Yearly Archives: 2014

The higher prevalence of hypertension among African-American women compared with white women is well-documented. Diet and quality of health care have often been identified as likely culprits.

And while they are almost certainly contributing factors to that health disparity, a new Southern study shows evidence of a deeper, physiological factor that appears to be responsible, at least in part, for the difference.

Among young, sedentary women with normal blood pressure readings — the baroreflex, responsible for the body’s ability to stabilize its blood pressure when elevated — appears to be generally less sensitive in young black women than in their white female peers, according to the study led by Peter Latchman, assistant professor of exercise science. The research shows the baroreflex among the African-American women participating in the test to be 66 percent lower than in the white women tested.

Conversely, sympathetic sensitivity – commonly known as the “fight or flight” response (which raises blood pressure) – is greater among the black women. The study shows that their scores are almost twice as high as white women on this aspect of the testing.

“What we found is that the body’s ability to regulate a stable blood pressure was not as strong in young African-American women as it was in young white women,” Latchman says. “In effect, these young black women were already showing very early signs of pre-hypertension that were not yet measurable with the standard sphygmomanometer (blood pressure machine).”

The research compares a group of nearly two dozen healthy white women of college age with an almost identical number of healthy black women of the same age. The women are also comparable in health and BMI. While healthy and not having hypertension based on traditional measuring devices, all of the women are living a generally sedentary lifestyle in terms of exercise.

The study was published in the August 2013 edition of the journal, “Clinical Autonomic Research.” Latchman was joined in the research by Robert Axtell, graduate coordinator of the Exercise Science Department; Jason Pereira, who was then an SCSU graduate fellow; Gregory Gates of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in the Bronx; Matthew Bartels of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine of Columbia University, and Ronald Edmond DeMeersman of the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Latchman says he hopes the research will enable scientists and the medical community to conduct further studies on this subject and help develop earlier methods of controlling blood pressure in African-American women, before a diagnosis of hypertension or pre-hypertension.

“The mechanisms explaining these differences remain elusive, but future studies examining baroreflex under stressful conditions may provide additional insight into these different responses,” he says.

In fact, Latchman already has begun exploring the role of exercise in preventing these very early signs of prehypertension in young black women. That research, while still in process, shows that young, active black women who engage in regular physical activity do not exhibit these same signs, which can set the stage for prehypertension or hypertension. In effect, their results are the same as white women who also participate in regular physical activity.

“That would seem to indicate that exercise among African-American women at a young age could prevent, or at least delay, the start of hypertension,” he says. “While this is also true among young, white women, it is even more crucial among young black women because of a predisposition toward high blood pressure.”

Latchman adds that this test helps to shed some new light on the seeds of hypertension, especially among African-American women. He said he is unaware of any other research comparing the baroreflex and sympathetic sensitivity of young black and white women who have normal blood pressure readings.

    Students wishing to apply to Southern will find the process to be a snap starting next year.

    The university has been accepted into the Common Application membership association – a not-for-profit organization that aims to streamline the applications process for prospective college students. As a result, Southern will accept what is popularly known as the “Common App” – a uniform application used by more than 500 colleges and universities throughout the United States, as well as other several other countries.

    Students who apply to Southern for the fall semester of 2015 (starting this fall) will be able to submit this standard application – a change that will save students the time to fill out a separate form, according to Kimberly Crone, associate vice president for enrollment management. The Common App makes it more likely that students who are considering Southern as one of several options will actually submit the paperwork needed to apply.

    “Generally, schools that use the Common App see an increase of between 10 and 30 percent in their applicant pool,” Crone says. “This is especially valuable at a time of declining high school enrollments. The Common App also is likely to increase the geographic diversity of our applicants.”

    But Crone says while the Common App should bolster the number of applications, the university is also developing a strategy to convert the increased number of applicants into higher yield rates and increased enrollment.

    Alexis Haakonsen, director of admissions, agrees.

    “We are developing a comprehensive plan to communicate with students at every stage of the admissions process, continuing the very successful on-campus events for which Southern is well known, and involving the faculty and our alumni in the yield process,” Haakonsen explains.

    The university coordinates various events during the year, such as open houses, orientation sessions and programs aimed at high school students.

    “It’s all about making connections with students, whether it’s by their academic interests, a student organization, a faculty mentor, sports, activities or on-campus living,” she adds. “I want to see every incoming student connected to Southern in a direct and personal way as they transition into our community.”

    During the 2012-13 school year, 723,576 individuals used the Common App, according to the association’s website. Most of those were generated within the United States, from 47 states and the Washington, D.C., though a small number were from outside the nation. That total represents a 9.2-percent increase from the previous year. During the four-year period from 2008-09 to 2012-13, an increase of 74.9 percent has been recorded.

    Regionally, New England schools generated the highest number of applicants in America from at 5.4 per individual. Schools in other U.S. regions recorded averages ranging from 3.6 to 5.2 a person.

      Southern has begun a targeted marketing campaign of several programs as part of an effort to increase university enrollment.

      With the number of high school graduates declining each year, higher education institutions across the nation are being challenged to maintain their enrollment levels. The university is seeking to create and bolster academic programs that show promise of significant student enrollment and growth.

      “We have so many excellent programs at Southern, but we have chosen several that we believe have the best potential to grow significantly in numbers over the next several years,” says Marianne Kennedy, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

      Among the newly created programs in the spotlight are: an accelerated Master of Business Administration degree; a certificate in accounting and a B.S. and B.A. degree programs in interdisciplinary studies. The existing programs that are being highlighted are Master of Science degrees in computer science, exercise science and applied physics, which are all being reinvigorated to boost enrollment.

      The accelerated M.B.A. is designed for the hardworking professional seeking to advance their careers. Students can earn their degree in 17 months through a combination of Saturday and online courses.

      The certificate in accounting is designed for individuals who are seeking to become a Certified Public Accountant. The certificate is a major stepping stone toward being eligible to take the CPA exam.

      The B.S./B.A. in interdisciplinary studies offers students an alternative to a traditional major, enabling them to design their own program of study. This flexibility allows them to tailor their coursework in distinctive directions. The B.A. combines two concentrations, such as environmental studies/marine studies, media studies/ethnic studies or criminal justice/forensic science. The B.S. combines three concentrations, such as public health/sociology/biology or Spanish/Latin American studies/political science.

      The M.S. in computer science has been restructured so that its emphasis is on two tracks – cybersecurity and software development – to better reflect trends in that field. The M.S. in exercise science has two available concentrations – human performance and sports psychology. The human performance concentration includes assessment of cardio-pulmonary fitness, body composition and muscle/joint strength and stability and biomechanical analysis. The sports psychology concentration includes an in-depth study of health psychology, performance enhancement and intervention.

      The M.S. applied physics has two tracks – materials science/nanotechnology and optics/optical instrumentation – and is intended for individuals seeking applied research and management positions in the high-tech industry. In turn, that would help develop the state’s workforce.

      President Mary A. Papazian has offered her thanks for the faculty who have devised and implemented these programs.

      “If this new marketing approach is successful, as we believe it will be, it will not only boost our enrollment, but provide a template for future academic programming by departments campus wide,” she says.

      *Armen Marsoobian, professor of philosophy, was interviewed Feb. 28 for a story inArmenian Weekly that was a preview of a talk he gave in Las Vegas titled, “Survival and Resistance in the Heart of Darkness: The Story of an ‘Islamized’ Armenian Family in Marsovan, 1915-1919.”

      *Jim Barber, director of community engagement, was the focus of an article that ran in the Feb. 23 edition of the New Haven Register for an award he received from the West Haven Black Coalition. He received this year’s Rev. Dr. Edwin R. Edmonds Humanitarian Award at the organization’s recent Carroll E. Brown Scholarship and Community Awards dinner.

      *The New Haven Register ran a front page story in the Feb. 16 paper that focused on Krystyna Gorniak-Kocikowska, professor of philosophy. The story discussed her observations – based on considerable research — pertaining to the increase in robotic use in today’s society. Robots are beginning to be used to teach children and to assist nurses in hospitals and nursing homes. Krystyna discusses ethical questions related to future uses of robots.

      *Southern’s efforts to recruit students into the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines recently received some notoriety with a Feb. 12 article in CT Latino News, an online publication. The article talked about how the university is seeking to increase the number of minority students, particular Latinos, in the STEM programs. The article served as the lead story in the Feb. 12 edition of the publication. Pablo Molina, chief information officer at Southern, was quoted extensively in the article. He noted that the state and national need for more STEM students, coupled with the changing demographics, make this an especially important effort.

      *The New Haven Register ran a story in the Feb. 9 edition about the Connecticut Youth and College Summit that was hosted by Southern and the university’s chapter of the NAACP. The paper reported that the event drew more than 100 high school, middle school and college students.

      *Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of the Computer Science Department, was interviewed at 8:50 a.m. Feb. 4 on WTIC radio’s (1080 AM) “Mornings with Ray Dunaway” show about cybersecurity. She talked about some of the latest hacking threats and what people can do to protect their computers.

      *Mike Donnelly, coach of the men’s basketball team, was co-featured in an article Feb. 4 in theNew Haven Register about how both Southern and the University of New Haven have turned their men’s basketball programs around. The story previewed the SCSU-UNH game that evening.

      *Michael Finnegan, a Southern student who is active in the National Guard after serving three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, was profiled in a Feb. 3 article in the New Haven Register. He has produced several documentaries that tell the story about everyday Americans.

      *The Connecticut Post  blog, “Education Matters,” included a post that previewed the “Materials and Manufacturing Institute” at Southern. The post was written by reporter Linda Lambeck.

      It’s a question that may be the ultimate brain teaser – how much of our brains do we actually use?

      You’ve probably heard – even from presumably good sources – that human beings only use a small percentage of our brains. Some will say 5 percent. Others say 10, or perhaps 15 percent.

      People actually use their entire brain, rather than the oft-quoted small portion of 5- to 10-percent.
      People actually use their entire brain, rather than the oft-quoted small portion of 5- to 10-percent.

      Is it any wonder, then, that we have heard that the human mind can be greatly enhanced and has the potential to develop ESP, or even mental telepathy? After all, if we are only using 5 percent of our minds, it could be inferred that we could improve the power of our brains to an almost unbelievable level. (Those of you who saw the 1970 film “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” might remember the telekinetic, mutant humans who were able to read minds, create mirages and inflict searing pain on their perceived enemies telepathically.)

      But the truth is that none of those tiny percentages that are espoused in terms of how much of our brains we actually use are even remotely close to the truth.

      “How much of your brain do you really use? All of it!” says Kelly Bordner, assistant professor of psychology at Southern.

      Today, Wise Words looks at the myth that people use only a small portion of their brain. In Part I of this 2-part series, we examined the myth that opposites attract in romantic relationships, at least in the long run. Both subjects were among the psychological and behavioral myths explored in a course offered last fall at Southern.

      Part II:

      Just like muscle mass can be increased, so can the strength of our brain – just not to super human levels. For example, Bordner says that when we challenge ourselves with new material or learning a new skill, we create new neuronal connections.

      “If we only used 10 percent in the first place, there certainly wouldn’t be the need to build new brain mass,” Bordner says. In other words, why bother challenging yourself with complex ideas if you could just tap into the “unused 90 percent of the brain.” And would stroke victims really need therapy to create new pathways in the brain to compensate for the damage sustained in the episode? At the very least, rehabilitation would seem to be a much easier process if you had all that “surplus brain” to work with in generating those new connections.

      So, where did this myth originate? Bordner says no conclusive answer has yet been found. Some say it might have started with an interpretation of a quote from William James, who is often credited with being the father of American psychology.

      In his book “The Energies of Men,” James wrote: “We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.” But he never used a percentage, and could have been talking generically about the benefits of reaching our mental and physical potential.

      Others say the myth could have stemmed from taking comments from other philosophers and scientists out of context. Even Albert Einstein has been attributed with having made statements supporting the myth.

      But Bordner says there is no evidence in modern science to support the myth.

      So, the next time you hear someone say that people only use 10 percent of their brains, you might want to tell them that isn’t the case with anyone you know.

      They say opposites attract.

      And that is absolutely true when you are dealing with…say…magnets. Who doesn’t remember their elementary school science classes when you would watch the “north pole” of one magnet gravitate toward the “south pole” of another. Conversely, two north poles or two south poles would repel each other.

      The axiom of opposites attracting might even apply to initial attraction among humans. But when it comes to successful, long-term relationships, the opposite is more likely to be true, according to Kelly Bordner, assistant professor of psychology at Southern.

      Finding someone with a similar personality and similar values may just be the prescription for happiness in a long-term relationship.
      Finding someone with a similar personality and similar values may be just the prescription for happiness in a long-term relationship.

      “It’s likely that the initial difference in personality and temperament leads to interest, excitation and perhaps, attraction,” she says. “But in the long run, despite what people say, opposites don’t attract, they attack.”

      Bordner explored this topic, as well as other psychological and behavioral myths, during a course last semester. Her students also examined the roots of the myths, separating fact from fiction, and looking at the implications of what would life be like if the myths were actually true.

      In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Wise Words examines the “do opposites attract” subject today in the first of a 2-part series. The second part will look at the popular notion that we humans only use a small percentage of our brains.

      Part I:

      The media culture is full of examples of opposites attracting. Fans of the “Big Bang Theory” have watched the on-again, off-again romance between nerdy scientist Leonard Hofstadter and the attractive but more superficial Penny. Yet, if the sit com were real life – granted that’s a reach — Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler would have a better chance of success.

      “So, where did this myth originate? Well, no one really knows,” Bordner says. “But if you’re in it for the long haul, look for someone similar to yourself. After all, could you imagine spending the rest of your life bickering with your partner about whether to go out or stay in; whether to save money or spend it; whether to be neat or messy?”

      Granted, sometimes a person’s “real personality” may not be evident right away. For example, a persona of bravado may merely be a cover for a deep-seeded insecurity. Some perceptive individuals can see through such a facade right away, but others are initially fooled and that can alter how someone views another, particularly a potential love interest.

      “The reality is that these, and countless other quips and familiar ‘facts,’ are far from being true. Through examination of published scientific works and thoughtful discussion, we’ve asked ourselves: How and why did this myth originate? What evidence do we have that it’s (true or) false? What other falsities do I hold onto as a result of this?”

      Bordner notes that not everyone shares her belief that deep down, most people seek mates with similar values and characteristics. In fact, most people say they prefer someone with opposite characteristics, according to a recent study published in the journal, Evolutionary Psychology. Yet, that study also shows the opposite is true: people generally prefer those who are similar in personality.

      Other research — including a 2003 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — shows that people generally reflect a “likes-attract,” rather than an “opposites- attract” approach to decision making in finding a spouse.

      Bordner also points out that the compatibility algorithms used by online dating sites usually use similar values and traits as key indicators.

      Happy Valentine’s Day!

      Coming soon: Do people use only a small part of their brains in everyday life?

       

      Those of you who have read Part I and Part II of this 3-part series on cybersecurity may be tempted never to turn your computer on again.
      But take heart. While there are villains out there who seek to take control of your machine — and they may even be successful – you are not defenseless against hackers.

      Home computer users can significantly reduce the chances of being hacked by taking several steps to protect their machine.
      Home computer users can significantly reduce the chances of being hacked by taking several steps to protect their machine.

      Part III:

      Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of Southern’s Computer Science Department, says several steps can be taken to protect your machine. “Unfortunately, no single solution exists to protect your computer from all of the risks that are out there,” she says. “But securing your computer and your digital transactions should be thought about in layers.”

      Here are her suggestions:

      • Layer 1: Operating System – Regardless of the operating system you use (e.g., Windows 7, Windows 8, Mac OS X, etc.), always apply updates when you are notified. Most, if not all updates, are released to patch one or more security vulnerabilities. On your Windows machine, set the updates to happen automatically. On your Mac, when you see your App Store icon indicating that you have new updates to apply, do so immediately.
      • Layer 2: Internet Browser – It is critical that your browser stay up-to-date. “Historically, vulnerabilities in your browser have been a goldmine for hackers,” Lancor says. “Some browsers automatically check for the most recent version and if you don’t have it installed, it redirects you to update your browser before it allows you to access the Internet.” You can usually check if you are updated by going to the “About” page of your browser.
      • Layer 3: Third Party Applications and Plugins – Third party applications are stand-alone programs that work with your system, but are written by someone other than your operating system provider. Third party plugins are software widgets that add a feature to an existing software application. Adobe FlashPlayer, Adobe Reader and Oracle’s Java are examples of third party software. Always update this software, but beware of fake update messages for these and all applications and operating systems. Never click on a link to apply an update. Instead, manually navigate to the corresponding site and apply the update directly from the site.
      • Layer 4: You – This may be the most important layer of security. Many attacks are designed only to have an effect if you are duped into running malware. “As someone who studies this area, I have on several occasions almost been fooled by some very clever and targeted phishing email attacks,” Lancor says. “There was the UPS tracking message that appeared to be sent from Amazon during the holidays and then the very clever looking faux-Facebook email that enticed me into checking out some comments that ‘friends’ wrote on my wall. The friends listed were actual Facebook friends – clearly an attack that was targeted just for me.” The best way to handle these types of attacks is to never click on links in your email – simply navigate to the site manually. In the event that you need to click on the link, always hover over the link in your email and make sure the domain matches the site you are going to visit. Also, update your antivirus software. “If you don’t update your antivirus engine and signature file, your system won’t be protected from the latest known malware  that is out there,” Lancor says.

      “The key is to be smart when surfing the Internet and always think like a hacker so that you can protect yourself from having your machine taken over,” Lancor says.

      Happy and safe surfing!

      Note: Lisa was interviewed Tuesday on WTIC’s (1080 AM) “Mornings with Ray Dunaway” about some of the latest hacking incidents and what people can do to protect their computers.

      *The soon-to-be launched accelerated MBA program was the focus of a Jan. 31 article in the Business Section of the New Haven Register. The story outlined the new program — its requirements, strengths and design.

      *A story appeared in the Jan. 29 edition of the New Haven Register that referenced U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s visit to Southern last fall. The article previewed her visit Monday to Yale University.

      *Channel 8 aired a segment Jan. 24 about the men’s basketball team getting off to an excellent start for its 2013-14 season.

      *Channel 30 aired a piece on Jan. 16 about the New Haven Public Schools’ high school fair that brought about 1,400 eighth graders to Southern. The GEAR UP program, of which Southern is a key component, worked with the New Haven Public Schools to help coordinate the fair.

      *An article appeared Jan. 10 in the “Education Connection” supplement of the New Haven Register pertaining to Southern’s newly restructured master’s degree program in computer science. The program now focuses on cybersecurity and software development.

        It is a dilemma often faced by ambitious employees pursuing a position in upper management. They are willing to work toward obtaining a Master of Business Administration degree to improve their chances of being selected for a top-level job, but their busy work schedule prohibits them from making it to class regularly on a weekday evening.

        Southern is creating a program that clears a pathway for hardworking professionals to obtain their degree in a timely manner and with classes at convenient times. Anaccelerated MBA program will be offered by the university for the first time starting in August.

        “The MBA program itself is not new and the course work will be as rigorous as the traditional program. But it’s a new approach – an approach that meets the needs of more students,” says Samuel Andoh, director of the SCSU MBA program.

        The program will include 17 courses for a total of 51 credits, which can be completed in 17 months. The courses will be taught during nine, eight-week sessions and students will generally take two courses during each session with a one-week break between each session. The final component of the program will be a special project.

        Most of the courses will be a hybrid – split evenly between on-campus classroom work and an online component. The on-campus portion would be conducted on Saturdays.

        “Going to class at 5 p.m. during the week can be very difficult and people generally aren’t going to want to quit their job to get a degree,” Andoh says. “But the combination of Saturday classes and online instruction is going to give individuals greater access to obtaining an MBA.”

        Andoh says the accelerated courses will be as rigorous as in the traditional program, and will be taught by the same faculty members.

        To be admitted into the program, students must have earned a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA. They also must submit a resume, as well as two letters of reference attesting to their leadership potential, ability to work independently and as part of a team. Those who do not meet the GPA requirement must submit GMAT test results for evaluation.

        “One of the nice aspects of this program is that it’s designed for people with all kinds of backgrounds,” he says. “That only enhances the experience of all of our students.”

        Andoh says he anticipates that the first group of students to be numbered at 25. A second cohort is scheduled to begin amid the spring semester. The traditional MBA program includes about 150 students.

        Anyone with questions about the accelerated MBA program may call (203) 392-5616 or (203) 392-5860.

        In Part I of our 3-part series, Wise Words focused on the myth that hackers have no interest in the computers of everyday individuals who do not store sensitive information on them. As you may have read, nothing could be further from the truth. Hackers can use the storage or processing power of your computer for multiple nefarious functions, even if you keep only the most innocuous of information on your machine.

        Today, we look at some other popular misconceptions.

        Part II:

        Myth: Using and updating antivirus software is enough to prevent my computer from becoming vulnerable to security incidents.

        Reality: The use of antivirus software certainly is one step you can take to help protect your system. And it is helpful against known malware (malicious software), according to Lisa Lancor, chairwoman of Southern’s Computer Science Department. (Southern recently restructured its M.S. in computer science degree to focus on cybersecurity and software development.)

        “Unfortunately, antivirus software does not protect you from malware that it does not know about,” Lancor says. “Malware that exploits a brand new vulnerability is referred to as a ‘zero-day attack’ because the security community has known about the vulnerability for zero days.”

        Nobody wants to see the dreaded virus alert pop up on their screen.
        Nobody wants to see the dreaded virus alert pop up on their screen. Keeping your antivirus software up-to-date is just one of several steps you should take to minimize the chances of your computer getting sick.

        Fair enough. But what are the chances of being hit with a “zero-day attack?”

        It’s not that rare, according to Lancor. “A recent report by McAfee Labs indicates that its researchers find and catalog close to 100,000 new samples of malware per day,” she says. “That equates to 69 new, zero-day malware samples per minute. Are you keeping up with antivirus updates every minute?”

        Even more disturbing, malware developers can sell their code on the black market of the Internet, Lancor says. They can sell for tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Clearly, creating zero-day malware is big business for hackers these days.”

        Myth: Mac users are safe from malware.

        Reality: It is true that at one time, Mac users were relatively safe from malware, though there are always exceptions. But because the number of Mac users has increased significantly during the last decade, virus writers have set their sights on Apple, according to Lancor. Just recently, a malware called IceFog was discovered that attacks both Windows and Macs and provides a backdoor into your system. “It can accept instructions from a command-and-control infrastructure to have your system do whatever hackers want,” she says.
        Lancor points to the FlashBack virus that infected more than 600,000 Macs and included them into one of the first significant Mac-based botnets. Apple has been continuously adding security features, including its own anti-malware applications, into its operating system. Mac users are advised to follow safe security practices, just like PC users.

        Myth: As long as you don’t click on ridiculous email links from people you don’t know, you should be pretty safe.

        Reality: These aren’t the spam attacks of your grandparents’ day…er, in your parents’ day…um, in your older siblings’ day. It’s not just the Nigerian banker who wants to deposit money into your banking account, or the Viagra link, or an announcement that you’ve won the lottery of a foreign country for which you never bought a ticket. “Hackers are fully aware of the security education and training that you have been receiving about not clicking on links in emails from people you don’t know or trust,” Lancor says.

        She points out that “smart phishing attacks,” also known as “spear (very targeted) phishing attacks now come from people you do know, or from hackers acting as someone you do know. “Hackers go so far as to study the content of previous email exchanges that you have had with someone and then they mimic the language and styling in an attempt to let your guard down and click on a malicious link,” she says. “The malicious link will look legitimate and quite benign.” Examples might include “annual sales report” or “a properly formed UPS tracking number. “If you click on the link, it will take you to an exploit site that is set up to blast your browser and operating system with every vulnerability that it knows about in an attempt to gain access to your machine.

        “And to make matters worse, while it used to be the case that you always needed to click on something to get infected, now there are drive-by-downloads that require you to do nothing. Just visit a website that is compromised and without you noticing, it will redirect you to a site that will fire everything it has at you (to take over your computer).”

        Coming soon:

        Part III — Protecting yourself against hackers, malware