|BRIDGE||The Magazine for UMD Alumni and Friends|
Advertise in the Bridge Magazine
The University of Minnesota Duluth
BRIDGE - Fall 2006, Volume 24, #2
Research with Class
When three members of the UMD Department of Social Work decided to convene a conference on the impact of methamphetamine, they didn't know how desperate the need for information had become. The deeper they became involved in the issue, the more they saw that resources about methamphetamine abuse were needed by people in a wide range of disciplines: social workers, educators, medical professionals, and law enforcement personnel.
Johanna Garrison, outreach and curriculum development coordinator, Becki Hornung, instructor and child welfare student support coordinator, and Karen Nichols, associate administrator, all in the Department of Social Work, organized the conference, "The Impact of Methamphetamine on Children and Families: Research and Community Response," held in February 2006 at UMD. The sessions filled immediately. Garrison said, "We were overwhelmed by the response. Child welfare practitioners, many of whom are our graduates, and other professionals needed research-based information. It was a good fit for UMD to put on the conference."
Since the conference, the Social Work Department has posted and maintained a UMD web page for students and others seeking resources for dealing with methamphetamine issues. "We realized that one conference was hardly enough," said Garrison. "We had to do more to help, so we started gathering research and posting it on the internet."
The problem isn't going away anytime soon. The U.S. President's National Drug Control Strategy for 2006 finds that methamphetamine use is rising: treatment admissions for amphetamines and methamphetamines have increased 500 percent since 1992, and workplace positive drug tests have increased 200 percent since 2001. According to a survey of 500 sheriff departments in 45 states, methamphetamine abuse has become the nation's leading drug problem affecting local law enforcement agencies. It's packing U.S. jails.
UMD's social work department is incorporating methamphetamine information into its classes, especially classes that deal with child welfare issues. Agencies that care for children whose parents have become addicted can barely deal with the increased case load. While child welfare laws give a parent six months after an arrest to get their life back on track, before their children are put up for adoption, the treatment time is long; it's at least a year before the drug is out of an addict's system. "Parental methamphetamine use has become a leading cause for the removal of Minnesota children from their homes," said Hornung. "Social work professionals, many of whom are graduates from our MSW program, are inundated, and they need any help we can offer."
Karen Nichols says that UMD recognizes that agencies such as social services, law enforcement and public health need to work together closely. "The multidisciplinary approach is important when dealing with children impacted by methamphetamine."
It is only when families, neighbors, school personnel, law enforcement, county agencies, faith communities and municipalities work together, that they can achieve success in educating the public about the dangers of methamphetamine.
The conference was sponsored by the UMD Center for Regional and Tribal Child Welfare Studies, the Center for American Indian and Minority Health at the U of M Medical School Duluth, and the U of M Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment and the Life Sciences.
As the magnitude of the methamphetamine problem grows, UMD has shown itself quick to react, by serving as a professional and academic resource and by engaging the campus and community in solutions.
Viktor Zhdankin, professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has worked with close to 60 students on chemistry research since 1993, when he started teaching at UMD. His students have co-authored more than 50 scientific papers in national and international chemistry journals and presented more than 40 talks and posters at the American Chemical Society meetings. Of the 60, about 30 undergraduates worked through the U of M Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) or the NSF- and NIH-supported undergraduate research programs, and about 30 did research as part of their chemistry graduate studies. All 30 of the undergraduates have selected scientific careers. One of his first UROP students is now a university professor. Another works at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Some are pursuing medical degrees, some are pursuing degrees in pharmacy, and one is at the Mayo Clinic conducting pharmaceutical research.
"It is rewarding to know I've been able to make a difference in the careers of my students," Zhdankin said. "I enjoy working with them on research projects and I am happy to have had an influence in their lives." At any time Zhdankin has between three and seven students working in his lab. He sets aside time to work with each of them; he helps them prepare their reports, and work on their articles. Zhdankin's record with UROP students is even more impressive when you realize that the students come to him as sophomores in his Organic Chemistry class. He teaches up to 250 students at a time, explaining the basics of why chemistry is so important in life. The best students from these large lecture classes are invited to join his research lab.
UMD students are able to use some of the most advanced instrumentation thanks to Zhdankin's efforts to secure grants. He was able to provide a nuclear magnetic resonance instrument, which works on the same principle as a MRI, through a grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition, Zhdankin has secured close to $1 million of equipment for chemistry programs, including instrumentation in the new Swenson Science Building, and over $1 million for his chemistry research at UMD.
Zhdankin, who has authored over 180 articles on the chemistry of iodine, has traveled the world to learn from scientists at important areas of iodine production, including Japan and Russia. Because iodine is the heaviest non-metal element, and a critical nutrient in human life, the chemical properties of its compounds make it useful in numerous specific applications. Compounds of iodine in higher oxidation states are especially useful as reagents for chemical modification of pharmaceutically important organic molecules.
Zhdankin and his students conduct extremely complex research to find ways to manufacture existing drugs more efficiently. Their work has the potential to make a significant impact because over $200 billion in drugs are sold annually in the U.S.
The ongoing research is concerned primarily with the use of iodine compounds and using reagents to convert simple molecules into complex molecules. The substances he produces are precursors to the actual drugs. For instance, in the case of Lipitor, an anti-cholesterol drug with $15 billion in annual sales, there is a fluorine atom in this complex molecule. Zhdankin uses the iodine compound as a way to introduce fluorine into the structure of Lipitor more easily compared to the present technology. In addition, the medical drugs Celebrex, Prevacid, and the AIDS drug AZT can also be made more efficiently using Zhdankin's research. Several companies in the U.S., Canada, France, and Japan have already expressed interest in Zhdankin's methods.
Zhdankin's students, even the ones in the large lecture classes, respond well to his teaching style. He has a reputation for providing opportunities to students who want a challenge. "The research my students do is important because it adds to the body of knowledge," he said. "We know our work will find applications in the pharmaceutical industry."
Ron Moen, scientist with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the DNR to study the Canada lynx in Minnesota. And he's using UMD students to help him answer some important questions.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Minnesotans have reported an increased number of sightings of the Canada lynx, a 20 to 30 pound wildcat similar to a bobcat except for its tufted ears, black stubby tail and big feet. Between 200 and 400 lynx may now be living in Northeast Minnesota.
Moen and the head of the midwestern lynx sampling project, Gerald Niemi, director of the Center for Water and the Environment at NRRI, look at abundance, available habitat, reproduction and survival rates to determine if the lynx are here to stay. Because the Canada lynx received federal protection after being listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in March 2000, this project is important. Lynx are found in greatest numbers near their favorite prey, the snowshoe hare. The population of hares peaks about once a decade, followed by a drop-off and years of low levels.
"It would be nice to know how many lynx are in Minnesota, how much space each animal uses, and how many travel back and forth between Ontario and Minnesota throughout the lynx-hare cycle," Moen said. The study also pinpoints habitats and locations of lynx, day and night, summer and winter. How much time do they spend in the young forest? How much time near the den site? What types of forest does female use as she raises kittens? These questions, and others about the snowshoe hare, are important for the study.
Moen teaches mammalogy at UMD and recruits students for his project from that class. Students, like Becky Gordon, who is preparing a paper on this work, are invaluable to the project. Moen, seven undergraduates, and four graduate students have been putting GPS (global positioning systems) and radio collars on lynx and tracking their movements for the past four years.
"We have over 15,000 locations of Canada lynx, more than any other research project in the world," he said. "In part it was a matter of good timing, just as we started the project, the technology developed to make GPS collars small enough to be worn by lynx." Moen's previous experience tracking moose also proved to be invaluable.
When a sighting of a lynx is confirmed, Moen and his students set and bait live traps then check the traps until the lynx is captured. They sometimes set up a camera to take automatic photographs. Captured lynx are sedated (see photo above) before a DNA sample is taken and the tracking collar is fixed around its neck. Moen has attached 33 collars on lynx found in Isabella, Grand Marais, Two Harbors, Brimson, and other nearby locations.
Because lynx are so wide ranging, Moen and his students do a lot of driving. They try to obtain a signal from every collared animal at least twice a month.
Over a four-year span, they have been able to track 33 different animals. Of those, 16 are dead, with most mortality occurring in 2005. Survival rates are low. There are several different causes of death: being hit by cars, hit by trains, shot, and being trapped. Moen has found nine dens of radiocollared females over three years. The females are generally in good shape when caught, and have two to five kittens. The kittens usually make it through the first summer, and some through the first year. Mortality increases in the second year as they disperse and explore.
Lynx can co-exist with people because they aren't afraid. "I've seen a den with a mother lynx and her kittens as little as 500 yards from a house and that lynx family survived," Moen said.
Moen's project has made some interesting observations. Most of the females live and reproduce in a three-mile radius. Many of the males, however, travel 50 to 60 miles, mainly north to Ontario and back to Minnesota. The project has collared enough animals to study the persistence of the lynx in Minnesota. They are able to follow the offspring and next generations through DNA samples. In 2004, they found 10 kittens in three dens. In 2005, they found 13 kittens in four dens. This summer, they were still counting.
Moen and his student researchers are gathering data on lynx habitat use, exploratory movements, travel corridors, and activity that has never before been obtainable and their contributions may eventually help remove an imperiled species from the threatened list.
Each student in the senior capstone class for women's studies majors writes a research paper. When Beth Bartlett, professor, Department of Women Studies, taught the class last spring, she had the students read Rebellious Feminism: Camus's Ethic of Rebellion and Feminist Thought (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), the most recent of Bartlett's books, because it could inform them about the many diverse topics they were exploring in their research projects.
Bartlett describes the book as her life's work. As an undergraduate, she studied Camus's 1951 book-length essay, The Rebel . It was widely read on college campuses and became one of the guiding texts for the New Left and student movements.
What intrigued and inspired Bartlett was that The Rebel presented a guide, a way to act decently in the world. She wanted to explore and develop the political framework laid out by Camus because it seems to offer the best hope for a compassionate and humane polity.
She gave the topic attention in her graduate work in political theory, but chose the origins of 19th-century feminist thought for her doctoral dissertation. Teaching in both political science and women's studies since coming to UMD in 1980, she was able to explore these connections in depth. Teaching classes on Camus, as well as on feminist theory, feminist ethics, and feminist spirituality, Bartlett's book is an outgrowth of many years of dialogues with students on the issues raised in the book. "In many ways, my students are as much the authors of this book as I am," Bartlett said. "I could not have written this without their questions, insights, and wisdom."
In her book, she was able to show how feminist thought has fleshed out the major ideas left undeveloped by Camus.
Bartlett's work points out that feminist thought and Camus agree on four points: (1) resistance to injustice and the affirmation of dignity, (2) aspects of solidarity -- recognizing how rebellion is always on behalf of everyone, including the oppressor, (3) valuing friendship and the primacy of relationship, and (4) valuing immanence -- that is, a spirituality of embodiment, and awe and wonder at the natural world.
Using Camus's The Rebel as a lens, she discovered a significant new interpretation of both rebellion and feminism.
One goal of the women's studies program is to engage students in the generation of new knowledge and areas of inquiry. Bartlett said that feminist scholarship has been known for challenging the status quo. "Feminist scholarship has changed the face of research," she said. "It has had an impact on political science, sociology, legal scholarship, psychology, medicine, and history, changing virtually every discipline in the last thirty years."
Bartlett's interests include feminist theory, ethics, ecofeminism, feminist spirituality, and peace and justice, and she teaches and researches in these areas. Her other publications include books on the history of early feminism: Sarah Grimke's Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and Other Essays (Yale, 1988); and Liberty, Equality, Sorority: The Origins and Interpretation of American Feminist Thought: Frances Wright, Sarah Grimke, and Margaret Fuller (Carlson, 1994).
In 1997 Bartlett published Journey of the Heart: Spiritual Insights on the Road to a Transplant (Pfeifer-Hamilton, 1997), a book about her heart transplant and the spiritual journey she experienced. "Writing Journey of the Heart provided the reflection on spirituality that helped to prepare me to teach the course, 'Women, Religion, and Spirituality.' Teaching the course then illuminated for me the importance of immanental spirituality for both feminist spirituality and Camus's ethic of rebellion, which I later incorporated in Rebellious Feminism. "
Clearly, UMD students value Bartlett as a teacher and researcher. She appreciates their contributions as well. "Young students are synthetic thinkers," she said. "They make connections between feminist theory, their experiences in the real world, and their activism. They teach me new ways to think about the world."
In Geoff Bell's classroom, students sometimes get a jarring glimpse of business ethics and a few of them get an opportunity to conduct research by delving deep into the corporate world.
Bell is an associate professor and newly-appointed chair of the Department of Management Studies in the Labovitz School of Business and Economics. He teaches juniors and seniors, and his main classes are Strategic Management, Business and Society, and Cooperative Strategy.
One of the UMD student research projects he fostered was with organizational management and finance major Becky Carlson. Together, they turned a group project she worked on in class into a paper that she presented to the 12th annual international conference promoting business ethics, in New York, October 2005. Carlson wrote a paper on the ethics of drug recall. She applied ethical theory to a comparison of two pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer and Merck, and their drugs, Celebrex and Vioxx. Each company had to make an ethical decision about allowing the drug to remain on the market, or pulling it off.
Carlson, who graduated in May 2005, summa cum laude and with departmental honors, is now an equity research analyst at Piper Jaffray. Bell said, "She was the brightest student I've ever had. She was intellectually engaged; she was the student that every faculty member hopes to have in class."
The real life examples that Bell uses in his classes inspire his students to attempt research. For example, Bell is interested in trust issues, especially trust as an organizational level phenomenon.
Bell encouraged one student to apply trust theory in the context of his work situation, mapping the events over time. The student determined an interesting and counter-intuitive outcome. Once one party came to believe a trade partner was interested only in a win-lose, rather than a win-win relationship, the relationship began to fall apart.
Bell's own research also motivates his students. He has conducted a survey of Canadian mutual fund companies by interviewing company executives. Bell wanted to know who among their competitors were their friends, who were their advisors, and who shared information. He prepared an algorithm, using the information and adding in data about new products and geographic information. His work yielded an interesting discovery. The most innovative companies were ones whose executives shared information and communicated widely.
Bell and a colleague from the UM Carlson School on the Twin Cities campus also conducted some unusual and cutting edge research connecting business decision timing and music. "Managers like a rational world; they like limits; and they like to make decisions based on defined constraints," he said. "However, some decisions are not rational, but rather based in emotion." In their research about how music theory applies to decisions, he demonstrates how individuals and organizations act in ways that are similar to a musical performance. They compose, perform, interpret, improvise, and respond. Technical problems involving timing in an organization are similar to those faced by a composer.
Bell enjoys working on research projects. "UMD is supportive of research, which extends what faculty can do for undergraduates," he said. "When undergraduates can put research projects on their resumes, it is incredibly valuable for getting hired at top corporations." Bell's research assistance gives undergraduates great experience, and it also gives them an opportunity to see inside the corporate world.
All stories by Cheryl Reitan
Web site and contents © 2006 University of Minnesota Duluth