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Third summer of Thiel College institute building on success of previous research

Third summer of Thiel College institute building on success of previous research

GREENVILLE, Pa.—Thiel College, a leading liberal arts college in northwest Pennsylvania, has begun the third summer of the Greenville Neuromodulation Center Faculty/Student Research Institute with projects from several faculty and student research teams studying such varied topics as the impact of threat on supporters of female politicians, adolescent nicotine exposure and amphibian skin bacteria.

Research projects from Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute Delbert Abi Abdallah, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Psychology and Department Chair Laura Pickens, Ph.D. ’06; Assistant Professor of Biology Christopher Fonner, Ph.D.; Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Department Chair Greg Butcher, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Political Science and Department Chair Marie Courtemanche, Ph.D., and Assistant Professor of Sociology Jared Hanneman, Ph.D., have been selected for the institute this year.

“Our outcomes thus far, in terms of both faculty and student impact, have been fantastic,” Abi Abdallah said. “All of the graduated students who have participated in the institute have gone on either to gainful employment or have gotten accepted into graduate or professional schools.”

Abi Abdallah said participating faculty have presented findings from their research at numerous conferences and meetings, such as The American Chemical Society, Western PA Undergraduate Biology Research Symposium, Science and Non-duality Conference, The American Society for Engineering Education, The American College Health Association, The International Society of Political Psychology, and The Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting.

“In addition to high student impacts, our goals for the third year will focus on stronger faculty outcomes. With the seed money provided by the institute, participating faculty will be able to use preliminary data generated to date in order to seek external sources of funding. That should allow our undergraduate programs to become more competitive, would allow our undergraduate research to become stronger, and would give our graduating students a stronger edge in an increasingly competitive post-undergraduate market.”

Much of the work some of the faculty members will do is built upon research funded by the institute last summer. As a result of last summer’s work, Fonner was published in Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, and he will continue to explore other aspects of his amphibian research.

Butcher and Pickens are also capitalizing on research they conducted last summer in a collaboration between the Thiel neuroscience and psychology programs. Their research into adolescent nicotine exposure earned them the use of a new research maze from the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience equipment loan program. The maze was built by San Diego Instruments for a loan period of two years. The loan of the equipment was granted after Thiel College demonstrated institutional support for the project through the funding of the research institute as well as the construction of the new science connector facility that will add 7,850 square feet of research and lab space. Butcher and Pickens will continue their research with the help of Thiel students Theresa Kretzmer ’20, Gage Gladysz ’20 and Maggie Nee ’20, as well as two area high school students. Kretzmer, of Hermitage, Pa., is a 2016 homeschool graduate and psychology major. Gladysz, of Greenville, Pa., is a 2016 Greenville High School graduate and neuroscience major. Nee, of Erie, Pa., is a 2016 McDowell High School graduate and neuroscience major.

About the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute

In 2015, Thiel College alumni Fred Haer ’65 and his wife, Jill (Shackett) ’66, pledged more than $400,000 to fund the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute. The Haers have given $135,000 per year for three years to pay for multi-year research projects and the summer research institute that focus on connecting science and liberal arts at Thiel College. In 1970, the Haers founded FHC, Inc. The company’s microelectrode recording and stimulation technology serves neuroscientific research and neurosurgical operating rooms with more than 7,000 unique metal microelectrodes and a broad range of state-of-the-art research and clinical instruments. Greenville Neuromodulation Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of FHC, Inc., supports the neuroscience industry with a full range of services for medical professionals involved in the treatment of movement disorders is located in Greenville, along with the nonprofit GNC.

Thiel College Assistant Professor of Biology Delbert Abi Abdallah, Ph.D., was named the director of the GNC Faculty/Student Research Institute in February 2016. The institute is open to all Thiel College faculty members, but maintains an emphasis on interdisciplinary science activities.

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About Thiel College

Thiel College is a private liberal arts institution founded in the Lutheran tradition. Located in Greenville, Pa., the College offers 60 majors and minors, 25 varsity sports, and an 11:1 student-faculty ratio to more than 900 students. A dedicated faculty paired with dynamic research and internship opportunities produce numerous graduate school and job placements. Coeducational from its beginnings, the College celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016 and remains committed to combining tradition with innovation.


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