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Harpur College of Arts and Sciences

Harpur Professor Delves Into Discussion of Science and Religion

Can a devoutly religious person believe in the theory of evolution? Can he or she support stem cell research or the creation of genetically modified food?

Or perhaps turn the question around: must a scientist leave his or her religious convictions at the laboratory door, so to speak, when engaged in research?

Scientists' dependence on bare facts and their insistence on basing conclusions on replicable evidence lead some people to believe scientists are atheists. Can a scientist believe in a supreme being or the power of prayer?

Prof. Michael, who has a PhD in genetics and specializes in the reproductive endocrinology and immunology of female mammals, says science and theology can indeed mix and the cross-disciplinary dialogue takes place at many research universities.

Sandra D. Michael, professor of biological sciences and the department's director of graduate studies, says yes. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and recently finished a four-year term on their Program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER), a committee established in 1995 that seeks to increase the level of scientific understanding in religious communities and promote multidisciplinary study of the ethical and religious implications of developments in science and technology.

Philosophers and theologians have traditionally been the ones to discuss ethical issues. DoSER, however, provides opportunities for members of these disciplines to converse with scientists about the religious and moral implications of scientific discovery and technological advancement.

"There's a high level of belief in a higher being among scientists," Michael contends. "You don't have to be a scientist or a person of faith." DoSER facilitates collaboration among scientists, ethicists and religious scholars by organizing conferences and publishing books, videos and other informational material.

Members of DoSER discuss scientific issues with moral implications such as reproductive cloning, population control, genetic testing, space exploration, environmental policies, and robotics. They hold PhD's in fields ranging from Judaic Studies to Physics and come from research universities such as Binghamton, theological seminaries, medical schools, and museums.

"The committee, while I was on it, had Jews, a Muslim, a Buddhist, an Atheist, and a number of people from different Christian faith traditions," Michael said, adding that DoSER members may come from any of the 24 different scientific disciplines within the AAAS.

DoSER holds monthly public lectures throughout the country. In November 2002, Harpur College's Professor David Sloan Wilson spoke at one about his controversial book, Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion and the Nature of Society, which suggested morality and religion gave humans a survival edge because they rewarded behaviors conducive to community building.

The intersection of science, ethics and religion isn't just a "fringe" interest. Michael says many top ranked universities have institutes dedicated to studying such matters, such as the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley.

The issues are on the minds of students as well. Michael teaches Contemporary Issues in Biological Sciences, a requirement for students in BU's Early Assurance Program, which she coordinates and which grants acceptance into SUNY Upstate Medical School for those who meet the academic criteria.

Having the opportunity to discuss topics such as ethics, evolution, and biomedical research is especially important for future medical students because they'll need to be able to talk about them with their patients.

Students in Michael's Contemporary Issues seminar must give two 40-minute presentations on scientific topics that have been in the media and the nation's collective consciousness. "The first day of class, the students make a long list of possible seminar topics. Creation and evolution are always on their list," she said.

For some, Michael's Contemporary Issues class is the first opportunity they've had to explore not only these subjects, but their own feelings as well. "Some students will come to see me to talk about it in my office." It is often their first step into the ongoing dialogue, which may, for some, continue to grow at the pace of science.

Outside of the lab, Michael is very active in promoting the dialogue among science, ethics and religion in the Episcopal Church. At the national level, she was recently elected Convener for the Episcopal Church's Network for Science, Technology and Faith. The Network is co-organizing an April 2005 meeting at M.I.T. with AAAS, "Our Brains and Us: Neuroethics, Responsibility and the Self."

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Program Bridges Students to Research Experience

Monroe Community College student Tia Washington spent the summer working in Karl Wilson's lab studying the aminopeptidases of soybean seedlings. She says Bridges helped her to learn more about herself and reinforced her goal of going to medical school. Washington hopes to transfer to the University of Rochester in the Fall of 2006.

Junie Bertrand and C. Antoine Brown are helping determine the effect of stress on behavior. But they're not observing BU students during finals week.

Bertrand and Brown have spent five weeks working in Professor Terrence Deak's lab in the Psychology Department where they assisted in a study of the social behaviors of sick and healthy rats.

They recorded their responses to a newcomer rat, speculating that sick rats would not show much interest in an unfamiliar animal. This is a small piece of a much larger study Deak is conducting to show how stress' effect on the immune system changes behavior, and not just health. It is a very timely study, considering how much stress related illnesses cost our economy.

Bertrand, from Rockland Community College, and Brown, from Monroe Community College, are part of the SUNY Upstate Bridges to Baccalaureate program. The students and their 14 faculty mentors displayed posters showing their research on Friday, July 2 in the University Union.

Now in its sixth year at BU, 105 students, including this year's group, have graduated from the Bridges program. Funded for three years with a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Bridges is designed to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in the biomedical sciences, including biology, chemistry, psychology and mathematics.

Junie Bertrand and C. Antoine Brown examine data from their study of stress and social interaction. "I love research," said Bertrand. "You keep going until you answer the question, so you never stop."

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Harpur College, Don Blake, who is also the Bridges Program Administrator, said the program’s strong reputation has spread more widely among our partnering community colleges, resulting in increased competition for admission into Bridges.

Of all the students who have gone through the program, 10 have already graduated from BU. Twenty are expected here in the fall semester. Thirty-two have transferred to other four-year schools.

" With each succeeding year, it is heartening to see more students persisting in school, more students helping each other reach their educational objectives, and more students choosing to come to Binghamton," Blake said.

Our faculty are catching on to the program's success as well. Deak said that at a recent national neuroscience conference, one of the main points of interest was about recruiting minority students into the field "I think the Bridges program fits very well with that," he commented.

Besides the satisfaction of helping to increase the number of minority students embarking upon research careers, the faculty simply finds participating in the program enjoyable. "This is my third year working with Bridges students and it's been a lot of fun seeing them become budding young scientists," Deak said.

Beth De Angelo, who coordinates the program, said overall 69% percent of the students who complete the program transfer to four-year colleges, a much higher rate than the national average for minority students. She credits the success to giving students the support and feeling of inclusion they need to do well in college. "One student told me Bridges made her feel like she really belongs in college," De Angelo said.

The students range in age from late teens to late twenties. Some are already parents. Nearly half are not U.S. born. They are from Haiti, Columbia, the Philippines, Jamaica and Peru.

De Angelo said Bridges' success largely stems from hands on research as an undergraduate, contact with the faculty, and contact with the grad students. "They're great mentors for these students," She said.

Hands-on research is exactly what Carlton Campbell from Monroe Community College enjoys about Bridges. He has been working in Professor C.J. Zhong's chemistry lab, helping find a faster way to detect homocystine in a solution of gold nanoparticles. "Homocystine has become an important diagnostic factor for threat of cardiovascular disease," Campbell said. Finding a more efficient way of detecting it could lead to better treatment for, and possibly fewer deaths from, heart disease.

Campbell had originally planned to transfer to Morgan State University, where many of his relatives are alumni, to study industrial engineering and eventually earn an MBA. However, he said that because he had such a positive experience with Bridges, he plans to apply to BU.

"Bridges gives community college students the chance to experience firsthand what life would be like as a researcher," Campbell said. "It gives us an upper hand on the future."

His faculty mentor agrees. "Working with Bridges students like Carlton, I am indeed optimistic about recruitment of our future researchers," Zhong said.

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Harpur Student Searches for Clues in Crows

Professor Anne Clark and Becky Heiss `04 next to the poster that won first prize at the American Field Ornithologists Meeting at Cornell in April. They are now studying the effect of West Nile Virus on the crow population.

A Harpur College senior's research poster recently won first prize at the annual meeting of the Association of Field Ornithologists (AFO). Becky Heiss `04, now a graduate student in biology at Binghamton, presented her research to the AFO on determining the age of Corvus brachyrhynchos, American Crows, by their tail shapes and mouth coloration.  She was part of a research team led by Harpur Professor Anne Clark and Kevin McGowan from Cornell. They hope to track and prevent the spread of the deadly West Nile Virus.

Heiss became interested in studying crows during her junior year when she took Clark's animal behavior course, which looks at the biological basis for, and diversity of, animals' behavior.  Clark noticed Heiss’ enthusiasm for the subject, and, after reading a paper Heiss wrote about play behavior, invited Heiss to join her crow research group that summer. 

It was a perfect match.  "She plugged right in, getting up extremely early to watch nests and crow families before it got too hot to work," Clark said, who admired how readily Heiss would contribute her ideas and energy to the project.

Heiss worked as a field assistant to Clark and McGowan as they studied crow populations across several acres in Cayuga Heights.  For the last 20 years, McGowan has been tracking crows by placing an ID band on their ankles at birth.  "Before West Nile, they lived about 13 years," Heiss said. "They’re very social and families stay together and sometimes in the same place," Heiss said.  The crows’ offspring stay with their families and establish a territory they defend from other birds. 

Clark and her team needed a way to determine crows' ages when they were unable to tag the birds at birth.  Heiss said they can guess by the color of the inside of the crows' mouths and the shape of their tails.  "Crows start with a perfectly pink mouth but, gradually, their mouths turn gray and by the time they’re adults, they have black mouths," Heiss said, adding that younger birds have pointed tails while adults have square ones.

The researchers' solution was to build upon existing literature and develop what Heiss called mouth and tail codes. "Zero is an entirely pink mouth," she said."Four is an entirely black mouth, and there are intermediates between that." With tails, a pointed tail is one and as the tails square out, the number goes as high as three.  The team hopes to publish these new age determinants in the Journal of Field Ornithology.

Heiss found doing research so rewarding that she remained with Clark's team for the rest of her senior year, earning an Undergraduate Research Award to support her work during the spring semester.  Their new project involves installing cameras "the size of a Reese's cup" in crows' nests to watch their feeding patterns and determine if it has any role in the transmission of the West Nile Virus.  "I'm anxious to see what we'll find," she said.

Her work will continue in the fall, this time at the graduate level.  Heiss is interested in all aspects of crows' biology, from development to cooperative behaviors.  She's thrilled by how much she's learned through hands-on experience in the field.  "Being so involved in research," Heiss said, "feels like you're contributing to something greater than just writing papers for class."

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Harpur College to join the free books and entertainment at University Fest 2004

Make room on your bookshelves!

Free books will again be the draw at Binghamton University’s annual University Fest from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, August 28, when the University welcomes the community onto campus and students back for the fall semester. All events will take place in front of the University Union. Harpur College will have a table with giveaways and academic information from our departments and programs.

The book giveaway will include books on many different subjects and office supplies. Visitors can load up on as many free books as they can carry.

The family-friendly event will also feature kid’s games; giant inflatables including a rock-climbing wall, slide and moon bounce; face painting; a caricaturist; crafts and vendors; food and more. Entertainment will be provided throughout the day.

University Fest is sponsored by Binghamton University, the Student Association and the Division of Student Affairs.

There is no admission and parking is free.

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Alumni and friends, mark your calendar for the best campus event of the year...

Click the logo above for detailed information on reunions for the classes of 1999, 1994, 1979 and 1954, a schedule for the weekend, a list of who's attending, how to get involved, and so much more!
Don't miss Homecoming 2004 - it's a tradition worth coming back for.


Harpur Friends & Family

In response to your much-appreciated feedback, the Harpur Hotline has developed a regular feature of alumni news. Please send us anything you want: publications, promotions, marriages, babies, graduations, retirements, etc. Many thanks to everyone who shared their stories! Here's what some of your fellow Harpur alumni and friends are doing:

1968: Art Nudell took a Saturday off from fly fishing to represent the Alumni Association Board at Harpur College's Recognition Ceremonies in May. In honor of Professor Emeritus John Casparis, Nudell helped establish the Casparis Prize, which is given to a graduating senior sociology major who has written the best assigned paper as judged by a committee of Sociology professors. He is semi-retired and substitute teaches at the Martin Luther King High School of Art and Technology in New York City. Nudell and his wife, Ginny, have three adult children: Josh, 29, Hannah, 28, and Matt, 26. For more information about fly fishing in New York, write to

1976: Robert Hoover is Operations Supervisor at Hearst Magazines in New York City. He's a member of P3, a service organization for the publishing industry and the 1997-98 past president of the Assocation of Publication Production Managers before it merged with Women In Production and became P3. Hoover is a member of the Alumni Board of Directors and offers many years of magazine expertise to the Binghamton Alumni Journal's advisory committee. He represented the Board of Directors at Harpur College's Recognition Ceremonies on May 15, 2004. Hoover also is a volunteer for the Alumni Career Network and has helped many young Binghamton graduates find their first job in magazine work. In his spare time and weekends, he has a flourishing painting career.

1973: Artist Shelley Haven is exhibiting her paintings at two shows currently:
WATER SHOW is located at Art at the Pier, 499 Van Brunt St.. Red Hook, Brooklyn. The show will run 12:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. every weekend until August 22, 2004. For more information, call (718) 596-2507 or see the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition's website at
HORIZONTAL WAVES: New Takes on Landscape is at Gallery Boreas, 133-A Roebling St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The show runs until August 1, 2004. Gallery hours are Fridays 12:00p.m. to 9:00p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 12:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. For more information, call 718-782-7755 or go to

Haven's painting at right is one of four images in Punta Morena, Variations. They are made on copper plates using contemporary and traditional etching and printmaking processes. It appears with other pieces of her work at HORIZONTAL WAVES.

1978: Jeffery Lyle Segal (M.A.) has returned to the theater stage as an actor-singer after a long absence, performing new musical theater works with members of the Actor's Repertoire Company of the Academy for New Musical Theater in Los Angeles, where he is a composer/lyricist member. His original one act musical, "The Scout," was presented in June to a strong audience response. Segal has a national reputation as one of the country's leading permanent makeup artists, with offices in Chicago and Beverly Hills, and recently arranged to spend a few days a month in New York City as well. However, he still works periodically as a special effects makeup artist, and prides himself on creating makeup illusions "from gore to gorgeous!" He told the Hotline that he is now polishing his cabaret act on the frustrations of dating in L.A.

1980: Janice Endresen, editor of the Binghamton Alumni Journal, has accepted a new position as editor of Enterprise, the alumni journal for Cornell University's Johnson School of Management. She began working at BU in December 1999 and earned rave reviews for her talent and creativity. During her tenure, Endresen designed and edited the first alumni association online newsletter and spearheaded a readership survey of the Binghamton Alumni Journal. She communicated with the families of the alumni who died on September 11 and wrote an exceptional tribute to them. Endresen also created an alumni editorial advisory committee and shifted the focus of Journal articles by adding stories with multiple interviewees, including BU alumni, faculty, staff and students. "I've met a lot of wonderful people working here," Endresen said at a farewell party in her honor at the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations. "It's been amazing to see the variety of Binghamton alumni and write about them." Endresen and her partner, Bob Crowley, have a 13-year-old daughter, Kiera and live in Ithaca.

1991: Angela Santaniello Wartell and her husband, Richard, are delighted to announce the birth of their son, Tristan Royce, on Nov. 8, 2003. The family lives in Willits, California.

2000: David Berkowitz, who is very active in campus and Metro New York alumni activities, returned to campus in May for Harpur College's Recognition Ceremony as a representative of the Alumni Association Board. He is currently working in New York City in the internet industry.

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A Look at a Harpur Alumni Legacy: The Penna Family

A whole family of alumni: Carmen Swoffer-Penna `69, `92, Jonathan Penna `97, J.J. Penna `93, Albert Penna `77, and Elizabeth Penna `00, `02.

For many, choosing a college is a difficult decision. But for the Penna family of Binghamton, Harpur College is a tradition. The faculty, classes, friendships, and opportunities at Harpur College touched each of their lives and prepared them for graduate school and exciting careers.

It started in 1968. Carmen Swoffer-Penna, then a junior at Harpur College, recalls she was taking a walk at MacArthur track in Binghamton. She struck up an aquaintance with Syracuse University student, Albert Penna, whom she married in 1970. More than 30 years later, all three of their children are now Harpur alumni.

Albert Penna earned an M.A. in Biological Sciences from Binghamton in 1977 and went on to earn a doctorate in education from Syracuse University in 2001. He is the principal of Binghamton High School.

Carmen Swoffer-Penna studied French at Harpur, earning a B.A. in 1969 and an M.A. in 1992. She is an adjunct lecturer at Harpur College, teaching French in the Department of Romance Languages and French diction in the Music Department.

J.J. Penna earned a Bachelor's of Music from Harpur in 1993. He earned a doctorate in music from the University of Michigan in 1996. He is associate professor of voice and accompanying at Westminster Choir College and teaches part time at Yale University. J.J. travels frequently as an accompanist to professional musicians. Penna married fellow voice instructor, Aurora Micu Penna, in 1998. They reside in Franklin Park, NJ.

Jonathan Penna, who received a B.A. in political science in 1997, also graduated from the University of Buffalo Law School in 2001. He is an associate at Nixon Peabody LLP in Rochester, as is his wife, Lori Stone, whom he married last month. They live in Spencerport, NY.

Elizabeth (Penna) Clarke followed in her mother's footsteps and majored in French, getting her B.A. in 2000 and a Master's of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) from BU in 2002. She is a French teacher at Vestal High School. In April 2004, she married Patrick Clarke, who graduated with a double major in history and Latin American and Caribbean area studies in 2000 and earned an M.A. in History in 2001 and an M.A.T. in 2002. He teaches Social Studies at Susquehanna Valley High School. The Clarkes live in Binghamton. Patrick's mom, Linda Clarke, received a B.S. in human development in 2002.

"Each one of us had somewhat different reasons," Swoffer-Penna said of her family members' decisions to attend Harpur, "but it's an amazing education for very little money. It was the right choice for all of us."

For more alumni legacy stories, check out the November 11, 2001 Alumni Connect. Want to share your story? Write to

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Alumni Association Offers Home Loan Discount Program

Faulty, staff, students, parents and alumni can now get discounted home loans through Binghamton University's Alumni Association.

Through the Home Loan discount program created by the Alumni Association and IndyMac Bank, applicants will save $250 on closing costs for new first mortgages and benefit from a streamlined application and approval process while supporting the Alumni Association. IndyMac Bank is one of the nation's largest home lenders. In addition to home purchase or refinancing loans, IndyMac Bank offers fixed and adjustable rate loans, limited documentation loans, vacation and second home loans and jumbo loans of up to $3 million. The Alumni Association receives revenue from inquiries made through its dedicated website at or from toll-free calls to 888-207-5230.

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Shop Harpur Online

Harpur students Hye Jin Oh `05, Erica Weinstein `07 and Stephina Dansoh `06 kick back in Harpur gear.

Shop the campus bookstore from the comfort of your PC or Mac. Want to pick up a copy of the new Harpur history book The Cornerstone? Visit The Campus Bookstore.

For more Harpur College merchandise, such as hats, shirts and window stickers, contact the bookstore at 607-777-2745.


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