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Collegeville, PA, United States

Ursinus College is a private, independent, coeducational, liberal arts college located in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.Founded in 1869, Ursinus sits on a 170-acre wooded campus approximately 30 miles from Center City Philadelphia. Ursinus is one of the eleven Centennial Conference schools, a Phi Beta Kappa college, and is a member of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship list, Project Pericles, Project DEEP, the Bonner Leader Program, and the Annapolis Group. The college is also home to the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, regarded as one of the nation's finest small-college art museums. Wikipedia.

Feairheller D.L.,Ursinus College
Blood Pressure Monitoring | Year: 2015

Background Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are global health problems and are a large concern for firefighters. The leading cause of death among firefighters is cardiac-related; hence, it is important to understand how firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) affects cardiovascular responses to different activities. Volunteer firefighters represent 70% of all firefighters and are an understudied population. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to report blood pressure (BP) responses in volunteer firefighters. Methods and results Thirty-six male, nonsmoking volunteer firefighters (27.8 ±9.7 years) underwent two maximal treadmill tests within 2 weeks, one in regular gym clothes and one in PPE. We found that while wearing PPE, which weighs 54.2± 3.5 lbs, BP responses are exaggerated during work and in recovery. Systolic BP and heart rate were significantly (P<0.05) higher at each submaximal stage and during active recovery of the PPE test compared with the regular clothing test (15-23 mmHg and 20-34 bpm higher, respectively). Test time and VO2 max were lower in the PPE test (P<0.05). Conclusion BP responses are exaggerated while wearing full fire protective gear and remain elevated during recovery. Awareness of how firefighting activities affect BP is important; so future studies should examine how the BP increase relates to resting BP levels, to PPE weight, and to the thermal effects of the PPE. © 2015 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 32.47K | Year: 2015

Recognizing the national need for significant improvement in undergraduate STEM education, collaborators from six institutions (Rochester Institute of Technology, St. Marys University, Oral Roberts University, Hope College, Ursinus College, and California Polytechnic University) will explore a new approach to introduce students to authentic research in biochemistry laboratory courses. The project will test the hypotheses that engaging in authentic research will improve students abilities to master key aspects of experimentation (experimental design, data processing and interpretation, and communication of research outcomes) and visualization (use of representations to communicate various aspects of the research process). The project is likely to be transferrable to other institutions, and is an example of a cost-effective way to introduce course-based research into the undergraduate curriculum.

Biochemistry laboratory courses will be redesigned to include modules in which students will integrate computational and wet lab techniques as they characterize proteins whose three dimensional structures are known but to which functions have not been previously ascribed. Because the project is focused on discovery, it is reasonable to expect that some of the students will produce novel results that will contribute to the field of biochemistry. Formative and summative evaluation will address assessment of student learning gains in terms of improved conceptual understanding and visualization of experiments using a validated instrument composed of open-ended and closed-ended questions. Faculty members and teaching assistants will be surveyed and interviewed about their satisfaction with the project, its usability, and the extent to which they see the project as part of their own and their students development. The project team will create and disseminate modules (promol.org) that form the core of a new curriculum for undergraduate biochemistry laboratory courses. The results of the work will be presented at professional meetings, such as the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and submitted to scholarly journals.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: S-STEM:SCHLR SCI TECH ENG&MATH | Award Amount: 593.36K | Year: 2015

The Supporting Inclusive Excellence (SIE) project at Ursinus College will support 30 academically talented students demonstrating financial need. Scholarships and support programs will assist these students in completing their majors in biology, biochemistry, or neuroscience and in entering the STEM workforce or STEM graduate school following completion of a baccalaureate degree. This project will address a national need for trained individuals to enter a growing number of STEM career opportunities. Over the five-year grant period, 30 students will receive scholarships to help close the gap between existing aid and family contributions for tuition. Not only will academic support systems be provided to scholarship recipients to remain in the pipeline toward future STEM careers, other students on campus will also benefit from some of these supports.

The technical merit of the project lies in its coordinated approach to support recruitment and retention of STEM students through academic advising, curricular and co-curricular activities, mentoring and research opportunities. Activities for scholarship recipients include: 1) intensive co-curricular advising to support STEM coursework, 2) a bridge program to facilitate the transition between the first and second semesters of introductory biology, 3) inclusive pedagogy in introductory biology and chemistry courses, 4) a series of workshops offered by the Career and Professional Development office towards achieving STEM careers, and 5) research opportunities that will strengthen students connection to the STEM community. The SIE project will be assessed and findings will be shared so that other institutions can incorporate successful approaches for supporting high-achieving and low-income students. The results of the assessment will contribute to the larger knowledge-base regarding the circumstances under which scholarship projects of this type are successful.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chemistry of Life Processes | Award Amount: 189.75K | Year: 2013

With this award, the Chemistry of Life Processes Program in the Chemistry Division and the Molecular Biophysics program in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) support Dr. Codrina V. Popescu at Ursinus College for research in Mossbauer spectroscopy conducted with undergraduate students. Research ranges from studies of small-molecule iron (Fe) compounds to the exploration of novel Fe sites in proteins. The expected scientific outcomes of this research are: (1) elucidation of electronic structures for new iron-based hydrogen electrocatalysts and models for the hydrogenase enzymes, including low-spin Fe(I), for which spectroscopic benchmarks are scarce; (2) correlation of structural and spectroscopic changes in model complexes for the hydrogenases and other biomimetic compounds; (3) characterization of the active site of the dual function hemoglobin-peroxidase enzyme dehaloperoxidase from A. ornata and of models for catalytic intermediates in ring-cleaving dioxygenases.

Iron is the most abundant transition metal in biological systems. Iron proteins and enzymes are involved in life processes, such as oxidation, detoxification, hydrogen and nitrogen metabolism. Mossbauer spectroscopy can bring insight into the electronic structure of iron compounds, often allowing us to elucidate the nature of the active sites of enzymes directly, or by probing small-molecule models, which may be used as catalysts. Frontier problems in fundamental research have implications for environmental problems, such as the need for cleaner energy sources and dealing with pollution. From details of Mossbauer spectra we are attempting to learn how iron is used to perform vastly different feats of chemistry in environmentally benign ways. These interdisciplinary projects are of broad current interest for fundamental science and potential technological applications, from alternative fuels (hydrogenase model complexes) to catalysis (biomimetics), and environmental bioremediation (dehaloperoxidase). Through its interdisciplinary collaborative nature, this research has impact on the projects of collaborators from four other institutions and allows the undergraduates at Ursinus College to interact with students and faculty from these other research groups. The research promotes a close relationship between mentor and students, who are active in all the steps of scientific discovery, from generating hypotheses to interpreting the spectroscopic parameters needed to elucidate new electronic structures. This undergraduate research training and education program fosters the students growth and independence through advanced degrees, preparing them for STEM careers in teaching and research. It also provides interdisciplinary projects for a diverse pool of students, in which hands-on spectroscopy is applied to current scientific problems and results in external presentations and publications.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: Macromolec/Supramolec/Nano | Award Amount: 191.47K | Year: 2013

Dr. Mark Ellison from Ursinus College and Dr. Michael Strano from MIT are supported by an award from the Macromolecular, Supramolecular and Nanochemistry Program of the Division of Chemistry to investigate the motion of ions and biologically relevant molecules through single-walled carbon nanotubes. Using nanotube nanopore devices fabricated at MIT, they are conducting experiments to study fundamental properties of these systems and to assess their usefulness for the nanoscale detection and control of the flow of ions and molecules. This research extends the knowledge of motion through nanopores to several important areas, including amino acids and small neutral molecules. The research also enhances our understanding of the role of nanopore properties, such as the effects of functional groups at the pore mouth and nanopore surface charge on the motion of ions and molecules through nanopores. The results of this research provide foundational knowledge of nanotube nanopores and take an important step toward utilizing them in practical devices.

The undergraduate researchers at Ursinus College involved in these projects attain a variety of scientific skills. First, they obtain significant experience conducting experiments in nanoscience. They also develop their abilities to formulate, test, and revise scientific hypotheses. Additionally, the Ursinus students significantly benefit from the collaboration with MIT, which includes visits to MIT to conduct experiments with the high-grade research instrumentation there. Students involved in this research will emerge as well-trained young scientists with the tools to approach a wide range of scientific questions.

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