Excavations and Modifications: 2021 Farris Family Innovation Awards

At left: Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay At right: Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

The Farris Family Innovation Awards support the research of tenure-track faculty members who are not yet tenured at Kent State and who have shown promising drive for their field of study.

In May 2021, Faculty Affairs announced the recipients of this year's Farris Family Innovation Awards: Michelle Bebber, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, and Elda Hegmann, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Materials Science Graduate Program. 

“Research is part of the core mission of Kent State,” Douglas Delahanty, interim vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs said. “The generous support from the Farris Family provides the necessary resources for our exceptional junior faculty to really hit the ground running with their research programs.”

A Site To Be Seen:

Dr. Michelle Bebber

In 1952, a local high schooler, David G. Mitten, unintentionally discovered archaic remains which overtime had naturally become hidden. Recognizing the significance of the undocumented archaeological site, Mitten turned over his findings to trained professionals who had the knowledge and expertise essential to preserving the ancient artifacts and continuing the excavation process. 

Buried a few feet underground were substantial amounts of  animal bones and man-made arrowheads; however, that was, quite literally, just scratching the surface. 

Nearly 70 years later, the Stow Rockshelter, located in Summit County, Ohio, is still under exploration by local archaeologists and history fanatics looking to uncover venerable moments frozen in time. 

Michelle Bebber, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, applied for the Farris Family Innovation award to fund her upcoming excavation project.

“We needed the financial support for this field project and it is of great educational value to the undergraduate and graduate students who get to apply their studies in a hands-on way,” Bebber said. “It’s a great opportunity to have such a historically significant site right in our back yard.”  

Artifacts found date back to nearly eight thousand years ago, but there is significant evidence to suggest that there is more to be found. 

“We plan to excavate vertically so we can find more that date back even further,” Bebber said. “It’s a slow process with lots of documentation, but it is always worth it when we discover evidence of people  from ten thousand years ago.” 

The project begins in August 2021 and has been approved for three years of continuing excavation.  

Brainstorming New Possibilities:

Elda Hegmann

On any given day, the average person’s heart beats 100,000 times, they take around 23,000 breaths and their brain processes over 6,000 thoughts. Needless to say, the areas of our bodies which control these automatic processes are vital to our health and survival. 

So, what happens when one of these organs ceases to function properly? 

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the average wait time for an organ transplant can range between three and five years and more than 100,000 people are currently on the wait list.

Elda Hegmann, Ph.D., in the Department of Biological Sciences (BSCI) and member of the Advanced Materials and Liquid Crystal Institute (AMLCI), is committed to the advancement of modern medicine with the use of 3-D printers. 

With the progress of her project “Biodegradable and Biocompatible Liquid Crystal Elastomers as Bio-links for 3-D Printable Tissues,” Hegmann works to develop prosthetic organs, not only to tackle the issues of accessibility and time, but also to improve biocompatibility.

“By using modified liquid crystal elastomers (LCE) within the 3-D ink, we can create organs that are similar to its original nature,” Hegmann said. "The ink could then be altered to accommodate the firmness and structure of each organ, thus, improving the efficiency of its function."

Learn more about the Department of Anthropology.

Learn more about the Materials Science Graduate Program.

POSTED: Monday, September 20, 2021 11:59 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 03:53 PM
Theresa Lovrak