Majora Carter

Martin Luther King Jr. Honored with Day of Speakers, Events

A full day of events honored and celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Jan. 18.

Majora Carter and Sonia Sanchez headlined the day as the featured speakers. There was also a “Wright for Rights” campaign, and several documentaries were shown about the Civil Rights Movement.

Carter is an urban revitalization strategy consultant, real estate developer and Peabody Award winning broadcaster. She is responsible for the creation and successful implementation of numerous green-infrastructure projects, policies and job training and placement systems. Carter has continually set new standards of excellence with projects in her South Bronx community, while expanding her reach through philanthropic pursuits and business interests that have all pointed toward greater self-esteem and economic potential for low-income people everywhere.

Her list of awards and honorary degrees includes accolades from groups as diverse as Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, Goldman Sachs and a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Carter is a board member of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Her talk, “Department of Home(town) Security,” was sponsored by the Hanson Lecture Series. She spoke to a packed auditorium of students, faculty, staff and community members about growing up in a poor neighborhood and how she came to transform her own community and many others by thinking outside the box.

Sanchez is a poet, playwright and activist who was one of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement. She is a national and international lecturer on Black culture and literature, women’s liberation, peace and racial justice. She has lectured at more than 500 universities and colleges in the United States and has traveled extensively, reading her poetry in Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada, Cuba, England, Europe, Nicaragua, Norway and the People’s Republic of China.

Among the honors she has received are the Robert Creeley Award, the Frost Medal, the Community Service Award from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the Lucretia Mott Award, the Outstanding Arts Award from the Pennsylvania Coalition of 100 Black Women, the Peace and Freedom Award from Women International League for Peace and Freedom, the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Humanities, a National Endowment for the Arts Award and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts.

Her lecture, “Push-ups for Peace: Remembering Brother Martin,” was sponsored by the Office of the Provost, and she held a book signing following the talk. She performed several of her poems and shared with the audience stories of her family and students, and the struggle for peace.

The “Write for Rights” campaign, co-sponsored by Rev. Beth O’Malley and Amnesty International, helped Hood community members write letters to support prisoners of conscience around the world. This is an annual, global campaign led by AI involving hundreds of thousands of people writing letters and sending them to government officials.

The special program not only ignited discussion among Hood students, faculty, staff and the greater community about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, the speakers also challenged everyone to think creatively, be kind and always do our part to fulfill King’s dream.

Watch Sonia Sanchez read a poem she wrote for Martin Luther King Jr.

Watch an interview with Sonia Sanchez.

Watch an interview with Majora Carter.

GIS Mapping Peter O'Connor

Robotics Project Benefits Frederick City

Hood College’s Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies and department of computer science have collaborated on an environmental science project for the City of Frederick using robotics and geographic information systems.

“We were contacted by the City of Frederick,” said Drew Ferrier, professor of biology and director of the coastal studies program. “They wanted to know if their reservoir was filling in with sediment, so it would be unable to hold as much water as when it was built. They asked us if we had a way of taking those kinds of measurements.

“The Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies was able to collaborate with the computer science department to develop this project and allow us to take those measurements, so we can find out how much the volume has changed over the last almost 100 years.”

Together, Ferrier; George Dimitoglou, associate professor of computer science; Randy Smith, GIS specialist; and Peter O’Connor and Stephan Auderset, computer science graduate students, took on the task of mapping Fishing Creek Reservoir in Frederick to determine what its restoration needs are.

They bought a four-foot-long, fiberglass boat on eBay. Originally built to be a remote control model boat, they repurposed it, cutting holes for three compartments for equipment and adding a stand for a GPS and compass. Dimitoglou and O’Connor were primarily responsible for outfitting the boat with the technology, programming it and testing it.

The steering, motors and lithium battery are in the back compartment. The middle compartment holds the memory card and the electronics—the brains that coordinate GPS and communications. There are two computers in the compartment; one manages the movement of the boat, and one manages the observations and sensor payload. Wire storage is in the front compartment with the sonar sensor underneath, and the GPS component and compass that connect to the electronics are in a raised box at the front of the boat. Plastic covers are screwed in to seal the compartments and make them watertight. The electronics are all open source.

“The boat is an autonomous surface vehicle, which means that it has a computer and has all the brains to be able to go out in the water and, after we program a very specific route, just follow it and perform the observations,” said Dimitoglou.

The team tested the boat at Hood’s Huntsinger Aquatic Center for sensor readings and calibration and at Little Seneca Lake in Montgomery County to navigate and take observations and compare the results with the U.S. Geological Survey measurements to make sure the boat was performing accurately.

After the boat passed the tests, the team began executing the project at Fishing Creek Reservoir, a 10.5-acre pond. Dimitoglou and his team programmed the boat to travel to 90 points along the edge back and forth both directions, forming a grid path. The boat traveled at around three feet per second, taking a measurement every second. The data collection was complete after approximately four hours and 10,000 measurements.

GIS specialist Randy Smith took the data gathered by the boat and created a cartography map of the bottom of the reservoir. He then used data from the original reservoir construction drawings and was able to do the computations to determine changes in volume.

With that done, there’s only one step left in the project.

“We’re going to complete the project by writing a study,” said Dimitoglou. “We are going to give it to the city, and they will be able to decide if they need to do any kind of remediation.”

According to Ferrier, this is one of the newest and best projects that exemplifies what the Center for Coastal and Watershed Studies does. The center tries to bring together different disciplines to deal with coastal and watershed issues, whether scientific, social or historic issues.

“Our technology has a very useful niche in that this type of boat can be used in instances where municipalities need to know whether their small stormwater management ponds, for instance, are filling with sediment to the point that they need to be maintained, dredged and regenerated,” said Ferrier. “I’m hoping that those municipalities will get in touch with us. We would be happy to work with them on it.”

The current boat measures depth and water temperature, but Dimitoglou said its capabilities are expandable. For example, for future work, they are considering outfitting it with water quality sensors and even pairing the boat with drone fly-over observations.

Alpha Lambda Delta

Hood Chapter of Alpha Lambda Delta Earns Award

The Hood College chapter of the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society won the prestigious Order of the Torch Award in August for its activities during the 2014-15 academic year. This award highlights excellence in programming, internal communications, campus visibility and overall presentation of their application.

Hood’s successful chapter was involved in events that benefited Sophie and Madigan’s Playground, A Million Thanks Organization, Samaritan’s Purse, the Ronald McDonald House, Autism Speaks and Goodwill Industries.

“It’s an honor that these students were recognized for their hard work and dedication in service to others,” said Christine Malone, Hood’s chapter adviser.

Molly Masterson ’17 led the organization as president of the chapter during 2014-15.

“My time serving as president of Hood´s chapter was an amazing experience,” she said. “I was able to work with an outstanding group of my peers and a fantastic executive board. Together we were able to serve our community both in Frederick and at Hood. I´m so honored that our hard work was recognized by the national chapter and proud to say that I was able to lead our members through another year at Hood College.”

In October Logan Samuels ’17, the chapter’s secretary, was part of a panel presentation at the National Leadership Workshop in Orlando, Fla., where she presented a scrapbook of Hood’s work to other Alpha Lambda Delta chapters.

According to Malone, Hood’s chapter is fairly small with only 35 active members. The chapter is also fairly new, installed in March 2009.

“I think [the award] helps us recognize that even though we are a small chapter, these awards are still able to be achieved,” said Malone. “I think it will help us continue to be motivated to win the awards again and to strive in doing projects that honor service to others.”

This year the National Council of Alpha Lambda Delta recognized nine chapters across the nation: California University of Pennsylvania, Hood College, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Morningside College, Otterbein University, University of New Haven, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas-Pan American and Western Michigan University.

“We sincerely appreciate the work it takes to achieve the Torch award,” said Eileen Merberg, executive director of the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society. “The students from these winning institutions demonstrated high quality programming, outstanding communication across campus and in their communities and overall excellence. It is truly impressive what the winning chapters were able to accomplish this past year.”

Alpha Lambda Delta is a national honor society that recognizes students’ academic success during their first year at a college or university. Its mission is to “encourage superior academic achievement, to promote intelligent living and a continued high standard of learning, and to assist students in recognizing and developing meaningful goals for their unique roles in society.”

Megan Rodriguez

Hood Alumna Wins Top Prize

Megan Rodriguez ’15 earned the Council on Undergraduate Research Prize by Pi Mu Epsilon, the national mathematics honor society. The prize is award to the most outstanding student research talk at the Mathematical Association of America’s annual MathFest conference. Rodriguez is the first Hood College student to win the award.

Her talk, entitled “Graph Theory Representation and Computational Complexity of Sliding Block Ice Puzzles Inspired by Legend of Zelda,” focused on winning strategies using algorithms for puzzles in video games. The research was originally for her honors thesis work, but she continued it after her project was complete and went on to present at MathFest in August.

“While I was conducting my research my senior year, I had hoped I would be able to present it at some conference after its completion,” said Rodriguez. “However, I hadn’t even considered Mathfest, let alone the 100th celebration of the Mathematical Association of America. It was very exciting to be accepted to speak at such an important conference.”

Rodriguez’ research adviser was James Parson, associate professor of mathematics, who offered general suggestions about what types of math to use and served as a sounding board for her ideas.

“It was her initiative throughout,” he said. “She was really driving the whole thing. She turned the games into real mathematical problems.”

There were approximately 2,500 registered participants at MathFest, and about 80 students from around the country presented in the Pi Mu Epsilon undergraduate research sessions.

Rodriguez was excited to present her research, but she didn’t realize the possibility of an award until her talk was over. With a topic based on video games, she wasn’t sure if there would be broad interest.

“Receiving such an award reaffirmed my belief that mathematical work in any field really is valuable and that mathematics can be applied in fun and strange new ways,” she said.

Over the summer, Rodriguez also created interactive websites where people can go try the puzzles she had studied and see her algorithms in action. The one-block version of the puzzle is here. The multiple-block, or n-block, version of the puzzle is here. To play the games for both, click the play button in the top left corner.

“There are preset puzzles to try out, and I encourage people to look through the code and try to improve it,” she said. “I only ask that they send their code to”

Rodriguez also encouraged those at her talk to go to the sites and see if they could improve her methods.

“She’s a great representative of what Hood is,” said Parson. “She’s one of the brightest students I’ve had at Hood. She has an amazing eye for detail, but she can also see the big picture.”

Rodriguez is currently enjoying her work as a software engineer at iNovex Software Solutions

“I get to apply my mathematics, web development and computer science skills all at the same time,” she said. “The atmosphere of the company is fantastic, and I feel right at home.”

CJ Blickenstaff

From the Military to College

A veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard where she served four and a half years, CJ Blickenstaff has a different perspective on her undergraduate college career than the average student.

At 32 years old, she has three children, one in pre-K, one in kindergarten and one in first grade. Her active-duty husband is stationed in Baltimore, and she is working toward her bachelor’s degree in communication arts with a concentration in digital media at Hood College. She hopes to finish her degree by 2017 before the Coast Guard transfers her family to another location.

Blickenstaff, who rose to the rank of petty officer third class before leaving active duty in 2010, has a wide range of interests within communications, and she will be looking for a job with a small company in public relations, social media or networking.

“I like to communicate both verbally and visually,” she said. “I dabble in photography. So I’m setting myself up for maybe the perfect job landing in my lap that meets everything I love to do.”

The support she has received from the military and Hood College has provided her a smooth transition into the life of a college student. With her GI Bill, other funds from Hood grants and Hood’s involvement in the yellow ribbon program—a program that supplements the GI Bill—there is no out-of-pocket cost to her.

Blickenstaff credits her experiences in life and in the military for giving her the mindset and habits to succeed even with such a busy life.

“I think I’m a more dedicated student,” she said. “Back in 2001 I graduated from high school, and I went to Stockton College in New Jersey on a scholarship. Within a month and a half, I dropped out. I wasn’t happy with where things were going. I joined the service a couple years later to get direction in life. I feel like now, as a spouse, as a parent and as an adult, I have to sit down, and I have to do it, so I do my best because I respect that it’s being paid for by something I earned, and it’s not just been given to me.”

Blickenstaff likes the Hood campus in part because she has seen a wide variety of students, and she feels welcome. As a person with years of experience in the real world, her younger classmates look to her for perspective and advice.

“I don’t feel like the students treat me differently because I’m older,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of students say it’s cool to have a mom’s perspective in the classroom. I think I’ve lost my direction enough times that I can be a good coach for bringing people back.”

Taking classes on top of being a full-time mom, Blickenstaff has a full plate.

“It’s busy, but it’s doable,” she said. “I feel like the real world is equally busy. Life is full time.”

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.