Monthly Archives: December 2012

*Southern was represented in several stories related to the recent tragic shooting in Newtown.

Helen Bennett Harvey, who is an adjunct journalism faculty member, as well as city editor at the New Haven Register, wrote a Dec. 20 column about the tragedy and how it can effect teachers. She also discussed how the shootings have caused her to reflect on classes she teachers. She complimented Southern – especially the journalism students – and offered high praise for Police Chief Joe Dooley, his professionalism and his commitment to the safety of the campus.

The following is a link to the Register column:

Also, Southern’s own memorial service on attracted two stories — one in the New Haven Register on Dec. 19 and the other covered by a Fox News affiliate from New York on Dec. 18.

The following is a link to the Register story:

*Jon Bloch, chairman of the Sociology Department, was quoted in a recent New Haven Register story about the effect that the tragedy can have on how people celebrate Christmas.

The following is a link to the Register story:

*Jerry Dunklee, professor of journalism, was quoted in a Dec. 15 story in the New Haven Register about the media coverage of the Newtown tragedy.

The following is a link to the Register story:

*Two courses being offered by Southern were highlighted Dec. 2 in Sunday’s lead story of the Connecticut section of the New Haven Register. Both courses pertain to the cultural phenomenon of apocalyptic predictions. Marie McDaniel, assistant professor of history, is teaching a class this semester called “Apocalypse Then: End Times in American History.” It examines the history of doomsday predictions in America. Jessica Kenty-Drane, associate professor of sociology, will teach a class during the spring semester called “Apocalypse Now: Culture of Fear in the U.S.?” It will look at the societal consequences of repeated predictions of the end of the world.

The following is a link to the Register story, photo and video:

*An article ran in the New Haven Register on Dec. 2 that previewed a concert at Southern by the Haven String Quartet. The concert would feature Mani Mirzaee, who plays an ancient Persian instrument called a setar. Mark Kuss, professor of music, composed a 25-minute piece for the concert.

The following is a link to the Register story, photo and video:

    Elliott Horch, associate professor of physics, is proving to be one of the academic stars of the university.

    He was recently presented with Southern’s Faculty-Scholar Award — given to a faculty member with a single exceptional scholarly work that has appeared in a public forum during the previous five years. Criteria for selection also include the work’s peer recognition, its social merit, and the extent of its advancement of knowledge and/or its creative contribution, all of which are established by outside evaluators.

    In Horch’s case, his invention of a Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI) – a device that attaches to a telescope to significantly enhance the clarity of the images – earned him the award. He was honored during a ceremony on March 11 in the lobby of the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts.

    Horch developed the device after securing a $352,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The project was completed in 2008 and sent to the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Ariz. The primary intent was to study binary stars in an attempt to find out more about the origins of our own solar system. And while it is used for that purpose, it recently was selected for use by NASA’s Kepler mission – a project in which astronomers are looking for life-bearing, Earth-like planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. In fact, it was used in the discovery of Kepler 22b, the first small planet outside the solar system that was found to orbit its sun in what astronomers call the habitable zone – a distance that is believed to be neither too close nor too far from its sun.

    It was also recently used to photograph Pluto and its moon, Charon. The device enabled astronomers to get the sharpest images ever of both from a ground-based telescope.

    Steve Howell, deputy project scientist for the Kepler mission, has been enthusiastic about Horch’s device since he first saw it in 2008. He referred to it in a newsletter as “one of the little-known but most impressive instruments at the WIYN Observatory at Kitt Peak.”

    Horch says that he was encouraged to apply for the award by James Dolan, professor of physics and the department’s former chairman.

    “In the far future, after a space probe with Earth reaches a planet orbiting a distant star and a scholar writes a history of how Earthlings reached beyond the solar system, an early chapter will be called Kepler,” Dolan says. “And among the scientists in the long list of references will appear the name E. Horch.”

    Horch says he appreciates Dolan’s continual support throughout his tenure at Southern. He adds that he is grateful to the awards committee, but says there were many excellent candidates. “I think there’s a lot of interesting research and creative activity going on at Southern – much more than many people in the statewide community probably realize – so it’s an honor to be selected.”

    The Faculty-Scholar Award is the latest in a string of honors Horch has received for his invention. In 2009, he was the Platinum Recipient for the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award Innovation Prize. And two years later, he earned the Norton Mezvinsky Trustees Research Award from what was then known as the Connecticut State University System.

    His DSSI will be available this summer for users of the 8-meter telescope at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

    Marianne Kennedy, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, says Horch has been a tremendous asset to the Southern community. “He exemplifies what a teacher-scholar is all about – someone who conducts outstanding research while excelling in the classroom as an educator,” she says.

    Kennedy also notes that the DSSI will be available this summer for users of the 8-meter telescope at the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii,

    NEWS NOTE: The New Haven Register ran a story on Elliott Horch’s device in its Jan. 6, 2013 edition. The following is a link to the article:

    The amount of power held by the Fourth Estate is a topic often debated. Many say it holds considerable sway in influencing the culture and popular opinion. But can media coverage of economic news actually play a significant role in determining whether your stock market investments rise or fall?

    Gene Birz, who began teaching this semester at Southern as an assistant professor of economics and finance, says yes it can, at least in the short run.

    Birz has conducted a study that examined newspaper headlines during a period of more than 13 years that pertained to several key monthly economic reports. Each headline was categorized as either positive, negative, neutral or mixed. He then examined whether the stock market had risen or fallen on the day of the release of these economic reports.

    What he found was that the headlines involving two major economic reports – the unemployment rate and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – had a direct correlation on whether the market went up or down on the trading day when the reports were released. If the headlines were rated positive – as determined by research assistants for the American Enterprise Institute – stocks tended to rise the next trading day, on average. Conversely, if the headlines were considered negative, the market generally declined.

    “The headlines reflected the perceptions of journalists, which are very similar to those of the general public,” Birz says. He says that most such headlines are not usually written by economic experts, and therefore are more reflective of how the average person would perceive the economic news.

    Birz says that business experts generally have felt that the stock market is influenced by economic news, but that the theory had not been supported by strong empirical evidence. He says one of the reasons for that lack of evidence is that it is not just the economic statistics in and of themselves that influence the market, but also how that information is interpreted by investors. He also says the news headlines are important in that they often give people, particularly investors, a quick interpretation of what otherwise can be a complex or ambiguous story.

    He adds that the study also looked at the link between the stock market and headlines about durable goods and retail sales, but they were not statistically significant.

    Birz’s findings were published last November in the Journal of Banking & Finance. The article, which he co-wrote with John R. Lott Jr., was called “The Effect of Macroeconomic News on Stock Returns: New Evidence from Newspaper Coverage.”

    He previously served as an adjunct faculty member at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. In 2009-10, Birz was a lecturer at Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y., where he earned a Master of Science degree in economics in 2007 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in economics in 2011. As explained in this website you can learn about how binary options trading works and how to trade binary options from here.

    Birz also has worked as an associate at Morgan Stanley in New York as part of the internal audit risk management group.



    Thousands of years ago, parts of Mexico and Central America that are barren today were home to flourishing civilizations. Despite tough climate and soil conditions that make modern-day farming seem nearly impossible, the ancient Maya prospered.

    Ezgi Akpinar Ferrand, assistant professor of geography, thinks the secret lies in a relatively low-tech method for collecting and conserving rain water, and believes these primitive techniques could help people in developing nations today.

    So in June, Akpinar Ferrand will join a team of researchers in Pich, Mexico to reconstruct an ancient Mayan pond-and-canal irrigation system, which she hopes will help struggling farmers now living in the village. If successful, the team hopes to teach the village of 2,000 people how to grow indigenous crops organically, which they can then sell to surrounding resort towns.

    The project was recently featured in a cover story last month in Global South Development Magazine as one of “12 Initiatives Taking Positive Steps Towards a Healthier, Fairer and More Sustainable Food and Agriculture System.”

    “If successfully reconstructed, this system would help nourish the surrounding land, increase income and water security and be a model for other populations living in the area,” the article says.

    The ancient Maya lived in southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and parts of El Salvador from around 1,000 B.C. until the civilization’s collapse sometime after 1,000 A.D.

    Akpinar Ferrand first began studying the Mayan water management system while researching her doctoral dissertation at the University of Cincinnati. But it was while interning at the U.N. Environment Programme, studying climate change, that she began thinking about the possibility of using her research to solve present-day problems such as hunger and drought.

    Akpinar Ferrand was trying to understand how the ancient Maya could overcome the challenges of their terrain and climate while modern-day populations have failed. The hardships include alternating rainy and dry seasons, poor soil and a landscape riddled with sinkholes that cause rain water to seep underground.

    She says the ancient Maya figured out a way to use a series of natural and man-made ponds known as aguadas to collect and store their rain water. They lined the ponds with natural materials such as clay, stone or plaster and built silting tanks at their entrances to filter the water. By building berms and dredging, they were able to maximize the ponds’ capacity.

    The ancient Maya used the water not only for washing and drinking, but for agricultural crops and possibly even for fish farming, by building a series of canals and raised fields, according to Akpinar Ferrand.

    “They were pretty savvy with their natural resources and we don’t do the same thing today,” she says.

    Since thousands of abandoned aguadas continue to exist in many of the regions where the ancient Maya lived, Akpinar Ferrand says it makes sense to try to reconstruct them to help boost economic opportunities there. She says villagers in the Yucatan peninsula need an irrigation system that is low-tech, inexpensive and relatively easy to adopt.

    “The underground water in that area is very deep and could be up to several hundred feet underground,” she says. “To pump that is quite a lot of work and a lot of money. With this, you don’t need a lot of money or very complex technology. You just need a little bit of human power.”

    The Pich, Mexico project is being led by ethnographer Betty Faust of the Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan, located in Merida, Yucatan, and archaeologist Armando Anaya of the University Autonoma de Campeche.

    The team is seeking a grant from National Geographic to help fund the project. Akpinar Ferrand says the first phase will involve paleoenvironmental field work to help the team better understand the canal and raised field system before it begins reconstruction.

    “This reconstruction of old technology is not something that’s been tried,” Akpinar Ferrand says. “If it works, maybe it can be a model that would ultimately make sense to policymakers and local governments.”

    In a related project, Akpinar Ferrand is working with Southern student Fatima Cecunjanin, a sophomore majoring in geography, to research how rainwater harvesting can help regions of the world deal with climate change. Vulnerable regions such as Western North America, Central America, Southern Asia and East Asia could benefit.

    Cecunjanin will present a poster highlighting their work at the 2013 American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.


    For the second consecutive year, freshmen in the Honors College program have participated in an innovative genomics research program created by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The students collect soil samples and isolate bacterial viruses, known as “phage,” which are later purified and the DNA extracted. Southern was chosen for the program during a competitive process in 2011.

    The university has since teamed up with a company called 454 Life Sciences, a biotechnology company that is a subsidiary of the Roche Co., which has helped the students decode the genomes of the viruses. This decoding process, which is called sequencing, has been conducted at the company’s Branford facilities and the data then returned to the students for analysis, according to Katie Montgomery, a company spokeswoman.

    The partnership between Southern and 454 Life Sciences has helped the students to succeed in the HHMI genomics research program, including being selected last spring for a poster presentation at the annual student-focused research meeting in Ashburn, Va. The meeting is designed for the colleges and universities participating in the genomics research program.

    “Out of the 80 or so colleges and universities participating in the program, we are one of only a handful which, thanks to (454 Life Sciences), were able to sequence all of the phages that were isolated by the students,” says Nicholas Edgington, associate professor of biology and a coordinator of the program. “We are also among only a handful that offers the course primarily to non-biology students.”

    He says the relationship with the company began when he asked for a tour of its sequencing lab facility in the fall of 2011. He notes that he asked 454 Life Sciences last spring if it would consider sequencing some of the phage genomes. The company agreed.

    “Sequencing has become a fundamental research tool, with applications in both human and environmental microbiology,” Montgomery says. “Educating the next generation of scientists on emerging genomic technologies is critical and we are pleased to work with Nicholas Edgington (associate professor of biology and a coordinator of the program) and the team at SCSU on this project.”