School of Arts and Sciences

Following a national search, Dr. Craig Hlavac has been appointed as the associate dean for the liberal arts in the School of Arts & Sciences. Dr. Wesley O’Brien led a search committee in conducting and completing the search.

Hlavac joined Southern in 2007 as a full-time instructor in the Music Department. After serving for three years in this position and after a national search, he was appointed as an assistant professor of music. In 2013 he was promoted to associate professor and elected by his colleagues as department chairperson, a position he held until his appointment by President Bertolino in 2017 as the interim associate dean for Arts & Sciences.

Hlavac received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and a Bachelor of Science degree in music education from the University of Connecticut; a Master of Music degree from Yale University; and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford. An active orchestral trumpeter and freelance musician, Hlavac has performed with the New Haven Symphony, the Bridgeport Symphony, the Hartford Pops Band, the Hartford Brass Ensemble, the New Haven Brass Ensemble, and alongside the Yale Glee Club, the Yale Camerata, the Connecticut Chamber Choir, the Cape Cod Chamber Music Society, and many others.

A frequent clinician and presenter, Hlavac has delivered presentations throughout the Northeastern United States and across the country. His research interests include the impact of the organizational mission on the decision-making of educational leaders, the use of organizational and departmental missions to prioritize decision-making, and the utility of mission-based management in the administration of the contemporary university.

Hlavac brings a wealth of institutional knowledge to the associate deanship position and will work closely with Dr. Bruce Kalk, interim dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, and the associate dean for STEM to advance the mission of the School and the University.

Hlavac’s official first day was June 21, 2019.

Photographs chosen among the best student work in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists

Award-winning photographer Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18

Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, has a way with a viewfinder — a gift that’s led the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to recognize her photographs among the best student work in the nation. In spring 2019, she was named one of only two finalists in the “feature photography” category of the SPJ’s national Mark of Excellence Awards, which honor the best of student journalism.

Jean-Jacques’ award-winning photos — taken during trips to Haiti, India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and more — were included in the inaugural issue of Crescent Magazine, a lifestyle publication produced by Southern students. Jean-Jacques advanced to the national competition after winning first place at the SPJ, Region 1 conference, which represents universities throughout New England, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. (It was a great day for Southern students, who won five additional regional awards for their work on the Southern News student newspaper and Crescent Magazine.)

For Jean-Jacques, the national recognition came at an opportune time, validating her dream of becoming a photojournalist. She came to Southern after earning an associate degree at Housatonic Community College. At Southern, she majored in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in studio art and journalism. In addition to working as a photographer, she’s currently a finance billing specialist with a company in West Palm Beach, Fl.

Following, she talks about her approach to photography — and the unique challenges and rewards of earning a degree while raising three boys.

What was it like to be one of only two finalist in the national SPJ competition?
I was overjoyed and in total disbelief, especially since I was unaware I had been entered in the SPJ competition. [Jean-Jacques graduated in May 2018, before the national competition took place. But as a regional winner, she automatically moved on to the national competition.]

A portrait of several generations photographed by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, in Ghana.

This recognition has come at quite a pivotal point in my journey. I have been seriously contemplating leaving the field of photography and focusing my energy toward philanthropy. I have wrestled fretfully — doubting my skills, talents, and abilities. When Dr. [Cindy] Simoneau, [department chair and professor of journalism,] shared this most unexpected and welcomed news, I received concrete affirmation of my aspirations. Dr. Simoneau and Southern believed in me from the start, and I am truly thankful for their continuous and unwavering support.

How did you first become interested in photography?
I was always one of those kids who watched television incessantly. I loved how cinematography made me feel. Often times, I would think a particular scene would make a great photograph. I also loved flipping through magazines and being pulled into that moment in time. I think, ultimately, I loved photography because it made me feel like I was momentarily transported to a different place. I always had a desire to leave my Brooklyn home and see the world beyond.

Women photographed in Varanasi, India.

Do you remember the first photograph you approached artistically?
The first photograph I remember taking was in my first year of college for a black and white photography class. I went to the train tracks and took pictures of old buildings and alleyways — and wondered what kind of things took place in these spaces. I was responsible for developing the film, and found the entire process creative and rewarding.

What’s your favorite image among the photos you’ve taken?
My absolute favorite photograph is one I took in Ethiopian of a woman making coffee with her son wrapped in beautiful garb on her back. . . . This humble and proud woman welcomed me — a foreigner — into her home, and allowed me to document her daily routines and activities with her child. I felt blessed and grateful. Visually, her life appeared so different from mine. I was ecstatic to have captured this wonderfully beautiful difference. But I realized at that [same] moment that we were much more similar than different.

Asked to select a favorite among the photographs she’s taken, Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18, selected this image of a mother and child in Lalebela, Ethiopia.

The Crescent Magazine article explained that you were raising your children while attending Southern. What was most challenging about that time and were there advantages to attending college as an adult?
The two most challenging aspects of attending college as a seasoned adult were arriving home late — and having minimum energy upon that arrival. It was difficult carving out time to assist with my three sons’ homework assignments. I had my own homework to do.

In essence, I worked full time, attended school full time, and managed a family of three young boys, all as a single mother. Yes, challenging, to say the least! There were certainly not enough hours in the day to get it all done. However, with a great deal of planning and a tremendous amount of support from my sons, everything worked out. My sons were true troopers through it all!

Attending college as an adult was much more fulfilling than my earlier collegiate career. Real-life experiences were of great value when interacting with fellow students and professors. I was able to process a great deal of information quickly and make connections to the material being covered.

Siem Reap, Cambodia, is among the 30 some countries Jean-Jacques has traveled to in recent years, often bringing along her children.

Share five things that inspire your work.

Culture and tradition greatly influence my work. I am enthralled by the different cultures of our world — and by the traditions embedded in those cultures. I also am empowered by photographing people in their element. That being said, it stands to reason, my work is inspired by their personal and unique experiences. It is my passion to tell the intimate details of their lives through the lens of my camera.

Lighting is a motivating factor, as well. It’s critical and crucial to any composition. How lighting is used. How it hits the subject. How it ‘playfully plays’ and changes the mood. The affects are infinite.

Lastly, my work is inspired by authenticity. I strive to capture the true nature of a subject while bringing different life experiences to the forefront for all of us to see.

A playful moment in Ghana, captured by Jefferine Jean-Jacques, ’18.

What role does travel play in your work?
I traveled to approximately 30 countries in the past six years — and yet, that number is far, far below my wishes and aspirations. The cultures, the people, the smells, the colors, the mystique — all of it drives my work. I possess a strong desire to see more of the world and capture the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly, the unique. In the meantime, I will continue to try to see my surroundings with a new set of eyes so I can recognize the interesting, the beautiful, the ugly and the unique right where I am.

A moment in Kenya photographed by Jean-Jacques.

Students Brooke Mercaldi and Lauren Brideau perform research with fellow student David Bakies at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Conn.

Summer is finally here, and that means heading to Connecticut’s coast to splash in the waves and sunbathe on the beach. But you may want to go right now. According to analysis conducted by Brooke Mercaldi and Lauren Brideau, juniors at Southern and paid researchers for Southern’s Werth Center for Coastal and Marine Studies (WCCMS), those miles of beach are quickly shrinking, and unless the state changes the way it handles coastline management, they won’t be back any time soon.

It’s a long-held belief that there is a seasonal rhythm to beaches in Connecticut: they erode during winter storms and are rebuilt during calmer summer months, thanks to fair-weather wave fields. However, Mercaldi and Brideau’s research on wave energy asymmetry is proving otherwise — that the state’s beaches don’t work this way and that our neighbor, Long Island, is the reason why.

Using laser surveying technology, Mercaldi has been studying the dynamics of Connecticut’s coasts since 2015. “We take three profiles at five beaches across the Connecticut coast: Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Bayview Beach in Milford, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic, and Ocean Beach in New London,” she says.

Mercaldi’s research has shown that Long Island actually intercepts the fair-weather waves, the waves that originate in the Atlantic and have sufficient energy to rebuild our beaches after a storm. Mercaldi has found that Connecticut’s locally generated fair-weather wave field lacks the requisite energy to move the sand from the bars back onto the beach.

“Brooke has discovered some things about how Connecticut beaches work that go against the textbook train of thought,” says James Tait, professor of marine and environmental sciences and co-coordinator of WCCMS. “Along Connecticut shorelines, swell waves from distant storms, they run into the South shore of Long Island before they reach Connecticut,” he says. “So, the shoreline of Connecticut erodes and nothing happens. If we could get rid of Long Island, we’d be all set.”

Since moving Long Island isn’t an option, alternatives that combat erosion are needed, and that’s where fellow researcher Brideau is lending her expertise. She has focused exclusively on Hammonasset, which draws more than one million annual visitors and has had beach and dune erosion problems along its western half. As part of her beach sand transport and deposition study, Brideau is evaluating the fate of a 2017 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project that involved transporting about 300,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the Housatonic River on barges to Hammonasset — for an estimated $9 million.

“If you showed up at Hammonasset you wouldn’t notice right away, but pictures show what’s happened,” says Mark Sulik, Environmental Protection, Parks and Recreation supervisor at Hammonasset. “We know we lose sand, and you’ll see after a storm that the drop-off is really noticeable. Then two weeks later it’ll be back, but we have noticed that over the past 30, 40, 50 years consistently, most of it disappears for good.”

Brideau, who has become the “go to” beach scientist for the park, has set up a network of approximately 30 beach profiles that she measures every three months using a total station and reflector. She has been working with park management and with the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as well as supplying additional data to the Corps such as depth of closure measurements and measurements of the dunes.

“Right now I’m still monitoring sediment and taking beach profiles,” says Brideau. “I survey the beach, the beach volume and width, and see where sediment is moving from and where it’s accumulating. We graph everything and compare all of the graphs on top of each other. It’s a visual way to see where sediment is going.”

The next phase, according to Brideau, is moving into designing sediment management — that’s where her expertise and Mercaldi’s have saved, and can continue to save, the state a significant amount of money.

“The towns don’t have the money to hire independent researchers to do this kind of investigation,” says Tait. “We’re doing it for free. It would probably cost them $100,000 to do this study if they hired a private company. We are saving the state millions in the long run, hundreds of thousands in the short term.”

What’s more, says Tait, importing sediment at the cost of $9 million per trip isn’t practical or sustainable. The idea, essentially, is to use Brideau and Mercaldi’s research to change the state’s mindset about coastal sustainability.

“What Lauren is doing — and Brooke as well — is to help them understand what’s happening to their eroded beach materials, and they use our data to move forward,” says Tait. “Nature isn’t going to put the sand back. We have to do the work that nature does. We always run into the erosion issues. We’re trying to push this idea that we do it once, then try to keep track of where it’s eroding and accumulating. So the idea is to reclaim and not re-nourish. It makes a huge amount of economic sense.”

Brideau hopes that by bringing her findings to General Assembly, the research will help spur better coastal management and policy.

“Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is aware of these projects and has been helpful in guiding our initiatives,” Brideau says. “But a better approach is to bring it to the legislature to implement policy change. Connecticut state beaches need to be manually replenished. People don’t know this or recognize it, and there’s no money for it. The next step is to bring it to the legislature and find someone who understands the urgency of it.”

Sulik, of Hammonasset, understands. “In the long-term, we don’t really have a plan to protect the beach,” he says. “Any information we get is beneficial. For future generations we need to look at better management plans.”

WTNH did a story recently on the students’ research at Hammonasset. Watch the video to learn more about Brideau’s and Mercaldi’s research, along with fellow student David Bakies.

 

Ryan Leigh Dostie, BA, '11, MFA, '16

A 21-year-old soldier is raped in her barracks by a fellow soldier, and she reports the assault right away. But Army commanders don’t trust her story, and instead of trying to bring the rapist to justice, they look for ways to delegitimize the woman. It’s a familiar narrative in today’s #MeToo environment, and in alumna Ryan Leigh Dostie’s memoir, Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line, published on June 4, the reader accompanies Dostie – who was raped at 21 while serving in the U.S. Army – on her journey of pain, outrage, trauma, and survival, as she navigates the military and life beyond its hierarchy as a rape survivor.

Dostie, who holds an MFA in fiction writing and a bachelor’s degree in history from Southern, has been receiving a lot of attention for her book, even well before its publication. Last November, Formation was selected as Shelf Awareness’ “Gallery Love of the Week,” in an industry newsletter that reviews books not yet published. More recently, Formation was chosen by Amazon editors as June’s top debut, and it is listed as #2 in Esquire’s “Best Books of Summer 2019.” BookRiot named Formation one of its “50 of the Best Books to Read This Summer”; Patch named Formation one of “The 10 Best Books To Read In June”; and PureWow listed it as one of “9 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in June.” The book has also been reviewed on Publishers Weekly, Amazon, and Goodreads.

When Dostie joined the Army in 2000, she did so as a linguist. By now, she has studied six languages, and she had spent a year of high school studying in Japan. When she joined the Army, she intended to become a Japanese interrogator. However, the Army had other plans for her and sent her to the prestigious Defense Language Institute of Monterey for an intensive program in Persian Farsi, the language spoken in Iran.

In 2001, an enlisted man in her unit raped her, and she immediately reported the assault to her superiors, who were at best skeptical and unsympathetic. Even after reporting, Dostie was forced to continue working with her rapist. The commanders who questioned her about what happened pressed her on whether or not she had told her rapist “no,” and they tried to paint her as promiscuous, or to portray her as trying to protect her reputation by accusing her attacker of rape. In the end, the Army dropped the case, and Dostie was left with PTSD, which would eventually take a toll on her mental health and ability to function.

“The book is about rape and how the Army handles it,” Dostie says. But it also is a devastating account of what happens to a rape victim when she reports and is not believed. Dostie stayed in the Army after her attack, and in April 2003, when the Iraq War was well under way, she was sent to Iraq. She had been told that her PTSD “could be a problem if she was deployed,” and it was: she says of that time, “I was not mentally sound.” She did spend 15 months there, however, and her presence in a war zone, compounded by her PTSD, essentially added one trauma to another.

In April 2004, when the uprising in Sadr City occurred, after Saddam Hussein was caught, Dostie says, “We were all packed to go home, and then they said we had to stay.” She did return to the United States eventually, and says at first she felt fine but then started showing signs of PTSD. She got out of active duty in 2005 and eventually returned home to Connecticut, which helped her PTSD. She began to attend Southern and date the man who would become her husband.

An Honors College student and history major at Southern, Dostie wrote two honors theses: one was in history and one, a creative writing thesis, was the beginnings of Formation. She says the manuscript that would eventually become Formation had actually started in an introductory fiction writing class as a “sci-fi futuristic Civil War-type story about a woman in the infantry – a woman working with all men in this masculine military environment.” When she told English Professor Tim Parrish, who taught that course, that she had been in the military, he advised that the story should be about her own experience. She rewrote it into a story about a woman in the military in Iraq, and it became her honors thesis.

She graduated with her B.A. in 2011, and when she joined the MFA program in creative writing a few years later, she rewrote the honors thesis into her MFA thesis. Parrish says, “Having worked with Ryan on this material from the time she took her first Intro to Fiction class through her MFA thesis, I’ve seen how she earned this book, not only in terms of her incredible work ethic and steadfast growth as a writer, but maybe moreso as a person with the courage and steadfastness to confront and process so much awful history, to survive, and to make great art from her experience. This book is not only outstanding, it’s important.”

Dostie sold the book several days before the #MeToo movement broke, and she says now #MeTooMilitary is gaining traction. There has been a spike in the number of reporting sexual assaults in the military, she says, adding, “They’ve changed how you report it, but if you report, it can still affect your career.”

The Army is now doing SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) briefings to teach soldiers about sexual assault and harassment. The briefings can be effective, Dostie says, “but people have to take it seriously. They are learning about consent and what is sexual harassment. It’s about trying to change the culture.”

Learn more about Ryan Leigh Dostie

Dostie will be a featured reader at the SCSU MFA Program’s 10 anniversary celebration in fall 2019. Find out more about her upcoming local events (readings, book signings, etc.).

A shot of a Burmese python from Chandler's film

Associate Professor of Photography Jeremy Chandler’s work is part of a group exhibition titled “Subversive Suburbia” at Mindy Solomon Gallery in Miami, Fla. The exhibition runs from from June 7 – July 27. Chandler’s documentary film collaboration, Invasive Species, will be included in the exhibition, and he will be present at the gallery for a public screening and artist talk during the opening reception on June 7.

More about Chandler’s work and the exhibition:

Invasive Species Synopsis (40 min 2 sec):

The Florida landscape comes alive in this experimental documentary film created by Shawn Cheatham and Jeremy Chandler. Striking cinematography and a haunting original score guide the viewer through a contemplative glimpse into the state’s ongoing struggle with the Burmese Python. Told from the perspective of “the local”, Invasive Species explores how pythons were artificially thrust onto this fragile ecosystem and continue to challenge the ethical, social, and psychological paradigms of a people learning to live side-by-side with a new predator. The landscape is presented as a dangerous, wild space that can harbor and effectively conceal an entire breeding population of apex predators, as the python invasion becomes a vehicle to poetically meditate on metaphysical concepts of place, masculinity, and the indigenous.

Watch the trailer for Invasive Species.

Read the gallery press release about the exhibition.

Chandler’s bio:

Chandler is a photographic artist who creates through a variety of conceptual and formal approaches, such as straight photography, tableaus, and documentary and narrative film projects. His work subverts ritualized expressions of masculinity to reveal a more nuanced idea of maleness while questioning how culture and myth can often intertwine to create altered perceptions of space and place.

In addition to being the 2008 Photographer Laureate for the city of Tampa, Florida, he has exhibited at notable venues, including: Hagedorn Foundation Gallery in Atlanta, GA; Balzer Art Projects in Basel, Switzerland; and Giampietro Gallery in New Haven, CT. He received his BFA from the University of Florida in Creative Photography and MFA from the University of South Florida. He is currently an Assistant Professor teaching photography at Southern Connecticut State University.

(Photo credit: Vern Williams) -- Students in the Multimedia Journalism class in spring 2018 included: Front row, left to right: Jonathan Gonzalez, August Pelliccio, Megan Hill, Melanie Espinal, Kaitlyn Regan. Back row, left to right: Patrick Quinn O’Neill, Michael Riccio, Ryan Conchado, Kevin Crompton, Andrew Hans and Associate Professor Jodie Gil.

A project reported by a group of 12 journalism students earned a First Place award in the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Awards on May 23 at the state awards banquet held at The Hawthorne in Berlin.

The award was given in the Health category of the competition for the students’ group project: “Costs and access still barriers to health care, survey finds,” produced for the Connecticut Health I-Team, under the direction of Professor Jodie Gil. These students were in spring 2018 Multimedia Journalism course.

In Regional A division, the project was awarded the highest honor above all the major news outlets in the state.

The student winners are: Kaitlyn Regan, Ryan Conchado, Kevin Crompton, Jailene Cuevas, Melanie Espinal, Jonathan Gonzalez, Andrew Hans, Megan Hill, Patrick Quinn O’Neill, August Pelliccio, Michael Riccio, and Alyssa Rice. Hill, a student from Liverpool John Moores University, Southern’s partner university in Liverpool, England, was studying at Southern for the spring semester.

“This project was a collaboration between the students in the Multimedia Journalism course and the Connecticut Health Investigative Team,” says Gil. “We were fortunate to work with Lynne DeLucia, the editor of C-HIT, throughout the Spring 2018 semester.”

Gil explains that the project let the students explore new tools for journalism in a real-world setting – writing about Connecticut residents’ experiences with healthcare and insurance. Students produced videos and podcasts, and took photos of the people they interviewed. They explored data from 500 surveys, and used their interviewing skills to put those numbers into context.

Not only did students put their journalism education to work in the field, they got a chance to learn from DeLucia, a Pulitzer-Prize journalist with more than 40 years’ experience in Connecticut journalism, during classroom sessions.

“I’m really proud of the students’ work, and appreciative of Lynne’s guidance as editor on the project,” Gil says. “It was a team effort, and I’m so honored that the judges selected this as the first place winner in a competitive category.”

A selection of photos from the dozens of Connecticut residents students interviewed.

 

Sean Grace with students

Sean Grace, associate professor of biology, was interviewed recently by WSHU radio about a study he participated in regarding the loss of kelp in the northern Atlantic Ocean. Grace was one of three researchers who conducted the study, which pointed to increasing water temperatures as the primary reason for the declining levels of kelp in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.

Kelp is a brown algae found in underwater forests. They have a variety of uses, and serve as important nutrients for fish and other sea life.

Listen to the WSHU interview.

Read the original article about the study by Grace, Colette J. Feehan, and Carla A. Narvaez that appeared in the journal “Scientific Reports.”

Celebration of Excellence: Undergraduate Research Assistants – Faculty Award Grant

2019 Recipient: Todd Ryder, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

About the award

This initiative, Undergraduate Research Assistants, is funded by the SCSU Office of the Provost. One grant of up to $3,000 is awarded to a faculty member to support one or more undergraduate research assistants to assist with said faculty member’s research in any academic discipline represented on the SCSU campus. The purpose of this program is to support a research experience for undergraduates and also to support faculty research.

About the recipient

Todd Ryder, assistant professor of chemistry, is researching ways to identify novel compounds with antibacterial activity as potential drug candidates. As he writes, “most antibiotics have been found through screening of microbes found in the environment, for example, an approved drug called fidaxomicin is produced by Dactylosporangium aurantiacum subspecies hamdenesis that was originally extracted from a soil sample collected in Hamden.” He also is interested in developing a new synthetic methodology with applications to the synthesis of these compounds.

Dr. Ryder anticipates publishing a paper on incorporating the antibiotic extraction experiments in the undergraduate organic chemistry teaching lab sequence, as well as a paper on the antibacterial compound isolated from the Lysobacter strain if the upcoming mass spectrometry results suggest it is novel.

All of the results of the research will be included as preliminary data in a grant application to the National Institutes of Health R15 AREA program in the spring.

Professor Ryder received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Rochester; his M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Michigan; and his B.A. in Chemistry and Biology from Cornell University.

Biotech student Amelia Hoyt and Nicholas Edgington, associate professor of biology and biotech program coordinator

Students enrolled in biotechnology — applied molecular and cellular biology — at Southern Connecticut State University get their hands dirty. No, really. Part of the required learning for the B.S. in biotechnology is to dig in the dirt.

“We’re looking for phages,” explains Nicholas Edgington, associate professor and biotech program coordinator. “In the ground.”

A “phage” is short for bacteriophage, and a bacteriophage is a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria. In simple terms, finding phages is important because it enables students to discover new bacteria-killing viruses.

Southern’s phage hunting course, SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science), starts with simple digging in the soil to find new viruses and progresses through a variety of microbiology techniques to complex genome annotation and bioinformatic analyses. The two-semester course is embedded into Genomics I and II and is one of two innovative national educational programs that are part of the degree and give students hands-on access to real world health threats. The other program, Small World Initiative, or SWI, requires students to roll up their sleeves and get digging again — this time for antibiotic-producing bacteria. SWI seeks to address the problem of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” or bacteria, by having students isolate soil microorganisms that may produce new antimicrobial products.

Southern student Amelia Hoyt’s eyes light up when she talks about the courses.

“Small World and SEA-PHAGES are actual research projects that had a huge impact on my education,” she says. “SEA-PHAGES is a really interesting class. You get to work with viral particles — viruses that affect bacteria.”

A self-described science enthusiastic — “I always enjoyed learning about science, especially the scientific discovery process and scientific research” — Hoyt quickly launches into the how-to process: “You take a soil sample and you grow it in media for a while and you inoculate the soil with host bacteria. Then you filter out the dirt and bacteria and what you’re left with is liquid full of virus particles, and you can take a sample of the liquid and you mix it in with cells from the host and then plate a lawn of that bacteria, and if a virus attaches it creates a plaque. It’s real lab work.”

So real, in fact, that the students’ findings are presented at regional symposiums and national conferences and are published in peer-reviewed research journals like Microbiology Resource Announcements and Nature Microbiology, as well as scientific databases like PhagesDB.org and the NCBI’s GenBank. Southern has 15 genomes published in GenBank with students as authors.

In addition to the dirt extracting courses, biotech students also participate in a required internship at a local company such as Alexion, Isoplexis, Quantum BioPower, Synovel Laboratory, Archillion, and more. Hoyt interned at The Jackson Laboratory. Her research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Julia Oh, focused on the microbiome, specifically the differences in the interaction between the microbiome and the immune system in people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

“We took gut samples, isolated the bacteria from them in different conditions, making sure we got a wide range of samples,” she says. “Once we have certain bacteria sorted out, we can do experiments on them. And once we have results, we’ll write a paper about the methods and the results, trying to create a systemic way to characterize microbiomes of patients. We can take a population and identify the characteristics, so we can say, ‘This bacteria causes chronic fatigue syndrome.’”

With her internship ending in May, it’s too soon for Hoyt to draw any scientific conclusions, but she’s not disappointed: “I got a job offer at The Jackson Laboratory, so I’ll be able to see it all the way through.”

Internships can often evolve into employment, and while Southern does maintain strong relationships with businesses in the biotech field, Edgington is quick to point out that the strength of the program and the student are ultimately what get them in the door.

“Southern has a close relationship with BioCT [an organization dedicated to growing the bioscience ecosystem in Connecticut],” Edgington says. “But these companies aren’t holding positions open for our students. We have relationships, but students still get employed on their own merits.”

Employment prospects in the field are good. According to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations out-earn non-STEM fields by 12 to 30 percent across all education levels, and STEM jobs have doubled as a proportion of all jobs.

“Biotech is just applying molecular biology to programs,” Edgington says. “It’s coming up with new drugs, new pathways for interactions, new disease states, genome sequencing and risk predictions for fetuses. It’s pretty rare to have two genomics courses in an undergraduate program, like Southern does, and genomics is exploding.”

Southern’s biotech program also offers bioinformatics, which is the science of collecting and analyzing complex biological data such as genetic codes. Much like genomics, the field is ripe with opportunity.

“Biotech students get experience with programming and biologic data sets,” Edgington says. “Companies can’t hire enough students in bioinformatics.”

Then, there’s the research. Antibiotic resistance and diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome are just two examples of the endless applications of research in the biotech field. To a science-loving student like Hoyt, the thought is a cheery one.

“There’s so much work to be done on human biome,” she says, “we’ll never run out of research projects.”

Southern Connecticut State University’s biotech program is currently applying for accreditation from The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization, for its genomics courses.

West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi with Tony Fusco, recently named the city’s first poet laureate (Photo credit: Michael Walsh/New Haven Register)

SCSU creative writing alumnus Tony Fusco, a West Haven, Conn., resident, was recently named that city’s poet laureate. Fusco is co-president and past-president of the Connecticut Poetry Society and has a master’s degree in creative writing from Southern. He was the editor of Caduceus, the anthology of the Yale Medical Group Art Place, and past editor of The Connecticut River Review, Long River Run, the Southern News, High Tide, and Sounds and Waves of West Haven. His work has appeared in many publications including the Connecticut Review, Louisiana Literature, the Red Rock Review, The South Carolina Review, Lips, and The Paterson Review.

His most recent book is Extinction, published in 2018.

His book Java Scripture was published in 2014 by Flying Horse Press. Previous books include Droplines (Grayson Press) and Jessie’s Garden (Negative Capability Press), which feature poems about his youth in West Haven, Savin Rock, and Allingtown. His poetry has won prizes in many contests, including The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. His poem “Harvest” was nominated for a Pushcart Award. He is a member of the New England Poetry Club, past literary chair for the West Haven Council of the Arts and the Milford Fine Arts Council. Fusco produced West Shore Poets, a television poetry series at CTV, and served on its board of directors and the Cable Advisory Council.

The New Haven Register published an article about Fusco being named West Haven’s poet laureate, which is available here.