At Large Winner—and New Contest

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We have a winner!

The winner of our first At Large photo contest is Bernardo Niño, whose close-up shot of honey bees at their hive is so vivid that it makes us hear the buzzing and taste the honey.  Bernardo’s photo appears in the spring issue of Research|Penn State, which will arrive on campus in mid-April. In addition to publication of his photo in Research|Penn State, Bernardo will receive a high-quality print of the At Large spread, suitable for framing.

Bernardo was a research technician in the lab of Christina Grozinger at the Center for Pollinator Research from 2009 to 2014. You may have read about the challenges facing bees today, including deadly mite infestations and viral infections and loss of natural food sources due to habitat loss. Grozinger’s lab is investigating these threats and how we can bolster bees’ natural defense systems to keep them happy, healthy, and on the job as pollinators of some of our most valuable crops.

Thank you to all who sent images for our consideration. There are many good photographers here at Penn State!

And now, we launch the search for another superb research-related photo to run as our At Large feature in Research|Penn State magazine. As you can see from Bernardo’s image, the photo must fill a full two-page spread and be visually compelling. Magazine staff will write the short description of how the image relates to Penn State research.

Here are the ground rules for the contest:
• Images must be strong horizontals so one shot can completely fill a two-page spread.
• Images must be available at high resolution, at least 300 dpi (this is not the same as ppi). Keep this in mind as you shoot photos, especially through microscopes. We have had to eliminate beautiful images from consideration because they were not shot at a high enough resolution to be enlarged to publication size.
• Images must relate to research being conducted by someone at Penn State.
• Images can be scenics, close-ups, or micrographs. They can be realistic or abstract (such as a patterned structure), color or black & white or colorized. Archival shots will also be considered.
We do not use portraits. When we use a shot with a person in it, the person is small within the frame.

Please send your photos to me, Cherie Winner, at Lo-res versions are fine at this stage. If we select your image, we’ll ask for the hi-res version. Deadline for submission is Friday, July 31, 2015. For more information, use the contact form below or call me at 3-4750.

Shining a spotlight on student research

Even after years of running the series, I’m still always energized by the launch of a new Research Unplugged season. But last week I was even more delighted than usual. Last year, my colleagues and I hatched the idea of inviting an undergraduate student to give one of our six talks each semester. With the help of Nichola Gutgold, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in Schreyer Honors College, we developed a list of potential student speakers.

There’s no lack of outstanding undergraduate researchers at Penn State; in fact, just the opposite. The number of exciting undergraduate research and service projects made it hard to imagine choosing. But one young woman stood out as the top choice for our Spring season. Though only a freshman, Neha Gupta has already captured the admiration and affection of not only  Penn Staters, but of the entire world, for the humanitarian work that led to her winning the International Children’s Peace Prize last November.

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Penn State freshman Neha Gupta accepts the International Children’s Peace Prize from Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Fortunately for us, Neha agreed to be the first student speaker in this new initiative of ours, despite her extraordinarily busy schedule. (Among other things, Neha is taking part in Microsoft Office’s “Collective Project” which helps students pursue world-changing projects and tells their stories through videos, campus events and social media. )

After connecting through many emails and phone calls in the months before her Research  Unplugged talk , I was thrilled to meet this inspiring Penn State student in person yesterday.

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Neha Gupta, left, with Melissa Beattie-Moss, Manager of Research Communications

Not unexpectedly, there was a standing room only crowd at Schlow Library to hear Neha describe her journey from a 9-year-old with a vision to help orphans in India to the head of a global foundation working on behalf of children’s rights.

Standing room only at Neha Gupta's Research Unplugged talk
Standing room only at Neha Gupta’s Research Unplugged talk

Some of her fellow Schreyer Honors College scholars were in the audience, and Dean Christian Brady and Associate Dean Nikki Gutgold were there to support her as well. In her introduction of Neha, Dr. Gutgold pointed out that this is a student who embodies the values of Schreyer Honors College, most notably a passion for leadership and civic engagement.

From left, Associate Dean Nichola Gutgold; Penn State students in the audience; and at right, Dean Christian Brady

During the Q & A portion of the hour, the audience’s amazement at Neha’s accomplishments was palpable, as was their pride in her as a Penn State student. Neha fielded a wide array of questions like a pro for over 15 minutes.

While we know next semester’s student speaker will have a hard act to follow, we also are confident he or she will rise to the occasion. When it comes to Penn State student researchers, there are many exciting voices we’re eager to share with you!


Life, Death and Research

Mark Anner and Jobany Valesquez, the son of Febe Elizabeth Valesquez, who died in a the same bombing in El Salvador that wounded Anner. Jobany was six months old at the time his mother was killed. The photo was taken in front of the exact spot where the bombing occurred on the 25th anniversary of the bombing. A series of events were planned that day to celebrate the lives of those who died.
Penn State researcher Mark Anner and Jobany Valesquez, the son of Febe Elizabeth Valesquez, who died in the same bombing in El Salvador that wounded Anner. Jobany was six months old at the time his mother was killed. The photo was taken in front of the exact spot where the bombing occurred on the 25th anniversary of the bombing. A series of events were planned that day to celebrate the lives of those who died.

When you write about Penn State research, you have to be ready for a lot of knowledge and passion, maybe some controversy, and occasionally a big word or two that you pretend  you understand during the interview, but immediately try to find its definition on your iPhone as you run back to the office to start the story. Not that this has ever happened to me.

You learn a lot. But some of the lessons never make it into the story.

Here is the challenge I heard in the work of Mark Anner, associate professor of labor and employment relations and the director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights: Would you be willing to take a stand for something you believe in?  Let’s go a step farther: Would you be willing to risk your life for something you believe in?

Anner and a colleague recently wrote a report on garment workers in El Salvador. These workers are finding themselves targets of violence and intimidation by corrupt union officials, factory owners, and even street gang members. But violence and intimidation are no stranger to Anner, who worked as a labor activist in El Salvador in the 1980s and 1990s. Early one morning in 1989, a group of armed men broke into his home and abducted him. He was taken to their headquarters, blindfolded, handcuffed, and tossed into a basement jail. For a period of time, his captors did not offer him food or water and forced him to stand for an extended time between interrogation sessions.

While Anner was released in about a day, some of his fellow unionists were held much longer, beaten and even raped.

Six weeks later, he was seriously wounded when paramilitary forces bombed the union cafeteria where he and friends were meeting. Ten people died and scores were wounded.

“Three union friends who were sitting with me at the time were killed, including a top union leader, Febe Elizabeth Velasquez,” Anner writes in the preface of his book, Solidarity Transformed.

The injuries he sustained during the attack created lingering health problems, he adds.

But this hasn’t stopped Anner from returning to El Salvador and continuing his research, work that he hopes will bring justice and prosperity to groups of people that often have no voice.

I should add that Anner did not mention any of this during our interview. I found most of the details of the attack afterward. However, the last few minutes of that interview did bring things home for me. In most releases, I try to mention all the researchers and collaborators who helped out on a study. Unfortunately, for the story on El Salvador garment workers I could not. Anner has colleagues who are still in that country and the release of their names could endanger them.

That was a quick way to put my day in perspective.



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