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September 2009 Pacific Fund Grant Winners

Craig Vierra, Biology Department Professor and Co-Chair

Spinning Artificial Spider Silk Fibers: Developing Materials for Potential Military, Commercial and Industrial Applications

A grant of $17,135 was awarded to enable the purchase of a protein concentrator, so that Dr. Vierra can make further progress in developing synthetic spider silk, which has the potential to be used in numerous medical, military and commercial applications. The Biology Lab at Pacific has cloned a number of different silk genes that produce proteins assembled into silk threads.

To date, only a handful of labs across the world have been able to produce synthetic silk fibers. As a leader in the spider silk community, the Biology Lab plans to use the protein concentrator to refine the process for spinning artificial silk fibers. With this new equipment, large amounts of silk proteins can be produced and purified on the Stockton campus, and faculty and student researchers will then analyze the structure and properties of the various synthetic fibers created.

The project will provide real-world learning opportunities for students, who will help operate the protein concentrator, and create collaboration among students and faculty from different schools and disciplines within the University.

Dr. Craig Vierra and student Coby La Mattina microdissect a black widow spider in the Biology Lab.
Dr. Craig Vierra and student Coby La Mattina microdissect a black widow spider in the Biology Lab.


Matthew Normand and Holly White, Psychology Department Professors

Department of Psychology Visiting Scholars in Behavior Analysis Program

A grant of $5,625 was awarded for this project that involves hosting eminent scholars in the field of behavioral psychology (behavioral analysis) for a several-day visit. The invited scholar will be asked to spend one full day in the department to meet with faculty and students, and attend meetings in which students formally present their research projects and clinical cases. The Psychology Department will solicit suggestions about ways to improve research, practice, and the supervision system.

Additionally, the visiting scholar will make a presentation during an event that provides Continuing Education credits to practicing Certified Behavior Analysts® in the area. A dinner and cocktail reception will enable further interaction between the visiting scholar and Pacific faculty and students.

Visiting scholar Dr. Greg Hanley of Western New England College (center) with Dr. Matthew Normand and Holly White.
Visiting scholar Dr. Greg Hanley of Western New England College (center) with Dr. Matthew Normand and Holly White.


Daniel Ray and Patrick Walton, Undergraduate Students

Why So Miserable Stockton? A Documentary Look at Forbes Magazine's 2009 Dubious Distinction

A grant of $3100 was awarded for travel related to this project, in which students Daniel Ray (Communication '10) and Patrick Walton (Political Science '10) will interview the author of Forbes Magazine's 2009 Most Miserable Cities article that ranked Stockton at the top of the list. The project, under the direction of Communication Professor Dr. Alan Ray, will examine the validity of this ranking in a video documentary to be produced by the students. Film Studies Professor Dr. Patti McCarthy will offer guidance as needed.

The students will also engage in discussions with Stockton government and civic leaders. The documentary offers the opportunity for Pacific to address the unfortunate notion sometimes held by those not familiar with the city that Stockton is an undesirable place to live. The underlying theme of the video is the idea that a city is only as good as its residents and that all communities have something to offer in terms of quality of life. The final documentary will be submitted to traditional media outlets, such as newspapers and TV stations as well as to social networking sites.