Current URAP Faculty and Students
Multinational Corporations, Foreign Aid, and Political Risk in Developing Countries
Dr. Andreea Mihalache-O'Keef, Public Affairs
In the past four decades, corporations have shown increased interest in the opportunities afforded by regions with unexploited resource and market potential. By engaging in foreign direct investment, these corporations have expanded their production chains internationally, with a mix of positive and negative consequences. While the economic motives and consequences of this expansion have been explored extensively in scholarly work, the political aspects of the internationalization of production remain relatively understudied. In this project, we will focus on one such political aspect: the investors' perceptions of political risk in their host countries and their strategies for coping with it. The research assistant will help with all aspects of the project, including collecting and analyzing literature, gathering data from various organizations, conducting interviews with relevant actors (Chief Risk Officers of multinationals, political risk analysts, policymakers, risk insurance agencies etc.), and traveling for field work.
Dr. Mihalache-O'Keef is a native of Romania. She grew up at a time when her country was growing up as well, a post-communist fledgling democracy struggling to compete in the global market. She became curious about the ties between the international economy, domestic politics, and human welfare, and pursued this interest through her B.A. in International Studies and Art History at Randolph-Macon Woman's College ('03), her Ph.D. in International Relations at Penn State University ('11), and her research fellowship at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School ('09-'10). She continues her research on multinational corporations, food security, and environmental policy at Roanoke College, where she teaches courses on international politics, global political economy, human security, research methods, and a May term travel course on food politics and globalization in Romania.
Sustainable Landscapes: Impact of Urbanization and Forest Fragmentation on Indicators of Ecosystem Function in the Roanoke Valley
Dr. Katherine O'Neill, Environmental Studies
Sustainable management requires balancing current needs for energy, housing, transportation, and food with the need to conserve and protect resources for future generations. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. The scientific challenge is in understanding how human activity and ecological processes interact so that we can design management practices that are ecologically meaningful (that is, actions that actually result in a net benefit to ecosystem function as opposed to existing only on paper). The Roanoke Valley offers a unique laboratory for examining interactions between urbanization, forest fragmentation, and ecosystem function. This project will combine field sampling of soil and water quality with Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) to (1) estimate rates and patterns of landcover change in the Roanoke Valley and (2) model the potential impact of future development scenarios on ecosystem function. In addition to advancing our scientific understanding of the effects of land use change, the goal is to provide regional planners and policy makers with quantitative tools for more effectively managing urbanization and human development at the landscape scale.
Dr. Katherine O'Neill received her B.S. in geology and environmental science from the College of William and Mary and her Ph.D. from the School of the Environment at Duke University. Prior to joining the faculty of Roanoke College in 2008, she spent more than eight years as a federal research scientist and project manager working to develop sustainable management practices for forested and agricultural lands. Her current research examines the impact of land management practices on ecosystem function.
Understanding the Choices We Make: A Psychological, Physiological and Kinematic Examination of Human Motion
Dr. Matt Rearick, Health & Human Performance
Whether you are walking, communicating with a friend or reaching out to grasp a familiar object, what often appears to be an effortless movement is in fact the product of many complex interactions between the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the muscular and physiological systems. This project will use a naturally occurring experimental model - humans walking while using hiking poles - to examine several research questions related to how the CNS "chooses" a particular movement form and subsequently controls and modulates this motion within the context of the situation. The undergraduate research assistant will take part in all phases of the project from continued literature search and review, to piloting and experimentation (using a full Metabolic system and 2-dimensional video analysis) as well as poster and manuscript preparation.
Dr. Rearick joined Roanoke College in 2005. He received a B.S. in Biology (Minor in Psychology) from Shippensburg University and Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Rearick completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neurobiology at Arizona State University. Dr. Rearick's research interests in human science are broad and eclectic. Over the years his many projects have ranged from the neural control of movement (including examining Parkinson's Disease) to overtraining in young athletes to cognitive retraining in cerebral palsy. In all his work Dr. Rearick is passionate about the interplay between the psychological, physiological and mechanical, regardless of the research question(s) at hand. When not "playing" in the lab, Dr. Rearick works extensively with public school districts through federal, state and foundation grant programs to create educational opportunities for kids. You might also find him on his mountain bike or playing piano and guitar with his wife and two girls.
Computational Modeling and Visualization of Nanowire Growth
Dr. Daniel Robb, Physics
What will the iPhone 10 be like? Technology companies are relying on basic researchers in physics and materials science to create the next generation of techniques in the field of nanoelectronics, so that the companies can continue to make more versatile and powerful devices. To understand processes on the very small scale of nanoelectronic circuits, a combination of careful experimental work and accurate computer simulation is needed. The goal of this project is to develop computational modeling and visualization capabilities that complement the experimental work currently being done on nanowire growth within the Roanoke Physics Department. The student will assist in developing a computational model of nanowire growth, using a state-of-the-art computational cluster and an immersive visualization facility (the CAVE), and will work closely with experimentalist physicists to better understand the process of nanowire growth.
Dr. Daniel Robb received his B.A. in physics from Williams College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests involve the computational modeling of complex systems, including magnetic materials and nanostructures in the field of condensed matter physics, and neuronal networks and populations with fluctuating asymmetry in the field of biophysics.
Research in Nanotechnology
Dr. Rama Bala, Physics
In this project, students will synthesize and study novel catalysts used to produce carbon nanotube based structures that are between 1 nanometer and 100 nanometers in size, which are roughly 10-1000 atoms. Students will also have opportunities to design and fabricate nanocircuits used for a variety of nano-electronics applications.
Dr. Rama Balasubramanian, also known as Dr. Bala, is an Associate Professor of Physics. She has B.Sc and M.Sc degrees in Physics from University of Madras and Ph. D from Old Dominion University. Her research interests include nanocrystalline materials and applications of carbon nanotubes.
Purine Biosynthesis in Archaea
Dr. Catherine Sarisky, Chemistry
Published genomes for many archaeal species raise nearly as many questions as they answer. Although we can confidently say that many archaea are able to biosynthesize nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA and RNA) many of their genomes do not appear to contain genes for one or more of the necessary steps for the established biosynthetic pathways. The URAP scholar will use molecular biology, genomics, biochemistry, enzymology, and analytical chemistry to characterize several novel enzymes that we suspect are involved in these important biosynthetic steps.
Dr. Catherine Sarisky earned a B. A. in chemistry from New College of Florida and a M. S. and Ph. D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology, where she worked on protein structure and design with Dr. Stephen Mayo. Her current research interests focus on the biosynthesis of purine molecules, especially in archaea.
Using Molecular Simulation to Explore Liquid Mixtures
Dr. Kelly Anderson, Chemistry
Dr. Anderson's research focuses on using molecular simulation to examine a variety of chemical systems. This means all of the work is computational - there is no traditional "wet" chemistry in my lab. Using computers allows us to look at chemical interactions truly on the atomic and/or molecular level. With simulation, we examine the molecular pieces that come together to form the picture that people see. This project focuses on understanding lubricants. Near solid surfaces, some liquids form layers, which change the liquid's properties. In mixtures, one component of the liquid may interact with the surface more strongly than others, which can change the composition of the overall liquid. Both of these effects have implications for current technologies, but the interactions themselves have not been fully studied. You do not need any experience with Linux (the operating system we use) or computer programming to participate - just a willingness to learn!
Dr. Kelly Anderson received her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. She joined the faculty of Roanoke College in 2009. Her research focuses on using molecular simulation to investigate a variety of chemical systems, including atmospheric nucleation and liquid structures. She is always on the lookout for new chemistry jokes.
Designing New Chemical Reactions with Palladium
Dr. William "Skip" Brenzovich, Chemistry
Metal catalysts have proven invaluable as scientists explore new ways to synthesize important molecules, such as pharmaceutical drugs. We are constantly seeking faster and cheaper ways to build these molecules in the lab in hopes of bringing the prices of important medicines down. The goal of the project is to explore new reactions catalyzed by palladium, specifically utilizing the reactivity of the metal to allow construction of new and unusual amino acid derivatives that can serve as the building blocks of important biological molecules.
Dr. Skip Brenzovich joined the faculty at Roanoke College in 2011. He received his B.S. in chemistry from the College of William and Mary and his Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA. Dr. Brenzovich then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley, designing new reactions involving gold. Dr. Brenzovich's research interests focus on the interplay of the organic and biological molecules and metals, both inside and out of the reaction flask.
Investigations of Antibiotic Resistance in the Bacterium that Causes Tuberculosis
Dr. Tim Johann, Chemistry
Tuberculosis is a terrible disease that is responsible for more than one million deaths each year (World Health Organization). The management of this disease has been complicated by the infectious agent developing resistance to many of the antibiotics used to treat it. We aim to produce, purify, and characterize proteins that contribute to the various resistances demonstrated by this bacterium. By doing so, we hope to gain understanding that would help other research groups produce better antibiotics or use current antibiotics in a more effective manner.
Dr. Johann received his B.A. from Hamline University in biology and chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He had a seven year career in biotechnology where he was a scientist, project manager, and the director of a research group. After leaving industry, he taught for four years at Radford University and is now pleased to be a member of the Roanoke College Department of Chemistry. His hobbies include cooking, reading science fiction, playing games with his 6 year old son, and singing to his newborn daughter.
Other Opportunities to do Research (Non-URAP)
You may already know that taking part in student research is a great way to build a resume, develop relationships with professors and learn through firsthand experiences. But did you know that the science division is not the only one offering excellent research opportunities? Or that taking part in student research can help establish relationships with people located off campus?
Student research creatively blends hands on learning with a person's areas of interest, creating a convenient outlet for students to get involved while gaining knowledge and networking with others. Ranging from sociology to psychology and beyond, many departments at Roanoke College offer some form of student research opportunity. Our history department, for example, is currently working with Camp Powhatan as they try to uncover the history behind the camp through interviews and archeological digs. If you would like to take advantage of these great learning opportunities or would like to find out more about the student research being conducted in various departments, ask a professor or contact Dr. Julie Lyon (Director of Student/Faculty Research) at email@example.com.