Faculty Research Interests


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Chelsea Abbas

My general research interests lie in border studies, migration and the anthropology of conflict and violence in the Central American context. Within the U.S., my work focuses on issues central to Latino communities and advocacy, such as Latino representation in mainstream media, immigrant rights, language and education. Most recently, my dissertation work examines the dynamics of an international border dispute between Costa Rica/Nicaragua and how this conflict affects the lives of local villagers in the region. Over the course of summer 2018 & 2019, I will be traveling to Nicaragua on a Fulbright grant to teach and help develop an interdisciplinary research agenda on migration in Central America at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua.

Bretton Alvare

I am an ethnographer whose research focuses on Afro-Caribbean worldviews and faith-based political participation in the Anglophone Caribbean. I have been conducting fieldwork with grassroots, faith-based NGOs in Trinidad and Tobago since 2005. I am also interested in studying urban issues related to institutional racism, and I'm currently collaborating with a local community partner on an ethnographic study of the barriers to academic success facing students at Chester High School.

Harry Augensen

My research interests include galactic structure, planetary nebulae, and late stages in stellar evolution. I have carried out astronomical research at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona, at the Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics at the NASA-Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and at the Sproul Observatory in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Most recently I have worked on the monitoring of suspected variable stars. Widener University is a member of the National Undergraduate Research Observatory (NURO), which operates a 31-inch telescope on the Anderson Mesa outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Luke Ayers

“Mens sana in corpore sano – to have a sound mind in a sound body”

As a behavioral neuroscientist, I try to understand the relationships between behavior, physiological processes of the body, and mental states. My work specifically focuses on the topics of fear, anxiety, stress, hunger, and habit-like behavior. I also have expertise in principles of learning & memory, psychopharmacology, hormonal control of behavior, and the neurobiology of addiction and compulsive behavior.

My research has two primary areas of focus. In humans, I study how states of hunger influence our food preferences and eating habits. I also work in animal-models of fear/anxiety behavior to develop novel treatments for anxiety-related conditions, such as PTSD.

I also truly value the opportunity to mentor students who are interested in research. All of my projects involve undergraduate research assistants, who gain first-hand experience in designing, implementing, and conducting empirical research experiments.

Jeremy Backstrom

My primary research interests are in the fields of international relations and comparative politics, which focus broadly on three concepts- political violence, state repression and human rights, and authoritarian political institutions. I am particularly interested in disaggregating concepts and processes regarding political violence in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the causal mechanisms and dynamics that influence decision-making in different institutional contexts. More specifically, I seek to understand the actions and behaviors of non-state and state actors, determining the conditions and factors that contribute to the outbreak of dissent, terrorism, and civil conflict as well as methods to deter and quell these forms of political violence.

Paul Baker

Paul T. Baker

Assistant Professor of Physics

My research interests include gravitational wave data analysis, Bayesian statistical techniques, astrophysics, astrostatistics, and general relativity.

Loyd D. Bastin

My research with Widener undergraduate students focuses on the development of greener syntheses of pharmaceuticals. Currently we are working on the greener synthesis of isoxazole derivatives, which serve as building blocks for pharmaceuticals used as anticonvulsants, antiepileptics, and antimicrobials. To 'green' the synthetic process, we aim to reduce waste and to find alternative chemicals to use as reagents to replace those that are corrosive, toxic, volatile, and sometimes carcinogenic.

Rachel Batch

My research interests are immigrants, workers, and working-class cultures in the 20th century U.S. It was as an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University when I learned the value of social history ("history from the bottom up"), the importance of cultural identity, and became fascinated by the histories of immigrants and labor. I focused on both fields in my graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania, and my dissertation took up industrial relations in the coal mining industry, welfare capitalism, and migrations of southern and eastern European immigrants to a 'model' town in western Pennsylvania in Finding Stability in a Company Town: A Community Study of Slickville, Pennsylvania1916-1943

My current research focuses on Croatian Americans during the Great Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War, and just how they used transnational networks to conjure ethnic and class-based activism for economic justice at home (in the U.S.) and for political freedom abroad (in the former Yugoslavia).

Tom Benedetti

Thomas K. Benedetti

Associate Professor of Italian and Spanish

My research interests include mythological theater of 16th and 17th centuries in Spain and Italy, missionary theater, theater of colonization, meta-theater, Italian cinema, time and space in theater and cinema, and Spanish Golden Age literature.

Krishna Bhat

My research interests are to develop new greener synthetic routes to pharmaceutically relevant organic molecules and study their thermodynamic properties. Current efforts are focused on resveratrol and boronic acid derivatives.

Nancy Blank

My research interests include the impact of experiential (e.g. service-learning, diversity) learning on university student outcomes, the development and assessment of literacy programs for youthful offenders, and mental health among justice-involved female youth.

Kevin Boyer

My research interests include the pathology of bacteria, diagnostic bacteriology, pathology of protozoan parasites, electron and light microscopy, and human anatoMy and physiology.

Mark Bradley

My research interests include a wide range of topics in inorganic and organometallic chemistry. For several years, I have been investigating inorganic compounds such as amine-boranes for their ability to store and deliver hydrogen for use in fuel-cell powered automobiles.

I have also published work involving the synthesis of boranes and carboranes in ionic liquids and the production by chemical vapor deposition of boron nitride nanotubes from borazine. These projects stem from my interest in inorganic materials with unusual chemical and physical properties.

Marc Brodkin

My research interest is focused on the molecular and genetic mechanisms of the inflammatory response in the amphibian Rana pipiens and the effect of environmental pollutants on the innate immune response.

Annalisa Castaldo

My current research interest is how magic was performed on the early modern stage and how magic interacts with gender norms. I also enjoy the work of editing editions of early modern plays.

Michael Cocchiarale

I have two main research interests: sports literature and flash fiction. I am interested in how fiction writers and poets use sports to explore issues of identity, gender, race, class, psychology, competition, and civic pride. More recently, I've become interested in flash fictions extremely short narratives typically less than 1,000 words.

Luke D. Cooper

My research pertains to the assessment of personality and psychopathology; particularly, the assessment and structure of personality, and the concept, classification, and diagnosis of mental disorders. More recently, I have become interested in the personality characteristics of psychological health and human flourishing, and in the public's use and understanding of online personality tests.

Angela M. Corbo

Angela M. Corbo

Chair of Communication Studies

An active and ongoing research agenda perpetuates knowledge that is meaningful to society and memorable to students in the classroom. My research focuses on communication pedagogy, ethical journalistic reporting in cases of suicide, emotional intelligence, gendered communication, and interactive interdisciplinary research. The topics of research are connected by interpersonal communication theories and application.

David J. Coughlin

I examine muscle function during locomotion and feeding. Employing fish as model species, my students and I use integrated research approaches, from whole animal performance to tissue function to gene expression. Currently, my lab is focused on how a small, coastal fish, the rainbow smelt, is able to swim and feed during the extreme cold of the North Atlantic winter.