News & Events

National Organization Honors Professor E. Lee Coates With Career Achievement Award

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Dec. 7, 2015 – The Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience, an organization that is part of the Society for Neuroscience, has honored Allegheny College professor E. Lee Coates with its Career Achievement Award.

The presentation took place in Chicago during the group’s annual meeting in October. Two Allegheny alumnae, Amy Jo Stavnezer, the academic organization’s incoming president, and outgoing president Lisa Gabel presented Coates with the award.

One of the organization’s highest honors, the Career Achievement Award is given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to undergraduate neuroscience education and research. Coates, who has been at Allegheny since 1992, teaches in the biology department and in the neuroscience and global health studies programs.

“Lee is an accomplished teacher and scholar,” said Gabel. “His former students describe him as an exceptional mentor and friend. His impact on their careers is felt long after they have left the halls of the biology and neuroscience departments at Allegheny College.”

Coates is the project director of a $1.5 million undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to build a global health program at Allegheny College. The grant supports the establishment of an interdisciplinary major, creation of two tenure-track faculty positions, resources for faculty and curriculum development, collaborative research opportunities for students on and off campus, and opportunities for students to engage in health-related study experiences both abroad and in the United States.

He was also the director of a $400,000 W.M. Keck Foundation grant titled “Ways of knowing and habits of mind: Exploring the intersection between neuroscience and the humanities.” The grant funded the development of four interdisciplinary courses at Allegheny College: “Neuroscience and Dance Movement,” “Neuroscience of the Visual Arts,” “Mind and Brain” and “History of Neuroscience.”

Additionally, Coates has been awarded more than $98,000 by the National Institutes of Health and $82,000 by the National Science Foundation to fund his research on nasal CO2 receptors and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“I was surprised and honored to receive the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience Career Achievement Award and humbled to be in the company of past recipients,” said Coates. “While the award was given to me, in part, for my role in the development of the neuroscience program and interdisciplinary neuroscience and humanities courses, my Allegheny neuroscience colleagues should share this recognition with me as I couldn’t have developed these programs without them.”

“I am also honored to be recognized for my teaching and mentoring of neuroscience students, although the real reward is following the careers and achievements of our neuroscience graduates,” said Coates. “I enjoy keeping in contact with the graduates and seeing many of our neuroscience alumni at the yearly Society for Neuroscience meeting. Based on the success of our graduates it appears that we have developed a first-rate undergraduate neuroscience program that prepares students well for life after Allegheny.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Students and Faculty Present Poster at American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting

Garrett Devenney ’16, Erica Bryson ’15, and Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies and Biology Becky Dawson presented the lessons learned from their community-based participatory research project at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting November 3 in Chicago. Their poster highlighted the Community Health Needs Assessment Project, which is being conducted in collaboration with the Meadville Medical Center.

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

Public Health Advanced Summer Education (PHASE): Brianna Cusanno


This past summer I was lucky enough to participate in Public Health Advanced Summer Education (PHASE), one of two summer public health intern programs at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. As one of eighteen students selected for this nationally competitive program, I was able to work as a research assistant to medical school faculty member Dr. Mary Politi. Dr. Politi’s research focuses on ways to enhance shared and informed decision-making for patients within clinical encounters.

The main project I assisted with was an effort to design an online tool for Missourians enrolling in health insurance on the Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. A large portion of these individuals have never had health insurance before, and Dr. Politi’s research has shown that many are not familiar with basic health insurance terms. These terms can be incredibly confusing; I certainly didn’t understand the majority of them before I started on the project. People who do not understand the terminology can quickly become overwhelmed and may make choices that don’t align well with their needs and values. Lack of knowledge may even prevent some from enrolling altogether. The evidence-based tool Dr. Politi is working on will include educational modules, as well as questions where participants rank their preferences to determine what matters most to them in choosing insurance. The tool is just being finished up now, and will be tested in a large randomized control trial this fall.

I was able to perform a wide variety of tasks so that I could really get a feel for the different types of work involved in public health research. I designed handouts for study participants, researched survey instruments, contributed to the development and layout of survey questions for the trial, and participated in all meetings related to the main project. I also assisted with several other projects Dr. Politi has been working on. I learned to code qualitative data with a software called NVivo. I also performed background research for a new project Dr. Politi was just getting off the ground, and helped to write an IRB proposal. I even helped to write and edit a piece that appeared on the news website The Conversation, and a paper that the team is now submitting to journals, so I’m getting published as a co-author!
While all of this was amazing, the best part of my PHASE experience was without a doubt the people I was able to meet and get to know. The other PHASE fellows are students at different levels (undergrad, masters, and medical) from all around the world. We had citizens from Nigeria, Gambia, Ethiopia, Columbia, Syria, Lebanon, China, and more participating. As a global health student, it was incredible to be surrounded by talented people from all over the world who are committed to advancing public health and health equity. Additionally, as part of our program we had lectures and seminars lead by incredible researchers. I learned about topics I’ve never even heard of (like the human virome, look it up, its cool) from pioneers in their fields. I learned about the process of submitting manuscripts for publication from a researcher who has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and other renowned journals. And I learned about public health policy from a doctor who has spearheaded initiatives with the Gates Foundation and previously served as the minister of health of Columbia. Furthermore, the guidance Dr. Politi gave me about my career and goals was invaluable.
Additionally, all of the PHASE fellows were required to complete independent research projects. I chose to research how the incorporation of narrative stories into decision support tools for patients may affect decision-making. More specifically, I looked at how key stakeholders had responded to narratives about individuals buying health insurance (created by the research team) during an earlier qualitative study led by Dr. Politi. I’m hoping to present my research as a poster at a conference this Spring.
I am incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity, and I hope other Allegheny students will consider applying themselves. If anyone is interested in learning more about what I did over the summer, myself and other interns blogged about our experiences here.

International Institute of Erie: Hannah Blinn


This summer I interned at theInternational Institute of Erie where refugees from foreign countries are resettled into the Erie area. The institute is branch of the United States Committee for Refugees (USCRI) which is located in Washington D.C. The institute resettles refugees largely from Nepal, Bhutan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, Iraq, and Somalia. I had an array of duties as an intern ranging from office and resettlement work to teaching an employment class.

When I arrived at the institute, they were in desperate need for someone to teach a class on employment and job readiness. I was given the responsibility to teach this class every Thursday for two hours. My project was to design a curriculum so that future teachers would be able to easily run the class for themselves. My main goal was to develop something that any untrained volunteer could pick up and easily use while still effectively teaching valuable lessons to students with little to no English speaking, reading, or writing skills. The curriculum consists of eleven lesson plans, and one rotation of the course runs for six weeks before the material is repeated. Other work I did consisted of putting together back to school supply kits, organizing a room to house donations, and setting up a computer lab that will be used to further foster English literacy and speaking skills. My curriculum will be an essential addition to the Institute’s English programs and I believe it will be integral in each refugee’s integration into American society.

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Jackie Morrow’s Summer Internship in India


My project is titled Kenchanahalli: A journey of 25 years; the summer I interned was the 25th year of the hospital’s existence. The objective was to capture the journey and role taken by hospital in providing care within the social and economic realities of the community. I created an interactive timeline on Prezi and a newsletter/brochure detailing interviews with internal supports, external supporters and donators of the hospital. I primarily used first-hand research.

The history of the hospital was previously unwritten. In order to collect background information I did field research, interviews, looked over annual reports and archives. The experience of first-hand research forced me to grow academically and professionally as I struggled with language barriers and stepping far outside my comfort zone. Kenchanahalli offers many unique opportunities that vary your workday. During my time at Kenchanahalli, aside from working on my project, I was able to: shadow OPD (OBGYN, orthopedics and pediatrics), observe grand rounds at the larger VMH at Sargur (HIV case, Edema and TB), observe a C-section in the OR at VMH at Sargur, assist with health clinics at the SVYM Tribal School, and observe mobile clinics that serve seven tribal communities.

These unique opportunities, offered by the commitment from the staff for us to have the most enriching experience, diversified and enhanced my learning opportunities. The ability of the hospital and staff to enrich my learning experience pushed me to produce the best possible product. My final product is to be used on the website and for donors. In addition it will also be translated into the local language, Kanata.

New Global Health Studies Professor: Amelia Darrouzet-Nardi

headshotI am a food economist, and my research focuses on the linkages between agriculture and child nutrition in low-income settings, particularly farm families. I received my PhD from the Tufts Nutrition School in May 2015. I did my dissertation research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the support of a U.S. Borlaug Fellowship in Global Food Security.

The DRC is one of the most undernourished countries in the world, yet has ample resources (beautiful soil, plentiful rainfall, lots of land) for food production. This is quite the paradox, because one would expect crop productive potential to be associated with good nutrition. In one of my dissertation papers, I used a natural experiment strategy to assess the protective health effects of a household’s access to services.

My dissertation also included a study on endemic civil conflict and child nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, and a study of the effects of nearby urbanization on the nutrition of farm families. I look forward to continuing my research program using large-scale spatial data – including climate and land-cover data – from around the world, and also collecting data locally in the Meadville area to investigate the links between the food system and health here in the U.S.A.



Global Health Researchers Present Their Work at U.S. Public Health Service Scientific and Training Symposium

Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies Becky Dawson, along with Elizabeth Schafer ’17 and Erica Salizzoni ’16, recently presented research at the United States Public Health Service Scientific and Training Symposium in Atlanta. Their project was titled “Identifying and Addressing Differences in Perceptions and Epidemiological Data in Meadville, PA.” The highlight of the conference was meeting U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek Murthy and talking with him about the health needs in Meadville. This presentation is part of the Meadville Community Health Needs Assessment project and was supported, in part, by a grant to Allegheny College from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute through the Precollege and Undergraduate Science Education Program as well as by funding from a grant awarded to support Allegheny College’s Community Wellness Initiative.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

US Public Health Service’s Annual Scientific and Training Symposium

Professor Becky Dawson traveled with Erica Salizzoni (’16) and Elizabeth Schafer (’17) to Atlanta, GA in late May to attend the US Public Health Service’s Annual Scientific and Training Symposium. At the conference they presented their project “Identifying and Addressing Perceptions and Epidemiological Data in Meadville, PA”. This was the culmination of research completed during the first year of the CHNA (Community Health Needs Assessment) project.  Under the Affordable Care Act, a community health needs assessment (CHNA) must be completed every three years by non-profit hospitals such as Meadville Medical Center (MMC) and Titusville Area Hospital (TAH).

The main purpose of the CHNA is to identify factors influencing the health status of community members, locate resources within a region and then use reliable information from the assessment in order to implement a practical and cost-effective solution. The final results of their research showed that community health needs in Meadville include chronic diseases, mental health, sexually transmitted infections, and vaccine-preventable diseases. Public health interventions, health education programs and further research are needed to address these needs.

The highlight of their presentation was that it caught the eye of US Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy. The students and Professor Dawson had the honor of not only meeting Dr. Murthy, but also talking with him about the health needs and disparities in Meadville.

Left to right: Erica Salizzoni (’16), US Surgeon General Dr.Vivek Murthy, Elizabeth Schafer (’17), and Professor Becky Dawson