse, softball and field hockey coach. Miller has taught at Linganore High since 1979. He earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies from Shepherd College in 1979 and completed his master’s degree in secondary education curriculum and instruction at Hood in 1987. He has also earned 30 credits beyond his master’s degree at Hood.

For full Commencement coverage, visit Hood’s Commencement webpage. Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

Pictured: Class of 2015 graduates Meg DePanise and Zari DeMesme