February 2011


Vamsi Matta Wins 2nd Annual Brain Bee at DSU

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2011 Delaware Brain Bee winners (l-r) Rathnabushan Mutyala, 3rd place from the Charter School of Wilmington; Carole Linde, 2nd place from Indian River High School; and the 1st place winner Vamsi Matta of the Charter School of Wilmington, who all stand with Dr. Princy Mennella, the competition coordinator. 

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    The Charter School of Wilmington dominated the 2nd annual Delaware Brain Bee sponsored and conducted by Delaware State University, with two of its students placing among to the Vamsi Matta's 1st place finish will send him to compete in the National Brain Bee in Baltimore in March. He poses with his trophy along with Del. Sen. Colin Bonini, who attended the competition. top three winners.   Vamsi Matta of the Charter School of Wilmington took first place in the 2011 state competition that challenges high school contestant’s knowledge about the nervous system.   Carole Linde of Indian River High School took 2nd place and Rathnabushan Mutyala from the Charter School of Wilmington   In this challenging competition, Delaware high school students answered questions about the nervous system. Topics ranged from how the brain functions normally to what goes wrong in the brain in connection with disorders like Alzheimer's disease, addictions, Lou Gehrig’s disease and depression.    This year competition featured contestants from the Charter School of Wilmington, Cab Calloway School of Arts, Cesar Rodney High School, Indian River High School and Polytech High School.   Vamsi Matta’s first place finish in the Delaware Brain Bee will send him to represent the First State in the National Brain Bee, to be held in March 2011 in Baltimore, Md.     A student from the Charter School of Wilmington has won the Delaware Brain Bee in both years of its existence. The 2010 winner was Amy Forster from the same school, who went on to represent the state in the National Brain Bee and placed 17th out of 36 high school competitors across the country.  

Guest Lecture Feb. 24 to Explore Foreign Aid Effectiveness

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    Dr. Claudia Williamson will give a critical analysis of the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid.     The DSU Economics Speaker Series will host Dr. Claudia Williamson from New York University to present “The Trouble with Foreign Aid,” at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, in Bank of America, Longwood Auditorium.   Dr. Williamson will discuss the effectiveness of the billions of dollars in annual U.S. foreign aid in reducing worldwide poverty and explore the possible alternatives. The presentation is free and open to the public.   Despite the transfer of billions upon billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid annually, a substantial amount of the world remains in extreme poverty and stagnant growth. Dr. Williams will discuss the pro and con arguments concerning foreign aid and review the most current research statistics on the subject.   Dr. Williamson is a post-doctoral fellow with the Development Research Institute at New York University, where she also teaches as an adjunct faculty member. She has published numerous journal articles on foreign aid, property rights, international trade and other economic issues.   The event is sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.  

DSU alumnus Aaron Spears Nominated for NAACP Image Award

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    Aaron Spears acting work on The Bold and the Beautiful has earned him a NAACP Image Award nomination.     Aaron D. Spears, DSU class of '94 and a star on the daytime drama The Bold and the Beautiful, has been nominated for the Best Actor in a Daytime Drama Series by the 2011 NAACP Image Awards.   In that category, Mr. Spears is vying for the award against three other nominees – Cornelius Smith Jr. of All of My Children; Darnell Williams of All of My Children; as well as his Bold and the Beautiful co-star Rodney Saulsberry.   The winners of the 42nd annual NAACP Image Award will be honored during the airing of the show on March 4 on the Fox Network.   Mr. Spears, who first began acting his senior year at DSU in the spring of 1994, has been a regular cast member of The Bold and the Beautiful since 2009. On the soap opera, he portrays the character of Justin Barber, an executive vice president of a publishing company.   In addition to his daytime drama success, Mr. Spears has performed in the movies Mannsfield 12, Babel, Traci Townsend, Blue Hill Avenue and Makin’ Baby. He will be starring in the upcoming crime action film Disrupt/Dismantle.   

DSU to Host the Rescheduled 2011 Delaware Brain Bee

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    Some future brain specialists may be among the contestants this weekend as Delaware State University hosts the 2nd annual Delaware Brain Bee Competition beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5 in room 205, Mishoe Science Center South on campus. Brain Bee Coordinator stands with the 2010 winner Amy Forster and state Sen. Colin Bonini.   The Brain Bee Competition – rescheduled from a Jan. 8 weather postponement – is free and open to the public.   In this challenging competition, Delaware high school students will answer questions about the nervous system. Topics will range from how the brain functions normally to what goes wrong in the brain in connection with disorders like Alzheimer's disease, addictions, Lou Gehrig’s disease and depression.    Getting young men and women interested and excited about the brain is important given the urgency of finding cures for devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, said Dr. Princy Quadros Mennella, DSU assistant professor of biological science and the Delaware Brain Bee lead coordinator.     “Additionally, there is a greater need for better treatments for disorders such as depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as their incidences are on the rise,” Dr. Mennella said. “It is quite possible that one of our own Delaware high school students may be the next neuroscientist to solve enigma that is the human brain.”   This competition is not only an opportunity for the community to support our high school students, but also to learn more about the brain. In addition to the competition, there will be demonstrations on sheep brain dissections as well as a real human brain and spinal cord for display.    This year there will be contestants from the Charter School of Wilmington, Cab Calloway School of Arts, Cesar Rodney High School, Indian River High School and Polytechnical High School.   The winner of the Delaware Brain Bee gets to compete in the National Brain Bee, to be held in March 2011 in Baltimore, Md. Last year Amy Forster from the Charter School of Wilmington won the Delaware Brain Bee and competed in the 2010 National Brain Bee Championship, placing 17th out of 35th high school competitors from across the country                                                                 

DSU to Present Two One-Act Dramatic Plays

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Jazmyn B. Duncan (l) and Tyree Evans star in the one-act play Soul Gone Home

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    Bill Jamerson and Trawick star in Wine in the Wilderness, a story of love, art and urban unrest in the 1960s.     A group of Delaware State University student-thespians and community actors will take the stage to perform two separate one-act plays at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 24-25 in the Education and Humanities Theatre on campus   The evening of dramatic productions – which is free and open to the public – will include the one-act plays:   Soul Gone Home by Langston Hughes; a play that deals with a relationship between a mother and a son as explored by the two posthumously. Starring student-thespians Jazmyn B. Duncan and senior Tyree Evans.   Wine in the Wilderness by Alice Childress; a play that deals with the perceived images of African American women against the backdrop of the 1960s riots in Harlem. Starring student-thespians Jeremy Rodgers, Nicklas “Pete-Bailey” Robins, Gelila E. Asfeha and community actors Tiffany Trawick and Carlos Holmes.   Shirlyn Brown, a DSU adjunct professor, is the director of the one-act plays. Technical support is being provided by John Samardza, theatre manager, and the DSU Play Production II class.  

DSU to Present the Dramatic "Fannie Lou Hamer Story" on Stage

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    Delaware State University will present the powerful Mzuri Moyo one-woman dramatic production “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story: Songs on a Rugged Road” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 in the Education & Humanities Theatre on campus. Mzuri Moyo in her portrayal of Fannie Lou Hamer.   The dramatic play – which is being presented by the DSU Office of Student Affairs as part of the Black History Month observance – is free and open to the public.   Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the most talked about activists of the golden age of civil rights, was a prominent Mississippi freedom fighter during the 1960s. Her work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to promote voter registration in the South and her deep commitment to grass-roots anti-poverty projects made her a force to be reckoned with.   Ms. Moyo has traveled the country with her signature performance in the one-woman musical play on the life of the 1960s civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The play, first showcased in 2001, has become the backdrop for voter registration wherever it is performed.   In 2002, Ms. Moyo received an AUDELCO Award – given annually to honor New York City African American Theatre works and thespians – for the Best Solo Performance.     A talented vocalist, the native of Patterson, N.J., has been enthusiastically received on cabaret and concert stages internationally. Ms. Moyo recently sang in Paraguay with the Opera for Peace, performing as one of three sopranos in a performance with the New York City Symphony.  

DSU's Feb. 26 "A Tribute to Donald Byrd" to Honor the Famed Musician

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DSU will celebrate the famed musician and artist-in-residence with performances of prose and gospel-jazz.

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    The Delaware State University Foundation, Inc., will celebrate a legendary jazz musician as it presents “Amazing Grace – A Tribute to Dr. Donaldson T.L. Byrd” from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26 in the Education & Humanities Theatre on campus. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. Legendary jazz musician and DSU artist-in-residence Dr. Donald Byrd.   The Tribute to Dr. Byrd will feature an exciting afternoon of prose and gospel jazz highlighted by jazz artist and DSU alumnus Dr. Carlton Cannon and his group JABARI, which has performed with the legendary musician in the past.   JABARI features Mr. Cannon on sax (who as a DSU student was mentored by Dr. Byrd in the 1990s), longtime Philadelphia pianist Dennis Fortune, Baltimore guitarist Ron Smith, world traveled bassist Karl McNeil, master percussionist Kenyatta Henry, renowned drummer Vernell “Dooder” Mincey, as well as vocalist/trumpet player Crystal J. Torres, who is billed as a “modern-day musical trailblazer who has performed with Roy Hargrove, Beyonce Knowles, Paquito D’Rivera and other renowned performers.   The Tribute event will also feature performances by some of DSU’s top student musicians.   In addition to being renowned in the jazz world as a stellar trumpet musician and composer, Dr. Byrd is also an Artist-in-Residence at DSU.   Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for DSU students and can be purchased online at www.desu.edu/drbyrdtribute. The proceeds from the Dr. Donaldson T.L. Byrd Endowed Scholarship will benefit music students.   Dr. Byrd, a professional jazz musician since the 1950s, became known as one of the top trumpeters of the jazz “hard-bop” genre as he performed with musicians such as John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk. Ironically at one point in the 1950s, Dr. Byrd actually replaced Clifford Brown in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers band.   In the 1970s, Dr. Byrd began to record jazz fusion that combined jazz with funk, soul and R&B. While teaching music at Howard University in 1974, Dr. Byrd formed a jazz fusion group that consisted of his best students and called them the Blackbyrds. The group produced the 1972 album Black Byrd, which became Blue Notes Records’ highest-ever selling album. In the 1990s, Dr. Byrd jazz fusion explorations expanded to the hip-hop genre.   Dr. Byrd has recorded 38 jazz albums and performed on countless other musicians’ recording projects. In 2002, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Dr. Byrd as one of its NEA Jazz Masters. As an educator, Dr. Byrd has developed a “Music + Math = Art” education program that he has introduced to youth across the country.   A native of Detroit, Mich., Dr. Byrd is an alumnus of Wayne State University and the Manhattan School of Music. In 1982 he earned an Ed.D from Columbia Teachers College of New York City.   For more information about the Tribute to Dr. Byrd, call (302) 857-6055.  

Kermit Blount Named as New Hornet Head Football Coach

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Hornet Head Football Coach Kermit W. Blount and Athletics Director Derek Carter pose after the new coach was named to take the helm of the football program.

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DSU President Harry Lee Williams announced Kermit W. Blount as the new Head Football Coach of the Hornet football program during a Feb. 4 media event in the MLK Student Center. Coach Blount brings 27 years of intercollegiate football coaching experience to Delaware State University – including the last 16 years as the head football coach for Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. Coach Kermit Blount fields questions from the media after the Feb. 4 press conference that introduced him as the new head football coach.   During his 1993 to 2010 tenure at Winston-Salem, Coach Blount had a career record 91-87-3. He guided the Rams to two Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Championships and a total of three CIAA Championship game appearances. He also led Winston-Salem to two Pioneer Bowl appearances, one of which the team emerged as the victor (1999).      Coach Blount was honored as the CIAA Coach of the Year and as the Washington D.C. Pigskin Coach of the Year, as well as the 100% Wrong Club Coach of the Year – each award in both 1999 and 2000.   In addition to his on-the-field successes, Coach Blount increased the Winston-Salem players’ graduation rate from 42% in 1993 to 80% by 2009.   Prior to his Winston-Salem tenure, he served from 1983-1992 in assistant coach posts with South Carolina State University, Howard University and East Carolina University. During all three coaching stints, he coached quarterbacks and receivers; Coach Blount also served as the offensive coordinator for S.C. State.   Throughout his career, a number of players from his teams have gone to play professionally in the NFL, CFL and the Arena Football League, including William Hayes, a starting third-year defensive end for the Tennessee Titans.   President Williams said that Coach Blount’s record speaks for itself.   “Coach Blount has proven he knows how to guide student-athletes to championship-level seasons as well as accomplish high standards of academic success,” Dr. Williams said. “The Search Committee is to be commended for its diligence in reviewing the candidates, in engaging in earnest deliberations and arriving at its recommendation.”  DSU President Harry L. Williams, Search Committee Chair Candy Young, Coach Kermit Blount and Athletics Director Derek Carter come together for a photo op at the end of the press conference.   The selection of Coach Blount was the culmination of DSU’s nationwide search process that resulted in the attraction of more than 50 candidates, said Candy Young, the chair of the DSU Search Committee and associate athletics director/senior women’s administrator.   President Williams appointed the members of the diverse search committee, which in addition to Ms. Young included: Kemal Atkins, vice president of Student Affairs; Dr. Jan Blade, associate professor of sports sciences, Carolyn Curry, vice president of Institutional Advancement and chief of staff, Barry Granger, DSU Board of Trustees member; Eric Hart, associate athletics director/Student Services; Frank Marshall, founder/longtime president of the DSU Boosters and alumnus (’62); Calvin Miner, DSU student athlete; Alfred Outlaw, DSU Alumni Association representative and class of 1971; Edna Piper, athletics administrative assistant; and Joseph Purczyki, former DSU head football coach (1981-84).   Coach Kermit Blount was accompanied by his wife Ava for the press conference. Ms. Young said the committee reviewed the resumes and interviewed a selected pool of candidates who emerged as strong contenders. “The search process was extensive, thorough and very fair,” Ms. Young said.   Athletics Director Derek Carter said that the new coach will fit in well at DSU.   “Kermit Blount stood out among the many outstanding candidates for the position because of his broad experience, proven leadership and vision for Delaware State University football,” AD Carter said. “His record of leading young men to success on the field and in the classroom makes him an ideal fit for the university and the football program.”   Coach Blount said he has always admired DSU from afar, and now he is excited to be a part of the institution. He said while he is interested in winning football games, he is especially interested in his players’ academic successes.   “The no. 1 thing we have to have players to understand is the vision and the mission of the University,” Coach Blount said. “I am very interested in our players graduating.”   A native of Richmond, Va., Coach Blount has a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education from Winston-Salem State University.   He will be joined in his move to Delaware by his wife Ava. Their union of 25 years has produced two grown children, April and Bryan.  

DSU Announces First-Ever Intellectual Property Transfer

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DSU President Harry L. Williams, shakes hands with Dr. Steve Buckley, co-founder and president of Photon Machines, Inc. after the Feb. 24 announcement. Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, DSU vice president of research, looks on. 

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    DSU has announced the transfer of an intellectual property created by its optics scientists to a technology company for the development of a device for use in hospitals and laboratories. Dr. Noureddine Melikechi said Dr. Yuri Markushin, DSU senior research scientist, has been instrumental in the work that has led to the intellectual property transfer from DSU to Photon Machines.   DSU has reached an agreement with Photon Machines, Inc., in which a Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy-Tag Method (LIB-Tag) developed from the University’s optics research work will used in the creation of laser technology that can be used in hospitals and labs for diagnostic work.   DSU President Harry L. Williams made the announcement during a Feb. 23 media event held in the Hardcastle/Selby Conference Room in the Administration Building on campus.   This breakthrough is an innovative development in the evolving area of proteomic – the large-scale study of proteins, their structure and functions. The DSU optics-method addresses the need in proteomics to be able to rapidly identify proteins and enzymes.   This development represents the first-ever transfer of intellectual property by DSU in the institution’s history.   “This is reflective of not only the great strides we have made in our diverse research endeavors at this University, but of the purposeful direction that DSU’s scientific agenda is moving toward,” said DSU President Harry L. Williams.   Through the DSU LIB-Tag Method, individual proteins and molecules can be detected and analyzed, and this can be instrumental in the diagnosis of medical conditions. The spectroscopy-based method is faster, more advanced and efficient than the biotechnology method currently used, said Dr. Noureddine Melikechi, DSU vice president of research and dean of the University’s College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Technology.   “This is a significant major step in our scientific and technological pursuits,” Dr. Melikechi said. “It is a strong indication that with a little help and support, DSU can play a major role in enhancing knowledge-based economic growth locally, regionally and nationally.”   Dr. Melikechi said he is particularly proud of the contribution of students in the research work of the Optics Program. “Our students are part of the future, and they have to be a part of designing it,” he said.   The research in the DSU Optics Program allows graduate students like Franz Delima to contribute work toward the science accomplishment like the one announced on Feb. 24. Photon Machines has the exclusive worldwide license from DSU to develop the LIBS-Tag technology. The University is in the process of getting a patent finalized for this intellectual property.   “Photon Machines is excited to be licensing this innovative technology from DSU which both plays to one of our core technologies, and also promises to be an important innovation in biomedical diagnostics,” said Dr. Steve Buckley, co-founder and president of Photon Machine.   Dr. Buckley this new advancement has the potential to make a tremendous change in the lives of people through this advance method of analyzing individual proteins. “Protein in your blood has a lot of information about one’s health,” Dr. Buckley said. “This can be a game changer in health care.”   The Redmond, Washington-based Photon Machines specializes in the development of advanced, laser-based instrumentation. Its series of Analyte™ laser ablation systems are used worldwide in chemistry and geochemistry laboratories, and its new Insight™ LIBS systems allow rapid elemental analysis. The company specializes in the rapid integration of unique laser-based technologies and spectroscopies into new instruments, and software that facilitates method development and data reduction.   Dr. Melikechi, who founded the University’s first Applied Optics Center in 1997, credits then-Gov. Thomas R. Carper (now U.S. Senator from Delaware) for “planting the seed” with his support of that first optics facility.   Under Dr. Melikechi leadership, the DSU Optics Program has been awarded two separate $5 million research grants – in 2006 from the National Science Foundation and in 2009 from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly known as NASA.   Several state legislators were in attendance for the announcement. "DSU is enhancing our youth, because they are getting a world-class education," said state Rep. William Carson.    

DSU Announces New Appointments

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    DSU has recently made new appointments to its Department of Public Safety and Office of Development. Interim Police Chief Willie Bell, Jr.   DSU has named Willie Bell, Jr., a retired 34-year enforcement officer and public safety administrator, as the interim University Police Chief. More than 28 of those years were spent in higher education at three different universities, including 17 years as director of public safety and chief of police for two HBCUs (North Fayetteville State University and Winston Salem State University).    Interim Chief Bell holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Fayetteville State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from North Carolina Central University and is also a graduate of the Law Enforcement Executive Program of the School of Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.    He is now the principal of Bell Consulting Group, which specializes in law enforcement and parking and transportation consulting services for higher education.                     Al Lavan   Interim Chief Bell takes over for former DSU Police Chief James T. Overton, who has left the University to become the police chief at the University of Massachusetts, Boston campus. Chief Overton’s last day was Feb. 2.     DSU has also further strengthened its development staff with the naming of Al Lavan and Bryan T.T. Bell as it newest development officers.   Al Lavan moves into the development field after more than 35 years as a collegiate and professional football coach. Mr. Lavan served as the DSU head coach from 2004-2010, and prior to that his football career included 18 years as an assistant coach with several NFL football teams. He is a graduate of Colorado State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.             Bryant T.T. Bell   Bryant T.T. Bell will join the development officer team as an alumnus of DSU from the classes of 1975 and 1994. Mr. Bell, who earned a BS in Business Administration and a MBA with DSU, previously worked as a senior brokerage officer and senior client advisor for Wilmington Trust and as an assistant to the director of Continuing Education for Delaware Technical and Community College.    

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