Archives for January 2019

Al VanSickle: Sibling Rivalry Press


This past summer, I was able to work as an intern editor for Sibling Rivalry Press, a small poetry and fiction press in Little Rock, Arkansas. I am a creative writing major, and I’ve done my fair share of peer critiquing and editing for students, but this was the first time I would be put to the test by editing for adults in a professional environment. Though I was excited, I was also terrified that I wouldn’t be able to do the job justice.

Over the course of the summer, I edited for a few poets that I’ve been fans of for some time. The most worthwhile experience for me, however, was during the Kaleidoscope LGBT film and culture festival. At that festival, I got to help a new author debut their first collection as well as talk with many old and new customers for the press. It was awesome being able to talk to people about what they love and what they struggle with and give them book suggestions based off of that. At that same festival, I got to meet Randi Romo, author of Othered, and she talked a lot about how she has been an activist for the LGBT community for many years and how that’s impacted her as a queer writer. For her, writing was another form of activism, but it was also a way for her to confront all that she’s faced in a healthy way.

Talking with Romo and other authors throughout my internship about their experiences and their writing taught me about how writers write for different reasons. Romo writes for activism and as a way to confront her past obstacles. Allison Joseph, author of Corporal Muse, writes because she loves to write and capture the beauty of everyday things. Collin Kelley, Bryan Borland, Seth Pennington, Savannah Sipple, Allison Joseph, and Randi Romo all write poetry, but it is not the same poetry, and it is not for the same reasons that they write poetry. This experience has forced me to ask myself the question: why do I write poetry?

I started writing poetry when I was about 8 years old in the form of songs and for Christmas cards that I would give to my parents. I didn’t know that poetry could exist for poetry’s sake until I was a bit older, and I read Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. It wasn’t until high school that I was confronted with poetry that didn’t rhyme and wasn’t defined by meter. I had found my poetry then. Even so, it wasn’t until I started working with the press that I understood the goal I had with my poetry, conveniently set as the press motto: disturb and enrapture. I had found my goal. I wanted to write poetry that made people wince, maybe even cry, but also share it with everyone they know. I wanted to write poetry like Theresa Davis, who can have you laughing and crying all at once and for sure sharing it to all your facebook followers.

But I am not Theresa Davis, and a goal is not always the same as a purpose. I still work with the press today, and it’s been over a year since I started with them. The most impactful experience I’ve been given by working over all of that time with Sibling Rivalry Press has not been engaging with the writers, reading drafts of poetry, or even sharing my own work with the press by my side. It’s been the readers. With every event I have gotten to meet and shake hands with readers of poetry, new and old. The thing about poetry is that it’s intimate, and readers have all different reasons to read it. Some of them read to be angry, some for comfort, some because they don’t have the time for a full-length novel. It’s by meeting all of these readers that I’ve found my purpose in writing, which is simply sharing my stories.

I write to share a part of myself in the most beautiful way I know how. I write, not to work through anything, but to share that I’ve worked it through. I write to show others all the pieces of myself and what I find interesting and disturbing. I write to share what I am enraptured by in the hopes that I will enrapture others, and someone may have a moment of, “hey, me too.” I am grateful to Sibling Rivalry Press for giving me the amazing opportunity to find that in myself and to the Honors program for helping give me the time to dedicate toward that purpose.

Erica Smith: Optimization of Microfluidic Paper Analytical Devices to Detect Low Concentrations of Tetracycline in Agricultural Settings

This summer, I participated in Chemistry Undergraduate Research here at the University of Central Arkansas with Dr. Nathan Meredith. My project’s goal was to investigate new detection methods for pharmaceuticals present in agricultural runoff. By using microfluidic paper-based analytical devices, we developed a test that quantifies trace amounts of the antibiotic tetracycline in water samples. Tetracycline is commonly used in concentrated animal feeding operations, where overuse of antibiotics contributes to the issue of antimicrobial resistance, a significant problem affecting the overall human population today. This research engages environmental health science, which describes how environmental factors affect human health. I plan to use the results of my lab research in my Honors Capstone Project this fall.

I am very passionate about my research because the issue of antimicrobial resistance is not something we should overlook. It is imperative that we take preventative measures toward this dilemma before the rise of antibiotic resistant strains become irreversible. I enjoy the topic of my project because it incorporates my disciplinary background in chemistry as well as the science of biology. After completing my degree, I plan to attend pharmacy school. This research experience will benefit me practically in that I will have experience working in a research lab, which will also strengthen my marketability to pharmacy programs. While conducting primary and secondary research for my capstone project, I have been able to branch out into other science departments besides my own, providing important professional networking and relationships. I have enjoyed meeting new faculty and members of my community who are also passionate about fighting antimicrobial resistance. I hope to incorporate these people’s perspectives in my written capstone project as well.

The main purpose for investigating these new detection methods for antibiotics is to create a more simple approach so that the method we produces can be done in the field by someone without a science background. Current testing for pharmaceuticals in water sources is time consuming, expensive, and requires experienced users to complete. Our study is valuable in that our new method is quick and efficient, inexpensive, and will not require great amounts of scientific training or equipment to be done. Overall, the importance of my project stems from its ability to benefit all people, including both science professionals and laypersons as well as the overall human population. Chemists, biologists, and farmers or regulators will be able to monitor the emergence of antibiotics in local water sources over both time and location.

In the laboratory, we used microfluidic paper analytical devices to detect the presence of the antibiotic tetracycline. The devices are made of filter paper and printed wax designs. We designed the wax devices on a program, CorelDraw, and printed them using a Xerox Colorqube Solid Ink Printer, which uses wax instead of ink or toner. The devices were then melted on a hot plate so that the wax design fully permeated through the paper. These designs work well with solution testing because the wax acts as a barrier to contain the solutions. Some devices were used for what we call flow tests, while others were used for spot tests. Flow tests involve devices in the shape of a line, while spot tests involve circles. Testing proved that the spot test worked best. After a test was done, we analyzed the fluorescence of the reaction. Using a blacklight to activate fluorescence, we took a picture of the device we planned to analyze using a digital camera. We then uploaded the photo to be analyzed by ImageJ, an image processing program that allowed us to extract quantitative data from the image. We used this data to develop a calibration curve through Microsoft Excel.

My research has helped me to learn more about my field of study. As I delved deeper into new techniques and analysis of the data collected during the project, I found myself developing new skills that will potentially benefit me in pharmacy school and my future career. Future work in this project can make a real world difference in our fight against the rise of antibiotic resistance strains of bacteria because a greater level of awareness and understanding of this problem will lead to a greater effort to prevent the transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria to water sources and humans. I am thankful for this experience and that I was able to lay down the foundation for this project.

Brittany Fair: Hiking among the Hoodoos

I traveled to southern Utah during July 29th- August 5th as part of a Partners in the Parks program. Eleven honors students from around the country and two Southern Utah University (SUU) leaders met to “rough it” in Bryce Canyon National park. We camped in Cedar City at Three Peaks the first night. The second day we drove two hours to the park, set up camp, and hiked to the amphitheater rim. The view will forever be engraved in my memory. Neither words nor pictures do it justice. Bryce’s hoodoos, or spires of rock, develop after years of being chipped away by wind and weather. They are unusual and spectacular. At the end of each day, we told the group a rose, bud, and thorn. A rose was something you enjoyed, a bud something you looked forward to, and a thorn something that troubled you. That first view remained my true rose throughout the trip. On day three, artist Arlene Braithwaite inspired us to find a solitude location and use watercolor to paint a depiction of Bryce. I’m not ashamed to admit that a fourth grader could give me a run for my money in a painting contest. That afternoon included a beautiful, informative, and exhausting hike of Navajo Loop with Biologist Sam Wells from SUU. I already know I am out of shape, but hiking 8,000 feet above sea level is no joke! On the plus side, I can pick out some edible plants now and got great pictures. Sam also taught us about Utah’s native Ponderosa Pine and the effect of fire on the tree. The thick bark of older trees is relatively fire resistant and the base of a burnt pine puts off a vanilla fragrance. The fourth day marked the beginning of our backpacking adventure. We hiked with National Park Service employee Eric Vasquez to Riggs Spring Group Site in the back-country. As part of our service project, Eric asked us to recommend a better tent site at a campsite along the way. The original spot was beside a trail with high animal traffic. It was evident that a bear had been scratching on a tree about 10 feet away. Furthermore, the site was less than 20 feet from a lightning scarred tree. At our group site, Eric explained the negative effects of an invasive plant called Bull Thistle and provided us with tools to remove it. The rest of the afternoon was spent waiting on storms to pass and learning how to cook beans/rice and brownies on WhisperLite Stoves. Our excellent group leader Kelly Goonan taught us the importance of maintaining waste in the back-country. Bodily waste should be expelled about 200 feet from the campsite and any natural water source. You must dig a cat hole that is at least 4 inches deep, cover it up, and leave no paper behind. Before leaving the campsite, we searched for trash left behind by previous backpackers. Always leave a place better than you found it! Unfortunately, a campfire escaped several years ago at the site and killed much of the plant life in the area. It is actually against the rules to start a campfire in the back-country. We hiked back out the next morning. Once again, the high elevation gave me a reality check. It rained the rest of the day and we missed our scheduled astronomy program. The next highlight of my trip occurred on the sixth day. Moe the mule carried me several thousand feet to the bottom of the amphitheater. I’m very proud of Moe, but I’m not proud that he probably smelled better than I did. (Hey, don’t worry, I took my shower the next day at my hotel.) After the horseback ride, we traveled back to Cedar City and set up our tents for the last time. Before calling it a night we each shared our favorite part of the trip, what we would take away, and how we would share our experience with others. It was physically and mentally challenging. It rained each day. I did not shower all week. I developed blisters on my feet. I got much colder at night than I came prepared for. However, the number of thorns could not compare to the beauty of my roses. I gained knowledge about the outdoors. I’m more confident about hiking and backpacking. I developed friendships that I hope last a lifetime. It is a trip I will never forget. If you get the chance, take Dr. Allison Wallace’s National Parks seminar and then go hike among the hoodoos.