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Butler Summer Institute–Celebrating 25 Years

Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

No classes, no employment, no interruptions—only research. That’s just the way they want it, the 30 students who are chosen to immerse themselves in the Butler Summer Institute (BSI), celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

These are dedicated, self-directed Butler student researchers with a methodological background and a passion to pursue a significant question, every day for nine weeks. Students who apply need a recommendation from a faculty member, and an explanation of their project. BSI participants each get a $2,500 stipend and live and work on campus. Each student has his or her own faculty mentor and close bonds are formed, with the added support and encouragement of fellow student researchers.

“No topic is off limits,” said Dr. Dacia Charlesworth, Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships at Butler. “It could be that a student found something interesting in the humanities, and they’re excited to take it to another level. One student analyzed Tweets about the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and then the Orlando nightclub shootings happened and her project shifted focus. We had a history major who wants to be a dentist, study the effects of mercury tooth fillings. She uncovered an actual melodrama musical of mercury’s side effects.” Said Charlesworth, “These are great students who want to learn, and that makes our job easy.”

The BSI students have to show how they are advancing research in their field, and make a definite contribution to their discipline. There are “research recaps” at the end of each week, aided by presentation training so students can more confidently explain their work in basic terms to their audiences. In the end, students are required to produce work worthy of acceptance in a professional conference or publication, and they present their project at Butler’s Undergraduate Research Conference the following April. 

AcademicsStudent Life

Butler Summer Institute–Celebrating 25 Years

No classes, no employment, no interruptions—only research.

by Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

Read more

No Literary Grandma Moses

Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

In May 2018, I will have completed all the requirements for an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University and be preparing to graduate. And like so many students, I’ve been asked countless times: What are you going to do with that degree?

My usual answer is that I’m going to have an interesting last quarter of my life. I’ll be 59 by the time 2018 commencement rolls around, so I’m not looking for a career. I have no expectations of becoming a literary Grandma Moses.

I went through the MFA program (30 classroom credits, plus thesis) because I wanted—and got—a great education. I enjoy writing stories about reprobates and other morally ambiguous people—a woman who fled her marriage after 9/11; a meth addict who thinks he’s on a reality show; a recent graduate who takes a job writing scam emails. So that’s what I did.

Over two years as an MFA student, I wrote a play, a movie script, at least a half-dozen short stories (three of which have been published), and a handful of prose poems and flash fiction stories. I learned alternative forms of storytelling and how to write a non-fiction book proposal, read brilliant authors I never would have known about otherwise, and gained insights about writing and storytelling from exceptional faculty and visiting writers.

When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of fiction. Then I stopped. I don’t remember why. The MFA program motivated me to write again, and it enabled me to have my work critiqued by highly accomplished professors and classmates who make up for in talent and insight what they lack in age.

If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience. And if you’re ever in a bookstore or browsing Amazon.com and see a novel about a racist obstetrician who microchips babies so he can track their movements as adults, I hope you’ll buy it.

AcademicsCommencement

No Literary Grandma Moses

"If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience."

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

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Suits or Sails?

Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

Wet or dry shoes? Shorts or a sport coat? Sunshine or fluorescent lights? Mosquitos or … well, fewer mosquitos? 

You may not think of these things when considering an internship, yet they do become part of your reality. Just ask Butler interns Tyler Hudgens and Keiffer Williams. 

Tyler Hudgens ’17 

Manufacturing and Quality Science Intern, Eli Lilly and Company Tyler Hudgens

Tyler Hudgens chose dry shoes and fluorescent lights when he took an internship with Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis. He’s happy with his decision—so happy, in fact, that when the company offered him a job upon graduation, he accepted with alacrity. 

Hudgens is in this spot because he availed himself of a Butler opportunity and attended a Woods lecture. He walked in as a pre-med student who was questioning his career choice. He walked out realizing bioengineering was what he’d been looking for. 

“I’d volunteered in hospitals and found it wasn’t for me. I was more interested in the science behind healthcare,” Hudgens said. “So when I heard a heart tissue bioengineer speak and learned what they did, I switched.” 

His internship at Lilly has confirmed his decision.

“I’ve gained strong problem-solving and strategic-thinking skills,” Hudgens said. “I was able to incorporate engineering and scientific concepts to solve real-world issues in pharmaceuticals while I was gaining knowledge about manufacturing processes within the medical industry.” 

Keiffer Williams ’16 Keiffer Williams

(Former) Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Oceans Research and Butler Summer Institute 

Applying to grad schools 

Keiffer Williams, on the other hand, opted for shorts and wet shoes. As an intern in the fish biology lab of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and at Oceans Research in South Africa, Williams indulged his passion for ocean ecology and conservation. 

“I’ve enjoyed the ocean since an early age, especially sharks, and I nurtured that interest all through high school,” Williams said. “I was searching for ways to have a more limited experience to decide if marine science was something I wanted to do when I found Oceans Research.” 

He dove with dolphins and sharks (focusing on Great Whites) in the six-week program, coming to understand the significant effect humans can have on a species—even in the name of conservation. 

In Panama at STRI, working under the direction of visiting scientist Dr. Michele Pierotti, he explored the evolution of visual ecology among marine fish sister species native to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Smithsonian experience instilled in him a keen understanding of the opportunities that come with a higher-level degree. 

Williams also participated in the Butler Summer Institute on plant hormones research. Now, he’ll spend the next two years applying to graduate school. 

The former Boy Scout is also keen to be a better conservation advocate. 

“In today’s world, there’s a large disconnect between scientists in the trenches of data and the lay person. It’s essential for people to be able to understand what we’re doing and what it means to the environment,” he said. 

AcademicsStudent Life

Suits or Sails?

Wet or dry shoes? Shorts or a sport coat? Sunshine or fluorescent lights? Mosquitos or … well, fewer mosquitos? 

by Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

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One Butler: The Brain Project

Catherine Pangan MS ’99

from Spring 2017

What do you get when you combine leaders in the neuroscience field from around Indianapolis, an engaged community, and a spirit of integrated learning? You guessed it—One Butler: The Brain Project. 

One Butler: The Brain Project is a yearlong, campus-wide initiative focusing on brain health, with the goal of developing appreciation of how neuroscience is woven into the tapestry of our lives. 

The Brain Project transcends academic disciplines and is led by a dynamic steering committee that includes representatives from the community, each of Butler’s six colleges, students, trustees, the library, performing arts venues, Student Affairs, the Health and Recreation Complex, and several faculty members who are already using neuroscientific research in their curriculum. (Read more on Butler faculty neuroscience study in this issue’s faculty profile of Professor Tara Lineweaver.) 

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor kicked off the initiative in September 2016 to a packed house in Clowes Memorial Hall. The Brain Project includes a yearlong speaker series, integrated coursework opportunities for students, faculty art exhibits, and connections in our Themed Living Communities in the residence halls. 

A central highlight of One Butler: The Brain Project is the installation of the “Big Brains!” This exhibit of 10 enormous fiberglass brain sculptures (5’x6’), commissioned by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, depicts neuroscience themes (mental health, concussion, food, etc.) and will be displayed on campus this April. 

Efforts have been coordinated with community partners, including the Eskenazi Center for Brain Care, Community Health Network, and others. 

Some of the topics explored this year include: 

  • Mental health’s cutting-edge research in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s 
  • Creativity: music, art, and innovation 
  • Addictions, Brain Food, and Sleep 
  • Sports Wellness: prevention of traumas and concussions 
  • How we learn: education and neuroscience with an Educational Neuroscience Conference offering April 29

The Butler Brain Project seeks to distinguish Butler as an environment where academics, student life, interpersonal relationships, and physical and mental health are informed by knowledge of the human brain and how it works. It also aims to create a model for comprehensive, collaborative, and transdisciplinary exploration of a relevant topic that can be replicated and scaled to other campus environments.

Serving as a convener for neuroscience educators and clinicians from Central Indiana, we expect 40,000–50,000 students, faculty, staff, and community members will experience the One Butler: The Brain Project. We hope you can join us for this brain-boosting experience! Please visit www.butler.edu/brainproject for the most up-to-date information. You can also find us on Facebook under One Butler: Brain Project.

AcademicsCommunity

One Butler: The Brain Project

by Catherine Pangan MS ’99

from Spring 2017

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Ideas That Take Flight

Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

Nearly 30 years in the making, Butler University’s Undergraduate Research Program is widely recognized as one of the nation’s best. “Longevity and a cohesive program make us stand out,” said Dacia Charlesworth, who oversees Butler’s program. “All facets of undergraduate research opportunities are merged at Butler year-round, which is rare to find. Other universities divide their research program into departments.” Each spring, Butler hosts an annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), one of the largest in the country, and Butler students compete for 30 spots in the immersive Butler Summer Institute (BSI), for focused research on projects in any discipline. 

With more societal influences affecting science, and an interdisciplinary approach, there are no barriers to research topics. There’s traditional lab work, and experiential learning that’s an extension of the classroom. Butler research students have studied the development of butterfly wings, how to prevent the fading of color in pieces at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the behaviors and attitudes of pre-pharmacists toward HIV and AIDS patients, and even confessional poetry. “It’s the integration of our mission statement,” said Charlesworth. “We put Liberal Arts and professional programs together and demonstrate to the community how they can help.” 

Students are encouraged to present and share their results with others, with Travel to Present and Honors Thesis Grants contributing to Butler’s national exposure. It’s not enough to conduct the research. Butler coaches presentation skills, with students learning to avoid jargon so their research is more relatable and significant to a general audience. End-of-year reports and an active Twitter feed (@ TheButlerURC) boost awareness of Butler’s program. The 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference drew more than 900 people, an increase of 200 participants from the previous year, despite a trimmed promotional budget and slight fee hike. This year for the first time, there will be a new presentation category with cash awards, to add a tier of competition to the URC. 

Charlesworth has held the title of Butler’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships for about a year and a half, and has an infectious enthusiasm about her job. She tells prospective students and their parents, “Look at other universities and see if they have a position like mine. Most universities don’t. It sets Butler apart, having an all-inclusive program, and someone who can identify top scholarships for student researchers.”

Academics

Ideas That Take Flight

by Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

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Conversation Transformed

Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2017

Every Thursday night from 5:30-8:00 PM in the basement of Jordan Hall, the Butler Aphasia Community meets, giving voice to those who are struggling with language and speech and inspiring those striving for a career doing just that. 

The program has the Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) undergraduates work as a support group for those suffering from aphasia, which is most often caused by a stroke and affects communication abilities. The program is a CSD elective.

“A main identifier of people with aphasia is they can say the words but can’t make the sentences flow,” CSD major Betsy Russo ’17 said. “Or they can say the transitional words but can’t form the sentence.” 

Russo will be taking the class next semester after completing the prerequisites and observation hour requirements. She observed the group multiple times in preparation. “It is really awesome to see the individual growth,” she said. “There may be people who recently had a stroke and then people who have been there so long that they can have almost completely normal conversation. It is so inspiring to see the transformation.” 

During the first hour, the group meets as a whole. They have a big activity, such as yoga/painting/exercise class, and it is modified for those in wheelchairs from a stroke. Then they split into smaller groups to play games, talk, or do whatever else the group wants to do. 

“It is a lot of fun,” group member Madeline Koenig ’17 said. “One of the things we work on is the life participation approach to aphasia (LPAA). It focuses on conversation aspects and gets them back into everyday life and activities.” 

Koenig was in the program this semester. Although the program is technically a class, she is going to try to take it again next semester because it directly correlates to what she wants to focus on for the rest of her life. “I genuinely like working with adults,” she said. “It is my passion in our field and this has allowed me to utilize both my knowledge and passion. It really just gets me excited to practice hands-on as a student what I want to do professionally.” 

Mary Gospel, Chair of Communication Sciences and Disorders, started the group at Butler four years ago. Since then, there have been 54 clients that have come through the program—almost all of them for more than one semester. 

“The opportunity for the students and clients to work together and get to know each other is such a win-win,” she said. “The students benefit and the clients benefit. Also, because clients’ insurance runs out so quickly, we knew there weren’t a lot of options and this was a big need in the community.” 

Gospel has volunteered with the Northside Aphasia Support Group since 2001, and it was a big inspiration when creating one at Butler. “In class you learn what aphasia is, but with this you learn what it is like to live with aphasia,” she said. 

Koenig said this group has been one of the highlights of her Butler career. 

“There aren’t a lot of support groups around, so it is really important that we have one,” she said. “They are such a fun group of people and it couldn’t be a better way to end my Thursdays—doing something fun, and something I want to do when I graduate.” 

Academics

Conversation Transformed

by Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2017

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Preparing Students for the Future

Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

Audrey Bonn ’16, a graduate of Butler’s Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program, puts her degree to use to its fullest every day. 

Bonn is currently the Patient Communications Coordinator for Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. Her job responsibilities include managing outpatient communications and performing an analysis on the productivity of the messages that she sends. 

“I try to find a correlation between appointment reminder messages and whether or not a patient will show up for their appointment,” Bonn said. “Being an STS major helped to prepare me for this job because I was taught to look at situations critically, think outside the box, and not just assume that what appears on the surface gives the whole story.” 

Bonn says her favorite part of the STS curriculum was the opportunity she had to consistently study thought-provoking topics, which helped her broaden her worldview. The program allowed her to use the skills from her major and become a problem-solver in her field—a true critical thinker. 

“The vast majority of our assignments required us to analyze topics and propose educated solutions for issues that we studied,” she said. “I use this in my job not only when I am trying to find correlations between two things, but also when I am trying to brainstorm new campaigns that would help solve some of the hospital’s problems.” 

Students in STS are equipped with an understanding of how our world is transformed and challenged by science and technology. The program examines the interaction between science and technology and our health, families, communities, and environment. The curriculum builds on students’ problem-solving and communication skills.

It also places an emphasis on the STEM Disciplines— Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These academic disciplines are being taught in middle schools and high schools and have increased in prominence over the last eight to 10 years both nationally and globally. 

Carmen Salsbury is the Director of the Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies program, which is the overarching program that the STS major falls under. Salsbury says the STS program has grown exponentially. The first 10 years of its existence saw only about 15 majors. The program now sees consistently around 50 majors. 

Now more than ever, Salsbury says that there is a need to understand science and society given the decline of our environment and the struggle to acquire resources globally, which could be why the STS major has become so popular. 

The major is also highly customizable to what students are interested in. Students are required to take 30 credit hours of coursework—12 hours of STS core courses and 18 hours of STS elective courses from across campus. This curriculum allows students to explore a wide variety of interests. 

Kellie Dominick ’17, an STS major, says she enjoys this aspect of the curriculum because she does not feel the pressure to commit to a single career path. “My current plan is to work in hospital administration, but the great thing about STS is that if I realize that it’s not for me, there are also different paths I can take,” she said. 

There is also an increasing demand for non-scientists who have some training with science and technology and who also have an understanding of the institutions of science and their place in modern society. This kind of background is at the core at the STS curriculum, which is why Butler students are finding success in careers and entrepreneurial opportunities outside of the traditional sciences employment tracts. 

Students in the program have gone on to pursue careers not only in science and technology, but also in health, education, law, public policy, and communications. 

Salsbury says that because the curriculum is interdisciplinary, it forces students to look at issues from many different directions, like Bonn does in her role at Eskenazi. She says it’s a skill that takes practice and experience, but is highly valued by employers. 

The major also stresses the importance of communication as an underlying skill needed for success across the board. “This major strongly emphasizes the ability to communicate, whether in writing or speaking, because to understand all of these issues is nothing if you can’t communicate effectively.” 

Salsbury is confident that this versatile set of tools acquired in the STS program will serve them well in postgraduate life. “In the end,” she said, “I think graduates of the STS program end up with a pretty powerful skill set.”

Academics

Preparing Students for the Future

There is a need to understand science and society given the decline of our environment and the struggle to acquire resources globally, which could be why the STS major has become so popular. 

by Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

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It's In Her Nature

Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

Marissa Byers ’18, the first Butler student to officially major in Environmental Studies, figures she now has the best of all worlds when it comes to career options. The junior from Springfield, Illinois, could use what she’s learning to work in public health. Or maybe on public policy issues. Or perhaps working for a non-profit or doing something in urban ecology. 

As someone with a broad range of interests who has considered majors in business, communication, and education, Environmental Studies plays to her strengths. 

“My passion has always been the environment, and in Environmental Studies I get to combine a lot of my skills,” she said. “If I go into non-profit work, I’m going to be using those communication skills and those business skills in outreach with communities. So I’ll be using my strengths for a purpose I’m passionate about. Environmental Studies is a nice combination of that.” 

Environmental Studies is a new major under the Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies (STES) umbrella. Biology Professor Carmen Salsbury, who directs the STES program, said student interest in a broad range of disciplines is driving the new major, which allows for a career in the science arena without doing the classic biology-chemistry-physics track. 

“What’s great about STES is that these majors reflect how the world is,” Salsbury said. “These majors are very interdisciplinary and that’s how the world is as well. You have to know an awful lot about a lot of things. If we’re trying to train students who are going to contribute to society, we have to teach them to think broadly and critically and see how things interconnect.” 

Environmental Studies majors focus on the relationship between environment and society and those environmental issues that deserve attention, like: How do we institute environmental change or awareness? Students take some prescribed science courses to establish a basic understanding of chemistry, ecology, and evolutionary biology, as well as other courses that focus on the environment. They also delve into the sociological aspects, such as humanity’s relationship with the environment and what that means for the future. 

All Environmental Studies majors must complete a practicum experience—either taking the Environmental/Sustainability Practicum course or by completing an independent practicum/ internship experience in which they work with a community partner on an issue relevant to that partner. Byers, for example, is fulfilling her requirement by interning with the CUE Farm on campus. Some students might work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, or even at the statehouse dealing with lobbying organizations on an issue like concentrated animal feeding operations or another factory farming-related cause. 

“We really want the students to get out into the community and engage the community in those issues that are environment-related,” Salsbury said. “I think students are recognizing that science and society is critically important to implement policy and change behaviors with regard to the environment, medical practices, and immunizing children, to name just a few areas. All of those things have major sociological, ethical, cultural, political, and economic components to them.” 

Byers said she figures she may end up in a job that doesn’t exist yet. That might mean something in the area of working with kids, since there’s a trend in schools to incorporate nature into the curriculum. That has a lot of benefits for child development education, she said, and also prepares the next generation to be more environmentally conscious. 

“I want to work in urban environments to change people’s perceptions of nature as something that’s out there that we’re not connected to,” Byers said. “I want to bring it into urban environments to help people understand what their daily actions do to the overall environment.”

AcademicsCommunity

It's In Her Nature

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

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Faculty Focus: Jeremy Johnson

Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

The World Health Organization still ranks tuberculosis as a leading cause of death worldwide. On the Butler campus, Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeremy Johnson is turning undergraduate research students into real scientists seeking new answers to halt the spread of TB. 

Johnson’s lifelong enthusiasm for research has helped reshape Butler. He oversees all student research opportunities as Programs for Undergraduate Research committee chair, and he headed up the Butler Summer Institute for a year, giving him the chance to set up independent research projects for 30 students involving all six colleges on campus. 

The Chemistry Department, his home base, has turned many of its lab courses into what he calls “classroom undergraduate research experiences” (emphasis on experience) and added chemistry courses taking new approaches to hands-on learning. In Chemistry and Community, for example, students design experiments for presentation to elementary and middle school students. In Study Abroad for Chemistry, students absorb the scientific background on energy, then explore a German city that operates solely on renewable energy. Jeremy Johnson

Though the hands-on approach requires extra time and effort for both students and faculty, Johnson is unequivocal about its advantages. 

“In research, you develop your own understanding of a problem, look at all the angles, then explain the outcome. It provides a picture of your intellectual ability that you can’t get from classroom opportunities alone,” he said. “We’ve seen significant strides in students’ development of critical reasoning skills. Plus, I find students become more invested. They can see the applicability of what they’ve learned in class, and they get excited to see the end results.” 

As with their TB research, their results can extend far beyond campus. 

“We have students who are looking for and making new derivatives of cholesterol medication for testing at a lab in Iowa. Our students are collaborating on projects with Dow Chemical and Eli Lilly. Next fall, we’re offering a new biochemistry major where we’ll be addressing such questions as whether cancer is curable. These are new ways we’ve built in for students to gain the research and other scientific skills they will need once they move beyond Butler.” 

Johnson not only loves creating research opportunities for students. He considers it his duty. Coming from a small liberal arts college, he sought out Butler for its opportunity to interact closely with students. 

“Part of being a faculty member is your service to the institution. I feel like I’m supporting the students and opportunities I want to see grow here,” he said. 

Dr. Jeremy Johnson was recently named the Hershel B. Whitney Professsor in Biochemistry as a result of a generous gift from the estate of Hershel B. and Ethel L. Whitney. 

The prestige and recognition of an endowed position helps the University attract superb scholars to campus and encourages exceptional educators like Dr. Johnson to remain at Butler.

Academics

Faculty Focus: Jeremy Johnson

“I feel like I’m supporting the students and opportunities I want to see grow here.”

by Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

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Faculty Focus: Tara Lineweaver

Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

When she entered Butler University as a first-year voice major, Professor of Psychology Tara Lineweaver ’91 never would have imagined that she would graduate four years later with a Psychology degree as well. Nor would her first-year self believe she would head to graduate school in Georgia, finish an internship in Chicago, complete a doctoral program in California, and work at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, only to end up right back where she started—at Butler. 

“It’s funny because when I was a student at Butler, I always said I wanted to work at a place like Butler when I grew up, but I never really imagined I’d work at Butler,” Lineweaver said. “I worked in Admission as a student, so I thought if I did come back I was going to be an admission counselor. I had no idea I would return as a professor.” 

Since arriving back at Butler, Lineweaver has participated in numerous research projects with her students, and she also, along with a group of faculty, has played an integral role in helping create and teach Butler’s new Neuroscience minor. 

“Provost Kate Morris, who was the chair of the Psychology Department at the time, initiated the effort. We were excited to get the Neuroscience minor approved,” Lineweaver said. 

The new minor is interdisciplinary with coursework in Psychology, Biology, and Philosophy. Since its creation in 2013, 26 students have graduated with a Neuroscience minor and 62 students are currently pursuing it. 

“One thing that’s really cool about the minor is that it encourages students to think about the mind and brain from both a scientific and liberal arts perspective,” Lineweaver said. 

In addition to the coursework, students involved in the Neuroscience minor complete internships and research as well. 

For instance, last year one of Lineweaver’s students, Colleen Frank ’16, completed a project that looked at the recognition of emotion through both facial expressions and tone of voice in patients with Parkinson’s disease. She found that people with Parkinson’s disease are not as good at recognizing emotion as their healthy age-matched peers. 

Lineweaver’s passion for neuroscience and collaboration with students has allowed her to build up her own research portfolio and to keep pursuing the many areas of interest she developed prior to teaching at Butler, including Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, Dementia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder research. Many times her students have guided which direction her research takes. 

“I’ve always been a dabbler. I tried many different types of research through my graduate training, and when I got to Butler I continued in all of those areas,” Lineweaver said. “That is one thing I really like about being at Butler, that I can do a lot of different things and not just focus on one question.” 

Lineweaver continued by saying, “Not too many people get the opportunity to go back and work at their alma mater. I am really fortunate that I had that opportunity. I love working at Butler.” 

 

Tara is also currently interested in researching healthy aging. If you are age 60 or over, live in or near Indianapolis, and want to participate in future studies, please email her at tlinewea@butler.edu

Academics

Faculty Focus: Tara Lineweaver

“It’s funny because when I was a student at Butler, I always said I wanted to work at a place like Butler when I grew up, but I never really imagined I’d work at Butler.”

by Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

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Faculty Focus: Jen Kowalski

Megan Ward MS ’13

from Spring 2017

Sure, there are collaborations with faculty here at Butler and other institutions, including the University of Massachusetts, but “students do the vast majority of the work,” said Kowalski. This work includes growing and maintaining the C. elegans worms, generating new strains of worms by performing mating crosses, doing molecular biology, fluorescence microscopy, and biochemical studies. They also do data analysis, help write and present their work at conferences here and around the country, and co-author all publications. 

So why C. elegans? Even though they only grow to about one-and-a-half millimeters in length and only have 302 neurons and 959 total cells, humans have surprisingly a lot in common with the worm. Yes, we have a lot more neurons (hundreds of billions) and quite a few more cells (around 60 trillion); but, we have a similar number of genes—around 20,000— and many of those genes are the same. As Kowalski states, “Although our nervous systems are much more complex, the basic organization of the circuitry is the same.” 

What are Kowalski and her students hoping to learn from their research? They’re interested in a family of proteins called ubiquitin system enzymes and the role these enzymes and their targets play in controlling neurons’ signals. “We use the C. elegans neuromuscular junction (the point of contact—or synapse—where motor neurons signal to muscle cells) as a model to investigate ubiquitin enzymes,” explained Kowalski. 

A cell biologist by training, Kowalski is interested in understanding how cells carry out their functions. She’s intrigued by the nervous system because it is a collection of cells that are working in both a “coordinated and tightly regulated fashion to allow information processing, storage, and transmission” (i.e., communication between neurons). This communication is disrupted in various neurological and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer disease. 

The potential impact of their research is enormous. As Kowalski puts it, “Understanding how communication between neurons is regulated in a healthy nervous system is critical to understanding what goes wrong in these diseases—and how we might be able to effectively treat them.”

Academics

Faculty Focus: Jen Kowalski

The potential impact of their research is enormous.

by Megan Ward MS ’13

from Spring 2017

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Faculty Focus: Hala Fadda

Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

Although Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda did not start working at Butler University until 2011, she entered the University with a passion for learning, research, and collaboration. All qualities that embody what it means to be a Butler Bulldog. 

“I knew Butler was a great school with an excellent pharmacy program,” Fadda said. “I came here for the interview and was impressed with the dedication and passion of the students. I thought to myself, ‘I would like to be a part of this—part of educating the next generation of pharmacy students at Butler.” 

Upon starting at Butler, Fadda immediately reached out to gastroenterologist Dr. Monika Fischer at the IU School of Medicine to begin a variety of research projects to understand drug absorption in health and disease. 

The ongoing research focuses on drug absorption, transit times, and motility patterns of our gastrointestinal tract in different patient populations, utilizing tools such as a Capsule endoscopy (camera capsule). Capsule endoscopy is a powerful tool for imaging the gut which is used in the investigation of gastrointestinal disorders. 

“We came up with the idea to look at how this camera capsule transits through the gut—to see the path and examine how fast, or how slow it goes through. We are particularly interested in the small intestine as this is the part of our gut where most drug absorption takes place,” Fadda said. 

From these studies, Fadda and her collaborators were able to determine that transit times of tablets are highly variable between patients. 

“Transit times can range from 50 to 460 minutes. That is a huge variability,” Fadda said. “It was previously thought that small intestinal transit is uniform across patients. We also showed that patients with ulcerative colitis and active Crohn’s disease have longer small intestinal transit times compared to non-inflammatory bowel disease patients. This helps us understand the differences in drug absorption between different patient populations.” 

Fadda and her team of PharmD and graduate research students at Butler have utilized this new knowledge to set up a bench-top model in one of the labs at Butler to simulate the stomach and small intestine. 

“In this model we are mimicking pH transitions and fluid flow in our gut to understand how medicines behave in our body. All this research will help improve the testing and design of new medicines with improved therapeutic efficacy and reduced side effects,” Fadda said. “Ultimately, the goal is to develop better medicines for our patients.” 

Working with a multi-disciplinary research team comprised of both researchers and students, is enriching and allows one to gain new perspectives and ideas and share the latest research findings in the classroom. 

“I’m able to tell my students that there is no such thing as the average individual, and there is no such thing as the average patient. It is important for students to appreciate the variability between different patient populations. Eventually, they are going to apply this knowledge to enhance patient’s lives and make a difference.”

Academics

Faculty Focus: Hala Fadda

“I thought to myself, ‘I would like to be a part of this—part of educating the next generation of pharmacy students at Butler.’” 

by Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

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