Issue 9, October 2018
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Meet the Undergraduate Research Co-Directors and the New Advisory Council
Because of the importance of undergraduate research to The University of the South, especially in light of the Sewanee Pledge, the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) now has a pair of co-directors, instead of the single director model that was used in the past. Both Rob Bachman and Terri Fisher have already spent time in the OUR. Bachman, F. B. Williams Professor of Chemistry, was the inaugural director when the Office of Undergraduate Research was initially established. He served in that office from 2007-2014 (except for a small break during a sabbatical year). After leaving the directorship, he continued to be a strong supporter of undergraduate research in his own lab, across the campus, and beyond (he is a Councilor of the Division of Chemistry of the Council of Undergraduate Research and continues to chair council-wide committees/task forces). Terri Fisher, Visiting Professor of Psychology, served as Interim Director last spring semester. Before coming to Sewanee, she had spent considerable time building the undergraduate research program at The Ohio State University at Mansfield, where she served for 33 years in both faculty and administrative positions.
The OUR has an Undergraduate Research Advisory Council in place to assist with vision and policy. At this moment, we are happy to announce the current members of this group—Katherine Cammack, Kristen Cecala, Elise Kikis, Tao Song, Kelly Whitmer, and Elizabeth Wilson—volunteers excited about growing all versions of collaborative faculty-student scholarship and creative activity. If you are even a little interested in joining the group, we will gladly welcome your voice to the conversations, dreaming of what is possible across our community. 

As co-directors, we will be building on the good foundation that already exists as we strengthen support for undergraduate research across the campus, especially during the summer. If you have any ideas or feedback to share with either us or the Advisory Council, please don’t hesitate to email to let the group know.
Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Clint Smith

Viruses infect every organism on Earth and are essentially a packet of genetic information (genome) encapsulated safely inside an outer shell. A viral genome contains all of the information needed to make viral proteins, while the shell both protects the virus and helps to determine which organisms the virus is capable of infecting. Such nefarious simplicity comes at a cost: In order to replicate, all viruses are completely reliant on host cells, such as cells inside our nose and lungs (in the case of influenza). If the host cell proteins and processes required by viruses are identified, this information could potentially guide the development of antiviral drugs that target these essential pathways. 


Coronaviruses (CoV) are RNA viruses, meaning they encode their genetic information as RNA instead of DNA. Infection in humans primarily results in cold-like upper respiratory infections. However, recently the emergence of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV highlights the capacity of coronaviruses to cause lethal, epidemic human disease. No FDA-approved drugs exist to treat any human coronavirus and few studies have examined which host proteins are critically important for CoV replication. 


Enter Dr. Clint Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology, and the dedicated students who work in his lab. These researchers have been using the murine model coronavirus, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV). MHV does not infect humans, but it encodes for all of the same enzymatic activities as both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, making it a good model for studying the replication of these deadly viruses in cells. Importantly, mutations can be introduced into the MHV genome by means of a viral reverse genetics system to study both the importance and function of viral proteins. Students in the lab are currently exploring a variety of topics including understanding the role of host chaperone proteins during CoV replication, elucidating the importance of a newly discovered viral enzymatic activity, and examining how CoVs respond to nucleotide depletion. 


Few opportunities for virology research (outside of bacteriophages) exist at liberal arts colleges, and Sewanee is one of only two liberal arts colleges in the country with the capacity to utilize the CoV reverse genetics system. Thus, the collaborative research experience in Dr. Smith’s lab provides his students with a truly remarkable opportunity, and might end up saving lives in the process.

Student Spotlight: Lydia Klaus
Some people don’t realize that research can occur in any department and can take many forms. Lydia Klaus, a senior theatre major from Murfreesboro, TN, spent her summer doing research on the background and setting for Cabaret, a classic musical being produced jointly by the Department of Theatre & Dance and the Department of Music later this month. Cabaret is set in Germany after World War I during the time of the Weimar Republic. A research assistantship awarded to Lydia through a program sponsored by the Office of Undergraduate Research and administered through the Office of Career and Leadership Development enabled her to spend her summer perusing books, films, and visual art in order to lend authenticity to the production, ultimately writing about 30 pages of reports. 

Lydia started out in the position of assistant costume designer to Professor Jennifer Matthews. She eventually took on the role of dramaturg for the production, serving as an “extra set of eyes” as the two searched and sorted through thousands of images in order to visualize each character. Matthews reports that Lydia was excellent at quickly digesting material and being able to distill the elements most helpful to her. Lydia’s retention of the material was invaluable when Matthews needed to recall precise information about details such as insignia, or types of shoes, or the nature of social scenes played out in the cabarets of Berlin. As dramaturg, Lydia was often called upon to answer general questions about the period. It was important to Lydia that she be prepared to share all of the information she had gathered without personal bias. In doing so, she was able to provide inspiration for the direction and the costume design. 

Lydia is also acting in the production, playing the role of Fräulein Schneider. Once she graduates, she hopes to pursue a career in acting, but her experience as an assistant designer, a dramaturg, and as a costume technician has diversified her skill set, making her even more marketable. Lydia reports, “I have always been passionate about people and their stories, so researching for Cabaret has empowered me immensely. Not only have I had the opportunity to engage with the Berlin cabaret culture of the thirties, but I also know that there are other specialties in the theatre that can sustain me artistically aside from performance.”
Meet-and-Greet with ACA President
Dr. Beth Rushing, President of the Appalachian College Association (ACA), will be visiting campus on Thursday, November 1, 2018. Sewanee is a member of the ACA, and numerous faculty, staff, and students have been the recipients of funding awarded through various ACA programs. You are invited to meet Dr. Rushing at an informal event in the Center for Teaching scheduled for 1:00-2:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 1. Please register your interest in attending. Light refreshments will be served.
National Science Foundation Information Sessions: Review Criteria
The National Science Foundation (NSF) uses two merit review criteria for all proposals: intellectual merit and broader impacts. Register to attend either one of two information sessions to learn more about these review criteria and how the overall NSF review process is conducted. Session one is scheduled for 4-5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7 (register). Session two (repeat of Session one) is scheduled for 12 -1 p.m. on Monday, November 12 (register).
New Electronic Systems for Human Subjects Training
and Research Protocol Reviews
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Sewanee has transitioned to a new training program for research involving human subjects (CITI), and a new online system for submitting protocols involving human subjects (IRBNet). CITI is a web-based program that all researchers must complete before conducting research with human subjects. IRBNet is an electronic system used to submit research protocols for review and approval, and replaces the former paper-based process.
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