Penn State Berks faculty share research with trustees

Penn State Berks faculty member Azar Eslam Panah, center, works with electro-mechanical engineering technology students Kenneth Minton, left, and Marc Ludwig to build the Penn State Berks Fluid Discovery Lab. 

Credit: Theo Anderson

READING, Pa. -- Azar Eslam Panah, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State Berks, engages in research that focuses on the physics of flows using a range of experimental techniques. Her research requires specific technology and equipment, and Eslam Panah wanted to build a fluid dynamics lab on campus that could involve undergraduates in her work. 

In a little over a year, by working with students, an architect and a builder, construction of the lab was completed, and the Berks lab is currently the only open access fluid dynamics lab at Penn State. The lab includes a water channel facility — essentially a wind tunnel with water — designed and constructed with the assistance of engineering students. The lab is also equipped with a particle image velocimetry system and automated dye injectors for flow visualization. 

Eslam Panah, a member of the Engineering, Business and Computing division, was part of a handful of Penn State Berks faculty members who had an opportunity to present their research during the University’s Board of Trustees meeting at the campus July 19-20. One faculty member from each academic division discussed research they conduct with undergraduate students and how it benefits the local community. 

From the Science division, Allison Singles, assistant professor of kinesiology and mechanical engineering, spoke about studying the effects of physical activity on the bone and joint health of youth and the elderly through the use of biomechanics. The ultimate goal of her research is to prevent injury and disease. Singles works with several Berks research assistants, including one who wrote a thesis on osteoporosis in post-menopausal Hispanic women. The research found that low physical activity levels correlate to low nutrition levels and low socioeconomic status. Singles plans to compare these findings with data from other ethnic groups to determine if these same risk factors apply. 

Kesha Morant Williams, associate professor of communication arts and sciences, represented the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences division. Morant Williams, whose research focuses on health communication, worked with students in hersocial change communication course to develop a series of informational videos for Penn State Health St. Joseph. Working in conjunction with the campus’ Center for Service Learning and Community-Based Research, Williams and her students produced three videos promoting the health network’s innovative services, welcoming culture and mission of community service. The health network plans to use the videos during recruitment and training of new employees and for public viewing.  
“All of this is happening here at Penn State Berks because of the talented people who work here and also because of the community engagement and partnerships that we value and appreciate, and which serve our students so very well,” said Penn State Berks Chancellor R. Keith Hillkirk. Hillkirk also provided highlights to the Trustees of the 60-year history of the Berks campus during a separate presentation.