Past Suter Science Seminars


"War, What Is It Good For? A View from the Ancient Andes"

Dr. Elizabeth ArkushDr. Elizabeth Arkush
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropology
University of Virginia

“Warfare decimates societies around the globe, and it has done so for thousands of years. Anthropologists struggle to explain why people fight wars with such appalling frequency, particularly in cases where the decision to go to war rests with many or most members of society, rather than with a few leaders. Their explanations range from biology to power vacuums, from resource stress to particular cultural patterns. Here I explore the potential of multi-causal approaches for understanding warfare, using as a case study a time of widespread conflict in the pre-Columbian Andes in the centuries before the rise of the Inca Empire.”

"Narcolepsy: When REM Sleep Goes Bad"

Dr. Evan WengerDr. Evan Wenger, M.D.
EMU alum (major: biology)
Director, Augusta Medical Center Sleep Disorders Laboratory, Fishersville, Va.

“Sleep is not a monolithic state of being. Conditions such as narcolepsy provide a window into the organization of sleep. Narcolepsy results in debilitating excessive daytime sleepiness that inhibits daily activities especially ones requiring vigilance which include driving. Cataplexy, hypnagogic hallucinations, and sleep paralysis are other unusual symptoms that occur. Research is steadily uncovering the underlying pathology leading to narcolepsy. These advances also expand the understanding of how sleep is orchestrated, through various central nervous system processes. Effective treatment options are available, but more research is needed.”

"Journeys through Cambodia:
A Tour of Water Issues from Urban Sewers to Rural Ricefields

Dr. Douglas Graber NeufeldDr. Douglas Graber Neufeld
Associate Professor of Biology

“Cambodia is a country still recovering from decades of armed conflict, which has resulted in one of the lowest levels of development in Southeast Asia. Issues of water are central to many of the most pressing problems in Cambodia, including agriculture and health. This seminar takes a tour of some of the efforts being made to improve water quality and management, as seen through the eyes of an MCC development worker that helped Cambodian university staff and students on environmental issues. The tour includes projects on providing remote villages with safe drinking water, on preventing health problems from untreated Phnom Penh sewage, and on rehabilitating Pol Pot-era irrigation structures to increase agricultural production.”

"Beyond the Creation and Evolution Debate"

Dr. Denis O. LamoureuxDr. Denis O. Lamoureux
Assistant Professor of Science & Religion, St. Joseph's College, University of Alberta, Canada

“The simple either/or approach to origins inhibits everyone from making informed choices. If the limits of both conservative Christianity and evolutionary biology are respected, then their relationship is not only complementary, but also necessary. This view of origins is known as Evolutionary Creation. Concisely stated, it claims that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit created the universe and life through an ordained and sustained evolutionary process. This position fully embraces both the religious beliefs of conservative Christianity and the scientific theories of cosmological, geological and biological evolution. It contends that God ordains and sustains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of evolution. More specifically, evolution is 'teleological,' and features plan, purpose and promise. In particular, this view of origins asserts that humanity evolved from primate ancestors, and during this natural process the Image of God arose and sin entered the world. Evolutionary creationists experience God's presence and action in their lives. They contend that the Lord meets men and women in a personal relationship, which at times involves both dramatic and subtle miraculous signs and wonders.”

Co-Sponsored by Shenandoah Anabaptist Science Society

Respondents: Dr. Peter Dula, assistant professor of religion and culture, and Dr. Nancy Heisey, associate professor of Biblical studies and church history

"An ASSET for People and Nature in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kenya"

Dr. Shelly ThomasDr. Shelly Thomas
Assistant Professor of Biology, EMU

“For years Kenyan reserves were regarded as government property; neighboring communities had no say in management or benefits accrued from natural resources, resulting in great antagonism. The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest merges with Mida Creek to form an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Famous for its rare birds and mammals, this reserve attracts 4,000 tourists every year. Nevertheless, the cost of living drives families to overexploit it through illegal hunting, fishing, and logging. An international conservation organization, A Rocha Kenya (, designed a program called ASSETS that channels income accrued from sustainable eco-tourism to the nearby communities for school scholarships. ASSESTS currently supports 175 students from eight communities, which has contributed to a significant change of attitude toward the Reserve. This is an excellent model for conservation.”

"Cow Comfort, Pig Palaces and Chicken Coops:
Rethinking Mennonite Conceptions of Community as an Ecological Response

Dr. Darla SchummDr. Darla Schumm
Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Hollins University

“One way Mennonites have traditionally responded to the challenges of ecological crises is to employ a “simple life approach.” While simple living is a useful model for addressing ecological issues, I will argue that it is no longer a sufficient approach for Mennonites to utilize when addressing the ecological concerns of the twenty-first century. Rather, I will suggest that Mennonites should draw on another aspect of their heritage when constructing a response to current ecological crises: community. I examine Mennonite farming practices in rural Ontario which demonstrate the need for reconceptualizing definitions of community in light of the changes brought about by the shift from primarily substance farming to factory farming.”

"Beliefs and Physics: Some Lessons from the Ancient Greeks"

Dr. Robert C. NewmanDr. Robert C. Newman
Emeritus Professor of NT & Christian Evidences
Biblical Theological Seminary

“A brief sketch of ancient Greek physics from Thales to Aristotle reveals a strong interaction between metaphysical belief and the practice of physics. This interaction worked in both directions, as metaphysical views suggested (and inhibited) questions and approaches to the physical realm, and physical observations and experiments favored or disfavored various metaphysical views. Some lessons are suggested concerning how we should view current theories in modern physics.”

"The Smells of Invasion: Chemical Ecology of Invasive Insects in Hawaii"

Dr. Matthew SiderhurstDr. Matthew Siderhurst
Assistant Professor of Chemistry

“Global commerce and transportation have increased the regularity with which non-native insects are introduced into habitats and/or agricultural areas where they sometimes become serious pests. Damage, losses and control costs from these insects are estimated at $20 billion annually in addition to the displacement/destruction of native species. Hawaiian ecosystems have been particularly devastated by invasive species which are, “the single greatest threat to Hawaii's economy and natural environment and to the health and lifestyle of Hawaii's people”, according to the state legislature. My research over the last several years has focused on studying the chemical ecology of invasive insects in Hawaii with the aim of developing tools for invasion prevention, improved early detection of new invaders, tracking established invaders, and control strategies. Much of this work has dealt with several moth and fly species and the research has involved laboratory insect studies, organic chemistry and applied field ecology.”

"Spirituality and Health in a Therapeutic Culture: Theological Considerations and Concerns"

Dr. Keith MeadorDr. Keith G. Meador
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Co-Director, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University Medical Center
and Senior Fellow in Theology and Health, Duke Divinity School, N.C.

“Much attention has been given to the intersections of spirituality and health in recent years. The research and popular reports have frequently lacked theological considerations and implications of the current conversations. This seminar will examine these theological concerns and consider some possibilities for further developing the conversation.”

Co-Sponsored by Shenandoah Anabaptist Science Society

EMU Respondents: Dr. Beryl Brubaker, provost and professor of nursing, and Dr. Ted Grimsrud, associate professor of religion

"Heart and Soul: The Evolution of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Importance of Spirituality in Healing the Cardiac Patient"

Dr. Ingida AsfawDr. Ingida Asfaw, M.D.
Cardiovascular Surgeon at Sinai-Grace Hospital, Detroit, Mich.

In the past 30 years the field of cardiovascular medicine has undergone tremendous changes. As our knowledge of the human body and the cardiovascular system has evolved so have the roles of those physicians who are particularly concerned with the heart and its health. Technology has forever altered the way in which we think about the cardiovascular system and the way that it heals. However, one thing has remained constant—those with strong spiritual connections seem to recover from insults to their cardiovascular system more quickly.

"Disaster Impacts on African Agricultural Systems"

Dr. Laura PowersDr. Laura Powers
Agriculture & Food Security Advisor, Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, US Agency for International Development

“In most developing nations in Africa, cycles of drought and flooding contribute to poor agricultural productivity for subsistence farmers, making it hard for their families to weather any kind of concurrent crisis. Any changes to a normal rainy season (timing, insufficient or too much rain, etc.) can lead to a total crop loss, or to a much reduced harvest, forcing families to liquidate assets in order to purchase food to survive. Ongoing conflict can also lead to a depletion of assets, particularly if families are forced to flee their villages without their possessions. Agricultural tools, stored seed and grains, livestock, and even unharvested crops can be lost to looting or intentional destruction. As population size continues to increase in many of these countries, and landholdings get smaller, the pressure on natural resources continues to grow. Emergency food needs are increasing, conflict over resources is becoming more common, and the international community is thus faced with challenges related to preventing nutritional and economic crises before chronic food insecurity becomes acute. In the agricultural sector, the main challenge is to provide emergency relief that can lead to sustainable improvements in productivity without exacerbating conflict or encouraging dependency on foreign aid.”

"Do Turkeys Really Get Whooping Cough?"

Dr. Louise TempleDr. Louise Temple
Associate Professor of Biology, James Madison University

Bordetella avium is found widely in wild bird populations, but interest in this bacterium is generated largely from the disease it causes in commercially grown turkeys. For nearly 15 years, the Temple lab, with collaborators at Drew University, NC State Veterinary School, and Cambridge University, have studied how this bacterium causes the disease, which occurs in the respiratory tract and resembles whooping cough in humans. We have learned a lot about how the bacterium attaches to ciliated cells of the trachea, and we are starting to explore its toxic effects. Most of the work has been accomplished by undergraduate researchers.”

For more information, contact Cheryl Doss at (540) 432-4400.

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