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CoAS Accomplishments in Brief

April 03, 2020

We are pleased to recognize the recent grants, publications, presentations, awards and honors of the members of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Awards, Appointments & Accomplishments

Martina Azar and Jillian Tessier, PhD candidates in psychology both mentored by Maria Schultheis, PhD, have been placed in internship sites for the upcoming training year. Azar will join the VA Boston Healthcare System in the area of neuropsychology, and Tessier will join the University of Florida Health Science Center in the area of clinical neuropsychology.

Susan Bell, PhD, department head of sociology, joined a transnational initiative called the “Gender and COVID Initiative,” convened by a team from Johns Hopkins University, the London School of Economics and Simon Fraser University.

Isa Betancourt, MS communication ’19, was awarded a Fulbright Study/Research grant to Indonesia, where she will work with the National University (UNAS) to assess insect biodiversity at the University's orangutan research field site in Borneo. Betancourt will document insect biodiversity prior to and after a hydraulic restoration project in UNAS’ research forest, a project that will found of the university’s entomological research collection.

Stephanie Oppenheim, BA sociology ’19, was elected Health Law Society President at Villanova University, where she is pursuing her JD.

Karen Nulton PhD, teaching professor of English, was invited to join the editorial board for Teaching College Literature, an online journal that specializes in research about teaching literature courses effectively.

Gwen Ottinger, PhD, associate professor of politics, received the yearlong Frederick Buckhardt Fellowship for Recently Tenured Scholars from the American Council of Learned Societies, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The award supports scholars in the humanities and social sciences in the years immediately following the granting of tenure, to provide emerging leaders in their fields with the resources to pursue long-term, unusually ambitious projects.

Lawrence Souder, PhD, teaching professor of communication, helped Marcy Francis, a local African drum performer and teacher, secure a $2,500 Art and Change grant from the Leeway Foundation through Drexel Edits, a center for support of nonprofit communication. With the grant, Francis offered an after-school music and percussion program for children in West Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Jillian M. Tessier, PhD candidate in psychology, was awarded the inaugural Leonard Diller Dissertation Award in Neurorehabilitation from the Foundation of Rehabilitation Psychology.

Scott Warnock, PhD, professor of English, is President of the Global Society of Online Literacy Educators (GSOLE). In that role, he has been leading GSOLE’s efforts to provide support and resources to online writing and literacy faculty around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a free service to the academic community, GSOLE has been offering live webinars, a frequently asked questions message board, and an array of curated resources for specific teaching situations and scenarios.


Fraser Fleming, PhD, department head of chemistry, was awarded a $490,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for his project “Expanding the Fundamental Reactivity of Isocyanides.” The project is designed to fundamentally advance the synthesis and reactions of isocyanides and nitriles.

Isocyanides are extremely valuable linchpins for assembling heterocycles and peptidomimetics, which represent lead compounds for fields as diverse as materials chemistry and pharmaceutical development; critically, only seven isocyanides are commercially available at a cost of less than $50 per gram. Fleming’s proposal describes a foundational approach to simultaneously and rapidly access complex isocyanides while advancing the chemistry of isocyanides in fundamentally new reactions.

This research also supports training bright, highly motivated students, particularly minorities and women, for careers in science. Part of the grant is dedicated to an innovative retreat focused on work-life balance to ensure that these future leaders maintain the practices required for high-performing leadership in the chemical industry.

Adrienne Juarascio, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, was awarded a $2.79 million, R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health for her project “Optimizing Mindfulness and Acceptance-Based Treatments for Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder using a Factorial Design.” The project aims to determine the optimal combination of mindfulness and acceptance-based treatment components for eating disorders.

John Medaglia, PhD, assistant professor of psychology, received a $500,000 charitable donation from Starfish Neuroscience to pursue innovative research in brain stimulation to enhance cognition.

Elizabeth Watson, PhD, assistant professor of biodiversity, earth and environmental science, was awarded a $162,000 NSF EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation for her project “Development of a Learning Community Focused on Sea-level Rise and Coastal Habitat Change.”

In The Media

Good Morning Neighbors, a bi-weekly interview series on WKDU-FM led by Lawrence Souder, PhD, teaching professor of communication, has recently welcomed guests the Old Pine Community Center, Khmer Performing Arts and Culture, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Marcy Francis, an African drum teacher and performer. The team of five students from departments across the University included: Aarohaa Satyal, civil and environmental engineering; Jane Ansah, communication; Luciano Duffy, communication; Melanie Huot, chemical engineering; and Seth Zurlo, biological sciences.

Scott Knowles, PhD, department head of history, launched a series of daily discussions, #COVIDCalls, which bring together public health experts and other disaster historians to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions. The episodes can be accessed live on Youtube and are later posted on Soundcloud.

Mimi Sheller, PhD, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Mobilities Research and Policy, wrote the blog post “Some Thoughts on What Comes After a Mobility Shock” on the impacts of the coronavirus on mobilities for the Vienna Institute of Advanced Studies. She was also quoted in two articles in The Jamaica Gleaner following her presentation at the Regional Climate Justice Symposium, held at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica.

Micholas Smith, PhD physics ’15 and a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, used IBM's supercomputer “Summit” to create a model of the coronavirus spike and simulate how the virus would respond to different drug compounds, as reported by CNN.

Presentations & Conferences

Sean O’Donnell, PhD, interim department head of biology, gave a plenary talk and workshop on brain miniaturization and bio-inspired miniature computing at Arizona State University. The talk was attended by biologists, computational neuroscientists, computer architecture engineers, Raytheon corporation program officers and DARPA program officers. He also delivered the annual Connell Lecture at Valdosta State University in Georgia; his presentation was titled “Brain Evolution in Social Insects.”


Lena Champlin, PhD student in environmental science, with co-authors Elizabeth Watson, PhD, assistant professor of biodiversity, earth and environmental science (BEES), and David Velinsky, PhD, department head of BEES, published the article “Carbon Sequestration Rate Estimates in Delaware Bay and Barnegat Bay Tidal Wetlands Using Interpolation Mapping” in the journal Data.

Bill Drust, MS science, technology and society ’15,  published the article “Recapturing Control: Robotics and the Shift from Medicalized to Biomedicalized Surgery,” based on his MS thesis work, in Sociological Focus.

Dalton George, MS science, technology and society ’17, co-authored the article “Articulating ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent’ (FPIC) for Engineered Gene Drives,” a perspective piece inspired by his master’s work, in Royal Society Proceedings B.

Kelly Joyce, PhD, professor of sociology and science, technology and society, published an article titled “Regimes of Patienthood: Developing an Intersectional Concept to Theorize Illness Experience,” with Jen James, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and Mel Jeske, MS science, technology and society ’15, in Engaging Science, Technology and Society.

Alison Kenner, PhD, associate professor of science, technology and society, co-edited a special issue of Cultural Studies Review, titled “An Elemental Anthropocene” and also co-authored an article for the issue, “Breathing in the Anthropocene: Thinking Through Scale with Containment Technologies.”

Lynn Levin, adjunct associate professor of English, published the short story “The Lady with a Hundred Pockets” in The Saturday Evening Post. She also served as the guest judge of the Wednesday Club of St. Louis’s high school poetry contest, an annual city-wide competition.

Sharonna Pearl, PhD, associate teaching professor of health administration and affiliate faculty member of science, technology and society, published the peer-reviewed article “Deglamming as Estrangement: Ugly in Monster, The Hours, and Cake Monster, The Hours, and Cake” in Cinema Journal.

Scott Stein, MFA, teaching professor of English, published “Franz Kafka's Master Class on Social Distancing” on the humor website McSweeney's.

David Velinsky, PhD, department head of biodiversity, earth and environmental science, co-authored the paper “Long Term Sediment Accretion Record in a Tidal Marsh of Delaware Bay” in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences for over 167 years. He was also quoted in the USA Today article “Winter Sets Records Across US as Sixth Warmest.