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New Zealand Honey and an Episcopal Childhood

Cliff Van Eaton ’72 has written one honey of a book…about honey!

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey, is the ‘rags-to-riches’ tale of how a piece of scientific serendipity turned an unwanted honey into a ground-breaking medicine. Manuka honey is a product unique to New Zealand and valued for its antibiotic effects. Cliff’s book chronicles the science behind the discovery of those effects.

It was named a finalist in the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Book Prize. The Royal Society of New Zealand is modeled on the original Royal Society in England, the oldest continuing academy of sciences in the world. An important function of the Society is the sharing of science-based ideas in the overall New Zealand community, and the Book Prize is a way of celebrating the efforts of writers and publishers in that regard. The competition is held every two years, and is open to all books by New Zealand authors that “communicate scientific concepts in an interesting and readable way for a general audience.” Love those science writers with a lay audience in mind.

Cliff is a well-known writer on beekeeping subjects and is co-author of two books on bee diseases. For more than 30 years he worked as a beekeeper adviser in New Zealand, and has also assisted beekeepers in countries as diverse as the Solomon Islands, Uruguay, and Vietnam.

 

On his way home for dinner, the narrator of Jim Todd’s (class of 1958) memoir, The Key, stops to watch the demolition of the Episcopal Church building that was his church home growing up. At first the razing of a spiritual “home” troubles him and also prompts a vivid recollection of a single choir season–the fall-to-spring of the narrator’s 12th year. The flashback of those nine months in the life of “Joey”–the narrator’s younger self–and his two close friends, Danny and Kenny (the “three inseparables”), occupy the ensuing 13 chapters of the book. The church-and-choir related hijinks of these three (who move through the narrative like a Tom Sawyer and his gang) include a frog funeral at church that inspires the start of acolyte training, a school-boy crush on a department store holiday season harpist, a water war with Baptist youth choir members that escalates into something more serious, a spitball attack on the choir director, the sabotage of a presentation by the girl (and fellow choir member) Joey likes but doesn’t know he likes, and the changing of Joey’s voice–a sad casualty of maturation that necessitates his “fall from grace” as the choir’s soprano soloist (first row) to the hinterland of alto background (second row).

Jim has written a book about the importance of fun, the inevitability of impermanence and change (Joey’s voice, the nature of friendships, the relocation of a church), and, most importantly, what endures in the face of such impermanence. The book’s final chapter snaps the reverie of the adult narrator into the present. The dump trucks are back filling the church building’s former foundation. And yet the evanescent last images of Joseph’s flashback call to life the profound changes he experienced in church late that choir season of long ago. That memory confirms for him the key of what matters and what never changes. The narrator finds himself less troubled by the scene at which he stopped. Joseph is a church leader at its new home. He starts his car to continue his way home, taking “the key” and the essence of his old church building with him.

Péter Érdi, the Luce Professor of Complex System Studies

Péter has been named editor-in-chief of Cognitive Systems Research, a journal that covers the study of cognitive systems and processes both natural (organic) and artificial (robotic). Péter has taught at K since 2002 in the departments of physics and psychology. He also directs the College’s Center for Complex System Studies. Additionally, he is co-director of the Budapest Semester in Cognitive Science, a study abroad program mostly, but not exclusively, for North American students, including students from K. Péter was head of the department of biophysics at the KFKI Research Institute for Particle and Nuclear Physics in Budapest from 1993 to 2011. He has degrees in chemistry and chemical cybernetics.

Brett Blaauw ’05

Brett co-authored a paper that appeared in the Journal of Applied Ecology. According to paper’s other co-author, Rufus Isaacs, theirs is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage for farmers when they create wild bee habitat next to cultivated fields. The two entomologists planted marginal land surrounding blueberry fields with a mix of native perennial wildflowers. Even though the fields were pollinated by honey bees trucked in for the purpose, Brett discovered that, after a period of two years, the rising population of wild bees increased blueberry yields by 10 to 20 percent. That increase more than offset the costs of making the marginal land attractive to wild bee populations. Brett was the lead author on the paper. The K biology major completed his Ph.D. at Michigan State University under Isaacs and is now working at Rutgers University.

Danny Agustin Flores ’80

Danny is extending his involvement with his activities advancing biotech in a future area of recent interest in dairy: food production to meet nutritional needs for protein with biotechnology using the new genetic engineering of genome editing. Genome editing, Danny says, offers opportunities for improved feeds, crops and digestive manipulation as well as food proteins with potential medicinal properties. He continues his work to seek funding through public sourcing in order to transfer information between academe and industry and also to the public. He welcomes any feedback or comments on his research communications at his e-mail.

Jane Case-Smith ’75, Ph.D.

Jane died on July 31, 2014. At the time of her passing, she was professor and director of the Program in Occupational Therapy in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Medicine, Ohio State University. A highly regarded educator, Jane was co-editor and author of a widely adopted textbook: Occupational Therapy with Children, now in its sixth edition. At Kalamazoo College she majored in psychology and studied abroad in Muenster, Germany. she earned her Master of Occupational Therapy degree from Western Michigan University and her doctorate from the University of Georgia. Jane was considered one of the nation’s foremost experts in pediatric occupational therapy and rehabilitation. She was a respected clinical scientist and grant reviewer. At the time of her death she was principal investigator on two NIH-funded studies. She won many awards and was named a fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association in 1997. She is survived by her husband and their two sons.

Kate Golembiewski ’12

Professor Emerita of English Gail Griffin is a fan of Kate, a chemistry major who, Gail writes, “took on an English major very late in her career.” Kate’s putting both majors to work as a science writer, and Gail spotted one of Kate’s stories in a recent Atlantic Magazine online. “How Ancient Coral Revealed the changing Length of a Year” describes how coral layers (a byproduct of the organism’s daily living that marks a year’s growing seasons and days in a process somewhat akin to tree rings) show that the number of days that composed an earth year was much higher eons ago–420 days rather than today’s 365-6. She accounts for the difference in the dynamics of gravity, oceans and the moon’s distance from the earth, a gap growing incrementally and infinitesimally. Turns out Shakespeare’s Juliet had it right in more ways than she might have guessed when she implored Romeo to “swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb.” The circled orb grows imperceptibly more distant, a centimeter or so a year. (Eventually–in several million years–the moon will be too distant to cause a solar eclipse.)  With her two majors, Kate is more likely to know the science in the literary reference. Kate’s K experience also included study abroad in Scotland.

Nancy Huntly ’77

Nancy is the Scientist in Residency Fellow for the month of September at the Sitka Sound Science Center. Nancy is a professor in the biology department and the director of the ecology center at Utah State University (Logan). She also chairs the committee that administers Science Unwrapped, the USU College of Science public engagement program. She earned her B.A. in biology at K and her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona. Since 2004 she has studied the human ecology of the northern Gulf of Alaska region. Her interests in Alaska are particularly in landscape legacies, food webs, and sustainable resource use.

Jacob Meyers ’08

Jacob recently completed his Ph.D. at Colorado State University. He has been conducting research on new approaches to control disease-carrying mosquitoes. His research was described in a paper–“Mosquitocidal properties of IgG targeting the glutamate-gated chloride channel in three mosquito disease vectors (Diptera: Culicidae)”–that was published in the May issue of Journal for Experimental Biology. And his paper was highlighted as the “Editor’s Choice” for that issue of the journal. Despite the fact that malaria mortality rates have fallen steadily since 2000, the disease threatens half the human population and kills one child every minute. Moreover, resistance in mosquitoes to the primary pesticide used to control them is increasing. A new mosquitocidal candidate has arisen in an old drug, ivermectin, which has been successfully used against parasitic worms that cause diseases such as onchocerciasis (River Blindness). However, little was known about the process by which ivermectin worked against mosquitoes. Jacob’s research elucidated the site (called the glutamate-gated chloride channel, part of the insect’s nervous system) and the mechanism of action at that site which were responsible for ivermectin’s effectiveness. Based on what was learned from that discovery, Jacob tested a new strategy, essentially substituting for ivermectin an antibody to the glutamate gated chloride channel. His preliminary tests confirmed the antibody insecticide’s effectiveness against the mosquito that transmits malaria. In two other disease-carrying mosquitoes (yellow fever and West Nile virus) the antibody did not pass across the gut, which prevented any insecticidal effect. The next step is to immunize cattle with the antibody. Cattle are a major source of blood meals for mosquitoes. It is hoped that malaria-bearing mosquitoes that consume cattle blood carrying the toxic antibodies during the malaria parasite’s incubation period would die, disrupting transmission of the disease. A new antibody insecticide may offer hope for a malaria-free future.

Jacob is married to classmate Alyssa Brayshaw ’08. This year Alyssa was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her doctoral work. She will begin work in the fall on her Ph.D. at Texas A&M University. She plans to focus her research in the field of wildlife disease ecology, concentrating on Chagus Disease, which threatens to cross the Texas-Mexico border. Jacob was offered and accepted a post-doctoral position at Texas A&M in the lab of a population geneticist studying mosquito populations on Bioko Island and other field sites in West Africa. Jacob majored in chemistry at K. Alyssa majored in biology and studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Edward Moticka ’66

dwardMotickaEd is the author of the recently released book A Historical Perspective on Evidence-Based Immunology. The book highlights the evidence supporting immunology concepts commonly taken for granted, including results of hypothesis-driven controlled scientific experiments. Ed is professor and chair of basic medical sciences at the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine (Mesa, Ariz.). His book was released on December 18, “the same day that ’Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ opened in theaters,” he wrote. “It is only coincidence that the figure on the cover looks like the Death Star.”