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Working Behind Bars

Meredith Dye studies on oft-ignored female population

by Katie Porterfield

 

As a little girl, Assistant Professor Meredith Dye (Sociology and Anthropology) watched a lot of Scooby-Doo.

“At the end of each show, when they unmask the bad guy or the ghost, they see that it’s a real person, and it’s usually someone they know,” says the 37-year-old Dye, who mentions her affection for the cartoon to help make sense of what’s perhaps an unlikely calling: prison research.

“I have a tendency to see people in prison as people, not for what they’ve done,” she says.

It’s this tendency that fuels Dye’s most recent research on women serving life sentences in prison, a small population (5,000 in the United States) that receives little research attention.

In fact, in 2010, she and her colleague Professor Ron Aday (Sociology and Anthropology) visited three Georgia prisons and surveyed 214 of the 300 women serving life sentences in the state. As far as the pair knows, their data represents the largest sample of its kind. In addition to the fact that female lifers are an overlooked prison population, it’s difficult to get permission to work with them.

        “If it weren’t for Ron, I don’t think I would have been able to get access to prisons to collect data,” Dye says, explaining that Aday, who wrote a book on women aging in prison, has a contact in the Georgia Department of Corrections who paved the way for them. “When I was at Georgia [in graduate school], I was discouraged to hear that it took someone 13 years to establish a relationship that enabled him to gain access.”

Teaming up with Aday after joining MTSU is just one of the many experiences that shaped Dye’s interest in prison research. In other words, Scooby-Doo isn’t solely responsible for her “pathway to prison,” as she calls it. As she got older, her concern and compassion for people portrayed as “bad guys” spilled over to her academic career. At Erskine College, where she majored in behavioral science, she helped a Ph.D. student conduct research on deviant behavior in controlled and isolated environments. Between undergraduate and graduate school, she worked as a counselor at a residential treatment center for juvenile sex offenders and found herself asking questions about the environment and its approach to helping patients. While working toward her master’s in sociology with a concentration in criminology at the University of North Carolina–Greensboro, she developed a fascination with those who must live in and adapt to institutions in which their lives are completely controlled. She began to focus mostly on prisons and wrote her thesis and dissertation on factors associated with prison suicides (using secondary data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics). In 2008, after getting her Ph.D. from the University of Georgia, she ventured to MTSU, where she met Aday just as she was beginning to look at gender differences related to suicide in prison.

After working with Aday to gather data, she published “I Just Wanted to Die” in Criminal Justice and Behavior Journal. The article compared suicidal ideation among women before receiving life sentences and then while in prison. Her latest study, “The Rock I Cling To: Religion in the Lives of Life-Sentenced Women,” was cowritten for the Prison Journal.

Dye is far from finished. She’s yet to write a general paper on the characteristics of women serving life sentences, and because her survey contained closed and open-ended questions, she has a wealth of material that should eventually lead to a book. Her findings so far, she explains, are myth breaking in that they don’t fit most preexisting perceptions of who women serving life sentences really are.

“One thing that stands out right away when you meet these women is that they’re like your mom and your grandmom,” Dye says. “They are aging. They have wheelchairs, walkers, white hair, and health problems associated with aging. Or they are middle-aged women who never saw themselves ending up in prison, much less serving a life sentence.”

Unless they are serving life without parole, most women serving life sentences will not be in prison for life. Yet, as Dye explains, they are almost invisible because they comprise such a small population. (Less than one percent of all Georgia inmates are female lifers.)

“What I heard from them over and over again was ‘We are overlooked,’” says Dye. “The prison administration and staff are more concerned about people serving shorter sentences and getting them back into society so they don’t come back to prison.”

Though Dye readily cites useful and interesting percentages about the women she surveyed (see page 37), she’s quick to point out that her research isn’t just about crunching numbers. It’s also about telling the stories of incarcerated women “nobody seems to care about.”

“I’m not saying these women don’t need to be in prison, but who are they, how did they get there, how are they serving their time? Do I think this particular research will lead to a change in policy or their daily lives? Probably not, but I think we always need to ask ourselves what we’re doing.”

Meanwhile, she thinks she’s exactly where she needs to be. “A professor who does research on gangs told me one time that he always tells the people he interviews that for just a series of different life circumstances, choices, or opportunities, he could be where they are,” Dye says. “I feel the same way. I feel privileged and fortunate. I’ve had a lot of opportunities, and I think this is what I’m supposed to do.”

 

From Literary Canon to Vampire Slaying

Dr. David Lavery is crafting a new pop canon, one Buffy at a time

by Candie Moonshower

 

MTSU Literature faculty and Buffy, Sopranos, and Avengers pop culture expert David Levery in studio.

I’ve been asked a hundred times why I’m interested in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” says Dr. David Lavery, director of Graduate Studies in English at MTSU. “I say it’s because it makes me feel like my education wasn’t for nothing.”

Connecting the respected canon of literature to a TV show about vampires and a heroine slayer isn’t the typical self-reflection one might expect from a professor of English literature with curriculum vitae long enough to warrant an ISBN number. But Lavery isn’t typical.

Since 1978, when he earned his Ph.D. in English at the University of Florida, Lavery’s career trajectory, which began with a desire to focus on American literature and specialize in Native American literature, has taken a surprising detour out of the realm of the canon and into the uncharted waters of popular culture, particu­larly television studies. The first leg of that journey was his dissertation, which came out of a push to see a Federico Fellini film. Then, during an early stint at the University of Memphis as a professor of communica­tion and film studies, Lavery was asked to teach a class called TV and Culture.

“At first, I thought it was ridiculous, but I enjoyed it,” he said. Little did he know, but he was in the first group of scholars engaged in groundbreaking studies about TV and its impact on our culture.

Since arriving at MTSU in 1993, he has continued to break new ground, bridging the gap between pop culture and the canon.

“It’s exciting to teach at a school with such a comfort level,” Lavery says. “Here at MTSU, I can teach Wallace Stevens and then Joss Whedon,” the latter being the creator of Buffy, the director of recent box-office smash The Avengers, and other iconic shows and movies. (Lavery recently published a book titled Joss Whedon: A Creative Portrait.)

According to Lavery, the division between low and high culture is not as strong as it once was—or as people thought.

“As a graduate student, I used to hate TV,” he admits. “I thought it was Orwellian and would ruin our souls. I never pictured myself here, in this career. And I’m having fun.”

Lavery adds, “No one has ever invited me to Australia to talk about Wallace Stevens, but they have invited me there to talk about Buffy.” (His eyes twinkle as he tries not to smile too broadly.)

One promising aspect of this burgeoning area of study? The need for scholarly articles and books. Lavery created the first scholarly book devoted to an individual TV series, Twin Peaks.

“No one had thought of taking on a book about TV—and I certainly never anticipated being that person,” he says. Since that seminal work, Lavery has authored, coauthored, edited or coedited over 20 books and over 150 published essays, chapters, and reviews, including the aforementioned book-length biography of Whedon.

Lavery believes MTSU is a leader in the integration of pop culture and traditional English studies. He acknowledges that while English depart­ments have accepted film studies, many have not yet taken on TV, which he calls misguided.

“TV shows are like novels,” he says. “They cover a long narrative time, and they should be part of the canon. The canon will grow.”

It’s not the first time MTSU has done pioneering scholarly work related to pop culture. Lavery points to former professors Michael and Sara Dunne (also noted pop culture scholars) and the much-celebrated Charles Wolfe, who became, arguably, the most important music scholar in the world writing about country music.

For Lavery, it all starts with Buffy.

“I hated the movie, so I didn’t watch the show on TV,” Lavery admits. “Four years in, students wanted me to watch. They said, ‘It’s your kind of show!’ I finally watched it, and it changed my life. Those students changed my life.”

And what about Joss Whedon, around and about whom a good deal of Lavery’s work has been centered?

“Whedon is the champion out there for all of us out here who once thought we were losers,” he says.

Lavery boldly places Whedon studies as a natural complement to those of a better-known literary icon.

“Shakespeare . . . has kept English teachers busy for 400 years,” Lavery says. “Whedon . . . has tapped into how our imaginations work and changed TV. He has reached whole families and spoken in a language we understand. Like Shakespeare in his day, Whedon is one of us.”

Lavery is one of us, too. Tori Warenik, a former student of Lavery’s who received her master’s in English from MTSU in 2013, says she enrolled specifically to study under Lavery.

“I first met Dr. Lavery in 2010 at Slayage, a popular culture conference on Joss Whedon, which convenes every other year. When applying for graduate programs, I contacted Dr. Lavery, who volunteered some advice: ‘Go where you feel like you belong.’” (Lavery was a cofounder of the Slayage conference, and the Slayage Journal—each outgrowths of the Whedon Studies Association Lavery also cofounded.)

Warenik chose MTSU.

“Many people don’t get the opportunity I did to make a connection with someone so plugged in to his area of interest as well as to his legacy: his students,” Warenik says. “Though he has written and edited a veritable shelf of books and academic papers, Dr. Lavery wants his students to succeed in their chosen paths as he has, which in academia, is actually extraordinary.”

Warenik, now a high school English teacher in Florida, says she is excited to try to make those same types of connections with her own students.

What is next for David Lavery? His ambitions are many and varied. He certainly doesn’t want to be pigeonholed. He admits that he has always chafed at the “turf ” of academia.

“In my perfect world, the English Department and the Chemistry Department would teach together,” he says.

Lavery says he has enjoyed teaching in the Honors College and would like to teach an interdisciplinary course on the topic of creativity.

“Our Honors [program] does an incredible job of giving good students a chance to think outside the box,” he says, acknowledging that MTSU is the number-one target for the state’s best and brightest students.

In summer 2014, Lavery is teaching Special Topics in Popular Culture: James Tiptree, Jr. and Science Fiction—a graduate class. He is also finishing a book called Finale about the great television finales of all time.

And the canon?

“I’d like to write a book on Wallace Stevens,” Lavery says with a smile.

 

 

Find out more about MTSU’s English Department below:

Welcome to the Future

James E. Walker Library and its staff deftly ride the digital humanities wave

By Gina K. Logue and Drew Ruble

Dating back to the third century BC and the library of Alexandria, the most famous example of an early library in the ancient world, the mission of libraries has been simple: to connect people to information.

 

In modern times, in a world filled with Web-based media, social networking, and cloud computing, that fact remains true. But today, libraries serve a world extending far beyond bricks and mortar, including anyone with an interest in a particular topic and access to an Internet connection.

 

MTSU’s Walker Library is a sterling example of a modern library that already offers electronic versions of many or most of its periodicals, books, and collections. As library dean Bonnie Allen points out, “We have rows and rows of books on shelves, but that is only about half of our entire collection—the other half is accessed through a keyboard or your smart phone.”

 

Significantly, though, that pathway to information isn’t limited exclusively to the library’s standard collections. Libraries now acquire collections in electronic formats but are also transforming unique collections into digital collections. Beyond digitizing its own materials, Walker Library has also partnered with other academic units to make some of the University’s priceless intellectual holdings available electronically. In doing so, Walker Library has evolved into a true hub for humanities research in a digital age, becoming less a warehouse for books and more of what Allen describes as a “portal to a world of information.”

 

Brave New World

 

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of Maryland (andassociate director of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities), has written that while science disciplines have always evolved with new technology, and, in fact, depend on technological advancements, the humanities have remained “largely the same in approach and creation, staying rooted in the so-called ‘analog humanities,’ which consist of printed, physical media.”

 

That’s changing. Engulfed by the digital age, the humanities are, in Kirschenbaum’s words, rebooting. The defining phrase in the library profession today is “digital humanities.” In a recent interview with the Journal of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, Johanna Drucker, a UCLA professor of bibliography, described digital humanities as “work done at the intersection of computational technology and the humanities.”

 

“That means that we use a whole suite of methods, tools, and techniques that make humanities materials available to digital processing,” Drucker added, specifically citing text analysis, data mining, databases, metadata, geospatial encoding, virtual world building, network analysis, information visualization, interface design, and imaging, among other approaches. “Most of these techniques come from the empirical sciences, statistics, or business applications and have been adopted for use in the humanities. They require structured or formalized presentations of materials—documents, images, sound—in digital formats, which means migrating analog artifacts into a digital format.”

 

In other words, the digital humanities encompass the use of new technology to study what have been historically nontechnological disciplines. And Walker Library is in step with that transformation.

 

From Stacks to Cyberspace

Crucial to this new landscape for libraries is collaboration between campus entities—the humanities, computing, and libraries—to take full advantage of digital scholarship. At MTSU, Walker Library serves not only as a catalyst for the creation, management, and delivery of digital content but also as the new focal point for the storage and dissemination of content through a strong and growing web presence of digital text, images, audio, and video.

 

One major initiative in particular illustrates Walker Library’s role as a leader in the digital spectrum— namely, the execution of digitization projects that will preserve the one-of-a-kind, vintage analog materials already in MTSU’s possession for future generations of scholars. To coordinate the work, Walker Library is partnering with three highly regarded MTSU research centers—the Center for Popular Music, the Center for Historic Preservation, and the Albert Gore Research Center—to make what are some of Tennessee’s most precious collections more accessible worldwide.

 

“This started with a meeting more than a year ago where we looked at synergies among our campus collections, our expertise, and our space, and realized we had a common mission,” Allen says. “I had just joined MTSU as dean of Walker Library and was accustomed to collaboration with a wide range of scholars, as well as libraries. I knew that MTSU archives and Walker Library had this great opportunity to work together. We all seemed to have the same idea at the same time—it was an easy partnership to form!”

 

Named the Digital Partners, the partnership is now publishing in digital form what Allen describes as the “hidden collections of MTSU.” Digital Partners marries the technology, expertise, central campus space, and unique collections at MTSU for the electronic benefit of all who are drawn to the collections housed physically on campus. “Each of the partners has been working to establish processes, gather equipment, and initiate training to digitize their most valued collections,” Allen says. “So, for instance, CPM and Gore are visited by researchers who travel to use their special collections. Walker has the foundational collection of published reference materials that provide the historical context and factual verification on nearly every discipline.”

“Each of the partners had also spent time in the trenches learning the standards and the technical tools of digital publications,” she adds. “All had staffers who had experience in the creation of specific digital collections and had collaborated in the production of Web-accessible portions of our collections, were ready to expand, and eager to do this together.”

 

To support Walker Library’s strategic push further into the digital realm, the library has in the past year alone hired various professionals with specializations in metadata or descriptive data for digital publications. It has also expanded its technological staff expertise. Two librarians, Ken Middleton and Mayo Taylor, who had already developed digital collections in recent years, have continued to keep pace with new developments in digital publishing.

 

Behind glass walls on the second floor of the library are the technical tools Middleton and Taylor use to transform images and documents into a rich digital collection used by local schoolchildren, world scholars, and top researchers alike. The Digital Scholarship Lab, which opened in August 2013, includes scanning equipment, computers, and staff and meeting space that encourages and enables more publishing. All copies of the student newspaper Sidelines through 2011 have been scanned. The digitization of Midlander yearbooks was outsourced. These were obvious targets for preservation to chronicle the University’s history and growth. But there’s more to it than that. For example, one project now underway chronicles the effect of Jim Crow laws on the formation of statewide communities in Tennessee. This yearlong project is funded with a diversity grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents and will conclude with both a collection and a website.

 

The digital collections created by Walker Library, including those achieved through collaboration with the Digital Partners, can be seen on the library’s digital collection website .

Allen says the influence of the collections to date is “strongly toward southern history and MTSU’s history.”

 

Student Success

 

According to Allen, the implications of the Digital Scholarship Lab include positives for graduate students and departments on campus “to apply a variety of technologies in the course of their research and then publishing a digital format or collection.” Allen adds that Walker is evaluating software for the creation of an institutional repository that will virtually house such items as electronic theses and dissertations, articles, reports, photographs, and research data from undergraduates through faculty.

 

“This repository will be the searchable electronic archive of works as they are created on campus,” Allen says.

 

Looking to the future, Allen promises that the Digital Scholarship Lab “will be a place for training our students and faculty in the use of technology to better visualize research and publish in an electronic media.” Preparing students and faculty in this way, Allen says, is the truest definition of digital humanities in academic circles. UCLA, the recognized leader in the digital humanities in higher education, states on its website that at its core, digital humanities teaches students “to create and critique media content, to develop the necessary skills and abilities to evaluate this content, to manipulate and transform digital technologies, and to develop the requisite literacy across information environments and media forms, including textual, aural, visual, and digital domains.”

 

One example Allen cites of the future of digital humanities at MTSU is the potential use of geographic information system (GIS) software to better visualize the influence of music across the South and how that is associated with community change or historical events.

 

“It is so exciting to think of the potential for graduate students in the Historic Preservation program working with the Center for Popular Music and specialists in mapping technologies to work together in creating new scholarship,” Allen says. “We have models among the leading research institutions like UCLA to guide us, but most importantly, the library and archival partnership bring the necessary talent and the collections to provide a rich and innovative learning environment for our students and faculty.”

 

Back to the Future

 

Walker Library’s collaboration with the three MTSU centers is symbolic of the interdisciplinary nature of the digital humanities. The Jim Crow laws project is an example of how libraries can facilitate such research using new technologies and working with multiple databases. The total effort, which emphasizes real world education in a digital age, ties in seamlessly to MTSU’s focus on student success.

 

 

Clearly the role of the university library in the 21st century is not simply to serve as a repository for books. Libraries have been reinterpreted and redesigned to serve as a vibrant resource for a diverse audience looking for multimedia solutions. But whether content is being delivered off the shelf or online, the modern library’s mission remains the same as it was in the third century—to make reading accessible and learning possible, even as it remains a true community resource. Walker Library has deftly changed with the times to maintain that seminal role at MTSU and beyond.

 

 

 

For a video tour and more information about James E. Walker Library, check out the video below:

 

 

 

MTSU strives to be a green campus, here is a video of a project by Erin Anfinson’s drawing class to encourage recycling and reducing waste on campus:

 

Your Move

MTSU’s underwater treadmills provide the next step for many suffering severe mobility impairment

by Gina K. Logue

 

They come from home and from work, from Murfreesboro, Nashville, and points beyond to MTSU’s Alumni Memorial Gym (AMG) to spend a few minutes walking in water. As ordinary a task as it seems, it’s really quite extraordinary since most of them can’t walk at all.

 

People who the insurance industry asserts are incapable of making any physical progress for the rest of their lives are making progress on MTSU’s underwater treadmills.

 

The two machines themselves, located in separate rooms, are not so unusual. Many universities and athletic facilities have underwater treadmills. However, they are used most commonly for the rehabilitation of able-bodied athletes who have sustained injuries, mere temporary setbacks on the way to their next gold medals or touchdowns.


Richard Locke was a fullback for Memphis State University, now the University of Memphis, from 1977 to 1980. He amassed a total of 1,630 all-purpose (rushing and receiving combined) yards and scored eight touchdowns in his collegiate career. Today he is trying to raise his left leg high enough not to drag it against the treadmill as he walks at a steady pace through the 90-degree water, holding to the steel-enclosed glass sides for balance.

The lead custodian at Murfreesboro’s Blackman High School is determined to recover from a stroke that affected the left side of his body last year.

“I can bend my knees a lot better with the water resistance,” Locke says. “It feels like it gives me some stability, and it feels safer than a regular treadmill.”

 Any time Locke’s left leg starts to shuffle, his wife, Debbie, positioned behind the treadmill, says, “Pick up that left leg!”

 

Dr. Sandy Stevens, who fills the tank and guides clients through their workouts, says people have been coming to the unpretentious cinder-block environs of the AMG basement for the past two years to regain lost mobility.

 

“Insurance doesn’t cover this type of exercise because the companies say these people can’t make functional improvements,” Stevens says.

Whether full recovery is possible or not, there is value in improving one’s physical, mental, and emotional quality of life. That’s what Stevens wants to emphasize.

 

“If you put these underwater treadmills in YMCAs, in senior citizen centers, in community centers, people would use them on their own with minimal supervision,” Stevens says.

 

Stevens is a postdoctoral research fellow with a tenure track teaching position in the Department of Health and Human Performance’s exercise science program. She knows from her past research with children with cerebral palsy that using the underwater treadmill to stimulate the pathways from the nerves to the brain produces results.

 

She also knows from interactions with academic colleagues at conferences that no major university in the United States is conducting this type of research.

 

That’s why Trent Swarthout and his parents traveled from Wisconsin to Murfreesboro. Swarthout, a handsome 23-year-old, was paralyzed from the neck down in a February 2012 skiing accident. Following his accident, the Swarthouts found the lack of therapy opportunities and research frustrating. Then they learned of MTSU’s underwater treadmill therapy from a cousin who lives in the Nashville area.

 

“Initially, I was really tight,” Swarthout says. “I would have spasms and involuntary movements. But, eventually, I loosened up and got a fluid walking movement going.”

 

With an assistant behind him to move his feet, Swarthout graduated from three five-minute sessions a day to three 20-minute sessions a day over three months. He took a total of more than 50 steps, 20 favoring his nondominant left side.

 

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Swarthout says. “By the end, I was very much surprised at how much I had done.”

 

Swarthout is back home in Wisconsin, where he does regular treadmill work wearing a harness to prevent him from falling. His father, David, says his son has improved mentally and physically and that Trent has increased his bone density and muscle mass.

 

“It’s just amazing,” David says. “You would think they would do this everywhere.”

 

 Carmen Thompson of Nashville had been married only two years when her honeymoon-like bliss ended abruptly on a summer day in 2007. She was mowing the lawn on her husband’s family farm in New Orleans when the mower struck a chain hidden in the grass. The chain was wrapped around a two-ton A-frame structure, which crashed down on her, pinning her to the ground for 20 minutes before her husband arrived home and rescued her.

Two back surgeries later, Thompson remained confined to a wheelchair. Meanwhile, a friend sent her a newspaper article about MTSU’s treadmill program.

“The article sat on my desk for several months as I was a complete paraplegic and did not see how it applied to me,” Thompson says. “But one day, I just decided to call Sandy and see what it was all about.”

 

On Aug. 1, 2011, Thompson became the first fully paralyzed person to try the underwater treadmill as a study subject.

“Before I started the study, I was swimming laps in the Olympic-sized pool at the YMCA twice a week, but it was not the same,” Thompson says. “The water was really cold, and it was like drudgery.”

 

By contrast, Thompson describes swishing through the warm water of the treadmill as “exhilarating.”

 

“I walk for 10 minutes at a time with a three-minute break in between,” Thompson says. “It is relaxing to me.”

 

Thompson is further bolstered by her therapy companion, Tink, a Pomeranian who looks like an oversized powder puff. A present from Thompson’s husband, Tink is a constant companion, either sitting in Thompson’s lap as she self-propels her wheelchair or trotting beneath the chair, her four tiny legs a collective blur as she keeps pace.

 

Today, Thompson can walk on solid ground with braces attached to her legs, but she says she gives all the glory to God.

 

“I have been able to take my leg braces with me to wear to church and on vacation,” Thompson says. “I can stand up and sing praises to God with the congregation whenever I want. Amazing after sitting for four years without the option to stand!”

 

Even Thompson doesn’t use the word “miracle,” but she and other MTSU treadmill clients are quick to
acknowledge the personal revolution in their lives.

 

“I am still paralyzed,” Thompson says. “That has not changed. But the opportunity to stand, walk, move, and see the wonderful people at the lab three times a week has been life-changing!”

 

Here is a video of the Underwater Treadmill in action:

As Good As Gold

Dr. Charles Chusuei’s technology could transform patient care in emergency rooms and health centers worldwide.

by Michael Burgin

Photos by J. Intintoli

MTSU Chemistry faculty Dr. Charles Chusuei (center) and his grad students L-R Mulugeta Wayu, Anita Saha, Shawtik Chandra Das, and Anup Kumar Deb studying the use of zinc in nanotechnology as an alternative to precious metals in a lab in Wiser-Patton.

 On the bottom floor of Wiser-Patten Science Hall, past a lecture hall and a few smaller classrooms and teachers’ offices,  one can find the home base of Dr. Charles C. Chusuei and his team of student researchers. At first glance, the lab is pretty much what one would expect. A number of small work stations, some whiteboards, and a desk or two populate the periphery of the room. (Stacked in one corner, there are a number of large, unopened boxes.) A bulky piece of equipment dominates the center. Most scientists (and many students in the field) would recognize the instrument as an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer, a machine that allows for nondestructive elemental analysis. It’s a vital tool in the associate professor of chemistry’s current line of research. Of course, give a layperson, someone who doesn’t know a spectrometer from a chromatograph, a few moments to look around, and you’ll probably hear the following question: “Is that a hand drill?”

 

It is (a Black and Decker, in fact). It’s also a makeshift stepper motor for a homemade ultra-high vacuum sample transfer system. With the assistance of Rick Taylor, lab director in the Department of Engineering Technology, and the machine shop in the Voorhees Engineering Technology Building, Chusuei used the drill, a gearbox, a threaded rod, and machined pieces of aluminum to build a device the components of which would normally cost about $1,000 to buy new.

 

There are plenty of other examples of Chusuei’s combination of thrift and inventiveness—a fish tank pump substitutes for the Wiser-Patten building’s lack of dedicated pipes for chilled water. It’s one of many drawbacks to the 46-year-old building—those boxes in the corner are actually equipment with technical and safety specs that bar them from being installed in Wiser-Patten. In a field where research ambitions often far outstrip existing facility technology and available funding, it’s not uncommon to find professors who are equal part bargain hunters and MacGyver. Chusuei, who arrived at MTSU in 2010, can count on one of those variables changing soon—a $147 million, state-of-the-art science building is scheduled to open for instruction in 2015—but that doesn’t mean he’s just waiting around. Quite the opposite, Chusuei and his student researchers have been busy developing a technology that could transform patient care in emergency rooms and health centers throughout the world.

As a result, this cluttered room, with its combination of brand-new, unpacked equipment in waiting and cobbled-together scientific apparatuses in use—not to mention the man standing in the middle of it all—represents the exciting present and potential-filled future of science research at MTSU as surely as the new building being built a few hundred yards away.

 

 

Not So Common Sense 

As with most scientific research, discoveries with big applications often boil down to thinking small. Really small. Yet it also involves the detection of something one can find a bottle of in almost every home—hydrogen peroxide. It turns out that bubbling stalwart of home-based health care is also a natural byproduct of the biochemistry of all living organisms. The ability to monitor hydrogen peroxide on a molecular level has a host of practical applications in fields as diverse as health care (early cancer detection) and food service (spoilage detection). As a result, researchers have developed a variety of nanotech-based sensors. For the most part, those technologies have used sensors dependent on carbon nanotubes (CNT) coated with oxides derived from precious metals—gold, palladium, ruthenium, etc. As the word “precious” suggests, it’s not cheap to use such metals. But just as with his lab’s ultra-high vacuum sample transfer system, Dr. Chusuei found that the expensive way to do things was hardly the only way. In an effort to establish a cheaper biosensing material, Chusuei turned to zinc.

“A common theme of nanotechnology is determining how material size and shape affects chemical reactivity,” Chusuei explains. “Our research team has shown that zinc oxide (ZnO) shape selection in the nanocomposite formulation (involving carbon nanotubes) dramatically improves its biosensing properties.”

 

The Goldilocks Standard 

An earth-rich element, zinc is much more abundant and, therefore, cheaper, than the precious set. But in order to establish it as a viable substitute, Chusuei and his team first needed to control the shape of the ZnO compound itself. (The more complete the coverage by the ZnO of the CNT, the better the sensor.) “It was a lot like the fairy tale Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Chusuei says. In the end, working the ZnO into its ideal shape required many things being “just right.” It required, among other things, finding just the right temperature (90 degrees Celsius) of the solution in which the suspended ZnO nanoparticles were formed and the pH (7.365) for maximum reactivity, as well as establishing just the right amount of time for sonication (the application of  sound energy to agitate the solution).

With the bulk of the research completed—and with the right balance struck—it’s actually a rather simple procedure to replicate, but as Chusuei’s patent application shows, it wasn’t an obvious one. The real-world potential of the research has Chusuei and his students excited. The cheaper the materials, the more widespread the possible application of the technology.

“If we can attach this biosensor in a portable electrochemical cell, then people can easily detect the presence of [certain compounds] in their body whenever and wherever they want,” says grad student Anup Deb, who learned of Dr. Chusuei’s research while an undergraduate at the University of Dhaka, in Bangladesh.

“What I’m doing now contributes to the effort to create a cancer-free community,” says Mulugeta Wayu, a Ph.D. candidate in the University’s Molecular Biosciences program who came to the United States after spending years as a research scientist in Ethiopia.

Cancer is not the only affliction potentially addressed by the research of Chusuei and his students nor is hydrogen peroxide the only substance detectable. Another vein of inquiry includes the detection of lactic acid, a marker for anaerobic respiration (the presence of which can indicate that a patient is not breathing well or getting enough oxygen). Such sensors could detect signs of physical distress that show up well “before changes in heart rate or blood pressure would be registered,” Chusuei points out.

Even with so much established, there remain plenty of practical questions and intriguing pathways for follow-up research. “Now it becomes a question of how low you can go,” Chusuei says. As with most things nanotech, the smaller one gets, the wider the applications. (There’s also the question of testing and gauging the toxicity of the resulting sensors.) The lab’s success with ZnO has also led to research with other non-precious-metal-based compounds. Anita Saha, a senior biochemistry major, is working with cerium oxide to detect acetaminophen.

In less than a year, Dr. Chusuei’s modest little laboratory will be housed in a shiny new science building. The low-energy electron diffractometer, liquid nitrogen generator, and quadrupole mass analyzer—to name a few of those brand-new pieces of equipment still in boxes—will have been unpacked and put to long-awaited use. It’s exciting to consider, and no doubt the state-of-the-art facility will make a host of scientific processes easier and new discoveries possible. Nonetheless, the most crucial ingredients to the University’s future success as a research institution are already in place in the form of Dr. Chusuei, his colleagues, and all the student researchers under their direction. Oh, and that hand drill masquerading as a stepper motor.

 

To see interviews with Dr. Chusuei and his research team:

 

 

Putting Gas in the Past

MTSU’s “Davy Crockett of science” travels from ocean to ocean on only sun and water

by Mike Browning

The result was a level of exposure for Ricketts’s research—and for MTSU—that the University couldn’t have achieved through traditional marketing methods.

Though the sun is 93 million miles away, its light—solar energy—travels to earth in a mere eight minutes. Most of the earth’s surface is another continuously renewed cycle of energy—H2O.

Sun and water. Both are essential to life. And both are relatively free and abundant.

Dr. Cliff Ricketts, a longtime School of Agribusiness and Agriscience faculty member and an alternative fuels researcher, has a dream that one day people will drive their vehicles using only the natural energies of sun and water. He’s worked for 25 years to figure out how to make that dream a reality.

“My whole passion is sun and water,” says Ricketts, a farmer who fashions himself a modern-day Davy Crockett of science, or “frontiersman with energy.”

In March 2013, Ricketts and a team of current and former students made news nationwide when they successfully drove a modified Toyota Prius from the Atlantic at Tybee Island, Georgia, to a Pacific beach near Los Angeles—a five-day, 2,600-mile driving expedition—powered exclusively by hydrogen made from sun and water.

Members of MTSU’s News and Media Relations team, traveling with Ricketts, worked tirelessly to generate media attention for the professor and for MTSU. Months before the trip even began, the team studied Ricketts’s route from Georgia to California, targeting larger cities and their media outlets with story pitches. Interviews were then arranged with journalists nationwide as the trip unfolded. Among the media outlets that covered the trip were USA Today /Gannett, The Tennessean , the Associated Press, Discovery Channel Canada, and RFD-TV. The result was a level of exposure for Ricketts’s research—and for MTSU—that the University couldn’t have achieved through traditional marketing methods.

It was a cumbersome but necessary task if Ricketts was to make his point—that natural and renewable resources provide a viable energy option. And make his point he did. Over and over along the 2,600-mile journey, Ricketts stopped for media interviews, telling reporter after reporter about his work at MTSU—about his expedition and about the technology—utilizing hydrogen separated from water through solar energy. Told at a time when gas prices nationally ranged between $3.20 and $5.19, Ricketts’s story was equal parts the culmination of his life’s research and a chance to talk about alternative fuels. Ricketts wants Americans to understand that there is a clear alternative to high-dollar gas and dependency on foreign oil. “I think it has a lot of implications,” Ricketts says. “Time will tell.”

One Small Step

The 64-year-old Ricketts traveled the length of Tennessee using only hydrogen in 2010. Then, in 2012, he and his team made it from the Georgia coast to Conway, Ark., a 700-mile trip, on hydrogen alone. Only the lack of a hydrogen fueling system infrastructure kept him from going coast-to-coast that year.

In the Prius used this spring, two hydrogen storage tanks built and attached underneath the car (alongside tanks added to the backseat and also hauled by a separate trailer) equipped Ricketts and team with the fuel necessary to complete the coast-to-coast trip. Ricketts compared his trip with no fueling stations to the plight of two brothers who revolutionized human travel more than a century ago.

Ricketts wants Americans to understand that there is a clear alternative to high-dollar gas and dependency on foreign oil.

“There were no airports when the Wright brothers flew the first airplane,” Ricketts says. “And, of course, there weren’t any hydrogen fueling stations along the way, so we brought our fueling station with us.”

“I believe the government somehow will have to get involved,” Ricketts adds. “We’re kind of in a chicken-or-egg situation right now. We don’t have hydrogen fueling stations because we don’t have [hydrogen] cars, and we don’t have cars because we don’t have hydrogen fueling stations.”

Home at Last

The end of the expedition at Long Beach, Calif., was captured on film by MTSU’s media team and produced as a documentary. The professor’s joy in successfully completing the trip makes for can’t-miss television. The documentary can be viewed at www.MTSUNews.com, or by searching the MTSU YouTube channel.

“I feel like I’ve climbed Mt. Everest,” Ricketts says in the film. “Putting a man on the moon has more ‘wow’ factor . . . but as far as helping people for hundreds or maybe thousands of years to come, I think this is planting seeds that will help [hu]mankind.”

Not Horsing Around

Collecting manure doesn’t deter horse enthusiast Goertzen’s desire to help area equines

by Patsy Wieler

Animal science major and Buchanan Fellow Ellen Goertzen knows her research isn’t something most people would discuss during dinner. After all, collecting and freezing manure samples and then studying them for equine intestinal parasites is a project few might want to touch. However, Goertzen, who owns, trains, and rides horses for fun and competition, felt right at home in the various barns where she collected her specimens.

“My research focused on horse parasites, the eggs of which can be seen in the manure when examined under a microscope with a special technique called the McMaster technique,” Goertzen says. “This technique uses specially marked slides with a slot in which I injected the feces after some processing.”

The Slidell, La., native says her main motivation for pursuing this area of research is a desire to contribute to the overall well-being of horses.

“As a horse owner and enthusiast, I have a strong personal interest in any research that leads to improving the health of our horses,” she says. “A parasite study was relatively straightforward and required some equipment but nothing too complex or expensive. I could do most of the research on my own, and because I could freeze my samples for later use, I could do it in my own time.”

Goertzen gathered at least two samples from 60 horses boarded at six different barns. When frozen, the airtight bags of manure were kept in various Davis Science Building freezers and defrosted under hot water before being tested.

“The project was a survey of horse deworming programs that are currently being used in this area, and then I compared these practices with the actual need [amount and type of parasite eggs found in the feces of the horses],” Goertzen says. “I then designed a program for each barn based on actual results.”

Her findings showed it is more effective to use a rotation of treatments rather than just one product, and that a fairly aggressive deworming program is needed to maintain low to zero levels of parasites.

“Horse owners can use the data and information in my project to make better decisions for the health of their animals,” Goertzen says. “Even if individual fecal testing might be impractical, I have at least shown that rotation of products is much more effective than non-rotation, and that a relatively frequent deworming program is necessary for this region.”

She says the horse owners, MTSU equine veterinary medicine specialist Johnny Haffner, Rebekah Norman of the UT Extension, and her advisor, biology professor Anthony Newsome, provided a great deal of time and expertise for her project.

Goertzen (who cooks and plays the violin and is an MTSU equestrian team member), says her work “is a good starting place for further study in parasite management research. A good project is a small part of the definite answer, which takes many more repetitions and follow-up studies.”

Imitations in Life

Dr. Andy Brower uses mimicry patterns to decode the evolutionary history of butterflies

by Allison Gorman

Dr. Andy Brower uses mimicry patterns to decode the evolutionary history of butterflies

At an age when most kids were sitting on the family room floor watching Captain Kangaroo, Andy Brower was running across the green hills of Trinidad, watching his parents collect butterflies. Both were renowned entomologists: his mother, Jane, conducted groundbreaking research on butterfly mimicry, the protective adaptation by which one species develops the markings of another; his father, Lincoln, built on her research and also received acclaim for his study of the unique migratory pattern of the monarch butterfly. The scientific term “Browerian mimicry” was named for them. (“My parents were high school sweethearts,” Brower says. “Nerdy, bug-collecting sweethearts.”)

By age seven, Andy had tagged along on several research trips to Trinidad and, shepherded by graduate assistants, amassed his own “little-kid butterfly collection” of brightly colored tropical species.

Now, Dr. Brower is a renowned entomologist in his own right. A graduate of Yale and Cornell, he conducted postdoctoral research at the Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution, and he has published more than 60 peer-reviewed articles and become an internationally recognized expert on butterfly evolution.

In 2006, he left Oregon State University to join the biology faculty at MTSU, where he recently earned the University’s Distinguished Research Award.

One of Brower’s advantages over his parents is technology they didn’t have that allows him to study butterflies at the chromosomal level. Over the past 20 years, he has been piecing together an evolutionary history of a group of South American butterflies, studying their DNA to figure out how certain mimetic patterns developed over time in that continent’s diverse geography. Did those patterns stay essentially the same, he wondered, or did they change—and what role did genetics play in the process? He hypothesized that the butterflies evolved their wing patterns independently and “mimicked” one another many times in different areas. When he began the research, he says, “The access we had to the genome was pretty limited. It’s much broader nowadays, but subsequent research has largely borne out what I said.”

Brower has secured more than $1 million in external funding for his research, and he just received funding from the National Science Foundation to begin new fieldwork in South America. He and several Brazilian scientists will collaborate with the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Botanical Garden, the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County to construct a Pleistocene history of the Amazon Basin. “We’ll be looking at genetic patterns of variation in a variety of model organisms including birds, monkeys, trees, and then butterflies,” he says. “We’re going to try to do some next-generation sequencing, which is something I haven’t done before.” He hopes to begin in the spring.

Researchers like Brower are playing beat the clock, because thousands of species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction each year. “There are too many people, the climate is changing, and it’s an ecological catastrophe for most other living things in the world right now,” he says. “And as countries like China and Brazil become more economically advanced, it speeds up the destruction of natural resources—they get whittled down to little national parks and places like that.” The next few decades will be the most critical in history for understanding and preserving biodiversity, Brower says—and that requires coordinated, systematic research.

To promote that collaborative mission, Brower has added his expertise to the Tree of Life Project, a web-based “family tree” charting genetic interconnections among all living things. Scientists and nature enthusiasts around the world have contributed to 10,000 web pages, each devoted to a different group of plant or animal, from tyrannosaurs to fungi. (Thanks to Brower, it includes more than 40 varieties of Heliconius butterfly alone.) It is an ambitious undertaking, a blueprint of the evolution of life on earth.

Because Darwinian theory underpins Brower’s research—mimicry is evolution by natural selection—he’s well aware of the attendant political and religious baggage. While his own fieldwork never crosses the perilous intersection of human and ape, he does teach an evolution course required for biology majors. Brower begins by acknowledging to his students that a majority of Americans reportedly don’t believe in evolution—and then he reminds them that for scientific purposes, absolute truths are less important than hypotheses and data, the framework for understanding biology. “You don’t have to believe it,” he tells them, “but you’ve got to understand it.”

To understand. If work like Andy Brower’s could be distilled to a single concept, that would be it. Unlike applied science, whose goal is problem solving (often through the development of marketable technology), basic science has no agenda beyond furthering understanding of the natural world.

Certainly applied science is built upon that understanding: as Nobel prize–winning astrophysicist George Smoot once noted, “If we only did applied research, we would still be making better spears.”

But as academia pushes the more lucrative applied side, Brower says he feels fortunate to do what he does for a living. “My work is like art, in a sense, and my artistic medium is that I generate stories about the evolutionary history of butterflies.” When he tells those stories well, he doesn’t just help people understand biodiversity—he gets them excited about it. Then, perhaps, they’ll be motivated to preserve it.

No Vanishing Act

Claudia Barnett’s stature as a writer and playwright continues to grow

by Drew Ruble and Connie Huddleston

Claudia Barnett says her playwriting career started when she submitted a one-act play to a little theater in Michigan “and then forgot about it.” A few months later, the theater tracked her down, seeking permission to produce the play. She drove to Kalamazoo, saw the production (which she described as “wonderful”), and was especially struck when one female audience member told her after the play that all young girls should see it. Inspired, Barnett sent the play to Dramatics, a magazine for younger audiences, which published it.

Barnett’s ascent in playwriting has continued from that point on. An MTSU English professor, she writes about missing women, women who kill, and women who are silenced. In September 2011, based on only the first two scenes of her play Witches Vanish, she was chosen for the Downstage Left Playwright Residency at Chicago’s Stage Left Theatre.

At the time, she’d written only 20 pages. She traveled to Chicago six times during the year to complete the first draft, working with her director and five actresses. The characters are Macbeth’s witches, who explore the stories of women who disappear. The witches travel from the Spanish Inquisition to the Soviet gulag to Juarez, Mexico. The play had a workshop production as part of Stage Left’s LeapFest in May and June.

As playwright-in-residence at Tennessee Repertory Theatre in 2009– 2010, she experimented with poetry, madness, and time in her fulllength play No. 731 Degraw-street, Brooklyn; or, Emily Dickinson’s Sister.

In 2012, she attended a conference in Spain to present a staged reading of He Killed My Bird; or, Now that We’re in Heaven, a one-act play inspired by her Honors sophomore literature course, Women Who Kill, which covers Medea and Macbeth; 20th-century examples, Machinal and The Little Foxes; and all the way to contemporary plays by Carson Kreitzer, Rebecca Gilman, and Suzan-Lori Parks. “You’d be amazed at how many plays by contemporary American women are about women who kill,” she says. Her latest published work is I Love You Terribly, a book of six short plays.

Barnett lives in a log cabin outside Murfreesboro, surrounded by a few acres of trees—a place that she says feeds her creativity. Originally from a bustling city in New York, she says she loves silence, fresh air, and the deer in her yard. She gets her best writing ideas while yanking out weeds.

Barnett first joined the MTSU faculty in 1994 after completing her Ph.D. at Ohio State University. She has been instrumental in developing the Visiting Artist Seminar on campus, and she has brought many excellent guests to MTSU, including actress/playwright Heather Raffo, filmmaker Jesse Epstein, and songwriter Nathan Bell. As a teacher, she is especially proud of one of her former students, Margaret Hoffman.

Both Barnett and Hoffman had plays produced by Independent Actors Theatre in Columbia, Missouri, in March. Engaging with her craft, Barnett can’t help but pass her enthusiasm and love of writing to her students.

Blowing Our Horn

MTSU’s School of Music distinguishes itself by offering a truly retro musical education

by Drew Ruble

Music historians would agree that the creation of the electric guitar and amplifier changed modern music. Out of the centuries-long shadow of the plucky, acoustic sounds of a wooden guitar emerged a cacophony of sounds ranging from crunchy to throbbing to shredding. Plugged in, musicians could now play loud enough to reach the ears of listeners far across a field or sitting in an arena’s upper deck. But for all that electric guitar innovator Les Paul contributed to music (and culture) through his creation, the electric guitar was by no means the first evolution of an instrument that ushered in seismic change to the world musical landscape. As George Riordan, director of the MTSU School of Music can attest, the evolution of instruments including the violin, the oboe, and the piano three centuries earlier had just as seismic an impact on the music and culture of earlier generations as plugging in did on this one. And at MTSU, the study of that evolution has become a thread running through the education of music majors.

A Change of Tune

In the 18th century, or the late Baroque and Classical periods, orchestral music was the privilege of, well, the privileged. Composers like Haydn earned their living writing and performing music for dukes and duchesses and their private audiences. But as the middle class began to rise and the aristocracy exerted less economic dominance, the patronage system began to wither. Composers were pushed out of the palaces and down more entrepreneurial musical paths.

Artists such as Mozart and Beethoven not only wrote symphonies and concertos but also booked theaters and even sold the tickets to their performances. And since playing to bigger and bigger audiences meant making a better living, such performances moved into bigger and bigger concert halls, which required revolutionary changes in the instruments—and a change in the roles of some instruments—to adapt to increasingly larger performing spaces, which simply demanded louder playing.

Consider the oboe, which in Baroque times was used mostly to double the string section. With the new demand for volume, the oboe’s function (and thereby its design) changed in order for it to function as a prominent solo instrument above the orchestra for brief intervals, then to duck back into an accompanying role. Similarly, the violin emerged from its role as a quiet instrument used primarily for dance and was refashioned to produce a brighter sound with a raised pitch, making it more dominant. Alterations in bows, in particular, produced more volume and sustained phrasing. Significant change also came to the harpsichord, a keyboard instrument, which plucks strings to make a beautiful but modest sound. The early pianoforte, which we know today as the piano, used small hammers instead of a plucking mechanism.

Musicians then could play soft (“piano”) or loud (“forte”), and composers had many new ways to incorporate nuance into keyboard phrasings. These changes (and others) led to the modern orchestra.

Riordan, an oboist equally deft with Baroque, Classical, and modern models, emphasizes that such change—while needed—did not necessarily mean improvement of the instruments.

“All this change was great in terms of reaching larger audiences, but it also required tradeoffs,”

Riordan says. “You’re solving one problem but maybe creating another one. For instance, you add volume but lose something of the expressive nature of the instrument when you change it to fit different circumstances.”

Riordan says altering the basic sound and response of instruments also changed the musician’s approach to the music.

“This meant performers altered the way that they played the older music to better fit their modernized instruments. In the process, many stylistic elements from the 17th and 18th centuries were lost, and performance of older works became profoundly different from the original conceptions of the composers.”

Broadening Minds

How does all this history apply at MTSU’s School of Music? Due to the wealth of period instruments—and faculty specialists—at MTSU, the University has an unusual advantage over many institutions with similar music schools in that its students get more exposure to the “root” instruments that apply to their chosen concentrations.

For instance, trombonists at MTSU can experiment with the sackbut, a Renaissance instrument, and might even get a chance to perform with it.

Others might perform on Baroque trumpet or horn.

“In doing so, they begin to understand what it felt like to play these instruments 300 years ago—and there are profound differences,” Riordan explains.

“Old brass instruments didn’t have valves. Everything you did, you had to do in the mouthpiece—for example, blow harder to play an octave. When our students get a chance to pick up and play around with these period instruments, it gives them fresh ideas to apply to the modern instrument. That’s why we’re interested in it here.”

Similarly, MTSU students working on a Haydn or Mozart sonata can experience the very light touch that was needed on a 1780s fortepiano (the term used today to refer to an early piano), or how brass performers used an entirely different range of harmonics.

“Once you play a period instrument a little while, it teaches you to phrase in a certain way,” Riordan says. “The instrument teaches you what is possible. Then you can take that knowledge and experience and apply it on the modern instrument.”

The use of historical instruments by faculty members is a research tool and pedagogical enhancement to the study of modern instruments—it’s not really an end in itself at MTSU.

“Our main mission in terms of our students’ applied music performance is to help them become the best performers on their “native” instruments that is, the modern versions, but older instruments can help inform performers about the stylistic intent behind older music,” Riordan explains.

Is such an infusion of period instrument knowledge common at other music schools? While programs like the Juilliard School in New York and Indiana University have whole divisions devoted to period instruments, most universities boast at best a faculty member or two who might be interested in period performance (usually a pianist who might also play harpsichord).

“To have all these Baroque instruments in our instrumentarium at MTSU, the faculty members who play them, and students who can use them and to have it all integrated into the curriculum is unusual,” Riordan says. “We have several faculty members who regularly perform with period instruments. Here at MTSU, it is seen as something that goes along with the modern instruction—that is parallel and enriching.”

What is most unusual for music schools the size of MTSU’s (perhaps even unique) is that there is a significant number of individual faculty members (ten) who have experience performing on old instruments, although this is still very much a minority of the faculty. Some students do get a chance to play and even perform on old instruments while at MTSU, but all music majors (and many nonmajors and community members) have a chance to experience period-instrument performances.

Such period-specific instruction is a trend in higher education, and it’s also shifting the classical music landscape. According to Riordan, performers today are certainly capable of creating compelling performances of Baroque and Classical music on modern instruments, but many now choose to perform on instruments typically in use at the time the music was composed.

“The thinking of these period-instrument performers is that the old versions of instruments more readily allow for the re-creation of the music in the ways that the composer intended, resulting in a more historically informed performance,” he explains.

Partially due to the period-instrument movement, instrumentalists are increasingly taking a more sophisticated approach and attempting to perform the music from various periods in historically appropriate ways on modern instruments. Given their significant exposure to period instrumentation, MTSU School of Music students can be considered to be on the leading edge of that movement.

 A Band for All Time

Some 10 full-time MTSU School of Music faculty members play on 17th- and 18th-century period  instruments and are able to re-create the style the composers would have expected, so that their music may be heard with all its original color and passion.

The horns do not have valves of any kind but do have interesting extra tubing called crooks. Angela DeBoer, horn, uses a (valveless) Classical period natural horn to introduce the harmonic series to all first-year music theory students, so all undergraduate music majors are being taught a theoretical concept using a historical instrument.

Trumpet professor Michael Arndt (also incoming president of the Faculty Senate) has all his students play the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on natural trumpet and then on their modern instruments, to inform their playing.

A few students study Baroque flute with adjunct professor Jessica Dunnavant, and trombone professor David Loucky has had interested students perform on sackbut and ophicleide.

Of interest to Andrea Dawson, violin, and Christine Kim, cello, are the tip and frog (the lower end) of the modern and Baroque bows; the strings, which are gut; the bridge, tailpiece, neck, and fingerboard; and the lack of a chin rest on the violin and the lack of an end pin on the cello.