Allegheny News and Events

National Radio Program to Spotlight Faculty Research at Allegheny College

The Academic MinuteSix Allegheny College professors will be featured on “The Academic Minute,” a national radio broadcast and podcast that highlights research from colleges and universities throughout the world, beginning on Monday, May 25.

Starting with Monday’s broadcast, five of the professors will “take over” “The Academic Minute” program for the week. Each day, one Allegheny faculty member will discuss their research and important topics in their fields of study, focusing on what’s new and exciting in academia.

“The Academic Minute” is broadcast by WAMC/Northeast Public Radio on 90.3-FM (1400-AM) in Albany, New York, airing weekdays at 7:30 a.m. and 3:56 p.m. The show, which is carried on 70 stations around the United States and Canada, is hosted by Dr. Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. The program is also streamed via the web at In addition, “The Academic Minute” research profiles of the professors will be featured in the academic trade publication Inside Higher Ed.

“I am thrilled that through the Allegheny College takeover of ‘The Academic Minute,’ NPR listeners will have the chance to be inspired by some of Allegheny’s impressive scholar-teachers, even for a brief moment,” said Allegheny President Hilary L. Link. “As president, I hear from alumni again and again that it is the opportunity to work alongside, to be guided and mentored by, and to learn from the Allegheny faculty that continues to resonate in life-changing ways with our graduates even decades after they leave campus.”

The five Allegheny professors whose research will be featured the week of May 25–29 include:

  • Brian Harward, the Robert G. Seddig Chair in Political Science, who will address “Congressional Responsiveness to Presidential Unilateralism” on Monday, May 25
  • Janyl Jumadinova, assistant professor of computer science, will present “A Submersible Robot That Tests Water Quality” on Tuesday, May 26
  • Caryl E. Waggett, associate professor of global health studies, will speak on “Links between Lead Poisoning and Food Insecurity” on Wednesday, May 27
  • Eric Pallant, the Christine Nelson Endowed Chair of the Environmental Science and Sustainability Department, will discuss “There is a Lot to Learn from Sourdough Bread” on Thursday, May 28
  • Shannan Mattiace, professor of political science and international studies, will present her research on “Drug Wars and Criminal Violence in Mexico” on Friday, May 29

In addition to the weeklong takeover by Allegheny faculty, Professor Barbara L. Shaw will share her research at a later date to provide continued exposure for the College. Shaw, who holds the Brett ’65 and Gwendolyn ’64 Elliott Professorship for Interdisciplinary Studies, will speak on “Transforming Knowledge, Building Reimagined Futures.”

“The creative energy and expertise of our faculty fuels and enlivens the learning experience of our students,” said Allegheny Provost and Dean of the College Ron Cole. “This takeover of the Academic Minute is a wonderful cross section that highlights the breadth and depth of the Allegheny faculty and the interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum.”

Added Link: “These six faculty are merely representative of the rigorous scholars and inspiring teachers who are at the core of an Allegheny education. And in a moment of historic global crisis, the world needs creative, engaged and thought leaders like these faculty, who demonstrate the relevance and applicability toward our current challenges of a strong, liberal arts education in a variety of fields.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s New Innovation and Creativity Lab Brings Technology to the Students

When you enter the new Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity, you walk into a space bristling with cutting-edge technology. In the fabrication lab, there’s a bank of 3D printers, a laser cutter and a three-axis CNC machine. Go a little further and you enter a computer design lab with neatly aligned rows of workstations, where students envision robots that will carry out tasks such as sampling soil and water.

It’s a very different looking teaching space on the campus of a liberal arts college such as Allegheny.

“It allows students to work with these technologies in a mindful way,” says Byron Rich, director of art, science and innovation at Allegheny. The world is better off having Allegheny College graduates who also have these industry-standard skills.”

Professors Janyl Jumadinova and Byron Rich instruct a class in the Allegheny Innovation Center.

The innovation center opened in the fall of 2019 as a campus-wide resource for students, staff and faculty to see their ideas move from paper to prototype. Rich oversees the innovation center, which is located in the Doane Hall of Art. There is also a part-time technology advisor, Eric Charlton, and 10 work-study students who help introduce users to the lab, which is open 60 hours every week.

The lab can facilitate 3D printing, computer numerical control machining, laser cutting, app development, photo editing, video editing, sound editing, graphic design, computer-aided design, geographic information system mapping, game design, visualization, robotics projects and much more, Rich says.

The 3D printers allow users to build actual working parts for machinery; the laser cutter cuts and etches a variety of materials, including acrylics, and is used extensively in robotics work, and the CNC machine cuts complex shapes in materials quickly.

“I’m a huge believer in technology and knowing how to use it,” says Rich, who also is an assistant professor of art. “Understanding how something is made makes you appreciate the work that goes into it.

“I consider this as applied liberal arts,” Rich continues as he strolls around the lab demonstrating the different technologies on display. “It encourages critical thinking about technology’s effect on the workforce and the planet. It moves technology from the abstract to the incredibly tangible.”

Janyl Jumadinova, assistant professor of computer science, conducts some of her classes in the facility. “The innovation center allows me to easily merge my research, teaching, and community work practices into one space. Teaching ‘Robotic Agents’ in the center last semester was amazing,” Jumadinova says.

“We were able to seamlessly move from the conceptual discussions in the classroom to software development to robot design and development in the maker space,” she adds. “Students utilized the equipment in the lab to extend robotic platforms by, for example, 3D printing landing and protective gear for the drones, and building ramps for wheeled robot navigation. For our class’s culminating Festival of Robots community outreach event, using the resources of the lab, we were able to put together a drone arena that was displayed in the lobby of the campus center with the demonstrations of the drones. The flexibility to build things as they were needed for an enhancement of each individual project as it connected to conceptual topics of the course was a very powerful teaching tool.”

Professor Byron Rich instructs students in Allegheny's Innovation Center. (Photos by Ed Mailliard)
Professor Byron Rich instructs students in Allegheny’s Innovation Center. (Photos by Ed Mailliard)

Adam Cook, a junior computer science major from Pittsburgh, is a work-study student in the innovation center. “I love designing and building things in my free time, and now with the new lab on campus, I have access to the fabrication tools to do that,” he says. “And with access to high-quality 3D printers and a laser cutter, I am able to print out designs and test them rather than spend countless hours cutting and building. Overall, the lab has been a huge part of my creative life since I started working there. It has been a huge contribution to Allegheny and allows students to really develop their ideas and creativity.”

And Rich sees even greater potential for the innovation center’s impact. “We’re exploring the possibility of using the space as an innovation incubator,” he says, “and considering ways we may be able to award students micro-grants to take their entrepreneurial ideas and convert them into products that will do good in the world.”

In addition to the five academic classes that meet weekly in the innovation center, more than 1,200 individual visits were made by students using the lab during the fall 2019 semester, says Rich. Faculty and staff also have made use of the facility, he says.

“Some liberal arts colleges have what they call ‘maker spaces,’ but this is an actual learning space that is tied to a lot of classes,” says Rich. “I believe students are finding it fun to work on and learn industry-standard skills.”

The idea for the innovation lab was envisioned about 20 years ago by Professor Emeritus of Art George Roland, who had pushed for an art and technology center, says Rich. (Several of Roland’s artworks hang on the walls of the lab as a tribute.) There were a number of issues at the time, and the project was put on the back burner until several years ago, when faculty again became interested in pushing for a space for technology design and innovation, he says.

Subsequently, Rich and Jamie Lombardi, Allegheny professor of physics, with input from faculty such as Jumadinova, River Branch and Michael Mehler, among others, assisted with the development of a grant proposal in 2018, and the College received funding from the George I. Alden Trust. The grant was used to purchase the technology in the lab and also a full-dome projector installed in Carr Hall for astronomy and physics classes.

From a practical standpoint, the lab has allowed the College to extend its internships, most notably at Acutec, a Meadville-area firm founded by Allegheny Trustee Robert L. Smith ’73. The company has a computer design lab similar to the one in the innovation center, and students will be working with Acutec employees on projects, says Rich. “It’s fantastic that students are learning the technologies and are working on actual aerospace projects,” he says.

Rich believes that a small expansion of the technologies offered in the innovation center is in the foreseeable future. “It’s proving to be a real asset for the College, the students and for Admissions. We see a lot of prospective students and their families come through here,” he says. Ideally, Rich would like to add more 3D printers, including an industrial-size one that would mold materials commonly used in robotics, and a 3D scanning studio that would allow students to venture into virtual-reality game design.

Rich invites students, faculty and staff to schedule time in the innovation center by sending an email to Visit the Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity website to learn more.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Welcomes New Faculty

From a native of Italy who speaks five languages to a motocross enthusiast, Allegheny’s new faculty members bring many unique backgrounds and qualities to the campus classrooms in the fall of 2019. Let’s meet each of them briefly:

Kathryn BenderKathryn Bender
Assistant Professor of Economics

Kathryn Bender joins the Economics Department this fall and is helping students discover the economics of natural resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Centre College and her master’s and doctorate from the Ohio State University.

“I’m excited to start at Allegheny this fall,” says Bender. “I’m involved in several projects on consumer food-waste behavior and hope to find new avenues to explore at Allegheny around this topic.”

Her dissertation, “Date Labels and Food Waste: A study of the effect of label characteristics on food waste in the United States,” studies the confluence of environmental science, economics, and marketing in the food distribution ecosystem in the United States. She is also interested in exploring the effect of feminine hygiene programs in developing countries on the environment along with women’s empowerment, health, and education.

In her free time, Bender enjoys playing soccer, riding horses, and hanging out with her two dogs, Huck and Nala.

Bradley Burroughs '02Bradley Burroughs ’02
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

After graduating from Allegheny in 2002, Bradley Burroughs earned his master’s degree from Duke University Divinity School and his Ph.D. from Emory University. His first teaching job was at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. After resigning that position to attend to family needs, he taught for four years at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. “But I am thrilled to be back in Meadville and reconnecting to the Allegheny community,” he says.

His academic interests span a variety of theological and ethical thought. His most recent work has been in two areas. The first is Christian political ethics, which led to his first book, Christianity, Politics, and the Predicament of Evil: A Constructive Theological Ethic of Soulcraft and Statecraft. It has also led to other published pieces that assess practices of contemporary warfare. The second area of his recent work has been in how Christian thinkers have understood the concept of evil, which is the subject of his next book project.

Burroughs enjoys mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, and being outdoors generally, “or at least as much as I can do now with two kids in tow. Although not entirely unusual, one of my more surprising talents is juggling, which I learned from a hallmate in Baldwin during my first year at Allegheny.”

He also is proud that he was the first in his family to graduate from college.

Moira FlanaganMoira Flanagan
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Moira Flanagan is a lifelong morris dancer, a form of traditional English folk/pub dancing. She is also the newest chemistry professor at Allegheny.

She has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City and a Ph.D. in biophysical sciences from the University of Chicago. Most recently, she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Chemistry Department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Currently, her research combines biochemistry and physical chemistry techniques to understand the physical and photoprotective properties of heterogeneous biological pigments like melanin.

“My interest in the chemistry of biological systems also shapes how I teach,” Flanagan says. “I get excited to bring biological contexts into other fields of chemistry (as often as I can), but also emphasize the physical chemistry concepts (like entropy) in biochemistry topics.

“My teaching is based on the idea that everyone can learn science if they want to and I am here to help. I reject the idea that some people ‘get’ science and math and some people don’t,” Flanagan says. “One doesn’t need to be an expert in chemistry to critically analyze and problem-solve in a new context.”

Besides her affinity for chemistry, teaching and morris dancing, Flanagan enjoys cooking, especially fish and fresh pasta. “I also won a coloring contest in my local paper when I was 4, and actually still consider myself an amateur artist in drawing and cartooning.

Jessica Harris
Visiting Assistant Professor of History

Jessica Harris received her bachelor’s in history, master’s in Afro-American Studies, master’s in history, and Ph.D. in history, all from UCLA. She also held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto in the Department of Italian Studies. She taught at Santa Monica College as well as at the University of Toronto during her fellowship.

Her research focus is on the history of the 20th century United States and the World, Modern Italy, and Black Europe, “and I am particularly interested in gender and race, their intersection with material culture, and the subsequent effect on group identities,” Harris says.

Since she studies Italian culture, “I like to watch Italian films and listen to Italian pop music,” says Harris.

Her five minutes of fame occurred as a teenager, Harris says, “when my club soccer team and I appeared on an episode of Bette Midler’s sitcom ‘Bette’.”

Mahita KadmielMahita Kadmiel
Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology

Mahita Kadmiel has spent most of her life learning about human diseases, and she enjoys teaching students about how the human body works — or fails to work — in the event of a disease.

Kadmiel taught for two years as a visiting assistant professor at Colgate University. She is trained in biomedical sciences, completing postdoctoral training in molecular endocrinology at the National Institutes of Health. In addition, she holds a Ph.D. in cell and molecular physiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in biology from Michigan Technological University, and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and biochemistry and medical lab technology from Andhra University in India.

“My academic interest has always been in improving our understanding of the molecular basis of human diseases,” Kadmiel says. “Too little or too much of stress hormones (glucocorticoids) and changes in sex hormone levels (estrogen and testosterone) have been linked to vision problems.”

She is investigating the function of these hormones in the cornea and retina using rodent models and cells derived from human eyes. Kadmiel also is interested in studying the role of hormone-mimicking chemicals (more commonly called endocrine-disrupting chemicals) on ocular cells and tissues and how they might influence eye health.

Kadmiel incorporates her interest in various forms of art not only in the biology courses that she teaches, but also in her time outside the classroom and laboratory.

“I enjoy working on art projects and DIY projects along with my two kids,” she says. “This is my trick to get mom-time and hobby time in one shot!”

Douglas LumanDouglas Luman
Assistant Professor of Computer Science

Douglas Luman joins the Computer Science Department from a background in creative writing and composition. He earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from Bradley University and his MFA is from George Mason University, where he studied poetry and was the Heritage Student Fellow in 2017. He taught in the University Writing Program at George Washington University.

“So, suffice to say, I am an interesting fit in computer science. The way I usually explain it is that all of my work is computational, even though it is done in a humanities-leaning context,” he says.

His MFA thesis, “Prodigy House,” was a computational investigation of an early literary algorithm (“Travesty”). His other work is all computationally based. “I essentially ‘write’ aided by software that I write and others (like Google Cloud tools — Translate, Speech to Text) that I use in conjunction with writing. During graduate school, I developed a computational constraint platform that I continue to run at

“One might say that my work is less from an academic background and more out of a discipline or practice,” Luman says.

Luman is also interested in approaches to computational pedagogy: that is, what do the humanities, writ-large, have to say about teaching computer science? “Is there some way that we can use humanities-based concepts/data to teach students what it means to be responsible for their code? I wonder if there’s some distinction here to remind both students and ourselves of the perennial lesson that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should,” he says.

He and his partner, the poet Jenni B. Baker, also run a book arts press called Container, where they produce other artists’ work in three-dimensional, novel forms, “which is to say as a gem tray of origami paper gems, etched glass bottles, or as cross-stitch kits, for example,” Luman says.

Rebecca OliverRebecca Oliver
Assistant Professor of Political Science

Rebecca Oliver received her bachelor’s degree from the Université de Montréal and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She arrives at Allegheny after teaching most recently at Murray State University in Kentucky and, prior to that, the University of Southern California.

Oliver’s research examines the politics of inequality with respect to labor markets and social policy in Europe. Substantive topics of her work include labor union strategies, collective bargaining institutions, public opinion, childcare policy and territorial inequalities in social policy.

She is currently completing revisions for her book, “Negotiating Differences: The Politics of Egalitarian Bargaining Institutions.” The book examines the following question: Why, in the face of common growing pressures toward greater liberalization and pay dispersion, are egalitarian bargaining institutions sustained or reconfigured in some instances and bluntly dismantled in others? Employing the cases of Italy and Sweden, the book studies developments in egalitarian collective bargaining institutions.

Oliver recently adopted a puppy named Griffin. “My interests of hiking, canoe camping, exploring and getting lost in new cities/towns, making cupcakes, skiing, playing tennis, attending live jazz concerts and visiting art galleries are currently taking a back seat to dog training,” she says.

Kelly PearceKelly Pearce
Instructor, Environmental Science & Sustainability

Kelly Pearce is a graduate of Juniata College, where she majored in wildlife conservation and minored in education. She received her master’s degree in applied ecology and conservation biology from Frostburg State University, and earned her Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory.

She is a wildlife ecologist and conservationist with research interests at the intersection of ecological and social science, including the field of human dimensions of wildlife conservation. “I use quantitative and qualitative approaches to study how environmental, social, and policy factors influence wildlife populations and species distributions. I also strive to better understand approaches that mitigate conflict and encourage coexistence between people and wildlife,” she says. Pearce also serves on the Outreach and Conflict Resolution Task Force as a member of the IUCN Otter Specialist Group.

“My research has taken me to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, where I evaluated the ability of the river otter to serve as an aquatic flagship species for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” she says. “I have also been involved in a variety of wildlife ecology projects focused in western Maryland and West Virginia, including a study on eastern spotted skunks, Allegheny woodrats, and a variety of bat species.”

Pearce enjoys live music and spends much of her free time watching and traveling for shows, she says. Pearce also enjoys motorcycle journeys. “I rode my first motorcycle when I was 3 right into the back of the garage. I still love to ride on my parents’ farm in central Pennsylvania, and this past summer I earned three first-place finishes in a vintage cross-country motorcycle race series.”

Gaia RancatiGaia Rancati
Assistant Professor of Marketing and Neuromarketing in Economics

Gaia Rancati joins the Economics Department and will teach Principles of Marketing and Business and Managerial Economics during the fall semester.

Rancati is an experienced trainer and coach in both sales and customer experience specializing in retail, sales, team building, and management. She earned her Ph.D. in marketing and neuroeconomics as well as a bachelor’s degree in marketing from IULM University, and a master’s of leadership and management from Il Sole 24ORE Business School in Milan, Italy. She is a sought-after researcher and speaker in the field of neuromarketing where she applies the science of neuroeconomics for improving customer experience in the retail field with a focus on service encounters, sales transformation and artificial intelligence.

Lauren RudolphLauren Rudolph
Assistant Professor of Biology

Lauren Rudolph joins the Biology Department with undergraduate and graduate degrees as double-majors in neuroscience and psychology. She attended Washington and Lee University for her undergraduate education and Indiana University for her Ph.D. She completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Los Angeles in neurobiology and neuroendocrinology, and then taught neuroscience as a visiting professor at Pomona College.

Rudolph’s research is generally focused on steroid hormones and how they act to drive certain behaviors, such as mammalian reproduction. Her wider interests include neuroendocrinology, hormones, reproduction, sex differences, and physiology.

“I am continually impressed with the ever-expanding range of steroid hormone effects,” says Rudolph, “and how hormones can alter behaviors. I study how hormones act in ‘non-traditional’ ways to change the shape and function of cells, tissues, and organisms.”

When traveling on planes, Rudolph says she tends to get into interesting conversations because she is often working on presentations about reproduction. She sees those discussions as part of her “unofficial outreach”: sharing her research with other people.

During her time at Washington and Lee University, Rudolph played volleyball on a team which won conference champions each year, earning a place in the NCAA tournament during her four years as an undergraduate. Besides volleyball, Rudolph also enjoys the outdoors, cheese, sarcasm, making up forced acronyms, animal fun facts, and March Madness.

“I am also skilled at removing the gonads of rodents (for research!),” she adds.

Rosita ScerboRosita Scerbo
Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish

Rosita Scerbo joins the Department of Modern and Classical Languages as a Spanish instructor. Her research interests include Latin American and Chicanx visual autobiography. This includes photography, cinema, paintings, murals, and digital art. She is also a specialist in Digital Humanities and Hispanic digital pedagogy tools.

Scerbo was born in Italy but has spent most of her life studying and working abroad. “I’m a heritage speaker of Spanish, as I learned Spanish in my community as a child before I dedicated my life to the Hispanic language and culture academically in school and in college.”

She taught Spanish and Italian language, literature, and culture at West Virginia University during her pursuit of a master’s degree and at Arizona State University while earning her doctorate. She also has taught Spanish in Sevilla, Spain, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, during study abroad and Spanish immersion programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Calabria in Italy.

“I speak five languages,” says Scerbo. “I went to dance school for many years, and I’m particularly passionate about Latin dances, including salsa, bachata, and merengue. My two daughters’ names — one is human and one is canine — are Sol and Luna, that is Spanish for sun and moon.”

Sarah StangerSarah Stanger
Assistant Professor of Psychology

Sarah Stanger joins Allegheny’s Psychology Department and also plans to provide assessment and treatment services to children and families in Meadville as she works toward clinical licensure. Stanger attended Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She says her time there “ignited my passion for contributing to a learning community like Allegheny.” Stanger then traveled cross-country to attend the University of Vermont, where she taught undergraduate courses and earned a joint Ph.D. in clinical and developmental psychology.

Most recently, Stanger was in Portland, Oregon, completing her predoctoral clinical internship. While there, she provided assessment, consultation, and treatment services for children and families in a hospital-based setting.

Stanger hopes to observe interactions between families and children in a laboratory setting while at Allegheny. “I am interested in understanding the development of adaptive stress responses — both physiological and behavioral — in children and adolescents,” says Stanger. “This includes examining how parenting and other contextual factors, such as family socioeconomic status, contribute to this development.”

Outside of her professional life, Stanger has competed in horseback riding, enjoys skiing and snowboarding, and has a love for college sports and theater. She anticipates learning to cross-country ski while in Meadville, as well as attending her students’ productions and sporting events.

Asmus TrautschAsmus Trautsch
Writer in Residence

Asmus Trautsch studied philosophy as a major and German literature (modern and medieval) as a minor at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, and at the University College London in Great Britain. In addition, he studied composition/music theory at the University of the Arts in Berlin. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at Humboldt University, spending a term as a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City. He has taught philosophy at the University of Dresden and has been a guest lecturer at other universities.

His research interests include contemporary poetry, philosophy of tragedy, philosophy of literature, philosophy of music, ancient Greek philosophy, aesthetics, and ethics.

“My interests lie in the arts, including fine arts, film and dance and in the ways in which the sciences and the arts work together for enabling understanding and new knowledge,” says Trautsch. “Also I’m passionately interested in how philosophy and literature can contribute to educating society and improving politics.”

Trautsch likes to engage in “entertaining dialogues with lots of curious questions,” bake cakes, conduct orchestras and play various musical instruments. He shares a fun fact from his past: “I once won second prize in a competition called ‘Dance Your Ph.D.’ in Dresden.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Awarded Grant from Mozilla Foundation

Responsible Computer Science ChallengeAllegheny College received a $144,252 grant from the Mozilla Foundation for the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, a partnership of Omidyar Network, Mozilla, Schmidt Futures, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. Oliver Bonham-Carter, assistant professor of computer science, will direct the grant project, which aims to integrate ethics and social responsibility into undergraduate computer science courses.

“Through this grant, Allegheny computer science students will investigate potential ethical and societal challenges while studying fields like artificial intelligence and data analytics,” Bonham-Carter said. “For example, they might interrogate how medical data is analyzed, used or secured.” Lessons will include readings, hands-on activities and talks from experts in the field.

Allegheny’s grant is part of Stage I of the challenge, in which 17 initiatives received a total of $2.4 million in funding. The winners, which included Georgetown University and Harvard University, have computer science programs ranging in size from 87 students to 3,650 students. The winners were selected by a panel of 19 independent judges from universities, community organizations, and the tech industry.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Oliver Bonham-Carter
Assistant Professor of Computer Science Oliver Bonham-Carter

“Today’s computer scientists write code with the potential to affect billions of people’s privacy, security, equality and well-being,” said Kathy Pham, computer scientist and Mozilla fellow co-leading the challenge. “Technology today can influence what journalism we read and what political discussions we engage with; whether or not we qualify for a mortgage or insurance policy; how results about us come up in an online search; whether we are released on bail or have to stay; and so much more.

“These 17 winners recognize that power and take crucial steps to integrate ethics and responsibility into core courses like algorithms, compilers, computer architecture, neural networks and data structures. Furthermore, they will release their materials and methodology in the open, allowing other individuals and institutions to adapt and use them in their own environment, broadening the reach of the work. By deeply integrating ethics into computer science curricula and sharing the content openly, we can create more responsible technology from the start.”

Stage II of the Responsible Computer Science Challenge, scheduled for summer 2020, will support the spread and scale of the most promising approaches developed in Stage I. In total, the challenge will award up to $3.5 million.

Allegheny was among the first small liberal arts colleges to offer a computer science program. Allegheny’s computer science major and minor programs are designed to provide a solid basis in the principles of the discipline combined with practical experience in software systems design, implementation and analysis. The College also offers an interdisciplinary major in integrative informatics.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Faculty-Student Team Helps Develop Underwater Robots to Perform Lake Research

David Boughton of Penn State’s Sea Grant College program last summer was looking for a way to collect more encompassing data when he samples water quality in lakes in northwest Pennsylvania, including the murky expanses of Lake Erie.

So he sought the help of Allegheny College Computer Science Professor Janyl Jumadinova and one of her students to help design and build research robots that have the capability to take waterproof sensors underwater for several hours at a time and transmit a bounty of data.

“David wanted to send robots to different depths and collect a range of data over a period of hours as opposed to just dropping a sensor overboard on a line and taking a random sample,” says Jumadinova.

And so the partnership began with Boughton, the engineer, working on the mechanical aspects of the robot, and Jumadinova and student Elisia Wright ’21, the software experts, working on the sensor unit to function as the robot’s eyes, ears and brain, so to speak.

“The most challenging aspects of this project are working with the sensors and envisioning how everything will function together,” says Wright, who is a computer science and environmental studies double major. “Currently, we are working on combining the code required for each of the sensors so that it will be more efficient when testing and gathering data.”

The team is developing a prototype and tested it in the Mellon Pool in the David V. Wise Sport & Fitness Center this winter and hopes to deploy it in the depths of Lake Erie in the spring of 2019.

An Academic Partnership

The project started as a part of the Allegheny College-Crawford Central School District STEM Partnership program organized by Allegheny Biology Professor Lisa Whitenack, where instructors from Allegheny and Crawford Central were paired to explore their curricular connections.

Boughton, a maritime education specialist who is employed by Penn State, teaches 24 middle-school students enrolled in enrichment programs about underwater robotics in the basement laboratories of Allegheny’s Alden Hall on Fridays. In the spring, he takes them onto a research vessel off Lake Erie’s Presque Isle to conduct water-quality testing.

The robot project is helping to “build a bridge” between the middle school students and Allegheny College, says Boughton.

“Whatever we’re doing for research, we try to make into an educational opportunity,” he adds.

Since the summer, the project expanded beyond the curriculum discussions and building classroom prototypes into a research project that seeks to contribute to a community need.

“This effort is to customize the robots for whatever it is we want to do — carry cameras for near-shore surveys, sample water and/or sediment, conduct fish counts and survey shipwrecks. We can also have some fun with them putting a turtle shell or a duck decoy over the robot,” Boughton says.

The sensor unit being developed by Jumadinova and Wright will consist of sensors that test for temperature, pH, oxygen content and conductivity on a continuous basis in depths down to 30 or 40 feet.

“Right now, Elisia is writing the programs to gather data from the sensors, and we are developing an algorithm for aggregating the data from multiple sensors. With the help of environmental water experts, we want to automate data analysis and develop the software to analyze the data. The engineering key, of course, is to develop a watertight unit,” Jumadinova says.

Data Interpretation Is Key

Adding sensors to the underwater robots, “has upped my game,” says Boughton. “It will allow the water quality sensing unit to go places and collect data where we couldn’t before. We’ll be able to collect and store data from different levels of the water column, and with help from Allegheny, we can interpret this data, share with other researchers and help students understand variations in water quality measurements.”

Wright, who is from Mount Laurel, New Jersey, has immersed herself in the project. “The project allows me to combine two areas of interest that I am passionate about. I love the hands-on aspect of actually building the robot itself, as well as developing the software to control it. I have always been fascinated by aquatic ecosystems since I was young, specifically freshwater. After learning how, and then building my own computer, I became very interested in coding and developing software,” she says.

The partnership also has led to an internship for Wright for the upcoming summer. “As I continue my studies at Allegheny, I plan to become more involved in research involving computer science and the environment,” she says. “For the summer of 2019, I will be working under David Boughton as a Lake Erie Shipboard Science Education program educator. I will also continue working as a research assistant under Allegheny Environmental Science Professor Rich Bowden. As for the future, I intend to go to graduate school and hope to work on other educational opportunities.”

Photo caption: Allegheny College Computer Science Professor Janyl Jumadinova, David Boughton of Penn State’s Sea Grant College, and Allegheny student Elisia Wright test the research robot in the Mellon Pool on campus.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny’s Marisol Santa Cruz Wins Gilman Award to Study in India

Allegheny College junior Marisol Santa Cruz has been awarded a $4,000 Gilman International Scholarship in order to help defray the costs of her participation in an Experiential Learning Seminar trip to India in May 2019.

“After conducting extensive archival research in the summer of 2018 under the supervision of Professor Ishita Sinha Roy, I was on a mission to complete my goal of being able to study abroad,” says Santa Cruz, who is from Santa Ana, California.

Junior Marisol Santa Cruz has received a scholarship to study in India in 2019.

Santa Cruz will be accompanying a group of students and faculty members to India from May 13 to June 3 to study India’s experiments with globalization across its 5,000-year history. As the group treks across the Indian subcontinent, the coursework will investigate how historical sites and narratives provide the “theatrical” backdrop to contemporary media events. They also will study and explore how heritage arts and crafts are being revived by global markets, while tribal villages are organizing their own forms of cultural survival. The course is titled “India: Restaging History as a Media Event.”

“As a Gilman scholar, I will conduct a follow-up service project that will help other students apply for study away programs and help them acquire the funding to participate in these opportunities,” says Santa Cruz, a communication arts major and computer science minor.

“My vision in life is to see more Mexican women, like myself, studying internationally as they take the initiative to open up opportunities for others,” Santa Cruz says. “Through the Experiential Learning Seminar experience, I’ll be transmitting my experiences back to the community through a research paper, presentation, a virtual journal and videos.”

Santa Cruz will bring diverse and fresh perspectives to the India learning experience, says Patrick Jackson, director of fellowship advising.

“Marisol’s application was really interesting because of all the diverse perspectives she’s trying to understand and incorporate with one another. She’s a Mexican-American woman thinking about India through the lens of the work she did last summer on historical women here in Meadville through the Crawford County Historical Society,” Jackson says. “I think with this kind of background, Marisol is liable to come home with all kinds of interesting things to say and with a lot of creative ideas that she might put into action in any number of ways. Her application was classic liberal arts: open-minded and ready to connect things that don’t immediately seem like they go together. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say when she comes back.”

The U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship is a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad, thereby gaining skills critical to our national security and economic competitiveness. The program aims to encourage students to study and intern in a diverse array of countries and world regions. The program also encourages students to study languages, especially critical need languages (those deemed important to national security).

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Ford Chapel Instrument Chimes in With New Sounds on Allegheny Campus

Junior music major Jacob Sutter drops his coat and backpack in a pew in the balcony of Ford Memorial Chapel on a chilly December morning and fires up the small keyboard in front of him. Soon the strains of the “Bell Tree Peal” are resounding across the Allegheny College campus.

That’s followed by “Be Thou My Vision,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Ode to Joy,” “Sweet and Low,” “Imagine,” “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and, of course, “Alma Mater Beatissima.”

The 100-year-old Crawford Chimes, a 14-note set of Deagan tower chimes in Ford Chapel, were refurbished in the fall of 2018, and now the sounds of music ring across campus several days a week, thanks to Sutter, who also plays the piano during religious services at the chapel.

Sutter, who is a computer science minor from Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, has the task of playing the Crawford Chimes. “I usually play for about 15 minutes,” he says. He blends traditional hymns with modern popular music. The keys on the keyboard correspond to the 14 chimes in the belfry.

Not to be confused, the music coming from the Crawford Chimes is a sonorous complement to the Bentley Hall Carillon that sounds on the hour.

In October, Bill Pugh, a technician from Tennessee, came to Allegheny to service the chimes, which were installed in Ford Chapel in September 1918, a gift from alumni to mark the 25th year of William Crawford’s presidency. “I last serviced this historic instrument in 1997. Oh, how time flies! At that time, I reconnected the keyboard because the wires had been cut accidentally. I was unable to service all 14 strikers due to pigeon debris in the chime loft,” Pugh says.

College Chaplain Jane Ellen Nickell said Pugh was a little reluctant to return to the tower this year, but a pre-visit inspection showed there was not a mess in the tower, which cleared the way for Pugh’s work.

Pugh shares some history about the Deagan company and the chimes: “The J.C. Deagan Company of Chicago was known as the world’s finest manufacturer of tuned percussions. Tower chimes were their biggest product, and some 440 instruments were built between 1917 and 1958. They ranged in size from one to 97 chimes — a library in Minnesota and a state park in Florida, respectively. The Ford Chapel instrument is the oldest surviving system and is 100 years old. I do hope that Allegheny celebrates this milestone.”

“They are the oldest intact in the country since most have been removed or updated to electronic systems,” says Nickell. “We will be playing them several times a week and on special occasions, like our Christmas Service, Commencement, and Reunion Weekend. If Jacob doesn’t stay during the summer, I will find another student or play them myself.”

Photo Caption: The Crawford Chimes as they look from inside the Ford Chapel tower looking toward Pelletier Library (Photo by Jane Ellen Nickell)

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Students Develop Ad Campaign, Film Commercial

Clay Dawson stood under a giant American flag hanging from the plant’s rafters and studied his lines.

A few steps away, Allegheny College senior Shu Yi Tang flipped through sheets of paper that laid out the entire video shoot in detail: what scenes would be filmed and when, where and how they would be shot, and the people involved in each.

Lily Loreno, a senior at Allegheny, framed the opening scene with her hands, her fingers forming a square in front of her face. Sophomore Margaret West wheeled the camera into place.

“Every single second (of the video) has to be exactly perfect,” West, a 20-year-old communication arts major, said later.

The Allegheny trio had an important client to impress: Acutec Precision Aerospace Inc., a Meadville-based company that makes parts of the braking system used on Southwest Airlines jets, among other products, had tapped the group to create a commercial that would re-introduce the company to the community after a rebranding and, ultimately, encourage more prospective employees to walk through Acutec’s doors. Dawson, project manager for new product integration, would be one of the stars.

Acutec President and CEO Elisabeth Smith had worked with Allegheny students before and felt confident West, Loreno and Tang would bring the breadth of a liberal arts education to bear on the project.

“Who we look for (to work with) are people who think,” Smith said. “Allegheny students know how to think.”

The Acutec project is just one part of a larger multidisciplinary effort, still in the pilot stage, to create a student-run media agency at Allegheny that would connect students with local businesses and nonprofit organizations that need media, marketing and advertising services.

Vice President of College Relations Susan Salton proposed the idea of a student-run media agency when she came to Allegheny in 2015. Intrigued, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Julie Wilson started talking about the possibility with other faculty partners in and across departments.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase the creative talents of our students and serve the community in a real, tangible way at the same time,” Salton said. “Our students gain experience working with clients in professional settings, applying what they’ve learned in the classroom to the benefit of our region.”


Allegheny @ Acutec

The Acutec project started as a college-wide competition among groups of students interested in vying for the company’s business. Interdisciplinary groups of three students each pitched a storyboard and tagline. Tang, West and Loreno’s winning tagline? “It all starts here,” a nod to the region’s manufacturing roots and Acutec’s essential role in the supply chain creating individual parts that, pieced together, make the whole.

Once selected, the students were mentored to handle all the pre-planning and contract logistics. They hired a makeup artist and another person to help with some technical aspects of the shoot, scouted the Acutec’s Meadville and Saegertown plants, and shot the video over the course of several days

Tang relished the opportunity to put what she’d learned in her advertising and video production classes into practice.

“You get to have a real-life experience and talk to a client and get to know people. Why not take part?” she said. “It’s a very valuable experience, something I can talk about.”

They all felt pressure to deliver a quality product. The heightened expectations that came with working for a client gave the group “an opportunity to rise to the occasion,” West said.

“When you’re (working for) someone else, when you’re taking their time and their money, you want it to be that much better,” Loreno said of the video.

After a late-night scramble to the finish, the commercial debuted at a companywide breakfast on Feb. 8.

It was a success, Smith said.

“People really enjoyed it,” she said. “In terms of working with students, (the experience) was excellent. They were very professional.”

Associate Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Ishita Sinha Roy ran the Acutec storyboard competition and worked with the students, along with Assistant Professor of Art Byron Rich.

The Acutec project and the larger media agency effort are “a great way to respond to the critics that say that the liberal arts are impractical,” Rich said. “The ideas and critical thinking skills that we foster here can be put into practice in the business world.”

Working on the commercial “empowered students to bring their ideas to life” and allowed them to take ownership of a project from start to finish, Sinha Roy said. The commercial and other projects that will fall under the media agency umbrella also help foster and strengthen ties between the college and community — and that’s a good thing for all involved, Sinha Roy said.

When students work for and within the community and learn the stories of its people, “suddenly your neighborhood starts to become friendlier and more well-known in your mind,” she said.

The Acutec video is not the only project of the nascent media agency, though it might be the most visible. A group of communication arts students working under the direction of Professor of Communication Arts/Theatre Michael Keeley have also filmed videos for the Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center. And students working with Wilson and Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova developed a website and pitched a logo for an online food hub that, when launched, will connect restaurants and food wholesalers with local farmers.

Wilson stressed that the agency is still in very early stages of development. But if it’s successful, she said, it could be a model for business incubation that leverages the resources of the college to help promote economic development.

Wilson said she doesn’t know of many other colleges or universities similar to Allegheny doing that important work.

“If we get this up and running soon, we’ll be pretty cutting edge.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Food Hub, Mobile Market Bring Fresh Food to Community

The burgeoning farm-to-table movement is getting some help from some tech-savvy students at Allegheny College.

Working under the direction of Assistant Professor of Computer Science Janyl Jumadinova, two students — junior Maria Kim and sophomore Jesse Del Greco — are developing an “online food hub,” a website aimed at connecting the community with the region’s farmers. It’s one of the many ways Allegheny faculty and staff are working to educate the public about the availability and benefits of fresh, locally grown food.

Once launched, the still-unnamed site will allow users to search for sellers of specific produce within a selected geographic range. Buyers — limited to restaurants and other bulk purchasers, initially — will be able to place orders online and arrange for pickup or delivery, Jumadinova said. If successful, the hub could expand and offer online buying to the general public.

Every visitor will be able to search for local gardens and pick-your-own farms and learn about events and activities related to local foods and farming.

“The whole goal is to increase access to and availability of fresh, local food,” Jumadinova said.

The site’s searchable database includes nearly 30 participating farms, gardens and farm-to-table restaurants in Crawford County or Edinboro — and that’s just the start.

“Eventually we want to expand to markets as far away as Cleveland, for instance. That’s a big city and that’s a good market for (local) farmers,” Jumadinova said.  

As Jumadinova’s computer science students put the finishing touches on the site, communication arts students Madeleine Zimmermann and Madeline Becker are working to design a logo and branding with the help of the Assistant Professor of Communication Arts Julie Wilson. The site could launch as early as spring 2017. When complete, it will be an online space benefiting both farmers and consumers, Del Greco said.

“Farmers will be able to list the produce they have grown, and businesses will instantly be able to connect with the farmers and purchase the produce as needed,” Del Greco said.

The hub builds on many other ongoing efforts Kerstin Martin, director of Allegheny’s Community Wellness Initiative, is leading to increase access to, and availability of, locally grown food.

In 2015, the CWI built a community garden at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex featuring 30 raised beds that residents can rent each season on a sliding scale. Students from Meadville Area Middle School use the garden as part of their curriculum, planting crops and cooking with produce they’ve grown.

“I really see this as being integral to getting people excited about local food, getting kids to think about the implications of local food both for their health and the health of the environment. They’re going to be the consumers of tomorrow,” Martin said of the education component.

This year, Martin took her mission on the road.

Every Wednesday between August and October, she and a few students loaded up her car with the produce picked earlier that day from Allegheny’s Carr Hall garden and headed to Holland Towers, a senior living community in downtown Meadville. Once there, she’d spread out the bounty — tomatoes, kale, peppers — on a table for residents to buy.

The mobile market project drew between 15 and 20 people each week.

“For people who say transportation is a barrier to getting fresh food, this is bringing the food to their neighborhood,” Martin said.

Martin said she plans to continue the mobile market in 2017. The long-term plan is to add more selling sites and to sell food from local farmers, not the Carrden, giving farmers another venue and residents more produce options.

Emma Yates, a 21-year-old senior environmental science major who is doing an independent study on the food hub, said the effort helps educate people and builds a bridge between the campus and the community.

“It’s a really cool way to bring sustainability efforts and local farming to community members,” Yates said.

Holland Towers resident Robin Milstead visited the mobile market each of the six weeks it stopped at the apartment complex, building a friendship with Martin as she shopped for hot peppers and garlic and cherry tomatoes. Milstead doesn’t have a car, so usually relies on friends to give her a ride to the grocery store. Sometimes she takes the bus.

The mobile market makes it easier to eat healthier, she said.

“The produce is really good quality. I like it better than what you can buy at the store,” Milstead said. “I can’t wait until they come back next year.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research