From music to medicine, Research Day 2019 showcased the strengths and accomplishments of faculty

From music to medicine, Research Day 2019 showcased the strengths and accomplishments of faculty

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They died violently in 2018, 22 people in Camden County, 351 in Philadelphia, victims all of homicide. Their stories are varied, their gender, race, age. But the fallout, that was similar, at least in one accord. Beyond the end of their lives, came the damage to others’ lives. Family. Friends. On average every homicide impacted 10 other people with concerns such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and eating disorders.

That’s part of what Dr. Jeanna Mastrocinque, assistant professor in the Department of Law & Justice Studies in the College of Humanities & Social Sciences, shared in her presentation on her research “The Medical System’s Response to Families and Friends of Homicide Victims: A Trauma-Informed Perspective” during the second annual Faculty Research Day that Rowan University held on March 27 in the Chamberlain Student Center.

Projects, posters and presentations

Mastrocinque was among a dozen professors from a half dozen colleges and schools who gave 10-minute talks in Room 221 while other professors from all of Rowan’s campuses showcased their research on close to 100 projects via posters and demonstrations in the ballroom.

Hosted by the Division of University Research, South Jersey Technology Park and Rowan Innovations and sponsored by Elsevier, Inspira Health, Ørsted, Saul Ewing, Fisher Broyles and TreMonti Consulting, the event highlighted research and scholarly and creative activities and provided opportunities for Rowan professors to connect to potential partners in the University, nearby universities and research centers, research support services, and industry and government funding agencies, including Princeton University, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Coriell Institute for Scientific Research, Drexel University and Rutgers University.

Rowan’s president, Dr. Ali Houshmand, noted that Rowan is focused not on “hobby research,” but rather on research that has practical implications, all while maintaining its emphasis on providing a strong undergraduate education.

Significant impact

That practical research can have significant impact, not just on students preparing for careers but also for the region and the economy.

“You are the future here at Rowan. Your research is groundbreaking,” Dr. Beena Sukumaran, vice president for Research, told a full ballroom that included several aisles packed with poster displays and more. She gave a nod to the diversity of research at Rowan, adding, “Whatever you can think of, we’re doing it here.”

Dr. James Newell, provost, who early in his 20-year Rowan career presented his own research at a STEM symposium on campus with only about a dozen other presenters, noted the changes at Rowan, including the jump to $43 million+ in funded research this year, multiple National Science Foundation CAREER winners and professors published in the major publication Nature. “Every aspect of this University has been infused with that research focus.”

Odds are if you told Dr. Jordan Howell that his research was garbage, he would not be offended. Indeed, Howell, an associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning & Sustainability in the School of Earth & Environment, focused on just that in his poster presentation on “Garbage in the Garden State.” Howell said his work includes trying to understand the history of waste management in New Jersey and how to make what we do with what we trash better. “It’s not bad,” he said of New Jersey’s garbage status. “It’s adequate enough to the point it’s not a crisis.” But, he said, the state needs to devise incentives for improving the system and focus on making New Jersey the recycling and materials processing center of the East Coast. This could include importing out-of-state wastes and using them to generate electricity and processing difficult materials into new building and industrial products. “We already have the infrastructure and know-how, it’s just getting the policy and political will together,” he said. 

One day, many activities

Faculty Research Day was multidimensional, including breakfast with keynote speaker Debbie Hart, president and CEO of BioNJ; the Research Showcase; and lunch with keynote speaker Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, head of Communications and Public Outreach at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

Hart presented an overview of research, particularly biomedical and pharmaceutical research and accomplishments in the State, noting New Jersey still is the “medicine chest of the world,” the “drug development and commercialization capital of the world” and home to 12 of the 20 top biopharmaceutical companies. She said, “New Jersey is a national leader, and Rowan is part of that story.”

The event also included an awards program; a performance by College of Performing Arts’ Paule Turner, Lourin Plant and Alexander Timofeev; official kickoff of the www.researchwithrowan.com site, a portal for connecting with the University; and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Ørsted/Ocean Wind LLC, marking an agreement between the Denmark-based power company and its Massachusetts-based affiliate and the University to collaborate on research on offshore wind-generation facilities.

For women and girls who want better self-esteem, self-efficacy and more hope, the key might be with Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Miranda Lambert. While she didn’t name names, Dr. Elika Kordrostami, assistant professor in the Department of Marketing and Business Information Systems in the William G. Rohrer College of Business,  learned from research with her coauthor on “The Impacts of Female Empowerment Songs” that such music really can impact women for the best. Kordrostami was among dozens of professors from business, communication, liberal arts, education and performing arts taking part in Faculty Research Day along with STEM and medical colleagues.

Making a difference

While guests circled through various displays and presentations, one VIP was at least a little wistful. Assemblyman Zwicker, a physicist by education and profession, noted he had to step away from the lab and the classroom when he entered political life. “I’m insanely jealous of you right now,” he said of the professors. He also was quick to point out the very practical value of research, noting instances where it returned from a few to hundreds of dollars for every dollar invested in projects. And he emphasized New Jersey’s need to invest money in clusters of innovation throughout the state.

Lisa Bodenheimer, a clinical social worker at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, wants to see senior citizens stay healthy, body and mind. She worked with Dr. Jennifer LeComte, an internal medicine physician, on research on “Integrated Care: An Interdepartmental Pilot Program to Improve Geriatric Integrated Behavioral Health into a Primary Care Practice.” Most elders, Bodenheimer said, receive mental health treatment for issues such as depression and anxiety from their primary care physicians. The downside, she said, is a lot of primary care practices don’t have access to integrated providers – no one to help with or connect patients to counseling services. And most PCP practices do not have mental health care providers on staff. “We want to connect the bridge,” she said. “The ultimate goal of our pilot program is to demonstrate that primary care practices will benefit from an integrated model, a one-stop shop with primary care physicians, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists.”