For an author, there was nothing unusual about that -- except possibly the venue. Atwood was one of close to 80 professors and physicians who presented their studies and accomplishments on March 28 during Rowan University’s first Faculty Research Day, the type of gathering that usually is dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
Showcase work, open doors
Though the topics were different, the intent of the event was universal: to highlight research and creative endeavors from all of the institution’s campuses, colleges and schools and to open doors to future collaborations among faculty, staff and external partners who might not ordinarily cross paths.
Atwood, an assistant professor in the Department of Writing Arts in the College of Communication & Creative Arts, was a poster child for the day. “This was an opportunity to showcase the type of work and the type of creativity I can bring to Rowan and what that can mean to our students,” she said. “Lots of universities don’t include children’s literature. This is a really cool way to show how Rowan is different and innovative.”
That’s just what the administrators and staff of the Division of University Research and Rowan Innovations were aiming for when they designed the event.
“Today’s event is to recognize the research, scholarly and creative activities of our faculty,” said Vice President for Research Dr. Shreekanth Mandayam. “You can see their enthusiasm about their work, the pride our faculty have in their research.”
Added Stephen Robishaw, manager of the Office of Proposal Development and the Research Day organizer, “The original impetus for the event was not only to showcase the multidisciplinary nature of the Rowan research enterprise but also to have researchers connect with one another. This event is our first opportunity for faculty researchers to make those kinds of connections in real time.”
Rowan’s president, Dr. Ali Houshmand, said “We at this University take the aspect of research and creation of knowledge very seriously.” He noted that Rowan focuses on providing an environment where faculty think, create and are rewarded for their work. He referenced the University’s focus on practical research that solves real-world problems. “We’re different,” he said. “We want to be different, because the current system doesn’t work.”
Great learning experience
For Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Sustainability in the School of Earth and Environment, Research Day lived up to its creators’ expectations.
Meenar, who presented a number of ongoing projects, including one on using immersive and multisensory virtual reality technology in spatial planning, said, “I believe in collaborative research. I met a number of potential new collaborators on campus, which is really valuable. In addition, I met so many colleagues and heard about their work. Overall, it was a great learning experience.”
Dr. Jim A. Haugh, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science & Mathematics, echoed that. Haugh, who displayed a project he conducted with Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine professors and Rowan Medicine physicians Drs. Meagan Vermeulen and Joanna Petrides on depression in physicians and patients, said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to interact and share the research we’ve been doing and bring it out of the lab and into the public.”
The day included a keynote speech by Dr. Ankur Patel, medical director of the Inspira LIFE (Living Independently for Elders) program. He shared lessons from the Super Bowl-winning Philadelphia Eagles (don’t be intimidated, take risks in life and never give up, among them) and anecdotes about the impact researchers have made in the lives of his patients. He focused in particular on a 61-year-old man with a laundry list of physical and emotional issues whose life changed thanks to the LIFE program and to research, including dropping from 24 medications a day to nine. “We were able to do it because of the resources provided by researchers,” Patel said. “Challenges in health care will require innovation. Innovation is a process . . . of creating something from knowledge. That knowledge comes from a solid foundation of research.”
In addition to the Rowan departments represented at the event, which was sponsored by Inspira along with Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP and the South Jersey Technology Park, were a dozen research partners (including Rutgers, Princeton and Drexel universities; the University of Delaware; the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia; the Coriell Institute for Medical Research; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center; the Delaware BioScience Association; and the Statistical Consulting Group.) “They recognize we are an emerging force in research, and they want to partner with us,” Mandayam said.
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