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Pieces of Eight

Students joined in ECU’s inaugural “Showcase of Discovery.” Held March 26 - 30, the event provided an opportunity for students to share their research and creative activity through posters and oral presentations. (Photo by Marc J. Kawanishi)

ECU Research, Creative Activity Focus of Celebration

By Erica Plouffe Lazure

Astronomers and geographers, chemists and microbiologists were among those featured at a weeklong celebration of research and creative activity at East Carolina University.

As part of ECU’s Centennial Celebration, the inaugural “Showcase of Discovery,” offered more than 200 student posters and oral presentations March 26 through March 30. Both undergraduate and graduate students presented their findings on topics as diverse as Sino-Tibetan relations, the use of technology in rural classrooms, and analyses of muscle activity during walking.

Dierdre Mageean, vice chancellor for ECU’s Division of Research and Graduate Studies, said the weeklong focus on research was a milestone in ECU’s hundred-year history and its growing commitment to independent student work.

“These presentations reflect the accelerated research activity that is now being generated on the ECU campus in a variety of fields and disciplines,” Mageean said.

In addition to student presentations, three faculty members who received the university’s 2006 Achievement for Excellence in Research/Creative Activity awards delivered seminars on their research.

Dr. James McCubrey, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Brody School of Medicine, received the University Lifetime Achievement award. Derek Alderman, a professor of geography, and Reide Corbett, a professor of geology, received the Five-Year Achievement awards. In addition to receiving a cash prize, each researcher presented a seminar of their work.

In the past 19 years at ECU, McCubrey has received more than $3.5 million in grants to further his research in cancer. He discussed the history of cancer research and treatment and described the development of alternate treatments that would avoid chemotherapy for certain kinds of cancers. His work targets and attempts to stop problematic cells from mutating into cancerous cells.

“These targeted therapies aim to get us away from classical chemotherapy, or radiation treatment,” McCubrey said. “The overall goal is to inhibit these signaling pathways, and induce cell death, to eliminate the cancer cells.”

Alderman specializes in the politics of public commemoration and symbolic landscapes of the American South, including the politics of naming streets for Martin Luther King, Jr. Corbett studies the sediment and geochemical processes in coastal areas, the discharge of groundwater on the coast. In the past five years, he has worked on research grants totaling more than $3.3 million.

Patrick Pellicane, dean of ECU’s Graduate School, said he was impressed with the work from this year’s recipients and of the week’s activities.

“These three world-class researchers represent the tip of the iceberg of a growing set of recognized scholars,” he said. “The discovery taking place at ECU in business, the arts, sciences, health, humanities, and other areas are contributing to not only the economic growth of the region, but also adding substantially to the quality of life that we all enjoy.”

As part of the Thomas Harriot Voyages of Discovery lecture series, Owen Gingerich of Harvard University discussed the astronomical world of the famed scholar and historian. Dorothy Powell, of Duke University, discussed her research on culturally competent care and the elimination of global health disparities for the 2007 Dixie Koldjeski Lecture March 29.

Powell discussed research on culturally competent care, strategies for care in a multi-ethnic society and eliminating health disparities.

“I remember growing up we always talked about America as a melting pot. Our doors were open to the world. People came to better their lives. But a melting pot suggests a loss of one’s particular characteristics,” she said.

Powell suggested a better analogy for America might be a stewpot. “It allows the meat, peas, carrots and onions to stay—it allows us to hold on and retain what’s important to us. The gravy holds us together and enriches us. We are all surrounded by a luscious commonality that ties us together.”

Alison Williams of Princeton University rounded out the week of guest lectures with her presentation, “Lessons from the Lab: An African American Women’s Journey from Manure to DNA.” Members of the North Carolina Academy of Science offered a symposium about toxic substances and their effects on humans and ecosystems March 31. The symposium provided non-toxicologists with a basic understanding of toxicology. Presentations from James E. Gibson and Brian McMillen of the Brody School of Medicine’s pharmacology and toxicology department focused on animal waste pollution and developmental toxicology in embryos and fetuses. The symposium was held in conjunction with the academy’s annual meeting.

Ron Newton, associate dean of ECU’s Graduate School, who co-chaired the event with ECU graduate business student; Rebecca Turner, said he was pleased to offer a weeklong research program.

“We have an increasing number of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students who are conducting cutting edge research and this is a great opportunity to showcase their findings and work,” Newton said.

This page originally appeared in the April 27, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at