Highlander Highlights: Week of August 7, 2023


Sociology students working to improve child care options

Over the past year, sociology students in Aysha Bodenhamer’s applied research principles course have been busy collecting and analyzing data for a report they hope will improve access to child care in the New River Valley.

The students – Jodi Allen, Katie Bellomo, Eva Blankenship, Aly Carneal, Berneice Douglas, Shaly Farmer, Diont’e Hadden, Nick McCumsey, Sixto Rincon, Cynia Taylor, Dylan Thompson, Luke Vongoedert, Ember Ward and Reed Yearwood – worked with the Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV) to study the organization’s First Steps initiative, which supports young children and their families. CFNRV is part of the board for the Center for Social and Cultural Research, the Radford University Department of Sociology’s research center.

Throughout the project, students in the class have, over two different semesters, conducted four focus groups, participated in several professional organization meetings across Virginia and conducted site visits to local child care centers to interview teachers and directors.

“Ultimately, this project aims to identify the struggles that are driving insufficient child care options in the New River Valley while offering some viable solutions,” said Bodenhamer, an associate professor of sociology.

In addition, the Radford students’ research has helped CFNRV secure a $1.15 million American Rescue Plan Act grant to improve child care opportunities in the region.

“Our hope is that our project will continue to help CFNRV as they work toward solving these complex challenges,” Bodenhamer said.

The course Bodenhamer teaches, SOCY 486: Real World Sociology Applied Research Principles, “is intended to professionalize and socialize sociology students so they can learn how to apply their sociological knowledge and research in the real world,” she said.

Eva Blankenship, a rising senior psychology major from Richlands, Virginia, said the project was “an amazing experience to be part of.”

“Getting to be in-person with these child care facilities brings a whole new perspective to the research,” Blankenship continued. “I’m overjoyed to have been part of the research team for this important topic and am excited to see how far this research can go with making a change for child care.”

The students will present the research findings soon in a report to the CFNRV board.

Physics students complete summer internships

A group of physics majors spent a busy summer applying their knowledge and seeking professional growth through prestigious internships in such cities as Roanoke, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Washington, D.C.; and New York.


Michael Ziegenfus

Michael Ziegenfus completed a 10-week internship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City under the direction of medical physicist Hao Zhang.

There, the rising junior from Gloucester County, Virginia, used his skills working with Zhang on research to improve data collection from CT scans. Ziegenfus constructed 3D models from theoretical data to show the differences between current scan practices with those proposed by Zhang’s research. The coding skills he learned at Radford, Ziegenfus said, prepared him for the complex research Zhang presented to him in the internship.

Julia Buccola

Julia Buccola spent the summer as a Society of Physics Students intern with the American Institute of Physics. There, she worked on the FYI Science Policy News team in Washington, D.C., writing for the team’s weekly newsletter and working on an interactive map pinpointing the National Labs throughout the United States and the congressional districts in which they reside. The rising senior from, Roanoke, Virginia, also wrote summaries for bills freshly introduced in Congress.

“Without the support and education I’ve received from the Department of Physics at Radford, this internship would not have been possible for me,” Buccola explained. “Having the research experience that I do has helped tremendously in terms of how I communicate the projects I’m working on. Along with that, just having the base understanding of how science communications works has been incredibly helpful when attending congressional hearings and keeping up with the discussions.”

In addition to Ziegenfus and Buccola, Bryan Laguna completed an internship at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Eniko Szabad worked on numerical modeling in an internship with the Roanoke Water Authority.

Chemistry professor voted vice president of national honor society

Department of Chemistry Chair Christine Hermann was elected in June to serve as vice president of Iota Sigma Pi, the national honor society for women in chemistry.

Throughout her term, which runs up to the Iota Sigma Pi Triennial Convention in 2026, Hermann will oversee new chapter formations and encourage inactive members to participate in the organization.

Iota Sigma Pi’s major objectives include promoting interest in chemistry among women students; fostering mutual advancement in academic, business and social life; and stimulating personal accomplishments in chemical fields.

“It is an honor to be elected as vice president,” Hermann said. “It is important for women to be recognized for the work that they do as scientists, through being a member of Iota Sigma Pi and receiving awards for their work.”

In addition to Hermann, notable Iota Sigma Pi members have included Marie Curie, five Nobel laureates and numerous American Chemical Society presidents.  

On top of her responsibilities as chair and professor at Radford, Hermann has found time to write and publish a ninth edition of the textbook “The Systemic Identification of Organic Compounds,” which, she explained, covers “the steps that a student takes to identify an unknown liquid or solid.”

Hermann also is the author of the solutions manual that accompanied this textbook, and she prepared the instructor resources for the textbook. The book is published by Wiley internationally and is available on Amazon. 

Aug 11, 2023
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761