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Summer smarts

  Children A to Z
  Greased lightning
  Picking up the pieces
  Growing strong
  Whole grains for longer life

THEATER MAVENS: Jamie Chang, A06, and Claire Conceison
photograph by Melody Ko

Summer smarts
Students take a shine to research initiative

Jamie Chang gets excited about theater history. It’s a passion she followed last summer to Korea, to further study how contemporary Korean theater incorporates traditional performance forms, such as one-man operas and masked dances. But it was also a relatively new field of inquiry with its share of unexpected frustrations.

Fortunately, she had plenty of support at Tufts, from faculty mentor Claire Conceison, an assistant professor in the Department of Drama and Dance, herself a path-breaking scholar in Asian theater. As a Summer Scholar, Chang successfully accomplished research in Seoul, and is now continuing with a senior thesis.

“Her main role was keeping me focused,” Chang says of Conceison. “We work well together. We both have a good understanding of what it is like to be pioneers.”

That’s one of the many positive experiences that students and faculty are sharing about the Summer Scholars program, which pairs undergraduates and faculty on research projects. According to an evaluation of the program by the Office of Institutional Research, the vast majority of those who participated in 2005—100 percent of faculty and 96 percent of students—give the program a thumbs-up. In addition, the number of funded Summer Scholar positions has increased from 30 to 47 students.

“As an institution, this is what we want to see,” says James Glaser, dean of undergraduate education. “This program will be something that creates even more success down the line.”

Summer Scholars began in 2003, an outgrowth of recommendations of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Experience. Since then, it has become a valued part of undergraduate academic life at Tufts, with applications far outnumbering available spots. Funding comes from the provost’s office, the University College of Citizenship and Public Service, and Tufts’ Ross Initiative on Aging.

Summer Scholars receive a stipend and funds for materials; they also have the opportunity to live on campus. This support allows undergraduates and faculty to collaborate on substantive research projects that most likely would be difficult to manage during the academic year. The wide variety of topics tackled by students illustrates the broad reach of research being conducted across the university.

“The large number of students doing research [outside the Medford/Somerville campus] is helping to knit the schools together,” says Glaser. “There is a larger, institutional benefit of linking up faculty at the other schools with undergraduates.”

So far, positive trends include:

• Of the 34 rising seniors who participated in the 2005 program, 21 are writing senior honors theses.

• At least five Summer Scholars have co-authored papers that were published in professional journals.

• Seven Summer Scholar spots have been endowed: Six are designated as Gantcher Summer Scholarships in honor of trustee emeritus Nathan Gantcher, A62, and are designed to foster research across the schools. The Bendetson Summer Scholarship funds a student doing research internationally—a student like Jamie Chang.

The Summer Scholars was an opportunity that allowed Chang to apply what she had seen modeled in Conceison’s field work in China. “Jamie embarked on a very significant project that allowed her to make use of that knowledge—and she returned from Korea with lots of wonderful things to teach me,” says Conceison. “In both her senior thesis and her original translation of a recent Korean play, Jamie is making an important contribution not only to the Department of Drama and Dance at Tufts, but also to the field of contemporary Asian theater.”


BRINGING IT HOME: Professor Richard M. Lerner lends Tufts expertise to handbook.
photograph by Melody Ko

Children A to Z
Child psychology's classic reference is back at Tufts after 60 years

In 1946, Tufts president Leonard Carmichael, A20, compiled the definitive reference work in the field of child psychology. Sixty years later, another member of the Tufts community has done the same thing.

With the release in March of the sixth edition of the Handbook of Child Psychology (John Wiley & Sons), Richard M. Lerner, Bergstrom Chair in Applied Research in Youth Development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development, offers the latest update of Carmichael’s original handbook. Lerner is co-editor in chief, with Stanford University professor William Damon, of the four-volume edition.

That collaboration means the book is again associated with Tufts for the first time since Carmichael, a noted developmental psychologist, produced the original single-volume text. (Carmichael, who worked on a second edition that was released in 1954, left the presidency of Tufts in 1952 and later served as chief executive of the Smithsonian Institution.)

Lerner was invited to serve as co-editor because of his national and international standing as a developmental scientist and his prior editing work with John Wiley & Sons (he was a volume editor on the fifth edition of the handbook and he edited two other Wiley handbooks). He brought to the project the Eliot-Pearson scholarly signature of research-practice integration. Lerner also collaborates with former Vice President Al Gore in his policy initiatives regarding American families and with the National 4-H Council, America’s largest youth-serving organization.

“This handbook is the gold standard for child development across the world,” says Lerner. “The Eliot-Pearson approach to child development was a lens through which we evaluated content.”

Lerner expects that most academic libraries, and many developmental laboratories and scholars in the field, will purchase the volumes. The new edition, which took four years to prepare, includes the work of 157 leading scholars from around the world, much of it new material since the release of the previous edition in 1998. “It turned out the field had changed so much,” says Lerner, “that it’s almost a completely new handbook.”

Child psychology, he explains, has taken a more multidisciplinary approach, integrating subjects such as biology, sociology, history, economics, political science, pediatrics, and nursing. In addition, developmental science is increasingly applied to policies and programs to benefit children.

“The breadth and the use of the science have been increased to make science a tool in enhancing people’s lives and a vehicle for the promotion of social justice,” Lerner says.

New topics in the updated edition include a chapter written by W. George Scarlett, a Tufts assistant professor of child development and the deputy chair of Eliot-Pearson, who explores spiritual and religious development. Other new chapters address “positive youth development,” which looks at young people through their strengths rather than their deficits or problems, as well as theories of minority youth development.

The original Carmichael handbook still impresses for the quality of science and scope of work that was done, says Lerner. Of course, much has changed since 1946, which happens to be the year of Lerner’s birth. In particular, he says, the field has evolved in the way it focuses on child development as a “life-span phenomenon” rather than a series of moments in time.

“You can’t just study a child as a 5-year-old or 8-year-old,” Lerner says. “You have to know what went before and what will come after.”

Lerner also edited the most recent edition of the Handbook of Adolescent Psychology, released in January 2004, and has agreed to edit the next edition, an expected two-volume set. He hasn’t yet made a commitment to the mammoth task of editing the next round of the Handbook of Child Psychology, although the publisher has already asked him to consider it. But he hopes that he—and the institution where it began—will have a role in the handbook’s continued growth.


FILL 'ER UP: Award-winning filmmakers Sean Malahy, A09 (front); Assaf Pines, A06; Emi Norris, A06; and Phil Martin, A06.
photograph by Laura Ferguson

Greased lightning
Biodiesel documentary brings new meaning to "fries to go"

Emi Norris, A06, was studying in the Tower Café when her cell phone rang. She’s from Los Angeles and wasn’t surprised to see the L.A. area code on her caller ID.

But she wasn’t prepared when the caller turned out to be Paulette Maiden of the Television Academy Foundation, letting her know that a class project had just won third prize in the College Television Awards documentary category.

“I said, ‘Wait, who is this?’ ” recalls Norris. “We couldn’t believe it!”

The extraordinary news gives Tufts undergraduates good reason to celebrate. The College Television Awards recognize excellence in college student film/video productions, and are given out by the same people who bestow Emmys. The competition attracts scores of submissions from colleges and universities, including those with noted film programs.

Tufts doesn’t have a film program, but in the Experimental College course “Producing Films for Social Change,” taught by Roberta Oster Sachs, a lecturer in the University College of Citizenship and Public Service, students are learning to research, pitch, interview for, shoot, write, and edit short films aimed at generating dialogues about important public issues.

In their class last fall, Norris, Phil Martin, A06, Assaf Pines, A06, and Sean Malahy, A09, set about documenting how waste vegetable oil is being converted into biodiesel as an alternative to pumping petroleum. In “From the Fryer to the Freeway: Alternative Energy Today,” they interview enterprising consumers who are collecting waste vegetable oil from restaurants, including freshman Alexandra McGourty, who bought a 1984 Mercedes on eBay and then made it run on McDonald’s grease.

The film’s original and upbeat score is performed by another Tufts student, Patrick Mangan, A06, two-time all-Ireland fiddle champion.

The producers agree that good teamwork was crucial to the success of the final product.

“Anyone can be nice to someone for a half hour, but it’s harder when you’re up all night editing,” says Martin. “Fortunately, we had a combination of talents and personalities that made this work well.”

The Tufts students will receive a $500 cash prize for their documentary. But the real reward, says Martin, comes from knowing that more people now will see the film (it will be broadcast on MTVU) and be motivated to think about alternative energy as a tangible possibility.

“While we always hear about a supposed future hydrogen economy, more and more experts are expressing doubt about it,” says Martin. “The technology shown in this film is from the turn of the 20th century; the diesel engine originally ran on biofuels. Other technologies, such as wind and wave turbines, are already helping nations around the world. I hope people see that there are many simple steps that can be taken to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We don’t have to wait.”

Picking up the pieces
Volunteers spend a week helping Mississippians rebuild

Tufts students and alumni reached out to those in need over their winter break when they spent a week in Gulfport, Mississippi, helping people recover from Hurricane Katrina. The Volunteer Vacation, organized through the Leonard Carmichael Society, paired the 87 undergraduates, 12 graduate students, and seven alumni with needy families. “I think it was a huge success,” says Alexandra Kramer, A06, who planned the trip with Rachel Rosen, A06. “People were able to understand what life is like for those who still live on the Gulf Coast and how much help they still need in order to rebuild.”

Tufts connected with approximately 20 different projects and families. While the jobs were mostly limited to cleanup work such as debris-clearing or demolition, one group of students helped build a house from the foundation up, as its future inhabitants watched from their FEMA trailer.

Much of what still needs to be done on the Gulf Coast involves clearing away mounds of refuse. “It may not seem like we’re doing much, but walking along the beach, where everything is completely destroyed, you realize that there’s just an unbelievable amount of cleanup still to be done,” says Elizabeth Fusco, A09.

Some students spent a day clearing branches, garbage, and fallen trees from a park in the Bayou View area of Gulfport. By evening, the park was clean and safe to walk through again. “It showed that it doesn’t have to take years and millions of dollars to make a difference,” says Nicole Guanzon, G08.

The students also visited the house of Verlon Herbert, whose son had seen a TV advertisement about the cleanup efforts and called for help.

When the volunteers arrived, they spent the morning spackling the walls, painting and filling in cracks, removing floor tiles, and discarding damaged goods. Herbert tearfully struggled to part with her belongings. “It’s so hard,” she told the Tufts crew, “but I feel so blessed and grateful that you’re here.”

Read a longer version of this article.


FIELD WORK: Hugh Joseph, N84, N94, culitvates new farmers.
photograph by Steven Vote

Growing strong

WHAT: The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (NESFP), part of the Agriculture, Food and Environment Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Founded in 1998, the program now serves about 50 immigrant farmers from Laos, Cambodia, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. Massachusetts farmers in Dracut, Sutton, and Bolton lease more than 50 acres of land to the cause. This year, a new initiative is helping farmers establish their own farms independent of NESFP training farms.

Why It’s Important: Bringing along new farmers is essential for the survival of Massachusetts farms, says Hugh Joseph, N84, N94, project director and Friedman School research associate. As today’s farmers retire, many find their children are not interested in taking over the family business, and new farmers must be encouraged to preserve the region’s agricultural roots and its diminishing viable farmland. From a nutritional perspective, the new farmers grow hard-to-find staples for specialized immigrant markets, such as Asian cucumber, water spinach, and amaranth. Other shoppers benefit as well: farmers sell produce at markets in more upscale towns, where products such as baby bok choy and pea tendrils can get top dollar.

Perseverance Matters: Rock removal and irrigation were just the start of getting the farm program up and running: essentials included new wells, electricity, equipment, tools, greenhouses, refrigeration, and portable toilets.

Action Plan: Today, all prospective farmers go through intensive 18-week training during the winter. Friedman students, mainly from the Agriculture, Food and Environment, and Food Policy and Applied Nutrition programs, helped develop the curriculum under the directions of product coordinator Jennifer Hashley, G05. Students also have assisted with fundraising, outreach, and finding farmland, as well as engaging in their own research projects and directed studies.

With thanks to Julie Flaherty, editor of Tufts Nutrition. The complete version of this story first appeared in the fall 2005 issue.

photodisc/getty images

Whole grains for longer life
It's never too late to lower disease risks

Older people who eat whole-grain foods are likely to be healthier than those who eat a lot of refined grains. That’s according to researchers at Tufts’ Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) who published their findings in the January issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study was performed by a team that included Paul Jacques, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the HNRCA; Nicola McKeown, a scientist in the program; Nadine Sahyoun, N90, from the University of Maryland; and the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Together they found that a diet rich in whole-grain foods may lower an elderly person’s risk for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of risk factors that can lead to cardiovascular disease and the most common form of diabetes, known as type 2.

“Previous studies have found a link between whole-grain intake and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged populations,” says McKeown. “What’s unique about our study is that we went back to data that was collected 20 years ago, using diet records that captured food intake, and found that whole-grain foods had a subsequent benefit in the elderly.”

According to Jacques, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, “consuming a high whole-grain diet is likely to have positive metabolic effects in elderly individuals, who are prone to greater insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance”—risk factors for type-2 diabetes.

The higher the whole-grain intake, the lower the person’s blood sugar levels were after fasting. The higher the intake of refined grain, the higher the blood sugar levels—which can point to impaired glucose tolerance and the presence of diabetes. In fact, people who consumed high amounts of refined grains showed twice the risk of having metabolic syndrome as people who consumed the fewest servings of refined grains.

Although McKeown cautions that the people studied “were not a representative sample of the elderly,” the dietary implications appear to be these: “Older adults should be encouraged to increase their daily intake of whole grain foods to three or more servings a day by substituting whole grains for refined grains.”