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2011 Archive

Spring 2011 Blackwell Talks

Spring 2011

Lissa Power-deFur
Teaching to the Test? Addressing the Language Expectations of the Standards of Learning and SOL Assessments

February 7th
Thomas Akre
Turtles: A Cause for Wonder, a Cause for Concern

February 14th
Robin Smith
Being Literate in a Digital World

February 21st
Christopher Gulgas
Detecting 'Heat' with Light: Luminescent Sensors for Capsaicin

February 28th
Susan Lynch
Service Learning with Individuals with Disabilities: Emerging Themes

March 7th
Sarah E. G. Porter
Classification of Fuels Using Gas Chromatography and Principal Component Analysis



Spring 2011 Blackwell Talks Synopses

Teaching to the Test?  Addressing the Language Expectations of the Virginia Standards of Learning and SOL Assessments


The introduction of standards into public education has required all states to develop standards that direct the general curriculum.  All students in Virginia must demonstrate their mastery of this curriculum to graduate with a standard or advanced studies diploma, by passing the end-of-course SOL assessments.  In addition, school accreditation relies on students’ mastery of the grade level SOL assessments (as reported in the schools’ Adequate Yearly

Progress).   Whereas it is valuable to ensure that all students master the general curriculum, there are hidden language expectations of the SOLs and the Assessments that are used to measure the SOLs.


My research has focused on an analysis of the language expectations of the SOL, across grade levels and content levels, and on analysis of SOL Released Test Items.  This analysis uncovers significant expectations in the areas of semantics (vocabulary, comprehension from content), syntax (word order and parts of speech), morphology (implications of prefixes and suffixes), and phonology (sounds of words and their manipulation).    These expectations will cause significant challenges for many students: ­ those with speech-language impairments, learning disabilities, those who are English Language Learners, and those who entered school at-risk, with limited language enrichment in their preschool years.


This presentation will review the (a) expectations of the SOLs and SOL Assessments and (b) the implications for students with language impairments, delays and differences.


Lissa Power-deFur


Powerpoint File: Click to download the Microsoft Powerpoint file: Teaching to the Test (390KB)



Turtles:  A Cause for Wonder, a Cause for Concern


With nearly 50% of species threatened with extinction, turtles are arguably the most threatened group of vertebrate animals. It seems that their shell, the armor that has protected them for nearly 200 million years (since before the dinosaurs!), cannot defend them in the face of the rapidly changing landscape of the modern, globalized world. Yet, losing them means losing an exceptional part of our biological heritage, and our national heritage - the US has more species than any other country. Our own northern Virginia backyard is home to one of the most interesting and threatened species,­ the wood turtle. Wood turtles are equally at home in trout streams as they are in forests.  They may take 20 years to mature and live to be 100 years old, and they stomp for worms.


Thomas Akre

Biological and Environmental Sciences ­ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


Powerpoint File: Click to download the Microsoft Powerpoint file Turtles_a_cause_for_wonder_a_cause_for_concern.pptx (12.6MB)



Being Literate in a Digital World


Historically, literacy has been a moving target, defined by cultural needs and biases and often used for political ends. In its 21st-Century Literacies policy research brief, the National Council of Teachers of English stated that global economies, new technologies, and exponential growth in information are transforming our society. Today’s employees engage with a technology-driven, diverse, and quickly changing Œflat world.  English/language arts teachers need to prepare students for this world with problem solving, collaboration, and analysis, as well as, skills with word processing, hypertext, LCDs, Web cams, digital streaming podcasts, smartboards, and social networking software. . . . [These] new literacies are already becoming part of the educational landscape.  As evidence of this, the revised English Standards of Learning approved by the Virginia Board of Education in 2010 to become effective in the 2012-2013 school year include these new literacies. Despite widespread recognition of the importance of these skills, academics resist their inclusion in formal education, and many are ill prepared to practice or teach these skills. I am conducting a mixed methods study of pre-service English teachers: Which, if any, of these digital literacies are an important part of English teachers’ responsibilities? How competent are they to teach these skills?


Robin Davidson Smith

English and Modern Languages ­ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences



Detecting ‘Heat’ with Light ­ Luminescent Sensors for Capsaicin


Everyone knows when they have bitten into a hot pepper, whether by accident or not.  The bite releases a flood of molecules that interact with sensory nerves in the mouth.  Capsaicin is the primary molecule responsible for the sensation of heat and pain that arises when eating spicy foods.  The capsaicinoid family is a subset of the more general class of molecules known as vanilloids.  These antioxidant molecules have antitumor and antimicrobial properties and are utilized as topical analgesics for treating pain.  The efforts of my current research group are in designing luminescent molecular sensors for capsaicinoids and characterizing the nature of the binding interactions.  The sensor molecules are lanthanide complexes of europium or terbium, both luminescent in the visible range of the spectrum.  The binding of capsaicinoids to the lanthanide complexes has been shown in our lab to induce a drastic luminescence augmentation that serves as a signal.  Applications from this basic research range from inexpensive determinations of capsaicinoid concentrations in hot sauces to the development of lanthanide molecular probes for capsaicinoid-based drugs in cell studies.  A description (aimed at a general audience) of how capsaicin induces and desensitizes pain, along with our latest results, shall be delivered.


Christopher Gulgas

Chemistry and Physics ­ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


Powerpoint File: Click to download the Microsoft Powerpoint file Blackwell_Talks-Christopher Gulgas.pptx (2.8MB)



Service Learning with Individuals with Disabilities:  Emerging Themes


In this study, 92 students, enrolled in introductory level courses at a small liberal arts university in rural central Virginia, were asked to fulfill 15 hours of service learning with individuals with disabilities.  Students were required to keep journal reflections after each hour they completed. The researchers analyzed this data qualitatively by looking at themes and changes in attitude toward individuals with disabilities across the service learning activities. Data was organized into case studies representing each service learning activity. Then, common themes across the activities were discussed to assess the impact the activities had on attitudes of the college students toward individuals with disabilities.


Currently, an attitudinal survey (MAS) is being analyzed to support the quantitative data.  The students were given a survey prior to and after the service learning activity.  Hopefully the survey data will support and enhance the qualitative data collected.


Susan Lynch

Health, Recreation, and Kinesiology ­ College of Education and Human Services


Peggy Tarpley
Education & Special Education  College of Education & Human Services


Jennifer Harris
Graduate Student  College of Education & Human Services


Powerpoint File: Click to download the Microsoft Powerpoint file Blackwell_Talks-Lynch_Tarpley_Harris.pptx (109KB)



Classification of Fuels using Gas Chromatography and Principal Component Analysis


The gasoline used in today’s cars is rated by a knock test.  A knock test involves running a standardized test engine and counting the number of knocks relative to hexane (0 octane rating) and iso-octane (100 octane rating) to determine the knocking characteristics of the fuel.  For example, 87 octane gasoline has the same knocking characteristics as a mixture of 87 % iso-octane and 13 % hexane.  A far simpler instrumental method is the use of principal component analysis (PCA) with data obtained from a gas chromatograph with a flame ionization detector (GC-FID).  In this work, we are developing a PCA algorithm to characterize gasoline by octane rating.  PCA can also be used to distinguish gasoline from other fuels, including diesel fuel, lighter fluid, and kerosene.  We will also investigate the use of our algorithm to characterize fuels from different sources.  The method of target testing is used in conjunction with the PCA results to classify an unknown fuel chromatogram by octane rating, fuel type, etc.  This method will be useful to members of the forensics community, specifically those who deal with arson investigation, as they often need to distinguish between different types of accelerants used at a fire scene. 


Sarah E. G. Porter

Chemistry and Physics ­ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences




Fall 2011 Blackwell Talks

  • 12 September - "Heart Development is loopy: Insights from Zebrafish," Wade Znosko, Assistant Professor of Biology
    Presentation File: Click to download LU Blackwell Talk 2011.pdf (2 MB) 
  • 19 September - "Three Ring Circus: Highlights from the William and Ann Oppenhimer Folk Art Collection," Johnson Bowles, Director of the LCVA
  • 26 September - "A Merchant's Tale: Silk and Valencia's Commercial Ties to the Americas in the 18th Century," Will Holliday, Assistant Professor of History

    Will Holliday Blackwell Talks Presentation

  • 3 October - "The influence of the Sears and Roebuck Catalog on the development of Delta Blues," Chris Kjorness, Adjunct Music Faculty

    Chris Kjorness Blackwell Talks Presentation

  • 17 October - "Southern African American nurses during the Civil War," Barbara Maling, Assistant Professor of Nursing

    Blackwell Presentaion Picture of Barbara Maling

  • 24 October - "Immune Cells: New soldiers in the war against cancer," Amorette Barber, Assistant Professor of Biology

    Blackwell Presentation Picture of Amorette Barber