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Research Lab Participants

Exploring the Unanswered

Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

In the depths of Gallahue Hall, 14 Butler University undergrads work to make the vaccines for a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide actually effective. But first, with the Backstreet Boys harmonizing about wanting it that way in the background, they need some really good ice.

The students are studying strains of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, for which there is no vaccine. There certainly are people looking for one, Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart, also known as ‘Doc’ in this lab, explains. Lots of people. Major research universities and pharmaceutical companies alike are working to bring the first RSV vaccine to market. For them, Stobart says, the keys are to make sure their vaccine candidate is safe and effective. But these researchers are overlooking a major issue. Enter— Butler University.

RSV breaks down even at refrigeration temperature. That matters because the vaccines needed for infants require a live virus. Those chasing an RSV vaccine, Stobart explains, are so caught up with being first, they aren’t so focused on making sure it will actually last once it leaves the factory.

“Everyone has their eyes on the prize—the vaccine,” Stobart says. “But the key question that underlies how vaccines work is being ignored. They have to be stable, safe, and immunogenic. You need all three things to make a vaccine work. Without the answers coming from our lab, you only have two elements.”

So, here we are, back to the ice, back to the basement in Gallahue, and back to the Backstreet Boys. The thing everyone is overlooking is this whole temperature thing.

And Stobart would know. He was one of the overlookers. ‘Doc’ used to be in the business of finding vaccines. That’s how he realized such an important question was being ignored. As a postdoctoral research fellow at Emory University, he was on the hunt for an RSV vaccine. While doing that research, he realized that no one was worrying about whether or not that vaccine would actually last more than a day. So, he started going against the grain and decided to use a different strain of RSV for his vaccine. He got lucky, he says, and the strain he chose ended up being more stable than the strain that everyone else is using. His vaccine, which should enter clinical trials next year, would last longer than the vaccines being developed by most other research labs.

Now, he and his army of Butler undergrads are digging deeper into the very questions Stobart stumbled upon: What makes some RSV strains more resistant than others, and what strain of RSV would make it least susceptible to temperature variations?

This is the work of the Stobart Lab. But it is hardly just a place where major scientific questions are being answered. MCAT prep happens here. Trivia nights happen here. Ideas for other research projects happen here—five experiments are taking place right now. And, on occasion, naps take place here, thanks to a new couch on loan from a student’s family. First-year students through seniors mill in and out of the lab in the basement of Gallahue Hall on any given day or night. Just ask Jenna Nosek ’20, who storms in on a recent Tuesday afternoon.

“I have spent 19 hours in here the past few days: don’t test me, Sean [a fellow lab mate],” she jokes, and with that, she is out, the two lab mates laughing, as she makes her way out the door.

“I have told her to back off on the hours,” Stobart says. “But she is the expert in the lab right now on HPMV, another human respiratory virus we are researching. On her own, she brought this virus to Butler to study. She is essentially teaching us all, myself included, how this virus works and behaves.”

But at its core, this is research at Butler. Undergrads and faculty members teaming up to come up with, and then explore, the unanswered, overlooked questions that are vital to their field of study, but go ignored at larger, more research-focused institutions—where there is constant pressure to publish on hot topics, but not necessarily on the more nuanced, just as vital, questions.

“The primary goal of our research at Butler is to provide an environment for our undergrads to understand what science is, how it’s performed, and how it’s used in our world. We use science and research as a teaching tool,” Stobart says. “But the second goal, which is no less important, is to provide answers to the scientific community that still move the community forward. They don’t have to all be big answers, but they have to be answers nonetheless.


 

Student working in the labFor Kate Morris, it’s really simple. Higher education boils down to two things: teaching, and the production of new knowledge. The way to produce new knowledge, according to Morris, Butler’s Provost since 2012, is through research. And not just the traditional type of research that most people envision when they hear the word. It goes beyond beakers, test tubes, and chemicals. Research might be in a lab, of course, but it also takes the form of writing, literary analysis, anything that produces new information.

“The way I think about it is if we aren’t doing research, we aren’t doing our jobs as teachers,” Morris says. “Research is the production of new information that will be taught in tomorrow’s classrooms. We are always looking for faculty who are active scholars, furthering their disciplines, and who are furthering their disciplines while also teaching their undergrad students how to do that.”

But what makes Butler unique, she says, is the way it tackles each of these goals. At larger institutions, faculty tend to prioritize knowledge production, and teaching lags behind. Research is done with grad students, and it’s not a form of teaching, but rather a way to get recognition in major journals and move up within the institution and, subsequently, the field. Undergrads rarely get the opportunity to put their stamp on the project, she says.

At smaller institutions, Morris says, undergrads act like grad students. They have the chance to develop their own projects. But it’s much more than just a small school versus large school thing. Butler is unique in its offerings, she says.

While Stobart’s lab might be one of the largest on campus, it’s hardly the only research cooking.

Tara Lineweaver, Professor of Psychology, started a project in 2014 that looks at music’s impact on dementia patients. Since its inception, 156 students across all disciplines have been involved.

Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Ryan Rogers started a Sports Media Research Group in fall 2018, along with Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Lee Farquhar.

The point, Rogers says, was to look deeper into different facets of sports media. The group published a paper on the impact of sponsors on esports, and recently presented their findings in Las Vegas at the annual Broadcast Education Association convention.

And sometimes the researchers extend beyond the Butler campus. Butler senior Political Science and Criminology major Julio Trujillo ’19 is working on a research project with Political Science Professor Siobhan McEvoy-Levy and three high school students from the Butler-Tarkington community. The crew got together as part of Butler’s Desmond Tutu Peace Lab, which McEvoy-Levy directs, and the Lab’s dedication to undergrad research and dialogue. They’re studying perceptions of career barriers according to minority youth.

Then there’s the telescope. Since 2008, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Brian Murphy has teamed up with Professor of Physics and Astronomy Xianming Han to produce 65 journal publications. And 29 of those have student co-authors. Topics of study range from the short- and long-term behavior of astronomical phenomena, to the rotation periods of asteroids, to the pulsating variables of stars, to the eclipsing variables of stars. All of the scholarship was made possible by a gift in 2008 from Frank Levinson ’75 which enabled Butler to join the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. Since then, Murphy says, research involvement in astronomy has ballooned.

“In today’s world, coursework may give you the knowledge you need for a career, but coursework alone will only get you so far,” Murphy says. “Research gives those intangibles. It can be described as flying by the seat of your pants, not knowing what is around the next corner. And for that matter, trying to figure out how to get around the next corner. The problem-solving skills learned from doing original research can be transferred to any field.”

Look no further than Murphy’s former student, Katie Hannigan ’08. The former Theatre major got involved at the Holcomb Observatory on some projects and, Murphy says, gleaned different skills, like speaking in front of crowds, and presenting complex information, like research.

Hannigan is now a standup comedian, and recently performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (Read Hannigan’s story on Page 6.)


 

Stobart supervises students in the labMarisa Miller ’19 understands firsthand why research matters.

She has no memory of the details—she was just three months old—but her mom reminds her often. It started as a cough in the middle of the night. But, quickly escalated, and soon she was struggling to breathe.

Miller ended up in a hospital for a week, diagnosed with RSV. She was quarantined to a tent within the hospital for three days. After those first few days, her parents were allowed to hold her, but they had to put on the same gear a surgeon wears. They were terrified, Miller says, that she wouldn’t make it to her first birthday.

“When I was growing up, it was just something that happened to me that I knew was very bad. But I don’t think I understood how bad it is, and how many people it impacts,” Miller says.

Now, she does. Her Butler roommate is Darby DeFord, one of the students in the Stobart Lab working on the RSV research, and a co-lead author on the paper the group has submitted to the Journal of General Virology.

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for children under age 1 in the United States. As Miller explains, it presents itself like the flu, or other common colds, but can be deadly for the elderly or the young. In the United States, RSV leads to more than 2 million outpatient visits, and about 60,000 hospitalizations every year for children under age 5, according to the CDC.

That explains the race for a vaccine. But it doesn’t explain the problems inherent in that race, Stobart says.

As teams all over the world work to be the first to bring a vaccine to market, he explains, to solve a very real clinical need, most are using the same strain of RSV in these vaccine preparations. There are 1,000s of different strains of RSV circulating in nature, and each strain differs subtly. But the focus is just on creating a vaccine, not on all the different strains, how they behave, what makes them different, and which might make the best vaccine candidate, he says.

Enter the Stobart Lab.

They are the first group to thoroughly focus their research on how different strains behave, Stobart says. The group of 10 undergrads who will all be co-authors on the journal paper found that the warmer it gets, the more quickly RSV breaks down. But, they also found that certain strains are more resilient to temperature than others. And the strain that is being used in many vaccine candidates currently is not the best candidate.

The popular strain, A2, used in many vaccine candidates, has a half-life of 17 hours. So after 17 hours, half the virus will be ineffective. The Butler students found that a different strain, A2-line19F, is much more resilient to temperature, and has a half-life of 135 hours.

“We’re talking about something that’s much more effective. And what it suggests is there may be promise for finding an even better platform to use.” Stobart says.


 

Student working in the labRusty Jones cannot decide where to begin. There are so many different options.

Jones is the Faculty Director of the Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement (CHASE) at Butler. His office oversees many of the different options for undergrads to get involved in research at Butler. And Jones cannot decide where to begin.

There’s the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). It’s one of the largest and longest running undergraduate research conferences in the country, and Butler has played host for 31 years. Faculty serve as moderators, but it’s undergrad-focused, as well as interdisciplinary. Students from across the country flock to Indianapolis to present, Jones says.

Then there’s the Butler Summer Institute.

Students get a $4,500 stipend to work on a research project for nine weeks during the summer. The projects are guided by a faculty member, but the ideas are student-driven. It’s a competitive process, as a committee of faculty members select up to 30 participants from all the student applicants.

New this year, Jones explains, is the CHASE Scholars program. It is, essentially, the Butler Summer Institute, but the research occurs during the academic year. The program funds four participants across campus.

It’s nearly impossible to say how many students participate in research at Butler, Jones says, because not all do it through one of these programs. There are plenty of students who get involved in a more informal manner with one of their professors. But, he says, it’s safe to say the majority of students across all disciplines participate at some point during their college experience.

“The biggest thing about our programs is everyone has a faculty member working closely with them, as students dive into topics they are passionate about,” Jones says. “The strength of Butler comes from the opportunities students get to forge one-on-one working relationships with faculty, and that faculty are willing to take this on because they know how valuable it is to the educational experience.”


 

Coming into Butler as a first-year student, Darby DeFord ’19 had no idea what research even was. Now, as a senior, she is the first co-author on the RSV paper.

The senior Biology and Chemistry major has worked in the Stobart Lab since she was a sophomore. Since then, she has presented on the team’s findings at several conferences, including the Butler URC, and in Maryland at the American Society for Virology Annual Meeting.

Next year, she will work in a lab at Washington University in St. Louis studying RSV. Looking at stability. And after that? She plans to pursue her MD/PhD.

“Dr. Stobart connected me with the person I will be working for at Wash U. I was starting to look for jobs and I texted him for some help, and by the next day he’d sent my name to a bunch of his contacts. Within a few days, I was connected with Wash U,” DeFord says. “That’s Dr. Stobart. He’s so much more than just a professor. He’s a mentor, he’s someone who’s willing to help us with anything we need.”

Juniors Sean Callahan and Ben Nick have the MCAT in five weeks. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, as they run an experiment under the watchful eye of ‘Doc,’ they ask him for help with the reading comprehension section. Callahan is not too keen on that section.

The lab consists of a mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-year students. Some want to go to med school, some want to be dentists, some optometrists, some PhD tracks. But there is one common thread: most had no plans of getting involved in research before coming to Butler.

“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor,” explains Jenna Nosek, a junior Biology and Classical Studies major with a Chemistry minor. “Everyone comes to college with the same jobs in mind. But then, research opened my eyes to all the different opportunities available to me, and all the different things you can learn about. I realized you can study the most random things and that can be your life’s work. It can be your job to study something that you are really interested in, that is really impactful, and you can enjoy it more than a job. Research has been eye-opening.”

Nosek first met Stobart when she had him as a professor in her first semester genetics course. He told her to interview for his lab. So she went home for fall break, thought about it, and talked it over with some cousins.

They told her she would never get into a research lab. She was just an undergrad. Those spots were reserved for grad students, they told her.

Nosek interviewed anyway.

She was shocked when she got in, she says. Now she is an author on two papers, is regularly in the lab at 3:00 AM, has presented the findings at conferences in Maryland and Minnesota, and worked in a research lab last summer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She was just accepted to a biomedical summer research program at Harvard University.

Oh, and she no longer wants to be a doctor.

“I realized you can be a professor and do research,” Nosek says. “There are so many different things you can study that aren’t explained to you until you get to school, get into the lab, and see these things firsthand, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Now I realize I can do what I enjoy every single day as a profession.”

Which sounds eerily similar to what got everyone in this basement in the first place. You know, the place with the ice, and, yes, those Backstreet Boys.

You see, ‘Doc’ was all set to be a, well, doctor. He was on the pre-med path, but then decided he wanted to teach and research. That is why he left his RSV vaccine candidate, and instead decided to answer those unanswered, overlooked questions he realized were being ignored. So now he is surrounded by undergrads who call him ‘Doc,’ and ask him mid-experiment what is more filling, McDonalds or Taco Bell.

“When I left Emory, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved both teaching and research,” Stobart says. “I always intended to be pre-med, but then I decided teaching was important to me. Butler fits the mold of a school I wanted because it has a research system that is amenable to undergrad research. I can’t do the stuff that is high-end, detailed research, because undergrads come in and don’t have the skills yet. They are new. They don’t have the science background yet. But I knew I wanted a system that would involve simple experimental assays, but still would have the impact and make meaningful contributions to the scientific community while teaching important lessons. I think we are doing that here.”

Research Lab Participants
Academics

Exploring the Unanswered

by Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Read more
Jordan Thomas ’14

Mastering Risk Management and Insurance

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2019

“I’m nearing the five-year mark in my industry, and the opportunities I’ve been given at such a young age have been extraordinary.”

That’s how Jordan Thomas ’14 sums up the value of his Butler Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) undergraduate degree— and why he joined the first-ever cohort in the University’s new Master of Science in Risk and Insurance (MSRI) degree program.

“This industry will see a big need for talent very soon,” Thomas says. “People like me could be in management in just a few years if we have the training. Butler’s master’s program is the answer to that need.”

 

A ‘First-Class’ First Cohort

This two-year learning opportunity prepares individuals for advanced roles in corporate risk management and for new roles within the growing insurance field. Other than two In Residence Experiences, all classes are online with no set schedule, accessible at each student’s convenience. The degree is administered by the Lacy School of Business through its Davey Risk Management and Insurance Program (RMI).

Thomas serves on the Davey board, working closely with faculty to bring professionals into the classroom. He’s been impressed not just with the accredited curriculum, but with how eager faculty were to teach it.

One of those faculty is Davey Chair Dr. Victor Puleo, one of the people most instrumental in creating the MSRI program. He says the breadth of talent within this first cohort is “exhilarating and a little intimidating,” with over 200 years of combined experience in the group.

“We have a Fortune 500 company’s risk manager, a vice president of a multinational insurance company, and leaders from some of the largest insurance carriers in the country,” Puleo says. “With all that knowledge, we’ll be able to have collaborative learning at very high levels. This is a first-class group.”

 

Deep Curriculum Fills Knowledge Gaps

Butler’s Student-Run Captive Insurance Company will further deepen students’ learning by exploring alternative risk financing and a side of the industry few graduates elsewhere study: dealing with a foreign country’s regulatory requirements.

Moreover, the curriculum includes courses from the Butler MBA program, strengthened with content specific to this industry.

“Butler is filling the vacuum between nitty-gritty insurance classes and what we need to be the next generation of managers,” Thomas says. “For example, beyond being able to do a firm’s accounting, I’ll learn how to increase profitability using its vast warehouses of data. That kind of knowledge will boost my ability to be recognized for higher positions within the company.”

Because the program has “phenomenal flexibility,” Thomas says, he will take classes while keeping his full-time job as Associate Manager with Everest Insurance in Chicago.

“I am absolutely excited about Butler’s MSRI program. The industry is growing every day, and Butler is doing something truly special,” he says. “The program has the industry buzzing with excitement, too, and we’re making headlines across the nation. Personally, I’m proud to be an alumnus and proud to be part of the first cohort. This degree will do nothing but help my career move forward.”

 

For more information on the MSRI program, visit butler.edu/msri.

Jordan Thomas ’14
Academics

Mastering Risk Management and Insurance

Alumnus sees new master’s degree as path to promotability.

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2019

Read more
Students with Professor Panos Linos

Developing for the Community

Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

The Christian Healthcare Providers Organization needed an app to compile medical records from its mission trips to the Dominican Republic. Sycamore Services wanted a video game to help children with autism become more social. WFYI asked for a cataloging system that allowed the station to track videos it shot.

They all turned to EPICS, the Butler University Computer Science and Software Engineering class in which students work with local non-profit organizations to solve their computer software and information technology needs.

“I’m a strong believer that the value of software engineering education comes from relating it to real life,” says Computer Science and Software Engineering Professor Panos Linos, who was recruited to Butler in 2000 to help create the first software-engineering undergraduate degree program in Indiana. “If you want to get a degree in software engineering, you have to be exposed to real-life scenarios. EPICS is a great platform to give our students the opportunity to take all the skills they learned in our software engineering courses and use them in a real project with a real customer that is actively interested and has a concrete issue to deal with.”

In a typical EPICS class—the acronym stands for Engineering Projects in Community Service—upwards of 20 students gain experience and expertise not only in developing software but in working as a team, dealing directly with clients, and doing projects that make a difference. The students, who come to the class from all majors, typically work in groups of three to five, with Linos serving as coach/advisor. (More information is at epics.butler.edu.)

At the end of each semester, the students present their work to their peers and clients, explaining what they were asked to do and what they had been able to achieve. Some projects go on for years as different groups of EPICS students create and refine the work.

The Christian Health Providers Organization (CHPO) app has been an EPICS project for more than three years. The group, which works out of Butler’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, goes on an annual mission trip each May to offer medical services in the Dominican Republic. It needed a better way to compile and keep medical records as patients go through the clinic from check-in to examination to the pharmacy, and through community outreach.

“It’s very easy for anything that’s paper to get lost or confused,” says Butler senior Emily Lawson, president of CHPO. “There’s so many things that can go wrong with paper. And we don’t have the advantage of storing patient data over the course of years.”

The Electronic Medical Records (EMR) app the EPICS students built enables the mission students and doctors to avoid having to keep track of paper. With a few taps on an iPad, they can track the patients’ history as well as their medications and doses.

“The fill-in-the-blanks makes it so much easier,” Lawson says. “And it’s all standardized.”

A three-member EPICS team worked to refine the app during the fall 2018 semester. Ryan Perkins ’20, Ugo Udeogu ’18, and Cisco Scaramuzza ’18 said they spent the first six to eight weeks of the course learning the technology they needed.

“It’s a fairly hefty piece of software,” Perkins says, “and yet we’re coming into it with rudimentary knowledge of app development. That was one of the struggles we ran into, but it was a good challenge to help us in the industry.”

“Having a project that’s been worked on for three and a half years, it’s like having experience in the real world,” Udeogu says. “In the real world, a lot of things are already written. So, on the job you have to learn the application, learn the language, and then implement the new functionalities.”

EPICS alumni say the course has been invaluable. Chris Hoffman ’04, who was in one of the earliest EPICS classes and is now an engineer with Raytheon, says what he learned in EPICS helped in his career. Hoffman worked on a project that helped Butler’s annual Undergraduate Research Conference create a database to help register participants and track the submission of information connected with their projects.

He says EPICS replicates a working environment more accurately than any classroom project.

“We learned pretty quickly that dealing with a customer is not necessarily straightforward,” he says. “Even though our customer was a group of college professors, they were treating it like a project that they were invested in and not like a classroom project. Dealing with the customer was very realistic. “

Sean Gibbens ’15, now a software engineer for Emplify, a startup in Fishers, Indiana, was part of a team that worked on an accessibility app to help students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired navigate the campus. During his senior year, he led an EPICS team that worked to revamp the website of The Social of Greenwood, a provider of programs and activities for those in the community who are over 50.

“When I got into the professional working world, I was really thankful for being exposed to that early on in EPICS,” Gibbens says.

Now he helps EPICS by being among a group of 15–20 alumni who serve as consultants to the program.

Panos Linos talks with studentsGibbens says Linos recognized that many of the EPICS projects were something a professional software developer would take on—and that could be daunting for students. So having consultants— people actually in the field—was a good idea.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to teach what I’m actually using every day at work, and it’s definitely good for the students to get a taste of a professional project while being guided by someone who is working full-time on similar technologies,” he says.

In creating EPICS, Linos was ahead of the curve not only in giving students professional experience but in community service. EPICS predates the Indianapolis Community Requirement, which mandates that all Butler students take one course in any part of the University that involves active engagement with the Indianapolis community.

“We did what we felt was a win-win scenario for everybody,” says Linos, whose innovative program was rewarded with a $35,000 endowment gift from the Sallie Mae Fund in 2003 for its potential to attract female and other minority students to Butler.

Chris Bowman, the Internet Projects Manager for WFYI public radio and television in Indianapolis, would agree with that. In 2009, Richard Miles ’91, then WFYI’s Vice President of Audio Services and TV Programming, told him about EPICS and wondered if they could work with the students to develop a cataloging system to track what videos were being shot on tapes, on what days, and where they could be found at the station.

That was a four-plus semester project for EPICS.

In 2013, Bowman again worked with an EPICS team, this time to improve the search algorithm for WFYI.org, their main website.

“It’s been an excellent learning experience to be able to interact with people developing managerial skills and communication skills, and it’s been rewarding to offer mentorship opportunities at times,” Bowman says. “And being a non-profit, WFYI appreciates that schools offer these kinds of programs. A lot of times, we don’t have the monetary resources that a commercial entity would either to hire staff or pay outside vendors. So having this kind of resource is just invaluable.”

Students with Professor Panos Linos
Academics

Developing for the Community

  

by Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

Read more
Academics

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 17 2019

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.

And after listening to Butler University Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice John Hertig, who studies the impact of counterfeit online drug distribution worldwide, rattle off the numbers, you may want to avoid medication sold on the world wide web all together.

62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard."At any one time, there are between 35,000 and 45,000 illegal online pharmacies operating worldwide," he says. "The issue with those illegal online pharmacies, in addition to not operating under the laws and regulations of the United States, is that about 50 percent of them sell counterfeit medications. So in addition to just being the criminals who now have your credit card data and home address, about half the time they're going to ship you counterfeit product."

Hertig is a board member of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), whose mission is to protect patient safety. His research looks at why patients are going online ("No surprise, it's because of cost, but it's also because it's an ecommerce world, and people are not aware of the risks"), and whether pharmacists, nurses, and physicians adequately educate their patients about the risks.

The dangers, Hertig says, are the possibility of getting either a substandard or falsified drug. Substandard could be counterfeit, meaning it might not have any of the active ingredient in it—it could be sugar pills—or there might not be enough, or too much, of the active ingredient. Sometimes, counterfeiters might cut 100 real pills into 1,000 pills by diluting them with sugar, brick dust, antifreeze, or chalk.

Falsified drugs are real, but they haven't been labelled, stored, or handled appropriately.

Hertig says there are ways to tell if an online pharmacy is legitimate. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) owns the ".pharmacy" top-level domain, and there's no way to obtain a dot-pharmacy web address without going through the association.

"If you go to cvs.pharmacy, you're good," he says. "If you go to walgreens.pharmacy, you're good. If you go to bestdrugsever.com, even though the website might look legitimate, you need to second-guess that."

The ASOP and NABP are both heavily involved in consumer education (more information is available at BuySafeRx.pharmacy), as is Hertig in conjunction with the Indiana Coalition for Patient Safety, and a network of hospitals. They've developed toolkits and are working to determine how much doctors, nurses, and pharmacists know about online pharmacies.

This summer, Hertig will be working on a Butler Summer Institute project with Kyla Maloney '22, a Pharmacy student whose research will summarize the possible link between illegal online pharmacies and patient harm worldwide. She plans to do a comprehensive review of the available literature regarding this kind of patient harm and unearth data that can be used for patients and providers to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

Maloney says that during an introductory pharmacy class, she was exposed to the world of online pharmacies and the massive issue surrounding adulterated drugs from these sites.

"The impact these pharmacies have on the economy, health system, and patient well-being were quite intriguing to me," she says. "Pharmacists have a professional responsibility to deliver exceptional care for our patients; in many cases, the ease and convenience of online pharmaceuticals may aid in that mission ... I am hoping this literature review will allow me to help make the world of pharmacy just a bit safer for my future patients."

Academics

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.  

Apr 17 2019 Read more
Academics

Young Researchers Flock to Butler for Undergraduate Research Conference

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 12 2019

Women enroll at Utah Valley University (UVU) at higher rates than the national average. They also drop out at higher rates than the national average.

Since January, UVU undergraduate students Alyssa Jensen, Elizabeht Hansen, Alexis Stallings, and Wendy Covington have been exploring why. They want to know what women are experiencing on campus, and figure out what the school can do to reverse the trend.

On Friday, April 12, they came to Indianapolis from Orem, Utah, to present their preliminary findings at Butler University's 31st Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). The UVU contingent—four students and two faculty sponsors—were among the more than 100 people who came from out of state to present at the conference.

"We wanted to gain some experience as undergrad researchers to present, and Butler seemed like an ideal situation to portray our research, and express our ideas in a setting where people may not be familiar with the research that we're doing," UVU student Alyssa Jensen says.

URC participants came from as far as California and Florida, New York and Colorado. Though the majority of the presenters were from Indiana—and 356 of the 824 were Butler students—23 states were represented.

The UVU project came about when Dr. Stevie Munz, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, and Assistant Professor of Communication Dr. Jessica Pauly received a grant from the university to study women's experiences on campus. Once they assembled the research team, they started looking for undergraduate research conferences where the students could present.

"This conference is one that's really well respected, so we said, 'Let's go. Let's present this,'" Munz says. "So that's what brought us all the way from Utah to Indiana. Actually, there aren't that many undergraduate research conferences that service all the disciplines, so it was a nice fit for us because our project does cross quite a few intersections of education, identity, religion, family life, home life. So we thought we'd be a really good fit for this conference."

Colorado College student Naomi Tsai came to the URC from Colorado Springs. Her research came from a much greater distance—the Red Sea. She studied coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba to determine why they are better able than coral reefs elsewhere to withstand rising temperatures.

She decided to undertake a thesis as part of her degree, and that requires presenting at a conference. She researched conferences, and found the URC.

"I feel like it's a very supportive group of people," she said after her 15-minute presentation in Gallahue Hall. "I don't think I've ever presented in a format like this, and it's really nice to be surrounded mostly by your peers and people who are interested in your research."

Dr. J.C. Blewitt, an Assistant Professor of Management in the School of Business at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was in the audience when one of his students, Rebecca Kinzinger, presented her research showing that millennials going to work at accounting firms want their employers to be active in promoting social entrepreneurship. That is, part of the companies' mission should be to use their professional skills to make a large-scale difference in the world.

Blewitt says it's vital for students planning to go to graduate school to get experience presenting their research at conferences.

"I think a lot of times research conferences can be terrifying," he says. "This conference is a wonderful stepping stone for students to get some exposure, and feel confident, and get some constructive but overall pretty positive feedback from other students and faculty."

Blewitt brought one student to the URC in 2018 and found it "so well run" that he brought two students this year.

"And next year," he says, "maybe three."

Academics

Young Researchers Flock to Butler for Undergraduate Research Conference

URC participants came from as far as California and Florida, New York and Colorado.

Apr 12 2019 Read more
Academics

Advancing the Field: Highlights of the 2019 Undergraduate Research Conference

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 11 2019

Lillian Southern ‘19 was 12 when her brother, Jack, was born with mitochondrial disease. He couldn’t walk, talk, sit up, and later, lost the ability to eat on his own.

Southern quickly became interested in helping him. She was intrigued by the therapy he received. When Jack died in 2012 at the age of 4, Southern decided she wanted to spend her life helping children just like him.

And now, her first research paper might do just that. Inspired by Jack, Southern spent the last year-and-a-half exploring how hearing impairment, as well as disability, in babies impacts interactions between parents and children. The paper, Parent Interaction Between an Infant with a Cochlear Implant and Additional Disabilities: How Interaction is Affected Due to Stress and Difficulty of Communication, was one of four winners in the Competitive Paper division of the Undergraduate Research Conference.

The URC, which takes place for the 31st time April 12 at Butler University, added a Competitive Paper division two years ago to give students experience submitting papers to outside faculty reviewers—the same process, essentially, that happens when professors, for example, submit a paper to a journal in hopes of publishing their research. That panel of reviewers then picked four winning papers from 36 entries. Southern was one of the winners.

In the fall, the Communication Sciences and Disorders major and Special Education minor, will attend graduate school at Indiana University to study Speech Pathology. But in the meantime, she hopes her first research project will help advance the field.

“Research is like an exciting mystery, where you go from having these questions, to actually having an answer,” she says. “But the most powerful thing is, especially in my field, all therapy practices that help kids are based on research people have done. Without having access to questions and answers, you cannot move forward and discover new ways to help people.”

As Southern’s research progressed, the answers did not line up with what she originally thought. She hypothesized that the addition of a disability to a child with hearing impairment would have a major impact on parent-child interactions. She assumed there would be cascading effects of stress, for example. However, the results showed that the addition of a disability didn’t affect interactions as much as other environmental factors, such as education and financial resources.

Tonya Bergeson-Dana, Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Butler, worked with Southern on the project. Bergeson-Dana, who has published on this topic before, says Southern’s findings can help get these families the appropriate resources they need to develop child language.

This relevancy was what struck Tracey Quigley Holden, Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Delaware. Quigley Holden was one of 13 faculty reviewers who looked at the 36 papers that were submitted to the URC’s competitive paper division. Four were selected as winners by the reviewers.

If she’s honest, Quigley Holden wasn’t all that excited to be asked at first. She loves research, but the process of reviewing papers is extremely time consuming. Then she jumped in and was elated.

“These students were really doing work that was innovative and pushing the envelope,” she says. “They were taking on topics that we wouldn’t have touched when I was an undergrad. There was such a range of topics, from race, to class, to politics, there was such a wide range. Students were looking at some of the topics that we are most challenged by in public discourse and society today, not just the confines of academia.”

Quigley Holden, who studies military dissent, has served as a reviewer for fellow colleagues in the world of academia. At times, she says, the process can be monotonous. But not this time.

“Our students are thinking about what they are interested in, what they want to find out about, and they are challenging things,” she says. “Their papers reflect how inquisitive and engaged they are in thinking about the world that they live in and how it works and what they need to know to help them identify larger issues and gain more knowledge. The papers I reviewed looked at questions that are of interest to the public.”

______

If you go to the URC, there’s an endless number of presentations to take in. You may want to start with the winners. Here’s a look at the top four competitive papers:

Lillian Southern, Butler University, Parent Interaction Between an Infant with a Cochlear Implant and Additional Disabilities: How Interaction is Affected Due to Stress and Difficulty of Communication, Faculty Sponsor: Tonya Bergeson-Dana

How does the stress from having a child with hearing loss, or another disability, impact the relationship between parent and child? Southern examined exactly that. She looked at pediatric hearing loss, and how that can contribute to maternal and paternal stress. Because of that stress, she wondered, what other cascading effects on parent-child interactions occur?

Stephanie Mithika, Taylor University, The Curse of Nakedness: African Women’s Use of the Naked Body in Resistance Movements, Faculty Sponsor: Nicholas Kerton-Johnson

The female body typically has had many gendered, cultural, and political inscriptions ascribed to it. As a result, society, more often than not, perceives women as lacking in agency, unfit for public affairs, as well as political roles. Mithika though, explored how African women used their bodies to resist patriarchal, classist, capitalist, and oppressive systems through the act of disrobing. Why, she examined, was the sight of a naked African women’s body protesting serve as a powerful tool for social and political change? Mithika explores how women rewrite the script of vulnerability, and in this case, embody resistance, while reclaiming their bodies as political sites of agency and power.

Maggie Kieffer, Butler University, The Avengers: Hegemonic Depictions of Heroism Present in the Working World, Faculty Sponsor: Kristin Swenson

Kieffer digs into the superhero characters in the 2012 film The Avengers to evaluate how American ideals of heroism and patriotism are reflected through the superhero genre. Kieffer looks at Iron Man and Captain America, and analyzes how the film reaffirms hegemonic American heroism fulfilled by individual heroes coming together under a patriotic leader to combat threats to traditional American values.

Jillian Fox, Denison University, Broken Bodies, Evolving Systems: An Evaluation of International Prosecution of Sexual Violence After Genocide, Faculty Sponsor: Taku Suzuki

Using the Nuremburg Trials, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as case studies, Fox explores the influence of social movements on international humanitarian laws. Essentially, why did prosecutors start to indict individuals for crimes of gender-based violence when they did? Through Fox’s research, it seems that as the world begins to understand the reality of wartime gender-based and sexual violence, coupled with efforts by feminist organizations to raise global consciousness, then humanitarian law adapts to ensure justice prevails regardless of historical precedent.

Academics

Advancing the Field: Highlights of the 2019 Undergraduate Research Conference

Familiarize yourself with the winners of the Undergraduate Research Conference.

Apr 11 2019 Read more
Academics

Undergraduate Research Conference Goes Beyond Butler

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 10 2019

Dacia Charlesworth remembers her first research presentation well. And the memories aren’t great.

She was peppered with aggressive questions, and it was more competitive than cordial. So when Charlesworth, Butler University’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships, took the reins of the Undergraduate Research Conference four years ago, she was determined to make it as welcoming as possible—both for savvy researchers and those just starting out.

“We want to ensure the URC is a stepping stone for students when it comes to introducing them to the academic world of research, but we also want to make sure it is credible,” she says. “Both of these goals are integral to our mission as a University when it comes to research in addition to this conference. We want to make sure we provide a place for all students with varying levels of interest in research, while also producing legitimate work.”

The URC will kick off for the 31st time on April 12 at Butler. There will be 473 total presentations representing 27 academic disciplines. For the first time, the conference had two international submissions—one from Saudi Arabia and one from Canada—and representatives from 23 states will flock to Indianapolis to present their research.

But more than the numbers, Charlesworth says, it all goes back to the mission. When she took over the URC she was surprised to learn that it was open submission, meaning everything that is submitted is accepted. She wanted to enhance the conference’s credibility.

So, the competitive paper division was added two years ago in an effort to mimic the process of sending a journal article out for review. Students submit their papers, and a panel of faculty members review the work, then select the top four papers.

“But I also remembered my first research experience, and how terrifying it was,” she says. “I wanted to make sure we were simultaneously creating a place at the URC for support for an inexperienced researcher who is in the beginning stages of the research process, but has yet to fully develop that project.”

To compliment the poster presentations, oral presentations, and competitive paper division, research roundtables were also added. The roundtables serve as an opportunity for students to present ideas they have for research projects, and then a panel will give them feedback.

This year, Assistant Professor of Political Science Greg Shufeldt will have 13 students present at the URC. Four of them will be at the research roundtable presenting proposals for potential projects.

“This gives them a unique opportunity to test some of their ideas and thoughts prior to jumping into the research,” he says. “They are early in their research careers, so to get some direction and helpful feedback is crucial.”

Shufeldt, who says the URC is one of his favorite days of the year, right up there with graduation, gives extra credit to students who are not presenting but who go to URC presentations to watch. He, like many professors, cancels classes, too.

Attending the URC as a spectator, Shufeldt says, can spark a student’s interest in research. Presenting in front of others also reinforces the importance of being able to explain one’s work. Discovering something critical is important, he says, but if no one knows about it, or if it’s importance is hard to convey, what is the point?

“If no one reads the research I do, what was the purpose of it all?” Shufeldt says. “This event is so critical because it is not just students doing work to get a good grade. It is all about that next step—building knowledge, contributing to the understanding of the world, presenting new problems and new ways to think about the world, and developing professionally.”

Academics

Undergraduate Research Conference Goes Beyond Butler

473 total presentations will represent 27 academic disciplines.

Apr 10 2019 Read more

Success and Support

by Jackson Borman ’20

When Ethan Cunningham started his first year at Butler, he felt confident in the classroom. He was going into engineering, had already taken classes like chemistry before and was confident that his high school had prepared him for the next level.

But Cunningham says that first semester served as a wakeup call for his academics.

“First semester didn’t go as planned,” Cunningham says. “You don’t realize the workload that college comes with—for me, that was a rude awakening.”

During his second semester at Butler, he decided to visit the Learning Resource Center (LRC) for an individualized meeting with their student development specialists. He was unsure about the meeting at first, but by the end of his time in the office, Cunningham says he felt calm and reassured.

“I was so nervous because I did so bad my first semester, but we ended up talking about rap music,” Cunningham says. “It was helpful, knowing that you could talk to them as like a friend instead of someone who is just yelling at you to get better.”

Over the course of a couple of meetings, Cunningham worked with the student development specialists on bettering his time management skills, building new study methods, and coming up with strategies for homework assignments and projects.

While these concrete skills helped him succeed academically during his second semester at Butler, one of the biggest benefits about his time in the LRC was connecting with the people in the office.

“It’s a really positive atmosphere. You can go in and rant about whatever and they will listen,” Cunningham says. “In the office, it is usually upbeat. You can go in when you’re having a bad day, but usually come out with a smile, or at least a slightly less annoyed attitude. They always try to make it better.”

Now, more than halfway through his junior year, Cunningham feels confident about his grades, as well as his adjustment to college.

“It’s been a great experience, just having a positive atmosphere,” Cunningham says. “Ever since then, my grades have gotten better. It has worked out tremendously.”

Janice Ruston is an academic advisor and student development specialist at the LRC. She works with students like Cunningham to help them with school work as well life changes, such as the transition from high school to college.

“It could just be tweaking something that you are already pretty good at and maybe looking at it a different way or attacking it with a different study strategy to help you get where you want to be,” Ruston says.  “Whatever it is, we will figure it out.”

Ruston says that like in Cunningham’s case, one of the most frequent problems that students come to the LRC needing help with is time management.

“Butler students in general are go-getters and want to be involved in all these great things and that also contributes to the time management struggle,” Ruston says. “I think we [help with] that in a very comfortable way.”

But student development specialists at the LRC don’t limit their help to new students.

Katelyn Castiglia is a senior at Butler, but didn’t start coming to meet in the office until just recently. She has gotten help from the LRC with her post college plans, such as studying for the MCAT and advice on her personal life.

“Coming into senior year, there was a lot on my plate and I just wanted someone on campus to talk through everything with,” Castiglia says. “I didn’t go there because I needed a tutor, I went there because I wanted an extra opinion.”

She sees the office as a support system that is helping her achieve her goals for post-graduation.

“Everyone in that office is willing to help. They are very open to meeting you wherever you are in your academic or personal journey,” Castiglia says. “It’s definitely a safe zone where I know I can bring anything to them and talk through it with them and they will listen from an outside perspective.”

Another service offered by the LRC  is workshops on topics that students frequently need help with. The workshops are open to any student who is interested, and cover a range of subjects from decision making to how to prep for finals. The workshops also include sessions where tutors from the Butler Writer’s Studio and Speaker’s Lab come to help students with class papers or presentations.

Jen Mann is another academic advisor and student development specialist at the LRC. She thinks that the workshops can be great for students who might be apprehensive about asking for help.

“[The workshops] are good for students who maybe aren’t brave enough to come through our door to ask for that help themselves,” Mann says. “We like to present it in a different format because it also presents the safety of being in a group and some anonymity.”

Another way that the LRC helps Butler students is through their class called LC100 “Strategies for Success.” The course is one credit hour and is graded as a pass/fail class, but teaches students about different skills that they might need in college or beyond such as goal-setting, study skills, persistence, and emotional intelligence.

“[The class] allows students to get some practice every week with sharpening the skills that they need to be successful as a student at Butler,” Mann says. “Twice a week, these students are getting the full attention of someone who wants them to be successful.”

Emma Hawn is a first year student who was in Mann’s LC100 class last semester and is recommending that her friends take it as well.

Even though she is no longer in the class, Hawn said that she still values lessons learned and the connections that she has made in the LRC. She even visits Mann from time to time just to say hello.

While they offer many services and serve as a resource for students that can guide them in the right direction, the LRC’s main focus is supporting students in whatever ways they can.

“We are willing to meet students wherever they are to help them reach whatever level of success they want,” Mann says. “Our job is to support. I think students take a lot of comfort in knowing that there is a space where they can come and be imperfect, yet supported.”

Academics

Success and Support

Butler’s Academic Success Coaching makes a difference on grades and relationships

Success and Support

by Jackson Borman ’20
Pharmacy
AcademicsCommunity

Butler Provides Critical Clinical Expertise to Insurance Industry

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 04 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Eric Farmer ’07 remembers being frustrated.

It was around 2014, and Farmer, an HIV Clinical Pharmacist at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, was working at one of the largest providers of HIV care in Indiana, yet he was spending most of his time filling out paperwork.

The Affordable Care Act was in the midst of being implemented, and many of Farmer’s patients were having issues with their health insurance marketplace plans covering the HIV medications he prescribed. So, Farmer was looking for an “in” at the Indiana Department of Insurance in hopes of influencing the process on a larger scale.

Then, an email from a former Butler University professor popped into his inbox.

Carriann Smith, professor of pharmacy practice, was working on a project —with the Department of Insurance—on marketplace health insurance plans. Would Farmer be interested in helping?

“It was unbelievable timing,” says Farmer, who graduated from Butler with a degree in Pharmacy in 2007. “I was desperately looking for a way to improve the process when it comes to deciding what drugs insurance companies cover on marketplace plans. We were having issues with plans covering some of the HIV medications and not others, and I wanted to influence the process on a much bigger scale than just my institution.”

Now, about four years later, the partnership between Butler and the Department of Insurance, which has involved about 25 Butler undergrads, five Butler alumni, and 11 Butler faculty, is doing just that—influencing the process. The tool they created, which insurance companies in Indiana fully implemented last year, specifies what medications insurance companies should cover for 17 diseases that are health priorities in the state.

One purpose of health insurance plans available on the marketplace, Smith says, was to provide a level playing field, and to make sure individuals with certain diseases were not discriminated against by insurance companies in terms of the level of coverage provided.

However, prior to this tool, insurance companies were deciding which medications to cover for each disease. There was limited external clinical perspective or dialogue with experts about why certain medications would or would not be covered, Smith says.

“Our tool takes into account all of the latest research, the published literature, and uses the clinical experience and expertise of our faculty, as well as external experts,” Smith says. “The goal is to bridge the gap between the regulators, the insurance companies, and the clinicians, and get everybody on the same page. We look at the evidence and, based on that evidence, say 'Is that side effect of that medication really true, or is a prior authorization really needed, or, from a clinical perspective, this really should be covered.' Medicine is not always black and white, and this now allows for more of a dialogue.”

The Department of Insurance now shares the tool with insurance companies in Indiana, who in turn use it while finalizing their marketplace insurance plans for the year. Plans are then submitted to the Department of Insurance for approval. The tool is used by the insurance companies when deciding which medications to cover for the 17 diseases it looks at.

By providing this expertise, and in turn, this tool, to insurance companies, Butler is adding a clinical perspective to the medication decision-making process when it comes to designing insurance plans. Most insurance companies have limited clinical expertise on staff when thinking through which drugs should be covered. As a result, the clinical perspective is not always taken into consideration or discussed. This process adds that clinical expertise, which in turn could result in a more thorough development of  insurance plans.

“Our goal is not necessarily to make more drugs covered, but to make sure the key products are covered,” Smith says. “We need to weigh the benefits and potential side effects for patients. So our job as clinicians is to carefully consider the literature and evaluate whether or not a treatment is best.”

Keeping up with the latest literature and research has been the main focus of Drew Johnson, a P3 Pharmacy major, who has been involved in the project since 2018. Johnson reviews all of the generic products that come to market and makes sure the tools for bipolar, depression, and MS reflect the most current medications.

To do that, Johnson collaborates with clinical pharmacy specialists, reads up on drug industry newsletters, sifts through literature in the latest databases, and, occasionally, whips out his notes from the clinical experts who recently taught his classes at Butler to see if there is a particular drug in the pipeline that he should be aware of.

“Without having an external clinician looking at these plans, it is possible for the insurance company to look past the clinical perspective,” Johnson says. “Our involvement helps to ensure that quality insurance programs are sold throughout the state of Indiana to all individuals.”

That was essentially why the Department of Insurance reached out to Butler in the first place.

Jenifer Groth, spokesperson for the Department of Insurance, says the Department reached out to Butler in an effort to leverage the pharmacy program’s expertise, as the Department worked to determine if insurance carriers were covering an adequate amount of prescription drugs.

Which all leads back to Eric Farmer and all that paperwork.

As the Affordable Care Act was being implemented, Farmer was noticing that many of his patients with marketplace plans were having trouble getting coverage for the HIV medications he was prescribing.

“Keep in mind, when it comes to HIV, these pills are expensive,” he says. “To control HIV, the first line regimen is usually $2,500 to $3,000, and it only gets more expensive from there.”

The problem was, Farmer was seeing that most of his patients with marketplace plans were getting denied those first line regimens. The insurance companies were asking for prior authorizations for those drugs. Sometimes, insurance companies would not only ask for a prior authorization, but they would instead recommend trying a different drug—usually one from the 1990s, or one that was no longer on the market in the U.S.

“HIV is a field that moves super fast and many insurance companies weren’t keeping up,” Farmer says. “I would spend the majority of my day filling out paperwork, and I am lucky that I was able to. Imagine a small primary care doctor in rural Indiana—if he or she gets a prior authorization back from an insurance company, they likely won’t have the time or person power to fill out that paperwork. Instead, they will just ask the insurance company what will they cover, and just prescribe whatever the insurance company says they will cover. As a result, that patient is not getting the best care.”

Now, Farmer is working on the HIV tool to help guide insurance companies. One aspect of Farmer’s work is determining what medications should be covered, and which should require prior authorizations and which shouldn’t—all from a clinical perspective.

 

MEDIA CONTACT
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
317-940-9257 (mobile: 914-815-5656)

Pharmacy
AcademicsCommunity

Butler Provides Critical Clinical Expertise to Insurance Industry

Butler has developed a tool that could aid in a more thorough development of insurance plans.

Apr 04 2019 Read more
AcademicsCampus

Scholarship Supports Student's Research of Refugees in Germany

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 03 2019

On a Butler University Honors Program and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures-sponsored “Bulldogs to Berlin” spring break trip in 2018, Addy McKown ’21 became fascinated by how the Germans had taken in 2 million Syrian and Turkish refugees, and how those refugees have integrated and assimilated.

“I saw neighborhoods that were devoted to thousands of people from Turkey and Syria and how the city swallows them up and lets German culture wash over them,” she says. “Yet their native cultures are still prevalent in their neighborhoods with their markets, with their restaurants and cafés, and how they garden. They let them adjust to their new life while retaining the fondness and heritage of their old life.”

Her observation became the impetus for her honors thesis, A Cross-Cultural Comparison of the Assimilation of Twenty-First Century Refugees in Modern Cultures. It also earned her the annual Bruce and Lucy Gerstein Holocaust Education Travel Fund, an endowed fund established by Indianapolis dermatologist and friend of the University Dr. David Gerstein. The Fund, named for Gerstein’s parents, supports travel and research related to the Holocaust.

For her thesis, McKown is comparing how Germany and the United States are handling the current refugee crisis, and how the Holocaust left residual effects on Germany’s foreign policy and relief aid efforts.

McKown, a double major in Critical Communications and Media Studies and Human Communication and Organizational Leadership, is spending the spring 2019 semester at Humboldt University in Germany. She’s also traveled on weekends to Vienna, Prague, and Dresden to see how they're taking in refugees.

In Berlin, she’s visited Tempelhof Airport, where some refugees have been housed in hangars, and she’s planning to go back to talk to people living there.

McKown, who’s from New Castle, Indiana, says she chose Butler after visiting campus and meeting representatives of the study abroad and honors programs, and her future faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Communications Allison Harthcock.

“I immediately fell in love with the possibilities,” she says. “I love to travel. I was fortunate to have parents who exposed me to that from a young age. So hearing about all the study abroad opportunities was great. I came here and you feel like a family, but a family that's going to push you and not let you settle for mediocre. That was really important to me.”

Jason Lantzer, Assistant Director of the University Honors Program, describes McKown as “a wonderful student and a terrific representation of our Honors Program.” He’s taught her in a couple of classes and was one of the professors who led the first trip she took to Germany.

“The Gerstein Fund not only helped her achieve her goal of going back, but is helping to lay the groundwork for her planned honors thesis,” Lantzer says. “Having just returned from the second time of Bulldogs to Berlin, it was great to get to see Addy while we were in the city and see just how much she has grown in the year since she first arrived.”

McKown says she’s unsure of her plans after graduation—she might apply for a Fulbright Award, go to graduate school, or find a job. She’s interested in working within outreach programs, a liaison between the public and the organization.

“I want to be on the people side of things, whether that's organizing training, doing research sessions in groups to find out how to better market products or word our statements,” she says.

In the meantime, she plans to keep her options open and explore the world. She thinks others should do the same.

“It's OK to explore something that hasn't been explored yet,” she says. “To witness this refugee crisis firsthand, to see what such a crisis is doing to the world, you can get involved and step in in some sort of way, whether that just ends up educating yourself or if you come over here and start a thesis, if you join the Peace Corps. Whatever it is, I think it's just important to open your eyes up and see the world and see what you can do with it.”

 

AcademicsCampus

Scholarship Supports Student's Research of Refugees in Germany

Addy McKown '21 has been awarded a scholarship from the Bruce and Lucy Gerstein Holocaust Education Travel Fund.

Apr 03 2019 Read more
Academics

Bracket Busted? Turns Out Your Politics May Be The Reason Why

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Mar 27 2019

It’s March. Time to tune in to endless hours of college hoops, fill out a bracket despite having not watched a minute of college basketball all season, and fire up the live stream at the office. This is the one place void of politics. Right?

Right?

Wrong. That’s according to new research from Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Ryan Rogers. Turns out, according to Rogers’ research, those who lean liberal politically fill out brackets differently than those who lean conservative. And those differences, according to his study, are magnified when decisions are made in groups of like-minded individuals.

“When we broke groups up by political ideology, and had them fill out brackets together over the Internet, even though the task was something seemingly mundane, we saw how certain traits and values became more salient, and then how conformity is even more prevalent when a group thinks similarly,” Rogers says. “This then led to consensus more readily during the decision-making process.”

In his study, 118 people were divided into small groups based on self-identified political ideology—conservative or liberal. Then together, over the Internet, each group filled out an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament bracket.

The purpose was to see how groups of political liberals compared to political conservatives when it came to predicting winners in the tournament. The study also examined how political ideology influenced collective intelligence, or the ability of a group to perform a task and make decisions.

Rogers found that the results certainly differed based on political ideology.

Conservatives tended to go with the safe pick, while liberals went with more underdogs. Conservatives picked more upsets correctly, though, as they tended to pick the safer ones, such as a nine-seed over an eight-seed, while liberals picked riskier upsets, such as a 16-seed over a one-seed. Conservatives were more effective in picking first round wins, and liberals were more effective in correctly picking winners in later rounds.

In short, conservatives were more likely to predict a lower risk team, and tended to play it safe. If an expert picked a team, it was likely the conservative would go with the expert’s pick. Liberals tended to struggle in the early rounds, going with the risky upsets, but then performed better in the later rounds, as some of their risky choices paid off later.

When next March rolls around, he says, it might be a good idea to consider your own political leanings when filling out a bracket, and how that might impact the teams you pick.

“Traits inherent to these groups provided different strengths and weaknesses in their decision making,” Rogers says. “Broadly speaking, prior research and literature shows that conservatives are likely to be more risk averse, and liberals tend to be more optimistic, and more open to emotion.”

Filling out brackets confirmed that these groups have different cognitive dimensions consistent with these ideologies, Rogers says, and when interacting within like-minded groups on the Internet, those differences are only magnified.

“Look at websites today like the Huffington Post, Breitbart, The Blaze, Slate, these sites highlight the traits and values of the groups they represent,” Rogers says. “Basically, these sites reinforce traits and values, creating a feedback loop appealing to those who conform to those respective political ideologies already.”

So, when it comes to something as simple as filling out a bracket, or as important as discussing the issues of the day or reading the news, it might be beneficial to cultivate as many different perspectives as possible, Rogers says.

“Conformity in decision making is even more prevalent when a group shares traits, and as we see with this study, that even carries over to a bracket,” he says. “A mixed group might be most effective.”

Academics

Bracket Busted? Turns Out Your Politics May Be The Reason Why

It might be a good idea to consider your own political leanings when filling out a bracket.

Mar 27 2019 Read more
Academics

Bracket Busting in the Classroom

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 27 2019

If you believe the data, there will be no Cinderella winner of this year's NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments.

Those are the findings of the students in Professor of Pharmacy Practice Chad Knoderer's Bracket Busting class, which focuses on how to use data analytics to make decisions. Knoderer, a Pediatric Pharmacist by training, has been teaching at Butler since 2008—typically in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. But after using some sports-related statistics in his Pharmacy Statistics class and seeing the students' positive reaction to it, he created the Bracket Busting course for Butler's Core Curriculum.

Before the class considered college hoops, they turned to the pros. Early in the semester, the students looked at five years of NBA data to determine where the best places are to shoot from and what kind of shot a player should take (is a catch-and-shoot jumper better than a dribble-drive, pull-up jumper?).

The students were able to see trends over time and better understand why so many NBA teams rely on the three-point shot, as well as shots close to the hoop, from a value standpoint.

Just before spring break, the class turned their attention to March Madness. Knoderer had everyone  predict the top four seeds in each region of the men's bracket. But he gave them data only—no team names attached.

"They just had numbers associated with a team ID," he says. "So Team 956 could have been Duke. It could have been Gonzaga. They didn't necessarily know. They just knew performance data from the season. They knew the type of conference the team came from, but not the actual conference. They had to rank the team just as the selection committee would do."

When the students had ranked teams 1-16, he released the names of each school to go along with the data. Students then could adjust their brackets, if they chose to do so.

In the men’s tournament, most of Knoderer's students chose either Duke University or the University of North Carolina to win it all. (Knoderer picked Gonzaga, though he didn't make his choice strictly through analytics.)

In the women's tournament, the data pointed the students to Notre Dame or the University of Connecticut to cut down the net. (Knoderer picked Baylor, "but not too many were with me," he says.)

"They enjoyed the activity," he says. "A few of them said it was a lot more challenging than they thought—even when they knew which team was which."

After the NCAA unveiled the 2019 bracket, Knoderer assigned his students to predict the outcomes of the first-round games based on data alone. There, the students picked some upsets—"There's been some lean toward St. Mary's over Villanova, and Murray State-Marquette was a game of interest," he says—and learned the difference between choosing with their head versus their heart.

Jaret Rightley, a junior from New Palestine, Indiana, says the class, which combines his passions for statistics and sports, has been a great experience.

“It has changed the way I think about and watch sports, and it has been awesome to see the direct impact that the data actually plays in sports such as basketball and the NCAA tournament,” he says. “I look forward to going to this class each and every day, and I’m excited to see how this class evolves and the role analytics will continue to play in sports moving forward.”

Knoderer says he's also enjoying Bracket Busting, especially because he has an opportunity to teach students he doesn't normally interact with. Most of the students are from outside the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

And he plans to teach the course again this summer—this time using baseball.

Academics

Bracket Busting in the Classroom

If you believe the data, there will be no Cinderella winner of this year's NCAA basketball tournaments.

Mar 27 2019 Read more

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