Focus on Faculty

Read news and highlights about faculty from the fall 2020 semester.

Faculty Adjust Method of Instruction for Fall

How do faculty know what is working and, more importantly – what’s not, when teaching a class? They observe student reactions during class; review results of assignments, tests and quizzes; and even survey students regarding their opinions about the way the course material is being presented. At least these are some of the methods applied by Nicholas Sizemore, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and Nathaniel Frissell, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and engineering, for their curriculum during this unprecedented fall semester.

Dr. Sizemore is teaching Introductory Chemistry I (Chem 110) and Organic Chemistry I (Chem 232) remotely this semester. In the spring, the pandemic obliged him to adjust courses to a virtual format midway through the semester. At the semester’s end, he used a survey that allowed students to anonymously provide feedback about the course and then used their input to inform his approach to the material for the fall semester.

Dr. Sizemore relies on a combination of recorded lectures and slides for problem-sets that he can complete as he goes through the material. The students watch the pre-recorded lectures prior to attending class. The class time is then used as a discussion session, giving students the opportunity to ask questions about material covered in the lecture. In addition, he will also offer online discussion sessions if warranted.

Dr. Sizemore essentially “flipped” his class. “I reorganized the way we cover material,” said Dr. Sizemore. “We spend a lot of class time solving problem sets. The students watch the lectures on their own time. That’s a better use of class time than having the students struggle through a problem set on their own, then sit in my class for a lecture.”

Dr. Sizemore also surveys students at mid-term, allowing them to anonymously tell him which aspects of the class and resources offered are most useful, as well as which are not.

“Some items mentioned in the feedback can be adjusted easily during the semester, some cannot. The students have been pretty understanding of that,” said Sizemore, who has done mid-term surveys of his students since he began teaching at Scranton five years ago. “The main thing is to be willing to be as accommodating as possible.”

Dr. Frissell also tries to be as flexible as possible to accommodate students.

“I am trying to add a sense of normalcy to class instruction during these unusual times. At beginning and end of class, I chat with students about how they are doing,” said Dr. Frissell, who is teaching Digital Signal Processing (EE 346) and Intro to Astrophysics (Phys 360) courses in-person, while incorporating Zoom for students who cannot make it to class. The Zoom option is also maintained so he can move seamlessly to an online format as needed during the semester.

Continue reading the story in Royal News, here.

Scranton Part of Election News

Jean Harris, Ph.D., professor of political science, is pictured being interviewed on campus a France 24 TV story on Pennsylvania voters.
Jean Harris, Ph.D., professor of political science, is pictured being interviewed on campus a France 24 TV story on Pennsylvania voters.

University students and political science faculty members were interviewed by journalists representing multiple international publications as part their news coverage of the U.S. Presidential Election. Faculty members and students were also quoted in national, state and local news stories about the election.

Professor and Political Science Department Chair Michael Allison, Ph.D., spoke to Voice of America and Spain’s ETB, Basque Public TV. JoyAnna Hopper, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science, was interviewed by Poland’s Polsat News. Political Science Professor Jean Harris, Ph.D., and University students were interviewed for a segment on Pennsylvania voters for France 24 TV.

In national news coverage of the election, Dr. Harris and Gretchen Van Dyke, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, were interviewed for CBS news stories. University students participated in a Fox News focus group following the first Presidential Debate.

Dr. Harris and University of Scranton students participated in Pennsylvania Cable Network’s (PCN) Election College Panel. Julie Cohen, adjunct professor of political science, was interviewed for a story by Pennsylvania Capital Star. Iordanis Petsas, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Economics and Finance Department, was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer for a story about the candidates’ trade policies.

Dr. Allison, Dr. Harris and Dr. Hopper were also interviewed for numerous local news stories on the election, the presidential debates and the frequent visits by the candidates and their running mates to the Scranton area.

Professor Works With Students to Publish Research


Research on mass spectrometry imaging by Katherine Stumpo, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and two of her students, now graduates, was published in an academic journal. They also have a patent pending on their imaging technique.

Dr. Stumpo, who leads a research group of 12 undergraduate and 10 graduate students at the University, focuses their research on mass spectrometry (MS), which is an analytical technique that essentially “weighs” molecules.

“MS research extends from instrument development to applications in chemistry, geology, forensics, biological sciences, and more,” said Dr. Stumpo. “Our project focus of late has been on mass spectrometry imaging (MSI), which is an incredibly powerful technique that can determine qualitative and quantitative information of hundreds of compounds in a tissue section in one experiment. We have published on this recently, as a proof-of-concept that we can detect these compounds of interest.”

Dr. Stumpo’s ongoing research is a continuation of that work.

Dr.  Stumpo and then University of Scranton students Nolan McLaughlin ’20, Moscow, and Tyler Bielinski ’18, ’G20, Dunmore; along with colleagues Caitlin Tressler, Ph.D.; Eric Barton; and Kristine Glunde, Ph.D.; published an article titled “Pneumatically Sprayed Gold Nanoparticles for Mass Spectrometry Imaging of Neurotransmitters,” in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry. They demonstrated a simple citrate-capped gold nanoparticles (AuNPs) approach for the ionization of neurotransmitters that enhances laser desorption ionization mass spectrometry and “provides a fast, high-spatial resolution method for simultaneous detection of a class of molecules that typically evade comprehensive detection with traditional matrixes.”

Continue reading in Royal News, here.

History Professor Discusses Trail of Tears on Podcast


Adam Pratt, Ph.D., a professor in the History Department, discusses the Trail of Tears and Cherokee removal on the Alarmist, a podcast that "scrutinizes history’s greatest disasters to figure out what went wrong, and most importantly, who’s to blame," according to the show's website.  

His book, which focuses on how the state of Georgia used violence to acquire Cherokee territory, is titled Toward Cherokee Removal: Land, Violence and the White Man’s Chance was published on Nov. 1. 

"We don't know for certain how many native people died on the Trail of Tears. We estimate that for the Cherokees it's between 2,000 and 4,000, but there were roughly 16,000 Cherokees at the time so we're talking a quarter of the population died," he said in the interview. "It's a brutal process. It's a process that happens because of a lot of political and bureaucratic reasons that make it worse than it needed to be if it needed to happen at all."

Dr. Pratt teaches courses in 19th-century United States history, including upper-level courses on the Age of Andrew Jackson, Native American history and the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Listen to the podcast, here.

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