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Citadel News Service
28 Jul 2014

Citadel Faculty Research: School of Science and Mathematics

Daniel Bornstein, Assistant Professor; Health, Exercise and Sport Science

Dr. Daniel Bornstein, an associate professor with The Citadel's Department of Health, Excercise and Sport Science, is involved in numerous research projects. The first is titled Physical Activity and National Security – Analysis of the Relationships between Fitness, Fatness, and Injury in 200,000 Army Recruits. This research will investigate whether Army recruits from states that have high rates of obesity and low physical activity produce recruits who are more likely to be injured during basic training in the Army.

A second initiative for Bornstein is called Physical Activity and National Security – Perspectives from Active Duty Military Officers. This study will assess military officers’ perceptions about how unfit military personnel impact military operations.

Bornstein is also a participant in Exercise Is Medicine – Bridging the Gap between Health Care Professionals and Fitness Professionals. The project is a joint venture between a hospital system and a county parks and recreation department. As part of the study, physicians will refer patients to properly-trained fitness professionals who will in-turn develop exercise programs for the individuals based on classes and offerings at local parks.

 

Robert J. Clark, Assistant Professor, Physics

Dr. Robert Clark is an assistant professor of physics. He has received a grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement to develop a new type of surface-electrode ion trap. This research is founded in quantum information processing, which is computing that depends on quantum effects – the physical phenomena present in the subatomic realm of atoms, electrons and other particles. The trap would operate basically as a device, somewhat like a computer chip, that traps charged atoms (ions) that serve as a quantum computer’s quantum bits or qubits.

According to Clark the project will be an important part of the worldwide effort to build a better ion trap for quantum information. He says the research will also provide thorough training for undergraduates at The Citadel in the methods of experimental and computational physics research.

 

Harry Davakos, Chair of the Department of Health, Exercise and Sport Science

Dr. Harry Davakos is working on a white paper about the evolution of Charleston’s Cooper River Bridge Run. His findings are based on surveys he has conducted for years related to the run. The report will also provide detailed profiles of participants drawn to the race as well as an analysis of how to create a similar race in other cities.

Additionally, Davakos is co-editing a book titled Case Studies for Sport Marketing and Sport Sales.

 

David Donnell, Associate Professor, Biology

Dr. David Donnell conducts research on the polyembryonic wasp, Copidosoma floridanum. To thrive inside their hosts, this wasp must simultaneously avoid detection by the immune system of their caterpillar host while defending the resource against competing wasps. Learning how these dual objectives are met involves research at the molecular level and that of the whole organism and provides an array of research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Recently, Donnell received a startup allocation on the Blacklight supercomputer from the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE). Access to this computing power has enabled him to undertake a ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequencing experiment to study genes expressed by Copidosoma The experiment has thus far yielded millions of pieces of sequence data that have already been assembled using the Trinity programs on the supercomputer. The next step in the analysis will involve the functional identification of the genes in the study and their expression levels in the wasp. This is the third allocation that Citadel faculty has applied for and received through XSEDE in the last two years.

 

Joel Gramling, Associate Professor, Biology

In 2010, V. Lee Faircloth, a member of The Citadel’s Class of 1967, donated 544 acres of bottomland forest habitat near Andrews, S.C. It included a swath of land along the Black River shoreline stretching more than a mile. Since that time, Dr. Joel Gramling has spearheaded several research projects to better understand the habitat diversity of the property.

Gramling is an Associate Professor of Plant Ecology. Recently, he supervised cadets and graduate students in a wetland survey to learn more about the flora and water quality of the site. The students mapped out various routes for accessing the property using GPS data uploaded to a geographic information system (GIS) map. They identified plants in the field, collected specimens to bring back to The Citadel Herbarium, and analyzed water quality. Ultimately, their research was used to validate a wetland classification map developed in GIS. The students presented their research findings at the 2014 Citadel Research Conference, where they won first prize. The cadets were inspired to conduct an ambitious new project under Gramling’s direction to identify the amphibians and reptiles on the property.

These projects have been funded through The Citadel Foundation by a generous gift from Dr. Mir Nasim of The Citadel Class of 1982.

 

Luke Sollitt, Assistant Professor, Physics

Dr. Luke Sollitt is working on his internationally recognized invention, the Atsa Suborbital Observatory with his students. Atsa will be a series of astronomical telescopes that fly on commercial suborbital spacecraft. The Citadel is teamed with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, Calif., to send the telescope on their Lynx series of spacecraft. His student team is finalizing design details and assembling, and conducting testing of what will be the first telescope to fly. One of the things that makes Atsa unique is that it launches in a human-rated spaceplane. It will be hand-guided by telescope operator sitting in the right-hand seat of the Lynx spacecraft on its short suborbital trajectory into space.

Recently Sollit’s team of cadets attended Suborbital Scientists astronaut training in a centrifuge and hypobaric chamber at the NASTAR Center near Philadelphia. This will qualify them to fly with the telescope. The team will also assist in conducting a fit/function test in spacecraft at XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, CA.

Another of Sollitt’s research projects involves Laser Desorption Infrared Spectroscopy. Through this ongoing research he will produce a paper on a new way to search for life beyond earth in the solar system. Laser Desorption Infrared Spectroscopy uses a low-power infrared laser to desorb water vapor from the surfaces of icy moons in the outer solar system. Potential targets include Europa, Enceladus, and other moons of Jupiter and Saturn. He has teamed with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California and sends a student there each summer to work on the project. The research work will eventually lead to a flight instrument on a NASA mission to the outer planets. (Photo courtesy of XCOR)

 

Lok Lew Yan Voon, Dean, School of Science and Mathematics

Dr. Lok Lew Yan Voon who is the dean of the School of Science and Mathematics is conducting ongoing research related to silicene (a two-dimensional nanomaterial made from silicon atoms). He is referred to as the “Father of Silicene” after having predicted intriguing properties for the material theoretically in 2007 together with a masters’ student. Silicene was first produced in 2010. It has since been recognized as a top 100 story by Discover magazine in 2011 and a top 10 story in physical sciences in 2012 by the New Scientist magazine.

Lok Lew Yan Voon's work on silicene is concentrated in the field of nanotechnology, for which he serves as a consultant for a variety of organizations including the National Science Foundation and silicene.com. Recently, he was featured in an announcement from Silicene Labs about the launch of the patent-pending 2D Materials Composite Index – a revolutionary metric to track the development of two-dimensional nanomaterials such as Graphene.


John Weinstein, Head of the Department of Biology; Professor, Physiology

Dr. Weinstein is focused on a project entitled Marine Plastic Debris: Assessing the Hazards in Charleston Harbor. One of the most pervasive pollution problems along the world’s coastlines is plastic debris, and Charleston Harbor is no exception. For the past year, cadets and graduate students working in Weinstein’s laboratory in the biology department have been characterizing plastic pollution in the harbor, including both the macroplastic debris (such as water bottles and Styrofoam cups) and microplastic fragments. As plastic material degrades in the environment, it breaks apart into tiny microscopic fragments, which then have the potential to be ingested by invertebrates and cause problems such as decreased feeding and growth.

So far, the results have been very revealing. Last September, students in Weinstein’s laboratory participated in the S.C. Sea Grant-sponsored beach sweep, where they sorted, counted and weighed all macroplastic debris items collected by local volunteers at 8 locations around Charleston Harbor. A total of 3,646 plastic items were counted weighing nearly 200 lbs. The two most common types of plastic were polypropylene (plastic food storage containers and bottle caps) and polystyrene (styrofoam cups and plates). Based on what they found at these eight sites, they estimated that there are 460,900 plastic debris items weighing 15,260 lbs. along the entire shoreline in Charleston Harbor. Just to put this in perspective, this equates to finding one plastic item for every two steps along the entire shoreline of the harbor.

His laboratory has also been looking at the microplastic particles within the sediments of the harbor and assessing their toxicity. They have found that most microplastics are deposited along the high tide line, where their numbers can be as high as 460 particles per square meter. To determine if the presence of microplastic particles are toxic to common inhabitants of Charleston Harbor, grass shrimp in the lab were fed a diet of zooplankton mixed with a series of five different sizes of microscopic plastic beads. Within 3 hours, plastic beads for all of the size fractions could be found in both the guts of the grass shrimp and their gills. Shrimp surviving for at least four days were able to get rid of the plastics from their gills and gut; whereas the dead shrimp could not. In fact, they found that grass shrimp exposed to one of the tested size fractions had the lowest success in getting rid of the beads, and as a consequence, the highest mortality. This research is being funded by the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium. (Photo couresy of the S.C. DNR)