'Amanda is a perfect example of a student carving out exactly what she needs from JMU to pursue a very specific interdisciplinary career path.'
- Ron Kander, ISAT professor help her JMU professors but also to help future students. each Friday, she interns in the Madison art Collection identifying potentially fake items. if Kathryn stevens, director of the Madison art Collection, questions a piece, she has Kuhnley's unique expertise in materials analysis. Last semester when stevens doubted a Babylonian cylinder seal in the collection, Kuhnley quickly verified it was not Babylonian at all after using a giant scanning electron microscope in isaT to search for traces of lapis lazuli rock. Kuhnley believes this crossing of traditional boundaries makes her an "anti-specialist." "i want to be the person in the middle who can communicate with the scientists and the artists and the historians," she explains. This summer, she did just that while spending a month in Malta as part of an isaT study abroad program. Trip adviser Paul goodall says all 29 students on the trip completed an independent project specially designed for them. "With amanda, we set up something where she could merge her isaT and art history majors. The island of Malta is in the middle of s Chwantes PhotograP h by d iane e lliott ('00) the Mediterranean, and it's been a hub for trade and pirate activity for centuries. it has lots of artifacts and art that can be analyzed and evaluated to determine their age and the identity of the culture involved in creating them. This is the kind of work amanda hopes to pursue after graduation." as soon as she returned this summer, Kuhnley embarked on her ultimate test - a senior thesis project that involved collaborating with german colleagues, building all of the lab experiments for isaT's new engineering course and teaching the labs to other JMU students. "amanda is a perfect example of a student carving out exactly what she needs from JMU to pursue a very specific interdisciplinary career path," explains her thesis adviser isaT professor Ron Kander. Kuhnley acknowledges the project will be intense in part because she'll be graded both on the written part and her teaching abilities. it is extremely rare for undergraduate students to co-teach courses or serve as teaching assistants at JMU, but Kuhnley has had practice thanks to Calculus professor Paul goodall. "i stood in front of my peers and answered questions at the chalkboard," Kuhnley says. "My leadership skills and confidence grew tremendously, and i think i was able to really help several people." goodall concurs and adds that, "amanda is almost too good to be true. she runs extra help sessions each Friday afternoon and she looks for every opportunity to give back. For example, normally we check over the entire homework assignment for answers and then maybe give detailed feedback on Continued on Page 45 >>> Christian Schwantes ('10)
Changing the chemical world
BY MARTHA BELL GRAHAM Christian Schwantes ('10) of Falls Church, Va., once wanted a nobel Prize, but now the double major in chemistry and math has a higher goal. "Science is becoming more interdisciplinary," he says. "Labs now hire biologists, chemists and physicists to work on the same problem." and each uses a different language. "in chemistry we decant solutions instead of pouring. in medicine, we perform phlebotomies instead of testing blood. the language drives the gap between scientists and everyone else. We need to communicate." Schwantes wants to do this in a classroom, as a research Ph.d. "Chemistry is becoming more and more mainstream, but it's still an esoteric subject. Chemical imbalances in the brain are being linked to disorders like alzheimer's and Huntington's and to personality issues, like being more prone to violence or addictions. i'd like to see chemistry be in everyone's mind when going on with their lives, but a huge obstacle is the esoteric language that we scientists love to use. the language is just driving the gap between scientists and everyone else further and further apart. We need to bridge that gap and the first and easiest way to do that is to communicate. We need to be able to communicate our research with people who have not studied it for years." He's already making inroads: From the summer after his freshman year through his senior year, he worked with JMu chemistry professor Kevin Minbiole investigating the role of chemistry in a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and Chemistry and math double major Christian Schwantes ('10) wants to eliminate the communication gap among scientists from different disciplines. amphibians where the bacteria were able to protect amphibians from a fungal pathogen by secreting antifungal metabolites. "i had heard of the disease before and always considered myself to be an environmentalist," says Schwantes. "Working with dr. Minbiole was a perfect fit." Schwantes has co-authored papers with Minbiole and published them in the Journal of Chemical Ecology and International Society for Microbial Ecology. Schwantes has also presented at the international Society for Chemical ecology conference in Switzerland and the american Chemical Society conference. "at more well-known research schools, i would only be a graduate researcher's assistant. at JMu, i've led the research team. JMu changed me." after graduating in May as the top JMu student in chemistry and mathematics, and the top senior in biochemistry, Schwantes will begin Stanford university's Ph.d. program in computational chemistry this fall. He wants to change the world of chemistry. "i hope that in moving on to become a professor in a field - whose mention generally brings scowls from the audience - i can change how people regard chemistry," he explains. "i love everything about chemistry, and i want to share that with the world. i think JMu's Be the Change motto uses 'the world' in a looser sense. i always had the drive to change the world, but i always thought that meant i had to change the entire world. JMu grads leave with the ability to be world changers - even if their world is a kindergarten class in Kansas. JMu has helped me realize that change, however small, is important." M F a LL 2010 37