Research Astrophysicist Presents on “Science and Faith in Harmony: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God”
Caldwell, N.J., April 29, 2019 – More than 200 students presented their projects at Caldwell University’s third annual Research and Creative Arts Day. This year’s theme was “Ut in Omnibus Glorificetur Dei— That in All Things God May Be Glorified.”
The event’s opening featured a performance of “All Good Gifts” from “Godspell” by the cast of the Music Department’s Opera Musical Theatre Workshop.
President Nancy Blattner read nineteenth-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sonnet “God’s Grandeur,” which celebrates the “ever-present magnificence of God’s creation” and, she said, beautifully mirrored the theme of the research day. The challenge, said Blattner, is for “each of us in the audience to become more alive to God’s presence—whether that revelation be made to you through the beauty found in nature and art or through the discoveries revealed in the realm of science.”
Dr. Barbara Chesler, vice president for academic affairs, explained that the annual event provides an opportunity for students to display the work they have done throughout the year. The students are mentored by faculty and “go in as a novice and come out as an expert.” In the process, she said, they learn about communication, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork and time management.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Anton M. Koekemoer, research astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, who spoke on “Science and Faith in Harmony: The Heavens Declare the Glory of God.” In introducing Koekemoer, Dr. Darryl Aucoin, an assistant professor in the Natural Sciences Department, said, “Dr. Koekemoer has worked to take us deeper into the universe than we have ever seen, and in doing so takes us back in time to the early days of the cosmos.”
Koekemoer, who has carried out scientific research with the Hubble Space Telescope for over 20 years with a focus on distant galaxies and black holes, presented a journey of exploration through the cosmos, highlighting exciting astronomical discoveries and images from the telescope that inspired beautiful artwork in The Saint John’s Bible. He pointed to the sense of awe and wonder expressed by ancient writers of Scripture—like the psalmist, who exclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God”—and said this sense grows when viewing the universe with modern telescopes. Koekemoer’s presentation was part of the university’s “Year with The Saint John’s Bible.” The sacred work is the first handwritten, illuminated Bible of monumental scale in 500 years.
After the presentation, students displayed their poster presentations and projects to judges and visitors.
Amelia Biswas, a biology and psychology major, focused on the “Evaluation of Garlic and Thieves Oil as Treatments of Leprosy.” Growing up in Bangladesh, she saw many people suffering from leprosy. As a child, she wanted to do something to help people with the disease but could not. When the opportunity to do research arose in college, she said, “Let’s use this platform and try to do something.” It was her first research project. “I grew up through the process and gained a better understanding of scientific research.”
Jaclyn Berman, a senior in the School of Nursing and Public Health, researched the effect of music therapy on postoperative relief. Concerned about the opioid crisis, she wanted to do research on alternative therapies. She found that music therapy reduced pain and therefore reduced the need for pain medication. She hopes hospitals will implement similar plans for pain management after surgeries.
Stefanie Konboz and Romina Ghale, biology majors, looked at “The Study of Antimutagenic Properties of Emblica officinalis and Annona muricata.” They researched whether amla fruit and graviola would exhibit anticancer properties. Konboz thoroughly enjoyed the project work and appreciated all she learned from Aucoin and Associate Professor Agnes Berki. “I’ve always asked questions, and the research was a learning process every day,” she said.
Holly Reiter, a senior graphic design major, showcased her senior exhibition “Alive Again,” which featured her digital paintings, inspired by music. “It made me realized I want to be an illustrator for the rest of my life as my career.”
The keynote for the graduate section of the day was given by Humberto Humby Baquerizo on “Translating Leadership, Resilience and Community Service in Scholarship.” Baquerizo received a doctorate in education leadership from Caldwell and works at Rutgers Medical School in the Office for Diversity and Community Engagement.
Jhoanna Marquez, an academic advisor at Caldwell, did research on students placed on academic probation. Her research focused on the extent to which semester meetings with advisors increased the motivation to improve academic standing as perceived by students on probation. Since she has been working with this population for some time in her position at Caldwell, she was pleased to see that the connection with the recovery advisor improved the outcomes for students in areas such as study habits and awareness of campus resources and also helped with retention.
Marjorie O’Connell, a graduate student in the Education Division literacy program, focused on the question “Can the Use of Brain Games Improve Working Memory and Reading Comprehension for Students in a Middle School Special Education Setting?” She teaches study skills in a resource room for seventh- and eighth-graders and was very pleased to see from her study that executive functioning, which are self-regulation skills, as well as behavior and reading comprehension improved for this population with the games. “I can’t wait to hit the ground running with it next year,” she said.
Courtney Kane, Christopher Colasurdo and Shariq Khan, graduate students in the applied behavior analysis program, looked at “Vocational Skills Assessment for a Young Adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” “This was right up my alley,” said Kane, a graduate assistant in the Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis, who wants to work with young adults with autism spectrum disorder when she graduates. They replicated a previous study to determine the vocational skills that their learner had in his repertoire. In future work, they plan to teach the skills he did not demonstrate.