School of Arts and Sciences

Celebration of Excellence: Board of Regents Research Award

2019 Recipient: Dr. Darcy Kern, Assistant Professor of Medieval Mediterranean History

About the award

The Board of Regents Research Awards are given to recognize faculty from the four state universities who are doing exceptional research/creative work.

About the recipient

Darcy Kern is an accomplished and prolific scholar whose work impacts a variety of fields in late medieval and early modern history.

The main argument of Dr. Kern’s research, which spans continents and timelines, is that language shapes culture. She specifically focuses on translated texts that move between cultures; in her own words, her research “adheres to the humanist tradition, emphasizing language as a key component of understanding history, culture, and power.”

Students have sought out study with Dr. Kern, understanding that her specialties are important frameworks through which we can trace chronology and methodological trends. As one colleague noted, “Dr. Kern’s work in translation studies is playing an important role in redefining how scholars understand the transmission of knowledge and the application of power in the late medieval and early modem world.”

Dr. Kern’s work has appeared in a number of highly selective publications, specifically “The Journal of Medieval History,” “English,” and “Philological Quarterly.” Her article “Platonic Words: Paolo Sarpi and Roberto Bellarmino as Translators in the Venetian Interdict Crisis” was so significant that she was invited to Cambridge University to present follow-up research on the topic. She is currently at work on a manuscript, “Texts, Translation, and Political Thought in Late Medieval Spain.”

Dr. Kern earned a Ph.D. and an M.A. in History from Georgetown University, and a B.A. in History and Spanish from Kansas State University. Since arriving at Southern in 2015, she has participated in several programs to enhance her scholarship, most recently at the Beinecke Center for Preservation and Conservation.

Celebration of Excellence: Senior-Level Faculty Research Fellowship

2019 Recipient: Kalu Ogbaa, Professor of English

About the award

In recognition of the increased responsibilities placed on senior-level faculty members, the Senior-Level Faculty Research Fellowship supports and encourages research, creative activity, and scholarship among senior faculty members. Awardees receive a significant amount of reassigned time for these purposes.

About the recipient

In 2013, Chinua Achebe, founder of the Modern African Novel and author of the acclaimed novel Things Fall Apart, requested that Dr. Kalu Ogbaa, professor of English, write his biography. Dr. Ogbaa had met Professor Achebe while enrolled in a Master’s program at The Ohio State University and subsequently wrote a dissertation on Achebe’s fiction. Dr. Ogbaa went on to publish two books, some book chapters, and solicited interviews on Achebe’s works. He teaches Achebe’s novels at Southern at the graduate and undergraduate levels and has established himself as an authority on Achebe studies, nationally and internationally.

Dr. Ogbaa began work on the biography in 2015; a fellowship enables him to complete it. According to Dr. Ogbaa’s notes, the biography — entitled The Life and Times of Chinua Achebe – “will weave together the stories of [Achebe’s] upbringing, Christian and Western education, the lgbo storytelling techniques he learned from his sister, and the creative writing skills he learned from his British college professors, the combination of which made him the master storyteller who influenced other writers to make African literature a viable corpus in World Literature today.”

Dr. Ogbaa has completed two of the four stages of his work plan. The fellowship will allow him to complete stages three and four: to review and analyze collected data, and write research findings chapter by chapter; and to complete the final crafting, collating, and coediting of all segments of the book manuscript for publication.

Dr. Ogbaa received a Ph.D. in English from The University of Texas;
an M.A. in Black Studies from The Ohio State University; and a B.A. in English from The University of Nigeria.

Celebration of Excellence: Board of Regents Teaching Award

2019 Recipient: Dr. Charles Baraw, Associate Professor of English

About the award

The Board of Regents Teaching Award is given to recognize faculty who have distinguished themselves as outstanding teachers for at least five years and have a minimum of two years’ track record of promoting instructional improvements for their programs/departments.

About the recipient

Professor Charles Baraw has taught in the English Department at Southern for nine years; during that time, his instructional practices — which have been called “brilliant,” “engaged” and “transformational” — have garnered accolades university-wide.

Just last spring Dr. Baraw was awarded the J. Philip Smith Outstanding Teaching Award. According to colleagues, his teaching “has made a dramatic and positive difference for our English majors and for students across the university,” and “one of his strengths is his willingness to guide students on their academic and personal paths in and out of the classroom.”

Dr. Baraw has given his inspired teaching method a light-hearted appellation: the “jazz method,” meaning that lessons are pre-planned loosely, with room to adapt and improvise according to in-class assessment of student engagement and skill. He also relies upon a core principle in his teaching: the mutual imperative to trust, wonder, and reflect. To learn of how his teaching has enhanced and guided the instruction and development of each student is to appreciate how effective and outstanding his influence truly is. He has mentored numerous student research and teaching assistants and pushed them to develop independent research projects. As a result, this past summer five English majors won prestigious research fellowships.

It has been noted that when Dr. Baraw is on campus, he is rarely alone and that “one or two students are speaking with him in his office, and one or two more are in the hallway waiting.” This desire to engage, and to cultivate, illustrates succinctly what yet another colleague noted of Dr. Baraw: that he creates a culture of English that invites students into the joys of the field through multiple doors — his office door being one of them.

Dr. Baraw holds a Ph.D. in English from Yale University; an MA in English from Middlebury College, Bread Loaf School of English; and a B.A. in English Literature and American History from the University of Vermont.

Celebration of Excellence: Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship

2019 Recipient: Md Shafaeat Hossain, Associate Professor of Computer Science

About the award

SCSU recognizes the importance of faculty scholarship and creative activity in furthering its mission. The Mid-Level Faculty Research Fellowship aims to support this goal by providing mid-level faculty members with a significant amount of reassigned time at this crucial stage in their careers at Southern.

About the recipient

Dr. Hossain is researching multi-biometric systems (both parallel fusion-based and serial fusion-based) in hopes of developing a new serial fusion-based verification scheme. Its application is significant, as the core of all information security — computer security, cyber security, and network security — is the concept of user authentication, which ensures that only legitimate users can access the resources they need and that unauthorized users are blocked.

Dr. Hossain’s development of a new serial fusion-based biometric verification scheme, he wrote, “would provide a scheme that performs better than or at least as good as a parallel fusion based-scheme, and at the same time, provide a significant amount of convenience to the genuine users.”

Professor Hossain’s Ph.D. work is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has been published in “Applied Intelligence” as well as in prestigious peer-reviewed IEEE conference proceedings. His multi-faceted research plan entails literature review; verification scheme development; data collection; data cleansing and processing; coding and experiments; analysis; and finally, publication and reporting and the possible procurement of additional research funds from DARPA.

Professor Hossain received a Ph.D. in Computational Analysis and Modeling, an MS in Computer Science, and an MS in Mathematics from Louisiana Tech University. He also received an MS in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Dhaka.

Celebration of Excellence: Faculty Scholar Award 

2019 Recipient: Dr. C. Michele Thompson, Professor of History 

About the award

Conferred jointly by the Faculty Scholar Award Committee and the University President, the Faculty Scholar Award recognizes scholarly and creative work of exceptional merit by a full-time SCSU faculty member.

The BOR-approved SCSU campus winner for this award is Dr. Michele Thompson, Professor of History.

About the recipient

Dr. C. Michele Thompson has been a member of Southern’s faculty since 1998. Alongside her distinguished academic career, her book, Vietnamese Traditional Medicine: a Social History, is the distillation of more than 20 years of research in Vietnam, Taiwan, The Peoples’ Republic of China, France, and Portugal.

Vietnamese Traditional Medicine is the first book-length publication on the history of Vietnamese traditional medicine in any Western language. According to Dr. Thompson’s notes, her book is “an examination of the relationship between China and Vietnam, a key issue in Vietnamese studies, through a medical lens.” Using as a case study the story of the first introduction, from Macau, of vaccination for smallpox to the royal court of the Nguyễn dynasty, she examines Vietnamese attitudes towards foreign medical theories and techniques.

Since its publication in 2015, the book has been reviewed in nine peer-reviewed international journals, and Dr. Thompson has been sought out as a source in numerous publications, including Scientific American. This interdisciplinary interest, from anthropology to medical history to the general field of Southeast Asian Studies, speaks to its broad importance. Even more, her research has overarching implications: it is pertinent to current environmental issues in Mainland Southeast Asia, where a false understanding of Chinese and Vietnamese medicine is driving a devastating trade in wild animals.

For her research, Dr. Thompson referenced documents in modern Mandarin; Classical Chinese; modern Vietnamese; archaic Vietnamese written in Norn, French, Portuguese; and Spanish. She also conducted oral interviews in Mandarin and Vietnamese, noting that “perhaps the most innovative aspect of my book is the cross-disciplinary nature of my sources and my methodology.”

Dr. Thompson received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington; her Master of Arts in History from the University of Alabama; and her Bachelor of Arts in History and Anthropology from the University of Alabama.

Professor Kevin

✉️ Deliver to:

Dr. Kevin Buterbaugh
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Political Science


Dear Professor,

You see the best in students and invest in them accordingly. You constantly introduce students to scholarships, internships, and extracurricular opportunities that you think they should strive for. Even when a student feels they are not equipped for it, you encourage (and convince!) students to try anyway. You address your advisees as your equals; never once have I seen you talk down to a student or make them feel as if their questions or concerns are not worth your time.

Thank you,
Tea Carter, ’20 🦉


About Dr. Buterbaugh

Favorite Teaching Moments:

I have many favorite teaching memories. I have two in regards to Tea Carter who nominated me.

Tea in my Contemporary World Politics class asked me a question on civil war resolution. I gave a rather cursory answer to Tea. Once class was over I realized that my answer was insufficient. I went home and reviewed the material we read for class and reviewed material I had collected on civil wars and their resolution. I began my next class by answering properly Tea’s question. Why is this a favorite memory? This is why I teach – to be challenged by students – and to interact. I learn as students learn. And, it is often through the most challenging questions that I learn the most. Or even learn that I do not have an answer.

Two weeks ago I read the first draft of Tea’s thesis proposal. I was amazed by its quality and the growth that it showed. Tea came in as a very strong student, but her thesis proposal shows she has reached a new level. Watching her grow through 3 years at Southern has been a wonderful experience. I am proud of the small part I may have played in her growth. And, I feel honored to be her thesis advisor.

Teaching Philosophy:

My primary philosophy is that students write to learn – and learn to write.

Thus, my classes have many small writing assignments connected to course readings. These assignments help students to engage with the course material. In engaging, they learn to write.  Through their writing, they learn the course material – but more importantly – how to interpret, critique, and discuss course material. The assignments are low pressure – none will be decisive in the grade – this allows students to work without fearing failure. The assignments are significant in total but each on its own is not.

I also work to encourage students – especially – through advisement. I often send students emails encouraging them to participate in an activity, to compete in a contest or to apply for an internship. I hope by encouraging students that they will expand their world and become more active in their educations. Students often do not know how good they can be. Part of my role is to prod them into activities where I believe they can thrive, even when they may not believe it themselves.

Favorite Course to Teach:

This is a difficult one. I guess “PSC 230: War” is my favorite course. It is a Tier 2 LEP course that is not tied at all to the major. So, I get a wide variety of students that take it.

The course covers a broad range of content – theories of war, ethics in war, and the experience of war (soldiers and civilians). The diversity of the classroom leads to some very interesting discussions. This is especially the case when we get to the experience of war, as students engage with first-person narratives.

I created this course in 2012 when the new LEP came online. I teach it every semester. I have tweaked the course occasionally – but in general – the course has been so rewarding that I have kept the general framework of the course the same. This is rare for me. Most of my courses change fundamentally every 3 or 4 years.

Recent Courses Taught:

Fall 2018:

  • PSC 230: War
  • PSC 398: Terrorism – Extreme Politics

Daisha Brabham, '17

To meet Daisha Brabham is to be immediately swept up in her infectious enthusiasm for history. Brabham graduated from Southern in 2017 with a degree in history, and her passion for her discipline, along with her scholarship and creative activity, are taking her far. She has just been awarded a prestigious U.S. Fulbright – U.K. Partnership Award that will allow her to receive full funding to complete a Master’s of Public History degree at Royal Holloway University of London during the 2019-2020 academic year.

Brabham currently teaches U.S. history and an advanced placement course in human geography at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School, based at the University of New Haven. Previously, she taught for a year at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

Her Fulbright project will involve a play she wrote for an independent study in the Women’s Studies Program in her senior year. During her senior spring and the summer following, the play — Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman — was performed on campus, but Brabham has reworked the script and says it is now “an entirely new play.” Homegoing reflects the history of Black womanhood in America, beginning with the Yoruba tradition of West Africa and going on to travel with a number of different African American women, such as Venus Hottentot, Billie Holiday, and Mammie.

Brabham says that originally, the play “was like a physical manifestation of my search for myself.” During her junior year, she studied at the University of Plymouth, U.K., where she became interested in researching the lives of women in Elizabethan England. But then, she says, she realized she was studying women who had already been studied extensively and she was “leaving out women who looked like me.”

She changed her focus to African American women and decided to write Homegoing, but as the play has evolved, it has come to be more about women in the African diaspora around the world. “I am drawing all of these narratives together about what it means to be black,” she says. She sees the play as a celebration of resistance and as bringing to the public “those stories we don’t talk about.”

The play features 10 actresses, the majority of whom are high school students from the Greater New Haven area. Brabham herself is also in the play. A teacher to her core, Brabham wants her students to learn the history of the women they are portraying in the play.

Being a teacher can be confining, she says, due to curriculum requirements, adding that she works in a school where more than half of the students are African American, and she “really wants African American people to know about their own history.” In the play, she uses traditional African modes of communication, such as song, dance, and movement.

Homegoing is now Brabham’s bridge to her future, as she’ll be incorporating voices from black Britain in the play as part of her Fulbright project. As a student at Royal Holloway, she will have access to the National Archives, the London Records Office, the Black Cultural Archives. She also plans to interview some of the women she meets.

“I’m a public historian,” Brabham says, explaining that public history is about bringing historical knowledge to the public in engaging ways, such as museums, exhibitions, documentaries, and theater. This means of presenting history is important, she says, because it makes history accessible. “It lets people learn about themselves,” she says.

Tricia Lin, who served as the faculty adviser/sponsor for Brabham’s senior independent study, wrote in her Fulbright recommendation for Brabham that her project “will be of tremendous contribution to the literature/scholarship on Black womanhood . . . The complex untold stories of Black women is . . . Daisha’s intellectual project—which is truly her calling.”

Darcy Kern, assistant professor of history, who was Brabham’s adviser at Southern, wrote in her letter of support for Brabham’s Fulbright application that Brabham was “the most enthusiastic student I have had at SCSU” and that Brabham “offers a unique, refreshing perspective on women’s history, in part because of her own background.”

Assistant Director of the Office of International Education Michael Schindel, the Fulbright Program Advisor, says that, “Those who have worked with Daisha know that she is incredibly persistent. She is receiving this award after her third attempt at applying for a Fulbright grant. There is only one slot for the U.K. Partnership Award to Royal Holloway University and it is highly competitive.”

Brabham credits the people she worked with at Southern over the years with helping her realize her goals. “The History Department really changed not only my view of the world but also of myself,” she says. “I received such loving, caring feedback, advice on life, etc. – they gave me great advice not only on how to be a historian but also on how to be a good human.”

And the Women’s Studies Program “taught me how to be a good person and not to give up and be persistent and keep going. The confidence they had in me helped me keep going,” she says.

Homegoing: A Herstory of the Black Woman will be presented twice on May 5, 2019: at 12 p.m. and at 6 p.m., in the Garner Recital Hall (Engleman C112). Tickets are $10 with an SCSU I.D. and $15 for general public. Purchase tickets online.

Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting. Photo credit: The Advocate (Side note: Mural behind Jeff he says is one of the coolest features of our newsroom. It's a collage of front pages from New Orleans-area newspapers through the years. Picture taken in September 2017 amid the long news-gathering process for the series that debuted in April 2018).

April 2019 was a great month for journalism at Southern. Student journalists won six awards at the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Region 1 Conference in Boston and a recent alumnus was part of a New Orleans-based newspaper team that won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

As part of The Advocate team that won the nation’s most prestigious journalism award, Jeffrey Nowak, a 2012 journalism graduate, prepared the digital presentation, compiled a massive splash page, created an interactive timeline, and led social promotion for a series that helped change Louisiana’s controversial split-jury law.

Nowak, a native of Windham, Conn., and graduate of Windham High School, joined The Advocate digital content staff in April 2106. He leads many efforts in New Orleans while also working remotely with Baton Rouge and Lafayette, La., newsrooms. His team consists of four digital content editors and a digital general manager.

Before relocating to New Orleans, Nowak worked as a digital editor, production desk chief and sports producer at The Sun in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Previously he had been a reporter at The Daily Voice in Westborough, Mass., and a freelance sports writer for the Hartford Courant. While a student at Southern, Nowak was editor-in-chief of the Southern News. And in 2102 he received the Outstanding Journalist of the Year award from the Journalism Department.

Meanwhile, at the regional SPJ conference, journalists from Southern’s new student-published Crescent magazine won four awards, including the Finalist Award for Best Student Magazine for its fall 2018 edition, the second publication in its young start.

Alumna and journalism minor Jefferine Jean-Jacques was the winner in the Feature Photography category for her series of photos, “Through the lens,” published in Crescent’s inaugural edition in spring 2018. Jean-Jacques’ photo package was culled from various trips she took with her three children to countries including Haiti, India, Ghana and Ethiopia. Her photos will move on to the national SPJ college competition.

Other regional winners for Crescent included managing editor Jacob Waring, who won a Finalist award for the non-fiction magazine article, “A lot to juggle,” about SCSU students who are also parents in the fall 2018 edition. Photo editor Meghan Olson, a Studio Art-Photography major, won a Finalist award for Feature Photography, for “Funky hair,” the fall 2018 cover package.

Southern News Editor-in-chief Kevin Crompton won a finalist award in the Sports Writing category for a profile on Owls linebacker Jhaaron Wallace, “Wallace joins elite company in record books.” The story highlights the journey from high school to college for one of the top defensive players to come through the Owls football program.

The student newspaper’s second award went to former Managing Editor Joshua LaBella, alumnus, and former Op Ed/Features editor August Pelliccio: a finalist award for Breaking News Reporting.

Each category included one winner and one finalist. SPJ Region 1 encompasses universities from Maine through New England to New York, New Jersey to Philadelphia.

Photo credit for home page image: The Advocate (Digital Content Editor Jeff Nowak working at computer in the New Orleans Advocate newsroom as Investigations Editor Gordon Russell walks behind. Russell was a leader in the reporting effort for the non-unanimous juries project that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.)

Could research on an Amazonian plant save indigenous tribes - and help get you through that mid-afternoon slump? Assistant Professor of Chemistry James Kearns helps investigate.

On site in Ecuador are [from left] James Kearns, assistant professor of chemistry; a member of the Secoya; Luke Weiss, an American who assimilated into the Secoya and is fighting to save their way of life; and senior Brokk Tollefson.

He’s endured sweltering temperatures, swum in treacherous waters, hunted wild rodents for food, and encountered the occasional inhospitable native. And then there were the bugs — swarms of tiny sandflies eager to feast on any bit of exposed ankle or shin.

Welcome to the world of scientist James Kearns, who spends part of his professional life in the laboratory and Southern classroom — and the other conducting research in remote corners of the world.

An assistant professor of chemistry at Southern, Kearns travels deep inside the Amazon jungle for several weeks each summer, living with an indigenous tribe known as the Secoya. His research subject is the Paullinia yoco, a tropical vine that grows wild among the trees in the eastern Ecuadorian rainforest, near the Peruvian and Colombian borders.

As the sun sets, Tollefson cools off from the blistering heat.

Kearns has studied the plant’s chemical properties (its bark contains high concentrations of caffeine and theobromine, a stimulant found in chocolate) and is exploring its potential use in energy drinks. The Secoya make a tea from the bark and consume it early in the morning for sustained energy before a day of hunting or farming.

A member of the Secoya scrapes bark from the vine. Assistant Professor Kearns helped investigate the chemical composition of various parts of the plant.

“It’s similar to taking in a couple of cups of coffee, but the effects lasts longer because materials that are in the bark result in much slower absorption into the stomach,” Kearns explains.

It’s not unusual for scientists and academics to conduct fieldwork in remote places, or even to bring adventure-seeking students along. But Kearns describes his Amazon trips as “a totally different level of incredible insanity.”

The Secoya village is only accessible by boat.

The journey alone is a test of mental stamina. Traveling to the village begins with an eight-hour plane ride to Ecuador’s capital, Quito, followed by 12 hours on a bus to Lago Agrio, an oil city that developed in the 1960s as a base camp for Texaco. From there it’s a two-hour taxi ride to the village of San Pablo, and another 40 minutes by motorized canoe to a Secoya settlement accessible only by boat.

“There are a lot of challenges and risks,” Kearns says. He first learned about the Secoya as a college student in 1996. While studying biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts, he worked for an engineering firm that was developing a water-filtration system for the tribe.

Assisting with farming is part of the experience.

The Secoya live downriver from Ecuador’s largest oil fields, and decades of drilling and exploitation by the petroleum industry has contaminated their water sources. In response, villagers have turned to harvesting rainwater, Kearns explains.

In 2012, shortly before joining the faculty at Southern, he first traveled to Ecuador for a separate research project that involved testing water samples for airborne pollutants. There, he met Luke Weiss, an American who had assimilated into the tribe and married a Secoya woman.

Kearns helps the family prep dinner while Weiss carves a paddle.

Weiss is working with Amazon Frontlines, a nonprofit organization that is helping the 500 or so Secoya and other nearby tribes reverse the devastation caused by industrialization and preserve their way of life.

The pair became fast friends (Kearns is now godfather to Weiss’ daughter), and on a canoe trip one afternoon, Weiss led Kearns to a wild yoco vine entwined around a fallen tree. He showed him how to scrape off the bark with a machete and squeeze it into a gourd to make a cold-water infusion, similar to a tea.

The dream, Weiss told him, was to harness the plant’s stimulant properties for use in an energy drink, turning the wild vine into a sustainable cash crop that could reduce the Secoya’s dependence on oil drilling as an income source. (Many younger Secoya have taken jobs with oil companies in nearby cities, threatening the dwindling tribe’s future.)

Weiss sips a beverage made from the Paullinia yoco plant.

So in 2013, just as Kearns was settling into a new teaching job at Southern, Weiss enrolled in a master’s program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science to study the plant’s viability as an agricultural product — and he enlisted his friend the SCSU chemist to help with the research.

The pair spent the next two years analyzing samples of the woody vine in a lab at Yale, using a technique called high-performance liquid chromatography to measure caffeine and theobromine levels in the bark, seeds, and leaves. They found higher levels of the chemicals than initially thought, with the greatest concentrations in the bark. Perhaps not surprisingly, they also discovered that the most potent plants were those with the thickest stems. Their findings were published in the Yale journal Tropical Resources in 2015.

Amazon Frontlines has used the newfound knowledge to help pinpoint the yoco’s optimal growing conditions, and is now helping the Secoya and allied tribes experimentally farm some 3,000 of the formerly wild plants. In August 2018, Kearns returned to the settlement with Southern student photographer and sociology major Brokk Tollefson to document their progress.

The pair also spent part of the trip in the Andean region of Ecuador, working with a women’s cooperative that uses sap from the Agave Americana plant to make agave-based sweeteners. Kearns is leading a research project at Southern that involves testing the sap for the presence of toxic metals as well. (He received a provisional patent for a low-cost field kit that detects metal levels. It was developed based on research conducted in collaboration with then-student Cody Edson, ’16, M.S. ’17.)

Camera in hand, senior Brokk Tollefson travels to the next research site.

Embracing the Challenge
Because it’s so demanding, Kearns usually travels to the rainforest solo. But he was confident the 26-year-old Tollefson, who served four years active duty in the Marine Corps, including a tour in Afghanistan, could handle the trip. Staying with Weiss and his family, they spent 10 days immersed in tribal routines, which included back-breaking agricultural work in extreme heat. Tollefson took more than 1,000 photos of the yoco farming and other aspects of Secoya life for an independent study project.

Even the military-trained Tollefson, however, wasn’t fully prepared for life in the jungle. “The bugs were crazy, the weather was hardly bearable, and after waking up to a very large cockroach the size of my fist crawling on my arm, it was hard to sleep,” he says. “It was the most sobering and surreal experience of my life.”

But then he adds: “I’d love to do it again.”

Photos by Southern student Brokk Tollefson, a sociology major and journalism minor, who will graduate in May 24, 2019.

Dana Casetti, research associate in the Physics Department; Elliott Horch, professor of physics; and Terry Girard, adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department

Dana Casetti, research associate in the Physics Department, is the catalyst for the recent awarding of a three-year grant to Southern totaling $509,480 from the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute for a project to measure motions of distant and old star systems.

The project entails the calibration of an older imaging camera that was used at Hubble between 1994 and 2009. Casetti said previous Hubble measurements used imaging cameras that were well studied/calibrated, but had observations taken for 10 years or less.

“We proposed using an older imaging camera that acquired measurements from 1994 to 2009, thus extending the time baseline of such measurements by 10-15 years,” she said.

“This was seen as valuable by the Hubble Space Telescope panel as it will enable numerous other studies well beyond the science we proposed in the project. It is an extremely challenging project, but our team is unique and extremely well-equipped to address this task.

“Our members are experts with more than 20 years in the field,” Casetti said. “Three of them are Southern faculty members (Elliott Horch, professor of physics; Terry Girard, adjunct faculty member in the Physics Department; and Casetti), one member is at Space Telescope Science Institute, and one is at Johns Hopkins University.”

Casetti said one of the goals of the project is to help scientists better understand the formation of the Milky Way Galaxy in a cosmological context. It also is intended to help better understand the roots of our own solar system.

“In a galaxy that underwent substantial harassment via interactions with other galaxies, it is difficult to have stable circumstances for a solar system to form and evolve to the point of developing intelligent life on a terrestrial planet,” she said.

This project will aid in helping to understand how that happened in the case of Earth.

Casetti also recently had been part of a team of experts that used NASA’s Hubble Telescope to help provide an answer to an astronomical mystery pertaining to two satellite dwarf galaxies. Astronomers believe that project is providing additional insight into how stars are “born.”

Last year, she taught in the summer school program at the Vatican Observatory, one of only a handful of astronomy experts selected to teach Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and other outstanding astrophysics students from around the world.