Faculty Research Day showcases work by dozens of faculty, physicians across all campuses

Faculty Research Day showcases work by dozens of faculty, physicians across all campuses


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Megan Atwood stood behind a vivid collection of children’s books, animatedly chatting about her work, which includes the “Dear Molly, Dear Olive” series for children ages 5 to 7.

For an author, there was nothing unusual about that -- except possibly the venue. Atwood was one of close to 80 professors and physicians who presented their studies and accomplishments on March 28 during Rowan University’s first Faculty Research Day, the type of gathering that usually is dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

The event, which drew close to 300 attendees to the Eynon Ballroom of the Chamberlain Student Center featured wide-ranging topics: from reducing type-2 diabetes to grief and loss among death row families, from scientific visualization to Hispanic voices on promoted Twitter content, from corruption in Russia to treating cancer.

Showcase work, open doors

Though the topics were different, the intent of the event was universal: to highlight research and creative endeavors from all of the institution’s campuses, colleges and schools and to open doors to future collaborations among faculty, staff and external partners who might not ordinarily cross paths.

Atwood, an assistant professor in the Department of Writing Arts in the College of Communication & Creative Arts, was a poster child for the day. “This was an opportunity to showcase the type of work and the type of creativity I can bring to Rowan and what that can mean to our students,” she said. “Lots of universities don’t include children’s literature. This is a really cool way to show how Rowan is different and innovative.”

That’s just what the administrators and staff of the Division of University Research and Rowan Innovations were aiming for when they designed the event.

“Today’s event is to recognize the research, scholarly and creative activities of our faculty,” said Vice President for Research Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam. “You can see their enthusiasm about their work, the pride our faculty have in their research.”

Added Stephen Robishaw, manager of the Office of Proposal Development and the Research Day organizer, “The original impetus for the event was not only to showcase the multidisciplinary nature of the Rowan research enterprise but also to have researchers connect with one another. This event is our first opportunity for faculty researchers to make those kinds of connections in real time.”

Rowan’s president, Dr. Ali Houshmand, said “We at this University take the aspect of research and creation of knowledge very seriously.” He noted that Rowan focuses on providing an environment where faculty think, create and are rewarded for their work. He referenced the University’s focus on practical research that solves real-world problems. “We’re different,” he said. “We want to be different, because the current system doesn’t work.”

Great learning experience

For Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Sustainability in the School of Earth and Environment, Research Day lived up to its creators’ expectations. 

Meenar, who presented a number of ongoing projects, including one on using immersive and multisensory virtual reality technology in spatial planning, said, “I believe in collaborative research. I met a number of potential new collaborators on campus, which is really valuable. In addition, I met so many colleagues and heard about their work. Overall, it was a great learning experience.”

Dr. Jim A. Haugh, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science & Mathematics, echoed that. Haugh, who displayed a project he conducted with Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine professors and Rowan Medicine physicians Drs. Meagan Vermeulen and Joanna Petrides on depression in physicians and patients, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to interact and share the research we’ve been doing and bring it out of the lab and into the public.”

The day included a keynote speech by Dr. Ankur Patel, medical director of the Inspira LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) program. He shared lessons from the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles (don’t be intimidated, take risks in life and never give up, among them) and anecdotes about the impact researchers have made in the lives of his patients. He focused in particular on a 61-year-old man with a laundry list of physical and emotional issues whose life changed thanks to the LIFE program and to research, including dropping from 24 medications a day to nine. “We were able to do it because of the resources provided by researchers,” Patel said. “Challenges in health care will require innovation. Innovation is a process . . . of creating something from knowledge. That knowledge comes from a solid foundation of research.”

In addition to the Rowan departments represented at the event, which was sponsored by Inspira along with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP and the South Jersey Technology Park, were a dozen research partners (including Rutgers, Princeton and Drexel universities; the University of Delaware; the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; the Coriell Institute for Medical Research; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center; the Delaware BioScience Association; and the Statistical Consulting Group.) “They recognize we are an emerging force in research, and they want to partner with us,” Mandayam said.

Funding opportunities

The day included other highlights that impact Rowan researchers. Inspira Health Network announced the jointly sponsored Health Hack 2018, to be held Friday, June 22, from 2 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, June 23, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Jersey Technology Park.

Open to the Inspira management team and medical staff and Rowan faculty and staff from all disciplines, the Inspira/Rowan event will team hospital and University personnel to tackle four longstanding health care challenges that require innovative solutions. The groups will brainstorm strategies on Friday and formalize and present their solutions on Saturday. Judges will select the top five teams, which will be provided additional time to enhance their presentation. Inspira will present each of the top three teams selected in a second round of judging with $20,000 in initial funding and the opportunity and resources to move forward to fully develop their solution. (Spots are limited, and registration closes no later than May 18. Interested Inspira and Rowan employees may register at https://healthhack2018-inspira-rowan.eventbrite.com.)

Rowan University President’s Fellow Dr. Beena Sukumaran announced the establishment of a $250,000 fund by the Office of Research in collaboration with the President’s Office for the Rowan Research Experience for Diversity and Inclusion. The money, administered through the Rowan University Foundation, will support five awards of up to $5,000 a year each for faculty and staff  and five awards of up to $2,500 each for full-time students (renewable for up to three years) that further the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Award winners

Research Day also honored dozens of Rowan faculty, staff and students. They are:

Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities Awards

Jonathan Olshefski

Faculty Research Achievement Award

Harpeet Singh and Hansol Chung

Graduate Student Research Excellence Award

Tyler Jiang

Undergraduate Student Research Excellence Award

Innovation Awards

Dr. Nidhal Bouaynaya, Dr. Ghulam Rasool, Dimah Dera, Richard Kitei

NSF I-Corps Team Award

Drs. Parth Bhavsar, Yusuf Mehta, Ayman Ali

NSF I-Corps Phase0 Team Award

Dr. Mohammad Abedin-Nasab

NSF I-Corps Site Program Award and

University City Science Center QED Commercialization Award

Patent Awards

Drs. Gary S. Goldberg and Yongquan Shen

Patent Title: Targeting of podoplanin with lectin for use in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Patent #: 9,809,631

Dr. Ying Tang and Bingyao Huang

Patent Title: Use of spatially structured light for dynamic three dimensional reconstruction and reality augmentation. Patent #: 9,626,568

Dr. Robert G. Nagele

Patent Title: Diagnostic biomarker profiles for the detection and diagnosis of parkinsons disease. Patent #: 9,746,482

Patent Title: Diagnostic autoantibody profiles for the detection and diagnosis of neurodegenerative diseases. Patent #: 9,664,687

Drs. Paola Leone and Jeremy Francis

Patent Title: Metabolic therapy for oxidative stress in the brain through targeted neuronal catabolism of N-acetyl-aspartic acid. Patent #: 9,700,604

Drs. Robert Ostrum, Jeffrey Hettinger, Robert Krchnavek and Gregory A. Caputo

Patent Title: Use of silver-containing layers at implant surfaces. Patent #: 9,649,338