Archive for March, 2014

247th ACS National Meeting & Exposition: Chemistry & Materials for Energy – by Lauren Martin

Monday, March 31st, 2014

The American Chemical Society’s 247th National Meeting in Dallas was a great opportunity. 

My career goal is to go to graduate school for medicinal research. I would like to obtain my PhD and then research in a lab to find the cure for various diseases. This conference gave me experience in presenting my research and seeing other research topics within the same field. Being able to present my research at a national chemistry meeting gave me the chance to hear feedback on the research I am currently doing. I was able to hear ideas on the progress I have made in research along with ideas for the future of my research. Professors and other researchers approached our poster presentation and asked questions which required an extensive understanding of my project. I had to communicate the ideas of my research in a way that others could understand.  I gained experience in presenting my research, which is a skill I will need in my career. In addition,  I was able to interact with other undergraduate and graduate students and learn about their research. This interaction allowed me to understand new ideas in research and improved my education as a chemist. I attended multiple meetings in medicinal chemistry and organic chemistry. These talks were given by graduate and  PhD researchers.  I was able to relate the information I learned in the meetings to class material and my research. This experience was a highlight of my chemistry education, and it helped me grow as an aspiring research chemist.

Jubilee Conference 2014 – by Albert Mhangami

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

On the 14 of February I went with a team of students from Messiah College to the Jubilee Conference for 2014. Our team went under the guidance of Mr. Scott Hwang, and was made up of a pretty diverse group of students. Our little van carried in it a world of English, African, Jamaican, and American ideas joined together in the hopes of learning something new. These hopes were pretty high, and understandably so. The prospect of going to a conference which aimed to get representatives of Christian students living and learning in separate communities all over the USA to come and worship and learn together, even for a few days was way too good to pass up. So good in fact, that we were willing to give up our valentine’s day for a six hour drive to Pittsburg.

When we arrived we immediately noticed the dedication of the CCO, as they had gone to great lengths to provide amazing housing and facilities to address the huge mob of students. We stayed at the Westin Hotel Pittsburg and our rooms were but a staircase away from the seminars and conference events. The days were broken up into three main sections, morning seminars, afternoon worship, afternoon seminars and finally evening worship. There were numerous seminars and describing the detail alone of the brilliant subject matter, would take a rather stocky book’s worth of pages. We were frantically racing to and fro, trying to hear talks and discussions on faith and college, law and the moral conflicts of modern day slavery, economics and much more. The speakers were notable members of their different realms of influence, from professors, to chaplains, to think tank staff from Mars chocolate company. The wisdom they poured out in the little time they had gave you little time to reflect and left you wanting to ask more, to probe deeper into the logic of how they had come to the conclusions they had. At the end of most sessions I found myself reading over what I had jotted down and being rather embarrassed by the amount of times “Oh that’s what they meant”, came out of my mouth.

The worship was brilliant and you couldn’t help feeding off of the energy of the band and the swarm of jumping students surrounding you. Much to my entertainment Mr. Hwang found himself as hyped as we were and burst out dancing on one occasion. After worship the entire auditorium would sit down and after being advertised numerous books to buy (which I can’t decide whether it was a positive or negative addition to the main service) we would hear brilliant ideas, sermons and testimonies of how “Everything Mattered”. The phrase “Everything matters” was plastered everywhere and was the theme of the entire conference. Although the phrase seems extremely vague it was amazing how it was quite the opposite. The core of the conference was to bring all schools of thought, all realms of interest and all vocations and hobbies to the realization that whatever their function in society they mattered. The speakers elegantly tied together how whatever we found ourselves with the ability to do better than most people, or whatever we found ourselves loving to do; that was an outlet for ministry and a stronghold for our Christian influence on society.

What an amazing truth that “Everything matters”. I left the conference with a great sense of accomplishment and am glad that I had the opportunity to go. I gained a lot from this conference and was pretty impressed how the speakers and organizers managed to reach out to scholar and athlete alike. One speaker Mr. Andy Crouch found a way to place scientists and musicians on the same boat, tying the brilliance of Bach to the complexity of physics. It was amazing to say he least and an adventure worth its weight in gold. I hope to attend next year, and am confident my colleagues share the same sentiments.

American Chemical Society Conference – by Julie Fenton

Friday, March 21st, 2014

I recently had the privilege of attending the national meeting of the (ACS), held in Dallas, Texas from March 16-19. This experience was made possible in part by an SGA Professional Grant, sponsored by the Messiah College Career Center. ACS is the premiere professional development organization for chemists in the United States; though many regional meetings and gatherings are held each year, the spring national meeting is the largest and most significant gathering for chemists nation-wide. For an undergrad, attendance at this meeting is critical for developing connections with others in the field, for securing internships and research positions, and for presenting original research projects.

At the conference, I presented a poster on my own original research project. Attendance at this conference and the presentation of my work was the culmination of 12 weeks of full-time research I conducted last summer through a National Science Foundation international Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF iREU) in the Laboratoire de Chimie Moléculaire de l’Etat Solide at the Université de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France. My project, entitled Selective Formation of a Hexaprismatic Carboxylato-Coordinated Titanium Complex from an Asymmetric Pyridine Carboxylic Anhydride Precursor, focused on the synthesis and characterization of novel titanium-containing hybrid materials. It was remarkably successful, and I was able to realize all of the project objectives during my summer project (a rarity in the cutting edge of research science). My work has since been published in the European Journal of Inorganic Chemistry. At the ACS meeting, my poster on this project was presented in two sessions: one specifically for inorganic chemistry at the undergraduate level, the other in a professional-level poster session. At the poster sessions in which I presented, I was able to network and share my research with numerous other chemists. I made connections with other undergraduate chemists, graduate students, and numerous professionals in the field. As I enter graduate school in the fall and select a group to do research with, these connections will be invaluable to me. Additionally, it was productive to receive feedback on my project from others doing similar work.

When I wasn’t presenting my own research, I was able to benefit from listening to research presentations by others. At a meeting of this size (more than 6,000 individuals were in attendance), there were practically countless research talks to attend. I have been accepted to four Ph.D. programs to begin in the fall of 2014, and plan to study materials-inorganic chemistry. As I make my decision as to where to pursue this degree, the professors and research groups at each institution are critical: the more that I know about each group and the projects that they are working on, the better informed I will be in making my final decision. Many of these professors and their graduate students gave talks on their current research, and by attending these talks, I was able to interface with them and to hear more about their work. From the sessions I attended, I was exposed to much of the cutting-edge research in inorganic and materials chemistry. I was overwhelmed by the scope of current technology and the progress of research in chemistry, as well as the applications that many of these avenues of research could hold in the near future. By attending this meeting, I have been able to contextualize the research being done by the groups I am interested in (and by many others).

I am so thankful for the opportunity to attend this meeting. I look forward to applying all that I’ve learned to enhance my chemical knowledge as my time at Messiah ends and as I move on to continuing my education next fall.

Ecological Landscaping Association Conference – by Emma Vatour

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

As a student of ecology and an aspiring ecological landscaper, it was a privilege to have attended the 2014 ELA (Ecological Landscaping Association) conference and learn from many of the leading figures in the field. The conference rooms seemed to reverberate the buzz of so many excited earth-enthusiasts communally appreciating what fascinates them most. The general liveliness was underpinned by finely tuned, intellectual discussions of innovative techniques and new understanding. The energy of the conference was in full swing by the time Michael Phillips began his session on Enhancing Ecosystem Dynamics for Trees. During his talk Phillips laid out the essence of his practice at Lost Nation Orchards, an apple orchard in New Hampshire. His thoughtful practice simultaneously increases his harvest and also pays close attention to the minute and extravagant relationships that exist in nature. As a farmer and steward, Phillips’ works hard to enhance everything from beneficial fungal growth in the soil to the generation of habitat for pollinators and beneficial predators.

As the well-versed ecologist knows, life begins in begins with the soil. The first important practice emphasized by Phillips is to promote mycorrhizal growth to facilitate the uptake of nutrients by fruit trees during maximal growth periods. Having a diversity and abundance of mycorrhizae (fungi that associate with the roots of plants to mutually support each other) drastically increases the soil volume reach of trees. This can be achieved by dipping the roots of young plants in a mycorrhizal mix before planting or by applying fungal favoring compost, biochar or burying dead wood by the root tips of trees. Phillips also suggests the technique of biological mowing, which allows the growth of leafy vegetation until right before the first feeder-root flush of the trees. Right before these plants go to seed, you can mow them and leave them to mulch the ground where they were growing, increasing the water and nutrient availability for the trees.

A second form of diversity Phillips encourages is the plant diversity of the orchard floor. He personally favors species like comfrey, crocuses, daffodils, crimson clover, lupines, echinacea, lemon balm, native grasses, and woody herbs. Each of these provides an extra layer of dimension and support to the dynamic interplay between species within the ecosystem. He strongly endorses the use of comfrey (with infertile seeds) as a species with a multitude of good qualities. Species like crocuses and daffodils will provide protection from voles, while clover and lupines will fix nitrogen in the soil. Other plants enhance the habitat structurally or provide the food necessary to birds that prey on pest insects. Woody herbs at the base of trees act as mycorrhizal accumulators to further benefit the trees.

It was fascinating to hear Phillips not just speak of the connections between plants and soil, but also of the wider impact of all species, including field mice, fox, and song birds. I was particularly impressed by his familiarity of the timing of the processes and events that occur throughout the year in his orchard. It is this vital familiarity that I believe has been lost from our culture to the detriment of all earthly things, including ourselves. I strongly believe there is space in everyone’s practice, no matter the field, to integrate ecological knowledge. For Phillips an appreciation of ecological connections means a healthier orchard. By understanding the ecosystems around us we can participate in the mutualisms that exists there. We can also gain humility in witnessing the capacity and intricacy of nature.

I have high hopes for incorporating these lessons and others I learned at the conference into my future career. Even though I’ve always had an affinity for natural things, I only just discovered the realm of restorative native landscaping in the last year or so. It’s been exciting to see how this field, that I couldn’t have imagined when I was younger, fits so well with what I’m passionate about and hope to impart to the world through my life’s work. This discovery initially came with unbridled enthusiasm for every aspect of this newly realized field, which with time and more exposure will, I expect, simmer into a more directed trajectory toward the niche that makes the most sense for me. The conference it’s self was a great stepping stone for learning more about what niches exist in ecological landscaping and resulted in many contacts and helpful conversations among those already working as a landscape architects, botanical garden curators or restoration ecologists. I plan on volunteering in future years, as I expect it will serve as great source for information, inspiration and networking in years to come!

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference – by Ian Gallo

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conferenceis one of the best sustainable agriculture conferences in the country. Every year, growers, processors, distributors, and researchers from Pennsylvania and the surrounding states congregate in State College for two days of workshops, discussions, a trade show, and, of course, a locally grown and fermented cocktail and cheese hour. Having to the conference before, I had great expectations and they were definitely met. I am studying sustainable agriculture at Messiah but have sort of drifted away from farming but the conference always has a way of reinvigorating my passion for working on the land and helping others do it well.

With more than 120 workshops their was no shortage of interesting topics. I attended lectures on everything from transitioning a farm to use animal power, specifically draft horses, to how attracting beneficial insects. The workshops that interested me the most however, was a series of lectures and discussions given by the manager of a buyer’s cooperative in Pittsburgh, where I grew up. There is a surging demand for locally produced items, specifically food. Over the last ten years farmers markets have exploded in popularity, doubling in number. This is an excellent way for consumers to purchase healthy, sustainably produced food while building a relationship with those who are growing it. However, most farmers markets only run from May-October and are limited in dry and bulk goods (oats, flour, oil, etc.) Many grocery stores are trying to meet this demand but are simply not moving fast enough. This is where a small buyer’s co-op can be so useful in sourcing local and healthy produce and foods year round. The series of lectures was on how distributors and growers can work together to benefit each other while supplying the consumer with a superior, local product. This sounds fairly simple but can be very difficult to navigate if managed poorly. The talks focused on the healthy aspects of a grower-distributor relationship and how it can be improved by understanding each other’s needs and  how distributors can market local products while educating consumers. I have definitely thought about working on the supply-side of local food for a while but this really peaked my interest. Distributors and suppliers are the real drivers of consumption habits and this is often overlooked when devising strategies to move towards a more sustainable food system. I would love to have a cafe/grocer or source food from local farmers for restaurants. The are many opportunities in this growing field and these lectures were a great primer to get guide my thoughts.

There were excellent keynote speakers both Friday and Saturday. Daphne Miller, M.D. gave a wonderful talk on Friday about the beneficial of food grown in soil that has a great diversity of microbes. The keynote on Saturday was given by a renowned Chilean agroecologist from UC Berkeley, Miguel Altieri, that has studied traditional and conventional agricultural models and trends in the global food system. Altieri gave one of the most thorough and educated critiques of conventional and transgenic agricultural that I have ever heard. He critiqued industry claims that conventional and transgenic agriculture is the only way to feed the growing population, biofuels are a viable substitute for fossil fuels as well as the reductionist approach to agricultural study. This was greatly refreshing and really helpful as I continue to think about the problems associated with conventional agriculture. Hearing this rousing talk with 2000 other like minded individuals is really motivating to say the least. I am really looking forward to exploring new topics I was turned onto as well as revisiting old thoughts as I continue to process what I learned.

Calvin Symposium on Worship – by Ellie Keller

Monday, March 17th, 2014

During J-term break, I had the privilege of attending the Calvin Symposium on Worship in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I attended the conference with 9 other students, and Doug Curry, the worship pastor at Messiah College.  Over the course of the three days, I attended workshops ranging from how to design a worship service, to contextualizing worship for Native American peoples.  Within the main worship services, Exodus was the chosen scripture for the week.  It was integrated into all of the services and was shared through song, scripture reading and drama.  Seeing scripture come to life is always a special experience, because it becomes more personal; seeing the story before you allows it to become more tangible.  Another aspect I really appreciated and was blown away by was the diversity represented at the conference.  There were over thirty countries at the symposium, all united for the purpose of learning about worship and how we, as leaders, can become more attune to the details of worship services.

If I had to choose a favorite seminar, I think it would be the workshop on contextualizing worship for Native American peoples.  I felt that it was important to attend this workshop as I am spending time on a Native American reservation this summer for missions work.  In this workshop, we learned about the history of the Native peoples, and there aren’t as many Christians among their people.  I learned that it is because of the white missionaries and the religion they forced upon the Native Americans that they drew away from the Christian faith.  As such, there are many even now that will not go back to Christianity because of everything that was impressed upon their ancestors long ago.  Our speakers gave tools to approaching the subject with Natives, and ways in which we can help make Christianity accessible to the Native American people.

One final key element I took away from the conference was related more to worship and Christianity as a whole.  And beyond that, what our faith should look like.  Dr. Constance Cherry shared tools with creating worship services that flow, that they are meaningful, that worship is about the community of believers, and so much more.  At the end of her workshop, she shared this Latin quote with us, and it has made an impression on my views of worship and my personal faith.  “Lex orandi, lex credendi, est.”  Translated, it means, as we worship and as we pray, so we believe.  Simply, it means that believe what we profess, and what we profess, we believe.  I think it’s a powerful statement even in its simplicity; what I say and do isn’t just for show, but it’s what I believe and profess to be true.

Being able to attend this conference was a blessing – I learned so much as a worship leader, and now have so many tools that I can use in my leadership, both here at Messiah College and out in the real world.  I am so thankful for everything I learned and I look forward to utilizing everything I was taught at Calvin.

Faith and International Development Conference at Calvin College – Seth Betteridge

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the Faith and International Development Conference at Calvin College. The theme of the conference was “Cultivating Community: A Right To Belong.” After a long 9 hour drive leaving at 6:30 AM it was exciting to finally reach our destination of Michigan. There were five of us who traveled from Messiah College. The conference was broken up with devotional speakers. key note speakers and break out sessions. The first key note  speaker of the conference was Dr. Brian Fikkert. Dr. Fikkert is the co-author of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. He is also an economist and spoke about the economic work he has done. He is a very intelligent man, with a PH.D. in Economics with highest honors from Yale University. This point he made though stuck with me throughout the conference, “What is the secret to development work?” “It’s God! God needs to show up and perform a miracle.” Dr. Fikkert has a plethora of knowledge and life experience, but he didn’t rattle off numerous answers about how he did this or this. He understands that it is God working through and in the situations that transforms situations and lives.
God has plans for each of us. Being at this conference it has quickened my desire to continue to pursue God wholeheartedly and seek what His plan is for my life and beyond Messiah College. Before coming to this conference I had thought about international development work and since this conference I have felt a greater desire to do mission work. The exact details or timing I still have no inkling of, but God will reveal the time and place. If it was up to me I would work in industry for the next three years and then while still working start taking online or night classes for a MBA, a Masters in International Development or a Masters in Economic Development. Once I finish my masters I would work for a few more years and then start looking for opportunities to apply my masters internationally or locally. At Messiah College there is a service organization called, the Collaboratory. Collaboratory. This organization works on projects world-wide, helping people in need in many different aspects of life. Being able to be a part of an organization like that, where I have a base of operations in the US, but still get to travel internationally would be an amazing opportunity.
There is much to think about and continue to be in prayer about, but I know God has an awesome plan and I am excited to see what the next step of life entails.