Monday, July 27, 2009

CESTA forms BioEnergy Group to Develop Renewable and Sustainable Sources of Energy

During the winter, people want to be warm in their homes. When it is dark, they want to be able to turn on the lights.

Americans have become accustomed to living a certain lifestyle and the bio-energy research being conducted at Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA) will aid in maintaining that and more.

FAMU’s CESTA has formed the BioEnergy Group to uncover renewable and more sustainable forms of energy, educate young bioengineers and aid limited-resource farmers, which is a major thrust for CESTA.

Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D., CESTA research associate, has put biofuel research into action at a farm in Sopchoppy, Fla.

“The 2006 pilot project equipped innovative farmers and the owners of Crescent Moon Organic Farm with a biodiesel processor and the knowledge and skill to make biodiesel fuel, which they use to power on-farm tractors, backhoes, farm equipment and trucks,” Taylor said.

In 2006, Taylor begun to hosted several capacity-building, hands-on workshops on alternative sustainable energy – biodiesel fuel using vegetable oil as an alternative – as a pilot project. These workshops, called FAMU Whole-Farm Sustainable Biofuel Research and Demonstration Projects, implement an on-farm learning model for sustainable renewable biofuels production and energy. To date, nearly 300 people have participated in the workshops, and now they are putting what they learned into action.

The BioEnergy Group is also working on other forms of biofuel research that, unlike the more common studies done the in the Midwest, will have no effect on the environment and the economy.

“It’s not about how our research can drastically change the lives of people,” said Adrienne T. Cooper, Ph.D., an associate professor of biological and agricultural systems engineering. “But more so, how our efforts can contribute to maintaining our way of living by providing renewable and more sustainable sources of energy.”

As gas prices continue to soar and searches for new oil do not reveal a positive result, some argue that we may have reached our peak in regards to fossil fuel sources. According to Oghenekome Onokpise, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for CESTA, this creates a need for alternative sources of energy.

Most biofuel research is conducted in the Midwest and involves corn and soybeans because of federal subsidies that keep prices artificially low. The research being conducted at FAMU is different since corn is not the focus and also the BioEnergy Group is taking a more holistic approach to this issue.

“The overuse of corn as a feedstock for biofuel has caused the price of corn to increase,” said Onokpise. “Dairy farmers use corn to feed their herd and are paying more for feed, which in turn caused an increase in the price of milk and other related products.”

The FAMU BioEnergy Group is conducting research that will not have adverse effects on the environment or the economy.

“About 97 percent of water resources on earth is not suitable for direct human consumption,” said Clifford Louime, Ph.D., a CESTA research associate. “We are evaluating saltwater crops, technically known as halophytes, as a potential feedstock for biofuels.”

This method will not take away from the already small supply of freshwater, which has a very slight effect on the economy and does not harm the environment.

In addition to the various research projects being conducted, the BioEnergy Group is working to make sure young bioengineers at FAMU will be prepared to address the energy needs of America in the 21st century.

“We are training minority scientists in developing technology to grow crops and understand the process of bio-processing,” said Onokpise. “Bio-energy is the future and we need to make sure that our successors can pick up where we have left off.”

The FAMU BioEnergy Group will also focus on aiding limited-resource farmers through their research. The group is currently studying various crops grown in Florida, and through bio-processing will determine if they can or cannot use them as a source of feedstock for renewable energy.

If a crop proves to be useful, they can share this information with limited-resource farmers as a method to increase profit, as some crops used for biofuel tend to sell at higher prices.

Makola Abdullah, dean of CESTA, has high hopes for the BioEnergy Group.

“Biofuels is one of the targeted research and outreach focus areas for the college,” he said. “We believe that FAMU can play a significant role in reducing our nations dependence on fossil fuels by focusing on renewable green energy solutions.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Institute Inspires Students

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Rattler Academic Summer Institute in partnership with Smith-Williams Foundation, Inc. is not your average summer camp.

“The goal of the program is to provide the inspiration for students to seek careers in fields they may have once thought to be unattainable,” said Kirk Gavin director of the Rattler Summer Institute. “We want to expose students to new areas of study and to encourage interest not previously considered.”

The institute, part of the FAMU College Reach Out Program (CROP), utilizes certified teachers to incorporate non-traditional teaching methods to boost students FACT skills and provide character development activities for students in grades six to 10.

Students are given pre- and post-exams to gage the level of improvement and provide feedback on how to improve next year’s program. The students receive tutoring in math, science, reading, language arts and writing.

There is also an apprenticeship component of the program that exposes students to career opportunities such as computer technology; small engine repair; bicycle repair; aviation; the Divas Program; and banking.

Students are currently putting their computer technology skills to the test at Nims Middle School and Bond Elementary School where they are refurbishing computers in the schools’ labs as a part of a community service project.

Students that complete each community service project will each receive a computer themselves.

Soloman Stevens, an 11-year-old sixth grade student at Woodville Elementary, is excited about receiving his laptop at the end of the program, but even more excited about the experience.

“I like helping people and making them feel better,” he said. “We get to learn how to fix computers, and we take fields trips.”

Richard Ash, a 14-year-old eighth grade student at Swift Creek Middle School, agrees with Stevens.

“Learning how the computers work is a lot of fun,” he said. “I also learned about myself and how I can do a lot more than I thought. I’m having a real good time.”

Students in the institute have elected to start a “GranPal” program, where each student will partner with an elderly resident in Tallahassee and serve as a companion.

From left to right: Vincent Johnson, Marcus Todd and Tyree McNeal put their computer skills to work at Nims Middle School.

FAMU Student Chosen to Study in Hong Kong

Huan Chen, a doctoral graduate student at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Environmental Sciences Institute (ESI), has been selected by an international panel of experts to attend an international course on Bioinformatics and Comparative Genome Analysis.

Bioinformatics applies computer and information technology to manage and analyze organism genomes and other biological data. It is heavily based on computer analyses and programming.

Only 24 individuals were invited to the course out of 138 applicants from around the world. No more than six individuals from one country are allowed to attend. Chen is one of only three applicants chosen from the United States. The highly selective course will be held in Hong Kong in August.

“I feel very fortunate and honored to have been selected from among the outstanding applicants,” Chen said.

During the course, Chen hopes to experience a deep immersion in bioinformatics and be able to apply what she learns through the course to her Ph.D. research. Chen’s research focuses on Bdellovibrio (BALOs). Although BALOs are ill-defined, known information about one species of BALO show their potential to produce unique antibiotics and other compounds that could be used to fight bacterial infections in humans.

Chen is also pursuing the use of the BALOs to reduce human pathogens in oysters, a favorite food, to make the shellfish safer for human consumption.

This course will enable Chen to be involved in the forefront of her work with BALOs.

The workshop sponsors cover the attendee’s course tuition and fees, lodging and meals for the two-week course. The workshop sponsors include the Institut de Pasteur, a private non-profit foundation that contributes to the prevention and treatment of disease, through research, education, and public health activities, and the European Molecular Biology Organization, a focal point for the vast network of molecular biology research in Europe.

A primary objective of the course is to encourage multidisciplinary practices by introducing advanced fundamental problem-solving procedures in bioinformatics; their application in genome analyses; and recent knowledge acquired from genomes studies and perspectives.

The course is aimed for motivated Ph.D. and post-doctoral students and young assistant professors at public institutions particularly, but not exclusively, from Asia, Australia, Africa and South America. Students and faculty must have a background in mathematics, statistics, biology or computing and are involved in bioinformatics and genomes studies.

Chen received the M.S. degree from ESI last fall with a 4.0 GPA and was admitted into the Ph.D. program in January. She has a B.S. degree in computer science from Huazhong Agricultural University in Hubei, China. Chen attributes this background as an asset in her selection to the course as bioinformatics is heavily based in computer analyses and programming. She says that the academic programs have well prepared her for the challenge of the rigorous course.

Professors Elect New Faculty Senate VP

Florida A&M University (FAMU) Professor Maurice Holder, Ph.D. will continue to serve as Faculty Senate president and remain on the FAMU Board of Trustees. Holder was reelected to the post in April for a two year term beginning in August of this year.

“I am honored to be reelected by my colleagues to serve a second term as president of the Faculty Senate,” said Holder. “There is much to be done to keep FAMU viable and on the cutting edge of higher education. A strong Board of Trustees, administration, Faculty Senate and Union, working together, can make that happen. The members of the Senate with this newly elected leadership will continue to push for responsible and productive interactions that provide a formula for progress and success at FAMU while following the mandates of the recently ratified academic constitution.”

In addition, Gwendolyn Singleton, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychology, was elected the new vice president of the FAMU Faculty Senate.

As Faculty Senate vice president, Singleton will be responsible for assisting Holder in carrying out the policies, initiatives and directives of the Senate.

“I decided to seek the Senate Vice President position because of my desire to contribute to the university’s attainment of its academic objectives, while representing the interests of our faculty and our students,” said Singleton. “During my term, I will seek to establish new vehicles of communication and exchange with faculty, the Senate and administration to ensure that our decisions and recommendations are informed by a broad spectrum of our colleagues.”

The Faculty Senate is the highest legislative body within FAMU, and advises the president on academic matters and other concerns affecting more than one school or college. The Faculty Senate considers, legislates and advises on all matters of general University interest.

The Faculty Senate is the supreme legislative body on internal policy and other matters within the university and is the principal advisory body to the president on all matters external to the university.

Faculty Senators are elected annually for two-year staggered terms in March of each year by the faculty of each college or school including the Environmental Sciences Institute. New senators take office at the initial fall meeting of the Faculty Senate. In addition, various members of the university administration may be ex-officio members, and the Student Government Association elects two student members. The Faculty Senate elects its officers, sets its own rules of procedure, and establishes committees to perform Senate functions.

From left to right: Maurice Holder and Gwendolyn Singleton

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Florida Region Conference will be held at Florida A&M University

The Florida Region has scheduled its annual conference for Saturday, July 25, on Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) campus. The theme for the one-day conference is Florida Region Game Day in the Summertime.

The conference will include a morning-prayer service at the eternal flame on FAMU’s campus at 8:30 a.m. followed by workshops beginning at 9:15 a.m. A luncheon is scheduled with FAMU President James H. Ammons as the keynote speaker. Following the luncheon, a business meeting is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

The Residence Inn at the Marriott located at 600 Gaines Street, Tallahassee is the host hotel. To make reservations, call 1-800-331-3131 and request the FAMU Florida Region Room Block. The registration fee for the conference is $60. For more information, contact Seabon Dixon, vice president of the Florida Region at (904) 859-5229.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Florida A&M University Marching “100” Hosts its Annual Band Camp and Parade

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Marching “100” will host its Annual Band Camp from Monday, July 13 through Saturday, July 18. The “100” will lend its talent to hundreds of the nation’s best high school band students.

More than 400 band participants will have the opportunity to master and emulate the style and concepts of the world-renowned Marching “100”. The participants will showcase their new skills and moves to the FAMU family and the Tallahassee community at the annual band camp parade scheduled for Friday, July 17, at 2 p.m.

The parade’s grand marshals are Linard McCloud, director of bands for Burke High School in Charleston, South Carolina; Attorney Daryl Parks, Parks and Crump, LLC; Gallop Franklin, president of FAMU’s Student Government Association; and Mr. & Miss FAMU. The special guest will be William P. Foster, Ph.D. This year’s parade will consist of both campus and community organizations.

The parade route will begin at Bragg Memorial Stadium traveling south on Wahnish Way; turn right on to Gamble Street; then right on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and end on “The Set” at the viewing stand.

Band participants will continue to showcase their new skills at events through the end of the week. Thursday, July 16, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., an ensemble concert is scheduled and from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., a symphonic concert is scheduled. Both concerts will be held in Lee Hall Auditorium.

The Super Summer-Fest Finale Performance is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, at 10 a.m., which will culminate the week’s events.

Participants attending the camp will travel from around the world such as California, Detroit, Bahamas and Virgin Islands.

For more information, call the FAMU Band Department at (850) 599-3024.

FAMU Alumna Awarded Fellowship

Corliss Allen, M.P.H., a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Institute of Public Health, was awarded the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Prevention Service (PHPS) Fellowship. She was selected from a pool of 900 applicants of which only 25 individuals were awarded this prestigious fellowship. PHPS is a three-year training and service fellowship for master’s level public health professionals. The fellowship focuses on public health program management and provides experience in program planning, implementation, and evaluation through specialized hands-on training and mentorship at CDC, and in state and local health agencies.

Some of the specialized hands-on training will include environmental health, chronic disease prevention, and infectious disease. Each Fellow will receive key supervision support and mentoring while working on multidisciplinary projects along with public and private partners.

Allen said, “Being selected as a CDC Public Health Prevention Service Fellow is both exciting and humbling. I have so many people to thank who truly sacrificed so that I may be afforded such an opportunity. I hope to be a great ambassador of FAMU’s public health program.”

Preceptor Ivette A. L√≥pez, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, Institute of Public Health said, “This opportunity is well deserved. Not only is Ms. Allen talented; she is passionate and committed to serving underrepresented communities. The level of training and experiences that she will receive at this premier public health federal agency will enhance both her professional and personal gifts.”

“We are extremely happy and proud of Ms. Allen,” said Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D. DABT, professor and director of FAMU’s Institute of Public Health. “The fellowship is indicative of her hard work and competency as a public health professional.”

“Graduates of our Institute of Public Health continue to win outstanding national honors for their training and contributions to improving the public health of our nation,” said Henry Lewis III, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The goal of PHPS is to prepare public health professionals for leadership positions in local, state, national, and international public health agencies.

College of Law Nurtures Next Generation of Global Leaders

The Florida A&M University (FAMU) College of Law’s Center for International Law and Justice (CILJ) concluded its first year of operation by organizing eight coveted international law internships for its students. Nine students are also participating in study abroad programs in England, France, Italy, South Africa and Spain.

“The International Law Internship Program is one our signature programs,” said Jeremy Levitt, Ph.D., associate dean for International Programs and director of CILJ.

The International Law Internship Program provides practical work experiences that enable students to gain advanced legal knowledge and skills within an organization, industry or functional area that reflects their academic and professional interests. It also provides law students with firsthand knowledge of the culture, language, politics and law of foreign states and institutions.

CILJ has organized eight highly coveted international law internships this summer in five countries on four continents as part of its International Law Internship Program. This year’s summer international law interns include: Rebecca Gardiner (1L), Caribbean Court of Justice, Port of Spain, Trinidad; Danielle Hernandez (2L), Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Washington, D.C.; Daniela McCalla (1L), Supreme Court of Ghana, Accra, Ghana; Candice McKinley (3L), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Arusha, Tanzania; Shawn McCullers (1L), Interpol, Bangkok, Thailand; Donna Robinson (1L), Supreme Court of Ghana, Accra, Ghana; Lissette Shepherd (1L), International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Arusha, Tanzania; and Karen Skyers (2L), Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Washington, D.C.

“Responding to the needs created by globalization is one of the greatest challenges facing legal education in the 21st century,” said FAMU College of Law Dean LeRoy Pernell. “The CILJ is our answer to these challenges.”

According to Levitt, FAMU College of Law ranks among the top law schools in the country in organizing international law internships for its students, and likely leads the country in placing women and persons of color. Eight out of nine of this year’s interns were women of color.

“The International Law Internship Program offers students transformative experiences that will enable them to value humanity beyond our borders,” said Levitt.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

For the First Time, Essence Festival Invites FAMU Upward Bound Students to Volunteer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida A&M University (FAMU) Upward Bound students were invited to volunteer at the Essence Festival. This is the first time Essence has invited teens or an Upward Bound program to volunteer at the festival.

The organizers of the interns and volunteers for the Essence Festival have invited 13 FAMU Upward Bound students to participate at the three-day event, which features a range of cultural activities and performances by some of the most popular musicians today. This year’s performances will include Beyonce, Robin Thicke and Frankie Beverly and Maze, to name a few.

The participants will travel with three chaperones to New Orleans, La.

“This year, in an effort to broaden our reach, we are tapping into the skill-sets if the next generation, by providing them with a dynamic media opportunity to experience the festival,” said Nick Thomas, volunteer and intern coordinator for the Essence Music Festival. “This will allow members of the FAMU Upward Bound media team to volunteer in various capacities that are critical to the success of the festival.”

The high school students participating in the summer Upward Bound Program have been competing for a spot on the thirteen-person team through a media challenge, with the help of FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication alum Keisha “L Michelle” Hayes.

The students have been produced two reality series that chronicles their Upward Bound experiences on FAMU’s campus this summer. The first reality series, which premiered this past May, is now running on The skills learned in the media challenge will come into play during the Essence Festival as they chronicle their volunteer experiences.

“Everyone in the program is excited for the students,” said Geraldine Seay, director of FAMU Upward Bound. “This will give our students an opportunity to really experience a media event like no other. In addition, they will be able to say they were a part of making it a success.”

About Upward Bound
Florida A&M University was one of 18 pilot programs started in 1965 during the administration of President Johnson and his “War on Poverty Act.” Since 1965, the Upward Bound Program has served more than 5,300 students. The Upward Bound Program is proud of its history of placing students into post secondary institutions (colleges, universities, etc.). Eighty-five percent of all students served have progressed to postsecondary education. Many former students have become successful in areas such as business, education, law, journalism, medicine, government and other fields. The Upward Bound Program has carried out its original purpose of exposing high school students to the opportunities available for students who pursue higher education.

Photo caption: Geraldine Seay, director of FAMU's Upward Bound (second row, first on left), takes a photo with the Upward Bound students and chaperones selected to volunteer at the Essence Music Festival.

FAMU Journalism Professor Gerald Grow Named “Educator of the Year” by AEJMC

Gerald Grow, Ph.D., a Florida A&M University (FAMU) journalism professor, has been named the “Educator of the Year” by the magazine division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Grow will receive the award during the AEJMC Convention on August 7, in Boston.

“We congratulate Dr. Grow for this recognition,” said James Hawkins, Ph.D., dean of FAMU’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication (SJGC). “It reflects the high regard with which he held at the university and the broader academic community.”

Grow has served as a journalism professor and adviser to Journey magazine, FAMU’s student magazine, for nearly a quarter of the century. During his tenure, Journey won various national awards including the “Best of the South” campus magazine during the 2008-2009 academic year. Grow has served as editor for ENFO, a leading environment publication in Florida from 1980-1990. He is the author of Florida Parks: A Guide to Camping in Nature.

“Gerald Grow is very deserving of this honor,” said Ted Spiker, vice head of the Magazine Division and associate professor of journalism at the University of Florida. “Over the years, he has proven to be an educator who cares about his students, as well as his colleagues. He’s always been willing to share ideas and be a leader in thinking about magazine journalism and how we teach it.”

Grow is a 1960 graduate of Leon High School. He has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and holds a doctorate from Yale University. Prior to joining FAMU in 1985, he taught “Writing for the Media” at Florida State University. He is the creator of, a Web site designed to help journalism students improve grammar, usage, spelling and Associated Press writing style.

According to the AEJMC Magazine Division Web site, outstanding professionals and educators in magazine journalism are recognized each year. Joe Treen, a former member of the SJGC Board of Visitors won the “Professional of the Year” award in 2006.

About SJGC
The School of Journalism and Graphic Communication was founded in 1982. Its Division of Journalism was the first journalism program at a historically black university to be nationally accredited by the ACEJMC. It offers four journalism sequences: newspaper, magazine production, broadcast (radio and television) and public relations.