WASHINGTON, PA (March 23, 2022) – Three W&J professors were recently awarded grants from the Chance to Change Lives (CCL) foundation, a non-profit organization with a vision of empowering future STEM leaders through innovative experiential learning. The CCL foundation funds undergraduate STEM experiences at primarily undergraduate institutions.
Dr. Rama Bala, the President and CEO of the foundation, recognizes the impacts of these grants at a liberal arts institution.
“We recognize the quality and value of undergraduate research experience that students receive through one-on-one interaction with their professors, and we are thrilled to support such projects at Washington & Jefferson College,” said Bala.
Charles Hannon, Ph.D., professor of computing and information studies (CIS), received a grant to acquire an Amazon Astro robot for the CIS department. Hannon’s goal is for the robot to welcome and assist visitors to W&J’s Technology Center, and he plans to incorporate the robot’s programming into his CIS classes.
“One of the fastest growing areas in I.T. is user experience design,” Hannon said. “This project will help students understand the needs of users as they interact with social robots. Since the Astro is Alexa-based, student programming of Alexa skills will also reinforce the skills needed to interview potential users and make sure that the skills respond to users’ intentions accurately and fluidly.”
Sara Chamberlin, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics, also received a grant for her research on gallium oxide’s uses as a transparent conductor for touch screens and a detector for ultraviolet radiation. She also plans to incorporate students into her research.
“Getting students involved in the lab gives them hands-on real-world skills with research equipment that is commonly used in graduate school or if they go into the scientific workforce,” Chamberlin said. “It also gives them the opportunity to work with the concepts they are learning about in the classroom. An experience like this works as a very nice bridge to graduate school or industry, where the projects aren’t as structured and the solutions are often unknown.”
Jason Kilgore, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, received a grant for his project of identifying and mitigating environmental contamination by abandoned coal mine waste.
Kilgore’s project has been student-driven since his research began in the 2018 spring semester. This spring, Brianna Hoffman ’23 and Jonathan Grabowski ’24 joined the project. Brianna is quantifying water chemistry and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities as indicators of water health in the stream that runs adjacent to the abandoned coal mine waste site, while Jonathan will characterize plant success via growth and diversity as a function of soil amendment.
“Jonathan is learning how to conduct the literature review and identify what is not yet known so as to guide the development of our experimental work with trees on coal mine overburden,” Kilgore said. “These skills are invaluable to developing scientists who will make the world a better place.”
The experiential learning opportunities offered by the Chance to Change Lives grants speak to W&J’s commitment of graduating students who are professionally ready.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, proudly located in Washington, Pa., is a historic liberal arts college founded in 1781 that values ethical leadership, professional readiness, and inclusive communities. Our highly customized and intellectually engaging student experience develops professionals of uncommon integrity to lead in an ever-changing world. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.