The Art of Science: Student/faculty artwork enhances science building

By Heather Cass, Publications Manager at Penn State Behrend

Science and the arts might seem to be very different disciplines, but the scientific method and the creative process are quite similar; inquiry is at the heart of each.

“People sometimes think science is about memorizing facts, but it’s really about making discoveries and wringing answers out of nature,” said Dr. Pam Silver, associate dean for academic affairs and distinguished professor of biology. “When you have a scientific question, it takes a lot of creativity to find the answer to it.”

Scientists are, by nature, creative individuals and the School of Science has recently added two works of art that visibly illustrate that.

Ties that bind

A colorful quilt, titled “A Way of Knowing,” was created by Silver and hangs in Hammermill Hall. Each color in the quilt represents a scientific discipline taught at Behrend—biology, chemistry, environmental science, nursing, physics, and mathematics and mathematics education. A spiral in the quilt represents the net movement of scientific discovery from observation to hypothesis to testing to understanding.

Furthermore, the underlying geometric design “symbolizes that the building blocks of science are not individual disciplines, but rather the discoveries to be made by merging diverse ideas, points of view, and approaches to form a strong and unified way of knowing with the goals of wisdom and the power to enact that wisdom,” Silver said.

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“A Way of Knowing,” by Dr. Pam Silver, associate dean for academic affairs and distinguished professor of biology, hangs near the stairwell in Hammermill Hall. 

Math in flight

High overhead at the entrance of Roche Hall, is another work of art—a stage-5 Sierpinski tetrahedron that models a fractal with infinite triangles—created by the School of Science Math Club under the direction of club president Thomas Galvin  and Dr. Joe Previte, associate professor of mathematics.

“A fractal is a self-similar structure with recurring patterns at progressively smaller scales,” Previte said. “Fractals are useful in modeling natural structures such as plants, coastlines, or snowflakes.”

Some natural objects appear to be completely random in shape, but there is an underlying pattern that determines how these shapes are formed and what they will look like, according to Previte. Mathematics can help us to better understand the shapes of natural objects, which has applications in medicine, biology, geology, and meteorology.

Students built the fractal using Zometool construction parts. It consists of 2,050 white balls and 6,144 red and blue struts. Learn more about fractals at www.mathigon.org/world/Fractals

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A stage-5 Sierpinski tetrahedron created by the School of Science Math Club hangs above the entrance to Roche Hall. 

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Plastics students visit Denmark

Guest Post by Molly Joyce, senior Plastics Engineering Technology major

Day 4 Sunday, October 21, 2018

The fourth day was a day that the students became experts in public transportation in Copenhagen. Not really, but a couple of us did successfully use the bus and subway a few times. This sounds like a simple task, but most of use are from rural areas back home without public transportation systems, and it was in a different language. We had some bumps along the way; we may have jumped on the right bus but it was going in the wrong direction, but we still arrived at our destination, and we (or I) considered it a successful feat. All of us, both students and professors, ended up climbing the Church of our Savior at one point or another. This meant climbing up very steep steps in cramped areas for about 20 minutes until you got to see an unforgettable view of the city. Another group of students learned the laws of the road for bicycles and biked to the Copenhagen zoo. In the afternoon, we took a train ride from Copenhagen to Fredericia. This gave us the opportunity to see a little bit of Denmark’s country side. Our hostel had a view of a pond and a “little” village.

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Day 5 Monday, October 22, 2018

LEGO day! Today, after a quick train and bus ride we arrived at LEGO headquarters. Usually, Mr. Meckley does a great job at transportation and getting us places. However, today was not his best day. I will give him that the building was under construction. Nonetheless, we walked in very cold weather for a bit. But we did find it after some touring of the city of Billund. It was amazing to see the LEGO factories surrounded by cow pastures. Our tour started with a quick history of the company LEGO, where we learned that it started as a wooden toy company by a carpenter. We learned about LEGO’s motto of ‘Learn through play’. They gave each of us a bag of six LEGOs. Then, they started the clock and told us we have 45 seconds to create a duck with these six pieces. It was interesting to see some of the different designs, some resembled a duck, one resembled a platypus, and we’re not really sure what Mr. Meckley was going for in his. Next, we got to tour the evolution of LEGO throughout the years. We met a design engineer that explained product development to us. It was neat to hear his story. He wanted to be a LEGO engineer since he was little, and emailed LEGO to ask about how to become one. They responded with a list of qualifications for the job title but could not guarantee a job at the end. Well, he completed those qualifications and ended up getting a job with them as soon as he graduated. It was clear to see that the employees at LEGO are passionate about what they do and the message they convey. Afterwards, we had lunch at their cafeteria, which made me want to be a LEGO employee, so I could eat their food every day because it was delicious. We then took a tour of one of the buildings. One building had 64 injection molding machines, and there were 12 buildings. That’s 768 injection molding machines!! The process they have for the LEGOs is efficient and minimizes human error. There are robots that take the parts from the press to the conveyor belt on the other end of the room. From there, we took another bus and train back to Copenhagen for our last night there. This was a night that the students had to book their own hostels so we all went our separate ways.

Day 6 Tuesday, October 23, 2018  

Today was a tour of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU). We had two awesome PHD students named Macerana and Sebastian to give us a tour and tell us what they do. They served some of the best pastries I’ve ever had at breakfast. The program we were learning about was Additive Manufacturing (AM), and they told us about their projects and gave us a tour of the lab. They are trying to make innovations in their fields, so they can share their knowledge in this topic. It was really neat to see they strongly believe that we need collaboration across universities and companies in order to expand our knowledge on areas in this field. Sebastian’s project was building a mock machine of one that already exists so he can modify it and see if it is replicable.

Students Save a Seat for Women in History

Lilley Library art exhibit invites remarkable women to the table

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications,  Penn State Behrend

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“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

This quote by author Virginia Woolf sums up the invisibility of women in the collective history of the world. Overshadowed by the accomplishments of men, few females have made it into the history books. And, yet, women have made their presence known in every aspect of human existence from art to banking to the military to the board room and beyond.

In 1979, feminist artist Judy Chicago gave thirty-nine women a seat at the table in her masterwork “The Dinner Party,” a giant sculpture that imagines famous women from myth and history engaged in conversation.

The installation art, which took more than five years to produce, is composed of thirty-nine ornate place settings on a triangular table with thirteen plates on each side. An additional 999 women’s names are written in gold on the floor. The piece toured the world, gaining an audience of millions; it is now on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.

Closer to home, you’ll find another dinner party happening in the John M. Lilley Library.

Students in last spring’s WMNST 106 Representations of Women in Literature, Art, and Culture taught by Dr. Sarah Whitney, assistant teaching professor of English and women’s studies, painted plates to honor a women from a wide variety of backgrounds. The students’ work is on display in the gallery space near the entrance to the library.

“For this project, students researched a woman of their choice who made significant contributions,” Whitney said. “They designed and painted on china as Judy Chicago did, using color and shape creatively to demonstrate the chosen figure’s importance. Students also wrote a reflection paper exploring their figure’s historical, and personal, impact on the artist.”

Some of the plates honor women you might expect, such as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, author Maya Angelou, and women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony.

Others are more surprising.

Molly Boniger, a junior English major, chose to honor Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

“The purpose of ‘The Dinner Party’ was to recognize women who history had forgotten and I wanted someone who was unconventional, even by today’s standards,” Boniger said. “Pavlichenko has an incredible story. She is a young woman from a Ukrainian village who became the Soviet Union’s greatest sniper during World War II. She showed that woman can be hard and strong, and they don’t have to be the delicate, soft things that society would prefer we be.”

Boniger is an aspiring screenwriter who took WMNST 106 to learn what she suspected she was missing.

“The class was amazing,” Boniger said. “I could not believe the amount of exposure I received and just how much women’s contributions to art and culture have been excluded from the narrative we’ve all been taught.”

Whitney was pleased with the range of women and topics that students picked.

“The plates reflect a diversity of choices, which is wonderful,” Whitney said. “I especially enjoyed learning about new women from our international students whose choices spanned the globe. Furthermore, some students chose mythical or fictional figures, such as Shakti, which were also quite enlightening.”

Among the women represented are: Coco Chanel, Cleopatra, Julie Andrews, Lynsey Addario, Ellen DeGeneres, Chihiro Ogino, Miley Cyrus, Emma Watson, Pasang Lhamu, Athena, Amy Winehouse, Billie Jean King, Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart, Helen Keller, and Janis Joplin.

Not all of the plates honor people.

Junior biology major Caitlin Kent, chose to celebrate the essence of womanhood and give a nod to her future career as an obstetrician/gynecologist.

“I painted a uterus as the center of the universe to represent a feminine divine force or a female creator,” Kent said. “All life stems from women. On my plate, one ovary is painted as the sun and one as the Earth to center the uterus as the birthplace of the universe.”

The plates are simple porcelain and students used a china paint, just like Judy Chicago, to adorn them.

“Using hands-on materials to make historical events come alive is a key part of my teaching practice in general,” Whitney said. “I think using manipulatives is particularly important in studying ‘Dinner Party’ both because it is a visceral, intense piece, and because Chicago was intentional about using traditional women’s art practices, like china painting and embroidery, to honor forgotten female artists. By doing it, you sort of experience Chicago’s process.”

Kent and Boniger gave the project, and the entire course, high marks.

“I think WMNST 106 is a class that all people can benefit from,” Boniger said. “These women’s histories are all of our histories. The class covers such a range of subjects, I can guarantee that any student taking it will learn something new, and enjoy doing so. It’s about time we start bringing women into the conversation and including them in the history they have helped create.”

“My Dinner Party” will be on exhibit in the Lilley Library until October 26. Whitney would like to acknowledge the help of the Lilley librarians, and Scott Rispin, assistant teaching professor of art, who helped to assemble the display.

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Holiday gift ideas from Behrend faculty and staff members

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

It’s crunch time. The holidays are nearly here and there’s only so much time left to grab the perfect gift.

Still need some help? No worries, Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members are here for you.

Here are some suggestions for gifts that are both fun and educational:

Idea provided by Tom Noyes, professor of English and Creative Writing

2018 Pushcart Prize XLII. The annual Pushcart Prize anthology gathers the best fiction, nonfiction and poetry published in America’s literary magazines and small presses over the course of the previous year, making it an ideal gift for any book lover on your list. The newest edition, 2018 Pushcart Prize XLII, contains a special treat. The poem “Praying Mantis in My Husband’s Salad” by Laura Kasischke was chosen from the pages of Lake Effect, Penn State Behrend’s award-winning literary journal. $13

Idea provided by Mary-Ellen Madigan, director of enrollment management

BRIXO. Enjoy LEGOs? Then you’ll love BRIXO, which is similar but with even more customization. Some of the things that young people can create include vehicles, wacky lamps, remote-controlled lighthouses and motorized quadcopters. If someone on your list has a big imagination, this gift is for them. Prices vary.

Ideas provided by Tracy Halmi, assistant teaching professor of chemistry

Bath Bombs. It’s a chance to bring chemistry to the tub. Bath bombs are hard-packed mixtures of dry ingredients and give off bubbles when wet. They can be purchased from the web, or young chemists can use this Bath Bombs guide to make their own. $19

Amigurumi Chemistry Set Pattern. This crochet chemistry set pattern is perfect for the person on your list who is crafty but loves science, too. $14

Organic Compounds Cutting Board. Know someone who likes to cook with spices? This cutting board displays all the molecules that add the fragrance to spices. $38.50

Reactions: An Illustrated Exploration of Elements, Molecules, and Change in the Universe. The third and final installment in the trilogy of visual books developed by Theodore Gray, this book details chemical reactions with a set of stunning pictures and stories. $30

Ideas provided by Richard Zhao, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering

Amazon Echo Dot or Google Home Mini. Who wouldn’t want a personal assistant that can tell the weather, order pizza, play music, control home appliances and more? These home automation gadgets from Amazon or Google are also on sale this holiday season. $30

Themed Night Lights. While this makes a nice holiday gift, the lights can actually be used as a home decoration all year round. Prices vary.

Catan. Able to be played by up to four players, this popular board game can be enjoyed by both family members and friends. It’s also easy to learn and fun to play. $49

A Maryland State of Mind: Transitioning to Erie

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff. This is Brandon Moten, and I’m back with another post in my new blog series, “A Maryland State of Mind,” where I share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student from Bowie, Maryland.

Today’s post is about my transition from living in Bowie to moving to Erie to begin my journey at Penn State Behrend. Since I was a child, I had always wanted to go to Penn State, something just drew me to this school. I never thought that dream would come to fruition, but in 2013, it became a reality. I accepted my opportunity to attend Penn State Behrend on the same day I received my acceptance letter. However, in the back of my mind, I knew this would be a big change for me, and there were many days where I wondered if I was ready for such a change.

I had lived in Bowie my whole life. I love everything there: my friends, family, environments, and just the general lifestyle, too. I never had been to Erie before, so knowing that I would be moving away for four or five years was hard to comprehend. It was hard to imagine living on my own, doing things on my own, balancing schoolwork, maintaining a new social life, and other numerous changes. The whole situation created a lot of nerves and doubts for me.

Thankfully, I put my nerves and doubts behind me after visiting the campus in July. I immediately felt like the Behrend campus was the place for me to succeed, grow, and enjoy life. The campus gave me a home-style feel, and my nerves and doubts turned into excitement and determination. Also, having amazing support from my family and friends gave me the motivation to continue my transition to Penn State Behrend.

That August, it was time to move into Senat Hall and leaving Maryland was not as difficult as I felt it would be. Based on my July visit, I knew my transition would be a good one. There were definitely rough times throughout my freshman year. I often missed home, family, friends, and even Maryland food. In the end, I got through all of it because  of what Behrend had to offer. I quickly made new friends and found Senat Hall to be a wonderful place to live. It was amazing to go to a college I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid.

Leaving your hometown is never easy, but Penn State Behrend made it a lot easier for me. I’m happy that I can say today that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have grown as a person, met amazing people, and the learning experiences here are really something special.

Brandon Moten’s Maryland State of Mind

By Brandon Moten
Senior Communication Major

Hello Penn State Behrend students, faculty, and staff, my name is Brandon Moten. I’m a senior from Bowie, Maryland, majoring in Communication with certificates in Advertising & Social Media. I have been attending Penn State Behrend since August of 2013 and have loved every minute of it. From the people to the class experiences, it’s been an awesome time.

Over the course of the semester, I’ll be writing a new series of blog posts called “A Maryland State of Mind” where I’ll share my experience of attending Penn State Behrend as an out-of-state student. I will discuss my transition from moving from a place I lived my whole life to a new state, differences between where I’m from and Erie, how I balance school and daily life, and how I handled the challenges I faced along the way.

Penn State Behrend is an amazing school, and I have grown in many ways and experienced so many new things. When I first came to college in 2013, I had no idea of what to expect. I have been living in Bowie, Maryland, my whole life and leaving home was not easy. In the beginning, I had nerves about experiencing new cultures, being six hours away from home, leaving my friends and family, and so much more.

I’m sure there are many current and future out-of-state students who are or will be experiencing the same emotions. I hope this blog series helps those students who have these same thoughts and emotions as I once did. Ultimately, I hope to give everyone a better idea on the life of an out-of-state Penn State Behrend student.

Stay tuned for more… WE ARE PENN STATE!

Student finds niche playing Smith Carillon

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Penn State Behrend sophomore James Lisi began playing the campus’ Smith Carillon this fall. He plays regularly throughout the week on the campus’ practice carillon (pictured) and played a concert during finals week for the campus community. While he’s been a musician since he was a child, mastering the carillon has been a new kind of challenge. “Instead of having the keys right next to you, you have to branch out,” Lisi said. “This wears your hands out a lot faster because you have to move them all over, but there are pedals too, so some of the notes you can play with your feet, which makes it easier.”

By Steve Orbanek
Marketing Communications Specialist, Penn State Behrend

Walk into Penn State Behrend’s Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel on a weekday morning and chances are you’ll hear James Lisi before you see him.

He’ll be playing one of the building’s many pianos. Or pedaling away on the practice carillon.

“I start every day by playing music here,” said Lisi, a sophomore psychology major. “When I play the piano or the carillon, it gets me going and sets the tone for the day.”

Lisi, a Cleveland native, has always appreciated music. He started singing in third grade and began playing the piano two years later. He is also a member of the Choirs of Penn State Behrend.

While he has experience playing several other instruments, Lisi said he was taken aback to learn about the college’s carillon.

“I had never heard of one before. There are only 200 or so in the country,” he said. “It’s just a really, really rare instrument.”

The 48-bell carillon, along with the chapel’s bell tower, was installed at Penn State Behrend in 2002 as a gift of the late Floyd and Juanita Smith, parents of Larry Smith, president and owner of Automation Devices in Fairview, Pa., and a longtime supporter of the college.

The carillon is an unconventional instrument, to say the least, according to Lisi.

“Instead of having the keys right next to you, you have to branch out,” he said. “This wears your hands out a lot faster because you have to move them all over, but there are pedals too, so some of the notes you can play with your feet, which makes it easier.”

Lisi’s past musical experience is serving him well, as is regular practice and lessons with Daniel Frankforter, professor emeritus of history and the college’s carillonneur.

Lisi is now playing the carillon on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. He spends hours in Smith Chapel, both studying and playing the pianos and carillon.

“I just love this whole building,” Lisi said. “I get to come here and play three different instruments. It’s a nice way for me to relieve stress. It’s definitely my favorite thing about Behrend.”

During finals week, Lisi played several holiday songs as part of a half-hour carillon concert for the campus community. Students, faculty and staff members were encouraged to gather at Ben Lane Plaza to enjoy hot chocolate as they listened to the bells chime from atop the carillon tower.

“I made some mistakes,” Lisi said with a smile, “but I knew I was not going to be perfect the first time I played publicly. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone noticed.”

He will get another chance to impress this spring at a second carillon concert to be held during finals week.

And if things go his way, Lisi will not be the only one performing. He is currently introducing the carillon to several of his friends.

“I’m really working to persuade some of my friends to play it as well,” he said. “It’s just a totally different kind of instrument. I love the high notes on it, and it’s great that we have one of these right here at Behrend.”