News & Updates

On the COVID-19 Front Lines With 3 Allegheny Alumni

As a front-line physician working in a hospital’s emergency room in Tennessee, Colleen Tran is focused on preserving the health and welfare of her patients, some of them very sick and facing a fight for their lives. The same is true for Lauren Moore, an emergency medicine resident in a Columbus, Ohio, hospital.

Jessica Schindelar is concerned with protecting and ensuring the safety of health-care workers like Moore and Tran. Schindelar is a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 Health Systems and Worker Safety Task Force.

All three health-care professionals are Allegheny College graduates. Their missions are similar during the current global health pandemic — to defeat the scourge of the novel coronavirus.

“I can truly say that I, probably like most of us, never expected to be in the throws of a pandemic let alone have my hands on the people infected with it every day,” said Moore. “It has absolutely brought a new admiration and appreciation for my colleagues and to all of the nurses, sanitation workers, respiratory therapists, medical techs, grocery store employees, and veterinarians, who, despite the risk, still willingly expose themselves to a deadly virus every day.”

These three dedicated health-care professionals took time from their hectic schedules recently to discuss their roles during the COVID-19 crisis.

Colleen Zink Tran ’07, Emergency Room Physician

Tran is an emergency room physician at TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville. She also serves as the assistant medical director for the emergency department. Every day since early March, her main duties have been the same.

“We are monitoring the positive cases and deaths daily,” Tran said. “We are testing symptomatic and asymptomatic patients in an effort to identify positive cases and quarantine to prevent spread. In preparation for a possible surge of patients, our hospital had set up tents outside where we would be able to rapidly evaluate patients that have symptoms concerning for COVID-19.”

Dr. Colleen Tran works in an emergency room in suburban Nashville, Tennessee.
Allegheny graduate Dr. Colleen Tran works in an emergency room in suburban Nashville, Tennessee.

The past two months have been a new learning experience for Tran, who graduated from Allegheny with a major in biochemistry and a minor in Spanish in 2007. “Life at work is very different from our usual. Normally, I would arrive at work in personal scrubs, log onto the computer, and start seeing patients. With this virus being so contagious, I now have many more steps to complete before starting my shift,” said Tran.

First, she gets her temperature checked upon entering the facility. If someone has a fever, they are sent home immediately and put on quarantine, she said. Tran then changes into hospital scrubs that are left at the hospital after her previous shift so it reduces the chance that she will bring the virus home on her clothing.

She picks up her masks — which include a simple mask for droplet protection and an N95 mask that is used during procedures such as intubation (putting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat) — and a face shield for the day. She scrubs her hands and arms up to her elbows with soap and water for 20 seconds to ensure that is not bringing in any of the virus. Lastly, she uses an antiviral/antibacterial wipe to clean off her computer, desk, chair, and anything else she may touch during her shift. Finally, she can log onto her computer and start seeing patients. At the end of her shift, the process is reversed, she said.

“In regards to the pathology I am seeing, there is definitely an increase in acuity or how sick patients are,” Tran said. “We are seeing many severely ill patients with difficulty breathing or with significantly low oxygen levels. These patients seem to get worse very fast and often end up on a ventilator. We have to take many precautions to not catch the virus while seeing these patients and especially while doing procedures on them, as this is when the virus can become airborne. For every patient who has symptoms of COVID-19, we have to wear a mask, goggles, a face shield, hair cover, gown, and gloves. This is very time consuming, so every patient I am seeing takes much more time than usual.”

Colleen Tran with her family staying at home.
Colleen Tran with her family staying at home.

Tran said her Allegheny education plays an integral role in her duties as an emergency room physician. “My time at Allegheny taught me critical thinking, time management, and how to be a leader. As an emergency physician, I have to be able to react quickly and often have to make hard decisions with minimal information. In the most stressful cases I have to be a leader for the staff and communicate my thought process,” she said.

Tran is married to a physician and has two children at home. Lately, when she gets home, she has been self isolating. “I try very hard not to touch my face and wash my hands often, even when at home,” Tran said. “I am taking daily zinc and vitamin C supplements as well. I am also focusing on my mental health and happiness in order to decrease stress. I try to separate my work life from my home life in order to avoid burnout, which is a common problem for emergency physicians.”

According to Tran, who earned her medical degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the toughest aspect of the COVID-19 outbreak has been to manage the anxiety, fear, and misunderstanding of the disease.

“It is frustrating to hear others minimize the virus, when I am risking my life by potentially exposing myself,” she said. “As the assistant medical director, it was initially very hard to calm my staff and the other physicians. Everyone was panicked that we may run out of masks or gowns. When this all started, there was a very steep learning curve as to how to protect yourself and we were getting conflicting advice daily. That was incredibly frustrating because we still wanted and needed to take care of our patients, but we wanted to protect ourselves as well.”


Jessica Schindelar ’02, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 Health Systems and Worker Safety Task Force Communication Lead

Schindelar, the associate director for communication in the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, is currently serving as the communication lead for the Health Systems and Worker Safety Task Force within the CDC’s COVID-19 response. She has been in this role since late March 2020 but has been working on the response since the end of January. She leads a team of 15 communicators from across the agency to translate the work of the task force through various communications channels to disseminate accurate, consistent, and clear COVID-19 information to key audiences and stakeholders, such as the nation’s health care workers.

“Allegheny also armed me with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills I need to be successful in this kind of role – skills I am using every day when decisions have to be made in a split-second, sometimes with very limited information,
“Allegheny also armed me with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills I need to be successful in this kind of role – skills I am using every day when decisions have to be made in a split-second, sometimes with very limited information,” says Jessica Schindelar, an Allegheny graduate who works at the CDC in Atlanta.

Some of the important work of the task force is developing evidence-based guidance, recommendations, resources, and tools to protect healthcare workers and minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on the U.S. healthcare system. Some of the key issues she is working on are healthcare worker safety and infection control practices in healthcare settings, personal protective equipment, healthcare facility preparedness, and system-wide impacts.

“Our task force also provides technical assistance — both by deploying teams of experts to provide on-site assistance and providing remote assistance to healthcare facilities throughout the country, including nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which we are finding to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks,” said Schindelar, who is a 2002 Allegheny graduate who majored in neuroscience and minored in art history.

Schindelar’s team is developing communication strategies and crafting important messages, creating fact sheets and toolkits, fielding interview requests from media, scripting and editing videos, and managing 60-plus web pages with critical and continually changing information for healthcare providers and facilities. The group is also writing social media, responding to questions from the public and professional audiences, hosting webinars and regular calls with clinical audiences and healthcare sector partners, and ensuring that the guidance and resources being developed by the task force are getting into the hands of the people that need them.

“I always felt like my neuroscience and art history combination was a bit of an odd one, but working as a public health communicator on healthcare safety issues has been a really lovely marriage of my interests in science and the arts,” said Schindelar. “I am forever grateful for my Allegheny education because it made me a better writer — this work requires that I’m clear and direct in my communications. I’m able to translate the scientific, technical information and guidance that is being developed by our task force into actionable messages and communication products that are easy to understand and use.

“Allegheny also armed me with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills I need to be successful in this kind of role — skills I am using every day when decisions have to be made in a split-second, sometimes with very limited information. Outside of my education, my Allegheny experience as a whole made me a stronger, more confident leader,” she said.

Schindelar said she has been following her own CDC guidance to protect herself: Staying home as much as possible, frequent handwashing, practicing social distancing, and wearing a face covering to protect others when she goes out to run essential errands — which is mostly just grocery store runs, she said. Generally, she tries to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and take walks in her neighborhood to get in exercise to counterbalance the hours she works.

“There are two things I am finding particularly tough during this crisis,” said Schindelar. “First, is hearing from friends, former classmates, and other healthcare workers who are on the front lines about the challenges they are experiencing. It’s difficult to hear the realities about what is happening on the ground, and I am so grateful for everything they are doing. I am trying to do my part to help them — as are the more than 4,000 CDC staff working around the clock on this response to protect the public’s health. Seeing the dedication and commitment of the 300-plus people within my own task force who I’m working with every day to protect healthcare workers and facilities makes me really proud to be part of this historic response, even on the hardest days.”

The second challenge is that the CDC staff is mostly running this response from their homes, she said. “There is a skeleton crew at CDC right now. Before we moved to remote work in March, our emergency response operations happened out of two buildings on CDC’s campus — we were all working out of our task force ‘war’ rooms. That is all happening virtually now, and while I feel very fortunate that I can do this work from the safety of my own home, many of my colleagues are now juggling this response with childcare and school as well. It’s an added layer of difficulty we’ve never encountered in any response I’ve been involved with in my 12 years at the agency. But in the end, it’s rewarding work despite the long hours and I go to bed every night really proud of the work we have done and are doing.”


Lauren Moore ’14, Emergency Medicine Resident

Moore is a postgraduate year two emergency medicine resident at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She is nearing the end of her second of three years of post-medical school training. “We see everyone — the deathly sick, the not so sick, and all those in between, regardless of whether or not they have signs or symptoms of COVID-19,” Moore said.

“Sometimes, when I’m driving home after a 12-hour shift, the weight of the situation hits me and I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and forge ahead,” says Lauren Moore, who works in an emergency room in Columbus.
“Sometimes, when I’m driving home after a 12-hour shift, the weight of the situation hits me and I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and forge ahead,” says Lauren Moore, who works in an emergency room in Columbus.

Successfully managing the crisis is all about delegating resources, she said. “This means that we have to determine what patients need further management and monitoring in the hospital versus who can safely go home. Aside from life-saving care, we provide public information, resources, and a hand to hold during this uncertain time. I’m honored and privileged to be able to do this as my job,” Moore said.

“From a hospital standpoint, policies change based on new data at a rate of what seems like two to four times a day. We have to keep up with ever-changing COVID-19 testing kits, sanitation practices, who to test and how to keep safe,” said Moore, who is a 2014 Allegheny graduate and a 2018 graduate of the Penn State College of Medicine.

Additionally, she said, the Wexner Medical Center emergency room is seeing a “backlash from the pandemic.” Because so many people are cooped up at home, there has been an increase in the number of child abuse victims, domestic violence assaults and suicides, Moore said.

Also, hearing about colleagues and fellow first-line providers getting sick is disconcerting, Moore said. “Sometimes, when I’m driving home after a 12-hour shift, the weight of the situation hits me and I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and forge ahead,” Moore said. “It’s overwhelming. It’s like walking a tight rope on the sharp edge of a knife. On one side, we want to do right for and be there with our patients despite limited personal protection equipment and increased risk to ourselves. But on the other, we want to protect our families and friends. Either way we fall, in a lot of ways, we get cut.”

Lauren Moore has sent her dog away during the coronavirus outbreak.
Lauren Moore has sent her dog away during the coronavirus outbreak to help protect the dog walkers she relies on.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience at Allegheny while taking all the necessary pre-med classes was tough, Moore said, but worth it. “Long hours of studying in Steffee to get into medical school prepared me for the academic workload of staying up to date with the ever-changing guidelines and research regarding best COVID-19 treatment practices. I was also very involved in student government, my sorority Kappa Kappa Gamma, and working at the childcare center, in Alumni Affairs at the Tippie Center, at the Office of Student Involvement, and as a health coach. Having so many commitments in addition to my studies prepared me for extreme multitasking, which is imperative to success in a busy emergency room and intensive care unit.”

While personal protective equipment has been limited during the pandemic, hospital management has done everything it can to make sure physicians and other workers are as protected as possible, Moore said.

“I don’t have a safe place to store my gear at the hospital, so I leave it in my car and have been avoiding using my car unless it is to get to work,” she said. “More importantly, I’m protecting my family and friends by staying away from them. I even sent my dog away for several months to protect the dog walkers who I rely on to help me with her. It may sound silly, but that to me has probably been one of the hardest things to deal with during all of this — not coming home to her company after a long day.”

Lauren Moore wears her personal protective equipment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Lauren Moore wears her personal protective equipment at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

In an attempt to prevent viral spread and exposure to those whose bodies are already weak, visitation from the public is limited at Wexner Medical Center, as it is at all medical facilities now.

“Because of this, so many people are going through some of the most difficult times of their lives completely alone, and it’s tough to watch that,” Moore said. “Patients are brought in by EMS completely alone, and we put breathing tubes and IVs and catheters in them and they are so sick that they can’t even talk to their families on the phone to tell them what’s going on. When I provide phone updates to families, I find that it is equally as hard for them who want nothing more than to see and be there for their loved ones. All I can do is be there for the patients by holding their hands and reminding them that their families love them.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Thinking Differently Empowers Allegheny Student To Discover Strengths, Help Others

Since the first grade, Aliza Legg was told to expect to fail. From the moment she was diagnosed with dyslexia, she was told that her goal in life should not be college or a career, but to hope to be able to shop on her own one day.

When she reached middle school and her classmates started learning foreign languages, Legg was told she wasn’t allowed to — because learning a different language would make her English worse. After her mother disputed the matter for three years with the school, Legg was finally allowed to take a Spanish class.

“And they told [my mother] that this would be her fault when I failed, it’s going to be on you, it’s going to make the rest of my classes worse, and bring my GPA down. All of these things,” says Legg. “But my mom said, ‘Let’s just try.’”

Spanish turned out to be her strength — Legg has earned an A in every Spanish class she’s taken.

“The interesting thing was that the work I had to put into Spanish was way less than any of my other classes,” says Legg. “I kept wondering, ‘why was it taking so much less work and effort, why was it coming so easily to me?’ It was almost like it was giving my brain a break to switch from something else.”

When Legg started her first year at Allegheny, she expected to graduate as a chemistry major. All that changed when she took a neuroscience class on a whim and found her curiosities ignited. Neuroscience fit everything she was looking for: studying up-close how people process and react to incoming information.

Now a neuroscience major, Legg is diving back into her past through her senior comprehensive project by researching protocols in place for students with dyslexia learning a foreign language.

“I started to look into the research, and it supports that there’s no deficit with a student or person with dyslexia learning a foreign language,” says Legg. “So I thought where’s the disconnect here? I went to Dr. Aimee Knupsky in the Psychology Department, who specializes in human cognitive processes, and she was so excited that I was so passionate and so excited about doing something that’s so personal to me. She was 100 percent so supportive and is the reason why it was able to happen here.”

Legg’s comp isn’t the only way she’s working to make things better for others with dyslexia. Every summer she works with the Provident Charter School of Pittsburgh and meets with new teachers at orientation to talk about what learning is like as a person with dyslexia, and Legg suggests ways they can support students like her. These efforts and Legg’s scholarly persistence led the Provident Charter School to present her with the Champion Award in October 2019. The award is given to individuals with dyslexia who have been very successful.

“This was the biggest surprise,” says Legg. “I just hope this shows all of those little kids out there that are sitting in tutoring after school, when they’re exhausted and have to do all this extra work and aren’t understanding why they can’t do it like their brother or sister or best friend, that it’s OK.”

Legg is just the third recipient of the Champion Award. Past recipients of the award include Taylor Washington of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Kevin McClatchy, former owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“Aliza has not let her dyslexia stop her from doing the work she’s always wanted to do,” says Knupsky. “Now, she is working to make foreign language learning equitable and attainable for all students. Her work is not only an individual journey; it is a journey she has undertaken to help others. That’s inspiring.”

After graduating this spring from Allegheny, Legg plans to pursue a career in clinical psychology. She feels her unique perspective will enable her to support those who see things differently and process information in unconventional ways.

“In so many areas of my life that I’ve now learned, thinking differently is what sets me apart and what makes me so advanced,” says Legg. “I was always labeled as a disability, and I think showing people that it’s not a bad thing and they’re special and they have things that other people don’t, focusing on strengths and working on weaknesses, is something I could really help with. Dyslexia is not a life sentence; it’s actually a gift.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Neuroscience Alumnae Add New Branches to the Allegheny “Mentoring Tree”

Amy Overman, Ph.D.
Amy Overman, Ph.D.

Allegheny alumnae Amy Overman and Katherine Mickley Steinmetz share several bonds when it comes to mentoring undergraduate students.

Overman graduated from Allegheny in 1999 and Steinmetz in 2006. Each shared a mentor while studying neuroscience at Allegheny, each conducted electroencephalogram (EEG) studies for her senior comprehensive project, and each was awarded the Neuroscience Faculty Prize that is presented annually to a student or students who write the best senior project in neuroscience.

Steinmetz is now an associate professor of psychology at Wofford College in South Carolina, and Overman is a professor of psychology and assistant dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Elon University in North Carolina.

However, the two didn’t know each other until recently. That’s despite everything in common they shared at Allegheny, plus several professional overlaps including both working as neuroscientists and professors teaching the same subject and mentoring undergraduate students for colleges in the South.

Katherine Mickley Steinmetz, Ph.D.
Katherine Mickley Steinmetz, Ph.D.

Their friendship finally was established last fall when Overman happened to conduct an external review of Steinmetz’s department at Wofford.

“In the course of reviewing her material, I saw Allegheny and said ‘Wow! What are the chances of that?’” Overman said.

Their professional similarities continued, unbeknownst to either, with each separately submitting articles to a special issue on mentoring undergraduates that was published February in the scientific journal Frontiers in Psychology. Articles in the journal focused on the research topic “Engaging Undergraduates in Publishable Research: Best Practices.”

The article Steinmetz published, titled “Providing Outstanding Undergraduate Research Experiences and Sustainable Faculty Development in Load,” discusses how conducting research in one’s field and allowing undergraduates to engage in this research can deeply enrich the experience of both professors and students.

Overman’s article, titled “Strategies for Group-Level Mentoring of Undergraduates: Creating a Laboratory Environment That Supports Publications and Funding,” describes several strategies for mentoring groups/cohorts of undergraduate researchers to increase student sense of belonging and motivation while simultaneously enhancing research productivity.

Both Overman and Steinmetz credit the mentoring they received while undergraduate students at Allegheny and how it was a vital component to shape their studies and career paths. Each considers the opportunity to now mentor undergraduate students conducting research at their respective schools to be an important part of their professional career.

“My experiences at Allegheny were so influential for me and I thought, ‘I want to be the person who passes along the knowledge and does the mentoring,” Overman said.

Added Steinmetz: “I had professors that worked with me very deeply to explore the subject I was interested in. That really inspired me to do research for my career. I knew I liked teaching and working with people.”

Overman has taught at Elon University for the past 12 years, and she is pleased with the outcomes some of the students she has mentored have achieved.

“Four of my students have finished their Ph.D., five have entered their Ph.D., and there are three people who are in med school,” she said. “I have seen these awesome outcomes for students I have mentored. I didn’t know mentoring existed before I went to Allegheny.”

She believes there is a scholarly heritage that Allegheny professors create by mentoring undergraduates who then go on to mentor other undergraduates. Many of her students are now doing just that and creating new branches of the Allegheny “mentoring tree.”

Steinmetz, who has been with Wofford for seven years, understands how rare it is to do research with undergraduates that is of such high quality that it can be published.

“For students who want research to be their career, it’s a huge leg up to get into graduate school especially to have that research in your career,” Steinmetz said. “And when we’re able to present it or publish it, it really helps get them into graduate school. For those who don’t, I think it helps them get critical-thinking skills and problem-solving skills and reasoning skills that you don’t always see in the classroom.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Recent Allegheny Graduate Receives Boren Scholarship to Study in China

Kaylah Pinkney ‘19 received a prestigious Boren Scholarship, and will move to Nanjing, China starting in September of this year, studying the Mandarin language and the practices of traditional Chinese medicine at Nanjing University.

Pinkney graduated with the Class of 2019, receiving a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience with a Chinese Language minor. She says the Boren scholarship perfectly aligns with her post-graduation plan, allowing her to study in China for a year and afterward fulfilling the required year of federal service, before taking on medical school — and federal service was already something Pinkney hoped to do. As it encompasses many different departments of government, federal service sets her on a path with endless opportunities to continue an international career while also focusing on U.S. national security.

“Learning Mandarin has had an enormous impact on my growth as a student and person for the past 10 years,” Pinkney said. “Boren was the perfect opportunity to improve my language study while also pursuing my interests in the medical field.”

The Boren Scholarships and Fellowships were created by David L. Boren, and are sponsored by the National Security Education Program (NSEP). The scholarship is meant to encourage students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad programs. Administered by the Institute of International Education on behalf of NSEP, only 244 scholarships were awarded across the nation.

Professor Patrick Jackson, who initially encouraged Pinkney to apply, saw the scholarship as an invaluable opportunity.

“Kaylah has a pretty unique opportunity here to study traditional Chinese medicine at its source with the people who best understand it,” Jackson said. “As our ideas of what constitutes the most effective medical practices expands and evolves, she’s going to find herself at the center of some very interesting conversations. This is what the liberal arts are all about: making connections and seeing what happens when you do it.”

Pinkney has been fortunate enough to travel previously with her family to Europe and Asia — and has already studied in China during the summer of 2017, on the Critical Languages Scholarship. She lived in Suzhou, China with a host family and went to Soochow University for two months.

“Language is a facet of Chinese culture — the main aspect that draws me to China. It is a vast, multifaceted culture that the people take much pride in. I love that each province and city has its own story, its own cuisine, its own dialect. Each is a microcosm within China with their own unique cultural and traditional values. I really enjoy interacting with the natives from different provinces, learning about their life story and view of the world.”

Living in China for an extended period of time will allow Pinkney to fully immerse herself in the language and culture, and get a deeper understanding for the differences between Chinese medical practices and Western medical practices.

“I really look forward to meeting international students from around the world in my program with similar interests as I do,” Pinkney said. “I love the food in China so I am definitely excited to enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine again. Each time I travel to China, I never want to leave because there is always more to learn, see, and eat. Also, I plan to travel around Asia while I am there for the year.”

While at Allegheny, Pinkney was on the Varsity Women’s Basketball team all four years, was a member of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, tutored in calculus and in the community for middle school and high school students, and was a chemistry Teaching Assistant for organic chemistry and biochemistry.

After Pinkney completes a year at Nanjing University, she will apply to medical schools for Fall 2021, and to the Air Force Health Profession Scholarship Program (HPSP). Once she finishes medical school, she plans to complete her service requirement through the HPSP and serve as a physician in the Air Force.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Senior Values Lifelong Skills and Friendships She Developed at College

Meghan Uht arrived at Allegheny College four years ago with her sights set on developing solid friendships and honing her athletic abilities and academic skills so that they would serve her well for the rest of her life. She believes she has met those objectives and then some.

Uht, a graduating senior from Erie, Pennsylvania, will be moving to Pittsburgh soon after the May 11 Commencement and will begin work at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

“I’ll be part of the Finance Management Rotational Program, which is a three-year leadership-development program, and each year I will rotate to another area of finance or accounting,” Uht proudly says.

Uht will graduate as an economics and neuroscience double major. “Neuroscience and economics may seem like an extreme unusual combination, but they’re more connected than you would think,” she says. “I’m lucky I found a job that involves finance, so I can use my science knowledge to help fill the gap between health care and business at UPMC.”

Uht is a member of Alpha Chi Omega, serving on the executive board for two years. She is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society, and Chi Alpha Sigma, the student-athlete honor society. She played volleyball for four years and served as the captain in her senior year.

The volleyball team went through several coaching changes during Uht’s playing career, including the passing of longtime coach Bridget Sheehan in 2017. “I learned how to be a leader while supporting my teammates through some challenging times,” she said.

Community service also has played a role in Uht’s development. “Being able to work with the incredible people at Women’s Services in Meadville has been so rewarding,” she says. “Getting to do hands-on work at the shelter such as gardening, wrapping presents and organizing fund-raising events on campus has been awesome.”

The highlight of her Allegheny experience, Uht says, is the friends she has made. “I’ve made lifelong friends through my sorority, the athletic community, and in my classes. Along with friendships I’ve made, the professional relationships I’ve made with professors and alumni have been incredible.”

Although her home is not far from Allegheny, she said she was sold on the College immediately. “Allegheny was the only campus I could picture myself at,” Uht says. “I wanted to be involved in as much as I could in college, and Allegheny is where I knew I could do that.

“I would tell first-year students to take advantage of all of the opportunities that Allegheny gives you,” says Uht. “Also, take classes out of your comfort zone. You’ll leave Allegheny a well-rounded person because of it.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Welcomes New Faculty

From a former resident of nearby Townville to a fantasy football player to a dedicated amateur chef, Allegheny’s new faculty members bring many unique backgrounds and qualities to the teaching table in the fall of 2018. Let’s meet each of them briefly:

Catherine Allgeier
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics

Catherine AllgeierAs a visiting assistant professor of economics, Catherine Allgeier comes to Allegheny with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

After graduation, she taught at a business college and then worked in the corporate world as a chief financial officer and a human resources director. “I realized that I missed the interaction with students and started teaching part-time in addition to my CFO role. I now have been teaching full-time for eight years (most recently at her alma mater) and use my corporate background to provide real-world accounting examples and experiences to my students,” says Allgeier.

“I am interested in information systems and communication, as they relate to costs and effectiveness in health-care diagnoses, such as using Watson as a diagnostic tool and the implications in not only a more timely diagnosis but also more cost effective,” she says.

She also has a green thumb. “My ‘other’ career would be in landscape and interior design,” says Allgeier. “I quit counting at 40 houseplants.”


Timothy Bianco
Assistant Professor of Economics

Tim BiancoTimothy Bianco joins Allegheny as assistant professor of economics, having taught previously at Bowling Green State University, where he also earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He also obtained a master’s degree and his doctorate from the University of Kentucky. He also has worked as an analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland for five years.

“I enjoy teaching economics and researching cutting-edge financial and monetary economics, focusing on corporate credit,” says Bianco.

Bianco and his wife, Victoria, grew up in northeast Ohio “so moving to northwest Pennsylvania has been a smooth transition. I am a Cleveland sports fanatic and I enjoy traveling to Cleveland to catch a game from time to time.

“An unusual combination is that I have been known to apply cutting-edge econometric techniques to playing fantasy football,” he says.


Paula Burleigh
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History

Paula BurleighPaula Burleigh joins the Allegheny community as visiting assistant professor of art history and director of the Penelec, Bowman, Meghan Art Gallery. She earned her Ph.D. in art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She earlier earned a master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University and a bachelor’s degree at Emory University.

“I’ve taught undergraduate courses at City University of New York Baruch College, Bard High School Early College, and at Bard College, and I’ve taught adult education courses at the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where I was a teaching fellow for several years before coming to Allegheny,” says Burleigh.

Burleigh specializes in art history and visual culture of Europe and the United States, from 1945 to the present. Her research interests include visionary architecture, feminism and gender as they relate to art, and utopian/dystopian themes in art and popular visual culture.

“I love to cook, and I didn’t let a decade of tiny New York City kitchen life stop me from elaborate culinary experiments — some failed, many succeeded, all were eaten at least an hour later than I intended,” she says.


Kimberly Caldwell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology

Kimberly CaldwellKimberly Caldwell joins the college as a visiting assistant professor of psychology. She earned her Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience at the University at Buffalo, “so my background is a blend of psychology and neuroscience.”

She has taught introductory psychology and biopsychology, “and I am excited to be teaching a new course this semester that I developed called ‘Ingestive Behavior,’ which will explore the neuroscience behind eating and drinking. My research interests are broadly focused on how the brain controls eating and drinking, thus the inspiration for my new class. I am particularly interested in a peptide system called ghrelin that is capable of influencing both behaviors.

“Along with behavioral neuroscience, I have always enjoyed the arts and took several art classes through high school and even a couple here at Allegheny as a member of the Gifted Program — I don’t know if they still call it that, it’s been a while since I was in high school — at Maplewood,” she says.

“This brings me to my fun fact, I grew up locally in nearby Townville and took classes at Allegheny in art and dance while in high school.”


Michael Michaelides
Assistant Professor of Economics

Michael MichaelidesMichael Michaelides joins the Economics Department as an assistant professor. He has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from the University of Essex, a master’s degree in accounting and finance from the London School of Economics, a master’s degree in economics from Virginia Tech, and a doctorate in economics from Virginia Tech.

Prior to attending Allegheny, Michaelides spent one year as a visiting assistant professor at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. His research interests include: Financial econometrics, empirical asset pricing, time series econometrics, applied econometrics, behavioral finance, volatility modeling, and financial risk forecasting.

“My research has focused on exploring the behavioral biases of investing through the quantitative application of statistical and mathematical models. Yet, my research has been so strongly influenced by the philosophy of science literature,” says Michaelides.

When not in the classroom or on a research mission, Michaelides is a Liverpool Football Club supporter.


Matthew Mitchell
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies

Matthew MitchellRight out of college, Matthew Mitchell traveled to Japan and taught English as a foreign language for six years. He had earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, with a minor in chemistry, from Illinois Wesleyan University. As an undergraduate, he also found time to sing in the university choir and teach rock climbing.

Mitchell later completed an M.A. in Asian religions from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Ph.D. from Duke University’s Graduate Program in Religion. “I spent a lot more time in my office writing than on the beach,” he said of his two years in Hawaii.

Mitchell’s teaching experience includes posts at the University of Hawaii, Duke University, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and Creighton University. And he worked at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, helping to bring Chinese students and scholars to the institution for short-term and degree programs.

Mitchell’s research interests include Asian religions — especially Japanese Buddhism, social history, and women and gender in religion. This year in the Religious Studies Department, he will be teaching a number of courses across traditions from Asian religions to Islam. He is currently studying the social, financial and legal activities of a group of Buddhist nuns in Japan’s 17th–20th centuries. “One of the biggest surprises people have is the diversity of the nuns’ activities,” he says. “Most people tend to think of nuns as cloistered, not active, and certainly not involved in gambling or lawsuits.”

Along with Japan’s importance to Mitchell’s research, the nation holds other special meaning for him: it’s where he met his wife and it’s the birthplace of his oldest daughter.


Pamela Runestad
Assistant Professor of Global Health Studies

Pamela RunestadPamela Runestad likes to know how things work.

“I found I could fold all of my interests — infectious disease, nutrition, culture, Japan, writing and narrative, and film — together through becoming a medical anthropologist,” she says. “These combinations will be at the heart of my courses in global health studies here at Allegheny.”

Runestad holds a B.A. in biology and English — with a minor in psychology — from Augustana College (now University) in South Dakota and an M.A. in Japanese language and society from the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. She also earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in medical anthropology with a focus on Japan at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu.

Her doctoral research focused on socio-cultural responses to HIV/AIDS in Japan and how those have an impact on health. Her current research project explores institutional food for pregnant and postpartum mothers in Japan.

Runestad’s life and work experiences outside of the continental U.S. give her unique perspective. “I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and I lived in Nagano, Japan, for 10 years,” she says. “So at this point, I’ve only lived about one-quarter of my life in the ‘lower 48’ — Alaska-speak — or the ‘mainland’ — Hawaii-speak. That time was spent in South Dakota, Nebraska and North Carolina.”


Yee Mon Thu
Assistant Professor of Biology

Yee Mon ThuYee Mon Thu describes herself as “a scientist who likes to learn how the natural world works — and an amateur artist who likes to use imagination.”

Before arriving at Allegheny, Thu taught biology at her undergraduate alma mater, Grinnell College. She earned a B.A. in biology with a concentration in global development studies there before completing a Ph.D. in cancer biology at Vanderbilt University.

“I am interested in how cells maintain genome stability in the face of intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can cause DNA damage,” Thu says of her research. “I am also fascinated by the involvement of these pathways in cancer.”

When away from the classroom and laboratory, Thu enjoys visiting national parks.


Birgit Weyhe
Max Kade Writer in Residence

Birgit WehyeAs a graphic novelist, Birgit Weyhe uses both her writing and drawing to explore historical and political incidents. She’s primarily interested in migration and the definition of home and identity. In addition to authoring several books, Weyhe has a monthly page in a Berlin newspaper where she draws the “lifeline” of a person who has changed places of residence often.

Weyhe was raised in Uganda and Kenya and came back to Germany at the age of 19. “I consider all three countries as my home,” she says. After returning to Germany, she earned a master’s degree in German literature and history from the University of Hamburg and a Diplom in illustration from the University of Applied Sciences, also in Hamburg.

Since 2012, Weyhe has taught at the Universities of Hamburg, Kiel and Düsseldorf in Germany and at the National Art School in Maputo, Mozambique. She also has led workshops at the German Cultural Center (Goethe Institut) in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Finland, France and Canada.

Wehye said that she is a passionate reader. On a three-month trip to Patagonia last year, she and her husband read 15 novels to each other. “We praised the invention of eBooks,” she says. “Otherwise our backpacks would have been very heavy.”


Tarah Williams
Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science

tarah williamsTarah Williams uses survey and experimental methods to understand how social identities —partisan identities, racial identities and many more — shape individual political behavior, for better or worse. Her current research explores whether and when individuals will confront prejudice and discrimination in their daily lives.

“As a shy person, I often struggled to speak up as a student,” she says. “My job now requires me to help students find ways to participate in class, and because I needed to work to find my voice, I have become committed to helping others find theirs. Similarly, my research is concerned with how we can encourage people to speak up to confront prejudice.”

Williams earned her B.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois. Before pursuing graduate school, she worked in state government as a researcher for the Illinois Legislature. She has taught courses in politics and policy at Washington University in St. Louis, Miami University in Ohio and the University of Illinois.

Along with her teaching and research, Williams enjoys walking, cooking, musical theatre and — since arriving at Allegheny — exploring Meadville.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Graduate Awarded Prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Colleen Silky
Colleen Silky

Allegheny College alumna Colleen Silky is one of only 90 students from across the world to be awarded a highly competitive 2018 Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Silky, 29, of Pittsburgh, grew up in Syracuse, New York, and graduated from Allegheny in 2011 with a double major in neuroscience and psychology. Beginning in September, she will pursue a Ph.D. in clinical neurosciences in a three-year program at the University of Cambridge in England.

Silky will study new methods for identifying cellular irregularities in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, with the use of patient-derived cell lines. ALS was thought to be strictly a motor neuron disease, but recent advancements have shown that support cells could cause aspects of disease pathology.

“I hope that studying three-dimensional cell organoids will shine light on new therapeutic pathways for patients in need and bridge the gap between conventional two-dimensional cell cultures and clinical trials,” Silky said. “I am honored to be joining the Gates Cambridge community surrounded by diverse scholars working to make a difference around the world.”

Silky is recently married to Ben Limegrover, a 2009 Allegheny graduate. The couple will relocate to England for a semi-permanent move for the duration of the full scholarship, which also provides housing.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a $210 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge — the largest single donation to a university in the United Kingdom.

The program awards scholarships to outstanding applicants from countries outside the U.K. to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. The program’s goal is “to build a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others,” according to its website.

For the past six years, Silky has worked as a research scientist at Cognition Therapeutics in Pittsburgh. She believes her experience in conducting clinical trials for Alzheimer’s was a major factor in her selection for the Cambridge Gates Scholarship.

Silky said her work-related experience likely gave her an advantage:  Many of the candidates she met during the interview process were seniors or recent college graduates.

“We have been studying Alzheimer’s disease and discovering a small molecule to hopefully treat the cognitive problems in Alzheimer’s patients,” Silky said about her work with Cognition Therapeutics. “I didn’t want to leave the company until after we got the drug into clinical trials. Then I wanted to go after my Ph.D.”

Allegheny helped prepare Silky for her career in a number of different ways, she said, including the opportunity to conduct hands-on research and to be a student-athlete.

“I played on the lacrosse team, and I think being a student-athlete really helped me to balance a very busy schedule with high stress and still be able to learn,” Silky said.

She said the time-management skills she developed at Allegheny, along with the ability to think independently, provided the foundation for her to contribute from day one in a start-up laboratory — an environment that doesn’t necessarily have the resources to offer that kind of training for newly-hired employees.

“I wouldn’t have gotten that at a large-scale university, and it has continued to propel me forward in a lifelong passion,” Silky said. “We’re used to doing hands-on research independently, so for a small research company that was very important.”

Silky is prepared for what life has in store for her — perhaps even discovering a cure for ALS — and she continues to reflect fondly on her time at Allegheny.

“I love Allegheny and will tell that to anyone who asks,” Silky said. “I think the Allegheny rigor and the push to be an independent thinker and scientist really helped me.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

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

Neurologist Fred Marshall to Speak on ‘Mindfulness and Medicine’

Dr. Fred Marshall will speak on the subject of “Mindfulness and Medicine,” on April 3 at 7 p.m. in the East Alcove of Schultz Hall at Allegheny College as part of the college’s ongoing Year of Mindfulness. The talk is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.
The presentation will cover Marshall’s experience with dyads, as well as some theories of teaching, and address the phenomenon of “burn-out” through stress. He also will explore a model of cultivating resilience, compassion, and gratitude in daily life, and then hold both silent and guided meditations.


Marshall brings a unique perspective as a physician who has cared for patients and families coping with neurodegenerative diseases. Chief of the Division of Geriatric Neurology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Marshall founded the school’s Memory Care Program and is a core member pioneering mindfulness curriculum for medical students and residents. Since 2011 he has co-facilitated residential training for medical educators at the Rochester Zen Center’s Chapin Mill retreat, which attracts educators from around the world.
After attending Swarthmore College and then Harvard Medical School, Marshall spent a year backpacking around the world with his wife before completing his residency in neurology at the Harvard Longwood Training Program. He then completed a National Institutes of Health-funded fellowship in Experimental Therapeutics of Neurodegenerative Disorders, before going to work at the University of Rochester in 1997.
Marshall is a former Dean’s Teaching Fellow at the University of Rochester, and the recipient of multiple teaching awards, including election by the students to Alpha Omega Alpha, the Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine, and the White Coat Ceremony keynote. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research