September 2011


DSU Welcomes Dr. Eric Kmiec as New Chemistry Chair

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Dr. Eric Kmiec is a recipient of many research and community service awards and hold numerous patents. He has also established several biotechnology companies.

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    Dr. Eric B. Kmiec, an established scientist, inventor, leader and entrepreneur, has been appointed professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry at Delaware State University.   Dr. Kmiec will begin his DSU tenure on Oct. 15, said Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, dean of the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology, who added the new department chairperson will be a “great addition” to DSU, Kent County and the state of Delaware.   “With his vast experience, and scientific knowledge, he will contribute to the growth of DSU’s STEM efforts, both in terms of quality and impact,” Melikechi said. “I am confident that as the new chair of the Department of Chemistry, Professor Kmiec will provide the leadership necessary to make the Department a first-class unit on campus.”    Prior to his arrival, Dr. Kmiec was the director of the Marshall Institute for Interdisciplinary Research at Marshall University from 2009-2011, where pioneering biotechnology advances were made under his leadership. Dr. Kmiec is a renowned expert in gene editing – a technique that employs synthetic DNA molecules to repair mutations in human chromosomes. His research aims to identify therapies for diseases including Huntington’s disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and Spinal Muscular Atrophy. A recipient of many research and community service awards, Kmiec holds upwards of 60 patents.    He also established several biotechnology companies including OrphageniX Inc. of which he is co-founder. Prior to his arrival to Marshall University in 2009, he was a professor of biology at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.    “In bringing Dr. Kmiec here to lead our Department of Chemistry, such a caliber of scientist sends a clear message concerning the direction of the Delaware State University in its research and STEM endeavors,” said Dr. Alton Thompson, DSU provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “Exciting new developments will occur as the result of his presence in the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology.”  

DSU Researchers Achieve New Findings in Veery Migration Studies

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Undergraduate student Syrena M. Taylor and Dr. Christopher Heckscher, assistant professor of natural resources, have determined the previously unknown migration pattern of the Veery songbird species.

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  The advent of a new tracking technology has enable a DSU assistant professor of natural resources to make his mark in ornithology research. A Veery songbird with an attached geolocator on its back, which will track its migration patterns.   Dr. Christopher Heckscher, with the assistance of junior year Natural Resources major Syrena M. Taylor, has taken advantage of the development of new lightweight tracking technology that has allowed them to determine the previously unknown migration patterns for a forest songbird, the Veery (Catharus fuscescens).   Because songbirds are so small, conventional tracking devices used on larger birds are too heavy for species such as the Veery – which is 16-18 centimeters in length and weighs about 30 grams. For that reason, very little was previously known about the annual migration habits of the Veery and other similarly sized birds.   A few years ago, Dr. Heckscher became aware of a new lightweight “geolocator” that had been used successfully by York University ornithologist Dr. Bridget Stutchbury in her research in tracking the migration of the Wood Thrush (Hylocichia mustelina), a medium-sized North American passerine bird.   Dr. Stutchbury’s success opened up a new area of ornithological research focusing on migration, and Dr. Heckscher did not hesitate in seizing this research opportunity.   With the knowledge that some Veeries came annually to nest at the White Clay Creek State Park north of Newark, Del., in June 2009, Dr. Heckscher and Ms. Taylor proceeded to capture 24 of the species. They then attached a lightweight geolocator to each Veery and freed them. By August, those birds had departed Delaware to begin their migration south.   “The trick is you have to catch the bird a year later in order to download data from the tracking device,” Dr. Heckscher said. “These Veeries made it easier because the same individuals return to White Clay Creek Park every year to nest.”   The following spring, the researchers set up netting in an attempt to capture some of the Veeries on which they had attached the tracking device the previous year. Dr. Heckscher said they imitated the Veery mating song, which attracted some macho male Veeries to come and investigate what bird was encroaching on their love territory.   Four male Veeries that had returned with the tracking device were lured into the net. Capturing female Veeries with the geolocator attached – which are not attracted by Veery song – was more of a challenge. However, the research duo managed to capture one female with the device, giving them a total research group of five Veeries.   It took several months to analyze the latitude and longitude data from the geolocators on those five birds. Meanwhile in spring 2010, the DSU researchers captured another group of birds and attached the tracking device.   By October 2010, Dr. Heckscher and Ms. Taylor’s data analysis had determined that all five Veeries had traveled to separate areas south of the Amazon River region in Central Brazil, South America, by the late fall. In addition, the tracking data revealed that the Veeries also made second migration stops during the mid-winter January-February months in other parts of Brazil (two birds went to sites north of the Amazon and three when south to sites south of the huge river system).   “Our most spectacular discovery was that our Veeries undertook three migrations rather than just two in spring and fall,” Heckscher said. “This is the first time a North American songbird has been found to have three different migratory periods.”   “Songbirds risk a lot each time they undertake migration, which can be very dangerous due to unexpected weather events, vehicle or building collisions, or predators,” Ms. Taylor added, “To think these birds have an extra migration is really remarkable.”   Representing the first time that this particular species’ migration patterns and wintering locations had been tracked, Dr. Heckscher and Ms. Taylor poured their findings in a peer-reviewed paper that they published in the 2011 edition of The Auk by The American Ornithologists’ Union. The work by Ms. Taylor was funded by the Center for Integrated Biological and Environmental Research, Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation cooperated by providing the team’s study site.   Dr. Heckscher has continued the research with a second group of Veeries. In June of this year, he and some other students were able to capture seven males and three females on which they had attached units in the previous spring. That tracking data is currently being analyzed.  

Dr. S. Kingsberry Elected President of Del. Assoc. of Social Workers

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                 Dr. Sheridan Quarles Kingsberry     Dr. Sheridan Quarles Kingsberry has been elected as the president of the Delaware Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.   Dr. Kingsberry, who has been a DSU faculty member since 2003 and teaches primarily at the University’s Wilmington site, will lead a state chapter of about 400 members.   As president, Dr. Kingsberry said that she will work to get existing members more active in the chapter, as well as recruit social workers in the state who aren’t members to see the benefit of the organization and to join. She also hopes to raise the profile of the chapter in the state of Delaware.   “There are a lot of people who don’t know that we even exist,” Dr. Kingsberry said.   Dr. Kingsberry also hopes to begin discussions on the need for multi-tier licensing – separate categories for bachelor’s degree, master’s degree non-clinical, and master’s degree clinical – in Delaware.   “(Social Work) multi-licensing exists in all the surrounding states and many others in the country,” Dr. Kingsberry said. “Delaware is lagging far behind.”   Dr. Kingsberry has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Douglas College, a master’s of social work and a doctor of social work, both from Rutgers University.      

DSU Improves HBCU Ranking from 17th to 15th

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    Delaware State University has moved up to 15th among 72 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country in the annual ranking released today by U.S. News & World Report. DSU President Harry L. Williams said the University should be encouraged by its rise in ranking, but should not be satisfied with that level of achievement.   DSU is tied with South Carolina State University for 15th place. Among Mid-Atlantic Region schools, DSU joins Howard University (2nd), Hampton University (4th) and Morgan State University (18th) that made the top 20 HBCUs in the 2012 ranking.   DSU President Harry Lee Williams said while moving from 17th to 15th reflects well on the University, it also shows there is much work to be done to reach the ultimate goal of becoming the No. 1 HBCU in the country. Nevertheless, he said, the University’s current rise in ranking affirms that the University is moving in the right direction.   “It shows what happens when we focus, stay on task with clear goals and remain consistent with the vision that we have developed for this University,” Dr. Williams said. “We are happy, but not satisfied; we are encouraged by the latest ranking and remain steadfast in our efforts to become the best.”   When the U.S. News & World Report first published its HBCU ranking in 2008, DSU ranked #22, and then rose to #17 in 2009 and 2010.      The HBCU rankings are based on the following categories to assess academic quality: assessment by administrators at peer institutions, retention of students, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving.   Spelman College of Atlanta, Ga., is ranked as the No. 1 HBCU in the country by the magazine, a top distinction it has held since 2008.    

DSU's Dr. Vulinec Makes her Mark as a Bat Ecologist in Brazil

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DSU's Dr. Kevina Vulinec carries out her Fulbright-funded research with a Brazilian scientist during her trip to the South American country last spring.

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    Dr. Kevina Vulinec records a captured fruit bat as part of her Fulbright research project.    Marvel Comics is not the only place you can find “Batwoman.”   While not counted among the pantheon of superheroes, Dr. Kevina Vulinec, an associate professor of natural resources, believes her missions relating to bat preservation are vitally important to the ecological balance that needs to be maintained.   Dr. Vulinec, who is also known as a bat ecologist, returned last summer from her spring semester in Brazil as a Fulbright Fellow, where she shared her bat expertise with scientists there who are working to preserve species of the fruit bats that are indigenous to that Amazon region.   Fruit bats are so-named because unlike the predominant insect-eating bats in North America, these Brazilian bats eat the fruits of the rain forests and then while in flight expel the fruit seeds back down to the ground, which is important in replenishing the forest.   “I was looking at areas of Brazil forest that have been cut for cattle pasture, interested in the impact on the bat habitat,” Dr. Vulinec said.   However to better understand fruit bat habitat and the foraging habits of the species, Dr. Vulinec spent a lot of her time capturing bat sounds that she believes will help scientists there better identify the different fruit bat species.   “A catalogue of bat sounds exists for North American species, but very few bat calls had been recorded in Brazil,” Dr. Vulinec said.   In Brazil, Dr. Vulinec and scientists of that country set up nets in the forest,captured bats and attached a leash to their legs. Once a bat calmed down (Dr. Vulinec said upon capture, the bats initially were screeching bloody murder) and began sounding its normal bat calls, the scientist recorded its sound.   “The recording device is sensitive and is specifically for high frequencies that humans can’t hear,” Dr. Vulinec said. “Certain species have bat calls that are distinct from others.”   A Brazilian fruit bat up close. Dr. Vulinec said she has returned to DSU with 200 gigabytes of bat sounds that she will analyze and then share that information with the Brazilian scientists. With that information, scientists there will be able to better understand more about bats, their migration habits, as well as the impact of forest destruction on the species.   While working to help Brazilians with their bat preservation issues, Dr. Vulinec also has challenges to the North American bat population to be concerned with as well.   Because most North American bats are insectivores, these species feast on pesky flying insects, reducing the number around to irritate and vex human populations and farm crops. However, that importance is being challenged by a disease – White Nose Syndrome – that is threatening bat populations.   “White Nose Syndrome” is a fungus that gets on the nose of bats while they are hibernating in caves,” Dr. Vulinec said. “The fungus makes the bats wake up prematurely, and then they fly out of the cave and starve to death because there are no insects out there in the wintertime.”   In addition to be threatened by White Nose, some bats are meeting their makers prematurely at the blades of turbine wind farms. “The bats either get whacked up by the blades circulating at 120 mph or the vacuum that is created causes bats to explode,” she said.   “There will be a big surge in the insect population if the population of bats is reduced,” Dr. Vulinec said.   Dr. Vulinec is in the beginning stages of a collaboration with researchers from Delaware Technical & Community College and the University of Delaware to study and gain a better understanding of White Nose Syndrome.   Dr. Vulinec is also guiding a student who is currently researching golf courses as a possible habitat for bats. “Golf course water hazards are good places for aquatic insects, a source of food for bats,” she said. “Bats really like places with big trees and mower cut grass,” she said.   A DSU faculty member in the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences since 2001, Dr. Vulinec focused her Ph.D. dissertation work on primates and dung beetles. However, upon arriving at DSU, chair Dr. Richard Barczewski directed her to identify a research specialty related to Delaware. That directive moved her into the bat realm.   “Dr. Vulinec has a diverse background in wildlife conservation and biology,” Dr. Barczewski said. “She has been able to take her good mix of experience and make it applicable to our state and region.”   In addition to being an ecologist and scientist, she is also an award-winning artist who actually did scientific drawings to help support herself while in college.  

Buccini Named New DSU Trustee

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Robert E. Buccini (left) is sworn in as a new DSU Board of Trustees member by Dr. Claibourne Smith, board chair.

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    The Delaware State University’s Board of Trustees has appointed Wilmington developer Robert E. Buccini as its newest board member.   Mr. Buccini will complete the six-year term of recently resigned board member Marvin Lawrence.  Mr. Buccini’s term will end on Aug. 31, 2016.   Dr. Claibourne D. Smith, DSU board chair, said Mr. Buccini will be an asset, especially as the University enters into new strategic planning. “He has been a great supporter of DSU, is well known and respected in the state, and has a depth of experience the board will surely appreciate as we continue to move DSU forward,” Dr. Smith said.   Mr. Buccini is the co-founder and co-president of The Buccini/PollinGroup, a real estate acquisition, development and management firm that is active in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. regions. As co-president, he leads the company’s office, residential, retail, and parking development activity. Mr. Buccini has helped grow The Buccini/Pollin Group to become the largest private office landlord in the Philadelphia metropolitan region.   In addition, he co-founded and is co-owner of the Philadelphia Union, the Philadelphia franchise for major league soccer. Previously, Mr. Buccini was an assistant vice president for real estate development at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Mr. Buccini is also formerly a broker and senior analyst for Kenneth D. Laub & Company, a commercial real estate brokerage firm based in New York City.   Mr. Buccini has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University.   Mr. Buccini is the chairman of the Wilmington Housing Partnership, a director of The Rodel Foundation of Del., a member of the Board of Directors for the Vice President of the U.S. Residence Foundation, and a trustee for Christiana Care Health System.    

DSU, Red Clay School District Finalize Joint Ed Agreement

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Seated (l-r) DSU President Harry Williams and Red Clay Superintendent Mervin Daugherty shake hands following the signing. Standing (l-r) Dr. Rayton Sianjina, DSU Ed. Dept. chair; DSU Provost Alton Thompson; Dr. John Austin, College of Ed., Health and Public Policy dean; state Rep. Darryl Scott; Del. Lt. Gov. Matt Denn; Donna Mitchell, state Dept. of Ed. deputy officer; Hugh Broomall, Red Clay dep. superintendent; Faith Newton and Martin Wilson, both Red Clay board members.

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    Delaware State University and the Red Clay School District have finalized a new six-year agreement that will benefit education majors at DSU and the teachers of the district.   DSU President Harry L. Williams and Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty signed the formal joint agreement Sept. 15 during a ceremony on the DSU campus. Also in attendance were state Lt. Gov. Matthew P. Denn and state. Rep. Darryl Scott.   Through the agreement, the University and the District will create a coordinated Early Field Experiences program that pairs second and third year DSU education majors with veteran teachers in the Red Clay schools.   Also as part of the agreement, the University will create the opportunity over the next two years for the District to enroll a dedicated group of teachers and staff members in DSU’s Education Leadership master and doctoral degree programs. DSU will arrange to hold classes at times and locations that are convenient to the Red Clay employers.   Dr. Williams said this new partnership is consistent with  DSU’s vision. “Pairing our education majors with these veteran teachers will be instrumental in transforming these students into the first-choice hires of school employers,” Dr. Williams said. “We also look forward to playing an important role in increasing the leadership skills of Red Clay faculty and administrators.”   Red Clay Superintendent Mervin Daugherty said the agreement will benefit the students at DSU and the district. “This agreement will enrich the program for DSU students by bringing them into real classrooms much earlier in their college careers and allow Red Clay to build relationships with future teachers,” he said.  “DSU students will be better prepared for student teaching, which traditionally occurs in their senior year. It also allows Red Clay staff to build relationships with students and identify potential Red Clay teachers. We are confident that this agreement will lead to stronger teacher candidates as we look to the future.”   Dr. Rayton R. Sianjina, chair of the DSU Education Department, said he is excited about the breadth of the agreement – in which it will benefit both aspiring teachers and existing ones. “There is no greater excitement than to support a functional partnership that advances educational opportunities for the communities within the state of Delaware,” he said.  

DSU Participation Strong at the 2011 Heartwalk

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More than 100 DSU participants in the 2011 Heartwalk pose for a quick photo before commencing their community spirited stroll.

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More than 100 DSU faculty, staff and students participated in annual Heartwalk on Sept. 17 in Dover. See the below photo slide show for pictures of the participants. Photos by Carlos Holmes  

Photo Slideshow: DSU Fan Center Fellowship before UD game

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Gov. Jack Markell (left) and DSU President Harry L. Williams converse in the Hornet Fan Center prior to the Sept. 17 DSU vs. UD game 

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  The results of the Sept. 17 DSU vs. UD Route 1 Rivalry Game were far from the hopes of the Hornet faithful, but it was not for a lack of support from the DSU community, which showed up in strong support Hornet football team.   The game provided a wonderful opportunity for Hornet unity, as the large contingent of DSU Family got together for fellowship at the Hornet Fan Center outside of the UD stadium. See the below slideshow of photos of the pregame activities:  

DSU President Williams Establishes New Kirkwood Facility Task Force

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The DSU Kirkwood Planning Task Force will seek input from constituent group and make recommendations on the use of the new facility by April 30, 2012.

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    DSU President Harry L. Williams has established a new task force to study the possible academic uses of a newly acquired facility in New Castle County.   The former Robert Kirkwood Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center west of Wilmington on Kirkwood Highway had been identified as a federal surplus real property that could be converted to an educational purpose. As the result of DSU’s application to acquire the property, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the property to the University in June 2011.   Dr. Williams has now established a nine-member DSU @ Kirkwood Planning Task Force to study the possible academic uses of the building. The task force members are:   Dr. Sheldon Rhodes (Task Force chair), dean of the College of Business Dr. Samuel Besong, chair of the Department of Human Ecology Lillie Crawford, director of the Center for Enterprise Development Tamara Crump, executive director of Continuing Education. Chief Harry Downes Jr., director of Public Safety Dr. Sheridan Quarles Kingsberry, associate professor of social work Amir Mohammadi, executive vice president of Finance and Administration Dr. Steve Newton, professor of history Vita Pickrum, associate vice president of Development Dr. Hanson Umoh, chair of the Department of Mathematics Genevieve Tighe (Ex Officio), assistant vice president of Academic Affairs/Institutional Effectiveness   The DSU Kirkwood Planning Task Force will determine the types of programs, educational opportunities, activities, partnerships with business, industry and professional organizations and agencies that would benefit the citizens of the greater Wilmington and New Castle County area in connection with that facility. It is expected that the group will be soliciting input from constituent groups.   The Task Force’s final report and recommendations are to be submitted to Provost Alton Thompson by April 30, 2012.  

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