Scranton Students Study and Conduct Research Abroad During Summer

Sep 16, 2014
The summer of 2014 found University of Scranton students traveling to Europe and Central America for a variety of study abroad courses and internships. Students learned about such topics as Roman architecture, Irish culture and nocturnal bees.

Communication professor Matthew Reavy, Ph.D., led nine students on a trip to Ireland for the course “Intercultural Communication: Ireland.” The class explored the influence of factors like history, geography, politics, language, mass media, economics and international relations upon communication in Irish culture. Students also examined differences between Irish and American cultures.

Michael Umerich, a senior biology major from Clarks Summit, said the trip taught him a lot about how other cultures differ from American culture. The group visited Dublin, Cootehill, Galway, Cork and Malahide and had the opportunity to see castles and churches built hundreds of years ago.

“It really helped me understand (Ireland’s) history as a country and how different it is from our own,” Umerich said. “I gained a lot of respect for the culture of Ireland and the hardship the Irish had to go through to earn their freedom.”

“There is a lot to see in this world, and traveling and getting to know the people there helps to understand their way of life,” Umerich said.

Alex Wasalinko, a sophomore English major from Scranton, was among the students who embarked on a three-week trip to Italy for a “Mathematics in the Visual Arts” course led by mathematics professor Anthony Ferzola, Ph.D. They were joined by  students from an art history course taught by art history professor Josephine Dunn, Ph.D.

The math class consisted of visits to several structures, such as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City, for on-site lectures. The group would identify the methods and practices used in the construction.

Dr. Ferzola had met with the students before the trip to do preliminary studies of the classical structures they would be visiting. They learned how to recreate them with a compass and ruler – similar to the manner in which they were designed by the architects centuries ago.

Wasalinko’s favorite experience of the trip was climbing some 200 steps to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. “We found ourselves inside St. Peter’s, hundreds of feet from the ground inside the dome. There, we saw how truly massive the church’s mosaics are. The lettering around the drum of the dome alone is six feet tall,” she said. “After climbing another 250 steps through the two shells of the dome, we reached the lantern, which stands as the highest point in Rome. The city spread itself out before me, and the view will forever be crystal clear in my memory.”

James Moran, a senior psychology major from Toms River, New Jersey; Mike Kovalchik, a senior biology major from Jefferson Township; Erika Sarno, a junior biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major from Waverly; and Ashley Villa, a junior biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major from Matawan, New Jersey, joined college students and recent college graduates from across the country as research interns at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama this summer. Internships for this prestigious program are awarded to students based on merit and matching the research interest of the students with ongoing research projects at the institute. The University works with STRI on a joint internship project supported by biology professors Marc Seid, Ph.D., and Gary Kwiecinski, Ph.D.

Sarno worked on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal, studying a nocturnal species of bee called Megalopta genalis. 

“We collected data on brain size, ovary size, nest characteristics, foraging times and offspring provisioning to investigate other unique behavioral traits. Most of our work took place in the field, collecting Megalopta nests, keeping track of observation nests and filming foraging bees. We also did lab work which included nest dissections and bee brain dissections,” Sarno said. “Working and sharing the island with enthusiastic STRI researchers encouraged so much scientific discussion and provided a great opportunity to learn and share ideas. In addition, I was able to build connections and friendships with researchers from all over the world, which I hope to continue throughout my scientific career.”


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