News & Updates

Kleinschmidt Talks Vitamin C, Cancer Cells at Slippery Rock

Ann Kleinschmidt, professor of biology, biochemistry and neuroscience, gave an invited talk at Slippery Rock University on October 20 titled “Vitamin C Pushes Cancer Cells Over the Edge.” The presentation was based upon the senior project of Emily Horosko ’17. Ann was able to reconnect with two former Allegheny College students, Miranda Sarrachine Falso ’04 and Paul Falso ’05, who are both on the faculty in the Biology Department at SRU.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Student Earns Honors at American Chemical Society National Meeting

Max Steffen

As a first-year student, Max Steffen stepped forward to learn more when Allegheny College chemistry professor Ryan Van Horn mentioned a research project on polymers.

It’s a step that eventually took Steffen, now a rising junior, all the way to San Francisco. That’s where he earned third-place honors for his poster presentation at the American Chemical Society’s Undergraduate Research in Polymer Science Symposium, part of the organization’s national meeting and exposition in April. The title of Steffen’s poster was Isothermal Crystallization Analysis of PEO-b-PCL with Larger WPEO or WPCL.

After initial conversations with Van Horn about the polymer project, Steffen began to conduct research in the professor’s lab in spring 2016. Van Horn then invited Steffen to continue the research on campus that summer.

“So I stayed over the summer, and the project that I worked on was part of what I presented in San Francisco,” said Steffen, a biochemistry major and psychology minor from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

In simple terms, a polymer is a chemical compound where many repeating molecules bond together to form large chains. Steffen’s project investigated a unique polymer with applications in better understanding drug delivery in the body and improving devices such as contact lenses and knee and hip replacements.

This specific polymer is biodegradable, biocompatible and amphiphilic (composed of “water-loving” and “water-hating” parts). The research looked at the impact of temperature, specifically cooling the polymer to sub-room temperatures.

Steffen is quick to point out that the research was a group effort. Three other students who work in Van Horn’s lab also attended the conference in San Francisco.

“We all have separate projects, but we all talk about them,” Steffen said. “And when things aren’t working, we’re there for each other. We can work through it all together — especially Dr. Van Horn. He’s made my Allegheny experience just great.”

Van Horn encouraged his students to submit proposals for the conference, where he also led a talk. “We got some really great results and that’s why we went to the conference,” Steffen said.

Steffen showed off his poster alongside hundreds of other student presenters. The conference opened a door for Steffen to connect with polymer experts who stopped by to ask questions about his work, spawning ideas for future research including his Senior Comprehensive Project.

“It’s all going to fit in and flow together,” Steffen said of what he learned in San Francisco.

In the long term, Steffen plans to attend medical school and complete a residency in orthopedic surgery and a fellowship in orthopedic traumatology. For now, he’s spending the summer interning in the healthcare field. Steffen will return to Allegheny — and Van Horn’s lab — in the fall.

“I would have never thought coming here that I would go to a poster session in California,” Steffen said. “It was a really cool opportunity and experience.”

And he’s already looking forward to another adventure: next spring’s American Chemical Society meeting in Boston.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Experiential Learning Opens a World of Opportunity

“Allegheny College gave me the opportunity not only to have my first experience outside of the United States, but outside of my comfort zone, too,” says Kelsey McNary ’13.

As an Allegheny student, McNary joined an Experiential Learning seminar that toured Germany, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden during the summer of 2011, following her sophomore year.

Experiential Learning seminars (known as ‘ELs’) are led by Allegheny faculty and administrators and take place each year, just after the spring semester. The trips are coordinated by the International Education Office, part of the Allegheny Gateway. The seminars provide students with the opportunity for international education in a more contained and condensed environment than semester- or year-long study abroad opportunities. The programs typically last two to three weeks and are worth two to four “experiential learning credits” that count toward the number of required credits for graduation. Several unique programs are offered each year and involve travel to places such as Kenya, Austria, England, Sri Lanka and Peru.

On the trip McNary attended, the students traveled through the four featured countries studying public transportation. McNary, an environmental studies major and geology minor from Albany, N.Y., had neither studied nor even used any form of public transportation before this seminar, so the material her group was studying was completely foreign to her.

“I didn’t really expect the material to translate directly back to my Allegheny experience, but it wasn’t necessarily about what I was learning anyways,” she says. “What mattered was where I was learning it – being out of the country was the most important part. It doesn’t even matter where you go, just that you go.”

“The trip made me more aware, and more conscious of the world around me. In a sense, it really grounded me,” says Lexi Cammarata ’17, biochemistry major and Spanish minor from Greensburg, Pa., who traveled to Nicaragua in Central America in 2014, after her freshmen year.

“Being in the second poorest country in the Northern Hemisphere, I witnessed a kind of poverty in Nicaragua that I had never seen in the United States. The people there didn’t have a lot – but what they did have, was a huge sense of community that really affected the way I’d view the values of family and community when I returned home.”

This trip that Cammarata attended is a service-based trip where the team from Allegheny completes roughly 80 hours of service each in the few weeks they are there. Cammarata was on a trip that focused on predominantly homeless families who were living in a refuse facility. The community relied on the garbage in the dump for food and other basic necessities. The program helped to move these families out of the dump, construct homes, teach adults a trade, and establish a school for their children.

“While I come from a wealthier community then these people, I could still share those values of community and family, but it was just so different to experience and see these values in a place where that’s most of what they have,” Cammarata says. “It was very eye-opening, and in coming home, I found that those values became more important to me, too. Family has always been important to me; don’t get me wrong – but my experience on this EL made me so much more appreciative of my family and my community when I came home.”

While the Experiential Learning Program offered by Allegheny is one that continuously makes an impact on students due to the nature of a foreign environment becoming a place of learning, there are still some challenges.

McNary says that her struggles included more than just being outside the country: “I didn’t know anyone else in the program, so it wasn’t even just that I was going to a new country, but that I also felt alone going into it. On top of having to adjust to the new cultures around me, I needed to make new friends. So, coming home after having done that – having been by myself and having found that I could adapt to my surroundings – I experienced a huge confidence boost.

“My experience on the EL trip strengthened my application to jobs,” she says. “While abroad, I conducted a journal that would assist in my writing the overall project paper after our return. I was then able to include these documents in my portfolio, and to talk about my travel experience on my resume,” says McNary. “What I didn’t know before the EL was just how much experience with traveling would strengthen my application.”

Immediately following graduation, McNary was offered a job in environmental consulting as a GIS Analyst for the city of Columbia, Sc.

As Cammarata finishes her Allegheny education, she, too, is thankful for her EL experience.

“As a pre-med student, I was particularly interested in the health of the people in Nicaragua, and when I was there I was able to see the quality of their health care, firsthand. After a day of work, our bus pulled to the side of the road after seeing a motorcycle accident. Since I’m an EMT, I assisted the resident doctor in responding to the scene and calling for assistance. While we stabilized the woman’s broken leg, we then waited 30-minutes for the ambulance to arrive even though we were right outside the center of the town. The people there aren’t getting the access they deserve – and that’s when I realized then that there are places all over the world like that.”

This experience helped to confirm Cammarata’s passion for emergency medicine. “There’s no question that I’d love to take my future in medicine abroad once again to help in communities like this one. The idea had crossed my mind before going to Nicaragua, but this trip really solidified those goals.”

Experiential Learning trips cost from $3,000 to $7,000 per student, and while the College can make some funding available, students are asked to pay the cost in full.  For information about how you can help to make this opportunity more affordable for students, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at (814) 332-2843.

Photo Caption: Lexi Cammarata ’17 of Greensburg, Pa., traveled to Nicaragua after her freshman year.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Spending a Year in the ‘City’

By Lauren Dominique ’16

Allegheny graduate Austin Cosgrove ’15 thought he was destined for medical school following Commencement in May. Instead, he finds himself helping to mentor high school students in Boston.

Cosgrove, a biochemistry major and Global Health Studies minor, started his unexpected journey in August with a service group called City Year.

Austin Cosgrove '15.

Austin Cosgrove ’15.

“Up until midway through junior year, my plan was to go to medical school,” says Cosgrove, “but after a few fantastic global health courses and an amazing research internship with Dr. (Becky) Dawson, my interest in medicine shifted to that of public health. I chose to do City Year because I thought it would be a wonderful transition into further public health schooling and career choices.”

City Year, a non-profit program sponsored by AmeriCorps, has become a popular destination for Allegheny students after graduation.

City Year is a compensated service program geared toward the betterment of children’s experience in high-need and inner-city schools throughout the United States. City Year employees, all between 18 and 24 years old, create a “near-peer relationship” that allows for them “to serve as positive role models who have the ability to encourage students to stay on the right track toward their high school graduation,” says Todd Marsh, a  City Year regional recruitment manager.

In spending 11 months with a team stationed in one of 27 cities nationwide, City Year representatives work with third- through ninth-grade students, focusing on “one-on-one and group tutoring, behavioral coaching, and positive school culture programming,” all with the objective of improving the school and community as a whole, says Marsh.

Allegheny College has quickly become a steady source of City Year representatives. For colleges of fewer than 5,000 students, Allegheny ranks No. 4 in the number of graduates who go on to serve at City Year.  For the 2015-16 academic year, 12 Allegheny alumni are involved with City Year, nine of whom are graduates of the Bicentennial Class of 2015.

Cosgrove attributes much of his success in this program to his time at Allegheny: “There’s a reason Allegheny is in the top tier for sending students into service organizations following graduation. At City Year, we act as a support system in the school for the teachers, faculty, and, most importantly, the students. In providing students in urban school settings the extra individual attention and support they need, we work to end the nation’s dropout crisis and prepare our students to be college and career ready. My time at Allegheny has instilled within me a determined, diligent work ethic to keep me motivated throughout this upcoming year, a strong education for which I am grateful, and a duty to give back and serve.”

When asked if City Year is an experience he would recommend to current Allegheny students, Cosgrove responded enthusiastically: “I would certainly encourage any and all interested Allegheny students to apply to the program! Moving into Boston, a brand new city for me, and living on a stipend to serve 11 months in an urban public school setting isn’t exactly my ‘comfort zone,’ but I had enough confidence in myself to take on this challenge because of my Allegheny experience.”

Allegheny students learn about careers, graduate school options and service opportunities through the Allegheny Gateway. Go to:

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Receives National Science Foundation Grant in Support of Faculty Research

July 24, 2015 — Ivelitza Garcia, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Allegheny College, received a grant of $174,038 from the National Science Foundation in support of her project “Research in Undergraduate Institutions: Catalytic regulation of ribosome processing factors: Investigation of peripheral domain effects on the enzymatic capabilities of the DEAD-box protein Rok1p.”

The grant will provide funding for eight Allegheny students over four years to collaborate with Garcia to investigate how different structural elements within DEAD-box proteins can regulate the activity and initial structural state of a protein model. Understanding the regulation of DEAD-box proteins is of high medical interest since they are often over- or under-expressed in breast, cervical and prostate cancer as well as in T-cell and myeloid leukemia.

One hundred percent of the $174,038 cost of the project will be covered by federal funds through the NSF grant.

Photo: Winnie Wong at work in Ivelitza Garcia’s lab.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Taking the stage

Being crowned Miss Crawford County launched Brianna Layman’s pageant career — and helped her choose a new professional one.

Layman, a 21-year-old rising senior at Allegheny College who will compete in the Miss Pennsylvania pageant starting today, was a member of the college’s pre-health club and likely headed to medical school after graduation.

But when a friend suggested she compete in the 2015 Miss Crawford County pageant, she needed to find a cause to support.

“I couldn’t put my finger on anything except my passion for art,” Layman said. “It’s very sad to me that programs for art and music and theater and drama have been substantially cut and devolved into very small programs.”

Layman now plans to graduate with a degree in biochemistry and enroll in a master’s program in fine arts. Ultimately, she wants to combine the two interests and work in the emerging field of bio art: The artistic representation of science and scientific research.

She spoke with the Erie Times-News about competition, the biggest misconception about pageants, and her ultimate goal.

Read the full article.

ERICA ERWIN of the Erie Times-News can be reached at 870-1846 or by e-mail. 

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Pageant contestant advocates that arts provide ‘a new perspective’

Brianna Layman is using her beauty to advocate brain power.

As a biochemistry major and upcoming senior at Allegheny College, the 21-year-old Franklin Park resident said she is living proof that music and art education are vital to understanding science and math. When schools eliminate the arts from their curriculum, she said they are committing a great disservice to students.

To better spread her message, she entered her first pageant — a local pageant near her college campus in Meadville — where she competed in swimsuit and evening-gown competitions, a talent contest, on-stage questioning and creation of a personal platform based on an issue she will work to promote.

Layman’s platform, titled “The Art of Science: From STEM to STEAM,” stresses the importance of music and art education in schools, where subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, are taking increased precedence and funding. The “A” in STEAM stands for “arts.”

Read the full article.

This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Laurie Rees is a freelance writer. Photo courtesy of Brittany Marie Photography.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Six Students Present Research at the 249th National American Chemical Society Meeting

Six Chemistry and Biochemistry students presented research at the 249th National American Chemical Society meeting in Denver. Haley Englert ’15 presented a poster at the Biochemistry section poster session, “Biological analyses of ATP binding and hydrolysis in DEAD-box protein,” based on her research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ivy Garcia. Sean Carney ’15 presented a poster at the Physical Chemistry section poster session, “Probing the mechanism of DNA duplex formation in sequences with consecutive versus alternating purines and pyrimidines using stopped flow kinetics experiments,” based on his research with Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alice Deckert. Four students presented their work with Professor Deckert at the Undergraduate Research poster session. Emma Bean ’15 and Matt Gray ’16 presented the poster “Progress towards SERS sensor for PAH’s,” and Bridgette McCauley ’15 and Shawn Kennemuth ’16 presented the poster “Investigation of Surface Chemistry on P-Si to form Potential Biosensors/Drug Delivery Devices.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

A Crowning Achievement

Allegheny junior Brianna Layman is a biochemistry major and a studio art minor. She also is a varsity soccer player, a volunteer coach for the Meadville Area Soccer Club, a committee leader for Relay for Life, the philanthropy chairman for Gamma Rho Chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma, a volunteer advocate for Women’s Services and a peer buddy for Best Buddies International.

“I am most importantly, though, a role model for the children—and many others—of Crawford County, with a goal of exhibiting the benefits of a liberal arts education to future scientists,” she says, referring to her new role as Miss Crawford County 2015, a title she won in February.

The spare time she had leading up to the ceremony was filled with fulfilling pageant requirements, including service (each candidate is required to raise a minimum of $100 to support the Children’s Miracle Network and the Miss American Scholarship Fund) and creating a platform on which she would run.

For the fundraiser, she organized an event where a dollar donation to swing at a junk car on Allegheny’s Brooks Walk went toward “smashing out children’s diseases.”

Conceiving her platform required much more energy and thought, although it makes perfect sense when you see and understand these passions in her life. (Brianna transferred to Allegheny to pursue a liberal arts education, one that allowed her plenty of time to explore her various interests, most notably biochemistry, studio art and music.)

“‘The Art of Science: From STEM to STEAM’ delves into the importance of a nurtured and balanced education between the sciences and the arts to enhance the neurological capacities of those in the science world. I believe to reintroduce the United States as a world leader in sciences, we must work to regain public funding for the arts, and have more liberal arts trained scientists,” Brianna says of her pageant platform.

“I am super passionate about my platform because I embody it. Not only has a well-rounded education helped me out—for example, art and music classes give me a different perspective in my chemistry labs—but, as an older sister to five siblings, I want to continue to be a role model. I love being able to show younger people that the arts are super important.”

Although she now spends most of her time stressing the importance of a well-rounded education to others, she still learns more about herself every day from her own education. “I had planned to go to medical school after graduation, but now I am leaning toward getting my master’s in fine art so that I can pursue Bio-Art, a tiny field I learned about from a professor of mine. This wouldn’t have happened without opportunities and unusual classes offered at Allegheny,” Brianna says.

She will pursue those goals in time. For now, though, she is excited about the opportunities she has to make the title her own this year. “I want to squeeze as much as possible out of this role. It’s more important that I communicate my passion than worry about advancing.” She will have an opportunity to compete for a state title next year.

Brianna decided to pursue the title after realizing that the position would give her abundant opportunities to volunteer and the possibility to enact change.  “I decided to run because I believe that this title gives me a vehicle to amplify my voice,” she says, “the voice that is inside each one of us.”

— Kathleen Prosperi-McClard ’11

Source: Academics, Publications & Research