Professor Conklin and Students Present Research at American Psychosomatic Society Meeting

Associate Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Global Health Studies Sarah Conklin presented her research at the American Psychosomatic Society annual meeting held March 18-21 in Savannah, Georgia. Two students attended the conference with her. Nicole Masters ’15 presented the results from her Senior Project conducted with Professor Conklin and Associate Professor of Psychology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Deb Dickey. Her project was titled “Experiences of physical and emotional abuse are associated with blunted cardiovascular reactions to psychological stress.” The project, currently under peer-review, was a multi-year effort. Her coauthors also attended the meeting: Annie T. Ginty ’09, now at the University of Pittsburgh as a postdoctoral fellow in behavioral medicine; Eliza B. Nelson ’12, now at the University of Saint Andrews School of Medicine, Health Psychology, UK; and Karen Kaye ’14, now at Brandeis University, Psychology. Katelyn Nicewander ’15 also presented the results of her Senior Project, which she conducted with Professor Conklin and Assistant Professor of Psychology Lydia Jackson. Her project was titled “Lavender essential oil aromatherapy does not reduce cardiovascular reactions to acute psychological stress in the laboratory: results from a preliminary randomized control trial.” Katelyn’s project is currently being prepared for peer review.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Picture Perfect

Students Connect Science and Humanities through Interdisciplinary Research

Leanne Siwicki ’15 repeated the same pose, with Holesh capturing her image as well.

Although the two theater majors looked as if they were practicing for an upcoming performance, they actually were serving as subjects for a psychological study. Holesh and Annie Utterback ’16 are conducting this independent study with Associate Professor of Psychology Aimee Knupsky and Associate Professor of English M. Soledad Caballero.

According to Utterback, a psychology major and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies minor from Sewickley, Pa., the project came out of an interdisciplinary class she took last semester called “Cognitive Humanities – Expressions of Emotion: When Psychology and Literature Converge” with Professors Knupsky and Caballero. The course was created through the support of a New Directions Grant from the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

“The class was about the study of emotion during the 19th century to present day and the reciprocal relationship between science and the humanities,” Utterback says. “It was about how the study of emotion was shaped by literature and theater and medical records. That provided a basis for our project, where Laura and I are studying facial recognition and emotion.”

To conduct this research, Utterback and Holesh selected 20 poses from a manual on gesture and emotion written in 1806 by Henry Siddons, an English actor and theatrical manager now remembered as a writer on gesture. Each page in the book shows an actor making a gesture, with each page labeled with an emotion like “devotion,” “happiness,” anger,” “despair,” or “enthusiasm.”

Utterback and Holesh then asked theater majors Schuchert and Siwicki to recreate the gestures from Siddons’ book while they took photos of each pose.

The student researchers then will project the photos onto a screen and ask study participants to choose which emotion the actors are expressing. Utterback and Holesh will use equipment in the College’s eye-tracking lab to study where participants are looking on the photos in order to make their guesses.

“The eye-tracker will produce what is similar to a ‘heat map,’ allowing us to see where people are looking in the image and for how long,” says Holesh, a neuroscience and psychology double major and biology minor from Gibsonia, Pa. “This will help us to capture their thought process to figure out what emotion it is.”

“We’ll then be able to see if they’re guessing the emotion that the book said it was and how that’s been congruent over time. We’ll also be able to see what part of the gesture is cuing them to the emotion,” Utterback adds. “It will be interesting to see how emotion has developed over several centuries.”

One of the unique components of this study is that it allows the students to conduct interdisciplinary research, meaning the study involves both science (psychology) and humanities (English and theater).

“The wave of the future is really interdisciplinary research, and Allegheny is leading the way by offering research with interdisciplinary courses,” Professor Knupsky says. “It’s about getting students to realize that humanities and natural sciences really are asking the same questions.”

“I’m very interested in the sciences, but I’m also interested in English and theater. So I really like the interdisciplinary focus,” Utterback says. “I like connecting all these subjects. It requires critical thinking and being creative to tie all these things together. It’s been an eye-opening experience.”

Even though the project is not yet complete, Holesh says she already has learned a lot.

“This project definitely has helped me to read scientific literature, analyze it, and see the process of thinking. The creative process also has helped me with my junior seminar,” she says.

“The study has helped me to realize that psychology and science are a lot different than what I thought they were in high school,” Utterback adds.” Science is a study and a way of thinking more than content. You can scientifically study anything.”

The pair also likes the ability to do hands-on research as an undergraduate student.

“I don’t believe other undergrads are doing research like we are and shaping it in the way we are. Laura and I are involved in shaping what the project is and what we’re researching,” Utterback says.

“One of the main reasons I came to Allegheny was to do research, because I knew the opportunities were incredible. Coming in freshman year, I started doing research. At other schools, I don’t think that’s the experience students get,” Holesh adds.

In addition, they appreciate the close relationships they have developed with professors at Allegheny.

“I truly value my relationships with my professors,” Holesh says. “I adore talking to them about their research. They are more than willing to have you come into the lab and see things and be hands-on.”

Holesh and Utterback plan to continue their research next semester and may use this work as a springboard for their comprehensive projects.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Kicking Off Allegheny’s Bicentennial on a High Note

For generations of Allegheny singers, 2015 means more than the Bicentennial.

It’s the 85th anniversary of the choir’s existence.

It’s the 50th anniversary of music program/choir director founder Morten “Luvy” Luvaas’ retirement.

And it’s a choir reunion year, meaning all past and present members of the Allegheny choirs are invited back for a special celebration during Reunion Weekend at the end of May. Historically, the triennial choir reunions have drawn the largest group of attendees among any reunion group.

For James Niblock ’97, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities, it’s certainly exciting.

“It’s very humbling to be in this position at such an exciting moment in Allegheny’s history,” he says. “We’re going to premier a wonderful commission; I already have chosen the music for the upcoming choir reunion. There’s so much to celebrate.”

A Kickoff to Remember
During the College’s initial Bicentennial planning, Niblock began thinking about how the music program could contribute to the celebration. That’s when he inquired about having a musical piece commissioned as part of the kickoff event.

“When the Bicentennial Committee approved the idea, one of the first people I thought of asking was alumnus Crawford Thoburn,” Niblock says. “His distinguished music career speaks for itself, and his family has a strong connection to Allegheny. It would be difficult to find someone who embodies that continuing connection to the institution as much as he does.”

Crawford Thoburn ’54

Crawford Thoburn ’54

During his time at the College, Crawford Thoburn ’54 studied theory, arranging, and conducting with Luvaas and sang with the mixed choral group called the Allegheny Singers. He is now emeritus professor of music at Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., where he served as Chair of the Arts Division and director of choral activities and taught voice, conducting, theory, composition, and music history.

Throughout the years, he has published more than 100 choral compositions, arrangements, and editions, including those that Allegheny choirs past and present have sung. He also is a recipient of Allegheny’s Gold Citation, in recognition and appreciation of the honor reflected upon the College by virtue of his professional achievements.

But Thoburn’s connection to the College goes beyond music; the Thoburn family legacy is a story all its own. More than 50 family members have attended Allegheny, starting with Thoburn’s great-grandfather, James Mills Thoburn, Class of 1857. Crawford Thoburn is among the fourth generation, and two of his daughters are part of the fifth. And, of course, generation after generation has sung in the choir.

So when Thoburn received the call from Niblock about commissioning the piece, he was touched.

“Although the Allegheny choirs have sung other choral works by me in the past, to be asked to write a piece celebrating the College’s Bicentennial is truly a special privilege and honor,” he says.

After the call, he immediately knew where he would draw his inspiration.

“Years ago I did a successful setting of a text titled ‘Wisdom Exalteth her Children’ for women’s voices, and more recently I had intended to compose a new version for mixed voices. When Professor Niblock called about the Bicentennial, I knew this was the text I wanted to use,” he says. “It’s always held a special place in my heart.”

“Wisdom Exalteth her Children”

Wisdom exalteth her children.

And gives help to those who seek her.

Whoever loves her loves life.

And those who seek her early will be filled with joy.

Whoever holds her fast will obtain glory.

And God will bless the place she enters.

-Wisdom of Sirach 4:11-13

After just a few months, Thoburn presented the composition to Niblock, who thought it would be appropriate for the College Choir to debut during a dinner celebrating the new Bicentennial Plaza in October.

“The piece is a great sentiment for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny that is all about the pursuit of wisdom and embracing that in a joyful way,” Niblock says.

According to Thoburn, “The text, written about 180 BCE by the Hebrew sage Joshua ben Sira, is highly appropriate for celebrating the longevity of an institution like Allegheny, where faculty and students have shared the academic quest for so many years. It joyfully and eloquently expresses the continuing role of this experience at Allegheny, extolling the cultivation and acquisition of wisdom (as opposed to knowledge), which I believe is the true purpose of a liberal arts education.”

When asked what certain lines of the piece mean to him, Niblock references the second line, “and gives help to those who seek her,” and says, “When you see students who have the light in their eyes to take on some new threshold in their discipline, to take on challenges, and they’re anxious for you to lay those challenges down before them, that’s a great example of what that line means.”

When he first shared the text with the Choir, Niblock was pleased with the members’ response. The students are equally excited about performing the piece as part of the Bicentennial kickoff.

“The group was immediately upbeat and positive about the piece,” Niblock says. “Something about the musical language is easy for them to speak.”

“The first day we sang the piece in rehearsal, I knew it was going to be great,” says Rosey Sheridan ’15, a choir member majoring in chemistry and minoring in music performance. “The year 2015 is my graduation year, so for me, the Bicentennial is something that has been talked about for four years. I feel very honored to be part of the event in this way.”

Having the opportunity to sing in front of Thoburn is special for the students as well.

“We are nervous,” admits Lauren Dominique ’16, a choir member who is double-majoring in English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “We sang one of Professor Thoburn’s pieces last year, and it was probably one of my favorites. To sing this piece in front of him, to meet him in person, and just to be there for this occasion will be an incredible experience.”

Source: News Feed

Ava Carvour ’14 Presents Paper at “Food Politics and Gender” Conference

Women’s Studies/English major Ava Carvour ’14 presented her paper “Tastes Like Feminist Spirit: Understanding the Vegan-Feminist Movement as Boycott” at the Central Pennsylvania Consortium Annual Women’s Studies Conference, “Food Politics and Gender,” at Dickinson College on March 29.

Source: News Feed

Allegheny Students Represented at Sigma Xi Research Conference

Twenty-six Allegheny students participated in the Sigma Xi Undergraduate Research and Creative Accomplishment Conference held at Penn State Behrend on April 13.

2013-04-13 08.10.42

They are (with their faculty advisors listed in parentheses): Ashley Baronner ’13 (Caryl Waggett), Korey Bartolomeo ’13 (Brad Hersh), Austin Becker ’13 (Tricia Humphreys and Ann Kleinschmidt), Ava Carvour ’14 (Barbara Shaw), Kyrsten Craig ’15 (Barbara Shaw), Colleen Friel ’13 (Catharina Coenen), Dana D’Amico ’13 (Catharina Coenen), Jaclyn DeCoursey ’14 (Lauren French), Jeff Fleming ’13 (Lee Coates), Katrina Gazsi ’13 (Milt Ostrofsky and Ron Mumme), Justin Giel ’13 (Rich Bowden), Jessica Giles ’13 (Christy Donmoyer), Jocelyn Gruskiewicz ’13 (Lee Coates), Aaron Haag ’13 (Brad Hersh), Max Hennessy ’13 (Brad Hersh), Linnea Homa ’13 (Christy Donmoyer), Megan King ’13 (Caryl Waggett), Dylan McCreary ’13 (Lauren French), Erin Nawrocki ’13 (Tricia Humphreys), Chloé Nuñez ’13 (Caryl Waggett), Kayla Owens ’13  (Catharina Coenen), Kelsey Ream ’13 (Rich Bowden), Jessica Repasz ’13 (Rod Clark), Sara Schombert ’13 (Catharina Coenen), Kelly Smith ’13 (Lauren French), and Jennie Vorhauer ’14 (Tricia Humphreys).

Baronner, Carvour, Fleming, Friel, Gazsi, Gruskiewicz, Hennessy, Nawrocki, McCreary and Smith were given awards for best presentations in their sessions. A total of 226 students and 106 faculty from twelve colleges in western and central Pennsylvania participated in the conference.


Max Hennessy ’13 receives his award.

Source: News Feed