Chatham University

Chatham Views

Category Archives: +Chatham Views

Undergraduate Student Christina Austin Awarded Research Fellowship

Christina-5
“My mom is a Chatham alumna,” says Christina Austin ’17, “but that didn’t factor into my decision to come here. Chatham was actually one of the last schools I looked at. But when I came to visit, I saw that I could connect with people and have a close mentorship with professors in a way that I might not be able to do at a larger university.”

Austin, who is majoring in Biology, had hit the nail on the head. It was an email from one of those professors – Dr. Pierette Appasamy – that would lead to Austin pulling in research dollars, a feat that’s not always easy for faculty members to accomplish, let alone an undergraduate.

It started this spring when Dr. Appasamy learned of a research internship with the Allegheny Health Network Lupus Center for Excellence from the Office of Career Development. Dr. Appasamy forwarded the information to Austin, then a student in her Cellular and Molecular Biology class. “I immediately thought of Christina Austin when I heard about the internship opportunity,” says Dr. Appasamy. “It seemed perfect for her interests in hands-on work in biomedical research.”

Once Austin was accepted into the internship, the program director suggested that she might be a good candidate for the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship Program, which funds students to conduct medical research under the guidance of a mentor. She was.

austin2

For eight weeks, Austin worked in the lab, isolating white blood cells from blood samples that had been collected at West Penn Hospital. She stained the cells with substances that, when run through a machine, turn fluorescent where a certain protein is present. The goal of the study was to compare how this protein appeared in patients with lupus, with other autoimmune diseases, and in a control group of healthy individuals. Austin’s work may one day be used to help diagnose lupus, today an arduous process that often takes years.

Austin’s internship primarily focused on research, but she also worked on the clinical side. “I was trained to obtain consent from study participants,” she says. “I went through the IRB (Institutional Review Board) packet with them, and if they consented, we drew their blood that day. I liked that aspect of the internship a lot.”

In fact, Austin – who plans to go to medical school – liked it so much that she is considering seeking out a clinical internship for next summer. “I’d love to travel abroad and work at a clinic of some sort,” she says. “I’ve talked to classmates who worked in hospitals in Belize or Puerto Rico and had really good experiences.”

Outside of the lab, Austin is a Chatham Scholar, Vice President of Communications for the Black Student Union, a R.I.S.E Mentor, and starting this fall, she will also be a resident assistant. She offers this advice for incoming students: “Make sure you go to recitation and go to all the study groups before a test. They can be a lifesaver when it’s a topic you don’t understand. And get to know your professors and let them get to know you. They’re looking out for you, throughout your time here.”

She knows whereof she speaks.

 

Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606)

Untitledclass
“Urban Planning and Political Ecology” course participants. © Michael Finewood

Last fall, graduate and undergraduate students in Chatham University’s sustainability program participated in Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606), taught by Dr. Michael Finewood. As part of the course, they worked in teams on a community-based project with the Borough of Millvale, producing proposals for two projects that contribute to Millvale’s goals to become more sustainable.

Project #1 – The Hillside Food Forest
Team: Carmen Adamson MBA ‘15, Cassie Guerin BA ‘15, Julie Morris MSUS ‘16, Kayla Scherr MSUS ‘15, Christopher Seamon MSUS ‘15, Ezra Welsh MSUS ‘16, ILona Weyers BS ’17.

Challenges facing Millvale include unstable hillsides, water contamination, and the fact that it is a food desert. The Hillside Food Forest team addressed these concerns through a proposal to convert a hillside into a food forest. The proposal includes a comprehensive site analysis with design scheme, property acquisition strategies, and listing of potential partners as well as information about soil types, plant orientation, and low cost/ low maintenance management. The project highlights how a food forest—designed by and for community members—can strengthen community resilience and help strengthen Millvale’s local food network. Download the final report.

Project #2 – The Bicycle Park-and-Ride Project
Team: Scott Carter, MSUS ’16; Jared Haidet, MSUS ’16; Joshua Lewis, MSUS ’16; Carla Limon, MSUS ’16; Kimberly Lucke, MSUS ’16; Jessica Tain, MSUS ’15; Joshua Zivkovich, MSUS ‘16

Pittsburgh Port Authority owns a parking lot in Millvale that has largely gone unused since the bus route was shut down. The Park-and-Ride Project team developed a proposal to convert it into a multi-use space. The three main objectives of the project were to establish green infrastructure for stormwater management, develop plans for a bike corridor that connects to the riverfront park (see map below), and create a public space that would help change community perceptions of a nearby creek, Girty’s Run, from a risk to an asset. The proposal includes site analysis with water runoff calculations, comparison of the efficacy of various types of green infrastructure, plans for implementing a bike-and-ride infrastructure, and a list of potential community partners and grant opportunities. The project highlights how green spaces can create multiple community benefits while contributing to the reduction of combined sewer overflows, a requirement of the Clean Water Act. Download the final report.

Untitled
This map illustrates the biking distance and time from Millvale to various sections of the city. The Park-and-Ride proposal articulates ways multi-modal transportation can connect Millvale to the broader region in efficient and sustainable ways. © Kim Lucke & Joshua Lewis

Chatham Honors Elsie Hillman 1925-2015

Elsie-Hillman

It is with great sadness that the Chatham University community learned of the passing earlier today of Elsie Hilliard Hillman, the nationally renowned and admired Pittsburgh philanthropist, civic leader, champion of political engagement and moderation, and tireless worker on behalf of causes of great importance to her – including the rights of women, minorities and gay community.  Her passing is not just a loss for the Hillman family, her many friends, and the political world, but a loss of a piece of Pittsburgh’s heart as well.

Elsie and the Hillman and Hilliard families have enjoyed a long and close relationship with Chatham.  Her late brother Tom Hilliard was for many years a Chatham Trustee before becoming an Emeritus Trustee, a position he held until his passing last year.  And Elsie’s grandson, Henry Simonds, is currently a Chatham Trustee, carrying on the Hillman and Hilliard families’ legacy at Chatham.

Chatham President Esther Barazzone; Elsie Hillman; and the 2015 Elsie Hillman Chair, Cokie Roberts
Chatham President Esther Barazzone; Elsie Hillman; and the 2015 Elsie Hillman Chair, Cokie Roberts

Elsie’s and the Hillman family’s generosity to Chatham includes endowing the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, a leader in the effort to engage more Pennsylvania women in the political process, as well as the Elsie Hillman Chair in Women & Politics, which brings women leaders of national and international stature to Chatham.  Elsie is also an honorary Chatham alumna, having received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Chatham in 1993.

Elsie Hillman and Chatham students
Elsie Hillman and Chatham students

Elsie was also personally engaged with Chatham – and especially with Chatham students – on many fronts.  One of Elsie’s great joys was meeting and interacting with young people, especially Chatham students.  If one looks back at all of the pictures of Elsie posing for photographs with past Hillman Chairs and Chatham undergraduates over the years, it is never quite clear who is having more fun: the students or Elsie!  Just this past spring, Elsie took part in the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics New Leadership program, which prepares college-age women from around the state for leadership roles.  Earlier in the spring, she participated in the campus visit by newswoman Cokie Roberts, whose lecture and appearance on campus was made possible through the Hillman Chair.