Penn State Harrisburg

This summer, research takes students places

This summer, research is taking students places, from rooftops to the Rockies, and even back in time.

American studies doctoral student Lynne Calamia will have Pennsylvania history literally at her fingertips as she studies historic sites restored during the Great Depression. The first Penn State Harrisburg student to receive a Pennypacker Fellowship, she will have access to libraries, manuscript and artifact collections, and any Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission facility throughout the state, including the state archives and museum, located in downtown Harrisburg. The state Historical and Museum Commission and Department of Education Commonwealth Libraries award the fellowship, named after former Gov. Samuel W. Pennypacker.

“The capital city is home to vast historical resources. The college’s proximity to Harrisburg is a boon for researchers, especially our American Studies students,” said Simon Bronner, distinguished professor of American studies and folklore.

Calamia said these state collections not only offer a trove of information relating to her topic, but the fellowship also provides the equally rewarding opportunity for networking with cultural resource management professionals who are willing to share ideas and give valuable feedback.

Another American Studies doctoral student, James McMahon, also has received a first-time fellowship. Director of school history at Milton Hershey School, McMahon is the first Penn State Harrisburg student to receive a Winterthur Research Fellowship. As a resident fellow, he will study Swiss bank houses, a type of Pennsylvania-German architecture, at the Delaware-based Winterthur Museum, dedicated to the American decorative arts.

McMahon’s research, the first to document a Milton Hershey School building as an early nineteenth-century Swiss bank house, provides him with information he can use on the job. “As director of school history, I am always looking for ways to connect our students with the past and with Milton Hershey,” he said.  “Connecting the Old-World dialect with its New World cousin provides yet another way to physically link the Swiss-German heritage of south-central Pennsylvania and the Hershey family with our students.”

For undergraduate student Abigail Mickey, a life science major, the summer holds more rooftop study. She, along with Dr. Katherine Baker, associate professor of environmental microbiology, and Danielle Harrow, a recent graduate of the college’s environmental pollution control master’s program, are conducting research on green roofs. That’s green, as in environmentally cleaner, but also green, literally, in that plants are grown on them. The Penn State Harrisburg researchers are investigating use of recycled and organic materials as “soil” for rooftop planting, where weight, energy efficiency, and the amount and purity of stormwater runoff are important considerations.

Mickey received a Summer Discovery Grant from Penn State’s Office of Undergraduate Education for the project, which also has been supported by the Innovation Transfer Network and the Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center. This month, she and Harrow will present findings in Syracuse, N.Y. at the annual meeting of the American Ecological Engineering Society.

This August, Dylan Guarisco, a 2012 honors program and sociology graduate, will present at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, the world’s largest professional coalition of sociologists, in Denver. His paper, “Greek Modes and Social Movements,” explores how musical components of songs written during social movements affect emotions. Guarisco accrued field experience earlier in the academic year, having presented his research before Penn State Harrisburg and Penn State Behrend audiences.

“To present a paper at the annual conference in Denver is a huge feather in the cap,” said Dr. Scott Lewis, assistant professor of sociology. “As an upcoming researcher, Dylan will make connections with the foremost researchers in his discipline while improving his own reputation.”