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Experiential Learning

Alum’s Internship Success Leads to Giving Back

By Kamy Mitchell ’21

“There’s just something about working with fellow Bulldogs,” says Maria Porter ’12.

As the Graphic Services Manager at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, a Midwest regional law firm, Porter has the opportunity to engage with students from her alma mater through the firm’s marketing internship program. The program lasts for two semesters—longer than most internships—allowing students time to work on bigger projects and enhance their overall experience. Internship responsibilities vary depending on what’s needed, and on the background of each student.

Since the program began in 2014, Taft has hired approximately two interns each year, and Porter says a good chunk of them have come from Butler. She is impressed with the work of her fellow Bulldogs, and she has seen them be very successful in the program.

“Butler interns have shown a lot of initiative,” says Porter, who serves as the interns’ direct supervisor, “which means they’ve been able to take ownership of firm-wide projects. For example, when Taft leadership decided to start adding paralegal bios to our website, we had a Butler intern write the website bios for any new paralegals who joined the firm during her internship.”

Having had valuable internship experience herself while at Butler, Porter now seeks to give others a similar opportunity to work collaboratively in a real-world environment.

Porter, who graduated with an Art + Design major and minors in Digital Media Production and Spanish, spent her time as a student gaining experience that would prepare her for a career in graphic design. Through connections she made at Butler, she had the chance to complete two internships, one with Indiana Humanities and another with Indianapolis-based fine artist Walter Knabe.

At Indiana Humanities, a non-profit organization located on the north side of Indianapolis, Porter worked alongside another Butler grad while learning many of the design techniques she still uses today.

Her second internship, which she pursued based on a suggestion from her art professor, allowed her to work with artist Walter Knabe. Knabe focuses on screen printing, a process that was unfamiliar to Porter at the time. But she loved the amount of creativity Knabe demonstrated, and she enjoyed seeing his process play out. Porter helped work on the nuts and bolts of this fine art, creating pieces that matched Knabe’s vision.

While she hasn’t used the technical skill of screen printing much since the internship, Porter learned the importance of following through on someone else’s vision to help create a masterpiece—a crucial skill in her current role as a designer who figures out how to visually communicate another person’s ideas.

Porter currently works as a graphic designer on the in-house marketing team at Taft—another position she discovered through Butler. Her supervisor, also a Butler grad, had reached out to the Lacy School of Business (LSB) in search of students who might make a good match for an open design position. While Porter wasn’t a student within LSB, the business faculty remembered the work she’d done designing logos for their entrepreneurship program, and they passed along her résumé.

Now, Porter applies many of the same skills she gained from her internship experiences, managing visual communication for the firm. She is responsible for all aspects of design, such as creating advertisements, sponsorship brochures, event invitations, and video ads. She also manages Taft’s website.

Looking back at her internship experiences, Porter says, “Butler just has so much connection to the greater Indianapolis community. I was able to have two incredibly different internships that both fed my professional career.”

Maria Porter, 2012 Butler alum at Taft Law
Experiential Learning

Alum’s Internship Success Leads to Giving Back

Through Butler connections, Maria Porter ’12 completed two internships and found a full-time design job upon graduation. Now, she has the chance to provide similar opportunities for current students.

Internship Canceled? Here’s How to Keep Growing as a Professional

By Hailey Radakovitz ’21

Hailey Radakovitz is a senior at Butler with a major in Strategic Communication and minors in Spanish and Marketing.

 

As COVID-19 has led to widespread job loss and forced many workplaces to go remote, some employers have needed to cancel or postpone summer internship programs. It’s difficult to replicate the hands-on learning experience that internships can provide, but if that won’t be an option for you this summer, there are still plenty of other ways to continue developing as a professional over the next few months.

 

1. Get an online certification

Online courses provide great learning opportunities that will also help set you apart in the job market. Sites such as Google, HubSpot, and Microsoft offer free certifications that can help you expand your skills. Focus on obtaining certifications that will be valuable in your desired career field, then add these to your résumé or LinkedIn page once completed.

2. Update Your LinkedIn

Speaking of LinkedIn, now is an ideal time to update your profile. Regardless of what career you’re pursuing, a clean and detailed LinkedIn page can set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs. Add volunteer experiences, leadership positions you hold, and relevant skills or accomplishments to help your profile stand out.

3. Create and/or learn a new skill

Consider using your extra time to find a new hobby or create something that makes you happy. For some career paths, this could mean learning to use software such as Canva or the Adobe Creative Cloud, building useful skills that potential employers will notice on a résumé. This allows you to get creative while still gaining a transferable skill for a future internship or job.

4. Make a list of professionals to network with

You’ve probably heard it a million times—it’s not what you know, but who you know. Networking helps you make valuable connections in your desired career field while learning from professionals who are currently working in it. Sites such as LinkedIn or Wisr can be used to track down people working at your dream company or in a position you are interested in. From there, you can reach out and focus on building a professional relationship rooted in curiosity and respect. They will likely be excited to share their experiences and advice with you.

5. Meet virtually with a professor to determine next steps

If there is a professor that you’re particularly close with, now would be a great time to reach out. Professors with experience in your field of interest can help you prepare a plan for what actions will be most beneficial to take at this point in your professional journey. Many Butler professors are happy to give students advice, recommend readings or certifications, and generally guide students through challenging times.

6. Reach out to the Butler CaPS office:

Butler’s Office of Career and Professional Success (CaPS) offers its services year-round for Butler students. With its team of specialized career advisors, CaPS can help you identify ways to grow as a professional. During the summer, this office offers virtual appointments and drop-in hours to assist with application materials and conduct virtual mock interviews. The team has even shifted several career-related events to a digital format. CaPS advisors are also available to help you map out your short-term and long-term career and professional goals.

Experiential Learning Leads to Big Opportunities for Butler Grad

By Meredith Sauter ’12

As a high school student, Megan True ’19 knew she wanted to attend Butler University so she could receive a well-rounded education, both in terms of the courses she’d take and through the experiential learning opportunities she’d encounter. This interest led her to double major in Art + Design and English, with a concentration in Literary Theory, Culture, and Criticism. She also minored in French, even having the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in France.

Knowing she would likely be interested in pursuing a master’s degree upon graduation, True wanted to pursue research opportunities as an undergraduate student. She decided to participate in the Butler Summer Institute (BSI), where she conducted research at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Her research focused on the complicated dynamics between the Native American and Western American art collections, and this research ultimately resulted in presentations at the Art Educators Association Conference, the Eleventh International Conference on the Inclusive Museum in Granada, Spain, and the Undergraduate Research Conference, which Butler hosts and is one of the largest conferences of its kind. She also published an article in The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, all as a result of her completing undergraduate research during the BSI.

Eager to have more experiential learning opportunities, True completed three internship experiences while at Butler. “I knew I wanted to get as much experience as possible before graduating,” True says. “The internships I had and the research I conducted provided me with invaluable experiences, as I was able to learn skills specific to my career that I wouldn’t necessarily have learned in the classroom.”

Because Butler is located in Indianapolis—the 17th largest city in the U.S.—there are ample opportunities for internships, not just during the summer, but also during the academic year. This is a particular strength of the University, having been ranked in the top 25 universities nationally for internships by U.S. News and World Report (2020 rankings). 

Taking advantage of this, True completed one internship at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites, serving as their Collections Department Intern. While there, she took inventory and photographed several of the museum’s collections. She also gained experience installing and uninstalling exhibits and learned how to prepare works of art for shipment.

In addition, True completed two internships at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields in their Curatorial Department. During those experiences, she received training on how to properly handle art and artifacts, as well as how to operate the collections management database. She also conducted research and wrote for the museum’s website.

After graduating in 2019, True decided to apply to graduate school. She now attends The George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she’s pursuing a master’s degree in Museum Studies. Her goal is to eventually find work as a curator in an art museum, and she knows her many experiential learning opportunities at Butler will continue to pave the way for success post-graduation.

“My internship experiences played a key role in my admission to my master’s program, and also showed that I’m qualified for museum work, which has helped me secure several jobs in DC,” says True. “I had so many experiences at Butler—both big and small—that helped me get to where I am today.”

Megan True ’19 with Butler University
Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning Leads to Big Opportunities for Butler Grad

Research experiences and three internships helped Megan True ’19 keep learning outside the classroom

Why I Did an Internship During My First Semester of College

By Kennedy Broadwell

Kennedy Broadwell is a senior from Toledo, Ohio, with a major in Sports Media and a minor in Sports and Recreation.

 

When I first came to Butler in 2017, I was most excited for all the opportunities students have to challenge themselves, try new things, and gain first-hand career experience. My advice? Do this as soon as possible.

In my first semester on campus, I decided I wanted to hit the ground running with an internship. I knew how important connections and experience would be when it was time to start my career. So, I became IndyHumane’s Social Media Intern, which gave me a chance to learn how to collaborate with media staff to create successful multimedia campaigns.

That was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Because I chose to do this, I already had more on my résumé than most first-year college students, which has opened so many doors since.

Doing an internship early demonstrates your drive and, most importantly, improves your skill set. Since my time with IndyHumane, I have also interned with the Drew and Mike Show and Nine13sports. This summer, I am lucky enough to be interning with CCA Sports.

I want to make myself as marketable as possible. That is why all of my internships have been completely different, and I am doing as many as I can. I am now a senior Sports Media major, and my dream is to work in the sports industry. But I am not blind to the fact that this is a difficult field to break into, which is why I have made sure to gain real-world experience from a variety of companies during my time at college.

I have taken the advice from both professors and practicing professionals to not pigeonhole myself. To make sure I’m a well-rounded candidate when I start applying for full-time jobs, I’ve had to seek out internships that would help me gain career skills that apply to the sports industry but are also valuable within other fields. For example, at IndyHumane, I learned about the importance of non-profits in our community, gained writing and marketing skills, and had a whole lot of fun. My second internship with the Drew and Mike Show taught me how to edit podcasts, monitor fan interaction, and become an on-air personality. Then, I was able to land an internship with Nine13sports, another non-profit. There, I learned more about running company social media campaigns, working with kids, and blogging.

Now, I will be the Digital Marketing Intern for CCA Sports. This is possibly the most competitive internship I have landed so far. When interviewing with CCA Sports, I made sure to bring tangible examples of projects I had done with my other internships, sharing how I had helped those companies grow. It was my previous internship experiences that ultimately landed me the internship I have this summer.

So, to those of you wondering if it’s too soon to jump into an internship: It isn’t. Be confident in what you know and what you can do. Internships provide opportunities to learn and build your network. Take advantage of being in the great city of Indianapolis, and go after what you set out to do the day you decided to become a Bulldog.

istock
Experiential Learning

Pharmacy Students to Fill Indy’s Prescription for Hand Sanitizer

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Apr 30 2020

A small group of Pharmacy graduate students will briefly step away from their long-term research projects to help fill a need for the Indianapolis community.

Utilizing their lab skills, Victor Anguiano, Mohammed Ramadan, and Zach Todd are mixing up gallons of hand sanitizer to donate to Circle City hospitals, as well as homeless shelters, nursing homes, and domestic abuse treatment centers. Funding for the project came from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (COPHS). Pharmacy faculty members Sudip and Nandita Das are supervising the project, which will distribute the sanitizer in 200-milliliter bottles.

The recipe contains 75 percent alcohol, making it more effective than some products once found on store shelves.

“We’re working from specifications set up by the World Health Organization, and we’re meeting their standards to make it efficient,” says Anguiano, who also works in research and development in the pharmaceutical industry. “Everything’s been verified.”

Anguiano says the entire process should take two days: Day one will consist of mixing the sanitizer and leaving it to settle overnight. Day two will be for bottling and distribution.

The process of making hand sanitizer is easy, especially for Pharmacy researchers. Combining the alcohol with glycerol only takes 10 minutes in lab mixers. The glycerol gives the sanitizer a gel-like consistency and a hydrating element. The students kept the recipe simple, excluding scents or other frills that would slow down the process.

“Being pharmacy students, this is one of the main ways we are able to contribute,” Anguiano says. ”We have a responsibility to make an impact in this fight.”

Professor of Pharmaceutics Sudip Das says many Butler students, staff, and faculty members are helping the community—and beyond—during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is proud of the students who are taking time out of their research to lend a hand.

“The No. 1 thing is that you do whatever you can during this humanitarian crisis,” Das says. “We are trying to make sure people know that COPHS is in the fight against this pandemic, and we want everyone to be safe and healthy.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

istock
Experiential Learning

Pharmacy Students to Fill Indy’s Prescription for Hand Sanitizer

A trio of graduate students will make 50 liters of sanitizer for donation to community programs and facilities

Apr 30 2020 Read more
istock
Experiential Learning

In Switch to eLearning, Butler Student-Teacher Finds What Matters Most

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Apr 24 2020

Patrick Conway, a senior Secondary Education major at Butler University, spent three days student-teaching in a seventh-grade classroom before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the nation to move online.

Now, as he continues his own Butler coursework remotely, he’s back home in Naperville, Illinois. But that isn’t stopping him from staying connected with his students at Zionsville West Middle School.

“The College of Education really emphasizes that you need to be flexible as a teacher,” Conway says. “Not every day is going to look the same. Not every lesson is going to look the same. That’s helped me adjust now. I am going with the flow and doing my best to help these students learn.”

For Conway, that has meant experimenting with new technologies and redesigning class content to fit the online space. Group work becomes individual projects. Interactive simulations become research papers. But Conway says the transition has given him a chance to focus on the most important parts of the curriculum, narrowing down ideas to spend more time on key points.

“Obviously, I would still prefer to be in the classroom,” he says. “But this situation has made all teachers reflect more on what we’re teaching. In the long-term, I think it might make classes and learning better.”

Conway says being physically separated from students has given him more appreciation for time spent in the classroom, and it reminds teachers how important it is to build relationships and provide support.

“For some of these students who maybe don’t have access to food at home, or whose parents are struggling with the effects of the pandemic, school might not be the most important thing right now,” Conway says. “So you still have to be there for them any way you can.”

Free online tools like FlipGrid, which Conway uses to create and share daily videos, have been key for staying connected with students and providing engaging lessons. Conway is using this time to explore new technologies, planning for how he might keep using them even after class is back in the classroom.

“You can be told over and over to always be ready for the unexpected,” he says, “but once you actually experience it, you are so much more prepared moving forward. We’re just all staying flexible and learning new things together. Teachers are a resilient group of people, and we are working hard to make this the best possible experience for our students.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

istock
Experiential Learning

In Switch to eLearning, Butler Student-Teacher Finds What Matters Most

Adapting to a pandemic, Patrick Conway develops new online content for seventh-graders at Zionsville West Middle School

Apr 24 2020 Read more
Mark Macbeth teaches from home
Experiential Learning

LAS Professor Finds the Right Chemistry for Distance Learning

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Apr 07 2020

About a month ago, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Mark Macbeth would look out to his General Chemistry lecture to see 57 first-year students in their seats inside a Gallahue Hall classroom, taking notes on chemical bonding.

Today, when he looks at his class, it’s like watching a more-crowded version of the intro to The Brady Bunch as the same 57 students pop up in little squares of video on Zoom. Since Butler University switched to online learning on March 19, the students and professor have used the popular video conferencing app three times a week for review sessions of the video lectures Macbeth posts on Canvas.

“I thought it was going to be chaos, but you roll up your sleeves and work through it,” says Macbeth with a laugh. “The students can still ask questions, and we still work through the problems together.”

The General Chemistry course also includes a lab section. With the academic labs closed for the semester, Macbeth says it was more of a challenge to figure out how to give his students proper lab experience online. Before, the students would strap on gloves, goggles, and lab coats for hands-on work—setting up the experiment, writing out reaction equations, and pouring the chemicals.

Macbeth decided to create demonstration videos of the experiments. In these “virtual labs,” staff and faculty from the Clowes Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry recorded experiments on concepts such as equilibrium and saturation. Ammonia added to silver chloride causes it to dissolve, and light pink cobalt solution mixed with chloride changes to dark blue, which makes for easier observation from a student’s laptop.

“It’s up to the students to interpret that data,” says Macbeth, whose current research focuses on the biochemical analysis of nucleic acid-protein interactions, as well as RNA and DNA editing. “At the end of the video, they do an online quiz about what their observations were and what concepts were used during the reaction.”

Macbeth's lecture notes
Macbeth uses a tablet to write notes in red during his distance learning lectures.

Students say the transition to online lectures has been smooth. For Healthcare and Business major Mason Runkel, not having the chance to be in a physical lab to refine his fine measurement skills has been the toughest aspect of learning from his home in Bloomington, Illinois. But he says Macbeth’s use of visuals and voiceovers on the digital lessons allows him to understand concepts just as well as he would in the classroom.

Chemistry major Audrey Wojtowicz says she was concerned about losing valuable lab experience, especially for complex techniques. An upcoming lab will focus on titration—the slow addition of one solution of a known concentration to a known volume of another solution of unknown concentration until the reaction reaches neutralization. However, Macbeth’s availability during the three weekly review sessions, as well as his office hours over Zoom, has eased some worries.

“Especially now, if you have concerns, go to your professor,” Wojtowicz says. “Everyone is in the same boat. Admittedly, I was stressed out, but I was assured it will be OK. Faculty members understand, and they are going to adapt to our needs for next semester.”

Macbeth has been impressed with his students’ performance the last few weeks, but he knows the online learning transition can sometimes be tough. He wants students to know he is there for them for the rest of the semester and beyond.

“It’s not an ideal situation at all for us,” Macbeth says, “but we’re trying to make it work the best we can. We’re trying to get the students to have some sort of learning process about chemistry, learn some chemical processes, and learn to interpret data.

“To the students who are really uncertain about this, I just want to let them know we are on their side. We want to help them get through this successfully and prepare them for their future courses.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

Mark Macbeth teaches from home
Experiential Learning

LAS Professor Finds the Right Chemistry for Distance Learning

With hands-on experiments now impossible, Mark Macbeth created video-based virtual labs for his chemistry class

Apr 07 2020 Read more
C. Patience Masamha
Experiential Learning

Butler Researcher Explores New Approach to Ovarian Cancer Treatment

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 02 2020

C. Patience Masamha has dedicated her research to fighting cancer by discovering new drug deliveries at the molecular level. The Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ new project will tackle ovarian cancer and its tendency to return after initial, successful chemotherapy.

The project is based on preliminary ovarian cell research done by Masamha and two graduate students, Zach Todd and Bettine Gibbs ’19.

“Patients who usually respond to chemotherapy drugs will, at some point, develop resistance to those drugs,” says Masamha, who chose to study cancer after her grandfather passed away from mantle cell lymphoma. “Once the patient is diagnosed, they usually go through surgeries and aggressive chemotherapy. Patients usually respond well to treatment, but the cancer often comes back. And when it comes back, it’s resistant to the original chemotherapy.”

Todd and Masamha
Graduate student Zach Todd, right, and Professor C. Patience Masamha work in the lab.

In January, Masamha received a $10,000 New Investigator grant from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy to fund the work. The project will explore why ovarian cancer is so drug-resistant, especially compared to other cancers. The goal is to develop a new drug that will make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy, lowering the chance of relapse.

Masamha is looking at drug transporter proteins, which are the body’s natural way of removing toxins from healthy cells. But cancer hijacks this system, repurposing those toxin-removing proteins to pump chemotherapeutic drugs back out of cancerous tumor cells—reducing the treatment’s effectiveness and resulting in a drug-resistant disease. Masamha wants to know how these drug transporters are produced in order to later develop drugs that target these transporters to stop refluxing drug molecules in the cells of ovarian cancer patients.

Masamha says there is conflicting information in her field about these proteins. Some papers state the drug transporter concentrations are high in ovarian cancer patients, while other researchers say the same proteins are too low in the patients. Masamha’s research aims to provide more understanding of how these proteins behave under the influence of cancer.

Masamha’s research focuses on messenger RNA (mRNA), which reads DNA codes from the drug transporter genes to help the body create proteins. Different forms of mRNA can be made from the same DNA sequence. When cancer is present, the cells overproduce shortened mRNAs, which behave in a way that leads to the spread of cancer. Masamha is trying to figure out how short and long mRNAs can be made from the same DNA sequence, with the goal of creating a drug that would help prevent production of short mRNA.

The shorter mRNAs in cancer cells—which would need to be destroyed to prevent chemotherapeutic drugs from being kicked out of the cell—aren’t always detected by current treatment methods. Masamha’s group is working on ways to better detect those affected molecules, and to figure out how cancer cells generate these shorter mRNAs in the first place.

“If we are able to detect those short mRNA messages, that would clear up conflicting information in the field about these proteins,” she says. “We want to develop drugs that prevent the shorter mRNA from being produced in cancer cells. This will reduce the amount of drug transporter proteins that are made by tumor cells, allowing anti-cancer drugs to work.”

Zach Todd has been working in Masamha’s lab since fall 2016. He says focusing on the mRNA activity within cancer-affected cells could lead to a new way to treat cancer—helping healthcare providers stay a step ahead of the disease.

“Sometimes cancer has the annoying habit of figuring things out faster than we can,” Todd says. “We have to work around it, and this project is very promising.”

 

Photos by Brent Smith

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

C. Patience Masamha
Experiential Learning

Butler Researcher Explores New Approach to Ovarian Cancer Treatment

The disease’s drug resistance could be explained by its effect on cell proteins, Prof. C. Patience Masamha says

Mar 02 2020 Read more
Experiential Learning

Triple Threat: Dancer, DJ, Chemistry Instructor

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Feb 11 2020

It’s almost showtime for Carl DeAmicis.

The Chemistry Lecturer has the music cued, the camera about to roll, and some dance moves at the ready. But this isn’t his demo reel for the next season of America’s Got Talent. It’s another online lecture filled with a lot of organic chemistry and showmanship.

When DeAmicis hits record on the desktop computer inside Irwin Library’s Lightboard Studio, he gets down on all fours—out of camera shot. He crawls under the lightboard, where a complicated chemistry problem is scrawled in bright green pen. Then DeAmicis dramatically rises into view as Ed Sheeran’s Beautiful People echoes around him.

DeAmicis doesn’t think his dance moves are particularly good or special, but the music-filled introductions get his students to log on and watch the online lessons.

“I think the idea of an Organic Chemistry instructor in his 60s who is willing to get up there and dance is what makes it special,” he says. 

For the class that also includes lab sessions and in-person lectures, the videos are more like focused tutoring sessions. DeAmicis saves his main lectures for in-class, but both formats are high-energy. 

DeAmicis realized early on that his students’ musical tastes are different from his, so he takes recommendations from his kids—who are in their 20s—and finds other songs on pop playlists. But the dancing comes naturally, and the moves are as organic as the chemistry he teaches. 

Beyond the dancing, DeAmicis’ class is notoriously difficult. About 80 percent of the students are majors in the College of Pharmacy and Health Science, and Organic Chemistry is often the last hurdle before they move on to graduate work.

“My goal is to kind of make it light-hearted so that it’s a little bit fun—not just torture,” DeAmicis says. “Unfortunately, it’s still really difficult. It’s a little more fun, but no one says it's any easier.”

Story Fridays

Among DeAmicis’ class traditions, Story Fridays have become a hit. The lecturer pulls from his 30-year career at Eli Lilly and Company and Dow AgroSciences, as well as his time as a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. His stories lend insights into the kinds of careers or advanced studies that await his class of undergrads, often relating to what the class is learning that week.

“I find the students like to hear about real-world applications of the stuff we’re doing,” DeAmicis says. “My first Story Friday was about a 15-year project on a molecule discovery and development called Spinetoram. The entire class applauded after my story, and I was floored. Ever since then, I start every Friday class with a story, unless we have an exam.”

Carl DeAmicis
Carl DeAmicis gets animated during a recent Organic Chemistry class.

A recent class began with DeAmicis’ take on studying under and researching for Eugene Earle van Tamelen, a pioneering bioorganic chemist and an imposing figure by the time DeAmicis enrolled in his lab in 1983. He spoke about being thrown into teaching van Tamelen’s chemistry course in front of 250 students. He did well enough to earn two crisp $50 bills from the intimidating professor’s wallet. 

“My opinion of van Tamelen prior to that day was down here,” quips DeAmicis, stooping down to the classroom floor before rising to his tiptoes. “After that day, it was up here. He turned out to be one of the nicest people I ever met. He even let me use his office to write my dissertation.”

Turning to his students, DeAmicis drives home the moral of his Friday story.

“During your career, you will hear horror stories about certain people,” he says. “And then when you meet them, you’ll develop a relationship, and it just might be the best ever. It happens, and I want you to remember this story.”

The chance to make a difference for even just one student a semester is why DeAmicis continues to teach after retirement.

“For me, it’s the pinnacle of fulfillment,” DeAmicis says. “That’s what makes it worthwhile.”

Twitter sensation

Dustin Soe, a junior studying Biochemistry, says the Organic Chemistry class would be more difficult if it wasn’t for DeAmicis’ passion and creativity toward the challenging material.

“He’s quite different from everyone else, but that works for me. I like it,” he says. “It can be hard to come to class on Friday, but he loves pop music and dancing around. He makes it more entertaining.”

Pharmacy sophomore Reilly Livingston is one of many students who appreciate the instructor's energy in a difficult class. She has tweeted dozens of videos of DeAmcis’ dance moves, along with one clip of DeAmicis dressed as a wizard for Halloween. (He used “magic” to pull down a projection screen for that day’s lecture.)

“The dancing is something really fun,” Livingston says. “He puts in a lot of effort because I think he realizes it is a difficult class. I wasn’t looking forward to the class going in, but now it has become one of my favorites.”

 

Carl DeAmicis’ greatest hits

The Organic Chemistry instructor has entertained his students all year, but some of his top moments include:

  • Getting hit by a giant rubber ball to Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball,
  • Donning a blue wig and strumming along on a guitar to Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, 
  • And dressing up in the style of Jimmy Buffett for a lecture.

 

Photography by Brent Smith and Tim Brouk; video by Joel Stein

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Experiential Learning

Triple Threat: Dancer, DJ, Chemistry Instructor

Carl DeAmicis’ Organic Chemistry course is notoriously tough, but he finds ways to keep students interested

Feb 11 2020 Read more
Prof. Chris Stobart and senior Benjamin Nick
Experiential Learning

Butler Researchers Work Toward Possible Coronavirus Treatment

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Jan 31 2020

As the coronavirus spreads globally and the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency, a team of Butler University researchers are working toward a potential virus vaccine and drug development.

The research team, led by Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart, is focused on a protease named nonstructural protein 5 (nsp5) —an enzyme that cuts larger viral proteins into smaller proteins. Backed by a team of five undergraduate researchers, Stobart has found an important region in the structure of the protease in the mouse hepatitis virus, a coronavirus of its own that affects mice and is safe to study in a lab. It’s structure mimics coronaviruses that affect humans. They hypothesize that inhibiting the enzyme’s effects on the protein could stop the virus’ replication.

 

“Without the protein, the virus is dead,” Stobart says. “It’s a vital target that a lot of groups in the past have looked at to develop therapeutic options. What we’re doing is trying to mutate parts of this enzyme to figure out what regions are potential targets for the drug.”

As a microbiologist and virologist, Stobart finds new behaviors in viruses with the goal of biochemists or pharmacologists to then create medicines to fight the virus. Stobart says the research on nsp5 should be finished this spring and ready to publish in the summer.

By understanding the important parts of the protease, a drug can be developed to throw a hammer into the coronavirus’ machinations. Those regions of the enzyme that can’t be mutated without killing the virus are important to map on the protein’s structure. They are “hotspots” for biochemists to attack with therapeutics. The important area they identified is called the interdomain loop within the protease. The project began in 2018 but in 2020, the research has real-world applications.

The December emergence of the coronavirus, which has infected thousands worldwide and killed more than 80 in China, is serendipitous but the work can affect related coronaviruses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and those that cause the common cold.

“This virus’ mortality rate is much less than SARS and MERS, closer to about 3 or 4 percent, but it’s spreading much more quickly,” says Stobart, whose last decade of research projects have included coronaviruses that affect humans.

Mansi Pandya in the lab
Senior Mansi Pandya is an undergrad researching coronaviruses in Chris Stobart's lab.

Benjamin Nick, a Biology and Chemistry major, has worked in Stobart’s lab since his first year at Butler. Well-versed in lab techniques, Nick’s work started out like the proverbial “needle in a haystack” but zeroing in on nsp5 has revealed exciting results. Using a serial dilution technique to work with manageable levels of virus, Nick helped identify key residues in the mouse virus samples that could translate to therapeutic targets against human coronavirus strains.

“We put progressively less virus into our racks, from 10 times as strong to 1/100,000th of dilution,” Nick says. “We grow the virus at different temperatures—37 degrees Celsius for normal homeostatic body temperature to 40 degrees Celsius to mimic a human spiking a fever.”

Nick found that mutating parts of the interdomain loop of the protease made the virus more unstable than usual at higher temperatures. These parts of the protease that would weaken under mutations are targets for the Stobart lab’s molecular research.

Nick says working on the coronavirus project has been fulfilling and he is looking forward to seeing his name on published research that could have major ramifications in coronavirus treatment.

“Over the last couple years, I’ve had the dream of developing a thesis and seeing it come to completion,” he adds. “Now that I've put in the work, done the things I need to do to prepare myself and gather the data, I can do that. It’s exciting to see how much of an impact my research time here at Butler can have. 

“The work I've been doing is relevant now. It matters. It’s literally impacting lives.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu

Prof. Chris Stobart and senior Benjamin Nick
Experiential Learning

Butler Researchers Work Toward Possible Coronavirus Treatment

Biology Professor Chris Stobart’s lab has focused on a protease in the deadly virus that could inhibit replication

Jan 31 2020 Read more
Ashley Altman in United Arab Emirates
Experiential Learning

Butler’s first Gilman Scholars embark for international study

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Jan 24 2020

Two Butler University students traveled a combined 15,000-plus miles to conduct research abroad, thanks to the U.S. Department of State’s Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships. 

International Studies major Ashley Altman and Biology junior Dakotah Harris are the first Butler recipients of the nationally competitive scholarship, which enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad while gaining skills related to national security and economic prosperity. The program was established in 2000.

Dakotah Harris
Dakotah Harris

Altman left for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on January 16. She is studying political science at the American University of Sharjah.

Harris is stationed in the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, where he’ll gain experience in public health. He will learn outside the classroom via one-on-one mentorships through April 4. Harris will also work with a volunteer group from the Human Sciences Research Council. Their mission will be to educate nearby populations about HIV while diagnosing and treating those with the disease.

“There’s a lot of very dangerous myths around HIV,” Harris says. “I’ll be working on getting information to the townships that don’t necessarily have all the resources they may need.”

Receiving $4,500 from the Gilman Scholarship, Altman’s trip is part of the International Student Exchange Programs. His time in South Africa will help pave a career path in epidemiology and the prevention of infectious diseases.

Harris says the opportunity will get him in on the “ground level” for his future work in public health.

“I’m excited for this life-changing experience. I’m ready to serve the people,” says Harris, who will leverage two years of research experience in Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Berry’s lab for his work abroad.

“Dakotah's drive and dedication to research will help him further investigate vaccines. Specifically from my lab, Dakotah has learned several skills and techniques—like animal handling—that will be useful for him in his future research endeavors,” says Berry, adding that Harris has become a student leader in her lab. “I think this trip will give Dakotah a chance to help a lot of people, and that's what he's all about.”

About 40 percent of Butler students take advantage of study abroad opportunities. For Harris and Atlman, The Gilman Scholarship has made that easier.

“To me, receiving a Gilman means that the students are motivated personally and academically to jump any hurdle in order to study abroad,” says Jill McKinney, Director of Global Engagement at Butler. “Not only are the students likely going abroad for the first time, but they’re also going to locations that have significant cultural and linguistic differences.”

McKinney expects Altman and Harris to benefit from their experience by improving language and communication skills, gaining intercultural agility, and making contacts from around the world.

“Study abroad is a great talking point in job interviews,” McKinney says. “In fact, we’ve anecdotally heard from our former students that they are asked more about their study abroad experiences than anything else they list on their resumes.

“For many Gilman Scholarship recipients, this scholarship is the reason they can make study abroad happen.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu

Ashley Altman in United Arab Emirates
Experiential Learning

Butler’s first Gilman Scholars embark for international study

The awards will allow the students to complete research in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates

Jan 24 2020 Read more

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