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Home Away From Home

This year, Stephanie Letourneau is living at the Raystown Field Station and running her own blog about the adventures there! To not miss any of her updates, follow her blog Pursuing Passions.

Waving hello from the lake!

The Field Station Harbor
The Field Station Harbor

On August 22nd, I successfully moved into the Raystown Field Station.  We had a presentation after moving in on field safety and then went down to the fire pit by the lake for s’mores and residential life information.

The schedule at the field station includes having one class all day each day.  Our first day was an introduction to the station, tours, and logistics.

My class schedule is:

Mondays – GIS

Tuesdays – Sense of Place Seminar and Nature Photography

Wednesdays – Research

Thursdays – Aquatic Ecology

Fridays – Limnology

Our first class was Limnology on Friday.   We have only had a few classes, but so far, we have designed a leaf decomposition study as a class to evaluate nearby ponds and Raystown Lake.  Our labs the past two weeks have comprised of going out on the lake on the boat and measuring the lake’s physical and chemical properties.

Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake
Using a probe to measure dissolved oxygen at different depths of Raystown Lake

For GIS, we have been exploring the program and practicing creating maps or finding information.  I am very excited to learn how to use GIS more and how it can help with my research.

Sense of Place seminar began with a boat tour of Raystown Lake, which included the basic science and history facts of the area.  Who knew you could have a lecture on a boat?  We also discussed our research projects for the semester.  I am not sure what I am exactly studying yet, but I will be researching an acid mine drainage site.

The first two weeks, we did not have anything on Wednesdays because we do not have our research projects established yet.  My professor said, “Either make it a very productive day or a really good day.”  I did a combination of both; I did some homework in the morning and spent the afternoon kayaking on the lake with some classmates.

Photo Aug 29, 2 59 11 PM

Nature photography is a lot of terminology and learning the basic concepts of how to take a good picture.  It is particularly difficult to take pictures of wildlife because of their movements so we have learned a lot of specialized techniques so far.  Our first project was a picture of a wildflower. I am looking forward to improving my skills.

Aquatic Ecology has been an introduction to ecology and learning the applications of these concepts in aquatic ecosystems.  This course is unique because it is taught by Dr. Lane Loya from Saint Francis University.

 

One afternoon, we had a mini Lake Symposium to listen to researchers discuss the previous studies on Raystown Lake and the potential issues for the future.  The presenters included a park ranger from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and from Juniata, Dr. Sharon Yohn and Dr. Chuck Yohn.  It is interesting to learn about an ecosystem in which you live and about the different issues that have to be monitored.

I also enjoyed kayaking and going on a firework cruise on the lake with my mom on Labor Day weekend.

From September 10th to 14th, our class at the field station travelled to the Finger Lakes region of New York to study lakes and streams.  We stayed at the Cornell Biological Field Station and the USGS Lake Ontario Biological Station.  On the way home, we stopped at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Our Limnology and Aquatic Ecology professors joined us too, which provided an immersive experience to apply everything we have learned and will learn this semester.

 

I wanted to end this post with some fun from Juniata’s traditions, Lobsterfest (Yes, sometimes I actually go back to campus.)  It is an opportunity for students to sign up for clubs and enjoy delicious lobster on the quad.

Letourneau_Lobster

Another tradition at Juniata is Mountain Day.  One day in the fall, classes are canceled, and the school provides buses to take everyone to Seven Points Recreation Area on Raystown Lake for a day of outdoor fun including a picnic lunch, kayaking, slip and slide, inflatables, tug-of-war, and more.  However, no one knows in advance when it is going be.  As the Juniata website states, “trying to guess the date of Mountain Day is one of the most popular topics of conversation among the students and faculty in the weeks leading up to the event”.  It really is.  Students and professors will place bets when they think it will be and students will stay up all night if they think it might be the next day.

Luckily, Mountain Day didn’t happen while we were in NY, so we were able to sail the research boat across the lake to join in on the festivities!

 

Here’s to more adventures and beautiful sunsets on the lake.

Letourneau_Sunset

ABASM: We Came for the Science and Stayed for the free T-shirt

This past weekend, several Juniata students had the opportunity to present their research at the Allegheny Branch of the American Society of Microbiology’s yearly conference.  As a bonus the meeting was held right here at Juniata in the von Liebig Center for Science.  The conference took place over the course of roughly thirty-six hours starting from early afternoon on Friday and ending early evening on Saturday.  Over the course of those thirty-six hours students from nineteen institutions, both graduate and undergraduate, had the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of topics from distinguished speakers and from one another.  There were several unique presentations over the two-day period.  The first was a self-mentorship workshop where the speaker guided us through introspective searches into our deepest desires and goals which we later used to help craft a personal mission statement.  The next day we participated in a workshop given by a Juniata alumnus that now works at Ecovative, a company that produces biodegradable packaging products with fungus.  We even got to take some samples home with us!  To close out the conference Juniata’s very own Dr. Belle Tuten, a history professor that specializes in medieval medicine, gave a talk on the methods by which doctors in medieval times used to treat wounds.  The subject matter, which was quite humorous by itself, was made even more so by Dr. Tuten delivering her speech as if the medical practices of the past were perfectly reasonable methods for treating diseases.

Some members of Dr. Lamendella's Lab and myself looking more awake than we actually felt
Some members of Dr. Lamendella’s Lab and myself looking more awake than we actually felt

While the workshops and speaker sessions were fun and educational, nothing compared to the student presentations.  Although I presented this summer at the Landmark Conference at Susquehanna University, presenting at an actual society meeting had a much more significant feel to it.  Sharing my hard work with a room full of people who were just as big or bigger science nerds than me was phenomenal and then being able to sit back down and learn about all the other awesome projects students were working on was just as exhilarating.  This conference further affirmed by desire to go into research when I graduate from Juniata this May.   I learned so many new things about tools like CRISPR and about how viruses affect fetal brain development, to cover just a few things.  This conference increased my thirst for knowledge and understanding about the scientific world and made me that much more excited about graduate school next year.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the constant support and mentoring by Dr. Regina Lamendella and Justin Wright and their lab.  Without them I highly doubt that our lab would have done so well at the conference, and many of us that presented wouldn’t have had as high quality research to present on without their connections and collaborations.  There are many labs that conduct undergraduate research on campus.  Students can do research in almost every department on campus, and many students present this research at local, regional and national conferences, including the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and our very own Liberal Arts Symposium which we host every Spring.

Ecovative preparing samples of their product for the conference attendees
Ecovative preparing samples of their product for the conference attendees

From my experience, albeit limited, Juniata has one of the best programs for undergraduate research.  Everyone is encouraged to participate and you can get involved as early as your freshmen year.  All it takes is a little initiative, drive to succeed and no small amount of curiosity on your part.  Even if you don’t think you’ll like research, I still encourage you to participate.  You might find, like me, that you love research and the amazing sense of discovery that comes with it, and find it much more satisfying than being a doctor.  Or you might not.  It is better to try and not like it, then never try and miss out on an amazing opportunity.  Not only that but if you do want to go to med school it looks good if you have done research.

Truc '18 and Hoi Tong '18 after their very successful presentations
Truc ’18 and Hoi Tong ’18 after their very successful presentations

I leave you with this: Research can be difficult.  There are days where you will want to pull your hair out because your line of code just isn’t working or your organic reaction has failed for the twentieth time.  If you get nothing else out of research, you will at least learn the ability to fail.  Yes, the ability to fail.  It is an art, one that I am still mastering.  Sure, succeeding at everything you do feels great, but you don’t really learn anything from it. Failing teaches perseverance and creativity.  Believe me, you do a lot of failing when you first start researching.  You learn as you go and slowly, you improve.  The quality of your work gets better as does the understanding of your project, and for me, my desire to learn more about what I was researching also increased.  It is quite a journey but there is no better place to undertake that journey than Juniata.

Advice on Advisors

When I decided to come to Juniata, I did so without visiting.  I came because of the stories an alumnus told me and from the conversations I had with students who were already here and my fellow incoming freshmen.  I arrived having no idea what the campus looked like or what the classes would be like and to be honest I was scared.  For the first week or so I didn’t have an appetite because I was so nervous.

I was still nervous as I sat outside my new adviser’s office waiting to talk about my schedule and what my life would be like over the next four years.   As I sat outside the office of Dr. Dan Dries I listened to his voice as he was talking to another of his new advisees.  It’s hard to explain, and maybe harder to imagine, but his voice had a carefree lilt to it.  His words were often interspersed with laughter and slowly my nervousness turned into curiosity.  If he was as jovial as he sounded the next four years were going to be great.

Thankfully, he was.  One of Juniata’s strongest and most beneficial programs is its academic advising.  We had advisers at my high school and they did a good job helping students pick classes and encouraging us to apply to college, but Juniata’s adviser’s work much harder.  Dr. Dries has not only advised me on the classes I should take for my POE but he has given me advice on whether I should attend Graduate or Medical school and where I might start looking for a good Graduate program.  This past year I even started working in his lab which does research on neurodegenerative disorders, the area of neuroscience I want to research.  He even invited me over for Thanksgiving when I had nowhere else to go.  Over the three years I have known Dr. Dries he has remained supportive and enthusiastic about my coursework and my success.

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries' Lab at our lab bonding event last semester.  We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit.  Do you know the capital of Australia?
Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries’ at our lab bonding event last semester. We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit. Do you know the capital of Australia? 

I wrote about Ellen Campbell several weeks ago and just like her, Dr. Dries is not an isolated case at Juniata.  Professors from all departments are highly involved in their student’s lives, inviting them over for club dinners, having them house sit and even baby sit.  Juniata’s students are as close with their professors as they are with one another and I think that is one of the most unique things Juniata offers.  The student to staff ratio of thirteen to one is not just a statistic it represents one of Juniata’s defining characteristics, our community.

Finding Your Fit

Advising-Donna Weimer

Like many students who transfer, Jamie Mistretta ’17, from Philadelphia, Pa., was struggling to find an engaging environment at her previous college, which led to a phone call with an admission counselor at Juniata. “I didn’t feel academically challenged, so I knew I wanted to attend a school where academics are a priority, and find a place where I could really get to know other students and professors,” says Jamie. Her phone call allowed her to meet an alum of the College and gain a really authentic understanding of the Juniata community.

After visiting Juniata, Jamie reflected on how easy and important it can be to design your own Program of Emphasis (POE). At Juniata, Jamie is able to take classes in a pre-designated POE program and then take specific courses that allow her to re-define her degree program. “It is great to have the option to study what I want to study and create my own personal POE,” says Jamie. She didn’t lose any time by transferring, as nearly every credit transferred to Juniata. She is currently pursuing a PreK– 4th grade education POE, but she is also interested in speech pathology.

In addition to finding her academic transition easy, Jamie also quickly adapted to a new social atmosphere on campus and in the Huntingdon community. “It was really important for me to go to a school where I could have great relationships with students that did not only revolve around studying,” says Jamie.

Juniata encourages students to interact with classmates through at least one of more than 100 campus clubs. She is currently an active member of Amigos de Guanin, a club that raises awareness and hosts fundraisers for people in Guanin, Dominican Republic, and she is a member of concert choir.

According to Jamie, the key to transferring is acknowledging what aspects you truly need out of your education. Transferring to a different college can be stressful, but phone calls and visits can really allow you to share some of your concerns and interests to achieve a more satisfying college education.

“Don’t hesitate, always apply,” Jamie says. “Applying gives you options and opportunities to find the qualities you want in a college experience.”

 

Written by: Lauren Frantz ’15

Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

shalen1
My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!