Research reaching into real life

  • Research reaching into real life

Research reaching into real life

Research reaching into real life

By Patricia Quigley ’78, M’03


Whether exploring treatments for diseases, investigating ways to protect consumers when they shop online or creating new artistic works, Rowan professors and students are immersed in research that addresses real-world problems and celebrates real-life conditions.

At Glassboro, the South Jersey Technology Park, the School of Osteopathic Medicine and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, teams—often in collaboration with partners—tackle a wide range of projects, work that recently led to Rowan’s designation as a Carnegie research institution.

Increasingly, business, nonprofit and government organizations turn to Rowan, seeking the innovative ideas that come from an excellent education, curious minds and the drive to solve problems.

The Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Arts and others fund the Rowan research, which not only benefits them but also provides students with the hands-on experience that prepares them for their professions—and often lands them internships and their first post-college positions.

“Our reputation for research is on a steep upward trajectory, which provides more opportunities for our students and produces new knowledge that is impactful,” said Dr. Beena Sukumaran, vice president of research.

Here’s a sample of the hundreds of projects underway at Rowan.


Dr. Danielle Arigo is determined to make a difference in the lives of midlife women

Her goal? Keep their hearts healthy for years to come.

Arigo, an assistant professor of psychology in the College of Science & Mathematics and adjunct assistant professor of family medicine at the School of Osteopathic Medicine, plans to do that through research on midlife women and the barriers that keep them from going for a walk or hopping on a bicycle—barriers that can impact their health and lifespan.

A Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health—the first to a Rowan professor—supports her work. She is using the $700,000 grant, which runs through February 2023, to explore the psychosocial barriers that 40- to 60-year-old women with cardiovascular risks deal with to maintain physical activity, which is critical to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and early death.

Arigo said menopause, weight gain and other conditions can impact the cardiovascular health and mortality of midlife women, and psychosocial barriers like negative moods, lack of body satisfaction and comparisons to other women can impact their view of themselves and their approach to exercise.

Her long-range goal is for her team, which includes Dr. Mary Lou Kerwin, psychology; Dr. Andrea Lobo, computer science; Dr. Adarsh Gupta, School of Osteopathic Medicine; students and mentors, is to develop a mobile health tool that addresses each individual’s needs, prompting women to exercise based on their own data.

“What I’ve seen in my clinical work and research, and what literature shows us, is that a lot of women have a hard time being active. They juggle so much—like work and family care—and they put themselves second. That makes it even harder to take care of other people, which many say is a priority for them,” she said. “One of our goals is to help these women prioritize their own health, without sacrificing their other priorities. Ultimately our goal is to help them learn what derailed their physical activity in the past and how to develop the tools to maintain that activity,” Arigo said.

The grant is significant for Arigo as well. The NIH presents Career Development Awards to individuals
it believes have the potential to become leading experts in their fields.


Dr. Joel Capellán’s research takes him beyond headlines about Columbine and beyond political posturing about undocumented immigrants

The law and justice studies assistant professor studies crime, whether mass shootings during the last six decades or the potential for undocumented immigrants to break the law today.

Capellán began investigating mass shootings during graduate school, hoping to help law enforcement officials and mental health professionals better understand the people behind the incidents.

The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School rampage captured his attention while he was a doctoral criminology student at the City University of New York. “I wanted to come up with a topic for a final paper. Sandy Hook was such an incredible event in my mind,” he said. “I had to find out what was going on.”

What he discovered—besides details about the tragedy—was a huge gap in information available on mass shooters. His thesis became his first professional paper, published in the journal Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. He went on to read everything written about mass public shootings from 1965 to 2017 and develop a database outlining details of 320 crimes.

“My job as criminologist is to understand why people commit crimes,” he said. “One task is looking at all the mass shooters and determining a common thread.”

He also is exploring the impact of immigration enforcement on crime in America. Funded by $250,000 from the National Institute of Justice, he and colleague Dr. Evan Sorg are working on “Does the Detention and Deportation of Illegal Immigrants Reduce Crime?” and exploring the impact of the Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) agreements on violent and property crimes nationwide from 2005 to 2010. The 22-year-old program, which President Donald Trump wants to expand, allows Homeland Security to empower state and local law enforcement agencies to perform the functions of an immigration office, including detaining undocumented immigrants and identifying them for removal from the country. The duo in part is evaluating whether that impacts crime rates, pushes crime to neighboring jurisdictions and more.

“My job is to answer relevant questions about mass shootings and other crimes and criminal justice issues,” he said. “I don’t have a grandiose mission.

I am working to provide insights that people can use to craft smarter policies.”


Dr. Charles McGlynn wants people to live through earthquakes

That’s not wishful thinking—he’s actually working to improve the chances of survival should a big one occur.

The department of geography, planning and sustainability instructor and collaborators Dr. Cheng Zhu, civil and environmental engineering, and Dr. Hong Zhang, mechanical engineering, earned a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation in December to develop Shaker Shield.

Shaker Shield is a seismic-protection device designed for individuals and small groups to activate when they know an earthquake is imminent. Think of it like inflatable slides used to evacuate airplane passengers, much smaller but using the same type of technology.

The patent-pending Shaker Shield can be user-activated and inflate instantly, withstanding punctures and other damage while surrounding users in a mushroom-shaped protective shell that distributes direct force across a broader surface.

That’s important, McGlynn said, because more people are killed in earthquakes by blunt force trauma than anything else.

“When a big one strikes, phones ring, sirens go off. You’ve got maybe 40 to 50 seconds from the first shock to the continuous violent shaking, which can last up to five minutes,” McGlynn said. “This inflates in 10 seconds. It’s a matter of thinking, ‘This is the big one. Take shelter now.’ ”

The inventor has related background. “I worked with American Airlines for almost 20 years and took part in safety and emergency landing drills. I’ve seen those slides inflate. They’re strong and effective and fail-safe,” said McGlynn.

He is working with Henry M. Rowan College of Engineering teams to test materials for the Shaker Shield—including laminated, resin-coated items such as urethane and chlorosulfonated polyethylene fabrics— and evaluating how much weight can be supported.

McGlynn says people can keep Shaker Shields in houses, offices and elsewhere. That hits close to home for McGlynn, who has a son and daughter living on the earthquake-prone West Coast.

The instructor expects to have a prototype ready later this year. Meanwhile, executives from Pennoni Engineering and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia are providing advice, helping develop a business plan and forging connections for the team, which also includes civil engineering senior Taylor Groves and McGlynn’s daughter Melissa, a senior marketing major.


Temperatures of -4°F are not the norm for a Jersey winter, but they’re not unheard of in the Arctic

That’s an important consideration for Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES) researchers, who are undertaking their largest project ever, led by civil and environmental engineering professor and CREATES’ director Dr. Yusuf Mehta.

Under a $3.4 million U.S. Department of Defense grant, they will support U.S. Army initiatives in the Arctic more than 2,600 miles away from their labs at the South Jersey Technology Park.

The grant—the largest ever to researchers on Rowan’s main campus—funds “Innovative Construction Materials to Protect National Security Interests in the Arctic Region.”

The team, which also includes co-principal investigator Dr. Ayman Ali, CREATES’ manager; collaborators Drs. Doug Cleary, Will Riddell and Gilson Lomboy, civil and environmental engineering; post-doctorate associates and undergraduate and graduate students, is exploring furthering innovative and cost-effective methods the DoD has been developing to support U.S. interests in the Arctic and other cold regions.

The CREATES team is working in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). Rowan is focused on seven projects, all aimed at improving the DoD’s ability to rapidly project and sustain capabilities in cold regions and also support state departments of transportation in the Northeast working to improve their infrastructures.

The team will complete some of the research on developing innovative construction materials and processes for the cold regions using CREATES’ $4 million Heavy Vehicle Simulator (HVS), the only such device at a Northeast college or university.

Housed at CREATES through a cooperative research and development agreement with CRREL, the HVS can simulate decades of traffic on highways and runways in less than six months while controlling temperature and other environmental conditions.

That will benefit the cold regions project, determining the long-term effects of wear and tear on roadways and airstrips and evaluating the potential of new materials and how they will hold up under various climates and conditions.

Mehta said the $3.4 million award reflects the faith the DoD/Army has in Rowan. He said, “These projects are complex, and I am excited that the CREATES team will be conducting research in developing solutions for these challenging problems.” ♦