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In distinguished company

1:49 PM  Feb 28th, 2018
by UD Magazine staff


Carroll A. “Ted” Hochwalt ’20

Scientific ingenuity

Inventions include:

-Morton’s salt iodization process

-Non-freezing fire extinguisher

-Rapid distillation process for whiskey

-Tetraethyl lead gasoline octane booster

-Metal grinding and stamping lubricants

-Waterproof and mildew-proof textiles

-Low-sudsing All laundry detergent


Alphonse H. Mahrt ’12

Taking the ball & running with it

“No man ever possessed more drive, honesty and integrity than Al.” That’s how the board chairman for Mead Corp. honored Mahrt at his retirement after 39 years with Mead, which named a paper mill in Alabama in his honor. As a student, Mahrt was known as one of the University’s first great athletes, playing baseball, basketball and football. After graduation, Mahrt was a founding member and the first captain of the Dayton Triangles football team, one of the first teams in the NFL.


Edwin G. Becker ’14

Service to college & community

Becker served as a judge of the Court of the Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio, a chemical superintendent with Procter & Gamble Co.; a lay leader in the Cincinnati Archdiocese; and a member of the University lay board of trustees.


Joseph D. Park ’29

Father of Freon

For Frigidaire, Park helped develop Freon to revolutionize refrigeration. For DuPont, he flipped kitchen conventions with the creation of nonstick Teflon. In 1947, Park turned his focus to education as a professor at the University of Colorado.


John B. Alexander ’25

Cement innovator

A longtime chemist and vice president with Southwestern Portland Cement Co., Alexander helped develop the concrete for the Hoover Dam.


Martin J. Hillenbrand ’37

First U.S. ambassador to Hungary

“I have served as a diplomat under seven presidents and nine secretaries of state. … The interplay of people and events, of decision making and ineluctable external causation that constitutes the historical process, is fraught with both personal tragedy and achievement. Things never quite work out as we would wish.”

— Hillenbrand, from Fragments of Our Time: Memoirs of a Diplomat


Col. Edward L. Buescher ’45

Isolated & characterized the rubella virus, cause of German measles

U.S. rubella timeline:

-1962: Virus characterized by scientists at Walter Reed Army Hospital

-1964: 12.5 million cases

-1969: 57,686 cases; rubella vaccine licensed; Buescher receives the Legion of Merit

-1983: 1,000 cases

-2004: Measles no longer endemic in the U.S.

-Today: <10 cases each year


Father Raymond A. Roesch, S.M. ’36

University’s 16th president

He was called “the founder of the modern University of Dayton” by Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., the University’s 17th president. Roesch, as president from 1959 to 1979, added nine academic departments; six associate, 18 bachelor’s and 44 master’s degree programs; reopened the School of Law; and was instrumental in the construction of Kennedy Union, Miriam Hall, Roesch Library, UD Arena, Marycrest Hall, Stuart Hall and Campus South.


George E. Freitas ’29

Business connoisseur

Among his companies: Hawaii Corp., Pacific Development Co., Pacific Construction Co., Pacific Utility Contractors and Community Equipment Inc., VHY, Moanalua Shopping Inc., Rosalei Apartments Inc., First Hawaiian Bank, Hawaiian Western Steel, Johnston and Buscher Inc., Pacific-Peru Construction Corp., Von Hamm-Young Inc., Hawaiian Textiles Inc., Pacco.


Clement G. Jauch ’08

His indelible stamp

Jauch, a member of the University of Dayton alumni board of directors, founded the Dayton Stencil Works Co., which continues to operate on East Second Street in the same building it has occupied since the early 1900s.


Charles W. Whalen Jr. ’42

Six-term U.S. congressman

“We’ve come to realize there is a limit to our powers. We have a feeling that we’re not as powerful as we thought we were.”

— Whalen to The New York Times on his decision in 1978 not to run for re-election; Whalen led the Republican opposition to the Vietnam War


Erma Fiste Bombeck ’49

Mother of suburban wit

“When Humor Goes, There Goes Civilization”

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved of the dessert cart.”

“All of us have moments in our lives that test our courage. Taking children into a house with a white carpet is one of them.”

“Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids.”


Soichi Kawazoe ’30

Executive vice president of Nissan Motors Corp., USA

After earning degrees from UD and MIT, Kawazoe returned to Japan, where he worked as an engineer for General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan before being drafted into service with the Japanese army and becoming a prisoner of war of the Chinese Communists for eight years. His advice to Nissan to open an American sales branch led to the selling of 150,859 Datsun cars in the U.S. in 1970, the first year Kawazoe donated a Datsun to UD.


Torrence A. Makley Jr. ’40

Cataract surgery pioneer

Dr. Makley, professor of ophthalmology at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, pioneered the use of the revolutionary, less-invasive cataract treatment known as phacoemulsification.


Barry A. Shillito 49

World War II Army Air Corps POW

A career in the aircraft industry and defense logistics included his appointments as the assistant secretary of the Navy in 1968 and the assistant secretary of defense in 1969 during the Vietnam War.


Brother Joseph F. Buettner, S.M. ’36

Beloved educator

In his 51 years of service in the Society of Mary, Buettner served the mission of education, including his last 38 years in Puerto Rico. Said his secretary at Colegio San Jose in San Juan, Puerto Rico,  upon Buettner’s death in 1979, “This is a man that God tries and finds worthy.”


George K. Houghtailing ’29

Director of planning, Honolulu

“It made me understand that people are people, and you have to look and plan for people, and work with people.”


Carl J. Crane ’24

Aviation pioneer & inventor

At age 10, Crane witnessed the flight of a Wright brothers biplane. He went on to a career of more than 60 years as a pilot, during which he flew almost every experimental and production craft, from the early biplanes to jet aircraft. He also helped write the world’s first manual on instrument flight and, in 1937, made the first fully automated landing at what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.


Rita Rapp ’50

Space physiology pioneer

She joined the NASA Space Task Force at Langley Field in 1961 and was transferred the following year to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center. She designed and implemented biomedical experiments, inflight medical kits and in-flight exercises for the astronauts, in addition to designing their meals and packaging their foods for the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. In 1971, she received the Federal Women’s Award, the highest honor for a professional woman in the federal government.


Charles H. “Chuck” Noll ’53

Super Bowl legend

“Our goal is to win Super Bowls, and to win the Super Bowl you must start at the beginning. … Chuck [Noll] always preached about getting back to the basics. … Chuck Noll was always the teacher.”

— Dan Rooney, chairman, Pittsburgh Steelers, in 2014 remembering the Flyer who coached the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl championships. 


Simon “Si” Burick ’30

Sports editor

Burick came to the University to become a doctor; instead, at age 19, he left UD to join the Dayton Daily News as sports editor, a position he held until his death in 1986. “After five decades, I confess there have been no regrets on my part,” he said some years before his death. Among his many accolades was Burick’s 1983 induction into the writers section of the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York; he was the only honoree who came from a city with no major league team. Burick finally received a UD degree in 1977 — an honorary doctorate in humane letters.


Simon Nathan ’42

International photographer

Nathan, a noted photographer, contributed to his profession through his “Simon Sez” photography column, photography instruction books and the development of a hand-held panoramic camera.


Richard H. Finan 54

Former president, Ohio Senate

“I’m most proud of riding herd over the renovation of the Statehouse. Anybody can pass a bill, but not anybody could do this. … Every time I come into the building, my chest swells with pride.”


Bernard L. Whelan ’08

‘Early bird’ of aviation

Whelan was among those who soloed in the first 13 years of powered flight; he later served as president of the Early Birds. An exhibition flier, Army Air Corps instructor and test pilot, Whelan went on to become vice president of the United Aircraft Corp.


Donald M. Knowlan ’51

Master doctor

Former team physician for the Washington Redskins and current professor emeritus of medicine at Georgetown University, Dr. Knowlan was inducted as a master of the American College of Physicians in 2008. He continues to participate in white coat ceremonies for GW’s medical students. “Today, the future of medicine is in their imagination,” he said of the Class of 2016.


Shirley A. Pohl ’57 

Lifetime of clinical laboratory excellence

Pohl, a contributor to UD’s undergraduate and graduate programs in medical technology, shared her expertise with the world through service with MEDICO/CARE, which provides medical teams to developing countries, and the World Health Organization, where she served as a temporary adviser.


John R. Westerheide ’47

UD Research Institute founding director

“If some of us left a few fingerprints around, he left a full-body cast.”

— Al Ray, division of materials, metals and ceramics, about the impact of Westerheide throughout the institute


Ronald W. Collins ’57

Scholar in instructional computer usage

Collins was honored for his contributions to the fields of chemistry, chemical education, computers, computer-assisted instruction and university administration; he served on the faculty of Eastern Michigan University for 35 years.


John E. Condon ’51

Chief quality officer

Condon’s career in quality control included positions in industry and the government, including responsibility for the reliability of NASA’s space program from 1962-1972 and national leadership as president of the American Society for Quality Control.


Charles R. Wilke ’40

Chemical engineering education pioneer

“I feel it’s important to support future students and to encourage them to engage in research work that will improve human life, the profession and the economy.”

— Wilke, founder, department of chemical engineering, University of California, Berkeley



Irmengard P. Rauch ’55

Professor of German linguistics

An author of publications on historical and modern German linguistics and a professor at University of California, Berkeley, Rauch received honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982 and the 1999 Festschrift Interdigitations: Essays for Irmengard Rauch.


Donald W. Wigal ’55

Specializing in modern & Western art

“I now believe art can lead to and flow from spirituality, from a simple household chore, for example, to the building of a grand Gothic edifice — not only cathedrals, but environments for all sorts of human expressions of truth and beauty.”


Brother Howard L. Hughes, S.M. ’51

Praising Mary through song

Hughes was a teacher, organist and glee club director in Washington, D.C.; Cleveland; Mineola, New York; and San Antonio. While serving on the Curia Generalizia in Rome, he was superior of the Marianist community there. In 2013, he was named Musician of the Year by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.


Joseph E. Keller ’29

Washington, D.C., lawyer & law educator

“I’ve always been interested in helping people to be good lawyers. My roots came from the University of Dayton. It’s the only place I feel I ever got an education.”

— Keller, namesake for the building housing the UD School of Law


Sanford M. Shapero ’50

Making change

A civil rights activist who marched with Martin Luther King Jr., Shapero went on to lead private and nonprofit organizations, including City of Hope and Spirit of America Worldwide.


Charles J. Pedersen ’26

Nobel laureate

Pedersen, while working as an organic chemist for DuPont, discovered methods for synthesizing crown ethers, today used in many applications including removing mercury from drinking water.


Joseph E. Stermer ’31

Giving it his all

Stermer served in 27 countries abroad during his time in the Army. After the Korean Conflict, he helped establish a judicial system there based on the American model. He retired as colonel and practiced law in Michigan.


Charles L. “Chuck” Weber ’58 

Radar & communications systems

“Chuck was kind, gentle and a great mentor to students, faculty and staff. He was a cheerful, positive person who cared deeply about his friends and colleagues and always brought out and encouraged the best qualities in people.”

— Alexander Sawchuck, University of Southern California, a fellow electrical engineering faculty member 


Brother Donald R. Geiger, S.M. ’55

Brother earth

Professor emeritus of biology, Geiger has led numerous research projects to benefit the earth’s plants, people and other animals. Projects include land management in West Africa, food production in China, and natural area restoration in wetlands, prairies, parks and a former nuclear facility. Now retired, Geiger can still be found teaching through the UD River Stewards and the Marianist Environmental Education Center.


George E. Thoma ’43

Pioneer in nuclear medicine

“A tireless advocate of opportunities in science to inspire and encourage the next generation.”

— Mary Burke, CEO of the Academy of Science


Doris I. Shields Charles ’52

Champion for student health

Dr. Charles began her career as a clinical instructor of nursing arts at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. She was the only woman in Ohio to head the health services at two major universities, University of Cincinnati and Ohio State University, where she was also named team physician. Her excellence was recognized by the Ohio College Health Association.


Frank F. Ledford Jr. ’55

Chief surgeon

After a military medical career that included an appointment as Surgeon General of the U.S. Army, Dr. Ledford became president of the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, where he grew the foundation’s annual grant and contract income from $14.6 million in 1992 to $42.6 million in 2003.


Thomas C. Kennedy ’59

Lover of history & life


“He loved teaching, more perhaps than some of his students loved learning, but in that cast of thousands, there were some he never forgot and a few who gained high places in the world of men and women.”

— obituary from the University of Arkansas


William E. Hammer Jr. ’62

Dayton engineer

As a leader in his profession, Hammer held positions as vice president of the board of governors of the Dayton Engineers Club and among the leadership of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He practiced, taught and wrote about information systems and data processing.


John L. O’Grady ’68 

Future investments

O’Grady spent nearly his entire investment career with Salomon Brothers, including positions as a managing director and general partner. The O’Grady Scholarship, established after his death, provides inner-city New York youth with full-tuition scholarships to UD.


James C. Herbert ’63

Grand fellow

After an early career as a college instructor, Herbert researched and analyzed higher education policy, for which he received eight fellowships. Herbert was a senior adviser on joint activities to the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, helping create their interagency partnership for documenting endangered languages.


Ralph D. Delaney ’55 

Advocate for the poor


“He was what his heroes, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, would have called a nonviolent soldier.”

— Cleveland Magazine on Delaney, who was murdered in 1990 while videotaping dilapidated living conditions in public housing


John T. Makley ’57

Physician & teacher

An orthopedic surgeon at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals, Dr. Makley devoted nearly five decades to the care of patients and the education of residents and fellows. As an orthopedic oncologist, he has helped shape national perspective on bone banking and treatment of patients with bone and soft-tissue tumors.


Thomas J. Frericks ’53

He built basketball

One of the most influential lay persons in UD’s history, Frericks served his alma mater in various administrative positions from 1964 to his death in 1992. He oversaw the construction of UD Arena and served as chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee. The Frericks Center, home to University athletics, is named in his honor.


Thomas Eggemeier ’67

In service to UD

An expert in human factors and ergonomics, Eggemeier led UD’s psychology department, served as an associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, and retired in 2013 as dean of the Graduate School. In 2008, he received UD’s Lackner Award, which honors lay people who embody the Marianist spirit on campus.


Cordell W. Hull ’56

Building opportunities

Hull served two terms on UD’s board of trustees. His career in global construction, infrastructure and financing includes his most recent position as principal with InfrastructureWorld, from which he has retired. For 20 years, students in the University Honors and Berry Scholars programs have studied and conducted research abroad thanks to the Cordell W. Hull International Fellows Fund, named in honor of his service and generosity to UD.


Brother John J. Lucier, S.M. ’37

Chemistry mentor

“Brother John Lucier was a scholar, a scientist, a dedicated teacher and a man of faith.”

— Father James L. Heft, S.M. ’66, on Lucier, former chemistry department chair who joined the faculty in 1945 


Colombe M. Nicholas ’64

Astute marketer

Having distinguished herself as one of the most influential leaders in the international fashion and retail industries, Nicholas held top posts at Anne Klein, Giorgio Armani, Health-Tex and Christian Dior.


James R. Spotila ’66

Biodiversity champion

Spotila, founding president of the International Sea Turtle Society and chair of The Leatherback Trust, has spent his career working in environmental science, biodiversity and conservation biophysical ecology. He is a professor of environmental science at Drexel University.


John A. Lombardo ’71

Team healer

Dr. Lombardo, in his nearly 30 years experience as a team physician, has helped heal athletes from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Ballet, 1998 Winter Olympics and Ohio State University, among others. A founding member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Lombardo continues to serve as the NFL’s drug adviser for anabolic steroids and as a clinical professor at Ohio State University College of Medicine.


Paul W. Armstrong ’67

Life & the law

Armstrong, a retired judge on the Somerset County, New Jersey, Superior Court, is known for his seminal work on cases that impact how the law deals with medicine and science. In the 1976 case involving Karen Ann Quinlan, Armstrong argued before the New Jersey Supreme Court the Catholic moral theology perspective that “extraordinary means” need not be employed in preserving a patient’s life. “What emanated from the Quinlan case was the hospice movement,” Armstrong told NJ.com. “We set a standard for how we care for one another at the end of life.”


Paul V. McEnroe ’59

Father of the UPC

“What can you invent that touches more people?”

— McEnroe, inventor of the bar code and scanning system; last he heard, the world was scanning 5 billion bar codes daily


John L. Lahey ’68

Higher ed leader

Lahey will retire in 2018 having served 31 years as president of Quinnipiac University, where he increased enrollment, fundraising, campus size and degree offerings. Lahey also helped oversee the creation of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum.


Theodore Q. Miller Jr. ’68

Diversifying the sciences

Dr. Miller retired from Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in 2006, having served as a professor of radiology, associate dean of student affairs and director of admissions. He helped establish the King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in South Central Los Angeles, which attracts students at risk of not graduating from high school. He also started the Saturday Science Academy for preteen children.


Richard M. Schoen ’72

Mathematics of spacetime

Schoen unravels the mysteries of differential geometry and ideas of spacetime, including questions about the curvature of the universe. In 2017 alone, he won three of the world’s most prestigious international mathematics awards. He teaches at University of California, Irvine.


Richard A. Abdoo ’65

Lead with integrity

President of the environmental and energy consulting firm R.A. Abdoo & Co., Abdoo previously served as chief executive for several Wisconsin energy companies. He was UD’s first business vocation executive-in-residence.


Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M. ’64

University’s 17th president

“I saw if we were going to be a great Catholic university, we needed conversations about mission and vision. So we began planning.”

— Fitz, UD’s longest-serving president (1979-2002); he continues to connect Catholic social teaching and the social sciences through the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community 


Eugene Steuerle ’68

Creating good from grief

In memory of wife Norma Lang Steuerle, who died on 9/11 in the Pentagon attack, Steuerle and his daughters founded two nonprofits: Alexandria Community Trust, which supports charities in northern Virginia, and Our Voices Together, which fights terrorism by building a safer, more compassionate world.


Peter A. Luongo ’65

It’s not just about winning

Retired president and CEO of The Berry Co., the nation’s largest Yellow Pages advertising sales agency, Luongo is author of 10 Truths About Leadership and former executive director of UD’s Center for Leadership.


Eileen Dolan ’79

Kinder chemo

“A patient’s genetics sheds light on po-tential targets for new drugs to prevent or treat these devastating toxicities.”

— Dolan, professor of medicine at University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, on identifying hereditary predisposition for toxic side effects of chemotherapy


David C. Phillips ’62

Eliminating poverty

In 1996, Phillips founded Cincinnati Works with his wife, Liane. Cincinnati Works helps residents find jobs through a comprehensive program that includes assistance with child care, transportation, work clothes, and mental and physical health care for the entire family, as well as assistance with any other barriers to employment.


John F. McHale ’78

The next innovation

McHale sold his first business to Compaq and his second to Cisco Systems, part of his pattern for doing business: Invent cutting-edge technology, develop the business, sell it to a company that can expand the product market and reinvest to begin again. He also helped found Genesis Inventions to provide investment and funding services to other inventors.


Gordon Roberts ’74

Moral obligation

The Medal of Honor citation for Roberts praises his “gallant and selfless actions … in keeping with the highest traditions of the service.” In Vietnam in 1969, that meant extraordinary heroism that saved fellow soldiers pinned down on a hillside. At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 2009, it meant commanding 2,500 caregivers. He retired as a colonel in 2012 after 44 years of Army service.


Richard P. Davis ’72

Financial entrepreneur

In 1984, Davis co-founded Flagship Financial, which grew to manage $5.4 billion in assets for more than 100,000 investors by 1996. His gifts to UD provide students with hands-on investment education through the Davis Center for Portfolio Management in the School of Business Administration.


Michele Mariscalco ’77

In care of others

A recipient of the 2010 Barry A. Shapiro Memorial Award for Excellence in Critical Care Management, Dr. Mariscalco has dedicated herself to integrating research and scholarship with quality patient care and education. Grants she received from the National Institutes of Health have supported research training in pediatric critical care medicine to train the next generation of physician-scientists. After previous appointments at the schools of medicine for Baylor College and University of Kansas in Wichita, Mariscalco is regional dean of the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Urbana.


Ricardo Bressani ’48

Food for thought

As a researcher in nutrition and food sciences, Bressani’s life was devoted to improving health outcomes for children in his native Guatemala. His research into plant-based proteins, cooking methods to maximize nutrition and the benefits of ancestral diets, and his invention of nutrition-fortified foods, continue to nourish children around the world.


David J. Bradley ’71

Inventor of ctrl-alt-del

“One of my favorite time-wasters is taking a PC apart to make it run faster or better.”

— Bradley, who holds 10 patents related to computer design and was one of the original 12 engineers who began work on the IBM personal computer in 1980


Sean P. Donahue ’84

Vision for a better future

Dr. Donahue’s research helps find new technologies that detect eye problems in preliterate children. Through his work with the Lions Club International Foundation Pediatric Cataract Initiative, he has traveled the globe to train doctors in the recognition, prevention and treatment of cataracts. He is a professor of ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.


Katherine A. Schipper ’71

Financial record

One of the world’s renowned accounting educators, Schipper has served as editor of the Journal of Accounting Research and as a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Inducted into the international Accounting Hall of Fame in 2007, Schipper holds an endowed professorship at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business.


Fred C. Tenover ’76

Faith & science


“My Catholic faith is fundamental to my science. I see the two as interconnected — the integration of faith and science makes sense to me.”

— Tenover, former director of the office of antimicrobial resistance for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Joseph R. Desch ’29


An electrical engineer and inventor, Desch served the country during World War II by developing an electro-mechanical code-breaking machine. Dubbed the Bombe, it was responsible for the destruction of up to 54 German U-boats, based on some historian accounts. Of 121 Bombes built, only one machine remains intact, housed in the NSA Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland. Desch received the Medal of Merit from President Harry S. Truman July 16, 1947.



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What makes us human

11:26 AM  Feb 14th, 2018
by Jenni Laidman

Science needs a new model for testing how cells react, both to things that can cure us and things that can kill us. With her half-million-dollar grant, assistant professor Kristen Comfort ’02 is developing a human model with dynamic potential.

Kristen Comfort wanted to build a city for tiny bits of life, a comfortable habitat where free-ranging cells could grow as naturally as they do tucked inside our bodies.

It was serious science — with significant promise for environmental research and a host of human health studies —  but to the assistant professor in chemical and materials engineering, it felt like play: squirting a liquid gel into one-inch diameter cylinders, watching the gel cure like Jell-O in the fridge, then adding the cells to weave their way into the porous material.

And it worked. The lung and immune cells she put in the wiggly culture moved in and took up housekeeping. Then she turned on a pump to move liquid through the system to the pulsing rhythms of a beating heart. 

Disaster. Her formerly tidy cylinders were ragged ruins, the cell’s once happy home ready for a tiny wrecking ball. It looked like B-roll on a disaster news broadcast.

“I don’t consider it lost time,” she said after this and other efforts to create cell high-rises failed. Every failure is one step closer to success. This is how the science game is played.

Still, there’s a great deal at stake. The National Science Foundation has awarded her more than a half-million dollars over the next five years to create a new laboratory test system, one that better predicts how our bodies and our cells react to potentially toxic compounds or potentially helpful ones. NSF called it work with potentially “deep scientific impact” across many disciplines. If the system is successful, Comfort predicts, it could reduce the need for animal studies and provide a more accurate appraisal of our body’s reaction to new substances than the usual laboratory approach. It could even help treat cancer.

Her office on the fifth floor of Kettering Labs is decorated with artwork from her three daughters, Holly, 9; Megan, 8; and Caitlin, 7. Rainbow drawings. Sweet notes with childish printing, “I love you Momme.” Paper hearts. Handprint flowers. Paper plate picture frames. And dead center between two long to-do lists on her office white board, a heart scrawled in green, now a few months old. It said, “I love you so much Mommy.” (“I can’t find it in my heart to erase it,” Comfort said.)

Comfort, director of the graduate bioengineering program, came to her passion for science naturally. As an 8- or 9-year-old she corralled the family’s Barbies — with three girls in the house, she had an army of them — pulled off an arm here, a leg there, and created a Barbie hospital. When she was 8, she asked for a microscope for her birthday and subjected everything she could think of to its low-power scrutiny. Before that, the whole family overslept one morning because 7-year-old Kristen had taken apart her mother’s alarm clock to see how it worked, then failed to put it back together again. Somewhere along the way, her native curiosity joined forces with imagination, and the problem-solving demands of science drew her in. That led Kristen Krupa, as she was then known, to the University of Dayton, where she earned a chemical engineering degree in 2002, which eventually led to her present project: Think of it as human-in-a-box.

Her goal is to improve the way laboratories test cells. Typically, studying the biological impact of any chemical or drug involves squirting it onto a flat dish carpeted with identical, growing cells, then watching what happens. Do the cells emit chemical help signals? Do they change shape, alter structurally, stop multiplying, multiply faster? Do they use less oxygen or require fewer nutrients? Do communications between cells break down? Do they die? Or does everything tick along smoothly?

Theoretically, the way that pancake of cells responds predicts the way our bodies will respond to the same chemical. It seems a reasonable supposition. And if we were cell pancakes, it would be. But too often, laboratory studies aren’t borne out when scientists take the research to the next level — usually studies in rodents. That’s certainly been the case for silver nanoparticles, which is what Comfort plans to test in the experimental system she’s creating. In cell pancakes, silver nanoparticles are bad actors. Cells exposed to these tiny creations of 1 to 100 nanometers — 600 times smaller than the width of a human hair — look stressed, act weird and die. But expose mice to these same tiny bits of silver and — nothing, or very little. The mice carry on their little mouse lives with their usual brio. Clearly, something isn’t translating between culture dish and four-footed human stand-in.

Comfort looked at the cell cultures, and the problem seemed obvious: “It’s just sitting there,” she said. “Nothing is moving. And you’re trying to correlate the results from a cell culture to the three-dimensional, dynamic, multicellular system of a living thing? No wonder it falls apart. Especially when you’re talking about nanoparticles. Because they’re so small, any little influence changes how they interact with cells.” Yet it’s not practical to go straight to testing in mice. Such a solution would be both costly and involve an awful lot of mice.

Comfort hopes to create a bridge, a span to carry her from the oversimplified world of cells in a dish to the complexity of a mouse
by adding in the cellular interactions that make our human bodies run

Comfort grew interested in the problems of cell culture during her post-doctoral research year at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base while working in the laboratory of another UD alumna, Laura K. Braydich-Stolle ’01, a biologist in the Molecular Bioeffects Branch at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. 

Comfort and her husband, Donald, had arrived in the Dayton area in 2008. Donald was further along in his professional life than Kristen, having completed both his doctorate and post-graduate research, and was beginning at UD in a tenure-track position. When her husband’s job offer came through, Kristen had a freshly minted doctorate from North Carolina State University. When she moved to Dayton, she took what was on offer: part-time teaching at the University of Dayton. She had zero teaching experience and zero teacher training. “They threw me into thermodynamics — which is not the easiest,” she said. “I loved it, loved it, loved it!”

She had never intended to teach, always dreaming of working in industry, but at UD she realized her extrovert tendencies — not exactly common among engineers, she said — were a perfect fit. “My husband says I can talk to a blank wall,” she said. “Teaching is a way I get my words out. I love that interaction. I feed off that energy.”

After completing her post-doc with Braydich-Stolle in 2012, Comfort was hired at UD. This year, she’s preparing for tenure review.

Braydich-Stolle said Wright-Patterson had hoped to keep Comfort. Comfort’s research colleague called her “very high energy, and extremely focused … a very meticulous scientist.” But Braydich-Stolle saw her deep love for teaching, and that’s how Wright-Patterson lost out to UD. Comfort wanted to get her words out. 

She and Braydich-Stolle continue to collaborate. On the NSF grant project, they create cell cultures that live, not as cell pancakes, but in three dimensions. To add to the authenticity of their experimental system, they will employ several cell types in a single test, including immune cells known as macrophages.

Picture a six-cup muffin tin made of clear plastic, but with slots between each cup so that batter can flow between them, and you have a fairly good idea what this pilot system looks like. Two of the cups are needed to cycle liquid in and out of the system. The other four could each become home to particular cell types. For instance, to test silver nanoparticles, chamber No. 1 will hold three-dimensional lung cell cultures, chamber No. 2 will feature liver cells growing on 3-D structures, and chamber No. 3 will be home to 3-D skin cell cities. (The fourth chamber won’t be used.)  The pulsatile pump will push liquid through the system. Finally, macrophages will travel in the liquid, cycling through each cell chamber. Then the nanoparticles will cycle through.

The tissue arrangement isn’t a whim. The nanoparticles will travel to lung, liver, then skin — the same order human tissues experience inhaled nanoparticles. Adding macrophages to the mix may challenge all assumptions: Do they gobble up invading particles or ignore them completely?

Although “nanoparticles” sound exotic, they’ve become increasingly common in consumer products during the last 10 years as the tools to image them — things like high-powered microscopes — developed. As we got better at seeing them, we began to understand their properties, such as strength, durability and low weight, and engineer them more precisely to meet our needs. Thus, they’ve made their way into hundreds of applications, including cell phone cases, toothbrush bristles and even the fur of some stuffed animals, according to a study by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Between 2006 and 2014 — the most recent data available — the number of products with nanomaterials increased 521 percent to encompass 1,317 items. About a quarter of those use silver nanoparticles. “It’s used for coatings, cosmetics, anything designed to kill bacteria,” Comfort said. “It’s something we’re in contact with on a daily basis.”

But what happens when we inhale these infinitesimal particles isn’t certain. They’re so small, there’s hardly anything they can’t get into. A silver nanoparticle sized 10 nanometers or smaller is half the size of most virus particles, and it can pass into a cell
like a needle through fabric, like a ghost through a wall. It doesn’t even need a door.   

Yet with their small size comes giant opportunities. Gold nanoparticles, for instance, could serve as drug delivery mechanisms. In traditional cell cultures, Comfort said, they work like a charm. “But put them in an animal model and the particles disappear. The macrophages eat them.” With her laboratory system, Comfort said, she could see what percentage of gold nanoparticles the macrophages leave behind. That would help determine how many particles would be required to still sneak some past the macrophages and to the targeted tissue.

Comfort is also working with a group of UD chemistry researchers on the creation and testing of compounds to treat non-small-cell lung cancer, a very aggressive, treatment-resistant disease. They are using specially engineered inorganic chemistry compounds. Once in the airways, these compounds are engineered to behave like smart bombs, adhering to lung cancer cells. Finally, laser light tuned to a specific wavelength triggers the kill signal. Comfort said her system will help determine the ideal compound dose to evade destruction by the immune system.

It’s one of the many ways Comfort’s system can be adapted to meet multiple research needs.

For instance, the system isn’t limited to nanomaterials. In a study led by Braydich-Stolle, they will use their cupcake pan-like assembly to follow the biological path of the toxic heavy metals. Metal ions leach from airplane parts, elevating metal exposures in airmen to much higher levels than experienced in the general population. To test for metal toxicity, Stolle will use liver, kidney, spleen and immune cells — the critical
pathway for metal toxicity. 

“There are innumerable ways we can use this system,” Comfort said. “That’s the thing I love about this project.” And, there’s potential to expand to even more types of cells. “We could focus on an airway model. We have a detox model. We could focus on tumor models. Any cell type you want to put together, you can create a focused, individualized system,” Comfort said.

Still, several challenges remain. While the problem of the cell gelatin high-rises has, for the moment, been solved with off-the-shelf materials, Comfort would rather create her own. Describing silver nanoparticle behavior in the new system will take up much of the final few years of the project. Ultimately, she hopes to compare her results with results in mice exposed to silver nanoparticles. This will tell her just how close her human-in-a-box comes to emulating life. 

From watching her own children, Comfort knows that an interest in science has to start early. Her oldest daughter, Holly, nicknamed “the lawyer” for her ability to argue, wants to be a marine biologist and an artist. Megan, the middle child, is “the engineer,” undoing baby locks when she was a toddler, and taking apart an expensive toy using her plastic Black & Decker tools. “I was angry and proud at the same time,” Comfort said. Even youngest sister Caitlin, officially “the troublemaker,” has a knack for experimentation. She discovered that if she pushed the toilet seat up, she could get daddy, the only male in the house, in trouble. How fun is that?

If a child isn’t turned on to science by second grade, research shows, it’s too late, Comfort said. So she makes outreach to children a goal, visiting her children’s day care in summer and their schools in the school year with quick, fun experiments, such as demonstrating the engineering perfection of an egg by standing on a grid of them, or piling up books atop an eggshell.

She’s also helping train today the next generation of researchers. Comfort is active in UD’s Minority Leaders Program that pairs minority students with research mentors. And the NSF grant is helping fund positions for an additional graduate student and two undergraduate students in her lab.

Katie Burns, who is completing her master’s degree in bioengineering in Comfort’s lab, feels like she lucked out when she began working with Comfort. “To see the things she’s doing, and being successful, and at the same time having a family, it’s just pretty great to have somebody like that as my mentor,” Burns said. “I found a mentor who embodies so much of what I hope to be in the future.”

In budding researchers and precocious children, Comfort also sees the future. Each July, Comfort is part of the annual University of Dayton Women in Engineering camp. Young women from at least 20 states attend the program, living in dorms for the week while they complete experiments and learn from professional engineers. It’s one of her favorite weeks in the summer.

“You see these 16-year-olds who are, ‘I’m gonna go and I’m gonna cure cancer,’” she said.

And when they’re ready, Comfort plans to have the cell model ready for them to test their cures. 

Jenni Laidman is a freelance writer specializing in science and medicine.

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Dis manibus

1:13 PM  Oct 27th, 2017
by Matthew Dewald

In early May, archaeologist Dorian Borbonus drove two visitors from central Rome out to the countryside and parked. A stray dog wandered the edge of an ancient wall as we got out and stretched our legs. Beneath our feet were dark, glass-smooth stones the size of manhole covers laid by Roman workers two millennia ago. We were at the bottom of a hill on the ancient Appian Way, one of the most important Roman roads. The incline we were about to climb, Borbonus explained, was formed by 260,000-year-old lava flow that originated in the Alban Hills and stopped at this very spot.

We began to make our way uphill on Via Appia Antica. Ahead of us, our destination peeked out over the tree tops against a blue sky. We were coming to see what was meant to be the last resting place of a woman named Caecilia Metella.

Caecilia Metella is today one of the most widely known women of ancient Rome. Yet, experts know almost nothing about her. Every trace of evidence about the life she lived is lost to history except one, which stood on the crest of the hill we were approaching. It is a funerary monument erected after her death, a cylindrical mausoleum about three stories high and 100 feet in diameter ringed with limestone slabs.

Caecilia Metella’s tomb is one of hundreds of Roman funerary sites that Borbonus, a UD associate professor of history, has visited during more than a decade of research. Few are as grand as hers, but then few Romans lived in the luxury she presumably did. Mausoleums such as this were for members of Rome’s elite families, which numbered several hundred families in the first century. But Rome’s population reached as high as a million in that period. The vast majority of people were buried more simply. As was the custom of the time, they were cremated, and their ashes were placed, by law, beyond the city walls.

While scholars have studied individual sites, none has so far done what Borbonus spent the 2016-17 academic year in Rome laying the groundwork to do. His vision and plan is to develop the first-ever study of life in ancient Rome over a 400-year period as it can be understood through its changing burial practices. If Borbonus is successful — and he openly admits he is not sure he will be — his history will slash across social class because it will have at its roots the one experience inescapable for everyone rich and poor, free and slave, high and low. Everyone dies.

Caecilia’s family must’ve thought she was very special, I speculated.

Maybe or maybe not, Borbonus replied. “This is just meant to be a super-public tomb. It’s hard to get the whole tomb in your point of view, and it really exploits its position on top of the hill.”

The real point of the monument was how it displayed the family’s importance, he said. They wanted everyone who passed by to see their wealth and power.

We bought our tickets and went inside. Her crypt was empty, likely looted centuries ago.

 Mausoleums, crypts, remains.
Why study funerary culture? Borbonus admits it can be a macabre and sometimes creepy experience. Descending into the underground tombs so common in Rome can feel “otherwordly,” he once wrote.

One reason is that studies of ancient Rome suffer from an understandable bias toward elites. Emperors, senators and families like Caecilia Metella’s are the people about whom Tacitus, Seneca and such wrote. Much less is known about the vast majority of Romans who were not elite. For many, a funerary inscription is the only writing about them that survives, if it exists at all. Even in their absence, funerary practices offer other clues. Are tombs hidden or monumental? Are people buried singly or with others? What do decorations suggest was important to them? The ways in which even anonymous people were buried offers a rare avenue for learning about their lives.

Borbonus finds himself empathizing with people whose inscriptions he reads while at the same time seeing how different their social experience was from ours. This recognition allows him to step out of our modern life and reflect on it from afar.

“One of the things I think about death and burial in antiquity is that it’s much more integrated with life,” he said. “I can recognize this only by studying it and reflecting on modern societies and being struck by how, you know, old people don’t live with their families anymore but are in a home, for example. We try to push old age, the process of dying, death and how to cope with it away. Or, at least it’s compartmentalized much more than in ancient society. I think I learn something about modern societies by studying the Romans.”

The chief difficulty with studying funerary culture in Rome is partly administrative — five bureaucracies manage the sites around the city — and partly historical. Roman ruins have been excavated and put on display for centuries. But excavation, Borbonus said, is an act of destruction. Once someone digs out a site, no one else can redig it.

 The American Academy in Rome sits atop Gianicolo, a hill just west of the Tiber River that offers sweeping views of the city that often make the covers of tourist guidebooks. The academy traces its history to the late 19th century, when a group of American scholars sought a European base for studying classical art. Today, it hosts residents, fellows and, each year, up to 30 recipients of the prestigious Rome Prize, which provides a stipend, room and board and other benefits for 11 months to support innovative scholarly and creative projects.

Borbonus, a German citizen, snagged the only 2016-17 Rome Prize available to a non-U.S. citizen. Midway through his time in Rome, his spouse, Myrna Gabbe, a UD associate professor of ancient philosophy, and their two children joined him. The couple met in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where their first conversation was about her upcoming interview for a faculty position at UD. She landed the job, and he followed, eventually earning a full-time position in the history department, where he teaches courses on ancient Greek and Roman history.

In a courtyard in the American Academy’s main building, Borbonus stood in front of inscriptions on marble slabs on the wall, many just a little smaller than a standard diner booth tabletop. To my untrained eye, they were fascinating but inscrutable. With his arm outstretched from the sleeve of his black leather jacket, Borbonus pointed and began deciphering what many of them had in common. The giveaway was the writing at the
top of many of them, either “DM” or the words that these letters abbreviate: “Dis Manibus.”

“It means ‘to the spirits of the deceased,’” he said. These were all funerary inscriptions that once adorned burial sites. “This invocation probably honors both the deceased mentioned in the inscriptions and potentially all other deceased ancestors of the family.”

The inscriptions on the slabs hanging here have value, but for Borbonus it’s limited. He illustrated the point two days later in Villa Borghese, a rambling public park in central Rome. As we walked along a gravel path toward a playground, families pedaling four-seater carriages like bicycles rolled past. “There’s a monument just up ahead,” Borbonus said.

I looked, but all I saw was a small fountain.

“This is it,” he said as we came up to the fountain. At the top, springwater flowed from the mouth of a man flanked by two fish on his shoulders. The water fell into a rectangular marble box with reliefs carved on the side. It was the size of a small steamer trunk. “You see here. This is definitely a sarcophagus.” He was pointing at the marble box. “The top is a later addition, obviously.”

I’d heard that “obviously” before. He used it at Caecilia Metella’s tomb and another shaped like a pyramid. “Obviously” was his linguistic tool for dismissing a Renaissance or modern — and, hence, irrelevant to him — element of a structure. The additions were never obvious to me, but his adverb became an entry point into understanding how he reads evidence. Where I saw a single fountain, he saw an assemblage of historical phases that told him a story over time. But, as was the case here, not every story they told was much help to his research.

This sarcophagus, he said, had likely been unearthed centuries earlier, in medieval or even ancient times. Were it uncovered today, archaeologists would record significant data to establish its provenance. The sarcophagus was likely brought here to Villa Borghese sometime during the Renaissance, when this land was part of the estate of a wealthy cardinal and famed art collector. When this artifact was moved from its original location, it was separated from the context that gave it any archaeological meaning. Borbonus couldn’t even say whether the sarcophagus had probably come from somewhere near Rome.

Like the slabs hanging on the wall of the American Academy, this was a relic without a context. Despite the cost and care that went into creating it 20 or so centuries ago, it was now more useful as a fountain decoration than as an object for archaeological study.

 Archaeologists, treasure hunters and thieves have been excavating Rome for centuries, but there remain places that are little-touched. Borbonus became interested in one narrow category of them when, working on a collaborative research project with his adviser, he was studying maps of the land along the Via Appia. The maps recorded a number of ancient, underground vaults recessed into walls for the burial of ashes — called columbaria — where nonelite Romans, often slaves and freed slaves attached to an aristocratic household, were buried. One intriguing aspect of this style of columbaria was how suddenly it appeared during the reign of Emperor Augustus and then, a generation or two later,
almost as suddenly disappeared.

In a book-length study of them, Borbonus described a typical one: “High interior walls are covered with an unbroken grid of little arched niches that give access to terra-cotta urns, usually two, immured in the wall, and their occupants are identified by little plaques with brief funerary inscriptions below the niche.” These columbaria, he further wrote, “may be less spectacular than the monuments of Rome’s political elite, but they are no less original.” Unlike the sarcophagus at Villa Borghese, this was evidence he could work with.

When Borbonus looked into them more, he found very little information. “There was not a ton published, and everybody said the same thing. The same three or four pieces of information were repeated over and over again.”

Finding them to study firsthand can be difficult. They’re often recognizable from above ground only by tell-tale undulations in a grassy field. Once found, they’re not easy to access. “None of them is open to the public, so you have to get a special permit. They’re all on private property, sometimes in the most exclusive suburbs of Rome, so it can be difficult to get in. Once I got in, I would have maybe 20 minutes to an hour to look at one of them,” he said.

In the first columbarium he climbed down into, he looked around as quickly as he could, reading inscriptions and looking for changes in the architecture over time.

“But then I ran out of time,” he said, so he simplified his tactics in his next visits. “I just reverted to taking pictures. Digital cameras were new. I only had a film camera. I developed so much film. I would survey the entire tomb just taking pictures I could look at later on. That was the best way to study them. It’s not ideal.”

In his photos from multiple columbaria, he examined the architecture, the size and composition of inscriptions, the drawings and any other decorative elements. The earliest columbaria show great architectural simplicity and regularity, epitaphs are brief, and decoration is minimal. Furthermore, they are underground. All of this data, he wrote, “squarely inverts the keen demand for attention” demanded by sites like Caecilia Metella’s monument. In the columbaria’s collective burial, Borbonus saw egalitarianism that signaled a moment of collective identity and social cohesion among Rome’s non-elite.

But it didn’t last long, just a few decades.

“At some point, people start to change the architecture,” Borbonus said. “You actually see that the columbaria style became outdated very quickly, and another style of burial became popular, namely, a marble object with nice decorations sculpted and an inscription right on it. A marble object is
always costly, right? So it becomes sort of more flashy. So you see that they introduce a hierarchy later on.”

With time, members of this social class of Romans began retrofitting existing columbaria to match emerging styles, making alterations to accommodate larger urns and building new types of funerary sites.

“They want a tomb with a large niche in the center where somebody who thinks they’re more important for whatever reason can be buried, whether it’s the owner of the tomb who has his slaves and freedmen buried on the sides or whether it’s somebody whose loss was particularly heartfelt.”

One possible explanation for the change, he suggests, is that these occupants “never solidified into a coherent social class,” perhaps because of the diversity of their circumstances.

 Just as Borbonus used close STUDY of these columbaria to make conclusions about a narrow class of Romans over a short time period, he is now working to expand his scope to 400 years of Roman funerary culture at the height of its power, roughly 200 B.C. to the second century after Christ’s birth.

During his Rome Prize fellowship year, he visited every funerary site in Rome to which he could get. As with his early, feverish attempts to photograph columbaria on 20-minute visits, analysis would come later. The fellowship year was all about data gathering. Some sites are well-known, but others required special permits or pleading with reluctant landowners. And, every once in a while, a just-right opportunity came along.

Nine months into his 11-month fellowship with the American Academy of Rome, Borbonus stood outside a fence in the shadow of San Paolo Fuori le Mura, the second-largest of Rome’s four papal basilicas. Underground somewhere near his feet ran the ancient Via Ostiensis, a Roman road that led to an ancient port through which centuries of grain and other goods flowed from the empire’s far reaches to its center.

Like the Via Appia, this road out of the city was once lined with cemeteries. One of them — called Necropoli San Paolo, excavated a century ago and largely left alone since — was just on the other side of the fence in front of Borbonus. He’d secured a permit and funding to spend two weeks of intense study here, which he’d begin in a few days. He was eager to get started.

The site had roughly the same footprint as Liberty Hall on UD’s campus. It sat sunken in the ground but would have been at street level in Roman times, before centuries of Tiber River flooding added silt and 10 or so feet of elevation. Inside was a wealth of arches, urns, decorations, inscriptions and walkways that Borbonus would piece together into a story about how Romans used this tomb.

Two weeks was not a lot of time, but it was comparatively luxurious for him, so he indulged in a form of super-notetaking. Using specialized equipment, he gathered thousands of photographs and minute measurements, data points sufficient for creating a three-dimensional digital version of the cemetery. With it, he could study the cemetery more intensely later or, he dreamed, make it available online to other scholars and students. He suspected he could even simulate what it would have been like during one of the infamous floods of the Tiber.

The data he gathered here became one star in a constellation of data points about Roman funerary culture that he hopes will coalesce into a previously unseen story. Its outlines are not yet apparent to Borbonus, who returned to Dayton in July to begin his analysis and resume his teaching. It may be another 10 years before he has another opportunity like this, he said.

“I’m not solving the world’s problems,” he said. “It’s not going to change the world dramatically, but [through it] I think we can learn something about the world’s past and something about ourselves today.”

Death, he said, is the ultimate relatable moment.

“It’s something that everybody faces, no matter who it is, where they live, no matter which time period they come from. It’s something that people faced in antiquity. It’s something that people face today. It’s a human experience.”

Matthew Dewald is a writer and editor based in Richmond, Virginia. In 2009, he reported for this magazine from Barombi, a small village in Cameroon, West Africa, on six UD engineering students who worked with villagers to construct a pipeline to supply fresh water to the village. The pipeline is still operating today.

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What we learned from China’s water ways

11:59 AM  Sep 14th, 2017
by University of Dayton River Stewards

Read more about the River Stewards‘ summer study abroad in China here.

by Emily McAlesse

We floated atop the Yangtze River alongside cliffs where monkeys run wild and goats trek up their faces. The blue water reflected the rusty colored cliffs of this magnificent wonder. The air was so fresh that one breath in and you feel the energy filling your lungs and your soul.

Nine River Stewards joined Chinese tourists in viewing this natural wonder of China, one of the waterways that helped us learn more about social, cultural, political and economic forces that shape this country.

China conveys a culture that wants to do things big. And when I say big, I mean BIG. That thinking can be seen in the design and planning of the Three Gorges Dam across the Yangtze. It is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world, but it can also be described as the most controversial dam in the world. Completed in 2003, this dam forced 1.3 million people to move because of rising water levels and flooded 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages.

Along with us on our floating classroom was professor Wang Yipei from Renmim University of China, who for 17 years has been documenting life in the river valley. He stressed to us to dig deeper into what the people have lost. It wasn’t just their homes; they lost their spiritual connection to the land where they lived and their ancestors are buried.

The boat stopped at a cultural site called Fengdu Ghost City, advertised as one of the few remaining religious sites along The Three Gorges. After we were grouped with the other English speakers, our guide walked us to the entrance where 7-foot statues stood guard. The guide described how these warriors protect the ghost city. Some of the statues there had been relocated here from places now under water; others were recreations. Dr. Dan later challenged the group to consider how the scene has been adapted for tourism.

Our tour guides talked of the damming and flooding with pride for this grand innovation. But we learned that within China, there is not widespread knowledge of the environmental impacts or the challenges people faced. Some people had to swap rural lives for homes in skyscrapers. I began thinking of all the ways that waterways impact a society. As a sociology major, I help research Dayton’s immigrant population, but I had never stopped to consider internal displacement. As a River Steward, I also thought about our push for renewable energies. As China is becoming a leader in renewable energy, part of that is from hydropower, which initially sounded good to me. Now I know there are pros and cons to each development decision, which will make me look more closely at the projects happening to my neighbors upstream and downstream as I paddle along the Great Miami River watershed.

by Ashley Clevenger

My study abroad experience in China smashed all the preconceptions I’d had about the country. Everything I read and heard had told me China was crowded and polluted, that I wouldn’t like the food or understand the traditions. Still, I cautiously accepted the invitation to apply to study there. This was an opportunity to compare how China and the United States manage waterways and regulate the governments and industries that use them. After meeting the country’s citizens, floating on its canals and visiting its temples, I learned my preconceptions were wrong.

Like so many other UD students who have studied in China, the River Stewards used the University of Dayton China Institute in Suzhou as our base. This was a great advantage for us. We took orientation classes and got acclimated to the city. In class, we presented on the books we had read prior to traveling to China, including on China’s green revolution and the economy of water.

One of the greatest assets of the institute is its staff, who work with our faculty to ensure we feel welcome. They are also there to help those of us unaccustomed to international travel. When the money machine ate my bank card, Dong Zhang, the institute’s director of student programming, responded to my plea over WeChat and picked me up at 7 a.m. to help retrieve it.

While in Suzhou, we stayed in apartments where UD students attending the China Institute typically stay, as well as students attending other universities around the area. I became friends with students from England, Germany, France and other places around the world. I learned about their studies and their perspectives on China. And it was really awesome to have those apartments as a home base that we could return to after long days of venturing out.

One weekend, we traveled with the other students from the China Institute to a place that would become my favorite town. It was a water town, one of many ancient places built along the waterways around Suzhou. Our first glimpse of Zhouzhuang revealed rows and rows of colored windmills hanging from clothes line throughout the town. Every two or three streets would be separated by a canal, along which you could visit silk shops, jewelry makers and ice cream vendors. It was breathtaking.

Before going to China, I didn’t have any desire to go to China. Now that I’m back, I want to speak out and encourage every student to go. How can you not be passionate about the culture, the institute staff, the fashion trends? I’d go back in a heartbeat. China not only left a lasting impression but also proved to be a beautiful, green country filled with kind and generous people.

by Maddie Norman

The Grand Canal is so long, we flew from one end to see the other. It begins in Beijing, where we saw a stagnant body of water walled in by stone upstaged by the bustle of Tiananmen Square. It ends in Hangzhou, where smaller waterways branch off among neighborhoods and people still travel and trade by water.

The Grand Canal, which became unified during the Sui dynasty of the seventh century, is the longest canal in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally built to connect the emperor’s city to others for trading and communication. Cities along its more than 1,100 miles have recently become tourist destinations, bringing business to its residents. Just north of Hangzhou, where the canal meets the Yangtze River, the waterway runs wide and barges still haul coal and other goods.

As River Stewards, our mission is to educate the community about the importance of our watershed and natural resources. When we went to China, we wanted to observe the Grand Canal at several locations to see how the people there interact with their water systems and resources and compare that to what we see in Dayton.

Chinese people have developed a unique and beautiful relationship with the canal, building water towns along the edges. In Old Suzhou, which has been called the Venice of the East, its residents hang laundry from lines above the waterways and vendors serve stinky tofu. To connect with the water, its citizens just open their doors or sit along their terraces. Old Suzhou is also a popular tourist destination. When you take a ride in an old-fashioned gondola-shaped boat, you can hear the people singing ancient songs and observe diners sitting in cafes under the light of red lanterns.

In Dayton, we have a very different relationship with the Great Miami River. Much of the shoreline is paved with bike trails and public parks, as well as business and industry. People must travel from their homes to experience all that the river has to offer. As a River Steward, I strive to connect the residents of Dayton with their aquatic neighborhood by providing opportunities to paddle, learn and grow.

As Stewards, we explain the history of our watershed through exhibits in the RiverMobile. So we were excited to learn about a special project at the University of Dayton China Institute in Suzhou, which is along the Grand Canal. Chen Jing, a professor at Nanjing University teaching at the China Institute, is working with UD and other universities to preserve and display the history of the Grand Canal. She showed us ancient maps of the canal that had been painted onto scrolls. CJ and her photographers recreated these maps with current photographs of the sites to demonstrate the development and modernization of China’s cities. I’m excited we’ll get to help with this interactive presentation to be featured on campus in Roesch Library this October. It’s one of the ways we can bring the lessons we learned back from China to share.

by Jason Demeter

I first went to China in spring 2016 to spend a semester at the UD China Institute. As a computer engineering major, I was there to take mostly engineering classes. But I had also just completed my first semester as a River Steward, which really shaped how I viewed my study abroad experience. In Suzhou, you pass waterways everywhere, including on your walk from the student apartments to the China Institute. They are hard to miss. As a River Steward, I wanted to learn more about how the Chinese use their water systems and protect their water.

I decided to focus my study on Lake Tai, the third largest lake in China. It borders large cities like Suzhou and dozens of smaller cities and villages that are home to chemical processing factories that use lake water. Pollution gets dumped back in the lake, as does agricultural runoff from the lowlands that stretch to the South China Sea. Both contribute to blooms of blue-green algae that kill fish and make the lake smell.

This summer, I got to return to Lake Tai. When the Rivers Institute bus stopped by a bridge near Wuxi on the northeastern edge of the lake, we saw Lake Tai’s vivid green water that smelled of dead fish and sewage on one side of the bridge. On the other side was Lihu Bay, with bright blue waters and natural vegetation. At one time, it had also looked green and sickly. Dr. Dan and Dr. Wang arranged for government officials to tell us how they cleaned the bay. First, they walled it off from the lake with the bridge. Then they required industry to relocate away from the water’s edge and planted natural vegetation to slow and filter runoff. Dredging cleaned pollutants from the muddy bottom, while the existing water was cleaned and flushed with water from cleaner sources.

After the presentation, the Stewards wondered, “What’s next?” We were skeptical that the intensive and costly
cleanup of this one bay could be replicated along more than 200 miles of shoreline through multiple jurisdictions.

But we also wondered what was next for us. What role and responsibility do we have as River Stewards? As with any challenge, we apply the breadth of knowledge and experience present in our interdisciplinary cohort. And we listen to the community to determine how our resources can contribute to a community-based solution.

Along with our director Leslie King, Dr. Dan and Dr. Wang, we are now discussing how the Stewards might participate in water quality monitoring at Wuxi. Having the China Institute as a base opens up the possibilities for participation in a variety of projects, whose results we could apply in our own backyard. I know if any one of those projects offers a way  for me to combine my computer engineering education with
water quality, I’ll happily head back to China for the third time.

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Water ways

11:58 AM  
by Michelle Tedford

Ashley Clevenger looked at the reflections of a hundred colored spinning pinwheels and saw in the rippling waters a mirror to an earlier time.

The junior exercise physiology major was standing in Zhouzhuang, a river town about a half-hour drive from the University of Dayton China Institute in Suzhou Industrial Park.

In Suzhou, glass skyscrapers rise from the lakeside, while multiple lanes of traffic rush across bridges linking the ultramodern city with the countryside.

In the river town, ancient stone buildings flank waterways on which citizens navigate pole-propelled boats as they head to work, to market or to meet a friend for tea.

How quickly one can go from present and future to past, all along China’s Grand Canal.

This was one of the lessons sociology professor Dan Curran wanted Clevenger and her fellow River Steward classmates to consider during their summer study abroad in China. The University president emeritus, along with Rivers Institute Director Leslie King and China Institute Dean Weiping Wang, guided the nine students during their summer studies. It was an opportunity for a comparative study of water use, protections and policies in China and in Dayton, where the Stewards are known for their community-based approach to water education and action.

With the China Institute as their base, the students learned about both ancient and modern Suzhou and how it has developed thanks to the canal that winds through its borders. They also traveled across eastern China, visiting both ends of the Grand Canal — Beijing in the north and Hangzhou in the south — as well as other pivotal water sites, including the famed Three Gorges Dam.

Junior sociology major Emily McAlesse talked about their float through the gorge on the Yangtze River and of watching monkeys run wild and goats trek up cliff faces.

“The beauty of this place is something that can never be captured in pictures,” she said.

Curran, whose academic study of China spans more than three decades, had been to the gorge before some of the villages were submerged under a hundred feet of water as it rose behind the world’s largest dam. But still, he said, the perspective of the Stewards changed his perspective on the dam and the course. An engineering major shared his views on the construction of the dam, while a geology student provided a lesson on rock formations and how using the tree line — the altitude of a mountain beyond which trees rarely grow — can reveal the extent of the river’s rise.

“It was an advantage having multiple sets of eyes looking at the landscape from multiple perspectives,” Curran said. “They look and said what was of interest to them, and they shared what would be of interest to other students who will follow them.”

Curran is incorporating their ideas into the course Socioeconomic Change in China: A Case Study of Suzhou and Its Waters, which he is again teaching fall semester in Suzhou.

Now back on UD’s campus, the Stewards continue to find themselves immersed in China’s waterways. They will serve as ambassadors for a new multimedia exhibit Heritage Today: The Grand Canal of China, to be presented in Roesch Library Oct. 23 to Dec. 1.

The exhibit will include a wrap-around map of the canal with ancient and modern images superimposed along its pathway. On display will be eight plexiglass models of canal towns and cities in Jiangsu Province, with layers showing the evolution of the cities through time. Visitors can view an English-language documentary on the canal, see a reproduction of an ancient scroll and try out a demo version of the forthcoming Grand Canal database.

But it’s more than an opportunity for the Stewards to share their knowledge of the UNESCO World Heritage Site with the UD community, Curran said. The exhibit is part of a larger Grand Canal project, led by the China Institute, to reclaim moments of history while also revealing the voices and experiences of the people who currently live along the canal. It includes vast data collection, photos, videos, oral histories, reproductions of ancient paintings, and the development of an interactive website that will make the data available to scholars in both Chinese and English.

The multimedia database of living cultural heritage will also allow users to contribute their own data and stories to the site, said Wang, who has a particular interest in bridging academics with ordinary people and merging history with present-day practice.

“The project is not just for academics, it’s not just for scholars; it’s for the community,” Wang said.

Created in partnership with Nanjing University, Nanjing University for the Arts, Tsinghua University and Nanjing Museum, one of China’s largest museums, the Grand Canal project reflects a historical and cultural contribution that sets UD apart from other American universities, Curran said. The project’s first phase, including the interactive database, is expected to be complete in 2018.

It is the global importance of water that ties together the students, professors, course, waterways and continents.

King stressed the comparative nature of water studies — of how an understanding of cause and effect in local contexts can result in sustained research and community-led, student-based international projects. For example, the Stewards visited Lake Tai, which experiences annual toxic algae blooms, and talked to officials about clean-up strategies. That led to conversations about opportunities for the students to conduct future water monitoring as well as for officials to come to Dayton to learn from the Stewards about community-based approaches to water education and remediation.

“It’s about creating more opportunities for the students by using the strengths and assets of the University,” King said.

The comparative nature of experiential learning also unveiled the similarities between Dayton and Suzhou and the efforts to make the invisible visible again. In Dayton, that includes awareness of the buried valley aquifer, the source of the region’s clean drinking water. In China, it means reclaiming the Grand Canal’s heritage as well as understanding its role in modern society.

“The Grand Canal has been a resource for so many people,” Clevenger said of the waterway which began construction in the fifth century B.C. for the transportation of goods and troops to support the emperor. “These hidden places have much to reveal about history.”

For Clevenger, Zhouzhuang became her favorite part of her summer experience. She plans for those lessons to take her far, perhaps someday back to China to learn more about its water ways.

Read more about the study abroad experience from student reflections.

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Inspiration and Innovation

10:17 AM  
by Gita Balakrishnan, Thomas M. Columbus, Jeaneen Parsons, Michelle Tedford, Elysse Winget 

Brilliant brainstorms that took root at the University of Dayton and changed the world


Being able to feed oneself fulfills a basic human need. Jonathan Dekar ’11 is giving that power back to people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that limit range of motion through his invention, Obi. The tabletop device has an automated spoon, robotic arm and a four-course compartmentalized plate that can accommodate foods cut into sizes ranging from a pea to a grape. Dekar first worked on a prototype of the robotic eating device during his freshman-year engineering course. Ten years later, Obi is now available for home use. The device can be operated by switches controlled by the head, shoulders, legs, feet or mouth. “This wasn’t just another engineering project, getting food from point A to point B. I wanted it to be emotionally empowering and inspiring,” Dekar said.


Among the 92 patents held by Carroll Hochwalt, Class of 1920, was the creation of the first practical chemical fire extinguisher. In 1925, Hochwalt sought the assistance of Brother William Wohlleben, S.M. ’04, with developing a non-freezing fire extinguisher. Wohlleben provided laboratory space for Hochwalt and his partner, Charles Thomas, to perfect a product that they subsequently sold to the Fyr Fyter Co. In his patent filed May 29, 1929, Hochwalt describes how they discovered potassium lactate not only was superior in extinguishing fires but also prevented the extinguisher from freezing at temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius and below. Among his other innovations with household applications were the process for iodizing Morton’s Salt, creating a low-suds washing machine detergent called All and developing a fast-aging technique for the National Distillers’ Association. In 1936, they sold Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories to Monsanto, where Hochwalt became director of central research.


One day in his lab at DuPont, Charles Pedersen ’26 discovered, as a byproduct to what he was trying to do, some unknown crystals. He named them crown ethers. “Crown,” he said, because official names “were so complex and hard for me to remember.” And they were like crowns because, unlike necklaces, they had no fasteners that opened and closed; they maintained their unbroken structure during reactions. Despite that remarkable characteristic, crown ethers seemed to hold little prospect of immediate commercial value. Nevertheless, DuPont let Pedersen work on them for nine years. Later they became used in many applications from isolating and removing small, harmful concentrations of mercury from drinking water to helping identify potassium in blood samples.
And one day later in life, Pedersen got a phone call. From Sweden. He had won the 1987 Nobel Prize for chemistry.


In harness racing, a horse and driver can reach speeds of 30 mph. Between the driver and the track are two wheels and a seat attached to the frame. Bad news if the frame breaks. Odds of that happening were reduced a quarter of a century ago when the UD Research Institute analyzed sulky frames and developed standards and a testing procedure for the United States Trotting Association. UDRI’s Structures and Materials Assessment, Research and Testing Lab became then and is still now the only lab that certifies that a new or revised model of a sulky meets those standards of durability. The lab tests approximately a half dozen sulkies per year — a small fraction of its volume of testing products from ballet shoes to the F-22.


When a worker opens a commercial dishwasher hood, a plume of hot, moist air escapes and creates an uncomfortable situation for the worker plus heat loss from the machine. Students in UD’s Innovation Center helped Hobart, an international food services company, create a solution to improve operator comfort and save energy for reheating the dishwasher. Seven students are listed on the non-provisional patent filing, which will publish on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early 2018. The team estimates the invention will improve the energy efficiency of an Energy Star machine by at least 5 percent and the drying efficiency by at least 25 percent. “In an age where energy is getting expensive and standards keep rising, every bit counts,” said Alexander Anim-Mensah, Hobart engineering manager and the student group’s mentor.


If you’ve ordered delivery from Domino’s Pizza and your pie was still steaming when it arrived, you can thank research done at UD Research Institute for your hot meal. Research conducted at the labs on campus and led by renowned scientist Ival Salyer created phase-change materials that store heat as they melt and release heat as they freeze. UDRI began researching phase-change materials in the 1980s for thermal energy storage, energy conservation and energy cost-savings in buildings. The technology can melt and solidify at precise temperatures, which allows for heat to be released when needed. By the mid- 1990s, licenses for the technology’s use included hot and cold food serving ware, hand warmers, earmuffs and the shipment of temperature sensitive materials — and Domino’s is the only pizza joint that has rights to the “hot bags.”


In 1952, UD hired its first five full-time researchers, who pulled up stakes for several risky, classified projects to study the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft and aircraft components after atomic bomb detonation tests in Nevada. Although safety precautions were taken, it was still dangerous work. “After the blast, we waited about three or four hours and went in with a monitor, a guy who measured radiation,” Charles R. “Bob” Andrews, one of the researchers, said in 1996. “You had to get in and get out quickly.” One test took them to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where the researchers flew in a B-56 near a thermonuclear detonation. The explosive yield was nearly twice what was expected, and the plane landed safely despite crushed landing gear doors and an airplane skin that was wrinkled and burnt down to bare metal. Results yielded ways to protect aircraft instruments from extreme heat, radiation and physical shock. It was the beginning of structural testing, which continues to be one of UD Research Institute’s hallmark research areas.

In 1961, a graduate student’s thesis spawned the UD Research Institute’s first vibration damping research. It grew into a nationally recognized damping team that develops, tests and analyzes sound and vibration-absorbing materials. Researchers used these techniques to fix an airplane engine ring that was cracking and at risk of damaging the engine; the polymer-based fix was applied in 2004 to the Navy’s entire AV-8B Harrier jet fleet. In addition to improving aircraft safety and longevity, researchers have also developed damping systems to reduce vibrations on laser telescopes and satellites and improve the results of air bag testing on crash dummies.

Blaine West didn’t know anything about aircraft windshields until 1975, when he met with U.S. Air Force engineers worried about a new trend: The Air Force was losing an aircraft every eight months because of geese, ducks and other birds striking aircraft windshields during low-level flying. “It was obvious that the failure was related to the support frame’s stiffness, and that strength was a problem,” said West, a former researcher from the UD Research Institute, in 1996. The solution: Make the system stronger by making it weaker — a less rigid windshield allowed the “punch” of impact to be transferred to the larger structure. By the late 1970s the Air Force had used UDRI designs to retrofit its entire F-111 fleet. Since then, UDRI has tested and redesigned windshields and canopies for the Air Force and Navy, including the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, B-1, B-2, AV-8, A-7, T-38, V-22 and KTX-2 models. A lieutenant colonel once said to West: “I want to thank you. … I was flying the other day in an F-111. Four ducks hit the windshield, and I’m still here.”

Bob Kauffman was called on as one of the principal investigators to find out what happened to TWA 800, which exploded and crashed in 1996 killing all 230 people aboard. Kauffman, a UDRI researcher, believed that a frayed fuel-sensor wire most likely played a significant role in the explosion. After the crash, Kauffman and senior research physicist Doug Wolf created the SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tag) sensor for use in smart clamps to hold aircraft wiring in place to help prevent tragedies like the TWA explosion.  The technology uses an inexpensive, modified radiofrequency identification tag that “tells” a handheld device reader if a clamp or wire has been compromised. It is also being evaluated as a way to indicate if a monitored item has gotten too hot.

In 2009, Bob Kauffman’s self-healing wire, which he developed at UDRI, was named one of the 100 “most technologically significant new products” by R&D Magazine. Known as PATCH (Power Activated Technology for Coating and Healing), the technology helps prevent frayed wires from potentially catching fire. His invention was in response to the 1996 TWA crash that killed everyone aboard and is thought to have occurred because of faulty wiring. The technology works when polyvinyl alcohol is sprayed onto the wire or wire bundle. If that liquid comes into contact with an exposed or live wire, the electrical current at the breach will transform the spray into an insoluble polymer coating. A second form of PATCH is designed to be built directly into the wires, where the solid form of polyvinyl is embedded within the wire and its insulation. If the insulation is breached while the wire is live, the PATCH coating draws moisture from the air and a chemical reaction creates a permanent repair for the wire and its breach. Automotive and helicopter companies are looking to employ PATCH for hard-to-reach wires.

On one rainy day in New Jersey in October 2010, a G-4 Gulfstream aircraft overran its runway while landing at Teterboro Airport. This could have proven deadly. However, no one on board was injured and the plane safely came to a stop. Why? Crushable concrete. Formally called Engineered Material Arresting Systems, EMAS is a mixture of lightweight concrete and a foaming agent. When a vehicle runs over the material, it collapses and provides enough friction to safely decelerate moving planes. The material was created at UD Research Institute in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was the first to install an EMAS bed at the end of some runways in 1996. UDRI’s work in runway disaster prevention dates back to the late 1980s. The material has a 100% success rate in stopping aircraft.

Investigators count on the black boxes to give them data to determine what went wrong during an airplane crash and keep it from happening again. Kevin Poormon ’87 is helping them by shooting these boxes — officially known as flight data and cockpit voice recorders — out of a cannon. The compressed gas gun at the UD Research Institute sends the boxes hurling at 350 mph into an aluminum honeycomb barrier to simulate a crash impact at 3,400 times the force of gravity. “That’s because black boxes have to survive, even if everything else doesn’t survive,” said Poormon, research engineer and leader of the impacts physics group. He has also used the cannon to test how space station shielding holds up to meteoroid and orbital debris.


While ceramic coatings in particular are useful in strengthening biomedical implants and improving tissue adhesion, they are resource-intensive to create and pose a risk to the environment. Assistant professor of biology Karolyn Hansen has patented a process for creating an alternative using oyster shells. By depositing cells extracted from the mantle of an oyster onto a surface, Hansen and her collaborators, including her husband Doug Hansen of the UD Research Institute, have successfully induced the creation of oyster shell layers as a coating. This oyster-derived material is a strong, natural ceramic and can be manufactured at room temperature and pressure with no chemical solvents, she said. Uses range from coating metal implants used to repair bones to creating protective coatings for aircraft.


ChurchLink was an idea intended to connect the millennial generation with their churches. Today, it’s a customizable app serving more than 3,000 churches. Entrepreneur Niel Petersen and then-student Robyn Bradford ’12 pitched the idea to UD’s business plan competition in 2012. Thanks in part to the competition and its $15,000 prize, Petersen launched the business and now employees a staff of 10. ChurchLink creates apps with individualized design and coding and includes functionality that allows members to communicate or make a gift online. “Development is continual, ongoing and complex,” Petersen  said of the app, now used in 50 states and 27 countries.


Rita Rapp’s meals were out of this world. A 1950 pre-med graduate, Rapp joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Field in 1961 and was among the early pioneers of the space program. As an aerospace technologist specializing in environmental physiology, she was responsible for the design and development of food and packaging systems during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. Astronaut Charles Duke, lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, talked about how Rapp would introduce variety into their pre-packaged meals: “You had pea soup, you had cream of tomato soup, you had mushroom soup, maybe; and you had different kinds of breads and you had the tuna spread and peanut butter spread and the ham spread.” The photo shows Rapp posing with “Day 4, Meal A” from Apollo 16, the last lunar mission to land on the Moon on April 21, 1972.


Architect Bruce John Graham once said that, before he traveled to the United States, he had never seen a building more than 10 stories tall. In 1943, Graham was 15 and living in Puerto Rico when he won a scholarship to attend UD to study engineering, staying just over a year before enlisting in the Navy during World War ll. Graham’s most visible legacy stands high above Chicago: the 100-story Hancock Center and the 110-story Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), the world’s tallest building when it was completed in 1973. The tower was constructed using the groundbreaking tubular frame method, and to this day is the second tallest in the United States and 16th tallest building in the world. It hosts more than 1 million visitors to its observation deck each year. Graham died March 6, 2010, at the age of 84.


The next time your computer freezes, you can thank a Flyer when you’re quickly able to unlock it. Best known for inventing the three-key sequence known as control-alt-delete, David Bradley ’71 holds 10 patents related to computer design and was one of the original 12 engineers who began work on the IBM personal computer in 1980. Bradley, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from UD, said he was fed up with restarting the personal computer every time it malfunctioned, and so control-alt-delete was born. “It took all of about nine steps and five to 10 minutes to code,” he said. Initially meant for programmers, the keystroke caught on with the public.


Charles Magatti ’71 may not be a household name, but the drug he helped invent is: Claritin. The popular allergy medicine, known generically as loratadine, is on the World Health Organization’s 2017 List of Essential Medicines for the most effective, safe and cost-effective medicine for priority conditions. Magatti co-invented the drug while working for Schering-Plough, which is estimated to have made $15 billion from the antihistamine between 1993 and 2002, when its patent was active in the United States. “It’s the ultimate achievement for a chemist,” said Magatti, who studied chemistry at UD. “People work in this industry for 40 years and are never fortunate enough to discover a new drug.” Magatti retired from Schering-Plough in 2000 with six patents.


Dr. Mary Ann Warnowicz Papp, a cardiologist and 1970 biology graduate, needed a better way to manage prescriptions for her patients. So in the late 1990s, she went to the School of Engineering for help. Students helped her create the device now known as EMMA, the first of its kind remote medication management system. The box provides individual unit dose control managed by web-based scheduling that is remotely controlled and programmed by a pharmacist. “The biggest waste of health care dollars is pharmacies dispensing a 30- or 90-day supply of medication because the medication is unlikely to be used in that fashion,” Papp said. Automated dispensing can also prevent expensive hospitalizations caused by patients who don’t properly manage their prescriptions. On Papp’s patents for the device is listed co-inventor Chris Schmidt ’99, a member of the seven-student team. EMMA is now being sold through INRange Systems.


If you’ve ever used a computer, driven a car, flown in an airplane, gotten jiggy to the tunes on your MP3 player, talked on a cell phone, operated a video or digital camera or have been subjected to an MRI, you are benefiting from the discovery of the amazing magnetic properties of rare earth-cobalt alloys by Karl Strnat and his co-workers at the UD Research Institute. Strnat’s pioneering work in 1966 led to the discovery of magneto-crystalline anisotropy in rare earth cobalt intermetallic compounds. What? Simply put, these and later-generation related rare-earth magnets are many times stronger and more stable than the magnets they replaced. They led to the miniaturization of devices that previously required heavy and bulky magnets and gave rise to the development of many electronic devices that require tiny motors, speakers, transmitters and receivers. Strnat retired from his research work and teaching at UD in 1990 and died in 1992.


You can inherit your father’s eye color or mother’s smile — and you can also inherit a family disposition for experiencing severe side effects to chemotherapy drugs, including hearing or sensory loss. Eileen Dolan ’79, a professor of medicine at University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, has dedicated her research to making chemotherapy more effective and less toxic. Her lab identifies DNA variants through studies in patients receiving chemotherapy and in the laboratory by building preclinical models of the toxicity. Her research contributes to efforts to implement genetics into clinical care for cancer patients. Dolan focuses primarily on children and young adults who might experience long-term side effects from chemotherapy because they have their lives ahead of them. “A patient’s genetics sheds light on potential targets for new drugs to prevent or treat these devastating toxicities,” she said.


Students from the ETHOS Center in the School of Engineering used local materials and labor to create an environmentally friendly refrigeration method for a nongovernmental organization in Bihar, India. The Solar-Thermal Absorptive Refrigeration system provides refrigeration for medications and vaccines that could spoil in areas with inconsistent or nonexistent electricity supplies. Students designed the prototype and won three awards for their design at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. Work continues on phase two of the project, thanks in part to a $75,000 grant from the EPA to project advisers Amy Ciric and Jun-Ki Choi, faculty in the renewable and clean energy program.


In 1964 and 1965, the rubella pandemic hit the United States, where 1.5 million people contracted the disease also known as German measles. The toll was greatest among the young, including 11,000 pregnant U.S. women who lost their babies and 2,100 newborn deaths. It was the last rubella pandemic the U.S. would have to endure, thanks in part to Col. Edward Buescher ’45. Buescher was a member of the team which, in 1962, isolated and characterized the rubella virus as the cause of German measles. His accomplishment allowed scientists to produce a vaccine, and widespread immunization of children in the United States began in 1970. “[C]ountless lives will be saved in the nation and abroad,” read the citation for the Legion of Merit, bestowed on Buescher in 1969 by the president of the United States.


The power of Curiosity was born at the UD Research Institute. Chad Barklay, a senior research engineer in the Research Institute’s energy technologies and materials division, developed the layout and assembly procedures for the radioisotope power system currently on Mars that operates the Curiosity rover’s wheels, robotic arm, computers, radio and instruments. “We helped build the proverbial tail on the Curiosity dog,” said Barklay, referring to the power generator attached to the back end of the rover — whose design, including camera “head,” make it appear somewhat canine-like. The power system, called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, works by converting heat created by naturally decaying isotopes into electricity to power the rover. Heat from the generator also keeps the rover’s mechanical, computer and communication systems at operating temperature. Barklay and his colleagues continue testing a model of the generator in UDRI labs in preparation for future space missions.


Zach McHale ’06 attends more that 20 college basketball games a year. “But it’s always bothered me that I’ve never had a good place to store my coat,” he said. His consternation became an invention with the Neet Seat, a spandex pouch that slips over your stadium and arena seats to hold coats and other items, keeping them off the floor. McHale, a chemical engineering graduate, won first place and $25,000 during the University’s 2017 Flyer Pitch business plan competition. In July, he launched a campaign to take Neet Seat into production. His company philosophy, he said, “is to create solutions that make the fan experience better — more comfortable and more enjoyable.”


Practically every item you’ve purchased in the last 40 years has a Flyer’s signature on it. Paul McEnroe ’59 first developed the bar code to improve efficiency at the supermarket. While working at IBM in 1969, he pulled together a team, contributed technically, and created a vertical bar-coding system and scanning technology known as the UPC. The last he heard, the world was scanning 5 billion bar codes daily. “What could you invent that touches more people?” he asked. And he has more inventions to his name, including the Local Area Network to connect computers, multi-chip modules for computer processing and the addition of the magnetic stripe to the SKU to allow it to be scanned like a credit card.


The SMART dipstick takes all of the guesswork out of knowing whether or not oil has gone bad or if there is still some life in it, thanks to work done by researchers at UD Research Institute beginning in the late 1980s. In 1992, R&D Magazine awarded the invention as one of the 100 most technologically significant products of that year. The device, called RULER (Remaining Useful Life Evaluation Routine) works with all types of oils, from fast-food deep fryers to government aircraft. Researchers Bob Kauffman and Douglas Wolf developed the product to quickly determine when it’s time to change the oil. It does so by calculating how much antioxidant — an additive that helps keep the oil from degrading too quickly — is left in the fluid. RULER is sold worldwide, with steam, gas and wind power plants being the largest market.


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From anything to art

10:20 AM  Aug 22nd, 2017
by Tom Columbus

“Social media takes over our lives,” said visual arts professor Jeffrey Courtland Jones. “We can spend more time on it than we do talking to each other.”

He recalled one day he and his wife were sitting on a couch at home, each working on a laptop. “And,” he said, “we texted each other rather than talk.”

People using social media also, he said, “tend to collect ‘friends’ much like my 10-year-old son collects Pokémon cards. We have some ‘friends’ we never interact with, whom we really don’t know.” He noted he would see an artist’s work and “friend” him. Among his friends, the number who really weren’t friends grew.

In 2014, Jones decided that “I wanted to know the people who came across my screen daily.” He did that through a project he called Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us) which featured 50 artists from around the world. The words in the project’s title are abridged song lyrics from the band The xx.

“Conceptually,” Jones said, “it is about ‘imaginary’ friendships that exist on social media (“Fiction”) and the physical distance of each participant (“With Only Daylight Between Us”).

The exhibit, shown locally and online, was, Jones said, “experimental and super cheap. It was also a lot of fun.”

So he decided to do it on a larger scale; the result was Fiction (With Only Daylight Between Us . v2). He asked 200 of his Facebook friends to send him something. That something was simply an 8.5-by-11-inch black-and-white JPG or PDF, he said, “of anything they wished that had some sort of relationship to their artmaking practice. I told them it could be an image of their current work, a scan of a page out of their sketchbook, or even a receipt from Starbucks, where they stopped to get coffee on the way to the studio.

All 200 he asked said yes. Responses came from 16 countries.

Besides  Jones, artists in the show with UD connections include full-time faculty members (R. Darden Bradshaw, Julie Jones, Kyle Phelps and Joel Whitaker), adjunct faculty (Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas), staff members (Michael Conlan and Geno Luketic), a student (Alexandra Morrissette ’17) and alumni (Maxwell Feldmann ’15, Rachel Hellman ’99, Courtney Hoelscher ’16, Amy Sacksteder ’01 and Seth Wade ’15).

How the images are displayed has varied from gallery to gallery. One arranged all the images in one large rectangle; each day, however, a different single image was moved to the opposite wall. The exhibition has been seen so far in five cities in the United States as well as cities in England, Germany and Australia. It will travel later this year to Brooklyn, New York.

Of the artists in the show who were friends-but-not-really-friends, Jones said, “Now I’ve become real friends with them and have collaborated with some; I’m currently doing projects with people in Australia and Germany.”

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Celebration, vision

1:53 PM  Jul 10th, 2017
by Michelle Tedford

The celebration started and ended with a focus on students, just as it should.

This April, during a jubilant four days, the Univer-sity inaugurated its 19th president, Eric F. Spina.

After a joyous Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, it was time to tour student talents — from a cappella singing by the Audio Pilots to to community building with a Walnut Hills Neighborhood picnic. Spina and his wife, Karen, got into the fun, acting out scenes from a living scrapbook with members of the improv troupe On the Fly.

His participation was an extension of the admiration he’s shown for UD students since he joined campus July 1, 2016.

“You never cease to amaze me,” he said. “You are our inspiration and our promise to the world.”

Spina’s optimism for the future and the impact UD students, alumni, faculty and staff will make in the world guided the program for the celebration.

During panel conversations Monday, April 3, professors in math, education and engineering shared a table where they discussed how their disciplines contribute to shared community solutions. Such cross-collaborations will be an intentional part of the University’s vision moving forward.

The innovation theme continued through Tuesday, April 4, when a keynote address and panel discussion focused on opportunities to create distinctive futures.

“Not everyone can be an inventor, creator or discoverer,” said 44-year IBM veteran Nicholas Donofrio during his address. “But everyone can be an innovator.”

With an eye toward ingenuity, the installation ceremony incorporated elements of both tradition and whimsy. Faculty and representatives of other universities marched into UD Arena to formal brass music, and at the conclusion danced and clapped their way out to jubilant tuba music alongside members of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. In between, the audience of more than 1,100 heard voices of the community, including those who shared what makes this “Our UD.”

For Dominic Sanfilippo ’16, it is “realizing that our big, complicated world is made more joyful and more just by sharing stories, taking risks and finding our voices together.”

Two former UD presidents — Brother Raymond Fitz, S.M., and Daniel Curran, both of whom remain active on campus — took the stage to embrace their newest counterpart before Spina shared his vision.

“I remember all the voices I have heard on campus, in alumni communities around the nation and in Dayton gatherings as we shaped our aspirational strategic vision to be ‘THE University for the Common Good,’” Spina later said. (Read more on the vision, Page 27).

The Celebration of the Arts performance was that evening, followed the next day by Stander Symposium presentations. The students — through grace, wit, sweat, inquiry and resolve — shared with the community the best of their education.

It was a celebration rooted in the optimism and vision of an ambitious president, in the transdisciplinary collaborations of faculty and staff, and in the impact students will make in the world as they strive for common good through a UD education.  

“I’m still clapping,” Spina said after the performance. “And can’t wait for next spring’s encore.”

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Living classroom on a green hillside

9:00 AM  Jun 8th, 2017
by Debbie Juniewicz ’90

From a St. Joseph medal and the promise of $12,000, great things continue to grow. Building on faith and opportunity, the university founded on that promise is helping to create a school in Malawi, Africa. It will be a hub for experiential learning and research initiatives, supporting development in Malawi as well as the futures of the UD students who will serve there.

Amidst the winding, rugged dirt roads and atop the rolling green hillside, brick and mortar buildings have taken shape.

The sturdy man-made walls are in sharp contrast to the natural beauty, with the Great African Rift Valley and Lake Malawi both in view. It won’t be long before students and teachers walk among the classroom buildings and dormitories of the Wasambo High School campus. But it’s not the physical structures that will have the greatest impact; it’s what the buildings represent — opportunity.

“People in Malawi value education above almost everything else,” said Matt Maroon ’06, founder of Determined to Develop, a Karonga-based nongovernmental organization in Malawi. “I’ve seen mothers sacrifice food in order to pay school tuition for their children. I’ve seen families sell their last goat to send their promising son to the first term of high school, not knowing at all where they will get the money for the second term, let alone the following three years.”

Maroon has found the common theme in this land-locked African nation to be one that resonates more than 8,000 miles away on the campus of the University of Dayton, where students, faculty and alumni have worked with Maroon’s organization to make the school a reality for Malawian children.

“Faith — it’s people’s faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day with hard work, persistence and an education,” said Maroon, who first visited Malawi in 2006 during a year of service with the Society of Mary. “It’s the idea that one’s current condition need not assign them a set path in life, but that they have the choice if only given the opportunity to find the road toward prosperity. And that education is the surest way to lift one’s self to a state where one can comfortably, and humbly, take care of a family.”

It’s a faith reinforced by Flyer research, volunteerism and fundraising, from students and faculty in engineering, education, arts and sciences, and business. It is a faith that will also be passed on to future UD students, who will benefit from having the school as an experiential learning base. Wasambo High School, when it opens Sept. 1, 2017, will showcase the best of the University’s transdisciplinary, liberal arts education in the Marianist spirit of partner-based community building.

“UD is taking the exact opposite approach of an ivory tower, instead realizing that its talents and treasure can make a concrete and lasting impact on education in a global context — and that’s happening on the ground in Africa,” Maroon said. “This is the Marianist approach, to be around the table with the people whom we serve, partners in development and uplifting one another along the way. It’s intentional. It’s grounded in reality, and it’s faithful.”

A great need

The Society of Mary, UD’s founding order, is deeply rooted in Malawi, opening Nkhata Bay Secondary School in the early 1960s and, shortly thereafter, operating Chaminade Secondary School — which still educates students today — in Karonga. The Marianist sisters this year will open their own mission in Malawi and focus on teaching.

The population statistics of Malawi underscore the need for educational institutions: Close to 47 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger, and another 20 percent is between 15 and 24. The median age in Malawi — a country with an estimated 976,300 people living with AIDS or HIV — is just 16 ½ years old. According to Maroon, there are significant hurdles in the Malawian education system, including access to high school and quality education.

“Only about 18 percent of eighth-grade graduates, students in our area who have finished primary school, are able to continue on to high school because of capacity,” Maroon said. “There are simply not enough schools or room at the existing schools.”

Standard Malawian curriculum has not traditionally emphasized enrichment and experiential learning.

“We want to take the Malawian model — based off the British system — and infuse it with some of the best practices internationally,” Maroon said.

UD Department of Teacher Education Chair Connie Bowman is excited about her department’s involvement at Wasambo. Faculty and students will assist in professional development for teachers in Malawi, focusing on student-centered instruction and active engagement for learning, as well as curriculum development and recruitment.

“Many of our graduates are teaching in foreign countries,” Bowman said, “and we believe Malawi will be an excellent place for them to engage in teaching and infuse their training in best practices through the educational field.” 

The first phase — which is currently under construction — is a boys’ high school, set up in an English boarding school style. The long-term plan includes a girls’ high school and a technical college.

The desired outcomes for Wasambo High School are threefold: provide a world-class education for the students; create a teacher training program that enables instructors to learn and implement best practices; and create a “living classroom” as part of the UD partnership where UD students and faculty can analyze challenges and work with Malawians to develop solutions.

The new school is located in Sangilo Village, Chilumba area in the Karonga District. This district is several hundred square miles with a population of about 60,000. Students will come from all around Malawi with an emphasis on offering positions and scholarships to local students. The impact of the school, however, extends well beyond the region.

“This is a benefit to the nation,” said Scotch Kondowe, Karonga District education manager. “In line with Malawi’s development strategies, strengthening secondary education is a top priority. To have a partnership with Determined to Develop and the University of Dayton is a welcome concept, and we are glad that outside stakeholders are taking interest in supporting government through the development of secondary education.”

While students will soon experience the immediate benefits of attending the new school, long-term benefits are expected for generations to come.

“Lack of education is a barrier to development,” said Senior Chief Wasambo (pictured left), the traditional authority and custodian of all land and culture in the region. “Having the school will change lives and opportunities, from poverty to prosperity, and it will transform the community for the better long term.”

The school, not coincidentally, is named in the chief’s honor, as it was he who allocated the 120 acres of land to Maroon in 2013 to establish the campus. The cost? Anyone familiar with the story of Father Leo Meyer and the purchase of the property on which the University of Dayton now stands will find the answer remarkable. Maroon paid about $12,000 to compensate a few local farmers for the land. In 1850, Father Meyer purchased 120 acres from John Stuart for the promise of $12,000 and a medal of St. Joseph as collateral. Maroon, likewise, presented Chief Wasambo with a St. Joseph medal.

Each entering class will consist of 80 boys from more than 50 elementary schools in the area. Some students at the all-boys boarding school will pay tuition, while others will receive scholarships. Looking forward, Wasambo will have 300-plus students onsite in four years.

“The community can see that there are not enough schools in our area,” said Alick Zika Mkandawire, a community liaison officer. “The schools we do have don’t have good learning materials and don’t have enough teachers. The new school will provide these, and the community is excited for good things to come.”

The Marianist way

Maroon’s connections with the University of Dayton have evolved and benefitted both the Malawians and UD students.

Students have worked on issues of human rights in Malawi with Determined to Develop since 2010. Since 2011, the School of Engineering’s ETHOS program has worked with Malawians on projects from renewable technology to potable water. The political science department initiated the Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development in 2013. The practicum, now housed in the Human Rights Center, pairs UD students with Malawian university students in-country to tackle development questions that give Determined to Develop insight into how it can best serve the community.

“It’s amazing when we have our UD students here, as they can dig into an issue and, with their Malawian counterparts, help us understand where we should focus our efforts,” Maroon said. “Their research gives credibility to our mission and influences the direction we take our programming.”

UD student research has been broad in scope, ranging from assessing community access to clean water to an assessment of gender-based violence against girls. From an examination of health systems to agricultural studies, the students work hand-in-hand with their Malawian counterparts.

“UD’s partnership with Determined to Develop and the people of Sangilo Village has grown organically over the years and has really been defined by the priorities and vision of our Malawian partners,” said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s heartening to see the collaborative spirit that has emerged on campus and with our partners.  Folks just get it and are eager to play a role.”

Collaboration has translated to action, and there’s no better example than Wasambo High School. UD practicum students have examined local challenges in access and quality of secondary school education. ETHOS students conducted land surveys and are helping with plans and construction. Teacher education faculty and students are working on curriculum and teacher training.

“In my mind, the Wasambo project vividly illustrates the capacity of UD as a comprehensive university, one that leverages students and faculty from engineering, education, business, and arts and sciences to find localized solutions to global challenges,” said Pierce, who as former chair of the political science department initiated the Malawi practicum.

More than an education

There is a buzz of anticipation surrounding the opening of Wasambo. Sophie Phiri (pictured left), a local mother and cook, is excited about what the school could mean to her children.

‘‘I’m happy because, now, there is an opportunity for my children to go to a good quality school,” Phiri said. “Teachers coming from outside Malawi will be able to help my children learn things like English and other skills quicker. If my children learn fast they can get good jobs, which will help our family lots in the future.”

Moses Mulungu, a local bricklayer and father, anticipates that his children will, one day, travel beyond Malawi thanks to Wasambo High School.

“They will only be able to do this by get-ting a good education and learning to read road signs and other important life skills,” Mulungu said.

While the parents are hopeful, the excitement of the students who may some day call Wasambo home builds with each passing day as the campus takes shape.

Since they broke ground in September 2016, much progress has been made on the physical facilities. The garage and storehouse are complete. The foundations for the head teacher’s house, boarding master’s house and volunteer teacher’s house are also complete. Maroon said building is expected to move quickly once the water system is in place. The water tower — which will hold four plastic 5,000-liter tanks for the gravity-fed water system — has been finished, as has the drilling for the three onsite wells.

Computer and multimedia labs will be among the facilities in the classroom blocks, and space has been reserved for a small outdoor amphitheater.

“My heart is pounding with excitement and nervousness,” said James Mayni, 14 (pictured left), who is looking forward to improving his English through the teaching of native English speakers. “I have always wanted to go to a boarding school, and this could be my dream come true. I will keep hoping that my next chapter of my life at Wasambo High School awaits.” 

Lowani Chirwa, 14, is also hopeful that he will be in the initial class of students admitted to Wasambo. His goal is to become one of the most educated people in his village and to fine-tune his English, as Wasambo will be an English-speaking campus.

“I believe that I will be able to learn higher reasoning skills, since the teachers will be highly educated,” Chirwa said. “I am looking forward to becoming a good, fluent English speaker.”

Exceeding expectations

Rick Pfleger, a 1977 UD graduate, has been on board since the beginning of Maroon’s development work in Malawi in 2008. He and his wife, Claire Tierney Pfleger ’78, met Maroon when he was a UD student living near their daughter, Lindsay Pfleger ’06.

“When Matt first decided he wanted to stay in Malawi, we wanted to help him financially,” Rick Pfleger said. “His goal was to start an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. At the time, we thought if he got 10 to 15 orphans under roof, it would be a home run. He now has 45-plus orphans in dormitories, four nurseries and preschools, and serves more than 500,000 meals a year in the community.

“I never envisioned he would stay this long, much less have the incredible impact he has had in Chilumba. Matt has become a fixture in the community, even to the point where the village chiefs made him an honorary member of their group,” Pfleger said.

Maroon brings two or three young members of the community to Chicago annually to meet the Pflegers.

“From the very beginning, we have been amazed by the spirit and optimism of these children,” Pfleger said. “When they share their stories with us, it enthuses us even more to continue our annual support. They are incredibly sincere, hopeful and grateful.

“Determined to Develop is certainly one of the most encouraging and fulfilling projects we have ever been involved with. We could not be more proud of Matt and what he has accomplished in the Marianist spirit.”

The Pflegers’ contribution to UD’s experiential-learning mission in Malawi has helped make Wasambo a reality. The wider UD community has also contributed, including a $10,000 fundraising initiative in 2014 by the University of Dayton student chapter of Determined to Develop.

“The Pflegers’ faith in UD, Determined to Develop and the Sangilo Village is inspiring.” Pierce said. “I am profoundly grateful for their support of this project and for seeing early on the impact the partnership could have in the community and the life-altering experiential learning opportunities it provides our students.” Pierce added that fundraising continues for future experiential learning opportunities for UD students.

While Wasambo will be life changing for the young people who attend school there, the experience of working in Malawi has also been life changing for those who have shared their time and talents with the people of the region.

“One of the most meaningful things I have learned from my time in Malawi is that no matter who you are you can probably help someone, know someone that can help, or you have the resources to learn how,” said Rob Greene (pictured left in red T-shirt, with members of the planning and work crew, including Matt Maroon, far right), an ETHOS graduate student currently working on the Wasambo project. “Being in Malawi has also made me rethink relationships and truly value them. Of course making friends halfway around the world and then leaving is one difficult aspect, but you could sit down with someone and immediately know 100 ways that you are different, but all you need is one similarity, one point to connect. Surprisingly you’ll find that not only are you not that different, but you can probably help each other.”

Greene — who is working toward a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus in environmental engineering — has been working as a project manager onsite and with Maroon on future construction plans.

“At times, it seems like ETHOS has only complicated my plans, but now I understand that I don’t only have an opportunity but also a degree of responsibility to act to better benefit my community and greater world community,” Greene said.

Department of Political Science Chair Grant Neeley has seen firsthand the impact the work in Malawi has had on the practicum students.

“It’s a tremendous learning experience and, in some cases, it most definitely shapes their career plans,” Neeley said. “But, regardless of their career path, this experience equips them with a greater understanding of how to work in a community setting. They gain a respect for others and their opinions and an ability to work through challenges, and that’s incredibly valuable because no matter where they go, they will be in a community.”

Even after years of UD student involvement in projects in Malawi, Pierce is impressed by the scope and impact of Wasambo High School.

“It’s a reflection of the commitment and passion of the community in Malawi, Matt, and UD,” he said. “It’s exciting to see our faculty and students engage in work that resonates so deeply with the Marianist mission.”

Pierce anticipates University of Dayton involvement with Wasambo and in Malawi well into the future.

That’s music to Maroon’s ears.

“The longer I am here in Africa, the more I realize that people have the same goals, no matter their culture or differences,” Maroon said. “We all want to push ourselves forward and we want to take care of our families. We all have the same motivations; to be happy, healthy, useful, fulfilled, valued and loved. This school will allow that impact to multiply the current work that we are doing. It will be a transformational force for families that will ripple from each person who passes through. We are transforming a society and are building another pathway to prosperity. How exciting is that?”


In 1998, the College of Arts and Sciences talked of sowing the seeds for human rights professionals who could collaboratively transform conversations and communities around the world. Today, those alumni serve in seven countries and numerous organizations dedicated to bettering the human condition. Here’s a look at where some alumni of the 2014 Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development, featured in the Winter 2014-15 UD Magazine, are today thanks to a UD education that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Alyssa Bovell ’14
Associate director of Project Partnerships IPM (International Partners in Mission)

“The interrelated challenges that impede the social, economic and political empowerment of women inspired me to pursue a human rights-based career in development. Women’s economic agency as a force of global poverty reduction has become an issue of international importance that I’ve become passionate about. [The practicum] has led to my current position at an international nonprofit that is focused on supporting women with equal access to resources and services to transform and sustain their communities.”

Jed Gerlach ’15
International programs assistant, Plan International USA

“It was great to be part of [Determined to Develop], a grassroots organization that was doing such great work with the resources given to them — an organization that not only helped people, but empowered them. To see that, as a student, had a great impact on me: on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.” 

Jason Hayes ’15
International program coordinator, Operation Smile

“You can study these things in a classroom and read every textbook out there but, at the end of the day, it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have an emotional effect until you get there and you see, firsthand, what the realities are. It was huge for me. I would highly recommend fieldwork. It affirmed for me the work I wanted to do.”

Andrew Lightner ’16
London School of Economics

“[The Malawi practicum] introduced me to wonderful people, fascinating research and exciting future opportunities. I have difficulty describing its impact, as I cannot recognize my worldview, experience at UD or current career trajectory without the practicum. I am currently studying international development and economics and aim to continue research in international and economic issues. The values and relationships Determined to Develop helped me form will continue to drive my career and non-career decisions.”

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Alumni Profile: Secrets of the museum

8:47 AM  Jun 5th, 2017
by Karina Cabrera ’18 and Gita Balakrishnan

Wide eyes, open minds, contagious laughter. The whimsical sounds of children exploring interactive exhibits keep Jan Wrzesinski the happiest she can be at her job as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, Alabama.

A communication major while at UD, Wrzesinski had a stint working in radio broadcasting early in her career, where she was known as Jan McKay. She now finds herself with more than 25 years of experience working in museums.

And, she says there’s never a boring day. As the executive director, Wrzesinski blends her skills to work on fundraising,
communications, planning and outreach to the community.

“The Exploreum is a very exciting place. Our mission is to inspire a love of math and science among all citizens, in particular school children, through summer camps, special demonstrations, and other hands-on learning opportunities,” she said.

She recalled the time when NASA gave a moon rock to the Explorerum for two weeks.  Although there was a high level of security surrounding the extraterrestrial object, the museum guests enjoyed the opportunity to see firsthand a piece of outer space.

Ultimately, Wrzesinkski said she hopes the museum experience provides an additional learning environment for children to appreciate the world around them: “We help bridge the formal classroom learning environment with group and individual science activities. We make it fun.”

Wrzesinski enjoys the challenges of running the museum, which has a $2 million budget, to help maintain the three permanent galleries, several rotating galleries and the pre-kindergarten demonstration area.

Children can participate in chemistry experiments, learning how to cook healthy, examining the lungs of smokers, and taking part in other hands-on activities.

“Kids mean a lot to me in the work that I do,” she said. “To me, all kids are precious.”

—Karina Cabrera ’18 and Gita Balakrishnan

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