Tri-Cities Center, VMASC showcase new facilities today
Grand opening for new bookstore set for Dec. 7

Old Dominion formally opens its Tri-Cities Higher Education Center and headquarters for its Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC) with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. Nov. 16. The facilities are in The MAST Center at Hampton Roads, located astride the Portsmouth-Suffolk border, a few miles up Interstate-664 from Chesapeake.

“These new facilities will advance our commitment to providing accessibility to Virginians who are seeking a first-rate college education, to meeting workforce development needs and to advancing cutting-edge research with the latest technologies,” said President Roseann Runte.

Another ribbon cutting, for the new University Village Bookstore, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Dec. 7. The three-and-a-half-story facility is located on the corner of 45th Street and Monarch Way. The first and second floors are dedicated to the bookstore itself, while the university’s development office occupies the upper floors.

The $12.2 million, 60,000-square-foot VMASC headquarters offers an abundance of modeling and simulation lab space, reconfigurable research areas and meeting facilities. The two-story, glass-and-brick building features a 7,800-square-foot conference room able to host a wide variety of high-tech tabletop simulations, video demonstrations and research projects. Another conference room will feature a 26-foot x 6-foot screen capable of linking with more than 64 video inputs.

The modeling and simulation center also includes space for secure research projects, facilities for several small-business incubators, a Gigabit Ethernet network, connectivity via the National LambdaRail and office space for more than 40 researchers.

“Ultimately, this new headquarters gives us the ability to realize exponential growth of our research programs. We should be able to triple our funded research over the next five years,” said John Sokolowski, VMASC research director.

At the $10.6 million, 53,000-square-foot Tri-Cities Center, upper-level undergraduate and graduate classes, as well as certificate programs, are offered. Programs focus on engineering, education, health sciences, criminal justice and business administration. Master’s programs are available in business, engineering, health sciences and education.

The wireless building includes 23 fully mediated classrooms, a computer lab with nearly 50 computers and stations for 10 laptops. On-site counselors offer assistance in advising, registration and admissions.

“This increased, dynamic ODU presence, the expansion of offerings and this magnificent facility has resulted in nearly 200 more students attending classes this fall than attended last fall,” said site director Barry Smith. Back to top

Madrigal Banquets, Illumination headline campus holiday celebrations
The campus community can help usher in the holiday season at two popular Old Dominion events: the Madrigal Banquets and Illumination.

The Madrigal Banquets feature performances by the Madrigal Singers and Collegium Musicum, under the direction of Lee Teply. This year they will entertain with music by composers who were born in or who worked in Russia and Eastern Europe, including Chopin and Tchaikovsky. Holiday carols, such as the Ukrainian “Carol of the Bells,” are a highlight of the evening’s program.

A full meal, featuring Chicken Gorky as the main course, will be served in the candlelit and decorated Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center atrium.

The banquets, a longtime ODU tradition, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. Tickets, which are $30 for faculty and staff, and $20 for students, may be purchased by calling 683-5305. For more information call 683-4065.

The university’s seventh annual holiday Illumination will begin at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 5 with a gingerbread cookie decorating contest – for the young and young at heart – in the Webb Center lobby.

The candle lighting ceremony and wreath illumination are scheduled for 5:15 p.m. outside the main entrance to Webb Center. The popular holiday tradition will feature the Larchmont Elementary School Chorus and greetings from ODU international students and local community organization representatives. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

Those who attend the Illumination are asked to bring a canned good for the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and/or a new or used book for Spotlight books, a nonprofit enterprise operated by Virginia Social Ventures.

RSVPs are requested for the Illumination program and the cookie decorating contest and may be made by calling 683-3116 or e-mailing Back to top

Algae farm near campus to produce biodiesel fuel

Can wastewater reduce America’s precarious dependence upon fossil fuel? “We want to find out,” says Old Dominion geochemist Patrick Hatcher.

Wastewater serves as the growth medium for algae in an ambitious new project of ODU and the Virginia Initiative Plant (VIP), a regional treatment facility at the southwest edge of the campus. Hatcher leads the group of researchers who late this year will be installing an experimental station atop the VIP and are hoping to show that biodiesel fuel made from algae can be commercially viable. This algae farming also has a beneficial side effect: it cleans potentially harmful nutrients from the wastewater.

The researchers will pump effluent at the VIP into Plexiglas algae growth chambers, and the oily biomass will be harvested and converted via a proprietary process into biodiesel fuel. “We know we can produce the biodiesel oil,” explains Hatcher. “The question is, can we produce it at a practical cost.” He expects the researchers to spend most of 2008 trying to prove that they can.

Already, the proprietary process has produced biodiesel fuel from algae in a laboratory reactor. The Science Channel has come to campus to include the ODU accomplishments in a documentary about alternative energy sources. In addition, representatives of several oil companies and other potential investors have visited to see demonstrations.

This pilot project is an initiative of the new Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium (VCERC), which was funded with $1.5 million and headquartered at ODU by the 2007 General Assembly. Hatcher, who is the university’s Frank Batten Endowed Chair in Physical Sciences, is executive director of the consortium. He has earned an international reputation for chemical analysis of natural organic matter, and one of his areas of expertise involves the organic compounds and geological processes that create fossil fuels.

Hatcher and ODU’s College of Sciences Major Instrumentation Cluster (COSMIC), which he directs, will perform molecular studies on algae to better understand their potential for conversion to biodiesel fuel.

Altogether, about 15 ODU scientists and engineers are involved in the first slate of VCERC projects. They are focusing not only on biodiesel fuel production, but also on studies to determine the feasibility of wind turbine electricity generation off the Virginia coast. In addition to ODU, seven other state colleges and universities are members of the consortium.

Hatcher is working on the algae-to-biodiesel project with an ODU team that also includes Margaret Mulholland, associate professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences; Andrew Gordon, professor of biological sciences; Harold Marshall, Morgan Professor Emeritus of biological sciences; Aron Stubbins, research assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Gary Schafran, chair of civil and environmental engineering.

With the experimental station on the sun-drenched roof of VIP, the ODU researchers believe they can produce enough algae to net about 200 gallons of biodiesel fuel a day. A first task for Mulholland, Marshall and Gordon is to determine what species of algae will be most productive and oil-rich. To other team members falls the task of developing efficient technologies to harvest and transport the algae and convert it to biodiesel fuel at a reasonable cost.

ODU researchers have designed a test reactor that converts algae directly into biodiesel fuel without any intermediate step. The particulars of the system are secret, according to Hatcher, who hopes the procedure can be patented.

Production so far has been on a small scale, but enough has been made to enable the researchers to present vials of their fuel to Gov. Tim Kaine, Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant and U.S. Rep. Thelma Drake, 2nd District of Virginia.

For media reports, the researchers demonstrated a remote-control car that runs on a blended fuel that includes some of the homemade biodiesel.

Notes Mulholland, “The greatest green advantage of biodiesel fuel could come from the partnership between algae farming and wastewater treatment.” As they grow in effluent, algae soak up undesirable nutrients and also take in carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas linked to global warming.
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“Art of the Piano” exhibit opens at Diehn Center
The University Libraries opened an exhibition titled “The Art of the Piano” Nov. 10 in the Diehn Composers Room. From invention to building and design, the exhibition will also examine the rising popularity of the piano in 18th-century Europe, both musically and socially.

Portraits, photographs, albums, CDs, scores, books and paintings will help illustrate the impact produced by Bartolomeo Cristofori’s invention of the pianoforte. The exhibit also features ODU’s full-time music faculty who specialize in keyboard instruments, showcasing their respective piano works from the University Libraries’ collection. The Diehn piano and metronomes from the F. Ludwig Diehn Collection will also be on display.

The “Art of the Piano” exhibition continues through Jan. 31, 2008, in the Diehn Composers Room, located in Room 189 of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center. The Diehn Composers Room is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information call Elizabeth Hogue, instruction and music collections librarian, at 683-4131.
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Spring tuition assistance deadline is Dec. 3
Completed applications for the spring 2008 tuition assistance programs administered by the Department of Human Resources are due by 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

Eligible classified employees may receive assistance for up to 15 credit hours per year: six credit hours for the fall semester, six for the spring semester and three for the summer sessions at the in-state rate. Eligible part-time classified staff and hourly employees are eligible to receive up to 75 percent of the benefit (prorated upon the hours worked per 40-hour week).

Requests to complete degrees at other Virginia four-year institutions must meet the following requirements:

  • Degree must not be available at ODU;
  • Degree must be job-related;
  • Recipient must sign agreement stating that after completion, he/she will remain employed at ODU for one year.

Eligible faculty and faculty administrators will be awarded full tuition support at ODU, not to exceed three credit hours per semester and three in the summer session, at the in-state rate.

Spouses and dependents of full-time faculty, faculty administrators and classified employees are eligible for tuition assistance for six credit hours in the spring semester. The benefit for dependents and spouses of part-time classified and hourly employees is prorated upon the hours worked per average 40-hour week, not to exceed 75 percent of the benefit.

Policies may be found on the Web at Information and application forms are at

For more information call Natalie Watson at 683-4237. Back to top

Proposals due Dec. 3 for Faculty Innovator Grants
Proposals for the Center for Learning Technologies’ 2008 Faculty Innovator Grants are due Dec. 3. The grant is designed to bolster campus-wide dialogue about the most innovative uses for technology in teaching and learning.

For detailed information about the Faculty Innovator Grant program, go to
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ODU climbs in Washington Monthly College Guide
The College Guide of Washington Monthly Magazine, which rates institutions based on their record for good works as well as research, ranks Old Dominion University at 120 among 242 major colleges and universities. This year’s ranking is a jump from ODU’s place at 145 last year.

Among public institutions in Virginia, only the University of Virginia (20th), College of William and Mary (23rd) and Virginia Tech (35th) were ranked higher. George Mason University placed 198th and Virginia Commonwealth University 227th.

Washington Monthly includes the College Guide in its September issue.

“Unlike other college guides, such as U.S. News and World Report, this guide asks not what colleges can do for you, but what colleges are doing for the country,” the editors have noted.

Institutions are scored based on research spending, doctorates awarded and the percentage of undergraduates who go on to receive doctorates. But they also get scores based upon the number of students enrolled in ROTC programs, number of graduates who join the Peace Corps and other public/community service performed by students and alumni. Another score for social mobility attempts to track an institution’s success at educating students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.Back to top

Univ. names director of real estate development
Old Dominion recently named Tara F. Saunders as director of real estate development. Saunders, an ODU alumna, will provide executive leadership for real estate development projects for the university and serve as executive director of the Real Estate Foundation. She will report to Robert Fenning, vice president for administration and finance, and to Deborah K. Stearns, chair of the Real Estate Foundation.
“She is quite knowledgeable about the current university and foundation initiatives, and possesses tremendous working relationships with the many public and private organizations currently involved with the institution’s real estate projects,” said Fenning, who announced the appointment.

Saunders, who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from ODU, most recently served as deputy director of economic development for the city of Portsmouth. She has served in similar roles for the cities of Suffolk and Chesapeake and has assisted in the location of many major corporations in Hampton Roads, including QVC, First Data Resources, Chubb & Sons, Canon Computers, Yupo Synthetic Paper, Tower Perrin, Dendrite International, Panasonic, Target Distribution and Maersk/APM Terminals.

Her appointment was effective Oct. 25. Back to top

Copy Center to close
The Monarch Copy Center will permanently close operations by the end of the fall semester, according to Rusty Waterfield, acting assistant vice president for computing and communications services.

In an open letter to the campus community last month, Waterfield said, “In recent years, the campus bulk copying and coursepak business has steadily declined. Despite the introduction of new technology and expanded services, the loss of revenue significantly impacts the ability to sustain an on-campus operation. Plans are being developed to outsource these services.”

OCCS is developing a transition plan to outsource services, but until the transition is completed, copy center will continue to provide services to the campus.

“I want to acknowledge and thank the Monarch Copy Center staff for producing great work and providing wonderful service to the campus,” Waterfield said. Back to top

Nursing school celebrates 40th anniversary
In 1967, Old Dominion graduated its first two students with nursing degrees. This year, the School of Nursing celebrates 40 years of graduating thousands of nurses from its prestigious program – more than 4,000 to date – armed with the skills to provide quality health care.

The School of Nursing honored its alumni, friends, health and community partners at an event called “Celebrating 40 Years of Excellence in Nursing Education, 1967-2007” on Oct. 20

“Nurses are more important than ever before,” said Richardean Benjamin, chair of the nursing school. “There are more opportunities now for students who are choosing this career.” Back to top

Alumnus named Va. Teacher of the Year
Old Dominion alumnus Thomas Smigiel Jr., a teacher at Norview High School in Norfolk, has been named the 2008 Virginia Teacher of the Year.

Smigiel, who graduated in 2000 with a bachelor’s in education and served as the student body president, is the first Norfolk teacher to earn the distinction in 40 years. He will now represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the ING Foundation.

Last month, Smigiel, 29, was named one of eight Virginia Regional Teachers of the Year, an honor he also received in the 2006-2007 academic year. He was selected for the state title from among those eight regional winners during a banquet in Richmond in October.

Smigiel was selected by a group of professional and educational associations and business community members and last year’s Teacher of the Year. As winner of the 2008 award, he receives $7,500 as well as technology and professional development funds for Norview High School.

A 1996 graduate of Norview, Smigiel has taught, coached and advised students in extracurricular activities at Norview since 2000, according to an article in The Virginian-Pilot. He reworked his school's earth science curriculum to help boost students’ pass rate on the Standards of Learning test to more than 80 percent from 49 percent.

Smigiel also has taught a teen leadership class, coached tennis and led community service efforts that raised about $8,000. Back to top

Nov. 19 is deadline for food drive donations
Don’t forget your donations for the HACE Thanksgiving food drive. Bring your canned goods to a collection site in your building the morning of Nov. 19. Checks (made out to HACE) should go to Lynda Shirk in 219 Koch Hall. Food boxes and gift certificates for turkeys will be distributed to deserving ODU employees. Back to top

Instructor offers thanks for employee’s kind act
(The following letter was sent to President Roseann Runte on Oct. 9.)
I am one of the many adjuncts that ODU employs. Today, I received some unexpected kindness from one of the gentlemen who takes care of the grounds. I parked in the lot nearest the education building. I was returning textbooks from a Suffolk cohort to the bookstore.

From out of nowhere, I heard a kind voice asking how far I needed to go with the carton of texts. He gave me a ride in a cart. I needed that extension of kindness – bad week, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t ask for his name, but this man’s looking beyond his work will not be forgotten.

Thank you for instilling community in all of Old Dominion’s employees.

– Silvia Babcock
Adjunct Instructor
Educational Curriculum and Instruction

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Homecoming Weekend Events
Friday, November 16
Tailgate Party
Behind “The Ted” off Monarch Way, 5:30 p.m. Enjoy food and fun before the Monarchs take on Toledo. Spend time with students, alumni and family members. Resident meal plan holders will be “swiped” for a meal. There will also be spirit give-a-ways.

Monarchs vs. Toledo
Ted Constant Convocation Center, 7 p.m.

Saturday, November 17
Family Day Opening Breakfast
Ted Constant Convocation Center, 10 a.m. Register at There is a $15 fee to help defray the cost of Homecoming events (free for students). FMI: 683-3446

Homecoming Parade
Watch from 49th Street or on Monarch Way behind “The Ted,” noon. Join fellow students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community to watch the parade. Trophies will be awarded to the best floats. Line-up will be on Elkhorn Avenue.

Battle of the Halls Step Show
Behind “The Ted” off Monarch Way, 1:30 p.m. Watch the residence halls battle it out in a competitive step show.

Tailgate Party
Behind “The Ted” off Monarch Way, 2:30 p.m. Enjoy food and fun before the Lady Monarchs take on UNC-Charlotte. Spend time with students, alumni and family members. There will also be spirit give-a-ways and free food.

Lady Monarchs vs. UNC-Charlotte
Ted Constant Convocation Center, 4 p.m.

Homecoming Ball
Webb Center, North Cafeteria, 8 p.m.

For more information about Homecoming activities, call 683-4818. Back to top

Snake Smitten: Doctoral student doesn’t let impaired vision keep her from passion for reptile research


Julie Ray’s deteriorating vision has left her unable to drive a car or use a high-powered microscope. But the Old Dominion University Ph.D. student in ecological sciences has not given up her dream to establish a center for the study of snakes and other wildlife in a remote jungle of Panama.

During her Thanksgiving holiday, Ray will return to Panama, where she has spent a total of 15 months during the last two years, so she can do more field studies and advance her plans for a $1 million research facility in mountainous Coclé Province, about 125 miles from Panama City and the Panama Canal. Already, she and a few colleagues – including assistants she has trained from among the local population – have captured 667 snakes of 42 species, indicating that this jungle region may be one of the best places in the world to study snakes.

The 29-year-old woman has prevailed against great odds since she arrived in early 2006 at Panama’s Parque Nacional General de Division Omar Torrijos Herrera. She is blind in the center of her right eye. In her left eye she has lost nearly all of her central vision, leaving her mostly colorblind and with blurred remaining vision. She also spoke little Spanish when she first tried to explain to the park’s officials and residents of the nearby village of El Copé why she was there. Based on tips she had gotten from fellow herpetologists, she believed the park might be the snake-rich territory that she needed to promote her research.

Today, Ray speaks Spanish with ease, she has come to be known as the Parque Omar’s unofficial biologist, she is invited to lecture about ecology at Coclé Province schools and she has performed enough barehanded captures of her prey to prove that the territory is, indeed, teeming with snakes. Those captures, and the fact that most of them are accomplished at night in the jungle, have gotten the attention of locals.

“Most of the people in the community where I live (El Copé is about five miles from the Parque Nacional) think I am ‘loca’ for working with snakes. Some of the kids said I was a ‘bruja’ – or witch – for working with snakes and frogs, especially because I go out at night to do the fieldwork.” Her current main field assistant, Aurelio Gonzalez, sought her out, she says, because he wanted to be her guide. “But he had a fear of snakes, and it took him a month before he would capture one. Still, I really lucked out finding him. I owe many captures to my field assistants, but there are definitely nights when I out-catch them.”

One snake that Ray is not trying to catch, but is definitely looking out for, is the Bushmaster, a viper that sometimes grows to be 13 feet long and is the largest venomous snake in the New World. She had heard tales about sightings of this viper in the park, but no scientist had recorded its existence there. Then came the evening in April 2007 when Ray stepped on something on a trail. “I didn’t even see it at first. My field assistant saw it, a Bushmaster viper. Bushmasters usually only strike if you step on them or bother them, but this one didn’t strike. We watched it and saw it curled up. It was about 8 feet long.”

The focus of Ray’s research is a group of nonvenomous mollusk-eating snakes of the genera Dipsas and Sibon. Of special interest to her currently are the Sibon, which depend on frog eggs to augment their diet. But a fungal skin disease called chytridiomycosis that has moved into Central America has been killing frogs in the park since 2004 and no one is sure what may happen to the Sibon, and ultimately to other wildlife, if the frogs die out.

“I usually explain to people of the region about how the frogs are dying and that I am studying the snakes so we can also understand how the loss of frogs will affect mammals and birds,” she says. “They think that is fine, but they still cannot believe that I touch snakes.”

Snake bites are a job hazard that Ray accepts with a shrug. So far her bites – which she describes as “frequent” – have been from nonvenomous snakes or the rear-fanged venomous snakes that do not administer venom in most defensive bites. “I usually don’t do anything with the bite,” she says. “Some of the watersnake bites would bleed a good deal because of an anticoagulant in their saliva, but it is very similar to getting nipped by a cat or a puppy.”

Although her neighbors in Panama know about her work, she says only a few know about her reduced vision. “It’s not unusual for somebody like me to have a driver. So the matter doesn’t come up.”

Her vision problems started when she was 4 and a rare genetic form of macular degeneration – Best’s Macular Dystrophy – left her mostly blind in her right eye. Her vision in her left eye was normal through high school and she had no trouble compensating for the loss. But the macular degeneration struck her left eye the year she started college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“When I began my freshman year, my left eye lost acuity in three months, something that is pretty rare among Best’s patients,” she says. The hastened progress of her condition is a mystery, she adds, because her symptoms typically only show up in Best’s patients who are 70 or older.

Ray dropped her water resources/aquatic insects major because she couldn’t handle the intensive work with a microscope, but she stuck with biology and learned to cope with her inability to read a chalkboard, or even to see PowerPoint slides. The Wisconsin Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) provided her with special training and low-vision computer resources and has continued to support her research by paying for her driver and research assistant in Panama. “Also, I’ve had amazing professors, advisers and, now, students who have made all sorts of arrangements and accommodations for me,” Ray says.

She earned a master’s in biological sciences from Northern Illinois University – studying endangered snakes around Lake Erie – before coming to ODU to work with Alan Savitzky, professor of biological sciences and an internationally known herpetologist. He is one of the authors of the widely used textbook, “Herpetology,” that was first published in 1998.

“Julie works incredibly hard at her science, and she interacts widely with colleagues both nationally and internationally,” Savitzky says. “Her research at the master's and doctoral levels has been of keen interest to biologists with interests in ecology and evolutionary biology.

“Interestingly,” he added, “few of her colleagues are aware of her visual impairment, and even those individuals who have worked with Julie in the lab or field are surprised when they learn that her vision is so limited. Instead of her visual impairment, Julie’s colleagues see only her confidence, determination and high-quality research.”

Savitzky says Ray is adept at identifying research opportunities and is skilled in designing both field and laboratory studies. “The work she is conducting now in Panama will set a new standard for studies of tropical snake communities, and her plans to establish a research station in the national park will benefit both science and conservation in that rapidly transforming nation,” he says.

Marjorie Blaschko, the counselor with the Wisconsin DVR who has worked with Ray, calls her “fearless” and predicts that she can be an inspiration to young people. In November, the Wisconsin DVR gave Ray its 2007 Career Achievement Award.

Ray admits that a lot of resources have to be tapped before the research center can be built. So far she has won commitments and support from the University of Panama and park officials.

“I am in charge of seeking funding and designing the station, and will serve as the director upon completion,” she says. “This is a huge project and will be far from easy, but it is an ideal career for me. I can conduct research while helping to educate local children and researchers from around the world on the tropical forest. The station will be pretty much run by the local people and will benefit the poor communities surrounding the park on many levels.”

Her work now is funded by small grants from a variety of organizations, including the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Chicago Herpetological Society, Sophie Danforth Conservation Biology Fund and the North Carolina Herpetological Society. She also has received supplements from the National Science Foundation to grants awarded to Savitzky. More funding possibilities will be open to her after she receives her Ph.D., which she says will be sometime in 2008. Back to top

Journal examines racial implications of Katrina
The theme for the recently released third volume of The Journal of Race & Policy, published by Old Dominion’s Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, is “In Katrina’s Wake: Racial Implications of the New Orleans Disaster.” It was produced in collaboration with the University of Virginia’s Office of Diversity and Equity.

The articles speak to “the ongoing saga of the African American experience in the United States and the possibilities for overcoming the long-term effects of social and economic deprivation that has yielded consequences antithetical to group and national interests,” states Michael Clemons, journal editor and associate professor of political science and geography, in the volume’s introduction.

“Presented in this issue are a number of essays raising crucial policy questions about the importance of knowledge of diverse cultures and people for effective disaster preparation, management and response. Collectively, the work of these scholars raises age-old pertinent questions about the role of government and the responsibility of both African Americans as a community and of the individual citizens that comprise it for addressing issues stemming from tragedy and devastation, such as that inflicted by hurricane Katrina, and in its aftermath, government.”

Among the articles is one by prominent civil rights leader Julian Bond, professor of history at the University of Virginia and chairman of the NAACP. Bonds addresses the political economy of race and class in light of what Clemons calls the “Katrina debacle.”

“As scholars and as practitioners, the contributors provide insight and solutions for federal, state and local policy makers, and in addition, they offer salient advice to African Americans and the community-based organizations that serve them (e.g., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Action Network),” Clemons says. Back to top

Computer science spearheads over $1 million in research
Maly leaves chair after more than two decades

Old Dominion University computer scientists have received more than $1.2 million in recent research support to pursue projects in diverse fields ranging from the sensor-monitoring of highway traffic to the cataloguing of digital documents.

Kurt Maly, the Kaufman Professor of Computer Science who was chair of the Department of Computer Science for more than two decades before relinquishing the post in September, is an investigator on three new grants. In addition, Maly and two ODU colleagues received a $25,000 IBM Faculty Award in late summer in recognition of overall achievement in autonomic computing. This award is rarely won for consecutive years, but the ODU team has won it four years in a row.

This flurry of awards “makes a success story for computer science,” Maly said. Under his leadership, the department’s annual research budget increased from $80,000 to $2 million.

Here is a breakdown of the recent awards:

  • Steven Olariu, professor of computer science, is an investigator on a $550,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop prototypical networked sensor systems that are smarter, more reliable and more secure than existing systems. The ANSWER (AutoNomouS networked sEnsoR) system, as proposed by Olariu and colleagues at Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland, is an advanced form of the wireless sensor systems that are expected to pervade – and greatly improve – our lives over the next few decades. A sensor system in a residence, for example, could be accessed by rescue responders to determine whether there are people inside, whether the people are incapacitated, whether toxic fumes or flames are present.
  • Olariu and Michele Weigle, assistant professor of computer science, received a three-year, $400,000 NSF grant to develop a highway congestion early-warning system. This work is in collaboration with Asad Khattak, Batten Endowed Professor of Transportation Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering. NOTICE (Notification of Traffic Incidents and Congestion) proposes sensor belts embedded in roadways and vehicular ad-hoc networks (VANETs) to monitor for and provide alerts about traffic tie-ups.
  • Weigle and researchers at the University of North Carolina, University of California San Diego and University of Wisconsin received a three-year grant for $800,000 ($202,000 as ODU’s share) from NSF to develop tools for the generation of synthetic computer network traffic to facilitate realistic experimentation either in simulation or on research test beds. The tools can generate network traffic that is statistically similar to that found on real Internet links.
  • Maly, along with Mohammad Zubair, professor of computer science, and Stephen Zeil, associate professor of computer science, received an 18-month, $139,000 grant from the federal Defense Technical Information Center to develop an automated system for extracting data from technical documents that can be used to digitally catalog those documents. DTIC acquires and digitally stores millions of important documents and requires a reliable way to retrieve them.
  • Maly, Zubair and Zeil received a two-year, $126,000 award from the U.S. Government Printing Office for a project along the same lines as the DTIC work noted above.
  • Maly and Zubair also are working with Harris Wu, assistant professor of information technology and decision sciences, on a three-year, $403,000 NSF grant to improve Internet searches of nontextual content. The focus of the researchers’ classification system will be documents and other items in the U.S. government’s photograph and multimedia collection.

The IBM Faculty Awards are to Zubair and Ravi Mukkamala, professor of computer science.

Other recent highlights of Maly’s years as chair include two major awards in 2006. Michael Nelson, assistant professor of computer science, won a $540,000 Early Career Development award from NSF that will support his work on strategies for preserving digital data. Alex Pothen, professor of computer science, is lead investigator on a $7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop new software for scientific problem solving on the next generation of high-performance computers. The DOE funding established the Combinatorial Scientific Computing and Petascale Simulations Institute, which is based on the ODU campus.

The computer science department recently commemorated Maly’s service as chair with an oil portrait that now hangs in the second-floor conference room of the E.V. Williams Engineering and Computational Sciences Building. Michael Overstreet, associate professor of computer science, is serving as interim chair of the department during the search for Maly’s successor. Back to top

Research likely to benefit blue crabs
Blue crab populations along the Atlantic coast could get a boost from a research project being undertaken by scientists at Old Dominion University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences under a $2.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Mark Butler, professor of biological sciences at ODU, and Jeffrey Shields, professor of environmental and aquatic animal health at VIMS, lead the research team. The five-year project will focus on the effects of environmental change and fishing on outbreaks of the pathogenic parasite Hematodinium, which can be especially deadly to blue crabs.

Research will take place in small coastal estuaries of the Delmarva Peninsula.

A key goal of the project is to determine the role that fishing pressure plays in Hematodinium epidemics. Butler said intensive catches of blue crabs removes adults, which are more disease resistant, while intensifying the population of more disease-susceptible juveniles (which, when trapped by crabbers, must be thrown back). “The effect of fishing pressure on disease has received little attention, which is surprising given the increasing reports of diseases in marine populations that experience significant exploitation,” he said.

Another goal is to weigh the effects of habitat degradation on Hematodinium outbreaks. The researchers propose to produce “epidemiological models capable of integrating local environmental change and fishing pressure with disease dynamics,” according to their project summary. They say that such models could have broad application, not only to crabs, but also to other finfish and shellfish populations.

NSF’s Directorates for Biological Sciences and Geosciences and NIH’s Fogarty International Center and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announced on Oct. 29 that they would fund this project under the Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EID) program. Seven other projects, all of which involve studies of the interaction between the environment and disease processes, also were funded.

The EID program is designed to investigate ways that environmental changes are related to the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases over the last several decades.

Hematodinium, which is a dinoflagellate related to the more widely known Phiesteria that causes fish kills, has attacked crab populations for decades in places such as France and Scotland. But the parasite was only first reported about 15 years ago in the Mid-Atlantic, where studies have now connected it to sporadic (warm weather) kills of blue crabs. It grows in the crab’s blood, consuming the hemolymph protein that transports oxygen. Crabs suffering from a heavy infection of Hematodinium are lethargic and eventually die from lack of oxygen.

The research team, which also includes Harry Wang and Kimberly Reece, associate professors of marine science at VIMS, will undertake outreach programs related to the project. They will sponsor an annual meeting with fishermen, resource managers and environmentalists to share their findings.

They will send their graduate-student team members into high schools to make presentations on environmental change and disease. Finally, they will develop a Web site on Hematodinium at Back to top

myODU unavailable starting Dec. 14
Old Dominion’s portal – myODU ( – will be upgraded to a new version over the Christmas holiday break. This major upgrade requires extended downtime. Currently, myODU is scheduled to be off-line from Dec. 14-21.

The myODU portal provides access to often-used applications, such as e-mail, Blackboard and LeoOnline. While myODU is off-line, these applications can be accessed at the Web sites listed below. (For e-mail and Blackboard, log in using your MIDAS account ID and password.)

Musselman publishes book on plants of the Bible and Quran
The new book about the plants of the holy lands, written by Lytton John Musselman, the Mary Payne Hogan Professor of Botany and chair of the Department of Biological Studies was published Nov. 1 by Timber Press.

“Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh: Plants of the Bible and the Quran” ($25, 336 pages) is a lavishly illustrated edition celebrating more than 100 plants – ranging from acacia, the wood of the tabernacle, to wormwood, whose bitter leaves flavor absinthe – that are named in the Old Testament and New Testament, including the Apocrypha, as well as in the Quran.

The book’s forward is written by “A Prairie Home Companion” creator and host Garrison Keillor.

Musselman has studied plants of Biblical lands for three decades and has published several books, including “Jordan in Bloom – Wildflowers of the Holy Land” (2000), commissioned by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

For more information about the new book, visit and do an “author” search for Musselman. Back to top

Biospeleologist John Holsinger not used to life in the limelight

John Holsinger, the Old Dominion biospeleologist who has spent a lot of his career in caves researching the blind crustaceans that live in them, has had to adjust his eyes recently to the limelight.

Colleagues in the National Speleological Society (NSS) paid tribute to Holsinger’s more than four decades of research by organizing a special symposium honoring him and his work at the society’s 2007 convention late this summer in Marengo, Ind.

In addition, two newspaper articles, including one in The Washington Post, pointed out Holsinger’s contributions to cave ecology and subterranean biodiversity in Virginia.

Holsinger, who is an eminent scholar and professor of biology as well as graduate program director for the ecological sciences Ph.D. program, has had flatland ODU as his base since 1968 as he built a reputation around the globe for his highland work in caves and karst. (Karst is the geological term for the irregular limestone terrain containing sinkholes, underground streams and caves.)

He traces his interest in caves and spelunking to his undergraduate days at Virginia Tech, which is in a mountainous part of the state. “There is a lot of caving activity there and I got involved,” he says. “I was a biology major, so cave organisms became my focus.” Holsinger continued with the focus through his doctoral studies at the University of Kentucky, another institution with karst and caves nearby. He got his Ph.D. in biological sciences in 1966 and two years later joined the ODU faculty.

He is best known for painstaking research to document different species of subterranean amphipod crustaceans, specimens of which float in alcohol in hundreds of jars in his laboratory. The creatures resemble shrimp or crayfish. A number of cave-adapted invertebrate animals, including species of amphipods, isopods, spiders and snails, have the official Latin name holsingeri. Even two genera, an amphipod and a snail, are named Holsingerius and Holsingeria, respectively.

At the four-hour NSS symposium in Indiana that was dedicated to Holsinger, his colleagues invited him first to the lectern to present “Forty-some Years of Caves, Karst and Speleobios,” in which he recounted the high points of his career. “I had gotten wind that the other speakers (there were seven on the program) were going to roast me, as well as speak about my work and how they had interacted with me,” Holsinger says. “So during my presentation I got some licks in at them, too. It was a lot of fun. At the conclusion they had an open mike, and some of the people who got up to speak I hadn’t seen in 15 or 20 years.”

The colleagues’ presentations at the symposium were about Holsinger’s work with the Virginia Speleological Survey, the Virginia Cave Board, subterranean biogeography, systematics and taxonomy, global collaborations and students.

The ODU scientist has served on the Virginia Cave Board from the time it was formed in 1978 to the present, with the exception of a few years in the middle of the span. The Virginia Star, a newspaper in the mountainous southwestern part of the state, published a profile article on him in September that explored his work with the board, which has a governmental mandate to conserve and protect the state’s 4,400 documented caves.

Holsinger said he is proud of the board’s efforts to preserve Virginia’s caves. “We try to influence zoning and conservation management, and have gone so far as to convince the highway department to route roads away from sensitive karst areas,” he says. The board also deals with more mundane threats, such as damage done by people who dump garbage in caves, destroy geological formations, write on walls or commit other acts of vandalism. One way the board members influence public policy is through cave educational programs it promotes in schools. The board also lobbied successfully for passage of the Virginia Cave Protection Act.

Keeping caves pristine helps to protect the quality of underground water, and it gives subterranean amphipod crustaceans, some of which are endangered species in Virginia, a chance to thrive. In some cases, environmental diligence may keep species of yet unidentified crustaceans protected long enough for Holsinger to discover them.

The article in The Washington Post on Aug. 31 noted that Holsinger wrote the authoritative “Descriptions of Virginia Caves” (a book-length work that appeared in the Virginia Division of Mineral Resources Bulletin in 1975). He was quoted in the article as saying the potential for discovery of new species is greater in remote underground domains than anywhere on the earth’s surface, with the possible exception of the rain forests. His work with cave crustaceans ranges far beyond Virginia, to places such as South Africa, Russian Far East, India, Brazil, Oman and Mexico. Back to top

Laroussi paper on cold plasmas selected by journal as among decade’s best
A paper about the germ-killing potential of cold plasmas authored by Mounir Laroussi has been selected by the New Journal of Physics (NJP) as one of the most significant articles it published during the last decade.

The paper, “Plasma Interaction with Microbes,” which was published in 2003, will be included in a special collection of article summaries commemorating the 10th anniversary of the journal in 2008. NJP debuted in 1998 as a publication of the Institute of Physics and the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft.

In this paper, Laroussi and his co-authors demonstrated a correlation between electrostatic forces caused by charging effects in a plasma and experimentally observed morphological changes in bacterial cells. After its publication, this paper became one of the most downloaded papers and was added to the “select” list of the Institute of Physics.

Laroussi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the university’s Laser and Plasma Engineering Institute (LPEI), has been a pioneering researcher in cold plasmas and in biological applications of plasmas. The plasma pencil, a hand-held device like a miniature light-saber that Laroussi introduced in 2005, was the subject of news reports in National Geographic and numerous other publications around the world.

The plasma pencil generates a thin plume of charged gas that can kill certain cells and bacteria. Researchers hope that cold plasmas will have applications ranging from killing the bacteria that cause dental plaque to eradicating tumors.

Plume therapies have been able to kill targeted cells without damaging surrounding tissue. Although Laroussi has shown in demonstrations for news photographers that he can run his hand through the plume without harming his skin, the same cold plasma has been shown to kill various bacteria including Escherichia coli when the plasma breaks open the cell walls of the bacteria.

Plasmas are soups of neutral atoms/molecules, ions and electrons. In nature, they are generated in solar flares and lightning – anywhere atoms are stripped of their electrons – and have temperatures of thousands of degrees. But Laroussi’s plasma pencil and other plasma sources can produce room-temperature plasmas that allow practical applications.

Laroussi is first author of the paper in NJP. His co-authors are D.A. Mendis, an astrophysicist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego, and Marlene Rosenberg of the electrical and computer engineering faculty at UCSD. Back to top

ODU, Sentara offer unique course on injury prevention for performing arts students

We marvel at the agility of dancers leaping effortlessly across a stage and are dazzled by the nimble fingers of a violinist shifting octaves with ease. What we don’t see are the injuries performing artists sustain while practicing their craft.

How to prevent those injuries is the subject of a new course, The Healthy Performer, offered this fall by Old Dominion University and Sentara. The two joined forces to teach performing arts students how to remain healthy and continually perform at their highest levels.

Offered through the ODU music department, this unique course is being taught through a series of specialized classes. Musicians, dancers and other performing arts students are learning not only how to prevent performance injuries, but also receiving instruction on the relationship of nutrition and performance and the importance of spinal health.

“Thanks to the generosity of specialists from Sentara and the health-care community, students are gaining an awareness of the occupational hazards of performing, such as the risk of pianists developing carpal tunnel syndrome or joint injury in dancers,” said Amanda Halstead, adjunct associate professor of music, who created the 1-credit course.

Specialists and instructors from Sentara, ODU and other health-care partners are instructing students in the areas of nutrition, spinal health, hand injuries, physical fitness and pharmaceuticals.

“Students are gaining an important awareness of how to prevent health hazards that are prominent in their particular performance area,” Halstead said. “This new awareness will change the way they approach their performance preparation. For those interested in combining performance with education, it will change the way they teach their art form.”

The semester-long course includes components in basic anatomy, physical fitness, healthy body alignment, injury prevention, nutrition, stress management and methodologies to reduce performance anxiety for the accomplishment of both short-term and long-term goals. Back to top

Old Dominion becomes FlexCar rental site

In mid-October, the car-sharing company FlexCar arrived at the Old Dominion University campus. Soon to be known as Zipcar, following the Oct. 31 merger with its national competitor, the company allows members to borrow a car for an hour or a day.

All-inclusive rates, starting at $5 per hour or $55 a day, cover gas, insurance and 150 free miles per trip. As an introductory offer, the company has waived the annual $35 membership fee through Jan. 7, 2008.
An online application, accessed at, takes about 10 minutes to complete and requires a driver’s license number and a credit or debit card number. It takes three to six business days for the company to review an application and send out a membership kit.

Members may reserve vehicles online or by phone, in advance or at the last minute. FlexCar provides directions to reserved spaces where its cars are parked. Vehicles are parked around the campus in lots 8, 20, 32, 33 and V2. Choices include Mini Coopers and hybrids.

Car not there when you are? Scan the surrounding parking spaces and if your search yields nothing, call the company’s 24-hour member care center. They get you on your way using a taxi or a nearby FlexCar vehicle. Running late to return your wheels? Press the yellow button on the vehicle’s keypad device or call member services. If possible, they’ll extend your reservation, billing you regular rates in half-hour increments.

As a merged company, FlexCar and Zipcar will operate in 50 cities across 23 states, two Canadian provinces and London.

This means that campus members will not only have car-sharing flexibility in Norfolk, but also the same benefits when they travel. Back to top

Record number of hoops games to be on TV
The audience for Monarch and Lady Monarch basketball games will stretch from coast to coast, with a record 24 games televised this season. The package is highlighted by five national broadcasts of Monarch games on the ESPN network, an 11-game schedule on Comcast Sportsnet and CN8 regional cable of conference and non-conference games, and the announcement of a local package with WSKY-TV 4, which will produce seven men’s and women’s games.

In addition, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network will televise the Monarchs’ home game with Georgetown on Nov. 28.

Seven Lady Monarch games will air, starting Nov. 23 with a Comcast Sportsnet broadcast when ODU plays nationally ranked Connecticut in the Virgin Islands.

The ESPN network games include the Monarchs’ contests from the Las Vegas tournament against North Carolina and either BYU or Louisville; home games with Drexel on Feb. 14 and the Bracketbuster contest on Feb. 23; and at VCU on Feb. 16.

The first WSKY broadcast will be Nov. 16 when the Monarchs entertain Toledo. The Channel 4 Hampton Roads package includes: men’s games at Richmond on Dec. 19, at Delaware on Jan. 12 and at JMU on Feb. 20, and Lady Monarch games with Penn State on Nov. 29, JMU on Jan. 13 and William and Mary on Feb. 10. John Castleberry will provide the play-by-play for all the WSKY games.

All ODU home games are video-streamed at and available for a monthly subscription fee. Back to top

“I don’t get to write a whole lot during the regular school year. But I challenged some of our alumni to draft a new work by the end of 2007, and then when there were only 99 days left, I decided to join them.” (Sheri Reynolds, University Professor of English)

– “Meet Sheri Reynolds, author of four novels including ‘The Rapture of Canaan’”, Oct. 24

“It’s hard to name a point, but I think it’s safe to say that the higher prices go, the greater risk there will be to the American and world economy.” ... “Whether you see them coming or not, high oil prices are a real thing. It’s not just a psychological effect.” (Steve Yetiv, professor of political science)

– “Jump in crude oil prices no longer economically devastating”
San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 17

“We wanted a different way of higher education and public schools working together. We focus on going into the classroom and we stay there, as opposed to doing the drop in and run.” (Dave Blackburn, director of programs for research and evaluation in public schools)

– “ODU hopes center will develop leaders”
Daily Press, Oct. 16

“We think housing prices in Hampton Roads are overpriced by 15 to 20 percent, probably closer to 20 percent.” (James Koch, president emeritus and Board of Visitors professor or economics)

– “Insurer says region’s home prices stand good chance of falling”
The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 11

“How best to describe exercise intensity to the general public so that it gets the right message is difficult. One of the simplest ways to rate intensity is the ‘talk test.’ If one is exercising hard enough to notice that one is breathing harder, but is still able to speak in complete sentences comfortably, then that is ‘moderate’ intensity. It should be a level that can be easily maintained for at least 30 minutes. A ‘vigorous’ intensity is one that makes it difficult to speak in complete sentences, but that can still be maintained continuously for several minutes.” (David Swain, professor of exercise science)

– “No pain, no gain”
Guardian Unlimited, Oct. 9

“We as a culture have cheered the people who have won the money game, who’ve done extremely well in questionable lines of business. Some of these people have come out of the finest business schools, where they’ve taken these courses. This is not going to cure the problem.” (Bruce Rubin, director of the M.B.A. program, on the need to emphasize ethics, but with the understanding that an ethics course is not a panacea)

– “Group: Make ethics a core of business instruction”
The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 4

“It’s liquid gold. We’re used to thinking of this kind of liquid gold, oil, coming from the ground. This comes from the lab, and now, it can be made in the lab.” (Patrick Hatcher, Batten Endowed Chair of physical sciences)

– “ODU researchers are turning trash into treasure by producing biodiesel from algae”
WAVY-TV, Oct. 3

“I think our economy is doing a little better than the national economy. I think that the continued military support for housing allowances has helped a lot.” (Gilbert Yochum, professor of economics)

– “Despite slumping home sales, business at Hampton Roads’ Homerama is booming”
WAVY-TV, Oct. 1
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