Native Hawaiian navigates oceans, scholastic success

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

Isaiah Pule ’18 is used to navigating oceans, but this semester is his first opportunity exploring the waters of collegiate life. Traveling almost 5,000 miles away from his home in Waianae, Hawaii, the freshman Film and Media Studies major brings with him a passion for movies and a penchant for overseas navigation.

Back home, Pule is a member of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, a group that researches and practices methods of traditional oceanic travel. The Polynesian navigation system makes use of traditional double hulled canoes comprised of wood, rope, and tarp. It has been used by Hawaiians for thousands of years to sail around the world without the use of modern technology.  “They would use the stars, the suns, the waves, and the currents to help find their destination,” said Pule.

Growing up in an unstable environment, Pule found a home in the ocean through the Voyaging Society. “Through my youth, I never really had a father figure. My biological father is incarcerated. My mother, from the Marshall Islands, found difficulty attaining a job,” he said.  Pule was even homeless for parts of his early childhood and was eventually placed into foster care.  For Pule, voyaging served as an escape.

In his time with the organization, Pule has traveled between the islands of Hawaii and has even gone on voyages into deep ocean territory. He has met amazing people, among them being Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, through his boating voyages. Getting a chance to talk to both men after the program invited them to bless a canoe in preparation for a voyage, Pule noted that it was amazing to share in their positive energy and amazing life stories.

The Polynesian Voyaging Society provided Pule with many opportunities, one of them being the chance to meet Jonathan Burdick, the U of R’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Pule’s journey to Rochester began the summer before his junior year when he met Dean Burdick at College Horizons, a pre-college readiness program for native students around the globe. The two found common ground in their mutual interests in astronomy and navigation. This encounter motivated Pule to participate in the U of R’s Multicultural Visitation Program, which gave him his first glimpse of his future campus.

After an interesting admissions interview on Halloween, where he was dressed as Superman, Pule was welcomed to the Class of 2018 as a recipient of the Renaissance and Global Scholarship, as well as the Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship, both of which are awarded to incoming students for outstanding academic merit and strong potential for leadership.

A first generation college student, Pule is glad to be given the opportunity to pursue higher education. Growing up with the struggles of homelessness, foster care, and delinquency, he is thankful for the support of teachers and family that helped to push him towards a more diligent and success-oriented mindset.  He is likewise grateful for the scholarship opportunities that have made his collegiate experience financially feasible.

“The college route is a path that opens up so many doors and opportunities, and I’m excited to create a better future for myself,” he said.  As both a Handler and Renaissance Scholar, he hopes to lead by example and inspire his peers and future students alike to continue on the path to being “ever better.”

Pule’s love for movies has led him to pursue a degree in Film and Media Studies. Many of his favorite films such as Gridiron Gang, Remember the Titans, and Freedom Writers resonate with the personal struggles of his past. He hopes to one day make movies that can portray the same themes of hope and success that inspired him growing up.

His favorite movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, is one of his largest inspirations. “It proved that the idea of starting from the bottom and making a life for yourself is more than just a dream,” said Pule.  “I want to make a movie like this that can inspire someone to make a change. And just to have fun along the way.”

Pule looks forward to his time at Rochester as an opportunity for growth. “I want to be a leech and take in all that I can. I want to learn about different cultures and share my own, representing who I am and where I came from.”

With plans for a lengthy trek from Hawaii to Australia already in the works for next summer, Pule is excited to return home to Hawaii.  It will be his longest and most challenging voyage yet.  In the meantime, he’ll have to focus his energies on navigating the tunnel system in preparation for the coming winter.

Lauren Bailey: Star Swimmer is a Shark in the Classroom

Lauren Bailey, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, was one of 10 University scholar-athletes recognized for their abilities “on the field” and in the classroom.

Bailey, from Ossining, NY, holds the University records for the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 200 freestyle, 200 individual medley, and is a part of all the record-holding relay teams.

During the football team’s season opener, she and nine other athletes were presented Garnish Awards during a halftime ceremony. Bailey said she was nervous at first to go out to midfield and accept the award in front of the whole stadium of football fans. “It was definitely never-racking,” she said. “It was a huge honor though. My whole team came out to support me, which was really nice of them. It was super exciting!”

The Garnish Award program was created in honor of Lysle “Spike” Garnish, who consecutively served as an assistant coach for the University’s basketball, baseball, and football teams from 1930-1948.

According to the Athletic Department’s webpage, “Friends of Rochester Athletics, through an alumni committee, reviews nominations of students from varsity teams who have achieved at a high level in both their athletic and academic pursuits through their junior year. From these nominees, a small number are selected as Garnish Scholars.”

It’s definitely not easy

Bailey, who has a GPA of 3.87, says that balancing athletics and academics is “definitely not easy. But I think if you’re really passionate about both things—I really like chemical engineering, and I really like swimming—but I think it’s also about time management,” she said.

“For me, I do homework with a group of people or with my friends, so it makes it more enjoyable. Plus, I don’t really dread doing homework, so that definitely makes it easier to work with other people.”

During her senior year, Bailey says one of her goals is to have fun this season. “I’m really not going to put any pressure on myself,” she claimed. “I want to do well, obviously, but I also want to make sure that I’m really having fun. This is probably the last year I will swim competitively on a college team where we all share a common goal.”

Bailey’s best advice to student athletes? “Don’t stay up too late the night before you have practice in the morning.” According to her, “Mainly you’re here at the University to do well in school and succeed.”

Another important piece of advice Bailey offers is to prioritize, and “make sure to realize when you’re struggling to balance school and swimming, or school and any sport that you’re doing, because you don’t want your academics to slip. Don’t take on too much, though, because it can be a really rigorous schedule, and you want to make sure you have free time to enjoy yourself still,” she says.

In her time here at the U of R, Bailey has taken many classes, but the one in which she learned the most was the chemical engineering class, Reactor Design. Bailey says “It’s a really important class, because it has so many applications with so many jobs, and I think it’s really important to understanding what’s going on. It was definitely challenging, since we did a lot of coding with MatLab, and I’m not excellent at that.” Starting from the most basic reactors, the class covered many fundamental chemical engineering concepts.

This year, the senior says that instead of stressing about swimming times and tests, she wants to “have a good time, and make sure I’m getting done what I need to get done…but I’m definitely going to enjoy myself.”

As graduation gets closer, Bailey says she’ll start looking for chemical engineering positions, and at some point, she may consider getting an MBA.

By Joe Bailey and Monique Patenaude

Digging Into Bermuda’s Slave Past

When Anima Ghimire’s history advisor recruited students for an archaeological dig in Bermuda, Ghimire instantly responded, “I’m on board!”

During the summer of 2013, Ghirmire, a double major in neuroscience and history, joined a four-student team and Professor Michael Jarvis for a five-week course excavating Smith’s Island, one of the earliest known settlements in Bermuda.

Jarvis has been working summers on the 60-acre island since 2010. The dig concentrated on what has come to be known as the “Oven Site,” named for the several stone ovens at the location.

The Oven Site is believed to be the remains of Boaz Sharpe’s house. Sharpe settled on the island in the late 1600s, and remained until his death in 1707. Sharpe’s household included nine Native American slaves, most likely from South Carolina—two older couples and their children.

The introduction of slavery to Bermuda—and especially the role of Native American slaves—is important to understanding the history of slavery in the Atlantic World.

“I didn’t really appreciate how important archaeology was until I did it,” Ghimire says.

Sifting through evidence

Excavation of the site has revealed a chimney, hearth, and several ovens. The team also uncovered hand-shaped chert flakes that had not been found in Bermuda before.

“Dr. Jarvis had an inventory that suggested these people lived there,” Ghimire explains. “But then we found evidence that this was, in fact, where Boaz Sharpe lived. We found chert stone flints that only Native Americans used.

Identifying the Oven Site’s original occupants was a major milestone for the hard-working team.

amina4

“Most of the time we dug—and it was a very meticulous process. It took us five weeks to dig five feet down,” Ghimire says. “And you can’t really use a shovel. You have to use a trowel because it’s very delicate work.

“Dr. Jarvis is really, really chill and awesome, but when it comes to archeology, he’s very organized and systematic,” she says.

“We found was a lot of fish bones. A lot, a lot, of fish bones! We also learned they kept cats,” Ghimire says.

“And there was a lot of pottery, and that was important. For example, there is a specific kind of pottery that was only made during a 30-year period. So it kind of tells us what the time period was when people settled in the house. There were a lot of clay pipes—the size of the bowl tells you when the pipe was made,” Ghimire says, explaining that the bowl sizes changed along with the fluctuations in tobacco prices throughout the 17th century, making it easy to date the artifacts.

“You can learn about people in class, but you can’t really experience what they were doing firsthand until you get to do archaeology,” she says.

Every little bone

“What was good about this year was that we got a lot of local Bermudians to volunteer. It was awesome. We had all age groups, and they were really enthusiastic. They came back everyday, so that was awesome!
“Bermudians are so chill. We talked a lot about their lifestyle, how they grew up, and their customs,” she says.

“They were really excited to find every little bone. I was too . . . at first. Then it’s like, ‘here’s another fish vertebra!’ But Dr. Jarvis never got jaded. He is so enthusiastic.”

“We were always afraid of finding human bones,” Ghimire confesses. “There was a circular area within Sharpe’s trash site that was big enough to fit a man—like a grave. And Jarvis was really reluctant to dig it, because if there was a body then we’d have to stop the dig, call in a forensic team, and everything would come to a halt. But, luckily, it was just a natural depression in the soil layer.

“It didn’t feel like five weeks, it went by so fast. It’s a six-credit course—though it didn’t seem like I was doing a lot of work because it was so much fun.”

Sharper skills

Even though Ghirmire is on a pre-med track, she says studying history has helped to her hone skills that are important to her success in medicine.

“History is a passion. It teaches me how to think, and how to see the world,” she says.

“History in college isn’t anything like it is in high school. It’s not about remembering dates. It’s about finding evidence to support why something happened. I just love that aspect of it. And now I like archaeology, too.”

Archive project links history and computer science

Senior Luke Kortepeter came to college on the pre-med track, but a class project in the library’s archives turned him into a computer science and history double major.

He’s been working on the Seward Family Papers digital history project for two years. Students involved in the project take Professor Thomas Slaughter’s history class on the family of William H. Seward, and also transcribe and digitize letters from a collection in the Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation department of  Rush Rhees Library.

“This spring we focused on the family correspondence,” says Kortepeter. “It’s a whole new primary resource that hasn’t been utilized yet.

He says the 15 students in the class spent the spring on letters from 1862. Once digitized and online, the papers will be more accessible, he says.

After four semesters working on the project, Kortepeter knows a lot about the Sewards. “I must have read 500-1,000 letters so far, and it’s awesome,” he says.

“We have thousands of letters covering a sixty year period. We are going through every single one,” he says. “And that’s really cool for me, actually, knowing that you’re the very first person reading the letter since it was first read.”

Bad handwriting

kortepeter_280 The project is expected to go “live” in the spring of 2015. Kortepeter and his classmates are racing to get as many letters transcribed, annotated, and digitized as they can before the project’s debut.

That said, the process requires keen eyes and a good understanding of the Seward family’s historical context.

In addition to serving as Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln for two terms, William Henry Seward was the Governor of New York and a US senator. He also negotiated the purchase of Alaska from the Russians for two cents per acre—a purchase many considered foolish at the time.

Just reading the letters can be a challenge. “Since the handwritings on the letters are pretty awful for the most part, we are transcribing them—once you get used to it, it’s not as bad,” Kortepeter says.

“And, we are also annotating them. The user will be able to read the transcription right next to the digital image, and if they see a name they are interested in, they can click and it will say who that person was.

Teen diary

“Having been with the project for a while I’ve read basically everyone’s handwriting. It’s definitely interesting to see how different they are.

“Fanny Seward’s is very curly—beautiful handwriting—and she loved writing about her daily life,” Kortepeter says. “She’s a teenager at this time, and so you can see how she’s growing up and how the world is changing so much around her.

“She’d have fine descriptions of gentlemen, and will talk about things as basic as their jawline and how it curves perfectly. And so it’s very interesting to read—I mean, it’s her diary. She wasn’t expecting anyone to be reading it,” says Kortepeter.

Finding personalities

“Then on the opposite end of the spectrum, we have William Henry’s wife, Frances, whose handwriting is awful.

“It’s up for debate how ‘into’ the whole political thing she was in terms of supporting him,” says Kortepeter. “Some historians say that she wasn’t very supportive and it was a pain for her to have go to these conventions
with him. But,” he says, “we are finding that might not be true.

“She would go to Washington, DC, and say how awful it was and how she had migraines the whole time. And how at social events she would go, but then sit in a room by herself.

It’s “really cool” to pick up on people’s personalities in the letters, according to Kortepeter. “A lot of these resources weren’t available, so when [researchers] only had a snippet of letters and she’s angry in every single one of them, then you’d say ‘yeah, of course, she’s angry and hates her husband’s career,’” he explains.

“But when you see these other letters and she’s so passionate about slavery—she hated slavery—or just her opinions about political scandals at the time, it just really shows she was interested, and she definitely had opinions about what was going on.

“The DC social life wasn’t for her. She found it incredibly stressful. Especially since her husband was so incredibly social—it was hard to live up to that,” Kortepeter says.

‘I have no desire to be a doctor’

Kortepeter, who started out doing pre-med, says the Seward letter project “has definitely changed my college path completely.

“I had been doing premed stuff all through high school—I worked in labs, both my parents are doctors, and I figured, ‘yeah, sure, I could be a doctor, too.’ And that winter break of my freshman year, I followed a surgeon around for a little bit, and I was just… ‘I hate this—I have no desire to be a doctor.’

“Then I floundered around a little bit, trying econ. I took a history class with Professor Jarvis, and my freshman writing teacher worked with Slaughter and said, ‘Why don’t you talk to him, he’s my favorite professor—and just take a class with him’? And I was like, ‘okay, sure.’”

Kortepeter says his parents had different reactions to his change in plans.

“My father was excited for me to explore my own thing. My mother was confused because I was always so sciencey—all throughout high school,” he says. “All my AP classes were in science.

“It was very new to me to go into a history class. I came here because I know it’s a strong science school,” Kortepeter says, “and then ended up studying something totally different.”

He says his two majors complement each other. “Usually with computer science I’ll do my projects, but I don’t really get to apply it. Like, I can only make Tetris so many times,” he says with a laugh.

“With this, I really get to be on both sides of the project: I get to do the history things and work with the letters, but then as a computer science student, I am also working on the website and the database—helping with everything, really,” he explains.

“It was the perfect project for me.”

Laptop Orchestra brings creative fusion to the Fringe

If your body was an instrument, what would it sound like? This is one of the questions that David Heid ’13 attempts to answer with the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, an interactive exhibition that blends art and science.  The event, featuring two performances on Thursday, September 18th and Saturday, September 20th, is one of many showcases at this year’s Rochester Fringe Festival.

Inspired by performances at Princeton and Stanford, Heid’s computer-based compositions explore the ways that the digital and electronic sciences can intersect with music.  “This one’s different in the sense that it’s more interactive,” he said. Heid’s exhibition will allow the audience to be a part of the musical experience. The Laptop Orchestra promises to provide a multimodal, interactive experience that showcases the breadth of creativity and innovation that the University of Rochester has to offer.

Heid believes that the project well represents the focus of his studies of music education and electrical and computer engineering.  A former dual degree student at Eastman and the River campus, he is now a second year masters student pursuing a degree in musical acoustics and signal processing.  In many senses, the creation of the Laptop Orchestra is a fusion of Heid’s dual interests and various talents by showcasing the combination of music and engineering.  “Music has never felt academic enough for me,” he admitted. “This is a nice way to blend it in a way that it can be.”

Instead of conventional instruments, the “orchestra” makes use of computers and motion sensing controllers used by undergraduates to generate sound.  One piece involves a dancer from Ballet Performance Group creating sound through movement. Through a Wiimote and gesture recognition technology, dance moves are translated into music.  A similar piece allows a dancer to generate pre-recorded sound bites from the Yellowjackets according to specific steps on electronically wired tap shoes.  Another performance brings in the Plank Road North Elementary Drum Ensemble creating a composition of pre-recorded vocal percussion.

Heid’s event is just as interactive as it is collaborative, which differentiates it from the earlier digital orchestras.  One segment of the performance allows an audience member to control the rhythm of the piece through the use of a hacked Bop-It.  Another allows the audience to decide the progression of a musical landscape as produced by the campus Carillon Society.

One of the more personal pieces involves mapping viruses to music. Using data from translated genomes, Heid created compositions that function as musical representations of HIV and ebola, among other illnesses. Last spring, Heid was quarantined after the measles outbreak, which was an experience that put a strain on his academic momentum as a grad student.  Instead of viewing it as a setback, he used the experience as an opportunity, working with an epidemiologist to create the virus-themed pieces.

While the Laptop Orchestra is in many ways the apex of Heid’s academic career, the show is not entirely about him; the project actually brought in the knowledge and talent of over 40 different students. “I know I’m not an expert in everything, and that’s why I brought these people in,” Heid said. “At Rochester, we do great things in every discipline. With the Laptop Orchestra, we can do those things together.”

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to RocMusic collaborative, which offers classical and instrumental music lessons to children in the downtown Rochester area. Getting a musical start in Pennsylvania through a similar program, he hopes that this early opportunity program can provide children with the same access to the arts.

All in all, Heid hopes that the performances will bring attention to the many possibilities that music has to offer in the modern world. “There’s not a lot in the industry that tries to blend stuff like this; I want to get people thinking.” With the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, he’s sure to do just that.

The Rochester Laptop Orchestra will have two shows on Thursday, September 18th at 6:00PM and Saturday, September 20th at 2:30PM at the TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox Auditorium.

STEM Initiative Grows to Promote Science Education

By Rei Ramos ‘15
University Communications

A new student organization is hoping to sow the seeds of science throughout the Rochester community.  Dubbed the STEM Initiative, the group focuses on motivating and inspiring young students to pursue education in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

“Our focus is giving students STEM education at an early age,” said Jenny Yoon ‘16, a microbiology major and one of the organization’s co-founders and current co-president. The group promotes and provides opportunities for science education by offering after-school workshops at area schools that are hands-on, interactive, and free. Making use of undergraduate volunteers, the STEM Initiative’s programming is based on student-created lesson plans. In this sense, co-president George Iwaoka ‘16, who is pursuing degrees in cell and developmental biology and financial economics, views the student group they have created as a grassroots organization that hopes to instill positive change at a local community level.

The duo, both graduates of Bergen County Academies in Hackensack, New Jersey, consider themselves fortunate for their heavy exposure to STEM fields before coming to college. Continuing on at the U of R, a leading school in both STEM education and research, Iwaoka and Yoon found the lack of educational outreach for the sciences problematic. The current substandard state of Rochester area public schools, coupled with the national decline in literacy in scientific fields, motivated the pair to create the group.

Since its initial inception in the fall of 2013, the group has evolved from a small volunteer effort to an organization recognized and funded by the Students’ Association.  Originally funded out of the pockets of its early members, the group has since grown to be able to offer regular biweekly workshops at a local school, complete with funded lesson plans and engaging activities covering subjects ranging from basic physics to computer programming. These structured workshops are planned by students and made possible through the weekly contributions of undergraduate volunteers.  The STEM Initiative currently has 36 student volunteers that have contributed to planning and teaching.

This past spring, STEM exclusively offered workshops at Adlai E. Stevenson School No. 29. “It’s not the best school in terms of math and science,” said Iwaoka.  Located in the 19th ward, School 29 ranks among the lowest in test scores in the state.  They were also cut from the list of schools visited by the university’s Partners in Reading program. The diminishing educational opportunities at this school prompted the STEM Initiative to focus its efforts there.”The kids are really bright,” said Yoon. “It’s great to see that they don’t see themselves as ‘too cool’ for science.”

One of the organization’s first efforts in event programming also turned out to be one of its largest successes.  On April 14th, the group sponsored its first Family Science Day, a free and public science fair.  STEM brought together science-affiliated student groups, area youth, and their families in the Munnerlyn Atrium of Goergen Hall for an interactive and educational experience.  Garnering support from science and engineering associated student groups, Iwaoka and Yoon were able to offer the local community a chance to explore and experience science firsthand.  The event included demonstrations and experiments from campus organizations such as Engineers Without Borders, MERT, and the Baja SAE Team among others.  Drawing in more than 300 attendees and partnering with 23 different organizations, the event was successful in its community outreach and showcase of the sciences.

Looking at the coming year, Iwaoka and Yoon aim to increase the STEM Initiative’s presence in the Greater Rochester Community.  “We really want the Rochester business community to be involved,” said Iwaoka who views the group as a potential liaison for science education.  With Rochester as a leading hub for optics, the group believes that involvement from area companies would open doors for event programming on a larger scale.

That’s not to say that STEM isn’t doing enough on its own to expand.  With more anticipated funding from the SA Government in the fall, as well as through an upcoming Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, the two co-presidents hope to see the group grow to offer more workshops at other area schools and bigger community programming with plans for a “STEM Olympics” that will function as an interactive field day for science.  They also hope to branch out to inspire additional chapters at other universities.  Iwaoka aspires to see the group broaden its influence at a national level in the coming years and similarly hopes to see its message spread abroad.

Through all the responsibilities of starting and developing a student organization, the pair views their work in the past year as worth all of the stress.  “It’s really fun, and the kids are eager to learn,” said Yoon in regards to their workshops.  To her, one of the best parts of this experience has been making personal connections with students.  Similarly, Iwaoka finds value in seeing the impact that the organization’s efforts have made and is excited that he may be helping to produce the next great leaders in the STEM fields. “Somewhere down the line, our work can inspire a young student to pursue a career in science, and that in itself is rewarding.”

UR Student Spends Life in the Wild

What are you doing at 4:30 a.m. on a school day? For most undergraduates, an average morning involves sleeping, or perhaps some last minute work on a paper or project. For Tyler Breen ‘16, it is the start of his workday during waterfowl season. In New York State, the waterfowl season consists of a 60-day period in the fall, a season that sends Breen out to the field and in position before sunrise. “Legal sunrise takes place at about 7:07 a.m.,” says Breen, who serves as a local guide for hunters, “which means that the heaviest flights times for ducks are at 6:37 a.m.”

Breen, an ecology and evolutionary biology major at the University of Rochester, became interested in hunting at an early age. Breen’s grandfather was the president of the New York State Chapter of the National Turkey Federation, an organization which focused on raising turkeys and bringing their population back to New York during his tenure. Breen went on his first youth hunt at age 12 with a family friend. He then began to hunt mallard ducks for the next two years, teaching himself the tactics and calls as he went along. This past summer, Breen passed the exam to become a New York State Licensed Outdoor Guide, a position which allows him to serve as an escort for hunting groups.

While to some, Breen’s hobby of hunting might seem at odds with his major, to Breen these interests are perfectly aligned. “I like to think of myself as both a conservationist and a sportsman,” says Breen, “A lot of experienced hunters are environmentally active, and we try to put two ducks in the sky for every one that we take.”

Licensed guides in New York are hired by groups or individuals looking to hunt waterfowl. Breen currently works as a guide at Fish and Frontier Outfitters in Farmington, N.Y., where his responsibilities extend way beyond simply taking people out hunting. Guides are responsible for scouting locations and negotiate with landowners for permission to hunt on their property. Another key element of the guide’s job is placing decoys before taking their clients out in the field. Decoys are incredibly detailed “fake” birds that are placed in clearings to attract live birds flying over to land in range of the hunting group. These decoys are specific to each different species of duck, and are made with extremely detailed materials in order to successfully fool the live birds, who can be notoriously difficult to trick. “Geese and ducks are a lot smarter than most people think,” says Breen, “To hunt a duck, you have to be a duck.” In addition to the day to day tasks, as a guide Breen is also responsible for knowing every Federal regulation surrounding different species of waterfowl and flyway locations. In an average season, Breen hunts a large number of different species of both geese and duck. Regulations surrounding “Daily Bag Limits,” or how many birds you can take during a single trip, differ for each type of waterfowl, and differ further depending on if the bird is a hen (female) or drake (male). As a guide, Breen must be able to identify the species of duck and its sex while the bird is flying above him, or risk breaking federal regulation; this is an extraordinarily impressive skill given the differences between the species are often very minute.

Tyler-Breen-2Environmental conservation is an important subject for Breen, and he is currently on the board of directors for two local waterfowl organizations, the Canandaigua Lake Duck Hunters and the Lima chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Both organizations focus on fundraising and conservation efforts, including building nesting boxes to help increase the local waterfowl population. Taking part in these conservation activities led Breen to his academic interest in ecology and evolutionary biology. As a Rochester undergraduate, Breen has pursued research focusing on the genetic makeup of common ducks, which can often be hard to differentiate. Two common species of ducks in the Western New York region are mallard and black ducks. “The hybridization process has begun fairly recently and lead to a sharp decline in black duck populations due to migration of mallards into historically black duck specific breeding grounds,” says Breen. “The future survival of the American Black Duck is in serious question as mallard genetics are rapidly polluting the gene pool of black ducks.”

Breen is examining the underlying cause of why black duck hens prefer drake mallards over drake blacks on the breeding grounds, specifically how the hybridization is a function of mallard genetic dominance that overcomes the recessive alleles in the black duck which have gone to fixation due to genetic drift. During his research, Breen connected with a fellow ecology student in Beverly Hills, Calif., studying a similar topic. Breen helped the student by sending him information and samples of the mallard/black hybridization. “Understanding the process of hybridization is important to increasing our understanding of these species, this information is very important to conservation efforts and to preventing the inevitable loss of the species,” says Breen, who hopes to continue to work outdoors, both as a guide and a conservationist, as well as possibly pursuing a doctorate in ornithology.

In addition to being a licensed guide and full-time student, Breen also is an accomplished Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America organization. He views the outdoors as almost a second home, and scouting was an excellent introduction into the world of camping and outdoor adventure. Breen served for two summers as a counselor for an Ohio Scout camp, where he taught wilderness survival and other skill courses. Another element of hunting that Breen is passionate about is the trust and bonding that hunting with the same group can build over time. During summer 2013, Breen was encouraged by one of the members of his hunting group to pursue volunteer firefighting. Breen had been trained in First-Aid during his time as a scout, so he embarked on the application process, where he was required to learn and pass tests on necessary skills and situational responses. Last summer, he took a firefighting course at the Public Safety Training Facility of Monroe County, which consisted of learning the skills necessary to successfully fight fires both indoors and outdoors, including how to navigate burning buildings safely, and use the respiratory and protective equipment properly. The course involved nights of real fire training, which Breen describes as “intense.”

While Breen has many interests, his main passion is the outdoors: “I love the sense that I’m alone in the outdoors,” explains Breen,  “When I take a trip into the remote wilderness I’m seeing and experiencing things that most people don’t get to.”

From Breadboards to Brooches: Making Jewelry with Amanda Preske

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

When walking by the Common Market, you may have noticed one of the University’s quirky little treasures: jewelry hand-made from old circuit boards. Many have speculated on who creates these works of art. Could it be a computer science student, or perhaps a studio art major? Actually, these little treasures were designed by third-year chemistry doctoral student, Amanda Preske. Preske is a student in the Krauss Lab, and when she’s not in the lab making carbon nanotubes for use in artificial electron transfer chemistry, she’s in her workshop making jewelry. Her creations are on display in the art cart on the first floor of Wilson Commons, next to the Common Market, and made their debut during the holiday shopping fair in December.

Preske got her inspiration to make circuit boards into jewelry at an early age, while watching her brother tear apart an old computer. She saw beauty where others might have just seen silicon and metal. Another important source of materials for her has been the E-cycling program, both at her alma mater, RIT, and here at the U of R. Electronics are recycled and repurposed in this program, and if the circuitry catches her eye, she’ll scoop it up, encase it in epoxy resin, and turn it into an earring or necklace. It is necessary to encase the circuits in epoxy not only to produce the characteristic glossy shine, but also to protect wearers of the jewelry from sharp soldered contacts, or other loose circuit elements.

Wherever someone has an old computer, she’ll be right there waiting to repurpose the breadboard into art. As Preske told this reporter, “why be boring, when you can embrace your quirks?”

Preske’s creative business is made possible by Etsy, which is a specialized website similar to eBay. Etsy allows artisans to sell high-quality hand-crafted pieces on a larger scale than they would be able to otherwise. In fact, the art cart where Preske sells her jewelry on campus is sponsored by Etsy’s Rochester branch. Cash or credit are currently the only accepted forms of payment, however, it is likely that flex will be accepted as a form of payment at promotional events in the future. Preske plans to continue her business in the future, even once she graduates with her doctorate. She has always enjoyed hands-on projects such as this jewelry business.

Pre-Med Student ‘Takes 5’ to Appreciate Art

By Joseph Bailey
University Communications

Billal Masood ’13/T5 ’14 came out of his years as an undergraduate last spring with a degree in biology and all the right qualifications for medical school…but he decided to spend a fifth year at Rochester to pursue an interest in fine art. He is finishing up his Take 5 year as an intern at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he works under the supervision of Michelle Hagewood, as a spring gallery and studio programs intern in the Education Department of the Met. He serves as a teaching assistant for studio programs, and also does research for the museum’s Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art grant. He learned of the internship in 2012, when visiting the Met, and is in the “Big Apple” through the University’s Art NY program

While Masood’s undergraduate career has seen him earn a degree in biology, with a minor in English and a cluster in psychology, he sees potential in developing new art-based therapies, where he hopes to apply what he has learned during the Art New York experience with what he will learn at medical school.

This year’s program attracted a variety of majors, including biology, business, and economics majors, etc., but they all shared a common interest in art. The program seeks to help students gain insight into the marriage of art theory and practice. His internship duties include serving as a T.A. for studio art programs, educating the general population of museum-goers, and lining up specific tours for the class he assists.

With regards to theory and practice of art, interns in the Art New York program take three classes: their individual internship, a colloquium, and a new media course. For the colloquium, the professor, Elizabeth Cohen, gives many lectures, and invites frequent guest lecturers as well. The program exposes students to the art scene in NYC, through immersion as well as instruction. Masood says, “I’m proud to have been a participant.”

Masood credits his family and Rochester faculty members for nurturing his love for art and academia. It’s a passion that his Met internship is deepening. He is constantly exploring the two million square feet of galleries the Met has to offer; often taking short lunch breaks to maximize his time seeing the art. These excursions have even taken him to the Guggenheim, which has piqued his interest in the relationship between art and architecture.

Some of the pieces Masood has spent the most time appreciating are The Temple of Dendur, Shiva as Lord of Dance, and a painting, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies. The Temple of Dendur is a massive piece that includes inscriptions of many ancient Egyptian gods, including Isis, Osiris, and Horus. In Masood’s opinion, Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies reflects nature’s beauty and peace. He noted how his time at the museum has helped mature his appreciation of art.“I’m constantly involved in both behind-the-scenes and readily visible preparations,” he said. “I really hope to increase my understanding and appreciation of art each day.”

Organic Ideas Grow on Campus

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

In Leila Nadir’s class, Food, Media and Literature, the concept of sustainability is definitely taking root. Her lesson plans include explorations of the way our food reaches us, and how that system can be improved. She sprinkles in the lingo of the health-food movement, and fosters healthy, back-to-basics attitudes in her pupils. The class also includes overviews of the potential detriments of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Students find her approach welcoming, with plenty of hands-on activities. They strive to become savvy consumers of food, as well as stewards of the earth.

One of the do-it-yourself projects in the course is to sprout seeds, including alfalfa, broccoli, and various peas and beans, to produce an eco-friendly, healthful snack. The seeds are soaked in glass jars and drained three times a day to promote germination. Several students in the course said the reason they enrolled was that they were interested in where the food they ate came from. By sprouting seeds, they all have a chance to engage in the whole process, from start to finish.

l-r: Sarah Kirschenheiter '13, Stacy Miller '15 and Julia Evans '13 (all class TA's). // The New Media Fermentation Workshop, a collaboration between University of Rochester professors Leila Nadir (sustainability) and Cary Peppermint (art and art history) meets in Burton Hall March 31, 2014. The workshop consist of students making their own personal vegetable ferments plus new media art students who will be documenting and remixing the experience. The workshops are part of EcoArtTech's new work-in-progress, Edible Ecologies, which involves collaborating with local communities to resuscitate historic food practices and foodways.  // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of RochesterWhen asked how she got interested in food, media and literature, teaching assistant Stacy Miller replied, “I love food, and I want to be a smart consumer of it.” The class places a strong emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices. Junior Brittany Flittner plans to use what she learns in this class to educate her family and herself to eat better foods that have a lower impact on the environment.

One subject the course addresses qualitatively is genetically modified organisms. Generally, the consensus among class members is that, in spite of some short-term benefits, GMOs are a bad idea in the long run. They identified potential issues like the emergence of resistant pests, caused by exclusive use of the same kind of GMO, or inferior taste, in the case of the late-ripening tomato. In one student’s opinion, GMOs might one day be safe enough to integrate into the food supply, but until then further study is needed. Students also commented on the inefficiency of food distribution, both nationally and internationally. One astute student pointed out that no matter how much food is produced by farms, people are still hungry in the world, noting that in industrialized nations, much food often goes to waste, while the poor and people in the developing world are left trying to make ends meet.

On March 31, the class gathered in a lounge in Burton residence hall to participate in a fermentation workshop. In the Greenspace lounge, these intrepid students sliced, diced, and chopped up vegetables of all kinds, creating mixtures of cabbage, with peppers and beets for flavor. “It’s important to cut the vegetables up very thin. You want to have as much surface area as possible,” Nadir explained. The veggies were mixed in bowls, then placed into jars with salt to ferment for a couple of weeks. Junior Stacy Miller described the process as “all-natural, a back-to-basics approach to preserving food.” No vinegar, sugar, or chemicals were added to hasten the fermentation process, as one might do when making pickles or sauerkraut. The only preservatives were various kinds of salt, added to disrupt the vegetables’ cell walls using osmotic pressure.

The New Media Fermentation Workshop, a collaboration between University of Rochester professors Leila Nadir (sustainability) and Cary Peppermint (art and art history) meets in Burton Hall March 31, 2014. The workshop consist of students making their own personal vegetable ferments plus new media art students who will be documenting and remixing the experience. The workshops are part of EcoArtTech's new work-in-progress, Edible Ecologies, which involves collaborating with local communities to resuscitate historic food practices and foodways.  // photo by J. Adam Fenster / University of Rochester

Through the workshop, students got a firsthand view into how food has been preserved historically, and learned that adding just a little sea salt to cabbage could promote the growth of probiotic bacteria. One student described how the same bacteria are present in yogurt, but not in their natural amounts. Probiotics are initially removed from the yogurt, then re-added later in the process. This workshop showed students how healthy “good bacteria” are a part of a balanced diet.

From sprouts to fermented veggies, the health food movement is definitely flourishing in Food, Media, and Literature!