From the Dean's Desk -- March 15, 2012

Information Security Students Compete in Regional Finals

RU’s information security team of information technology students Carroll Wongchote, Joel Dominic, Jon Russo, Jeff Ali, Andy Rush, Thomas St. Clair, James Hunt, Eileen Hindmon, Daniel Lust, Austin DeVinney, and Gerald Ottman III  and information technology faculty member David Daugherty are at the 2012 CyberWatch Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition Regional Finals at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., from March 13 – 17, 2012. 

During the virtual qualifying round on Feb. 21, the team competed against 25 schools representing undergraduate and graduate students from two- and four-year schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, becoming one of the top eight to qualify for the finals. The teams competed for three hours securing five machines and performing specified tasks. Because they knew the competition would be tough, RU’s team logged many hours of practice in the lab at RU.

The team was created in September of 2011 and consists of students in computer security courses taught by information technology faculty member Prem Uppuluri. The team began meeting for a weekly Tuesday practice and added Saturday practice as the competition neared. Uppuluri helped guide them during practices, which normally lasted for about an hour. But as the competition approached, the team trained as long as four hours at a time to increase their “computing stamina.”
“Dr. Uppuluri created a mock competition by providing us with virtual computers with security issues as well as providing us with tasks to complete in the four hours,” explains teammate and senior computer science major Wongchote.

The RU team will be competing against students from Capitol College (Maryland), Howard Community College (Maryland), James Madison University, Millersville University (Pennsylvania), Towson University (Maryland), University of Maryland Baltimore and West Virginia University.

The CyberWatch Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is one of 10 regional competitions, all part of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.  The competition focuses on the operational aspects of managing and protecting an existing network infrastructure.  The teams are physically co-located in the same building.  Each team is given identical computer configurations to start the competition.  Throughout the competition, the teams have to ensure the systems supply specified services while under attack from a volunteer Red Team.  In addition, the teams have to satisfy periodic “injects” that simulate business activities information technology staff must deal with in the real world.

Most of the RU team members are seniors, eight out of the 11 members will be graduating in May with a computer science degree. They will also be graduating with cyber security skills -- skills that are in high demand in the workforce.  - JF

Alumna's Gift Supports Legacy of Biology Research


Kimberly Filcek

Junior biology major Kimberly Filcek was selected as the 2012 Ruth Bricker Painter Undergraduate Research Award recipient by the biology department faculty. Filcek works in the laboratory of biology assistant professor Justin Anderson on her research project "Characterization of prohibitin amino acid sequences necessary for dengue virus binding." The Ruth Bricker Painter Award comes with a stipend of $2,000 as well as $1,000 for supplies and equipment. Support for the award comes from an endowment established by the family of Ruth Bricker Painter, who was a high school science teacher and 1928 graduate of Radford University.

The fund also supports $1,000 Undergraduate Research Awards chosen by the biology faculty.  This year the winners were:
Laken Cooper: " Effects of chronic testosterone modulation on neophobic approach behaviors in the house sparrow (Passer domesticus)". Laken works in the laboratory of faculty member Jason Davis.

Nikki Holland: "Can pokeweed anti-viral protein (PAP) interfere with arbovirus infections in mosquitos?". Nikki works in the laboratory of Justin Anderson.

John Huth: " Involvement of calcium oxalate crystals in plant abscission". John works in the laboratory of faculty member Gary Cote.

Jasmine Jackson: " The expression of arsenic resistance genes in bacteria". Jasmine works in the laboratory of faculty member Georgia Hammond.

Hunter Simpson: "Determining what DNA sequences control gene expression of HIRA during development". Hunter works in the laboratory of faculty member Tara Phelps-Durr.

Math Major Earns Spot in Clemson Research Program

Sophomore math major David Heras earned a top spot in the National Science Foundation sponsored summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Computational Algebraic Geometry, Combinatorics and Number Theory at Clemson University. 

Mathematics faculty member McGee heard about the eight-week summer research experience at Clemson during a Mathematical Association of America meeting.  He knew that the application process for the program is highly competitive but was confident his student was up to the challenge.  “Most students accepted to mathematical summer REU’s come from prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Cornell, MIT, etc. and most attend between their junior and senior year.  The REU at Clemson will give David the opportunity to work with mathematical researchers at the cutting edge of modern developments in algebraic number theory.  In preparation he is studying material normally considered by strong senior math majors or first year graduate students,” says McGee.

This spring, Heras is working with McGee in an independent study involving derivation and proof of properties of elliptic curves over the complex numbers, based in part on the text “Elliptic Curves” by Lawrence Washington.  To support this research study, David and fellow math major James Grenier are taking a course in complex analysis. The students plan to present their work at the RU Undergraduate Research Forum this spring and hope to present at a national conference this summer.

As a part of the undergraduate research experience program, Heras will receive up to $500 in travel support, a dorm room to be shared with other participants in the REU, up to $800 for meals and a stipend of $3,400 in return for his participation in this program.

Biology Professor Receives Grant for REU Program at RU


Jeremy Wojdak

Biology faculty member Jeremy Wojdak receives a $7,500  National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to offer a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program in his laboratory to continue his research regarding parasitic diseases of local wildlife. An objective of the National Science Foundation is to promote the progression of science. Its supplemental funding gives a student from across the nation an opportunity to attend RU and work with Wojdak’s research group.

“Outstanding Radford University students interested in science should search for REU opportunities in the winter and spring for the following summer,” Wojdak explains. Summer REUs give students an opportunity  to travel and experience working in labs across the nation. “The interns often work at top-notch institutions getting paid a $3,000 to $5,000 stipend,” explains Wojdak. Students from across the country will be applying for a spot in Wojdak’s laboratory this summer to gain experience from him and his research student team.   - JF

Chemistry Club Hosts Guest Speaker

On Tuesday, March 20, Hampden-Sydney College chemistry professor Kevin Dunn, author of the book Scientific Soap Making: The Chemistry of the Cold Process, will discuss the history and scientific process of soap making from 5 - 7 p.m. in McGuffey Hall, room 206.

During the discussion, hosted by the RU Chemistry Club, Dunn explains the chemistry of fats, oils, and soaps, and discusses sophisticated analytical techniques that can be carried out using equipment and materials familiar to makers of handcrafted soap. With limited soap making books published, Dunn adds more to the soap making world by helping people understand the chemistry process, even those having limited chemistry experience.
“Our goal for the Chemistry Club is to educate the world about chemistry that happens in everyday life,” explains President of the Chemistry Club Anthony Eid.  Dunn’s seminar on soap making brings new ideas to the chemistry world at Radford University, Eid adds.  Because all are welcome, Eid says, the soap making seminar is a great chance to learn a thing or two about chemistry and have fun doing it.

Guest Lecture Discusses Mayan Culture

The Club Programming Committee, Anthropology Club, and Department of Anthropological Sciences are sponsoring guest speaker Andrew Scherer, a Maya archaeologist and bioarchaeologist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University on Thursday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. in McGuffey 206.  He will discuss his Mayan research during his talk entitled “Mortuary, Community, and Polity Practice among the Classic Maya”.

RU Hosts Regional Science Fair for Middle and High School Students

Thanks to the planning and hard work by chemistry faculty members Christine Hermann and Kimberly Lane and other volunteers throughout the college, region and state, the Blue Ridge Highlands Regional Science Fair was held on March 2 - 3 in Peters Hall Gymnasium.

Close to 20 middle and high schools from across the Blue Ridge Highlands participated in the competition.  Students presented more than 100 projects during the event to be judged by scientific experts from across the state who served as volunteer judges.

For a complete list of science fair winners, visit the fair's website.


by Jasmine Jackson, Secretary of the CSAT STEM Club

CSAT STEM Club would like to thank everyone who volunteered for the CSAT Open House.

On Monday, March 12, CSAT STEM Club members volunteered for the regional high school academic tournament SuperMACC from 4-9 p.m. The members served as scorekeepers, timekeepers, or to help setup or take things down.

On Thursday, March 15 at 7pm in McGuffey 203, Dr. Jarrod Burks, the Director of Archaeological Geophysics at Ohio Valley Archaeology, Inc. will be giving his talk “Rediscovering Ohio’s Ancient Earthwork Sites” at 7 p.m. in McGuffey 203. Before the talk from 3:30-4:30 p.m., there will be a reception in the Stuart Hall Lounge for anyone interested in speaking with Dr. Burks one-on-one about his work.

On Saturday, March 17, the CSAT STEM Club will be taking its spring trip to the North Carolina Zoo. The trip is open to all CSAT majors. If it rains during the trip, the club will instead visit the Aviation Museum in North Carolina.

At the end of March, the CSAT STEM Club will be holding nominations and elections for club officers.