Monthly Archives: June 2016

One of the many buildings decorated with graffiti murals on the streets of Reykjavik.

Day in Reykjavik

By Alexa Gorlick & Becca Hubley

It’s safe to say that everyone was excited to finally be able to explore the city of Reykjavik after two long days of driving through Iceland.

It was peculiar to wake up hearing sounds of the hustle and bustle of a city, as we have become accustomed to waking up to silence – with the exception of birds chirping.

We started our morning with showers that had an endless supply of hot water but a very strong smell of Sulphur, which was due to the geothermal energy power plants in the area. Once we were convinced the smell didn’t linger on us after our showers, we made our way downstairs to enjoy complimentary breakfast provided by the hotel. The croissants were so delicious, but we practiced self-control and only had about ten each.

We gained the strength to leave the breakfast table and ventured out to visit some of the many museums in Reykjavik. One of our favorites was The Settlement Exhibition. Here, we learned that in 2001 there were ruins that were discovered, which turned out to be the oldest remains of human habitation in Reykjavik. We were also able to witness how the Vikings lived their daily lives.

In between museum visits we explored numerous shops, art galleries, and cafes.  We really got to take in the culture of the city and get understanding of the everyday life in Reykjavik. There is bright, beautiful, and detailed graffiti displayed all over the city, giving an artsy and cozy feel to the entire area. Reykjavik is one of those cities you could walk around for weeks and find something new every day, never getting bored or tired of it. Even pollution is kept at a bare minimum, something we aren’t very used to as Americans.

After meeting back up with our entire group for a quick meeting regarding the remainder of our time in Iceland, we all ventured out for a place to eat dinner. Some of us went to a ramen noodle house, others to a bistro, and the rest to a fish and chips stand. All dinners were equally amazing in taste and quality. Those of us who were legally allowed to in Iceland spent the rest of our night checking out the wide array of bars and clubs downtown.

We still aren’t sure if Reykjavik has any imperfections… we couldn’t find any.

A turf house that former SCSU students built during their Iceland study abroad trip.

By Kelly Bickell and Jacob Gant

Breakfast was a treat this morning in Grímsstaðir, Iceland where we stayed in a guest house on a sheep farm for a single night. The Icelandic couple who owned the house served fresh smoked lamb, hand-picked goose eggs, fruit and pastries with a variety of hot and cold drinks.

SCSU students by the waterfall Dettifoss
SCSU students Hope Finch, Jacob Gant, Kelly Bickell, and Emma Knauerhase enjoy the view of Europe’s most powerful waterfall, Dettifoss.

After enjoying the view during breakfast, we set off for our first legendary stop of the day: Dettifoss. This is Europe’s largest waterfall by volume of water. Dettifoss is the product of runoff from the glacier that we hiked almost two weeks ago, called Vatnajökull. Next stop was a rare Icelandic forest called Ásbyrgi National Park. Ásbyrgi is full of Iceland’s native birch tree along with fragrant flowers and grasses. A short while into the hike, the trail led to an unexpected pond. The pond is situated beside a basalt cliff and is home to a few ducks, fish, and birds.

Fish and chips
Fish and chips

By the time lunchtime rolled around, we stopped in the town of Húsavík for an hour. Some students ate fish and chips on a patio overlooking the harbor. The fishing and tourist industries are important to Húsavík’s economy. When one hour time was up we drove to turf houses that SCSU students have built in years past. I found it interesting to see how little land is required to build a turf house, so really they are sustainable houses. Blocks of soil and rocks are used for the walls while soil and wood are used for the roof. Icelanders did live in turf houses until the 1960’s. These houses are now used to hold and feed sheep.

In the late evening, we reached the campsite called Tjaldsvæði. Here, we set up five tents, ate dinner either at the site or at the local Hard Wok Café, then hiked to see the midnight sun coast over the horizon.

Dettifoss, a powerful waterfall in Northeastern Iceland.
Dettifoss, a powerful waterfall in Northeastern Iceland.

A view of Harpa concert hall, famous for its amazing acoustics.

By Emma Knauerhase, Charles Comstock

Today was the last day with our close friends because they left for the U.K from the egilstadir airport. A few of us woke up early to say goodbye to them as they left to go home. Once we said our goodbyes to a song from the breakfast club “Don’t you forget about me” as they drove off, we went back to bed. After sleeping in for the first time this entire trip, Dr. Heidkamp told the SCSU students the last job we were ever going to do at Skalanes. This job was to move three huge plastic fishing tubs and clean the black sand beach. We carried the tubes on the rocky beach while dodging the artic terns who were attacking us and then we climbed a steep hill back to skalanes with the heavy plastic fish tubes. Once the dreadful task was over we said our goodbyes to the very close friends we made at the farmhouse and took lots of photos with the remaining two U.K students who we would later see at the Icelandic capital. Once we left skalanes for the final time we headed to the gas station in egilstaditr and ran into our friends who left for the airport earlier that morning! After a long reunion (even though we just saw them earlier in the morning) we said our official goodbyes and went our separate ways.

We headed to the highlands of Iceland where the wind was so powerful it rips car doors off the hinges. After a nice car ride with SCSU students we found ourselves in Grimstadir where we resided in a “haunted” farm house for the night. After settling into the haunted house we left for the Jarbodin Natuerew Baths where we stayed for 5 hours to heal our sadness of leaving Skalanes and our friends in the U.K.

When we left the baths to go back to the house Emma and Kelly began to cook pasta for the majority of the hungry SCSU students but then the power went out just as we put the pasta in the boiling water. Since we did not know what to do, we travelled down to the haunted basement only to find out we had to go to the owner’s house to fix the power. Therefore Emma trekked out in the powerful winds to help her friends. Once we gained power we ate our soggy pasta and went directly to bed a 3 in the morning. Even though we went to bed at three in the morning, the sun did not set and was already rising by the time we went to bed.


Southern’s Urban Education Fellows provide elementary school students with books to take home before summer.

Children at New Haven’s Strong School each received a book to call their own and read this summer, courtesy of a fundraising drive organized by a group of students at Southern.The SCSU Urban Education Fellows were able to generate enough money this spring to buy more than 400 books – enough to provide each student with a book. The students were able to choose from a selection of high quality fiction and non-fiction.

“There is an extraordinary feeling of owning a new book as one’s own property,” said Marissa Fasoli, a member of the Urban Education Fellows who helped organize the project. “Those types of feelings have the ability to spark literary interest in even the youngest students. It was wonderful connecting with the local community, as well as showing how Southern education students are willing to advocate for the public schools we work closely with throughout the year.”

The idea for the drive came about as the students brainstormed as to how they could affect the community in a meaningful, positive way, according to Fasoli. She said the decision to choose Strong for the book offering happened after visiting and touring the magnet school.

“There is now more room for dialogue on other ways that Southern students can become involved in the local public schools,” she said. “Having more SCSU student involvement will form closer ties with the students and will spark more interest in pursuing higher education within their home city of New Haven.”

Jessica Powell, assistant professor of elementary education and a co-advisor of the Urban Education Fellows, said the selection of Strong School was a logical choice, given the recent vote by the New Haven Board of Alders to pursue the construction of a new facility for the school on the campus of SCSU.

Southern’s Urban Education Fellows provide elementary school students with books to take home before summer.

“In fact, some of our Fellows actually provided testimony to the board in support of the plan,” she said. “It shows we’re in this together. And we are planning another book drive next year. This is not intended to be just a one-time deal, but rather the beginning of a long partnership.”

Strong connections are planned between the two schools once the building is constructed over the next few years.

Meredith Sinclair, assistant professor of English, also is a co-advisor of the Fellows. The organization currently has a few dozen students who seek to become leaders and advocates for urban education schools, students and parents.

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In addition to the book drive, the students have been busy over the last several months. Three students recently attended a Children Defense Fund’s Freedom School workshop in North Carolina to learn more about empowering youth, as well as encouraging the reading of high quality books and building self-esteem among poorer children. Those students will be sharing what they learned with other SCSU Urban Education Fellows.


Icelandic National Day

Today we started out early with a hike up to the local sound sculpture known as Tvísöngur, where some of the louder members of our group used its unique construction to speak even louder (which I honestly thought impossible – Hope). Luckily, the beautiful view and wonderful weather helped to offset the ear piercing singing and tedious selfies. After we soaked up some art and nature, Dr. Heidkamp decided to enlighten us with a field lecture of the town’s economic history and geography followed by a sightseeing tour of Seydisfjordur. We then decided to help the amazing people of Iceland celebrate their independence from Danish rule by observing the annual shooting of the town’s canon into the harbor, and eating piles and piles of delicious pizza (not a very traditional Icelandic meal, but it got the job done). We closed out our day at Skálanes, by spending time with our new friends from the UK, who we will end up parting ways with tomorrow.

While many college students are enjoying summer recess, a team of science undergraduates from Southern is hitting the lab on a mission to find a faster method to detect tuberculosis.

The 10 students – hailing from a variety of disciplines within the sciences – aim to have their work ready to present this fall at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, known as iGEM. The program, to be held Oct. 27 to 31 in Boston, includes nearly 300 teams of students – mostly undergraduates, but some graduate and high school students. The students will demonstrate their synthetic biology skills, which will include the summer TB project. It marks the first time Southern has competed in the program, and only a few Connecticut universities have done so during the previous 12 years, according to SCSU Nicholas Edgington, associate professor of biology.

“This is a terrific opportunity for our students to showcase their talents and abilities,” said Nicholas Edgington, associate professor of biology.

The teams compete against one another in various categories, as well as strive to attain a medal (gold, silver or bronze) in their own right by meeting a variety of criteria. The SCSU contingent will compete in the “overgrad” category, which includes undergraduate students with at least one student who is at least 24 years of age.

Bryan Pasqualucci, an Ansonia student, said he and his teammates are excited about the project and the opportunity to showcase their skills this fall.

“TB is one of the leading killers of human beings worldwide with a third of the world’s population infected by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis,” Pasqualucci said.

Most infected by the bacteria develop a latent state of the disease for many years, if not forever. But even those individuals face a 10-percent lifetime risk of developing an active form of the disease. In fact, TB claims the lives of more than a million people each year worldwide.

“Like so many diseases, early detection is important in treating TB,” Pasqualucci said. “Unfortunately, some tests for TB require a wait of several weeks before learning the results, so we want to see if we can find a way to shorten the time needed for some of these tests.”

The SCSU students will work on their project this summer with a mentor who is doctoral student from the Weill Cornell Medical College Department of Microbiology & Immunology in New York.

Although the TB project will be the primary focus for the students, they also will be judged at the competition on the development of a wiki page, a poster, and a community outreach project in which the students will be engaged in professional development workshops with middle and high school teachers.

Most of those workshops will be to train teachers – particularly from New Haven, Bridgeport and Waterbury – on the use of “Building with Biology” kits produced by the National Informal STEM Education Network. The kits are intended to provide students with a hands-on synthetic biology science lesson. They also are designed to foster conversations about ethical aspects of synthetic biology, such as the Human Genome Project and genetic engineering.

The decision to enter the competition was sparked last year during a synthetic biology course, according to Karalyn Farr, a biology student from Trumbull. “There were six of us in the class and we started talking about starting a team. We eventually said, “let’s do it.’” Flyers were then posted and an organizational meeting was held.

screenshot of iGem app

Pasqualucci said he is cautiously optimistic the team will earn a medal this fall. “Our strengths include being a good interdisciplinary team, and having a new high tech laboratory science building on campus (which was completed nearly a year ago). We’re also a pretty optimistic bunch. Our biggest challenges would be our inexperience in this competition and the money we will need to raise over the next several months.”

Individuals or organizations wishing to help defray the costs associated with the competition can do so via the BioPath Innovation Fund. Donors are asked to email Dan Camenga ( and indicate that the donation is specifically for the “SCSU iGEM 2016 Team.”

Checks can be made out to SCSU Foundation with BIOPATH Innovation, and donors asked to include “iGEM 2016” in the memo line. The checks can be mailed to SCSU at 501 Crescent St., New Haven, Conn. 06515 to the attention of the Office Of Annual Giving.

Pasqualucci said the team hopes to raise $15,000 to $20,000, but will need at least $10,000. Several SCSU organizations already have contributed, including the Office of STEM Innovation & Leadership, the CSCU Center for Nanotechnology, the Bio Path Initiative and the office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Members of the team are: Farr, Patrick Flynn, Thomas Hoang, Rye Howard-Stone, Samantha Amorando, Christopher Wojtas, Hafssa Chbihi, Julio Badillo, Zachary Matto and Pasqualucci.


By Hope Finch and Steven Cardinal

As our time at Skalanes begins to come to a close, Steve began to recruit some friends for a reindeer stalk to study the animals. As this was a much anticipated event from the group, excitement was at an all-time high. The crew departed the house with a look of determination in their eyes. Initially they began at a waterfall where they had previously seen the herd, after surveying tracks and scat it was clear they would be best to try another area. As time passes the hopeful explorers had searched the hills, valley, and mountains with nothing but tracks to show for it. After seven long and grueling hours the group began to lose hope…the trail mix and fruit stores that had sustained them had been depleted, and their initial excitement began to morph into disappointment. The group returned, reporting their comparably mundane findings back to the house. After a good meal and a few rounds of cards the three had almost forgotten the long and fruitless day… That is until Professor Heidkamp entered the room with a sinister smile on his face…. In a 20 minute drive to town Heidkamp happened to “stumble upon” a herd of 12 deer who were a mere feet from his vehicle. The following day on a walk into town to celebrate Independence Day, the unsuccessful herd trackers were delighted to spot the herd unexpectedly walking the hills above them.


Bonfire by the beach

By Alexa Gorlick

This morning we thought it would be a good idea to get the van back, or almost back, to the condition we received it in. Many coins into the vacuum machine later, our efforts were rewarded by Dr. Heidkamp, who treated everyone to ice cream for breakfast. Our first stop today was at Hengifoss, the third highest waterfall in Iceland. Bright red stripes line the basaltic rock behind the waterfall. After we reached the waterfall, we all took some time to take in the view before hiking back down. Next we drove a few miles down the road to Skriduklaustur, where the home of late author Gunnar Gunnarsson lies, which has been converted into a museum. Nearby is a visitor center with tons of information about the wildlife in Iceland that looks out onto vast green fields filled with sheep. Within the field are the ruins of a 16th century Augustinian cloister. After exploring the property our appetite let us know it was time to redirect our attention to lunch. Dr. Heidkamp told us that the museum had a cake buffet. We were certain this was a joke, but we couldn’t be more excited when we found a quaint little restaurant, with a beautiful set up of numerous traditional Icelandic sweets. We soon came to find out that our eyes were much larger than our stomachs, and within twenty minutes, half of us could not move. Our last stop was at an organic farm named Vallanes. Here we got to speak with the owner and volunteer workers about the productions on the farm. We learned their business is very special, because it is difficult to run a successful farm in Icelandic conditions. To finish our day we had a big bonfire on the black sand beach of Skalanes. This was a great way to enjoy are last moments of the trip with Tim and Tom.

The New Haven Register ran a front page profile June 13 on Jonathan Wharton, assistant professor of political science, focusing on his new role as New Haven Republican Town Committee chairman.

Rick Leddy, former sports information director at Southern who retired in 2007, was featured in a June 13 article in the New Haven Register for being accepted into the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame (Class of 2016). The story recounted his 38-year career at Southern.

The New Haven Register ran on June 12 a front page story on Frank Harris, associate professor of journalism, pertaining to his research on the history of the n-word.

Articles on the narrowing of the presidential search at Southern have appeared in various media outlets since the announcement was made on June 10.

The New Haven Register ran a story in the June 10 edition of its paper.

The Connecticut Post ran an article in the June 11 edition of its paper.

The Hartford Business Journal posted on June 10 a short piece online.

The Hartford Courant ran a story on June 14.

Iceland Trip

By Kelly Bickell, Nic Varley

Here’s to the last day with half of the LJMU crew, safe travels to those returning home! The remaining SCSU and LJMU students whom are remaining at the Skálanes farmhouse will utilize this unique opportunity to collect data for their university’s dissertation projects. Both groups of students record the lab data in his or her field notebook. The field notebooks are the basis for either a research proposal or dissertation.

Skálanes farmhouse

Today marks the completion of a two day research project on various topics related to climate change, human geography, and hydropower along with other local Icelandic issues. Just before a dinner barbeque of lamb the students presented the research projects to a room full of students and the three professors. The presentations were thought provoking and should have helped students understand how best to go about future research.

Today is a day to remember because the weather station has been permanently stationed in the farmhouses’ yard. People for years to come will have access to data about the local climate.

Additionally two Eider duck babies, named Chirp and Cheep, have hatched and are currently residing within the farmhouse. This specific research project focuses investigating the effects of the condition of the mother and the growth of her chicks.