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.






Standout Seniors: Meet Jon Schrecengost

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 Jon Schrecengost:

Jonathon Schrecengost (2)

Jonathon Schrecengost

Major: Physics

Minors: Chemistry, Astrophysics, Computer Science, and Mathematics

Hometown: Greensburg, Pennsylvania

On working with faculty members: Behrend has faculty members who go out of their way to help you succeed, in the classroom and through research. The small class sizes at Behrend allow you to have a lot of really meaningful and personal interactions with faculty members.

On majoring in Physics: It’s a versatile major. Physics requires you to develop excellent learning and problem-solving abilities, and it gives you a strong understanding of the fundamentals that are used in other science and engineering disciplines. It’s not uncommon to find physics graduates in many different career paths.

Seeing the light: I’ve done research work with Dr. Bruce Wittmershaus, associate professor of physics, for three years. I’ve been helping him to improve his luminescent solar concentrators. These devices use fluorescent materials to redirect sunlight onto solar cells and produce an electric current. I’ve grown a lot as a researcher and I’ve been fortunate to submit a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It’s also the topic of my Schreyer Honors thesis.

On being a teaching assistant: I enjoyed the opportunity to gain teaching experience as a teaching assistant for the college’s introductory physics courses. I learned that teaching material to others is the most effective way to truly understand course material yourself.

Who inspires him: Elon Musk

Advice for new students: Start doing research work with a faculty member as soon as possible. Don’t be shy about reaching out to them because they are very willing to help you and share their experiences with you.

Following his graduation in May, Jonathon plans to attend graduate school.


Standout Seniors: Meet Dylan Langharst

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 Dylan Langharst:

Dylan Langharst

Majors: Concurrent majors in Physics and Mathematics

Minors: Concurrent minors in Astronomy and Political Science

Hometown: Sarver, Pennsylvania

Scholarships: I’ve received the Anonymous Friend Trustee Fund Scholarship multiple times, a School of Science scholarship, the Lake Erie Trustee Scholarship at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, the McMannis Educational Trust Fund Scholarship, and the Dr. and Mrs. Arthur W. Phillips Scholarship for Schreyer Scholars.

On choosing his majors: In high school, I was really interested in understanding the physical world and decided to major in physics. However, during my time here at Behrend, I fell in love with mathematics, due in part to the faculty members in the department.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend: I studied abroad in Germany during the summer of 2015, and during the summer of 2017, I was employed by the Department of Energy doing quantum computing. However, these are not my proudest accomplishments. My proudest accomplishment is when I was contacted by one of the students I tutored/taught through the Learning Resource Center who said that, without my help, he wouldn’t have passed Physics 211 or had such a solid start for Physics 212. This was my proudest moment.

Campus involvement: President of the Physics Club, vice president of the Math Club, and vice president of Behrend’s branch of Pi Mu Epsilon, the national math honor society.

Hidden talent: I am almost fluent in German.

What you would be surprised to know about him: I have a big interest in history, especially medieval history. I almost majored in history instead of physics.

Who inspires him: Faculty members inspire me, especially Dr. Chuck Yeung, Dr. Blair Tuttle, Dr. Darren Williams, Dr. Bruce Wittmershaus, Paul Becker, Dr. Antonella Cupillari, Dr. Daniel Galiffa and Dr. Amos Ong. They are always willing to answer any questions I have, even if my questions have nothing to do with material we are learning in class. Also, Dr. John Gamble, distinguished professor of political science and international law, who has been a life mentor since I started college.

Advice for new students: Pick a field of study that you genuinely enjoy learning about or classes will be difficult.

After his graduation in December, Dylan plans to attend graduate school for a master’s degree in mathematics. He then wants to obtain a Ph.D. and, eventually, teach at the college level.


Class of 2018: Meet Briana Young

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 Briana Young.

Briana Young

Briana with the 2004 Mini Cooper she restored.

Major: Physics

Minor: Mathematics

Hometown: Port Allegany, Pennsylvania

On choosing her major: My high school physics teacher had a poster in his classroom that listed a bunch of careers you can pursue with a physics degree. I love understanding how everything works, and I knew I’d never be bored with physics.

Scholarships: I have been the lucky recipient of the LORD Corporation Scholarship and the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship.

Proudest accomplishment at Behrend? I have two. The first is when I got an internship with LORD Corporation the summer before my sophomore year. The second is when I was asked to present my undergraduate research work at the American Physical Society conference in Los Angeles this spring.

Campus involvement: I have been involved with an array of organizations on campus. In my first two years, I was involved with International Student Organization where I was able to meet so many people that I never would have met in my small town. In my sophomore year, I was accepted into Lambda Sigma Honor Society and into Pi Mu Epsilon, a national math honor society, in my junior year. I have also been part of Campus Health and Fitness, which is a new club on campus.

What makes her unique: I have a handful of hobbies. I am very into art and I have my own Etsy account. I love cooking, hiking, and camping. I also have completed two half marathons while in college.

What you would be surprised to know about her: My car is a 2004 Mini Cooper that I bought as a wreck and fixed up. I learned how to do it from my dad who has done body work on cars his entire life.

On being a champion for Women in Physics: The longer I have been in school the more involved I have gotten with Women in Physics. In January, I attended a Women in Physics conference that made me realize there would be a lot more of us in this field if it weren’t for self-doubt. I am passionate about encouraging other generations of girls to get excited about physics.

On giving back: I want to involve myself with outreach and teaching kids in the community the importance of science. (Editor’s note: No doubt she’ll have that chance at LORD, as they are an avid supporter of Penn State Behrend’s K-12 Outreach programs, often allowing their engineers to help lead events and each workshops for young students.)

Inspiration at home: My parents inspire me every day. They both work hard for their own success and still manage to dedicate a great deal of their time to helping others. They are both involved in different programs to help troubled kids and they inspire me to not only work hard for myself and my family, but also to actively help others.

Advice for new students: There are no shortcuts to get to where you want to be. It’ll be hard and frustrating, but keep your eyes on your ultimate goals. And don’t forget to take care of both your body and your mind.

Briana has accepted a position as a quality engineer at LORD Corporation following her graduation in May.

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

Behrend Lecturer Travels to Nairobi to Present Research Work

By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Penn State Behrend

Peter Olszewski

Peter Olszewski, lecturer in mathematics



The adage that two heads are better than one is certainly true at universities where faculty members often collaborate with colleagues on research projects. Sometimes, the partners sit a few offices away from each other. Other times, they are a several states away. Occasionally, they are on the other side of the globe.

Such is the case for Peter Olszewski, a lecturer in mathematics, whose research partner, Dickson Owiti, is 7,600 miles away in Kenya.

Olszewski and Owiti met at the Joint Math Meetings conference in San Diego in 2013 and realized they had similar research interests.

“We are both interested in how math education should be set up at the high school level to adequately prepare students for the transition to college,” Olszewski said.

Olszewski said he appreciated and recognized the assertive tone that Owiti took in his work.

“We are very similar in that way and I thought we’d work well together,” Olszewski said.

Owiti agreed and the two began a joint research project surveying their first-year students and teaching them effective study skills.

While you might think two countries would have different problems, Olszewski said math students in Kenya struggle in the same ways students in the United States do, namely transition problems from high school to college, and a lack of strong algebra and trigonometry skills, and too many modern distractions.

In June, Olszweski traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, to join Owiti and present their findings at the Strathmore International Mathematics Conference. They shared three papers and led a workshop on researchable problems in mathematics education for undergraduate mathematics education students.


Owiti and Olszewski

“Both Owiti and I gave the students some ideas of current topics they could use in their senior research projects,” Olszewski said. “Our suggestions were well received; they loved our ideas.”

Among their top findings: High school teachers are not using homework effectively and are giving students lots of the same work, rather than challenging them to problem-solve through critical thinking; students are not being taught how to study (something they will need to do in college); and they are often looking at improper sources for more information, i.e. YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.

“We are seeing two major trends,” Olszewski said. “Students are not using equal signs correctly and they are not making connections between concepts; they are cramming for assessments and not looking at the big picture.”

While in Kenya, Olszewski also got an education of a different sort.

“My mother traveled with me as she had always wanted to visit Africa, and we went on a safari in the Nairobi National Park,” he said. “It was really wonderful, but it turned a little gruesome when we witnessed a lion killing a water buffalo calf.”

They also toured an elephant orphanage and a giraffe sanctuary, where things were a little more upbeat.

Olszewski and Owiti are polishing up their research paper now and are looking forward to their next project, which they have already been invited to speak about at the next conference in Nairobi in 2019.

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Secret Lives of Staff – Jerry Magraw, Hot Rod Restoration

By Heather Cass

Publications manager, Penn State Behrend

There’s much more to Penn State Behrend’s faculty and staff members than what you see on campus. In this occasional series, we’ll take a look at some of the interesting, unconventional, and inspiring things that members of our Behrend community do in their free time.


Back in the era of Atari, stonewashed jeans, and Members Only jackets, Jerry Magraw ’87, a Physical Science major, commuted to his classes at Penn State Behrend in a 1964 Chevy Impala he had bought when he was 18.

Today, Magraw is a few years older, but he still occasionally rolls up in that Impala to the School of Science building where he has been a senior laboratory technician for twenty-plus years.

“I hung around a lot of old car guys when I was a kid, and every one of them said they wished they’d kept their first car,” he said, “So I decided to keep mine. It’s moved around with me from garage to garage to garage.”

A born mechanic

The Impala runs like a champ because Magraw is a born mechanic. He was the kid tearing apart toasters, fixing his buddy’s bikes, and taking a blowtorch to his mom’s car.

“When I was 15, my mom bought her first new car, a Dodge Aries, and I talked her into letting me put a sunroof in it,” he said. “It was pretty awesome. Can you imagine trusting your kid do that?”

Magraw can. He and his 15-year-old son, Mitchell, are currently rebuilding Magraw’s late father’s ’79 Chevy pickup truck, resurrecting the boxy two-tone with a small-block Chevy engine that he pulled out of a 1988 Camaro a few decades ago.

“It was the last vehicle my father ever owned, and it will be Mitchell’s when we’re done,” he said.


Mitchell, 15, in his grandfather’s ’79 Chevy pickup.


The same truck today!

Magraw enjoys working on engines, transmissions, suspensions, and electrical systems. He prefers GM products, but he has worked on Fords and Chryslers, too. He likes old cars.

“Everything today is function over form,” he said. “In the ‘50s and ‘60s a lot of cars were built for style. They weren’t always practical, but they were cool. And loud. They were made to draw attention.”

Magraw said the only part of auto restoration he doesn’t like is body work.

“I’d much rather weld a new frame or rebuild an entire engine than do body work,” he said. “I just prefer the mechanical side of things.”

Applied science

Magraw’s mechanical aptitude comes in handy in his role as a senior laboratory technician in the School of Science. He has responsibility for the physics and chemistry departments, ordering lab supplies, stocking the labs, preparing solutions, serving as a laboratory safety adviser, assisting in designing experiments, and maintaining scientific instruments. He also sets up—and occasionally builds—necessary apparatus.

As you might imagine, Magraw loves nothing more than when a faculty member or student asks him to put his mechanical mind, creativity, and ingenuity to work designing a piece of equipment to assist them in their research work.

“Many times, professors or students will thank me up and down, and I’ll just say, ‘This is my job. I get paid to help you,’’’ Magraw said. “It is pretty cool, though. I’m treated as a colleague, and I get to have wonderful conversations about interesting topics.”

That willingness to help and share his knowledge with others extends to his garage where he often helps friends—and sometimes complete strangers—solve their most puzzling mechanical problems.

“There aren’t that many people who do this kind of work anymore,” he said, “so people come to me when they need help making their old car run.” (See some of the cars he’s worked on in the photo slideshow at the end of this post.)


Roses, shmoses… How about a car?

Magraw’s wife, Candace, has a 1977 Camaro that he restored (above). Their daughters, Marie, 20, a Software Engineering student at Behrend, and Julie, 18, both have cars carefully chosen and inspected by their father.

“I express my love for people in cars,” Magraw said.

Fortunately, he has a wife who understands and supports his hobby.

“It helps that she can see how vehicles appreciate over time,” he said. “My Impala that I bought for $3,500 in the 1980s is now valued at $35,000.”

It’s worth noting that Magraw arrived to pick up his wife for their first date in that Impala.

“In fact, if you look in the glovebox, there’s still a map she drew me to find her house for our first date,” he said.

And with that, Magraw reveals that for all his manly mechanical aptitude and macho hotrods, he is at heart a sentimental guy.

To that end, he does not part with the cars he has rebuilt. There are currently five in his 2,400-square-foot, heated-and air-conditioned garage. One more car will fill the spots available. Magraw is saving that space for his dream car—a 1957 Corvette.

“Completely junked and stripped, a ’57 Corvette is still $25,000, but once I restore it, it will be worth as much at $125,000,” he said.

What happens when he fills the garage?

“I’ll have to build another garage,” he said, completely seriously.

You won’t find him in the garage much this time of year, though.

“We work on the cars in the winter,” he said. “Summer is driving time!”

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