Top U.S. Mental Health Official Urges Audience to “Get Involved” in Responding to National Opioid Crisis

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Eastern Student Wins Fulbright Scholarship to Study in Indonesia

Eastern Connecticut State University student Adam Murphy ’18 has been awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study Indonesian language in an intensive-language program in Salatiga, Indonesia, this summer. Murphy hails from Meriden and double majors in political science and history with a minor in Asian studies.

The scholarship will fund Murphy’s travel expenses and his educational costs. The program is sponsored by the Consortium of Teaching Indonesian through the Cornell University Center for Southeast Asian Studies. Murphy follows Quanece Williams ’16, who is completing a year in the Czech Republic through the Fulbright program.

Salatiga is a city on the island of Java, the most populated island in the world and one of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands. Murphy will be in Indonesia from June to August, living with a host family and taking language classes at a local university. “I am honored to have been selected for such an amazing program, honored to have been awarded this prestigious scholarship, and excited to return to Indonesia. With this award I can continue to learn about Indonesia and its wonderful people.”

This is not Murphy’s first trip to Indonesia. Last year he lived for the summer in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, studying in an immersive language program with funding through a fellowship from the U.S.-Indonesian Society.

In addition to taking language classes, Murphy taught English for “Stichting Jogja,” which offers free English classes to people living in poverty. He also met with national leaders and scholars, including the Minister of State, the Princess of Yogyakarta, the Speaker of the House and the Deputy U.S. Ambassador.

“I am ecstatic to return to Indonesia to continue my language studies,” said Murphy. I am excited to try new foods, meet new people, live in a different area of the country, and visit friends I met during my past trip there. I am honored to be accepted to this program and awarded the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship.”

“Adam exemplifies Eastern’s emphasis on a practically applied liberal arts education,” said History Professor Bradley Davis, Murphy’s faculty mentor. “While completing a double major in history and political science and a minor in Asian studies, Adam has produced compelling original scholarship on the role of U.S. agricultural development specialists in Indonesia during the Cold War.”

Murphy is also active on Eastern’s campus, currently working as a resident assistant, and previously as a tutor and student ambassador in the Pride Center. He has been involved with the Student Government Association, the International Student Association and as president of the College Democrats.

This coming fall, Murphy will begin a master’s program in Southeast Asia Studies at the University of Wisconsin. He intends to go on to earn a doctorate in political science and foreign policy.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Student is Connecticut’s only 2018 Goldwater Scholar

Eastern Connecticut State University student Jacob Dayton ’18, a biology major from Bolton, has been awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for undergraduates in STEM fields who intend to pursue a Ph.D. and research career. Dayton is Eastern’s first Goldwater recipient and intends to attend graduate school in genomics.

“I am truly honored to be a recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” said Dayton. “This recognition is a testament to the strength of Eastern’s biology program and the value of the research experiences I have acquired in Dr. Patricia Szczys’ laboratory. Throughout my biology coursework and research at Eastern, I have learned how scholarship and experimental inquiry are engaging and never-ending. The more scientific literature I read, conferences I am able to attend and researchers I meet, the more questions I have. Receiving the Goldwater Scholarship is affirmation that I am on the right track in pursuing a career in research.”

This year 1,280 students from 455 institutions across the country were nominated for a Goldwater scholarship, and 211 were named Goldwater Scholars. Dayton is the only student from a Connecticut institution to receive a Goldwater Scholarship this year. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in molecular biology, with eventual plans to conduct research in molecular and evolutionary genomics and teach at the university level.

During his time at Eastern, Dayton has conducted research with Biology Professor Patty Szczys to study genetic diversity in roseate terns; collaborated with scientists from France, Poland and the Ukraine on the Whiskered Tern Population Genetic Structure study; published his findings in the peer-reviewed journal “Waterbirds”; and presented at the annual meeting of the International Waterbird Society, the Northeast Region-1 TriBeta Conference and Eastern’s CREATE conference.

In addition to the Goldwater Scholarship, Dayton has received awards ranging from the President’s Award for Research to the Marc Freeman Scholarship to support his summer science research project, and others.

Active on campus, Dayton also served as a research-lab peer mentor, president and secretary of Eastern’s Biology Club, and as a tutor at Windham Middle School.

Dayton was recently accepted into a National Science Foundation-funded research program at the Jackson Laboratory for this coming summer, joining other students from Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Hofstra University, Colorado State University and other institutions.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Student Presents at ‘Posters on the Hill’ in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Professor Courtney Broscious, U.S. Representative Joseph Courtney and Tess Candler.

Eastern Connecticut State University student Tess Candler ’18 of Ledyard was one of two researchers from Connecticut given the distinguished opportunity of presenting their projects at the highly selective Posters on the Hill (POH) academic conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Candler‘s major is Political Science and Economics.

During the April 17 event she presented her research poster titled “When Reds Go Green: Determinants of Conservative Support for Environmental Policy.” Her research was completed under the supervision of Political Science Professor Courtney Broscious.

Each spring, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) hosts the event during which select undergraduate students present their research to members of Congress and other invited guests. CUR works to ensure that members of Congress have a clear understanding of the research and education programs that they fund. Approximately 60 students out of a pool of 600 nationwide applicants are selected to present their research posters.

According to Candler, prior research has demonstrated that individuals with conservative ideals are less likely to support environmental policies. However, she asserts that it is worth noting that some of the most significant environmental legislation has been passed under Republican leadership, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s. This shows that comprehensive environmental policy has been passed under Republican administrations. Candler wanted to examine what made conservatives more or less likely to support environmental policy.

Her study examined the the conditions under which conservatives demonstrate high levels of support for environmental policy. “Understanding the rationales of conservative support for environmental policy can help those interested in passing this type of legislation be better equipped to shape policy in a way that increases its likelihood of enactment,” said Candler.

Candler found that conservatives are more likely to support environmental policy when there are no states’ rights concern, no unnecessary extension of government and the policy protects the rights of citizens.

“Tess serves as a shining example of what we can achieve at Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university,” said Broscious.

Eastern has represented Connecticut seven out of the 12 times students have presented in the annual Posters on the Hill conference.

Eastern Education Students Present at New Mexico Conference

Caroline Perry (bottom left) and Morgan Winship (bottom right) and their research mentors Niloufar Rezai and Jeffrey Trawick-Smith attend the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern Connecticut State University students Caroline Perry and Morgan Winship presented research at the National Coalition of Campus Children’s Centers conference in Albuquerque, NM, this March 15–17. Their presentation was titled “Authentic Experiences with Families: Impact on Pre-service Teachers’ Knowledge and Dispositions.”

“The essence of this research was to find out how positive family-teacher communication can strengthen a classroom’s interpersonal environment,” said Perry, who hails from Wilton and majors in early childhood education and English. “Family communication is such a large and integral part of a classroom teacher’s role, however there is minimal preparation for this component in education certification programs.”

Under the mentorship of Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, professor of early childhood education, and Niloufar Rezai, director of Eastern’s Child and Family Development Resource Center (CFDRC), the students were tasked with developing strong relationships with families of children enrolled at Eastern’s CFDRC preschool. They did this by maintaining communication with children’s families, going on a home visit, planning a family event at the CFDRC, and more. 

“This pushed us to go outside of our comfort zone and be in constant communication with families from the classroom that we were interning in,” said Winship, who hails from Monroe and majors in early childhood education and psychology. “Until this course, I never realized how important it is for teachers to develop relationships with parents. Home life and school life affect each other; teachers and parents need to know how a child is doing in both environments.”

To assist with day-to-day communication, the students experimented with a mobile app called “Remind,” which enabled them to capture moments throughout the day and share them directly with parents.

“This app became my main resource for communicating with my focus child’s family,” said Perry. “It’s really important to keep families updated and involved with their child’s school day. It also offers families a way to get in touch with you (the teacher) beyond an email address.”

Conducting home visits was another major component of the project. “When you visit families in their home you see so much more,” said Winship. “This helps you better understand the child and better connect your curriculum in order to make learning more meaningful to them.”

Reflecting on their experience, Perry said, “We found that family communication is such a valuable resource for creating meaningful learning experiences for children. If you support your students’ families, they will support you. Together, you become a strong team with a shared interest: their child’s success.”

Having successfully presented at the conference in New Mexico, the students and their mentors now aim to publish their results in the “Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education.”

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Student-Professor Duo Conducts NASA-Funded Satellite Research

Eastern Connecticut State University student Michael Beckstein ’18 joined Economics Professor Brendan Cunningham this summer to work on a research project titled “The Efficient Use of Space Orbit.” The project, which investigates the usage of Earth’s orbit by satellites in circulation, was funded by a $28,000 grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC).

The research project aimed to evaluate the economic efficiency of satellites and the choices made by their operators. In turn, the goal was to discover how to improve satellite services.

Beckstein, who double majors in economics and music, was responsible for sorting through all of the satellites listed in NASA’s online database. He analyzed different variables such as the satellite’s purpose, which country launched the satellite and which launch vehicle took it into space.

“The most interesting thing I found in my research,” he said, “was the vast amount of detail and work that goes into every satellite launch, as well as the wide array of purposes that satellites have.”

He and Cunningham noted that there are still conclusions that have yet to be fully developed. According to Cunningham, the team did confirm that there are conditions under which satellite launchers behave inefficiently.

Two potential inefficiencies in orbit include the presence of debris and the overcrowding of satellites. Operators may not remove the satellite after it’s reached the end of its useful life, which may block other operators from replacing their satellites with active ones.

“They have incentives to keep poorly functioning satellites in orbit in order to prevent entry by competitors,” explained Cunningham. “We refer to this as ‘warehousing.'”

The two Eastern researchers were joined by three additional researchers, economists Peter Alexander and Daniel Shiman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Nodir Adilov of Indiana University-Purdue University. The research team has been invited to present their findings at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles in May of 2018.

The NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC) is a federally mandated grant, internship and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA Education. There are Space Grant Consortia in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Eligible full-time undergraduate/graduate students of a consortium university/college may apply for the fellowship program, in which students are expected to work on research related to space/aerospace science or engineering under the guidance of a faculty member or a mentor from industry.

Written by Jordan Corey

2 Students Awarded Eastern Summer Fellowships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Eastern students Jolene Potter ’18 and Julie Leitao ’18 participated in Undergraduate Research/Creative Activity Fellowships this summer. Potter, a psychology major, prepared her research study, “Awareness and Understanding of Rape Culture among College Students,” for publication. Leitao, a theatre and early childhood education double major, worked to devise the script and choreography for the upcoming Eastern theatre production “Thread City.”

Jolene Potter '18

Jolene Potter ’18

Potter began her research in fall 2016, and aspired to submit her 9,000-word manuscript to an undergraduate research journal at the conclusion of the summer fellowship.

“Through in-depth interviews with Eastern students, my research examines how students define, perceive and reproduce notions about rape culture,” said Potter. “The study explores student acceptance of rape myths, their victim-blaming behavior and their tendency to defend the perpetrator. I also assess feelings regarding campus safety, beliefs regarding the necessity and efficacy of campus programs regarding sexual assault, and awareness of services for victims of sexual assault.”

Potter reports that her findings suggest “an association between awareness and understanding of rape culture and decreased rape myth acceptance and victim-blaming behavior, increased concerns pertaining to campus safety, and increased awareness of services offered to victims of sexual assault.”

Julia Leitao '18

Julia Leitao ’18

Leitao worked on the upcoming theatre production “Thread City,” which will be performed at Eastern Oct. 11-15. The show aims to tell the story of the immigrants who came to Willimantic to work in its historic thread mills. During one of Leitao’s spring semester classes, she interviewed local residents, learned about theatre companies and completed “moment work”—a theatrical technique in which individual moments are dissected and explored.

“We delved deeper into the research and used it to create the characters, storyline and movement pieces of the show,” said Leitao. “‘Thread City’ will focus on movement and sound rather than being a text-heavy performance.

“Devising a piece of theatre that tells the story through the body is something I am very excited to be a part of,” added Leitao. “Our characters and movements will represent immigrants from various locations who have traveled to a new, strange world and are adapting to a new life.”

Eastern’s Summer Research/Creative Activity Fellowship program is administered by the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Advisory Council. Students from all majors can apply for the competitive fellowship. Participants receive a $1,000 stipend and $250 for travel.

2 Biology Students Complete NASA CT Summer Fellowships

Written by Michael Rouleau

Two Eastern biology students were among six undergraduate students from universities across Connecticut to receive fellowships from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium this summer. Lauren Atkinson ’17 used the fellowship to assist in her pursuit of discovering new antibiotics. Lillian Hyde ’17 used hers to research a cell found in the central nervous system known as microglia.

Lauren Atkinson and her research mentor Professor Barbara Murdoch

Lauren Atkinson ’17 and her research mentor Professor Barbara Murdoch

Atkinson’s research is titled “Evaluating the Scorpion Microbiome for Diversity and Antibiotic Production.” Alongside her research mentor Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch, Atkinson researched the scorpion abdominal microbiome in pursuit of finding new antibiotics to address the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. A microbiome is the collection of microbes or microorganisms that inhabit an environment — in this case, the abdomen of a scorpion — and antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microbe to resist drugs (like antibiotics) that had previously been useful in treating them.

“The United Nations has declared antimicrobial resistance a fundamental global threat to human life, food production, economic development and security,” said Atkinson. “One step in responding to this threat is to develop new drugs that microbes have not developed resistance to.”

Scorpions are routinely exposed to potentially deadly microbes since many of their prey are vectors for deadly pathogens. “We are testing bacteria naturally found in the abdomens of scorpions for their ability to produce antibiotics,” said Atkinson. “We hypothesize that scorpions have formed symbiotic relationships with bacteria that produce antibiotics that protect the scorpions from these pathogens.”

Lillian Hyde '17

Lillian Hyde ’17

Hyde’s research is titled “Assessment of Microglia Function in Brain and Blood Microenvironments.” She reports: “My experiment focuses on microglia, a cell found in the central nervous system that has been shown to change between an anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory state. These cells are normally grown in fetal bovine serum, however in the body they are isolated in a cerebrospinal fluid-like environment, the fluid that coats the brain and the spinal cord.”

The purpose of the study is to test if the microglia have different states in cerebrospinal fluid (fluid closest to their native environment) compared to fetal bovine serum (their standard culture media).

“A main component of the study is cell culture,” said Hyde, who worked with Biology Professor Kurt Lucin during the fellowship. “I am responsible for maintaining the cell culture and conducting various experiments. My experiment is testing how the cells react to growing in different culture environments and assessing their different states based on their appearance, chemicals that they secrete, and how they respond to foreign substances.”

Relating the experiment to space travel, the NASA CTSGC writes: “By establishing a baseline for microglia function in their native environment, space travel conditions can eventually be tested to assess their effects on the central nervous system.”

NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium is a federally mandated grant, internship and scholarship program that is funded as a part of NASA Education. There are Space Grant Consortia in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. Eligible full-time undergraduate/graduate students of a consortium university/college may apply for the fellowship program, in which students are expected to work on research related to space/aerospace science or engineering under the guidance of a faculty member or a mentor from industry.