Silver Celebrated: Professor honored for decades of work on journal Freshwater Science

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

Pam Silver (21) smaller

Dr. Pam Silver, interim associate dean for academic affairs and distinguished professor of biology, was in graduate school when she submitted her first paper to what was then the journal of the North American Benthological Society (now the journal Freshwater Science).

“It came back covered in red ink,” Silver said. “The founding editor of the journal, Rosemary Mackay, worked with me and taught me how to write.”

It’s a favor that Silver went on to pay forward for twenty-one years, serving in various roles at the journal, including editor-in-chief for the last thirteen years, until her retirement from the journal this spring.

“Pam worked tirelessly to improve and grow the journal while unselfishly working in the trenches with authors to improve their manuscripts,” said Jack Feminella, professor and associate dean of academic affairs at Auburn University, and Charles Hawkins, professor in the department of Watershed Sciences at Utah State University, in their nomination of Silver for the Society for Freshwater Science’s Distinguished Service Award. “Over her tenure as editor-in-chief, Pam has been a role model and mentor to many young authors and new appointees to the Editorial Board. Aside from her incredible work ethic, Pam’s ability to work effectively with all kinds of personalities is perhaps her greatest strength.”

These attributes did not go unnoticed at Penn State Behrend, where last year Silver was tapped to serve as interim associate dean for academic affairs. It was a promotion that ultimately led her to give up her work at the journal.

“My head needs to be here at Penn State Behrend,” Silver said.

Before she left the journal, however, they honored her with a Distinguished Service Award at the group’s fall conference in Detroit.

Though Silver prefers to avoid the spotlight, we did get her to sit down for a Q&A about the award, her years at the journal, and why the sleep deprivation was all worth it.

Why are scientific journals important?

It’s a way to disseminate information in a way that ensures its validity. Is the work scientifically valid? Can the findings be trusted? If it is in Freshwater Science, it’s been peer-reviewed. Now, what you can know depends on the tools and techniques that are currently available. And, so, in that way, journals can be historically valuable, too. They contain the history of how that knowledge evolved over time. It’s also a way of creating a network of people, a community, that share information. Sharing that information can inspire more curiosity, which leads to more science. It’s like scaffolding. Scientists just keep building on top of earlier work. Every paper published is resting on a pyramid of other papers.

Tell us about the journal for Freshwater Science. Who reads it? How is it distributed? Who submits articles?

It’s a professional journal for ecologists, biologists, and environmental scientists who both read it and submit to it. The Society for Freshwater Science co-publishes the journal with the University of Chicago Press quarterly. To my knowledge, it’s the only major scientific journal in the field of freshwater science that is still society-published. Most other journals have been sold to commercial publishers. There is both a print and an online version that is available to SFS’s 1,500 members.

Are all submitted papers published?

Definitely not. Articles are fully peer-reviewed. The editorial board rejects about 60 to 65 percent of submissions.

How did you get involved with the journal?

The journal was founded when I was in graduate school and I submitted a paper. The editor bled red ink all over it, but she taught me how to make it better. I actually thought, ‘I want her job.’ I applied to be a member of the editorial board (they review the science in the papers) and was accepted in 1997. In 2002, they asked me to be a co-editor. When Dave Rosenberg, the journal’s second editor-in-chief retired in 2005, they asked me to take the job.

This was in addition to your full-time job as a biology professor at Behrend?

Yes. It was like having another full-time job. I probably worked an additional forty hours a week editing articles and working with the writers.

What would people be surprised to know about editing a scientific journal?

The amount of work that it requires. Each article involved about twenty hours of time, and we published about 100 articles a year, so that’s about 2,000 hours annually. By the time an issue published, I will have read and edited every page at least four times.

Were you responsible for reviewing the science, too?

No. The editorial board did all the science. I did the wordsmithing and double-checked the science.

The people who nominated you for the award said you did that very well.

Yes, I know that the journal got a reputation as a place to teach students how to write and edit. When I announced I was retiring, I heard from dozens of contributors who said, ‘How can you retire? We need you!’ I think I was a good editor. I was honest, but made every effort to be kind and I tried hard to keep our interactions informal. The authors may not have liked all the changes I made to their paper, but they usually agreed that I made it better.

What is the most frequent problem you encountered when editing?

Organization. If a paper was hard to understand, it was usually because of paragraph, sentence, or word order and inconsistency in how the authors were referring to things.

What are three things scientists (or anyone) could do to improve their writing?

  1. Use precise and concise language.
  2. Use the active voice.
  3. Use forward moving sentences.
  4. Think of the audience. If you can’t explain it to a non-scientist, you need to work on your communication skills.

One of the things you’re credited with is diversifying the organization as well as the membership.

I made a real effort to increase international diversity and bring more women onto the editorial board. I also tried to include more young scientists. Everyone has something to bring to the table and the publication benefited from having a variety of perspectives.

Why was it important to include young scientists?

For the same reason that I love to teach first-year students. They’re young and excited and full of energy and they still want to save the world. You can help mentor them to direct that energy to things that are important.

Did you enjoy editing?

I did. The biggest benefit of editing the journal was learning about so many different and interesting things in freshwater science. In any issue, I might be editing an article about the sex life of a water bug and another about microplastics in the Chicago River and another about molecular biology. Every paper was an intellectual challenge for me, and it made all the work and sleep deprivation worth it.

What’s next for you?

Well, I have plenty of work to do as the interim associate dean for academic affairs, and I’m hoping to find time to write about my own road salt research work. I’m still teaching a little, too. I have an Urban Ecology class in the spring semester that I’m very excited about. It’s going to be a fun challenge.

Alumnus honored for lifelong mayfly work

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

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Dr. Peter Grant ’75

As a child growing up on the bluffs overlooking Lake Erie’s Presque Isle Bay, Dr. Peter Grant ’75 delighted in chasing fireflies, plucking cicada exoskeletons from trees, and capturing mayflies that would cling to his family’s Front Street home each summer.

“I remember waking up and seeing that there had been a mayfly hatch the night before and rushing outside to catch them,” he said. “They’re pretty slow, so they were easy to get.”

Little did he know then that those ancient winged insects would become his life’s work.

Grant, who attended Erie’s Cathedral Prep and then Penn State Behrend, where he earned an undergraduate degree in biology, was recently honored for that work with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Committee of the International Conference on Ephemeroptera. Mayflies belong to the order Ephemeroptera.

“I was very surprised,” he said. “I still don’t believe it.”

Currently the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of biology at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Grant has studied mayflies for nearly four decades. He has compiled an annual bibliography on the insect for the North American Benthological Society (now the Society for Freshwater Science) for twenty-seven years and he founded and served as the editor of The Mayfly Newsletter for twenty-six years.

Over the years, he has provided many producers and authors from news organizations and publications, such as the BBC, National Geographic and The New York Times, with information about mayflies.

peter grant - mayfly 1

An adult mayfly

Getting his feet wet in Walnut Creek

Grant’s education and career has taken him from Pennsylvania to Texas to Florida to South Carolina to Oklahoma, but he still keeps in touch with the Behrend professor who encouraged his first research work. Dr. Ed Masteller, emeritus professor of biology, recruited Grant to participate in a summer research project in Walnut Creek in the summer after his first year at Behrend.

“I mostly did water chemistry work,” he said. “Later, when I was in graduate school in Texas, I actually began to study the mayfly lifecycle.”

Mayflies are part of an ancient group of insects called the Palaeoptera, which includes dragonflies and damselflies. The gossamer-winged, short-lived mayfly has never really held a candle to its zippy, flashy “cousins.”

But they stand out for a few reasons.

“Mayflies are the oldest known winged insect,” Grant said. “The ancestry goes back about 300 million years, further than any currently living group of insects.”

Despite the longevity and variety (there are more than 3,000 species of mayflies), the insect has a brief adult life. Few live more than a day or two as flying insects.

“They don’t even have any functional mouth parts or a digestive system,” Grant said. “They exist in their adult form simply to reproduce.”

Water babies

A mayfly spends the majority of its life, up to a year or more, in its immature nymph stage as an aquatic freshwater insect. They can be found at the bottom of nearly any freshwater source—creeks, rivers, lakes—in still or running water. Turn over a few rocks in the water, and you are likely to find a mayfly on one of them.

They play an important role in the aquatic food chain. The nymphs eat decomposing matter and algae in the water and serve as a food source for more than 200 species of animals, insects, and carnivorous plants.

“The nymphs recycle organically rich material back into the food chain by consuming it and turning it into mayfly tissue, which their predators then eat,” Grant said.

peter grant - mayfly nymph

Mayfly nymph

Canaries in the coalmine

Mayflies typically hatch in mass, particularly the large mayflies that inhabit Lake Erie, which means swarms of them appear literally overnight and cover the sides of building near the waterfront.

There is good reason for this group hatch: They have an extremely short amount of time to meet up, reproduce, and lay eggs. If they hatched over a series of days, those late to the party would never have the chance to pass on their genes.

While not everyone welcomes the influx of flying insects to their community, they are a welcome sight for ecologists and those who care about clean water.

“Anything living in the water is challenged by pollution,” Grant said. “And nymphs are thin skinned, so it’s easy for them to absorb pollutants.”

Grant is quick to qualify that statement, however.

“There are a lot of factors that go into how big the summer hatch is and some species are hardier than others, so you can’t directly equate a big or a small hatch to water quality, but it’s a factor, for sure.”

Still hard at work

Grant continues to balance his academic responsibilities with his research work. He’s currently involved in a long-term project cataloging the mayflies of Oklahoma as well as a study looking at the population size of endangered species of mayflies and caddisflies (another group of aquatic insect) in the state.

“When people think of Oklahoma, they tend to think of flat, dusty land, but it’s one of the most ecologically diverse states in the country,” he said. “We have twelve ecological regions and tons of streams.”

Grant could not be happier with his lot in life.

“I’ve wanted to be a scientist since I was a kid,” he said. “Being a college professor gave me the flexibility to both teach and learn.”

Class Reunion, Borneo style: Faculty member returns to his Peace Corps roots

Jonathan Hall

Guest post by Jonathan Hall, associate teaching professor of physics

Penn State Behrend

Forty years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia, teaching students in the only secondary school in the district of Sipitang, Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo). This summer, I returned to visit my former students and fellow teachers. I brought along my daughter, Liz Hall, who was a student at Behrend in 2003-04 before attending the U.S. Naval Academy.

Our trip started with a fourteen-hour flight from the United States to China, and then to Kota Kinabalu (“KK”), the capital of Sabah. We arrived late in the evening, and checked into the hotel. When the receptionist found out that I had been a teacher in Sipitang, which was near her hometown of Beaufort, it resulted in all of the staff wanting to have their picture taken with the “guru from Sipitang.” It was a warm welcome back to Sabah.

After a recovery day on the beaches of the South China Sea, we headed to a downtown hotel for a reunion dinner with some of my former students who live and work in KK.

It was Ramadan, a month-long religious observation during which Muslims fast each day from dawn to sunset, so we joined them for their evening meal when they broke the day’s fast. It was a buffet offering a wide variety of dishes, from curries to satay, which was an excellent introduction to Malaysian cuisine for Liz.

After eating, we went around the table, telling our stories from the past forty years. A friendly competition emerged regarding the number of grandchildren each person at the table had. The person with the most had seven.

 

Class reunion

First, a little history

Malaysia was formed from a collection of colonies in the early 1960s. In order to develop as a nation, expanding education from the few to the many was the number one priority of the government.

To accomplish this, Malaysia “imported” teachers from other countries to teach, especially topics such as math and science, in rural areas. This is how Peace Corps volunteers came to be in Malaysia from the early 1960s until the early 1980s, helping until Malaysia was able to train enough of their own teachers.

As is common in other nations in Asia, your academic success, and your future career, is largely determined by the results of national standardized exams. The exams are given at the end of Form 3 and Form 5 (ninth and eleventh grade). Math is a mandatory pass. If you fail the math exam, that is the end of your education.

The parents of many of my students were subsistence farmers or fishermen, but they knew that education was the key to a brighter future for their children. Unfortunately, because they lived in a remote area, many of my students did not have teachers who were qualified in math during their early years in school. We had a year or two to catch up through practice in class, daily homework, and extra classes after school and on Saturdays when necessary.

At the reunion dinner, several of my students said that they came to high school unprepared in math, but learned and became proficient enough at it to pass their exams, which enabled them to move on to careers in teaching, nursing, banking, business and law. It was very gratifying to hear that.

I don’t think that I did anything special or was a particularly good teacher as I’d just graduated from college, but it was enough for me to volunteer to be present where I was needed. In that place and time, it was critical to have a qualified teacher who was willing and able to help them prepare for their exams.

Mountain climbing with former student

On day three, Liz and I went to Mount Kinabalu to meet up with my former student, Daring Laban.

When I taught Daring, he lived in a remote village, Long Pa Sia, close to the Indonesian border. Students from his village traveled five days on foot through the rain forest to attend secondary school, where they lived in a dormitory.

mt kinabalu climbers

Liz, myself, and Daring

Today, Daring is the manager of Sabah State Parks. Sabah Parks administers several state and national parks, including Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, and the Danum Valley Conservation Area, a mostly undisturbed rainforest that is the home of orangutans, Sumatran rhinoceros, pygmy elephants, and more. Sabah Parks host 1.3 million visitors a year, playing a major role in tourism, the second largest sector of the state economy. While much of the rainforest has been lost over the past forty years, ecotourism has replaced timber as a mainstay of the economy and is helping to preserve the remaining rain forest.

On Mount Kinabalu, we traveled through four climate zones as we climbed—lowland dipterocarp rain forest, montane forest, cloud forest, and sub-apline vegetation—before reaching bare rock and the peak at 13,400 feet.

Daring Jon Liz Mt KinabaluDaring, me, and Liz on Mt. Kinabalu

Liz & Daring climbing

Climbing Mt. Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu peak

Mt. Kinabalu peak

The park was formed to preserve its great biodiversity, including some of the world’s largest pitcher plants, and the Rafflesia, said to be the world’s largest flower. During the 8.5-kilometer hike, we climbed 2 kilometers in altitude.

In June 2015, there was an earthquake at the mountain. Rockslides killed eighteen climbers; most of those killed were students visiting from Singapore. The trail was closed for six months for repairs. The violence of the earthquake was still very evident, with large areas of newly exposed white granite where the rockslides occurred instead of dark, weathered rock seen elsewhere.

rock slide Mt K

Rockslide damage on Mt. Kinabalu

We celebrated a successful climb by stopping at an open-air restaurant specializing in wild boar, which are hunted in the oil palm plantations.

Visiting Long Pa Sia

After hiking, it was on to the interior village of Long Pa Sia. Back then, it was a 50-mile trek. Now, it is accessible by four-wheel drive vehicles over a logging road.

The village is named by the native Lun Dayeh people1. Long = mouth, Pa = river, and Sia = red. In traditional Borneo, the river was the lifeblood of the community and was used for transportation, water, food, and bathing.

We spent a day hunting and fishing with another of my former students, Lukas. Lukas retired from banking in the city to hunt, a traditional way of life in the interior. We caught several small fish in the river. Lukas and his hunting dogs brought back a barking deer.

Long Pa Sia

The village of Long Pa Sia

Liz at Pa Sia river

Liz at the Pa Sia river

Lukas & Daring after hunt

Lukas and Daring after hunting

Many changes, but friends remain

Sipitang was my home far away from home when I was in the Peace Corps. All of the towns and cities in Sabah have grown and developed so much over the last forty years, that they were nearly unrecognizable to me. (In Long Pa Sia, which was known very being remote, there is now excellent cell phone reception!) Sipitang was no exception.

In Sipitang, changes included a hospital, paved roads, enough cars to have traffic jams, new schools, factories and industries, and many more people. Gone is the old open-air fish market where fishermen off-loaded from small praus their catch of prawns, squid, fish, and rays. Also gone is the fruit and vegetable market where farmers brought baskets of bananas, durians, rambutans, and other tropical fruits. Now there are two supermarkets instead.

Taking a walk down memory lane, I showed Liz the school where I taught.

Next it was on to a “Hari Raya” dinner, celebrating the end of Ramadan. The dinner was hosted by Ramawi, another former student. Ramawi’s family happens to include Wan Musa, a fellow science teacher. We worked closely together forty years ago and became dear friends. I attended Wan Musa’s wedding, where I was the Malay equivalent of his best man, which included having the groom’s face and mine smeared with rice flour.

It was great to see him again, however briefly.

Jonathan & Wan Musa

Me and Wan Musa

Weddings, coffee, and longhouses

Speaking of weddings, the next day we traveled to Sarawak, the other Malaysian state on Borneo, crossing the Lawas River by ferry to attend a Lun Dayeh wedding.

Ishak Liz Lawas river ferry

Ishak and Liz at the Lawas river ferry

After a Christian wedding ceremony, there was a reception for the entire community, which included traditional songs and dance, and the giving of baskets of gifts by the bride to members of both families.

Lun Dayeh wedding

Lun Dayeh wedding in Sarawak

The next day, was a road trip to Tenom, to drink the locally grown coffee and visit the Sabah Murut Cultural Center. Built as a traditional longhouse, but on a much larger scale, the center includes displays of traditional dress, baskets, musical instruments (gongs), and other aspects of the culture and history of the local native people.

On the way back, we stopped at two longhouses—a traditional wooden longhouse and a new one made with modern materials. Regardless of the building materials, the basic design is the same. Longhouses are an elevated building in which each family has an “apartment” consisting of a living room, bedroom, and kitchen. All of the apartments open onto a verandah, which runs the length of the longhouse and serves as a common area.

Sipitang Longhouse

At a longhouse

canstockphoto7243483

Stock photo of a typical Borneo longhouse

Math teacher turned voice coach?

After visiting Sarawak, we returned to KK to prepare for our 3 a.m. flight home the next day. But, before leaving, we met up with other former students for the most sumptuous Chinese dinner I’ve ever had.

In my three years in Sabah, I taught one English class. Being a math/science teacher, and learning TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) on the fly, I decided to incorporate singing in the lessons. Albert, one of my former students who was at dinner that night, was in my English class and said that I inspired him to become a pretty decent karaoke singer. (As a teacher, you plant a seed and…)

Durian McFlurrys

What has changed in Sabah over the past forty years? Every town has a KFC. Also, there are McDonald’s restaurants and they serve Durian McFlurrys. This is a flavor that would not go over big in the United States.

McDonalds durian

While many Asians love the taste of durian, as do I, others have been known to object to the scent of durian. One writer described durian as “eating a delicious raspberry sorbet in a revolting public lavatory.”

Durian smells so bad, that it is banned in many public places. Upscale hotels charge large cleaning fees if it is brought into a guest room.

no durians

Final reflections

In Malaysia, one is struck by the hospitality of people. It is part of a way of life, of forming relationships with others, and strengthening those relationships is valuable and important to them. My students thanked me for teaching them. I thanked them for welcoming me into their lives.

While I taught students science, math, geography, and English, they taught me something of great value that I have kept close to my heart. The students in my class came from a wide variety of diverse backgrounds, with different cultures, languages, and religions, but they were all classmates together. They worked and learned together and respected one other.

In the classes I taught, I never witnessed anyone being left out or excluded because of differences. The class was only successful if every student was, so students helped each other.

Forty years later, that has not changed. It is normal and natural for Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan to invite Christian and Chinese classmates to their home to share a meal. They don’t let their differences divide them, they respect and celebrate those differences2. This was particularly striking to me now because in our current times, there are some who openly advocate that if people are different, they should be kept separate.

The native people of central Borneo; the Lun Dayeh (also known as Lun Bawang), Kelabit and Sa’ban, are involved in the Heart of Borneo Project, dedicated to the conservation of the remaining rain forest in central Borneo. Preserving the environment impacts the preservation of traditions, languages, culture, and a way of life for the people there. Their slogan is: “Serurum. Selawe. Meruked.” This translates from Lun Dayeh as: “Friends. One way (united). Forever.”

Thanks and terima kasih3to the students of Sipitang for teaching this “guru” the most important of lessons.

NOTES:

1. Though we live on opposite sides of the globe, the Lun Dayeh people have a history of friendship with Americans. Before World War II, American missionaries with the Borneo Evangelical Mission lived in Lun Dayeh communities. When Borneo was occupied early in WWII, these missionaries and their families were executed. Later in the war, two American bombers crashed in the interior. Surviving crew members were found by the Lun Dayeh, who recognized them as Americans. The Lun Dayeh leaders, then made the decision to shelter, protect, and defend the American crewmen, at the risk of their own lives and communities. The Americans were guided to a location where British special forces established a small airfield to return the crewman to safety. For the full story, read The Airmen and the Headhunters by Judith M. Heimann, or watch the PBS Secrets of the Dead episode of the same name as the book title.

2. If you like holidays, Malaysia is the place to be. You can celebrate Muslim, Christian, Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist, national and harvest festival holidays!

3. While terima kasih is how you say thank you in Malay, I prefer it’s literal meaning, which is “receive love.” The response, sama sama, means “the same to you”!

Standout Seniors: Meet Samantha Stauffer

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Samantha Stauffer:

samantha stauffer

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Bradford, Pennsylvania

On choosing Penn State Behrend: It was the first college I visited and I simply fell in love and knew that I was meant to attend Behrend. The campus was gorgeous, everyone I met was helpful and friendly, and I was given a plethora of information about expectations for the first year. I also have many family members in Erie, so it was practical for me to attend Behrend.

On choosing nursing: My grandma was a nurse at our local hospital for forty-two years. I grew up hearing endless stories from her. She was extremely influential in my life so I wanted to be like her and dedicate my life to helping others.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Completing the nursing program! Earning a nursing degree is incredibly challenging and extremely time consuming, so it is definitely a huge accomplishment for me to finally finish.

Campus involvement: I was involved in Lion Ambassadors, the Joys of Nursing Club, the National Society of Leadership and Success, the Random Acts of Kindness club, and the Spring Concert Committee. I also served as a Welcome Week guide.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I love to golf. Most of my family has invested a lot of time in golfing so it was only natural for me to follow in their footsteps.

Advice for new students: Get organized! One of my biggest mistakes in college was being disorganized. Take time to prioritize your classes, clubs, and organizations and be prepared for upcoming events and assignments. Staying organized is key to success in college!

Samantha has accepted a position as an emergency room nurse at Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie.

Standout Seniors: Meet Ashlyn Kelly

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Ashlyn Kelly:

Ashlyn Kelly (2)

Major: Chemistry

Minor: Biology

Hometown: Bradford, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I have received the John K. Henne Scholarship for International Study, the Louis W. and Evelyn H. Balmer Trustee Scholarship, and the Mary G. Chisholm Undergraduate Research Award. I am also a two-year recipient of the Janet Wood Reno Memorial Scholarship for my leadership and service, a 2017 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, and a 2017-18 Undergraduate Research Grant.

On choosing Penn State Behrend: The campus reminded me of home. I grew up on a hill in the middle of the woods, and we got a lot of snow in the winter. I like the colder weather, so Behrend was a perfect fit for me. But the main reason that I chose Behrend was because of the chemistry labs. I wanted to work with the most up-to-date technology, and Behrend’s labs are everything I could ever want. We have many instruments that most students don’t get to work with until graduate school.

On choosing her major: I really liked science in middle school and high school. Comparing the different science disciplines, chemistry stood out because of its versatility. You can go into nearly any industry with a chemistry degree.

On research opportunities: In March, I presented my research work at the National American Chemical Society Conference in New Orleans! I also had the chance to do research for my biology minor in Costa Rica last spring as a part of a study abroad program.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend? Creating the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) stairwell where people can leave positive notes for one another. When I became president of the club last year, I wanted the organization to have a bigger presence and impact on campus, so I came up with the idea of a motivational wall.

At first, we hung up a piece of paper in Reed where students could leave one another motivational messages to read. As time progressed, we decided to expand it and we eventually took over an entire stairwell in Reed. We placed sticky notes with positive messages on them and stuck them all over the walls. We also hung blank notes for students to write their own. The theme of the project is “take what you need, give what you can.”

One day when we were adding new notes, one of our members wrote the phone number for the suicide hotline on some of them. A few days later, they were all gone. That inspired us to create a permanent poster with a variety of hotline numbers on it such as the sexual assault, addiction, eating disorders, and domestic violence hotlines. Knowing that I have been a part of something that has helped others and possibly saved lives is rewarding.

Campus involvement: I am a Lion Ambassador, and I have been president of RAK for the past two years. I was also a part of Lambda Sigma Honor Society. I have served as president and treasurer of both the Nittany Catholic Club and Chem Club. I am also a part of the Lion Service Council and the liturgical minister coordinator for Catholic Campus Ministries. Last semester, I taught a chemistry lab and I have worked as a Lion Scout for the past three years. I have participated in many community service projects, such as ServErie and MLK Day of Service. This spring, I participated in an Alternative Spring Break trip to Beaumont, Texas, to help with Hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts.

Why she gives back: I went through a lot during my first two years in college, including the death of my grandmother, and some serious family health scares and roommate issues. At that time, I was at my all-time low. That’s when I was joined RAK. Helping others has helped me in so many ways. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like I did.

What you’d be surprised to know about her: I have never dyed my hair.

Advice for new students: Say yes! Behrend offers so many opportunities, so take them. Try something new. Get out of your comfort zone.

Ashlyn has accepted a job at Plastics Services Network (PSN) in Erie after her graduation in May.

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Standout Seniors: Meet Jeanie Laura Davies

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Jeanie Laura Davies:

Jeanie Davies

Major: Biology (concentration in biochemistry and microbiology)

Hometown: Brufut, Gambia (the “smiling coast” of Africa)

Scholarships: Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship, Special International Grant-in-Aid (SIGIA PSU), and the Penn State Behrend Institutional Scholarship.

On choosing Behrend: I did not know much about universities in the United States before I came here, so it was based on luck and a roll of the dice. I believe Behrend chose me. At Behrend, I have met many different types of amazing, fun, and uplifting people. I have formed friendships and memories that will last a lifetime.

On choosing her major: My twelve years of primary education in Gambia was centered on the sciences and other disciplines such as technical and building drawing, visual art, and geography, which prepared me to be a well-rounded individual. I aspired to work in healthcare and figured biology would give me a solid foundation to pursue a profession as a doctor.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: Getting out of my comfort zone to meet new people, being an integral part of executive boards in various organizations on campus, excelling academically, and also surviving the demands of college in terms of assignments, finances, etc. Most of all, it is a privilege and great blessing to graduate from the prestigious Penn State University!

Support in spades: I am very humbled, honored, proud, delighted, blessed, and empowered to know that my professors believed in me, encouraged me, inspired me, supported me, and wrote me the best recommendations any person could ever receive! (No, I didn’t read them, but I know they were good as I have had invitations from more than fifty graduate schools!)

Conversations with the Chancellor: I have had the opportunity to meet and talk at length with Chancellor Ralph Ford twice. It was a fabulous opportunity that I did not take for granted.

Campus involvement: I have been involved in the Art Club, the American Association of University Women, the Association of Black Collegians, the Multi-Cultural Council, the student chapter of the NAACP, and the Organization of African and Caribbean Studies. I’m also a member of TriBeta (the biology honors society), and the volleyball club, and I have served as a STEM tutor.

What makes her unique: My name. Because I come from a country in Africa, most U.S. students assume I have a traditional African name, but I don’t. Jeanie is my given birth name. Sometimes I wish I had a traditional African name, but my name makes me unique.

A woman of many talents: I am an artist and a dancer. I love to sing and cook and I speak five languages.

Who inspires her: I find inspiration from people, situations, and even visions. As human beings, we are created to be interdependent on one another. We can consciously choose who influences us, so we must make the right choice; it could be either be a poison or panacea to your life.

Props to Mom: My mother inspires me and instills confidence in me, as she has always believed that I shall prosper in anything that I do. If it were not for her powerful and, at times, soothing, words, I would not be where I am today. I thank God for her life.

Advice for new students: Be yourself! Dare to stand out. Relax when you have the chance: college can be overwhelming so it is important to take breaks. Joins some clubs or organizations that are of interest to you. Remember that if you have a functioningl brain and body and all five senses, you are blessed. Many would be grateful for what you have.

Following her graduation in May, Jeanie will attend graduate school with the goal of earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Shehopes to work toward eradicating life-threatening diseases.

 

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Standout Seniors: Meet Lauren Myers

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

Penn State Behrend’s class of 2018 is ready to make its mark on the world!  We’re proud of our students and the things they’ve accomplished and learned while here at Behrend. Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to a few of our remarkable seniors who have overcome challenges, pioneered new technology, participated in important research projects, and left an impression at Penn State Behrend.

Today, we’d like you to meet Lauren Myers:

Lauren Myers cropped

 

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Kane, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I received the Council of Fellows Leadership Scholarship

On choosing Behrend: I enjoyed the campus scenery and size. Growing up, I always wanted to go to Penn State, but after visiting University Park, I realized it was way too big for me. I also chose Behrend because students in its nursing program had high pass rates for the National Council Licensure Examination.

On choosing her major: My best friend’s mom battled cancer for years. Unfortunately, she passed away during our senior year of high school. When she was dying, my mom and I were at the hospital as a support system for my friend and her family. The last two days were very tough and being there with them really opened my eyes to the role of the nurse. The nurses were the people who were there for the family twenty-four hours a day, making sure every need was tended to, and providing the best care possible to my friend’s mother even during the final hours of her life. It was a very inspirational moment as I realized I wanted to become that person who is there to help others during difficult times.

Campus involvement: I have been a Welcome Week Team Leader for two years, a member of the Joys of Nursing club, a Lion Ambassador, a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success, Circle K, Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and the National Student Nurses Association.

Secret talent: I guess I am good at organizing/planning. I’ve always been the planner in my circle of friends.

Who inspires her: My mom. She was a young, single parent and provided me with a great life. I’m also inspired by the nursing staff that I have had the opportunity to work with.

After her graduation in May, Lauren plans to work as an ICU nurse.