Category: Academics


Sound Education

John Weber was spending another summer day working in the basement of Daniels Hall, and he couldn’t have seemed more content. Weber, a senior music business major from Park Ridge, is an aspiring recording engineer, and in the Gretsch Recording Studio in Daniels Hall he has found a subterranean playground for audiophiles, a place to practice his craft.

“I’d be down here all the time if I could,” Weber said as he showed a visitor around the studio one recent morning. “I love trying different ways of capturing a performance, seeing what different microphones sound like set up at different angles. When I think about how much I’ve learned here over the last couple of years, it’s amazing.”

Weber is just one of a quarter-century’s worth of Elmhurst students who learned their first lessons in sound recording in this studio. The Gretsch Recording Studio is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. The equipment inside the studio has changed over the years, to keep up with every advance in audio technology, but the one thing that has remained constant is that students have come to the studio to twist dials, to slide faders, and to learn in the process.
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Mussel Bound

One of the tiniest residents of the Schaible Science Center is a thumbnail-sized bivalve called a scorched mussel. Its natural habitat is along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, but it has found temporary quarters in a cabinet inside Kyle Bennett’s crowded lab.

Bennett, an assistant professor of biology at Elmhurst, has spent much of the last decade getting to know the scorched mussel and its close relatives in the genus Brachidontes. In his research, Bennett uses molecular tools and DNA analysis to draw sharper distinctions between species of Brachidontes that appear virtually identical in form and structure. In the process, he hopes to better understand how, when and why species developed and branched off from common ancestors.
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The Way of the Hero

Long before well-muscled movie stars began exchanging gunfire in Hollywood action flicks and Xbox assassins started blowing up buildings in computer games, similar displays of high-testosterone aggression were common in the epics of the ancient world. Audiences, it seems, have always liked their heroes quick-fisted and armed to the teeth.

But, as Tina-Marie Ranalli will tell you, there are exceptions. Ranalli, an assistant professor of French and German, has spent years poring over a little-known 700-year-old manuscript housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. What she has found there, she says, turns traditional depictions of the heroic warrior upside-down. For some classical heroes, as the title of one of Ranalli’s recent papers puts it, it paid “to be a lover, not a fighter.”
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CSI: Elmhurst

Ricky Dingraudo, crime-scene investigator, was creeping through a bed of ankle-high pachysandra outside Schaible Science Center one afternoon last week when he found what he was looking for. There, partially hidden by the early spring foliage, was a bright white bone: A human femur, Dingraudo guessed.

It would have been an alarming discovery, if the bone hadn’t been plastic and if Dingraudo didn’t have good reason to believe it had been planted there by a couple of his professors.
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No Small Plans

The students who come to see Earl Thompson have big plans. They want to go to Paris and spend a year studying French. They want to join a research team in a biology lab at one of Germany’s top universities. They want to teach English as a Second Language in Ecuador.

So they talk to Thompson, Elmhurst’s major scholarships coordinator. He makes it his mission to help them win one of the big-money, high-prestige scholarships—maybe a Fulbright, maybe a Gilman—that can make their plans a reality.

“So many of the students that come to me are so impressive. They have that special spark,” Thompson said in a meeting room at the Center for Professional Excellence where he often meets with students. This is where he makes his pitch for them to apply for one of the twenty or so scholarships that are considered higher education’s biggest prizes. “I tell them, ‘There’s a time to be humble, and this ain’t it.’”
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Off the Map

The newest addition to Rich Schultz’s Daniels Hall office is a wall map of the United States that occupies a place of honor above Schultz’s desk.

“Look at the attention to detail,” Schultz, an associate professor in the department of geography and geosciences, proudly told a visitor who asked about the map last week. “Look at the shading. It’s the kind of work you don’t see anymore.”

The map, created by cartographer David Imus, is a throwback to an artisanal tradition of painstakingly plotted maps that treat the smallest details—elevations, forestation, the density of urban areas—with great care. Schultz is not the only one who has taken note. One reviewer called Imus’ map “masterful … the greatest paper map of the United States you’ll ever see,” and it won last year’s “Best of Show” award at the competition of the Cartography and Geographic Society.

There is just one problem with the map. Fewer and fewer people have any idea how to read it, or any map.
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The Making of a Scientist

For most science majors, the presentation that Pat Brambert is set to deliver at the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research in Utah next month would be the highlight of a semester. For Brambert, it’s just a warm-up.

Brambert, a junior from Bloomingdale, has spent much of the last year working with Assistant Professor Stacey Raimondi on investigations into the genetic triggers that make cancer cells grow more aggressively. He was selected to present his findings at the annual NCUR meeting in late March, a showcase for the nation’s top undergraduate researchers.

But that’s just the first of two high-profile appointments Brambert has on his calendar for that week. After finishing his presentation in Utah, he will hustle back across country to offer his work at the prestigious American Association of Cancer Research conference in Chicago, a stage even more impressive than the NCUR conference.
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Parking Lot Science

Gene Losey’s new chemistry lab is in an unlikely location. Every so often, especially after a heavy rain, or what Losey likes to call “a real gully-whumper,” you might find him at work in the parking lot just west of West Hall. In an unremarkable-looking white utility box there, tucked among the prairie plantings that border the student parking spaces, Losey, a professor and chair of the chemistry department, collects samples of stormwater runoff. For the last two years, he has been analyzing the water he collects there, looking for insights into the workings of the innovative stormwater-control system the College installed around West Hall before the state-of-the-art “green” residence hall opened in 2008.

“This is a natural laboratory,” Losey said one afternoon last week as he was crossing the parking lot. “It gives us a chance to collect stormwater and see what we can learn from it.”
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The Language of Learning

When Abby Heider traveled to Costa Rica for a January Term Spanish class last year, she was determined, as she put it, “to live and breathe Spanish.”

So Heider kept her journal in Spanish, wrote her shopping lists in Spanish, and chatted with her friends in Spanish. At the mountaintop language institute near the scenic Central Valley town of Santa Ana where she studied, she took classroom notes in Spanish. One day when she and her classmates took a harrowing whitewater rafting trip down the Rio Pacuare, she even found herself screaming in Spanish.

“It was total immersion in the language,” she said.
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Styling the Civil War

In this 150th year since the start of the American Civil War, it is time to reconsider one of the most vexing questions to emerge from that conflict: Did Mary Todd Lincoln really need 300 pairs of gloves?

This is the sort of question that has been bothering Nicole Boylan for much of the past year. Boylan, a senior, is part of a team of student costumers who recreated 19th-century fashions for the Mill Theatre’s May production of the historical drama Abraham Lincoln. In all, the team produced 40 sets of costumes—soldier’s uniforms, ladies’ dresses, even corsets and pantaloons–aiming for historical accuracy and attention to detail. Researching their work took the costumers to archives and museums from Madison, Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. But the project began last summer with a trip to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois. It was there that Boylan began to understand Mrs. Lincoln’s extraordinary fashion sense.

“She thought it was her patriotic duty to wear the very best clothes and to spend money on the very best silks,” Boylan said last week in Buik Recital Hall, where she and her fellow students were presenting their work as part of Elmhurst’s ninth annual Research and Performance Showcase. But when it came to Mrs. Lincoln’s attempts at high style, everyone was a critic. “People said her dresses made her look like a piece of furniture. They said she appeared to be wearing a flower pot on her head.”
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Category Description

Posts that pertain to the academic side of campus.