San Antonio student earns hefty Oregon State ROTC scholarship, headed to Alamo Bowl
On Dec. 29, fans of Beaver Nation will invade the Alamodome in San Antonio for the football team’s Alamo Bowl matchup against Texas. Among those fans will sit the Quidachay family, including San Antonio’s Smithson Valley High School senior Kendi Quidachay, who recently received a $180,000 ROTC scholarship to Oregon State University.
The sum will be more than enough to cover Kendi’s college education. She’s earned it.
During her first few high school years, Quidachay put together a strong resume: school leadership, community involvement, National Honors Society treasurer, school and church volunteer work, a Spanish and science club member, a math tutor, a 3.91 GPA and solid ACT scores.
“My older sister got a scholarship three years ago to Washington, and I saw what it did for her, so I made sure to qualify and apply,” Quidachay said. “There are a lot of scholarships out there.”
Oregon State University is her first choice. After all, she’s a legacy. Her parents, Vince (’88) and Karen (’89), are both Beaver graduates and speak highly of their alma mater. The university also has a recognized ROTC program, and Kendi is currently a junior ROTC member.
Quidachay, a unique name in itself, originates from Guam. In fact, Kendi’s father and grandparents are full Guamanian, and her father and grandfather served in the Navy. The Quidachay’s are a military family, to say the least.
An aspiring engineer
There’s one more thing that attracted Kendi to Oregon State: its nationally recognized engineering program. She says civil engineering is her target, has heard about the success of graduates and hopes to serve in the military as a civil engineer when her education is complete.
For many people, physics is the bane of their existence. They either get it or they don’t. Kendi gets physics — and math and science and everything that’s supposed to be hard — primed to be an engineer.
“It’s a great field,” she said. “I’m taking calculus and physics now. I like the whole buildings and bridges thing, designing structures.”
When speaking about her future, the senior is nervous, yet excited. She already sees what doors are about to open for her with the ROTC scholarship. She’ll be required to serve five years in the military when she finishes college, which could end up becoming an engineering career.
“You’re an officer in the military right out of college, it’s a great future,” Kendi said. “I’d like to go on a ship. I’d like to leave my options open. With an engineering degree, you can do a lot, so we’ll see what jobs they can offer me.”
As far as the decision to attend Oregon State, Kendi hasn’t fully made up her mind. She’s applied to multiple schools, but says Oregon State is still at the top of her list.
She’s taking her time, however. After all, college is a big decision. That said, Beaver Nation would be lucky to have her.
Public health researchers team up on flame retardant study
Preventing house fires is important, especially in families with children – but there is growing evidence that flame retardant materials used broadly in furniture, electronics, and even toys, may create a new health threat.
Research has shown that many of the chemicals used as flame retardants persist in the environment and accumulate in people. While the health effects from flame retardants are not clear, data from toxicological studies show that some of the chemicals used as flame retardants may affect brain development – a conclusion that has led to the ban of many of these chemicals in the European Union. But in the United States, the federal standards have focused on fire safety, not necessarily the chemicals that are used as flame retardants.
The lack of regulation may relate to the dearth of applied research. While many experts agree that some of the chemicals used in flame retardants are toxic, few studies have focused on the risk of exposure to common household items, from furniture to rugs. Now a team of researchers at Oregon State University is hoping to fill some of those gaps.
“We know from animal studies that some flame retardants can have a neurotoxic effect, so brain development and cognition are at risk,” said Molly Kile, an OSU public health environmental epidemiologist who will lead a team of researchers to find answers.
“Given the fact that the numbers of children with neurological and cognitive disabilities is on the rise in the developing world, many have hypothesized that that exposure to chemicals may be a contributing factor,” Kile said. “In order to start designing studies that can examine this hypothesis, it is necessary to understand how children are being exposed to chemicals like flame retardants. For instance, why do some households have higher exposures and how are children coming into contact with these chemicals?”
Other OSU researchers on this team are focusing on potential for social factors to affect children’s ability to control their behavior, as well as other neurological and cognitive factors that can impact motor skills, attention deficit, and other aspects of school readiness.
Perhaps most importantly to parents, the researchers will examine different ways to reduce the effects of these chemical exposures on children’s health. This is a particularly critical aspect of this study since previous research has shown that 97 percent of Americans have one of the key flame retardant chemicals, known as polybromintaed diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in their blood. And young children have been shown to have almost three times the levels of PBDEs in their blood as their mothers.
“We want to explore if a supportive home environment, with lots of active play, positive parenting, and educational activities, can help dampen the effects of these chemicals on children’s development,” said Shannon Lipscomb, an assistant professor at OSU-Cascades who is conducting surveys with the parents of the children in the study.
“There are large gaps in school readiness, despite most children having some amount of exposure to these chemicals. So we suspect that parents can help to protect children from some of the potentially harmful effects.”
This interdisciplinary group of OSU researchers is working under a grant from the university’s Environmental Health Sciences Center that will monitor 100 preschool age children in Corvallis and Bend during the next year.
Their methodology is as fascinating as the study is important. Over the next year, OSU researchers will visit the families of the 100 preschool children in their homes. The children will wear bracelets designed by OSU’s Kim Anderson that can monitor the amount of chemicals they are exposed to each day.
Anderson, a professor in the Department of Environmental & Molecular Toxicology at OSU, developed the silicone-based passive sampling device. It is fashioned as a plastic bracelet which can either be worn on the child’s wrist or ankle. After being worn for one week, Anderson and Kile will analyze the data, using a statistical model developed by Bo Zhang, a new faculty member and biostatistician in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
The researchers will also vacuum household dust in the areas where the children most often play to collect direct chemical data from the household. All participants of the study receive a free chemical analysis of their home, along with gift certificates to local businesses.
Both undergraduate and graduate students at OSU are heavily involved in this study. For instance, Andrea Gomez, a senior in human development and family sciences, is the project coordinator of the Corvallis site. Gomez has done research with Megan McClelland, an associate professor at OSU and one of the core directors of OSU’s Hallie E. Ford Center for Healthy Children and Families.
Kate Nordquist, a recent graduate in human development and family sciences and current master’s student at OSU-Cascades in elementary teaching, is the project coordinator of the Bend site, working with Lipscomb and her team of students. Jennifer Pryzbyla, a doctoral student in the Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety program, is also involved. With the help of other students, they are leading the efforts to collect the samples from the participants’ homes and assess children’s development.
“For me, being involved in research at OSU has given me a deeper understanding of children and families,” Gomez said. “It is a direct way to apply what is learned in the classroom.”
McClelland is also involved in the flame retardant study, conducting assessments of the participants’ ability to control their behavior, or “self-regulate.” Self-regulation has been found by McClelland to be a key predictor as to whether or not a child is ready for school, and uses a Simon Says-like task to assess these skills in children.
McClelland said this project, which combines the expertise of new junior faculty members with more seasoned faculty, is unusual for academia. She said it can be rare to find researchers from such different areas, such as analytical chemists, environmental epidemiologists and child development experts, working together
“Having this collaborative space available at the Hallie Ford Center has really been essential for this project,” McClelland said. “And it really fits with the mission of the center, to help children and families, along with the public health mission of our college.”
Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, is an expert on motor skills and developmental delays, such as autism. She is leading the group looking at cognitive functioning of the children.
MacDonald says that 1 in 88 children now have autism spectrum disorder, a rate that has risen far above the 2009 estimate of 1 in 110. Autism is the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disability, and identifying potential triggers for neurodevelopmental disabilities is more critical than ever.
“We’re trying to capture the fact that health, and things that can impact cognitive functioning in particular, are multi-factorial,” she said. “It’s never just one magic bullet.”
The researchers pointed out that while every child is exposed to the chemicals in flame retardants, some homes may have higher levels.
“Parents who can afford to buy all-natural wool mattresses for their child’s crib, for instance, may see a benefit,” McClelland said, adding that wool is naturally flame-repellant, and so does not usually have the same chemical profile. “But environmentally-friendly material is often much more expensive, and many parents simply can’t afford it.”
Kile said parents can’t be blamed when almost all materials are embedded with these chemicals. But she said policy change could be a long time coming, so in the meantime, OSU researchers want to help families develop tools to help their child’s health.
“Chemicals are innocent until proven guilty in this country,” Kile said. “In Europe, for instance, manufacturers have to prove chemicals are not harmful before they put them in a product. Here, you have to prove it is harmful before you can remove it.”
Kile said these different philosophies frequently cause confusion for manufacturers and the public who hear different messages depending on the source of information.
Assessing preschool-age children is important because this is considered a key time for brain development. Experts say intervening early to help children with behavioral and socialization skills is crucial to their academic success.
“Children live in a plastic, foam-filled environment, and they are susceptible particularly at this critical time of 4 to 5 years-old,” Kile said. “What we want to do is capture a snapshot of what is happening just in 100 homes in two cities, and cast a wide net to see what these chemicals are doing.”
When Susana Rivera-Mills was 12, her family fled their native El Salvador to travel to the United States for what they thought would be a temporary stay. They were escaping the brutal civil war that tore through El Salvador between 1979 and 1992 — a war that had brought violence to the streets and left Rivera-Mills uncertain whether she would see her mother again each day when she was dropped off at school.
The fighting continued long beyond the six months, and the family had had no choice but to start a new life in the U.S. None of the family members could speak English, and they had left El Salvador with only a suitcase each.
It was a shock for Rivera-Mills to be one of only a few Latino students in the small California town they moved to. The experience of dislocation as an immigrant in the U.S. would eventually prompt Rivera-Mills to create a professional life that would allow her to help others in the same situation.
Her experiences, Rivera-Mills says, created in her a desire to support those who lack a place to belong. As associate dean for Oregon State University’s College of Liberal Arts and interim director of the university’s new Center for Latin@ Studies and Engagement, she’s turned her difficult experiences into inspiration to give back to her community.
Driven to pursue education by her family’s struggles, Rivera-Mills shaped her career to support immigrant populations. With a doctoral degree in romance linguistics, she has been an advocate for the preservation of Spanish among Latino communities in the United States.
“My research looks closely at the variables that affect language maintenance and
loss in communities,” Rivera-Mills says. “I study community dynamics that help or hinder language use, and then share my findings with communities so that they can make informed decisions about their own language.”
With CL@SE, Rivera-Mills plans to expand Latino research by engaging multiple communities in studying Latino issues. The center’s mission is to promote research and outreach to advance knowledge and understanding of Latino contributions and issues surrounding the Latino population in the United States.
“We are interested in partnering with communities to co-create models in which the community needs are assessed and expressed, and then determine if and where Oregon State can serve to meet some of those needs,” Rivera-Mills says. “We hope to work with OSU Extension to get to know communities state-wide and develop programs around health issues and small business development.”
A chaotic life
But before Rivera-Mills could find the power to help her family or see herself as a role model within her community, she had to learn how to survive in a completely unfamiliar situation.
Both of Rivera-Mills’ parents had to work 12-hour days just to keep the family afloat. Suddenly stripped of the stay-at-home parent they’d enjoyed throughout their lives, she and her siblings had to take responsibility for themselves; waking up, getting ready for school, making it to the bus, completing their homework and making dinner on their own.
That responsibility, coupled with a desire to ease her parents’ struggles in any way she could, led Rivera Mills to take a full time summer job at a plant nursery, though she was only 12 years old.
“In my child mind, that was to me a way where, if I could work and buy my school clothes, or work and take care of certain things, then that was my contribution to try to calm what I perceived to be chaos around me,” she says.
The same spirit that inspired Rivera Mills to try to make things easier for her parents — working to provide her own money as well as keeping incidents of kids bullying her at school to herself — eventually helped her aspire to higher education.
“That honestly is what drove me through my Ph.D.,” she says. “It was having in the back of my mind the idea that everything I was doing in terms of my own educational training was about how do I help my family financially, how do I help them be in a place where they feel safe and where they feel stable and where we can finally not have to live moment by moment, worrying about what’s going to happen.”
From family to community
Rivera-Mills earned her doctoral degree in romance linguistics from the University of New Mexico in 1998. After completing her degree while working full-time to stay out of debt, Rivera-Mills had achieved her goal.
When she began her first professional job training future secondary language schoolteachers at Northern Arizona University, she felt she finally had secured the resources to help her parents. And she was right — with help from Rivera-Mills and her brother, who had recently graduated college, her parents were able to retire after relocating to Klamath Falls.
“It isn’t about the money so much as it’s about the honor, respect and gratitude being returned to the previous generation,” Rivera-Mills says.
But Rivera-Mills didn’t stop there. After achieving the goal of helping her family, she began to understand the implications of her role as a Latina woman with a doctoral degree.
“I realized all of a sudden that my goal had widened,” she says. “It wasn’t just about my family anymore, because I realized that I was going to represent a real minority as a Latina woman with a Ph.D. The magnitude of what that meant and the fact that I would automatically become a role model whether I wanted to or not really broadened my mission.”
Uniting around Latino issues
Embracing that newfound responsibility, Rivera-Mills committed to giving back to her community and to students in her position. She supported the National Hispanic Scholarship that helped her get through graduate school, and mentored Latino students who were experiencing the same displacement and loss of identity she went through.
Now, Rivera-Mills gives talks around the state to encourage students to pursue higher education, and has worked through programs like Oregon State’s Adelante Leadership Program to endow Latino students with the belief that they can be leaders in their communities, in the state and beyond. When she shares her story with students, Rivera-Mills says, she sees how powerful it is for them to identify with someone who has achieved goals similar to their own.
“That has become a huge drive that continually feeds me and my passion for the work that I do,” she says.
She’s continuing that mission with CL@SE, which began its inaugural week Oct. 8. The theme of seeking common ground has become a motto for the center that Rivera-Mills believes reflects its goals to engage people from different backgrounds and perspectives to find commonality in Latino issues that also impact the United States as a society.
“We’re hoping in promoting this common ground we will be approaching diversity from a perspective of unity and not one strictly of difference,” she says.
Rivera-Mills says the center is already working to create new partnerships by connecting with community colleges around the state to bring the Adelante Leadership Program to students throughout Oregon.
Her goals for the center include growth and encouraging more Latinos to seek leadership positions, but Rivera-Mills says her first priority remains creating a place of belonging for young students going through the displacement she experienced herself.
“There are so many students of color who feel like they have to choose either their family, their community and their background or education, leadership and success,” Rivera-Mills says. “My message to them is you don’t have to choose. It’s not about choosing, it’s about creating a different space for yourself where you don’t have to sacrifice your language, you don’t have to sacrifice your heritage and you don’t have to pretend to be someone that you’re not.”
CL@SE inaugural week events:
Tuesday, Oct. 9
The Global Implications of Latino Population Growth and the Search for Common Ground
Juan Andrade, Jr., president of the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute
6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., CH2M Hill Alumni Center Ballroom
Wednesday, Oct. 10
Opening reception for Del Corazón: By Heart art exhibit by Chicana artist Analee Fuentes
4:30 p.m. – 6 p.m., Fairbanks Gallery
Exhibit will be on display Oct. 8-31.
Thursday, Oct. 11
CL@SE’s Research Symposium: Beyond Disciplinary Borders
6 p.m. – 8 p.m., Valley Library Willamette Seminar rooms
All CL@SE events are open to the public. For more information about the center, contact Rivera-Mills at email@example.com or visit the center’s office in Room 233E Strand Agricultural Hall.
Lorenzo Ciannelli crosses the deck of the R/V Elakha with a fist closed tightly over his prize. “This is what we’re after,” he says, spreading his palm to reveal a half dozen flat fish pulled from the trawl net, each slightly larger than his thumbnail.
Skimming across Yaquina Bay in the research boat, Ciannelli, an Oregon State University associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, is searching the seafloor for this slippery treasure. The tiny English sole are semitransparent and pour out of the trawl net in dozens, along with droves of scrabbling juvenile Dungeness crabs no wider than a half-dollar.
The fish Ciannelli collects are analyzed in multiple ways to help him build new understanding about the effects of hypoxia, the reduction of dissolved oxygen in aquatic environments that often occurs as a result of pollution, in bay and ocean settings. And to get that information, he has to do more than just catch them. In addition to processing the samples in his lab, Ciannelli reviews video of the English soles’ activity on the seafloor as they are snapped up by — or dart away from — the trawl.
“In general one thing that we know very little about is this coastal soft sediment environment,” Ciannelli says. “We are learning more about reef environments but for this soft sediment habitat we know very little, and I think that’s because it’s often overlooked — you look and you think there’s nothing there, but you turn it over, and they’re all there under the surface.”
To expand scientific understanding of that environment, Ciannelli is combining visual observation with chemical analysis to quantify the health and energy stores of the fish. The lower oxygen levels of hypoxic conditions, often caused by pollution, can sap marine life, leaving them with depleted lipid (fat) stores and resulting in lower growth rates. With this research, Ciannelli hopes to learn more about how hypoxia is affecting fish and to help determine whether conditions in the bay or open ocean are more favorable for growth.
“We want to find out which of these environments, the bay or the ocean, functions better, and it may very well be that it’s the bay one year and the ocean the next,” Ciannelli says.
While adding clarity to scientists’ understanding of the effects of hypoxia in bay and ocean habitats is part of Ciannelli’s immediate goal, he says his work isn’t just about answering one question, but expanding the field of knowledge as much as possible.
“This is just a little piece of a mountain of knowledge that many people before us have built and many people after us certainly will add to,” Ciannelli says. “It’s really trying to add another level of information.”
Building a bigger research network
To explore his questions about marine habitats, Ciannelli has constructed a network that stretches from his office on Oregon State University’s main campus in Corvallis, to its Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport and out across the water to his research on the R/V Elakha.
At Hatfield Marine Science Center, Mo Bancroft, a graduate student studying marine resource management, is furthering Ciannelli’s investigation with an arrangement of 18 round tanks. The tanks are connected to a pipe system that pumps a specific amount of liquid nitrogen into each, and in every tank are 10 juvenile crabs and 10 English soles.
Bancroft is examining the effects of different water temperatures and oxygen levels on the growth of the fish and crabs. Tanks vary in temperature from 7, to 10, to 13 degrees Celsius. Controlled amounts of liquid nitrogen work together with bioballs — white plastic spheres covered in spikes — to scrub oxygen from the water, creating hypoxic conditions in some tanks, while others have higher oxygen content.
“I’m looking at both conditions you may see in the bay, with higher temperatures, and in the ocean, at 7 degrees Celsius,” Bancroft says. “It will give us a pretty good glimpse of what’s happening. If the fish cannot withstand lower levels of oxygen for a month, that tells us something.”
What it will tell them, Ciannelli says, is how these different environments affect growth in specimens under regulated conditions. Bancroft has marked all the fish with uniquely colored and located tags, and the crabs are in individually tagged containers within the water, allowing him to make direct comparisons for changes in each one.
While Bancroft observes live specimens, University of Miami student Kathryn Doering is analyzing the freeze-dried sole Ciannelli brings back from his trips on the water. Doering, a junior studying marine science and biology, earned a place on Ciannelli’s team for the summer through the NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.
“I applied here because Oregon is really far away from Florida, and I was interested in seeing how they were ecologically different,” Doering says.
Doering has spent time on the ocean sorting fish alongside Ciannelli, as well as in the lab on campus using chemical processes to analyze the English sole samples and quantify the results. Information such as the amount of lipids in the fish — indicating whether they have fatty stores to draw on — are suggestive of how healthy the fish are in their environment.
“It actually has a larger chemistry component than I was expecting,” Doering says. “I think it’s just giving me a better idea of what science is and how research is conducted on a daily basis.”
Fruits of research: discovery and friendship
Whatever the results of his study, Ciannelli is sure to continue probing the seafloor for knowledge. As the project continues to develop, he hopes to use collected data to begin making predictions about the animals’ growth rates. That information, he says, could impact how the sole and crab are fished — or protected.
“Crab and sole are commercial species, so where we find the best growth habitats could have practical application, and if we want to preserve them, it can tell us which habitats we should protect,” he says.
Ciannelli’s passion for marine biology keeps him coming back to these questions, but he says one of the most enjoyable aspects of conducting research is working with great people.
“We think of research as science, but it’s really about doing research and interacting with people whose company you enjoy; the friendship and the bond that you form,” he says. “So at the end of the day, for me it’s about doing research with people you like to hang out with.”
After five hours on a 140-ton C-17 military aircraft that had taken off from Christchurch, New Zealand, Mee-ya Monnin, peering through one of the plane’s small circular windows, saw white ice covering the ocean. The members of her research team and military men on the plane with Monnin chuckled as she squealed and jumped up and down in her seat.
A few minutes later, the plane touched down on sea ice near the continent of Antarctica. Though she wore extreme cold weather gear, Monnin had left her puffy red parka unzipped and her gloves off. She felt the wind cut through her as she stepped onto the ice for the first time, and her hands were as cold as if they had just emerged from an ice bath. After a moment, Monnin realized her teeth were beginning to hurt from exposure to the cold air, but the pain couldn’t stop her from smiling in exhilaration.
“I had never seen so much white before,” Monnin says. “It was so flat, I felt as though I could see for miles without anything breaking my gaze. I felt absolute joy, excitement and the anticipation of extraordinary things to come. It was like my entire life had changed with those few steps.”
Monnin, an Oregon State University junior studying fisheries and wildlife science, arrived in Antarctica last October as part of a team of researchers including Oregon State fisheries and wildlife associate professor Markus Horning. As the team’s intern, she was assisting with the study of the heat regulation of Weddell seals. Monnin’s internship began in July 2011 at Hatfield Marine Science Center There, she spent four months helping to prepare for the team’s research in Antarctica, learning about the study and creating a blog and Facebook page to share information about the project.
While training at Hatfield allowed her to learn the skills she needed to fulfill her duties in the study, Monnin says nothing could have prepared her for the six weeks she spent chasing 1,000-pound seals on the ice.
“You’re in a totally different world and you’re completely at the disposal of your environment,” Monnin says. “Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest place on Earth. Coming back now and knowing that I did that, that I can survive in Antarctica, and feeling like I thrived there is absolutely amazing.”
Research in another world
Monnin and the research team stayed at McMurdo Station, a U.S. research station on Ross Island, Antarctica, with about 1,000 other people. They spent as many as 12 hours a day out on the ice riding snowmobiles and scouting for seals to collect data from and outfit with temperature sensors, often working past dinner. After a day on the ice, the team members would return to the base and work more in the lab to organize data and prepare for the next day. Throughout their time on the continent, Monnin was surrounded by continuous light. Antarctica’s last sunset for the year had happened in late October, just before the team arrived.
Monnin’s main role in the project was building 3-D models of seals from photos she took in the field. These models allow the team to determine the surface area of the seal, an important component in evaluating the energy needed for the seal to regulate its temperature in subzero Antarctic temperatures. The research team will return to Antarctica next fall to gather a second round of data, and will then analyze the information to determine the energetic cost for seals to maintain their temperature. Being able to define the varying costs of being on the ice and in the water, Horning says, will help researchers determine how seals forced to spend more time in the water by depleting ice in the Antarctic may be affected by climate change.
Though the long work days and her ambition to produce the most accurate results with her camera calibrations and 3-D models quickly became stressful, Monnin says the experience left her with renewed confidence in herself.
“It gives you a totally different perspective, not just self-confidence, but to have faith in your abilities and to know what you can really accomplish if you put your mind to it,” Monnin says. “To be completely active and engaged all the time and to take what you’ve learned and apply it in reality is really incredible.”
The ice bug
Now back at Oregon State and continuing her studies, Monnin is planning to use the data she helped collect last fall as well as the data the team gathers next season to write her University Honors College thesis. While working on this project, Monnin will continue to collaborate with Horning, whose mentorship she says helped to make her internship such an enriching experience.
Horning suggested bringing a student intern along with the team because he had the opportunity to do research in Antarctica as an undergraduate and wanted to share that exciting experience with young students. Having Monnin on the team also benefitted the professional researchers, he says, by reminding them of the wonder they felt when they first stepped onto the ice.
“It’s good to have someone on the team who is as enthusiastic as we were the first time, because it reminds you how amazing and unique the environment is,” Horning says.
In Monnin, Horning’s hope to foster a passion for Antarctic research has been realized. Bitten by what Horning calls “the ice bug,” Monnin says that though she’s not yet sure what she wants to do after she leaves school, she is certain she wants to return to Antarctica. Fortunately, she’ll be going back sooner than later — Monnin applied for and received the internship again this year, and will be back in Antarctica with the team this fall.
“It took awhile to adjust when I first got there,” Monnin says. “But being home now, all I can think about is getting back to Antarctica.”
When she first learned about the internship almost one year ago, Monnin says she hesitated, wondering if it was possible for her. After taking a leap and having the adventure of her life, Monnin is adamant that students should take advantage of internship opportunities that excite them, however unlikely or complicated they may seem.
“So many students see a great opportunity and they let it pass by,” Monnin says. “They think they don’t have enough experience, or they worry about graduating on time or paying more money, but you can’t let stuff like that hold you back. An opportunity like this is not only going to make you that much better of a future employee, it’s going to change your life.”
Horning was inspired to include a student intern on the Antarctic research team because of an unexpected opportunity he received as an undergraduate.
When he was studying physics at the University of California San Diego in 1978, Horning personally experienced the transformative power of working in the Antarctic. After getting a job cleaning seal tanks at the university’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, he was invited to spend a year in Antarctica studying the diving habits of Weddell seals. Horning was so affected by the experience that he changed his course of study to pursue marine biology.
“What really changed my life was going to Antarctica,” Horning says. “Recently, I decided that was such an amazing opportunity that I’d like to pass that on to other students so they could have that chance to get excited about the field.”
One of the top things on Hannah Mahoney’s “to-do” list this summer was to guide museum-goers through building a cardboard replica of Pacific Street, Santa Cruz, California’s historic main drag. It sounds like child’s play, and in a way it was—but the kicker is Mahoney also got to rack up work experience for her efforts.
Mahoney, a history major going into her senior year at Oregon State, spent the summer as an intern at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.
Her task was to create interactive exhibits for the museum’s “Third Friday” public events that would not only educate the people of Santa Cruz about their town’s history, but would also get them involved in it.
As a public historian, that’s what I want people to do in museums,” Mahoney says. “I want people to be talking and be part of the history instead of having to stay behind lines that you can’t go past.”
And so for Third Friday’s “Street Art Night,” Mahoney procured dozens of cardboard boxes— some of them taller than the children who participated in the exhibit—and coached citizens of Santa Cruz through the process of recreating Pacific Street’s early 20th century landmarks.
There were cardboard buses, and stores, and even pets. There were factories, and restaurants, all informed by the research Mahoney did in the museum’s archives.
“I found old pictures of how Pacific Street looked,” she says. “It was to show kids how it used to look, and then people recreated it and did their own street art on the cardboard boxes.”
To Mahoney, it was people’s way into history they might have overlooked.
A new home
Mahoney wasn’t always certain she wanted to go into history, but she was sure about Oregon State. An Orange County native, Mahoney wanted to have a college experience beyond California’s borders.
She and her parents researched several out-of-state schools, and then cross-referenced them: Oregon State made everyone’s list.
It became a definite thing as soon as she visited campus. “I totally fell in love with it, and said, ’Oh, this is where I’m going,’” she says. “I wanted a West Coast school with an East Coast feel, with historic buildings. Oregon felt like home. I still walk out of my house every day and feel lucky to live here.”
Mahoney was also convinced by the people she met here. Kerry Kincanon, the head adviser in Oregon State’s exploratory studies program, where Mahoney started out before declaring history, made an impression on her.
“He was super nice. I saw that the staff was great there. I knew I could have that college experience that everybody wanted,” she says.
History comes alive
Although Mahoney loved history, she wasn’t sure she could make a career out of it. But Kincanon encouraged her. “He said, ‘if you want to do it, you can make a job out of it,’” she says.
She was also inspired by an art history class she took fall of her freshman year—the instructor had worked in a museum. It made Mahoney wonder if she could combine her love for community service and history and work in museums or national parks.
Mahoney’s next step was taking an archival studies class with Larry Landis and Tiah Edmunston-Morton last year.
There, she learned about an internship that would gain her practical experience: organizing archival material for St. Philip the Deacon Episcopal Church in Portland, and then presenting to the congregation on their annual Parish History Day.
St. Philip the Deacon was established in Portland in 1911 as one of the city’s first African-American churches, and now values its current, diverse congregation as one of its greatest strengths.
Mahoney loved the opportunity to talk to them on Parish History Day and get help identifying some of the archival photos.
“I don’t think it’s very often that you get to talk to the people who created the collection. Usually they’ve passed away,” Mahoney says. “I’d talk to people, and they’d say, ‘This is my relative, or this is my mom.’ I felt like they were famous. It was like I knew them.”
Throughout her senior year, Mahoney will be working to digitize the church’s archives so they will be publicly available. She’ll be happy to continue working in the archives.
“Tiah Edmuson Morton, Larry Landis and Natalia Fernandez have all been really influential people to me,” Mahoney says. “They are so supportive of the my ideas and they are always willing to talk with me.”
Looking back to move ahead
Having the opportunity for internship experience is just one of the things Mahoney values as a history major at Oregon State.
“I didn’t choose Oregon State for history, but I probably am getting the better history degree I would have gotten anywhere else,” she says. “All the professors are great. They really love where they are and what they’re doing.”
To Mahoney, understanding history is key to understanding how things came to be. “I think it’s the only way to look forward,” she says. “I was trying to explain to my friend, who’s an engineer, who didn’t think history was important. I said, ‘Well, that bridge that fell down 50 years ago, you need to know why, right?’ Then he got it.”
In the future, whether she’s creating interactive exhibits or reaching into the past with community members, it’s the personal connection with history Mahoney wants to maintain.
Now a senior, she’s researching graduate programs in public history. “I feel like whatever community I’m in, I want to help them tell their story. I like to help them identify what they need and their history,” she says.
Picture this scene: A teacher is the last one to leave the school. It’s dark. The parking lot is empty, except for his car. The music is ominous. He gets in, turns the car on, hits ‘play’ on the cd player, and does a double take before he puts his foot on the gas.
That’s when he sees the first rat.
It squeaks as it scurries beneath his feet and under the seat. He glances into his rear view mirror. There are dozens of rats, poised on his rear dash. They rush him. He screams, but in a moment they’re on him. He panics, and accidentally locks himself in his car.
The next morning all that’s left of him is some flesh, bones and a lingering rat or two, which the hapless school principal has the misfortune to discover. The scene, which opens an episode of the NBC show Grimm called, “Dance Macabre,” is not only eerie – it evokes a visceral response. It’s the rats. People fear rats.
Lauren Henry knows this. She’s the one who trained them. She taught the rats how to bound toward their victim, how to hang from his hands as he struggled. She taught them to linger over his devoured corpse.
The scene itself is otherworldly, but helping to create it is Henry’s job – she’s made a career out of training animals for film. For more than a decade the OSU alum and her partner, Roland Sonnenburg, have owned and operated Talented Animals, an agency that supplies animals, trainers and coordinators for film. Henry and Sonnenburg have facilities in Oregon, west of Salem, and in California, north of Los Angeles. Their staff ranges from 2-20, but mostly they employ 3-5 people.
Henry’s line of work has brought her to the sets of movies like “Into the Wild.” It’s brought her to the set of “Portlandia,” where one of her cats was a member of an indie band named “Cat Nap.” One of her favorite films was “New Moon,” where one of her wolves appeared in a surreal dream sequence in which a forest was growing through the windows of a desolate, freezing bedroom. In 2010 her work brought her to a Corvallis warehouse, where she spent two weeks working with 12 dogs and a goat to create an acrobatic, one-take video for the band Ok Go’s song, “White Knuckles.”
“That was a dream this band had,” Henry says. “I was in charge of making their dream come true.”
Henry, who graduated from OSU with a degree in Animal Science and a minor in Chemistry in 1999, and completed post-bacc courses in Animal Nutrition and Immunology until 2005, has always loved animals. When she was 5, she’d head into her grandparents’ pasture in Virginia and play with their stallions, observing how the creatures behaved and interacted with each other and the world. When she was 6, she and her grandfather nursed an injured robin back to health. They raised the bird until it was able to fly again. Apparently it was grateful. Each spring it would return to Henry’s yard and perch on her finger. The image evokes Snow White.
“That was a wonderful experience,” she says. “It was the beginning of my love for the veterinary medicine side of things and the rehab side of things as well.”
Her grandfather certainly took notice of Henry’s affinity for animals. “My grandfather had this prophetic saying, ‘You’re going to train animals for film,’” Henry says. “At the time I was 6 or 7 years old, and putting on shows with my dogs for the neighbors.”
After a childhood of immersing herself in animal training and books about animals, Oregon State seemed like a natural choice for Henry, who went to high school in The Dalles. “The animal science and pre-vet departments were among the best,” she says. “I had a fabulous experience at OSU. I was born with an innate gift to train. And I have my schooling background, and classes and seminars to give me an educational framework for what comes naturally. OSU has played a big part in that.”
Henry got her first break when she was still in school, for a TV movie called “Silver Wolf.” The film called for a dog who looked like a wolf, could pull someone on skis, and demonstrate a variety of other behaviors. One of Lauren’s dogs was a perfect match. Silver Wolf’s on-set animal trainer was impressed. “He hired me to work on another show right after the movie,” she says. “I worked with him for several shows, and realized my true calling had just arrived.”
For Henry, training an animal for film is about understanding and communication. She and Sonnenburg spend a lot of time getting to know an animal and understanding its needs. She researches the animal’s social structure and instinctual behavior. She learns what the animal likes, what it loves to do, what kinds of games it loves to play.
“The underlying principles for training are similar across different species,” she says. “What we have to do with each animal is find its motivations, its wants and desires. A wolf may have a strong desire to chase a moving object, while a crow may find that same object frightening but find a small shiny item irresistible.”
Henry often turns the behaviors directors want from animals into a game. If she wants a skunk to cross the road, and the skunk is motivated by food, she’ll train it to go to a sound to receive a treat. Once the skunk is used to following the sound for food, it’s easy to get it to cross a road when the beeper is on the other side. “With training any of our animals, the absolute key is that they are comfortable with people, and the environment and love what it is we are asking them to do. It has to be their choice.”
Henry’s favorite projects are the ones that feel like summer camp – where she gets to spend time on the set getting to know the cast and crew. “I love when we can really sink our teeth into a character and spend a lot of time prepping. We can really show what the animal can do,” she says. “Everyone’s doing their thing to the best of their ability. We’re doing our thing to the best of our ability. It all comes together to create this amazing piece. That’s my favorite.”
Henry and Sonnenburg share their home with many of the animals with whom they work. It’s easy to imagine the animals happy there – they have acres of Oregon Coast Range forest in which to play. They have dogs, goats, a ringtailed lemur, an anteater, a pied crow, a raccoon, a skunk, wolves. The animals are their family. For them, there’s no one better to work with.
“Who we have in our house is who we want to live with,” Henry says. “When we wake up in the morning, it’s who we want to run down and play with, or maybe even who we wake up next to in a lot of the cases. That’s our primary reason for doing what we do. We want to spend every minute with our animals.”
How Oregon State’s library is leading the digital revolution.
When Oregon State became the first university to join Flickr Commons, a public domain photo archive, word traveled fast on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. And the buzz was positive. Likewise, the library faculty is the world’s first to pass an open-access mandate for their own scholarly work. And its open-source search tool, LibraryFind, is the first of its kind in the nation.
Clearly, Oregon State University is right out in front of the digital information revolution.
“The driving idea at OSU Libraries is to make information retrievable wherever people are searching,” says Michael Boock, head of Digital Access Services for OSU Libraries. “Our goal is to make all of our collections findable through the Internet.”
The idea that everyone from an OSU student working on a term paper to a cattle rancher in Central Oregon to a schoolgirl in central Africa can access its collections via the Internet is something Oregon State wants to celebrate. And that zeal for open access — especially universal access to taxpayer-funded research — will be visible all over campus. During Open Access Week, experts from OSU Libraries will be staffing “traveling tables” to answer questions about implications for author rights, peer review and traditional academic publishing models. Mid-week, a panel of experts from OSU and University of Oregon will talk about each of their groundbreaking efforts to make an entire unit’s research output freely available online upon publication.
Capping off the week’s events is a presentation by nationally known public-domain advocate Carl Malamud. As the founder of public.resource.org, Malamud is an impassioned champion of making all publicly funded information — including databases, court decisions and research findings — free and easily accessed by anyone.
“Research is the raw material of innovation, creating a wealth of business opportunities,” says Malamud, noting that government information is a form of essential infrastructure, right along with highways and electrical grids. What he terms the “Internet wave of transformation” will, he insists, help ensure the health of a democracy that is indeed of, by and for the people.
Oregon State is embodying that idea. Another innovation is that all OSU master’s theses and doctoral dissertations are submitted electronically to the university’s own ScholarsArchive. Last year, the online graduate papers were downloaded 100 times each, on average. In contrast, paper versions typically are checked out from the library rarely, if ever. In just three years, grad-student studies that would otherwise have languished on library shelves have been downloaded nearly a half-million times.
OSU also joined 17 other U.S. research universities in a letter to Congress earlier this month, encouraging passage of bipartisan federal legislation (the Federal Research Public Access Act) to guarantee speedy public access to research findings funded by agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. The National Institutes of Health already requires public access to its funded research projects.
Boock sums up the push this way: “We want to put the content where the people are.”
Remote is one way to describe where geosciences Ph.D. student Julia Rosen is going. Cold would be another appropriate adjective. But neither is quite vivid enough to capture the atmosphere at the North Greenland Eemian Ice Core Drilling Project (NEEM) camp, where Rosen will be spending three weeks this summer, trying to help complete a picture of long term, global climate change.
At 77.45°N, NEEM is more isolated than Rosen has ever been. The drill site is located on top of 2,500 meters (1.5 miles) of ice, hundreds of miles from the nearest piece of ice-free land. In order to go, Rosen had to undergo extensive physical and mental evaluations, and ensure that her wisdom teeth were removed — there’s no dentist around the corner from the snow pit where she’ll be working.
The intensive preparations, however, will be worth it. Rosen is title to NEEM as a part of an international ice coring team aiming to retrieve a core that reaches back to earth’s previous interglacial period, the Eemian. As a member of geosciences professor Ed Brook’s lab, Rosen is planning on using samples from that core to analyze levels of nitrous oxide in the atmosphere. Knowing that can help Rosen map past levels of the greenhouse gas, records of which are currently less available than those of the more abundant carbon dioxide and methane.
“There is still no complete history of nitrous oxide measurements in ice cores,” says Rosen. “My goal is to generate a high-resolution, accurate history of nitrous oxide through the previous interglacial period. I also hope to make isotopic measurements of the nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the nitrous oxide molecule to help constrain how the sources of the gas have changed over time.”
Getting a good nitrous oxide record will not only help reconstruct a picture of past climate change, but the data can also be used to develop climate models that can be used to predict future climate changes, as well. Models, Rosen says, should be able to accurately reproduce past climate changes if they will be used to predict the future. A history of nitrous oxide can be used either as an input for models that simulate global climate or as a target for biogeochemical models to reproduce.
In Brook’s lab, Rosen is also trying to develop the best method to extract nitrous oxide from the tiny bubbles that are trapped in ancient polar ice. She’ll compare “wet” and “dry” methods for extracting gas, which are currently used for methane and carbon dioxide, to determine which, if either, works for nitrous oxide.
Rosen’s interest in ice core research was piqued when she was an undergraduate at Stanford. By nature, she’s a lover of snow and ice. Coupling that with a passion for the environment was a natural fit. “I’ve always been interested in environmental issues, and, to me, climate is the most pressing of them,” she says. “As soon as I found out that ice cores could be used to reconstruct climate, I thought, ‘perfect.’”
And for Rosen, Oregon State was the logical choice when she thought about graduate school. “There are many other great ice core research institutions, but only a few that work on greenhouse gases. This is the place I wanted to come.”
Former high school dropout Ngan Nguyen is graduating with her eye on a career in alternative energy.
Ngan Nguyen was 15 when she climbed out of her bedroom window after a family argument and caught a ride with some friends to Portland. Unsurprisingly, graduating college was not on her mind. In fact, the idea of college would have seemed ridiculous. Nguyen had dropped out of high school earlier that year, and was title toward a life of cheap apartments, couch surfing and working long hours for low pay in Portland.
It wasn’t promising.
But that wasn’t the life for Nguyen, at least not in the long run. After six months in Portland, she decided to go back to night school. “I don’t remember what drove that decision. I was tired of going out and partying all the time. I actually really enjoyed school. So I went back,” she says.
For the 4 months it took to get her diploma, Nguyen worked at Walgreens in the mornings and Millennia in the Clackamas Mall in the evenings. She did her homework late into the night. “Those jobs barely paid anything. After rent and bills, I’d have about 75 dollars left,” says Nguyen. The teachers at Marshall High School, where Nguyen got her diploma, were understanding of her schedule. They also encouraged her to go to college. “I thought, ‘I’m scraping by,’’ and it sounded like fun,” Nguyen says.
On June 13, Nguyen will graduate from Oregon State with a double major in biochemistry and biophysics and bioengineering, with a degree from the University Honors College. And she’s just getting started. After graduation, she’s staying in Corvallis to work at Beaver Biodiesel, a renewable energy company of which she is co-owner, and where she will also get to use her science and engineering skills. Nguyen is also co-owner of the high-end cosmetics and skin care company, Sulirese, that she and some friends are about to launch.
Nguyen made the most of her time at OSU once she transferred here from Linn-Benton Community College. In her sophomore year, she worked with Professor Tory Hagen and post-doctorate researcher Kate Shay her sophomore year, trying to determine the activation of the protein Nrf2 (which triggers the transcription of a series of antioxidant enzymes). She continued her research throughout that summer with Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding, and used the data for her University Honors thesis. Nguyen also interned at MIT last summer, working in biomedical engineering on sequential drug delivery. When she got back to Corvallis in the fall, she started with Beaver Biodiesel.
Nguyen knows graduate school is in her future – perhaps in biomedical engineering, or chemical engineering in renewable energy. She’s also interested in getting an MBA.
“I’m pretty excited given everything that’s happened,” says Nguyen. “I never would have thought five years ago that I would be in college and have a choice of jobs. I know that things have been the worst and worked out fine. And I’m excited for what the future brings.”