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Professional Enhancement Grants fuel research on campus

Professional Enhancement Grants (PEG) are awarded and administered through the office of the Provost to encourage projects that show potential for significant research, scholarly, creative or instructional contributions and that can serve as the base to acquire additional funding from external sources. The PEG program provides benefits to faculty members in support of the University's mission to embrace high quality teaching, engaged learning, faculty research and creative activities.

2013-2014 awardees


Cara Adams, Department of English

I propose to use this grant support to fund research, writing, and revision time necessary to complete my first book, a short story collection entitled At the Appointed Hour. The book explores loss in its various guises through darkly funny stories that work in two veins: realist and magical realist. Specifically, I will research and revise three stories: “The Most Common State of Matter,” about a young woman whose best friend is diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and skin cancer; “Practice,” about a girl whose baby brother dies and whose mother becomes attached to the family’s pet rabbit; and “At the Gates,” about a town that hires
watchers for surveillance. I will also research and write a new story about a blind Canadian painter. These four stories will join the other nine in the collection to complete the manuscript. Completing my first book is a crucial step in my professional growth.


Elena Andrei, Department of Foundations, Literacy & Technology

Teaching second language writing to English Language Learners (ELLs) in public schools is a developing field in need of more studies. Writing is an important skill for students to be college and career ready and even more important for ELLs who are learning English, yet many teachers are not well prepared to teach writing to ELLs (Larsen, 2013).  The purpose of this pilot project is two-fold. First, teachers’ writing instructional practices will be improved. A local teacher discussion group will be organized during which teachers will explore their students’ writing and their writing instructional practices using knowledge they gain from an in-common text, The ELL Writer by Ortmeier-Hooper. Second, the investigators plan to assess teacher discussion groups (using an in-common text) as a viable means for professional development (PD). The project has the potential to impact teachers’ teaching practices and identify teacher discussion groups as a viable PD option.


Shaowu Bao, School of Coastal and Marine Systems Science

Atlantic  tropical cyclones can give rise to devastating hurricanes. Based on the cyclone’s energy  and  the  number  of  hurricanes,  the  Atlantic  tropical  cyclone  activity  has  been  below average through September, contrary to most pre­season statistical model predictions. In this study,  a  recently  developed  global  climate  model  will  be  used  to  perform  a  season­long ensemble  study  to investigate  and  assess  the  impact  of  climate  factors  (e.g.  oceanic  and atmospheric variations) on the current Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. The requested fund will provide a stipend support for a recruited student researcher and data storage. Most importantly, this  investigation  will  allow  the  student  and  faculty  members  to  extend  their  knowledge  of atmospheric/oceanic processes, to support our university’s vision of experiential learning, and to contribute to current understanding of hurricanes which has great societal importance.


Miranda Brenneman, Department of Psychology/Sociology

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the US and number one cause of adult long-term disability.  The presence of cognitive impairment after stroke is one of the best predictors of poor long-term outcome. With more individuals under age 65 having strokes, it’s unknown whether older and younger patients show the same time-course of cognitive improvement. A previous study used linear and logarithmic modeling to predict cognitive impairment one month post-stroke with success, however, failed to assess executive function, which is most likely to be responsible for rehabilitation interference. We propose to assess stroke, including executive function in older and younger patients at Waccamaw Hospital, multiple times in the acute phase and once in the chronic phase to predict long-term outcome using linear and logarithmic modeling. The ability to predict long-term cognitive impairment in the acute phase can help identify patients that may benefit from early intervention therapy.


Jeff Case, Department of Visual Arts

A professional enhancement grant would enable me to travel to Thailand to gather materials necessary for producing a signficant body of cultural heritage multimedia work suitable for gallery shows and scholarly artistic presentations.  Thai folklore is central to the local cultural heritage and is often used by the elders to teach morals and ethics to the younger generation.  My aim is to construct juxtaposition, using art and design, created with new media technology tools, to retell these ancient tales and traditions in an innovative way that conveys meaningful messages and customs to the rising generation.


Stephanie Danker, Department of Visual Arts

As a result of her scholarly reassignment research in spring 2013, CCU painting professor Maura Kenny created a series of watercolor paintings on location at Hobcaw Barony that will be exhibited in the Bryan Gallery, March 10 - April 4, 2014.  The exhibit, "Out of Hobcaw," has significant implications for educating about local historical, scientific and sociological issues through visual imagery.  In an effort to strengthen relationships with local PK-12 art educators (including MAT students in their field placements), a studio workshop will be offered on Saturday, March 22, 2014, from 9-3 p.m.  The workshop will provide time to discuss the artwork series in the gallery space and then practice techniques in the studio.  Further implications for developing interdisciplinary, content-driven art lessons will be discussed.  Additionally, CCU undergratudate art education students will plan and implement a modified version of the workshop for home-schooled children in the week following the workshop.


Carolyn Dillian, Department of History

Since 2006, I have worked at Koobi Fora in Kenya on sites dating to approximately 2-4,000 B.C., but I now propose to use this Professional Enhancement Grant to begin new research on much older sites in a new area of the country, within a geographic region known as the Karari Escarpment. This proposed study dates to a geologic time called the Early Holocene, a period beginning approximately 10,000 years ago, when the environment of East Africa was startlingly different, marked by a wetter climate, higher lake levels, and flowing streams. The archaeological record for Early Holocene people, who were often fishermen, remains largely unstudied, and we have an incomplete understanding of how these populations interacted with each other and their environment. This proposed project will extend our knowledge back into deeper prehistory and gain a more thorough understanding of human cultural development in East Africa.


Diane Fribance, Department of Marine Science

Winyah Bay is the fourth largest estuary on the east coast of the United States, yet there are relatively few studies focusing on its circulation. This lack of information makes it difficult to verify model predictions in this area, including possible impacts of pollutants. To increase our understanding, I propose a new hydrographic sampling program. Winyah Bay includes two regions of curvature, with the curves going in opposing directions. This curvature should act to either enhance or reduce the asymmetry of the flow due to the Earth’s rotation. By measuring density and water velocity over several tidal cycles at each of these locations, two undergraduate students and I will confirm whether the northern region shows enhanced asymmetry of flow relative to the southern region. This knowledge about what is driving the flow will improve estimates of mixing and transport, improving our ability to maintain estuarine health.


Sharon Gilman, Department of Biology

The Colleges of Sciences and Education propose a joint research effort with the Universidad de San Francisco in the Galapagos.  As part of this project, a biology student will spend a semester abroad at the GAIAS institute.  The student will conduct environmnetal education research under the direction of Drs. Gilman and Scott.  The purpose of this project is: (1) To support Galapagos community members and GAIAS in developing an educational outreach program focusing on local environmental issues and (2) to examine current community perspectives on environmental issues and what changes may emerge as a result of the developed outreach program.  There are three expected outcomes: to establish a joint, on-going research program with GAIAS institute; to train an undergraduate student to develop and conduct environmental education programs; to monitor the effectiveness of and changes resulting from community outreach in shapng the understanding and attitudes of people toward their environment.


Jane Guentzel, Department of Marine Science

Most data regarding mercury cycling has been collected from freshwater and open ocean environments .This project seeks to investigate the bioaccumulation of mercury within small forage fish living in SC estuaries. All estuaries along the SC coast have consumption advisories for tilefish, cobia, and king mackerel (http://www.scdhec.gov/environment/water/fish). Mummichogs and Atlantic silversides reside within estuaries and are prey to these commercially important fish. Silversides are more likely to consume copepods found within surface waters while mummichogs are more likely to feed on amphipods within the sediment (Vince 1976),
which can be sources of methylmecury in estuaries. Amphipods assimilated more methylmercury than copepods in a laboratory setting (Lawson 1998). This suggests that in the natural environment mummichogs will have higher concentrations of methylmercury than silversides. By comparing mercury levels in these 2 fish we seek to determine the importance of each species with regard to the bioaccumulation of mercury in larger fish.


Allison Hosier, Kimbel Library

Information literacy is the ability to find, use and evaluate information in a research context. Recent studies have shown that students lack information literacy skills when they enter college and that they often carry this deficit with them into their professional lives after they graduate. Kimbel Library is expanding its information literacy program to include credit-bearing courses, which will be taught by librarians, who often learn pedagogy and lesson design on the job rather than through coursework. The Association of College and Research Libraries Immersion Teacher Track Program gives attendees the opportunity to develop and hone their pedagogical skills in a formal setting. Acquiring funding to attend this workshop will lead to improved teaching methods that will benefit students by giving them a classroom experience that is thoughtfully tailored to their needs so that they can better learn and demonstrate information literacy skills in their academic and professional lives.


JongHan Kim, Department of Psychology/Sociology

One of the occupying questions for college educators and administers is how to improve students’ academic performance and retention. Recent findings indicate that brief psychological interventions in education are promising ways to address these questions. The current project is aimed at developing 3 academic intervention studies that fit the students at Coastal. In study 1, Freshmen will participate in a value-affirmation intervention session explaining that poor academic performance is normal as students’ transition to college and it is not an indication of their ability. In study 2, transfer psychology majors will participate in an intervention that encourages feelings of belongingness to the university. Student GPA and intentions to continue at CCU, along with other psychological measures, will be collected. In study 3, students will participate in focus group interviews to discuss focused questions such as what obstacles they experience and what they want to be after graduation.


Donald Rockey, Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sports Studies

The economic hardships over the past decade brought about financial challenges for many government sponsored programs including municipal and county parks and recreation agencies. One of the repeated concerns to sustainability expressed by parks and recreation administrators is the availability of sufficient finances (Crompton, 1999). With the financial challenges, these agencies have had to become creative and more business oriented to continue to provide services and facilities. The purpose of this research project is to explore the financing strategies for selected parks and recreation agencies throughout the state of South Carolina. Through focus groups and agency visitations the researchers will gather qualitative data to serve as a starting point for a larger scale nationwide study that will attempt to determine best practices for financing parks and recreation.


Gwendolyn Schwinke, Theatre Department

I will be rehearsing and performing the role of Margie in the play Good People by David Lindsay-Abaire as a professional guest artist with Talking Horse Productions, a theatre in Columbia, Missouri. As part of my preparation, I will be learning a South Boston dialect.


Jason Smith, Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies

Static stretching is often used as part of a thorough warm-up in the hopes of improving performance and/or reducing the risk of injury for fitness and athletic populations. Prolonged static stretching (> 45 seconds of stretching per muscle group) impairs a variety of athletic parameters including strength, power, agility, and speed. Interestingly, most individuals employ a shorter duration (e.g., 30 seconds) of static stretching as part of their warm-up. Information regarding this limited-duration static stretching protocol’s effect on performance is scarce and conflicting. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to evaluate the acute effect of 30 seconds of static stretching on vertical jump performance, which is an indicator of lower body power. Power is the most important athletic parameter in most sport performances. Results from this study will be used to advance our knowledge of designing an appropriate warm-up to enhance performance in collegiate athletics.


Bryan Wakefield, Department of Chemistry/Physics

Malaria has a major impact on people who live in tropical climates around the world. Due to the prevalence of the disease and increased instants of drug resistance there is a need to develop new treatment options. The flinderole alkaloids have been shown to inhibit the growth of a chloroquine resistant strain of the parasite responsible for causing malaria. While possessing promising activity, these compounds need to be
optimized through chemical synthesis to become effective drugs. The goal of this project is to synthesize flinderole analogs to determine the effect of changes to one structural region of the molecule on the biological activity of flinderole. This data will allow for new, improved flinderole analogs to be synthesized.


Brian West, Department of Chemistry/Physics

Data transmission and processing requirements are increasing exponentially, driven by recent applications such as high-definition video and "e-health care."  While optical transmission systems have long ago replaced electronic ones for high-bandwidth transmission, routing and processing of data is still primarily performed in the electronic domain, due to the lack of suitable nanoscale, low-power all-optical switching devices; this places severe limits on the overall speed and efficiency of the switching architecture.  To eliminate the "electronic bottleneck." we propose to develop data switching structures based on the recently-described Hybrid Plasmonic Waveguide.  Our aim is to utilize contemporary electromagnetic modeling techniques to design optimized all-optical switches. These results will be of great benefit to the international photonics community in the creation of switching modules.  Closer to home, this project will permit an undergraudate student to learn important skills of computational modeling and experimental design & analysis, and possibly to co-author a research paper.


Rachel Whitaker, Department of Chemistry/Physics

Drinkable water is a luxury for most of the world’s population. Heavy metal contamination of drinking water is common and is becoming more of a problem as world-wide pollution continues to rise. Exposure to heavy metals is harmful to human health and in high concentrations can lead to neurodegeneration and eventually death. The current methodology for testing metal contamination in drinking water requires a specially trained technician and expensive equipment. Furthermore, the testing protocol itself generates chemical and plastic waste. Therefore, we propose developing a biodegradable biosensor that would allow anyone the
ability to test water quality easily and effectively. The biosensor would be made from RNA molecules that have the ability to bind to metal ions while tethered to a nanoparticle bead.


Clayton Whitesides, Department of Politics and Geography

Hiking the highest natural point in each state is a popular recreational activity in the United States. Little is known, however, about the origin of hikers or common hiking periods. Knowledge of hiker origin and popular hiking seasons is essential to proper management of mountain environments. Although most highpoints contain summit registers that document the date, name, and origin of hikers, registers are commonly maintained by individuals or recreational clubs. Consequently, records are often fragmented and difficult to access. To better understand origin and seasonality of hikers in the southeast, I propose visiting state highpoints
and recording hiker data from both archived and active summit registers. The data will be analyzed with GIS software to identify spatial patterns and temporal trends in hiker origin and frequency. Understanding hiker origin and common hiking periods is crucial for proper policy and management of tourism in mountain environments.


Min Ye, Department of Politics and Geography

Can active learning in International Relations (IR) classes at Coastal Carolina University improve student learning and increase enthusiasm for such classes? This pedagogical research project will evaluate this question through the use of active learning simulations of international events in two cornerstone IR classes of the discipline in the Politics and Geography Department. To do so, we will use digital simulation tool called International Communications and Negotiation Simulations (ICONS) in the course assessments in one section of POLI 315 and one section of POLI 318 in Spring 2014. Two sections of POLI 315 in Fall 2013 that do not include such active learning components are used as the control group. Through pre- and post-test surveys and content analysis of reflection papers, the researchers will determine the impacts of
active learning simulations on student learning outcomes and enthusiasm in International Relations—as represented by the two courses.