Category Archives: service

Karl Feld’s Radio Interview

Third-year CRDMer, Karl Feld was invited to do a radio interview by The Measure of Everyday Life on conducting opinion research in challenging situations around the world. It was titled: “Challenging Environments and Global Opinion Research.

You can find Karl’s professional profile at:  

Leave a comment

Filed under partnerships, professional development, service, Uncategorized

NCSU Libraries Makerspace Offers CRDM Graduate Research Assistantship

jessica_aIf you hadn’t known, Jesscia Handloff, a second-year student in our program, is this year’s CRDM graduate research assistant for the NCSU Libraries Makerspace. Continuing the Makerspace program that was first launched in 2013 with the opening of Hunt Library, the D. H. Hill Library opened its own Makerspace this past June. According to Chris Tonelli, Director of Communication Strategy of the NCSU libraries, “[i]n this space, the Libraries continues to focus on 3D printing and scanning, laser cutting, and electronics prototyping, while adding new tools such as sewing and soldering and emphasizing hands-on access.”

Jessica has been working with the space since the beginning of this past summer and has helped develop and deliver presentations and workshops, etc. She has received high praise from Adam Rogers, Emerging Technology Services Librarian, “Jessica has already established herself as a crucial member of the D.H. Hill Makerspace team. She has enriched the Makerspace with excellently designed learning resources, supported students and faculty in learning the processes and tools of making in innovative ways, and identified great opportunities for collaboration with her CRDM cohort and its faculty.” Those of us in CRD704 can attest to her excellent work on introducing us to the Makerspace and facilitating our collaborative projects as well as pushing us to reflect more on the concept of critical making.

Jessica is the first recipient of this assistantship. She has a Master’s degree in Anthropology from East Carolina University and is a former U.S. Army Captain. Her research focuses on media technologies, Kittler, and war.


Leave a comment

Filed under awards and honors, professional development, Research, service

Week 3 with IGERT in Peru- Iquitos, Peru

Editor’s note: Over the past few weeks we’ve followed first year CRDM student Molly Storment’s experiences in Peru. Please also see her original post here:

This final post is coming a bit late due to my high level of frustration with Iquitos’ Internet (or lack thereof). We continued in our last week finalizing our mosquito larvae experiment (results are still being processed), enjoying two free days for the Peruvian independance celebration, and planning and executing individual student projects.

On our free day on Sunday, we went as a large group to a nearby butterfly farm and animal orphanage. This farm was owned and managed by a very interesting and eccentric woman originally from Austria. While looking at the butterflies and animals in her care, this woman told us that she often gets “rescue” animals from people whom she described as “stupid people” who buy monkeys or other animals in the market, then bring them to her, saying they “rescued” them. She said, with a heightened inflection in her voice, that her response to them is, “No you didn’t [rescue them], you encouraged [the sellers] to kill the mother for the babies.” She continued, in a mocking tone, that these people’s responses are “Why did you say that? My heart told me to do it.” Then she said “I say, think with your brain.” She spent some time during our tour talking about the political nature of her work. She said she can be fined 50 soles (about 20 US dollars) for each animal she releases without permission from the government. She said she once applied to release two boas, never heard back from Lima, so she “took no answer as a positive” and released the snakes. Later, she says, government officials came to see the snakes and fined her for their release.Butterfly farm

This experience at the butterfly farm was the first direct experience with human-animal and human-nature relationships in Peru. What was most interesting to me was hearing about the politics and economics of animal releases on this island, and seeing the reactions of others to her presentation about the animals. For example, when she showed us to a cage of small monkeys that she said are known to climb into hummingbird nests and bite the heads off the young, Fred exlaimed, “They’re too cute to do that!” (Personally, I thought they looked completely guilty of such things, since they looked like rats.) I think the emotional connections we have with these animals strongly affects the way we think about these animals and what we consider ethical or unethical to do to them (e.g. Is it appropriate or ethical to genetically modify a mosquito? A rat? Any other animals? Is genetic modification any different from controlled breeding practices?). I was also surprised and interested to hear that she has trouble getting Peruvians interested in butterflies. She said that US Americans have all read The Very Hungry Caterpillar and are more familiar with butterfly ecology than Peruvians. The Peruvian understanding of insect ecology could strongly affect the reception of transgenic mosquitoes!

Getting back to work during the rest of the week, we continued to count larvae and finalize our experiment, and we were also given one day to focus on a project of our own initiative. After visiting the health clinics in week 2, I was interested in looking further into the health system in Iquitos. Gaby (one of the Peruvian students working with us, who also works with Amy Morrison and NAMRU) helped me coordinate my project. We decided to shadow a NAMRU physician, Dr. Isabel, as she visited patient homes who were suspected to have (or were positive for) dengue. These patients were being watched by a NAMRU physician because they were part of Amy Morrison’s current cohort study, where she monitored movement of people and dengue outbreaks in the cohort. We visited three different homes, all within close range of each other, and Gaby graciously served as my translator. In the first home, the dengue patient was not home, but the mother asked Dr. Isabel to look at her son, who she also suspected to have dengue. The mother seemed concerned because so many surrounding homes had dengue. In the second home, a young woman had tested positive for dengue. She explained that her symptoms had gotten so bad a few days earlier that she went to the hospital, where they treated her for a urinary tract infection. I was surprised to hear this error on part of the hospital, because this woman had already tested positive for dengue. Dr. Isabel also seemed surprised at this, and told her patient to not continue treatment for the UT infection, and that this is a common mis-diagnosis with people who have dengue. Dr. Isabel also talked to this young woman’s sister breifly, as her mother was concerned she also had dengue; Dr. Isabel decided this was not likely a case since she had not had a fever. Just before leaving, the mother of these two women asked Dr. Isabel if she had a way of performing a procedure to improve her vision. After this last interaction, I wondered if some of these patients participated in Dr. Morrison’s project in order to receive healthcare. (And understandably so, after visiting the clinics in week 2.)

Later in the evening, Dr. Morrison gave a lecture on issues of consent in minimal risk studies (she considers her movement project to be minimal risk). There was much discussion about giving incentives in these research projects – do people participate just for the incentive? In a place where healthcare can be hard to come by, is the guaruntee of healthcare too much of an incentive? What is the ethical responsibility of scientists in these situations? The issue of the UT infection misdiagnosis brought me back to another issue – is dengue “legitimate” in the Iquitos health system? What happens rhetorically to give malaria a seemingly higher status over dengue?

1 Comment

Filed under Research, service

Week 2 with IGERT in Peru – Iquitos, Peru

Editor’s note: We’ve been following first year CRDM student Molly Storment’s experiences in Peru. Please also see her original post here:

This has been an interesting first week in Iquitos. We have begun working in collaboration with Dr. Amy Morrison (UC Davis) who has been in Iquitos studying dengue and Aedes aegypti for 14 years. We were joined in Iquitos by four Peruvian students, three from Lima or surrounding areas, one from Iquitos. There has been some very interesting bilingual communication happening in our activities. I’m very glad their English is much better than my Spanish! I learned some very important differences between “muerta de hambre” and “muerta de hombre,” as well as “café pasado” and “café pescado.” Use Google translate for some nice humor.

Friday, Fred honored me with the “award” (an IOU for a pisco sour) of most improved mosquito larvae counter! But there’s lots of room for improvement when the starting point is pitiful; little do my colleagues know that was my strategy all along. 😉 We have begun an experiment involving breeding mosquitos in six different local homes. Amy’s team placed buckets in these homes 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 week before we arrived, and we placed differing amounts of aegypti larvae in each of these buckets on Wednesday (7/25). Very simply put, our question is how much detritus is needed to maximize aegypti larvae growth, and what amount of larvae is needed to maximize growth? (The idea is that they will not reach adulthood before the experiments ends, so there is no risk of infecting these homes with aegypti. We have kept netting over the buckets to keep the level of detritus under control, and to keep any potential adults from getting out.) The participant homes have been very generous in letting us in their homes every other day for about 1 hour at a time to count larvae. In our evening discussions, Amy has told us that many people in Iquitos are more than generous in allowing her team in their homes in an effort to control dengue (but not all, as I witnessed myself!).

Between larvae counts, we made visits to two health clinics, one urban clinic in Iquitos, the other on a nearby island in the small community of Padre Coche. I was surprised to see that the bigger concerns in both of these clinics seem to be pregnancies, and in the case of the urban clinic, deliveries. In Padre Coche, the doctors we spoke with said that they do not have a problem with dengue fever, but rather malaria. It was a humbling experience to see that each of these clinics only owned one microsope, and the rural clinic had been out of electricity since December. The doctors in the rural clinic also described to us their intense efforts to keep malaria under control in their community, sometimes involving up to three hours of walking in an outbreak.

In Iquitos, our evenings have been spent listening to lectures on topics like mosqito ecology and dengue epidemiology, but often these lectures spin out into interesting conversations on the social factors related to the disease transmission and the nature of research in Iquitos. Dr. Amy Morrison along with Dr. Tom Scott (UC Davis) is doing some very interesting research on the movement of people in Iquitos and its influence on the transmission of the dengue virus. This work raises questions of how occupation, lifestyle, and possibly gender roles affect dengue transmission. Some of Amy’s work has also shown that most aegypti are born and die in the same home. (Disclaimer: I am not certain how conclusive she is on this research.) This, however, also raises questions of what is a “home.” Based on my very un-empirical observations, residents of Iquitos have a more communal lifestyle than US Americans, where one families’ “home” could extend past the confines of one structure (and even “structure” is loosely defined here). We have also had intense discussion on how to characterize diseases like dengue and malaria – are they diseases of the “poor,” a “rural” (in the case of malaria) or “urban” disease? I have observed in some of my colleagues some frustration in the difficulty in choosing words to characterize disease and the populations they affect; this was an interesting cross-disciplinary learning experience for me, as I was never shaken by these conversations, but rather felt they were very productive. But the problem that bothered the others still remains – do we settle for language that is “good enough,” or is it possible to find a truely productive and effective means of communicating about this disease to each other and to the affected publics? I think we could certainly improve the situation in Iquitos and with the World Health Organization – Amy hopes to use her research to improve health policy decisions in organizations like the WHO, where, as she told me, they promote strategies to control mosquitoes that they know don’t work (for example, some forms of insecticide spraying), but “it keeps the media off the WHO’s back.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Research, service

Journey into the land of… high schoolers!

This year, CRDM’s Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Student Chapter is undertaking a variety of outreach projects to increase awareness of rhetoric in our community. As a part of this project, this week, Ashley R. Kelly and I (Meagan Kittle Autry) volunteered at a local high school, Broughton, to speak to International Baccalaureate (IB) program twelfth grade students in a Theory of Knowledge class. The class was just finishing up their semester, so now was the perfect time for us to come in to introduce another way of looking at knowledge (and perhaps to encourage them to think about studying rhetoric as they set off for college in the fall!). We taught two separate classes, one each day, and let me tell you – teaching high school is exhausting! Each class had 40 students, and we were outside in a portable, a fairly small space for that number of students. For both of us, this was our first experience in a U.S. high school, though overall, it wasn’t that much different from our experience in Canada.

We covered basic concepts of rhetoric (what is it? where does it come from? how do we talk about it?) before moving on to a topic that they had covered in the semester: science. They had covered concepts of knowledge in science, so by bringing in the perspective of rhetoric of science, we connected to some ideas they had covered but also challenged them to think about science in new ways. We talked about expert and inexpert audiences, adapting arguments based on the different audiences, and the importance of science for the general public and for themselves as individuals. We based a lot of the discussion on our research into nuclear energy in both a local setting (with the Duke-Progress merger) and on a global scale (with the accident at Fukushima last March and Germany’s reaction to the disaster). The students were bright, talkative, and engaged – and sure knew way more about nuclear energy than I did in high school!

All in all, filling a 100 minute class to engage 40 adolescents the whole time was a challenging experience. But we left encouraged that the students were so engaged, and their teacher indicated that afterword, they expressed interest in the work we are doing and the CRDM program – they thought it was all pretty cool. Taking on this outreach opportunity was a really great experience, and we can’t wait to hear what other CRDMers are doing for it, too!

Originally posted on my blog, Meg’s Road to PhD.

Leave a comment

Filed under service, Uncategorized

Grad Students, Sledgehammers, and Deconstruction That Doesn’t Involve Derrida (for Once)

This week marked NC State’s Graduate Education Week, full of events like the Graduate Student Research Symposium on Monday and the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards on Thursday. Early Saturday morning, at the crack of 41 degrees, CRDMers pitched in to help with the Graduate Students’ Day of Service coordinated by the Wake County Habitat for Humanity Chapter.

No, I said Habitat for Humanity. Humanity.

The Wake County Habitat for Humanity ReStore Trailer o' Tools (it's Irish).

Much better. More than 32 students from at least a dozen different programs turned out to lend a hand at the deconstruction site. The house was already stripped down to the basement and a first floor, so we split into two groups: one to process the nails out of the boards in the back so they could be reused or sold, and one to pry up the existing floorboards while not falling through or off.

Grad students apply a mixed methodology of de-nailing boards that's part pneumatic nail gun, part OH GOD WHO GAVE A KNOWLEDGE WORKER A NAIL GUN!?

Habitat is one of my favorite volunteer opportunities so I was really excited to see it picked as this year’s Day of Service. Added bonus: the job site was a deconstruction job, so instead of a series of careful measurements and methodical detail work that go into building a house, we got to go HULK SMASH on hardwood floors and a hanging duct system. Double added bonus: I got to do a full day’s worth of deconstruction with nary a mention of Derrida. Instead, LUMBER! HAMMERS! PANERA BAGELS! HELPING PEOPLE!

What grad students lack in "right tool for the job" they more than make up for in enthusiasm.

The Habitat for Humanity ReStore runs deconstruction projects like this one throughout the year. According to their website,

From partial to full-scale projects that remove all building debris down to the foundation, Habitat offers competitively-priced deconstruction services as an alternative to traditional demolition. The donated house is a tax-deductible contribution.

Check out upcoming opportunities for your chance to help out. Take it from me–there’s nothing quite like a good demolition job to release the stresses that build up in grad school. “What’s that? My article manuscript had too many split infinitives? I’ll split YOUR infinitives! Take that, revise-and-resubmit-notification-that-I-projected-onto-a-rotting-crossbeam!”

Leave a comment

Filed under service