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Peckham Hall Now Open

28 Sep

It’s official! Peckham Hall, home of the Integrated Center for Math and Science, is now open.

To learn more about the facility and Nazareth’s math and science academic programs, please visit

And for a Flickr gallery of the day’s events, click here.

From the D&C: “Nazareth College to cut ribbon on $30 million math and science building”

27 Sep

Although students, faculty, and staff have enjoyed studying and working in Peckham Hall for a few weeks, today is the official ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating Nazareth’s newest academic building on campus. As reported by the Democrat and Chronicle:

Nazareth College’s new Integrated Center for Math and Science building, which has its ceremonial ribbon-cutting Thursday, is a sign of where this college is heading.

The $30 million facility — called Peckham Hall — features 20 labs along with six classrooms that provide needed space not only for math and science students but also for the growing number of students majoring in health and human service programs, which often require courses with lab work.

It’s the largest new academic building constructed on Nazareth’s 150-acre campus since the college opened in 1924. The new four-story facility is near the Golisano Academic Center and has a Gothic design to fit in with existing structures but has large windows to give it a modern look.

Join us today at 4 p.m. for the ribbon-cutting and celebration reception!

Nazareth and RIT Awarded National Science Foundation Grant

12 Sep

Nazareth College and RIT have been awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support Tech2Teach, a joint program between RIT and Nazareth to support RIT students considering careers as middle school and high school math, science, and technology teachers. As reported by the Rochester Business Journal:

“The Learning Assistant program is the gateway through which RIT students can enter Tech2Teach and should increase the number of students who pursue secondary education careers,” Franklin said. “As a result, public schools will ultimately be able to recruit from a pool of new teachers who have a deep knowledge of a STEM discipline as well as educational theory and practice.”

Franklin is working with Craig Hill, interim dean of the Nazareth school of education, and Patricia Huntington, director of academic support services in the school of education at Nazareth, to develop the two-phase program, most of which will reside at RIT.

“Nazareth College is committed to addressing the decline in the number of college graduates in the U.S. who pursue K-12 teaching careers in science, technology and mathematics,” Hill said. “Nazareth values this creative partnership with RIT that encourages undergraduate students to pursue the further study of education while showcasing a spirit of collaboration among higher educators in our region.”

To learn more about Tech2Teach, please click here.

Astronomer George V. Coyne, S.J., to Present as Part of Shannon Lecture Series

12 Sep

George V. Coyne, S.J.

Astronomer George V. Coyne, S.J., will begin the 2012-2013 Shannon Lecture Series with “The Dance of the Fertile Universe: Chance and Destiny Embrace” on Thursday, September 13 at 7 p.m. in the Otto A. Shults Community Center Forum.

Coyne will present a second lecture, “Scientific Evolution: A Challenge to American Society,” on Friday, September 14 at 1:30 p.m. in the Linehan Chapel of the Golisano Academic Center. Both the Academic Center and the Shults Community Center are on the Nazareth College campus, located at 4245 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14618. Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, contact Christine M. Bochen at 585-389-2728 or

This year’s program, Integrating Faith and Science: Dilemmas, Debates, and Decisions, celebrates the opening of the Integrated Center for Math and Science in Peckham Hall, where Nazareth students and faculty plumb the secrets of the natural world, and, in a special way, honors the memory of our beloved William H. Shannon, who died on April 29, 2012. Fr. Shannon was instrumental in promoting conversation on science and morality at the college and in the community.  Our distinguished speakers—all well versed in both science and religion, particularly the Catholic tradition—will help us continue the conversation.

Respecting “the richness of both religious faith and scientific research,” astronomer George V. Coyne, S.J., is a participant in and promoter of the dialogue between science and religion. An outspoken critic of creationism and intelligent design, he explores the implications that scientific evolution has for religion.

To learn more about Coyne, Shannon, and the lecture series in general, please click here.

Less Than Three Weeks Until the Grand Opening Celebration

10 Sep

Let’s Celebrate!

Please join us on Thursday, September 27, 2012, as we gather to celebrate the grand opening of Peckham Hall, home of the Integrated Center for Math and Science.


4 p.m. Ribbon Cutting
Welcome, special remarks, and ribbon cutting.

4:45 p.m. Celebration Reception
Wine and appetizer reception with the opportunity to explore the new building on your own or with a guided faculty-student led tour. Experience the state-of-the-art labs and classrooms and learn about the new programs and student opportunities that will happen in the building.

RSVP requested by Wednesday, September 19 to Stacey Stehle at 585-389-2409 or

Science TV Show Invites Middle Schoolers to Prove Their World

29 Aug

Prove Your World is not your typical science TV show.

Currently in pre-production, Prove Your World is about active learning and rock-solid science. It’s about teaching 8- to 13-year-olds to think like scientists, to ask questions and to explore ideas.
A team of academics and educational consultants has built the program from the ground up with a robust foundation. Now, they are working with WXXI, the PBS affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., to find a home for the series on public television. An accompanying website will continue the learning online, connecting kids, teachers, and parents with experts and giving kids a science social network.

“Most shows already have a production company and bring in consultants,” says Brian Koberlein, senior lecturer in the department of physics at Rochester Institute of Technology. “We started with the core of educational and scientific knowledge—the experts—and are building a production company around it. When we get to the point of producing a series, we’re going to have a radically different program because we started with a core who knows about education.”

“Our goal is not to make scientists for the world,” says Gail Grigg, professor of inclusive child education at Nazareth College. “Our goal is to increase science literacy—having enough knowledge about the world around us to make critical decisions in day-to-day living—because everyone is a consumer of science.”

The Prove Your World team includes professors from RIT and Nazareth College and like-minded colleagues: Koberlein; Grigg; Grant Guthiel, professor of developmental psychology at Nazareth; Susan Sherwood, educational consultant; and Kevin Schoonover, creative director and RIT alumnus (’86, graphic design). The team taps RIT’s strength in science and technology and Nazareth’s long tradition in education. The series is targeted at middle-school-age children—a demographic with a teetering interest in science, mathematics, engineering and technology, or the STEM disciplines.

Science programming for middle-school children is noticeably absent on TV. “There is literally nothing there,” Grigg notes.

“Current kids’ science television focuses on either pre-school/early elementary or high school,” Guthiel adds. “Eight- to 13-year-olds tend to gravitate toward shows targeted for older audiences that often miss the specific interests, perspectives and developmental needs of later elementary and middle schoolers.”

Inquiry-driven learning differentiates Prove Your World from other programs and allows children’s questions to guide instruction. The scripts and website content follow the inquiry model and the National Science Education Standards developed and published by the National Research Council in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences. “It’s a question-driven and kid-driven process that we’re deeply committed to,” Guthiel says.

The team is raising $250,000 to cover the pilot and the cost of four custom-made puppets. RIT and Nazareth have signed formal agreements with Prove Your World, opening up opportunities for funding and faculty and student participation in the production of both the TV series and the website. Prove Your World will soon be able to accept direct donations. Funding for the project also can be directed through RIT and Nazareth. Powerhouse 27, a local production company, will shoot the pilot to match the professional quality seen on PBS. Corporate sponsorship from Ward’s Natural Science, a leading supplier of science education materials, will outfit the set with equipment. Action on the show will center around a science supply shop. The store, called “Prove Your World,” is owned by science-enthusiasts “Emmy” (a fox puppet) and “Brian,” played by Koberlein, a computational astrophysicist in real life. Each 30-minute episode will begin with a child entering the store and asking a question pertaining to biology, earth science or the physical sciences. Real scientists and a cast of puppets will seek answers with the child.

“Everyone on the show has skills and knowledge that complement the others, and everyone works as an equal within the group to investigate questions through guided inquiry,” Sherwood says.
The team adapted topics for a first season of 12 to 13 episodes from conversations with sample groups of children. The pilot will focus on one of the most commonly asked questions: How do planes fly? The script explores mechanized flight through questions and experiments to reach an understanding of the basic principles of the Bernoulli effect and Newton’s Third Law. The Prove Your World team presented an abbreviated version of the pilot to a middle-school audience at The Harley School in Brighton, N.Y., in April using puppets from Schoonover’s collection.

“Puppets are a good vehicle,” Koberlein says. “Puppets can talk fast, can say things above their age level. Puppets get a pass—they can be edgy, snarky, and they can reference pop culture.”
Adds Guthiel: “You can use puppets for older kids and investigate real issues and have them be real kids and it works.

“The puppets are going to have real personalities,” he continues. “We’re hoping that a lot of the kids who watch the show are going to recognize part of themselves in the puppet characters and that’s going to keep them watching.”

In addition to Emmy, the shop owner/mother figure, the cast of puppets includes Popper, the experimentalist, the kid who takes things apart without knowing how to reassemble it; Bop, the analytical book learner; and Hopper, the artistic observer.

The puppets were named in homage to Thomas Bopp, amateur astronomer and co-discoverer of the Comet Hale-Bopp in 1995; Grace Hopper, computer scientist; and Karl Popper, philosopher of science. Creative director and puppeteer Schoonover designed the characters in Prove Your World to be as distinctive as their individual personalities. He’s eager to work with artists at Puppet Heap, a design and fabrication studio in Hoboken, N.J., to transform his sketches into three-dimensional Muppet-quality characters. Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop and the Walt Disney Co. have used Puppet Heap creations.
“I’m curious to see how the characters will evolve once we have them made,” Schoonover says.

For more information about Prove Your World, go to, or contact Brian Koberlein at or Grant Guthiel at

From Connections: “Drug Pioneers: Explorations on the leading edge of HIV drug therapy research”

2 Aug

Research students Moudi Hubeishy ’14 (left) and Cara Czechowski ’14 (middle) discuss infrared spectroscopy results with Dr. Stephen Tajc.

The World Health Organization estimates that 34 million people are currently living with HIV worldwide. Approximately 1.8 million people died from AIDS this past year, placing the total number of deaths from the AIDS epidemic at more than 30 million since the disease was first recognized in 1981 ( Current drug treatments for individuals infected with HIV have dramatically increased the life expediency of HIV positive patients. Unfortunately, prolonged exposure to HIV drugs can present additional health problems and complications. It is imperative that new HIV drug targets are explored and understood until a cure for HIV is discovered. My research focuses on understanding the fundamental mechanisms of a new class of HIV drugs and drug targets.

Current HIV Treatment

Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is the current treatment of HIV, which includes a mixture of drugs that target specific parts of the HIV virus. The HAART treatment has been shown to suppress HIV replication to below the limits of detection and consequently slows the progression of AIDS and AIDS-related mortality. Unfortunately, side effects from the HAART treatments undermine its effectiveness. In addition, although HAART greatly reduces HIV replication, it does not completely halt it, and treatment must continue throughout the patient’s lifetime. Long-term exposure to the drugs increases the possibility of both related harmful side effects, such as progressive liver disease, and the occurrence of drug-resistant HIV strains. A patient is required to take 90 to 95 percent of the recommended drug dose to achieve long-term undetectable HIV levels. Any lower level dosage of the drugs greatly reduces the suppression of the virus and enhances HIV mutations. Viral-resistant strains of HIV can complicate treatment, especially if newly infected individuals contract the drug-resistant HIV strains. All of these problems, as well as others, lead to treatment failure rates of as high as 44 percent in patients infected with HIV.

Preventing HIV from Entering Human Cells

The AIDS epidemic has created an urgent need for the development of new HIV drug candidates, which necessitates an understanding of the fundamental binding characteristics of current and developmental HIV drugs. The entry of HIV into a human cell involves the interaction of several proteins, each of which may serve as potential targets for inhibitory drugs. Most interest has been centered on the exterior of HIV, which is made up of a protein complex known as the envelope spike. This outer portion of HIV mediates how HIV first contacts, then enters the human host cell. A small drug with the capability of interfering with the envelope spike can potentially prevent HIV from entering the human cell, thus preventing the spread of the virus within the infected human’s body. These drugs are commonly referred to as HIV viral entry inhibitors.

In 2003, the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb developed a small molecule HIV viral entry inhibitor drug known as BMS-378806 (BMS-806). This drug became an attractive target as a potential antiviral drug and as a probe to study HIV entry, as it is a small molecule that could be taken orally. BMS-806 was identified by screening millions of compounds and was found to be a potent inhibitor of HIV entering human cells. The specific mechanism of how the drug actually works is still not understood. Consequentially, a systematic study of BMS-806 may provide substantial insight toward both the mechanism of binding to the envelope spike of HIV and the development of related HIV inhibitors.

Undergraduate Research at Nazareth College and Beyond

Nazareth students in my research group are focusing on two aspects of BMS-806. The first entails the chemical synthesis of BMS-806 derivatives to determine what functionality allows the drug to prevent HIV from entering human cells. This is achieved by methodically removing functional groups from BMS-806 utilizing synthetic organic chemistry, then sending the newly synthesized drug to our collaborator, Dr. Ernesto Freire’s group in the Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins University, to verify if the drug still works. If removing a functional group results in loss of BMS-806 potency, then that functional group is a key component. On the other hand, if a functional group is removed and the drug maintains its inhibition properties, then that functional group could either be eliminated or improved upon to enhance the drug. These experiments allow us to understand how the drug works and give us the opportunity to improve the drug’s binding capabilities.

Goodwell Nzou ’15 conducting a chemistry reaction under inert atmospheric conditions.

The second aspect of our research involves chemically attaching a synthetic linker to BMS-806 with the intent of creating a medical diagnostic device. Right now, all of the HAART small molecule drugs target the inside of the HIV virus. BMS-806 is the first small molecule drug that attaches to the outer membrane of the virus. We can use the binding properties of BMS-806 to our advantage by attaching one end of a synthetic linker to BMS-806 and the other to an optically active surface, such as a porous silicon chip. Our collaborator, Dr. Lisa DeLouise in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, has demonstrated using porous silicon chips in the detection of opiates and their metabolites in urine samples. Using similar methodology to the detections of opiates, we can potentially detect the proteins on the outer membrane of HIV with the modified BMS-806 drug. The porous silicon chip technology could allow for an immediate and label-free detection of HIV as opposed to waiting several days for blood samples to be analyzed.

Future Research Benefits

The lifespan of an individual infected with HIV has significantly increased since the early 1980s, when a positive HIV test was widely considered a death sentence. However, the number of individuals infected with HIV continues to increase, and new therapies are always needed. Our research is intended to increase the knowledge of how HIV viral entry inhibition works. In doing so, an entire new class of HIV drug therapy can potentially alleviate many of the current HAART drug resistance and HIV mutation concerns. In addition, the knowledge gained from understanding how small molecule drugs like BMS-806 attach to the outer membrane of HIV can lead to faster and cheaper methods of HIV detection. Through earlier detection, combined with additional treatment options, we can only hope to decrease the HAART failure rate and continue to prolong the lives of individuals infected with HIV.


Article written by Stephen Tajc, Ph.D., assistant professor in chemistry and biochemistry at Nazareth College. To read more from the this issue of Connections magazine, click here. Back issues of Connections are available at

From Connections: “Biology Grads Shine in Graduate School”

1 Aug

University of Buffalo medical student Kelly Noble ’11 on a recent visit back to Nazareth’s science labs.

The competition to secure places at the nation’s medical, dental, and veterinary graduate programs is so intense that admission into these programs is one indicator of how well a college is faring. With that in mind, Nazareth College is doing very well indeed.

Nazareth’s biology department, which offers undergraduate programs in biology, environmental science, biochemistry, and biology education, derives its strength from a number of factors: small class sizes, close faculty-student connections, extensive hands-on laboratory training, outstanding opportunities for undergraduate research, and the new state-of-the-art Integrated Center for Math and Science on campus. Indeed, Nazareth’s biology students, many of whom receive scholarships, participate in independent research as a capstone project, and many are involved in field work and internships.

“We’ve tripled our enrollment in the last ten years, and applications for fall 2012 are up,” says Brian Witz, Ph.D., professor and chair of the biology department. “Applicants are impressed with our small class sizes and individualized attention. They tend to find more caring and concern here than at many rival institutions.”

The biology program certainly paved the way for Kelly Noble ’11 of Homer, N.Y. Initially, Noble intended to be a high school biology teacher. “But after Bio 103, I decided I wanted to do something more clinical,” she says. “I met with Professor Witz and he was wonderful. He really showed me the ropes.”

Now in her first year of medical school at the University of Buffalo, Noble expressed appreciation for Nazareth’s “whole person” approach to education. “With the core curriculum, I could take a lot of different subjects, like music, which I love,” she says. “I decided to do a piano course, and it really helped relax me, which in turn helped me get through organic chemistry.” Noble was also captain of the women’s varsity tennis team.

Another biology graduate, Stephen Tychostup ’09 of Mayfield, N.Y, is also at the University of Buffalo, in its School of Dental Medicine. “Dr. Witz took a lot of pride in the way he ran his classes and his labs,” says Tychostup. “He challenged students in a fair way and helped us get a strong grip on basic science.” Tychostup, too, felt that Nazareth was a good place to develop as a whole person. “I played soccer for four years and not only did that help my grades, but it taught me to be able to better balance my commitments.”

Amber Streicher ’11 of Strykersville, N.Y. will enter Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in the fall. “Nazareth enabled me to thrive because of its family atmosphere and the ease with which you could get to know your professors,” she says. “Getting to know professors, while they are enthusiastic to understand their students, led to several opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, which was one of the many factors involved in helping me to become a more well-rounded veterinary school candidate.”

Nazareth graduates from medical, dental, and veterinary schools go on to hold significant positions in their fields, such as Tom Carroll ’01, chief resident at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester; Charlotte Hanna-Willardson ’01, doctor of veterinary medicine at the Finger Lakes Equine Associates at the Racetrack in Farmington;and Rebecca Lenhard Swan ’04, second year radiology resident at Albany Medical College.

With the new Integrated Center for Math and Science, Nazareth’s biology department will offer labs and study spaces that represent a quantum leap forward. The future of the biology department and its graduates—and of the Rochester area that benefits from the work of these professionals—never looked better.


Article written by Alan Gelb, a freelance writer in East Chatham, New York. To read more from this issue of Connections magazine, click here. Back issues of Connections are available at

From The Atlantic: A Microscope With a View

23 Jul

Every year, the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition brings together “the most extraordinary microscope images of life science subjects from around the world.” With the blessing of the competition’s sponsors, The Atlantic  has compiled some of the top images, “displaying a compelling mix of art and science.”

Honorable mention: Detail of a pod of the flowering legume Scorpius muricatus (common name “Prickly Caterpillar”), by Viktor Sýkora, from Hyskov, Czech Republic. (Olympus BioScapes)

Click here to see more of the stunning top submissions.

As these pictures demonstrate, art and science are not mutually exclusive. And the benefits of an education and worldview that combine both cannot be understated.

The creativity of people educated in the liberal arts and sciences is a hallmark of a Nazareth College education. In Nazareth’s core curriculum, the arts and the sciences combine and overlap to help students identify “enduring” questions–those which pervade human lives and relationships across cultures. “As effective critical thinkers and skilled problem-solvers,” explains Deb Dooley ’75, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, “our graduates have not only the content knowledge of their discipline, but also the cognitive ability to analyze and synthesize information in new ways. They learn to become creators of knowledge, not merely imitators of what others know.”

From AP: “Obama proposes $1B for science, math teachers”

18 Jul

Throughout his presidency, President Obama and his administration have been committed to improving math and science education in the United States. The latest plan to that end includes building a Master Teacher Corps, the Associated Press reports:

Teachers selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 a year and must commit to participate multiple years. The goal is to create a multiplier effect in which expert educators share their knowledge and skills with other teachers, improving the quality of education for all students.

Underscoring such efforts, reports Josh Lederman, is a “report released in February by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology found that the U.S. must increase by 34 percent the number of students receiving degrees in science, math and related fields to keep up with economic demand.”

“I’m running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate,” Obama said. “And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science.”

Nazareth College shares the president’s vision and urgency. Every teacher can touch more than 1,000 lives during a career–and for more than 80 years, Nazareth has prepared some of the area’s most innovative and inspiring educators.

The dream of the Integrated Center for Math and Science will soon be a reality–and it is a direct response to local, national, and international needs. The official grand opening will be held on Thursday, September 27, with celebratory events including a ribbon cutting and reception. But more importantly, the new center (to be housed in Peckham Hall) will be a sate-of-the-art environment where Nazareth students can explore the hands-on, experiential, integrated teaching methods that prepare them to shape the Rochester region and beyond in the decades to come.