The Transformative Science Seminar Series
The Office of Science Initiatives sponsors the Transformative Science Seminar Series in collaboration with the departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science and Mathematics. Students and faculty across campus are able to interact with invited speakers and be exposed to a wide range of research topics that span science and math fields.
Seminars will be held on first Thursdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m.
2017/2018 Academic Year
November 2, 2017
Tatjana Hubel, Ph.D Research Fellow in the Structure and Motion Laboratory, Royal Veterinary College in London
Message: Research questions are often the driving force behind new technological developments or the appropriation of existing technologies for new purposes. We use GPS tracking collar technology and terrain mapping methods developed and modified for our research-specific purpose to gain insight into the survival strategies and movement of large African predator and herbivore species. Often our knowledge of animals in the wild is based on direct observation, or through images or videos from remote cameras. This limits our understanding of their behaviour to open habitats and daytime. Using collars that are able to record an animal’s movement in detail 24/7 can reveal surprising results. We found that cheetahs, the fastest land animals, run at considerably lower speeds than they are capable of while hunting. They rely on agility and acceleration rather than top speed. Cheetahs can successfully hunt not just in open fields, but also in scrubby terrains and have an overall success rate of about 30%. Another discovery we made was that African wild dogs, the epitome of endurance and collaborative hunting, successfully pursue a much more opportunistic hunting strategy in the woodland area of the Okavango Delta. Instead of chasing larger prey (such as Wildebeest) across long distances in open grass plains, they use multiple short-distance, high-speed bursts when coming across medium sized prey (Impala). Their individual success rates of 15% are relatively low, but pack members share their kill with each other. Consequently, their strategy may be more efficient than the sheer athleticism of cheetahs hunting alone in the same area. The knowledge we gain about hunting strategies and the correlation between terrain and hunting success is crucial in choosing conservation areas that maximize the chance of survival for specific species.
October 5, 2017
Sherri McFarland, Ph.D. Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Photomedicine is an interdisciplinary field where chemistry and light meet to fight disease. Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a special branch of photomedicine that employs a sensitizer molecule, light, and oxygen to destroy target cells with spatiotemporal selectivity. Despite its enormous potential for treating certain diseases, including cancer and infection, PDT has yet to become mainstream. Over the past 10 years, my group has addressed key issues that have hampered bench-to-bedside progress in the field of PDT. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we have introduced both synthetic compounds and natural products (both currently being investigated in human clinical trials) as alternatives to existing porphyrin-based PDT agents for specific indications. This seminar will share some of our past experiences in developing metallodrug photosensitizers for treating bladder cancer (and photoactive plant extracts for improving oral health if time permits), and will highlight new directions toward the design of immunomodulating theranostic photosensitizers for melanoma PDT.
September 7, 2017 - "Teaching and Research Symposium"
Stephanie Dance-Barnes, Ph.D., Co-chair of Biological Sciences, Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology, Winston-Salem State University
The study of biology connects us to the world we are living in and reminds us of our interconnectedness with other life forms. It is important for students to make informed decisions about their own health and significant biological issues. It is also essential to engage students in hands-on experiences that will help them achieve the goals associated with liberal education. The biology laboratory course is a vitally important experiential mode of fostering an understanding of the theoretical concepts and relationships introduced in the biological lecture course. Lab course work constructed effectively encourages students to think logically about experimental design, and consequently deductions and connections made within the laboratory setting can be utilized in investigations encountered during everyday life. This research addresses an overhaul and revision of the current General Biology Laboratory I (BIO 1113) course. The revised course involves hands-on inquiry-based open-ended experiments that promote curiosity and cooperative learning through a constructively deliberate, repetitive, and scaffolded approach that is relevant in the context of the students' scientific and social development. This study also comparatively assessed the redesigned BIO 1113 course sections and traditional cookbook-based BIO 1113 sections for effectiveness in encouraging student success through engagement, learning, and academic efficacy. Additionally, the course revision also removed the need for the purchase of the costly lab manual that previously accompanied the course, providing a more cost-effective resource for students. Consequently, the proposed course revision promotes student success while cultivating classroom equity.
Debanzi Deb, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Winston-Salem State University
In the Computer Science department at WSSU, a bachelor in Information Technology (IT) degree provides applications-oriented undergraduate education in computer information technology to the students. The diversity among the IT majors is significant and the typical student population includes traditional, nontraditional, transfer, working, and veteran students and many of them are first generation college students. CIT 1308 (Introduction to visual basic programming) is the first computer programming course that all IT majors are required to take and lately the course has been experiencing a significant O/F/W rates. Majority of the students causing this attrition find the expected level of commitment and persistency required for a computer programming course to be much more intense than their anticipation, which causes frustration, loss of interest, and low self-efficacy and ultimately impede their successful course completion and their chance of continuing as an IT major. Our approach utilizes peer instruction and instructional scaffolding in order to create a supportive and engaged classroom for this diverse group of students where they want to be active, engaged and eventually successful in their first programming course as an IT major. This poster details our pedagogical approach along with example quiz and programming exercise artifacts, initial student performance and survey results during Spring 2017 deployment.
David Kump, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Physiology, Winston-Salem State University
The aim of this research was to demonstrate an in vitro model regarding the effects of muscular secretions (or myokines) muscles cells. Myokines are factors released by skeletal myofibers and transported via the bloodstream to neighboring organs and tissues distal to the skeletal muscles. As preliminary data to determine whether these results can be modeled in vitro, we used conditioned media from myoblasts and myotubes. C2C12 myoblasts, C2C12 myotubes, and 3T3-Ll fibroblasts were exposed to standard growth medium (DMEM [high glucose]/10% FBS) for 24 hours, after which the conditioned media were collected and used at varying concentrations to treat 3T3-Ll fibroblasts undergoing adipogenic differentiation. Fourteen days after initiation of adipogenesis, cellular triglycerides were measured using oil red O staining. There were no differences in 3T3-Ll adipocyte triglyceride levels for 10% and 25% conditioned media compared to those in fibroblast-conditioned media. However, 50%, 75%, and 100% myoblast- and myotube-conditioned media both resulted in lower triglyceride levels than did fibroblast conditioned media, whereas levels from cells treated with 10% and 25% myoblast- and myotube-conditioned media were not different. In addition, 50% myoblast-conditioned media resulted in lower triglyceride levels than those in myotube-conditioned media. Moreover, 100% myoblast- and myotube-conditioned media resulted in significantly lower triglyceride levels than all other concentrations, but were not different from each other. Conditioned media lactate and glucose concentrations were not different between groups. Starting at 50%, C2C12 myoblast- and myotube-conditioned media reduce triglyceride storage in 3T3-Ll adipocytes. At 50% concentration, myoblast conditioned media had a greater effect on reducing triglyceride stores than did myotube-conditioned media.
Xiuping Tao, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physics, Winston-Salem State University
Calculus-based General Physics I and II (PHY 2331/2332) are required courses for all Computer Science, Information Technology, some Mathematics and Chemistry (ACS-certified tracks) department students at WSSU. Despite that 67% of students took at least both Calculus I and II before starting the courses, calculus has always been a major roadblock for almost all students' learning outcome in the physics courses. We proposed to develop a booklet on physics topics and problems that specifically uses calculus. The resulting product has a total of 31 pages with 8 sections, covering topics in mechanics, electricity and magnetism. It demonstrates how differentiation and integration are used in General Physics. Moreover, whenever possible, numerical differentiation and integration are explained in detail. It not only helps to understand the essence of calculus, but also illustrates the methods of implementing calculus with a basic computational analysis tool, Microsoft Excel. Knowledge of computational analysis tools with hands-on experience was found to be important for improving students' career readiness, according to the Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs. ("Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st-Century Careers", https://www.aps.org/programs/education/undergrad/jtupp.cfm).
2016/2017 Academic Year
September 1, 2016
Dr. Charles Perou, The May Goldman Shaw Distinguished Professor of Molecular Oncology UNC School of Medicine. Professor of Genetics, and Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
2015/2016 Academic Year
April 7, 2016
Dr. Gerardo Chowell, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Fogarty International Center, NIH
Early sub-exponential (e.g., polynomial) growth patterns have been observed during the early phase of outbreaks of HIV/AIDS and Ebola. However, a theory for studying sub-exponential growth epidemics is lacking. Recently, we introduced a generalized-growth model that allows accommodating more diverse epidemic profiles, where a tuning parameter (deceleration of growth, p) can mirror a range of epidemic dynamics from constant incidence (p=0) to exponential growth (p=1). Based on this quantitative framework, we present a quantitative method to characterize epidemics that display an initial sub-exponential growth phase and estimate the reproduction number. Using data for a number of historic and contemporary disease outbreaks, we demonstrate that the effective reproduction number for epidemics with early sub-exponential growth exhibits a declining trend that approaches unity over time, in the absence of any interventions, or any other mechanisms diminishing the risk of transmission. This is in stark contrast with the invariant reproduction number predicted for epidemics with an initial exponential growth phase under the same conditions. Our results provide a compelling argument for understanding the early extinction of some emerging disease outbreaks with a declining trend in the reproduction number due to initial sub-exponential growth. A reliable data-driven characterization of the early epidemic phase is crucial for estimating the reproduction number, forecasting disease dynamics, and informing the most effective public health intervention strategies.
March 3, 2016
Dr. Catherine Dinitra White, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Biology, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
This seminar was co-hosted with the Women in Science Program (WISP) at WSSU as part of their Inspiring Women in Science Speaker Series. Dr. Catherine Dinitra White shared her research on Molecular Microbiology, Genomics of Haemophilus ducreyi and her experience as a woman in science.
February 4, 2016
Nadja B. Cech, Ph.D., Associate Professor Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of North Carolina Greensboro
Drug resistant bacterial infections constitute a major health crisis. For example, the drug resistant bacterial pathogen methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is now responsible for more annual deaths in the US than HIV/AIDs. The pipeline for new antimicrobial drugs is currently very much depleted, and resistance continues to develop to existing antibiotics. New approaches to fight drug-resistant pathogens such as MRSA are greatly needed. Anti-virulence strategies have recently gained attention as one promising approach towards this goal. The underlying concept for the anti-virulence approach is to inhibit bacterial pathogenesis, thereby enabling the host defenses to overcome the infection. This strategy has the hypothetical advantages of limiting the evolution of widespread drug resistance, facilitating the development of host immune responses, and avoiding negative impacts on the normal microbial flora. Although anti-virulence therapies for MRSA have shown promise in animal models, they have yet to be applied in a clinical setting. One factor limiting the development of anti-virulence therapies is the lack of small molecule anti-virulence lead compounds. Our laboratory is engaged in the development of new mass spectrometric approaches that enable us to identify promising anti-virulence lead compounds from natural sources. These sources include endophytic fungi and traditional plant medicines such as goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). The seminar will describe new assays we have developed to identify anti-virulence compounds, and will include examples of natural products with promising anti-virulence activity.