WSU senior Bana Kabalan represents art and science in her everyday life

Bana Kabalan has been a part of ecological research and art exhibitions throughout Michigan for several years. The Wayne State University biology student discovered her passion for science and art while in high school at the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills.

While at WSU, she has merged these interests, working to use both sides of the brain and continue to challenge herself.

“Connecting biology and art makes for a meaningful symbiotic relationship that makes sense to me,” Kabalan said.
Even beyond the classroom, Kabalan puts her passions to work. She works at Recycle Here! in Detroit, where she helps educate community members about recycling and spends much of her time using recycled materials in her artwork. She recently collaborated with other Detroit artists to create a float for The Marche du Nain Rouge with the help of Recycle Here! Her art was also featured at the Detroit Institute of Arts, with an interactive ofrenda for its Dia De Los Muertos exhibit.
Kabalan came to Wayne State knowing that she wanted to study biology, but initially planned on entering a pre-med program. It was not until she took a class with biology Associate Professor Chris Steiner that she fell in love with ecology and looked for ways to expand her interest outside of the classroom. With the help of Steiner, she found a research option with Kellogg Biological Station. Kabalan worked with graduate student Mitra Asgari researching and observing cannibalistic aquatic insects notonecta.
“Combining art and biology helps me so much, because it helps keep me creative,” Kabalan said. “I have definitely used creative problem-solving skills that I have learned from practicing art throughout my time doing research and in my biology classes.”
Kabalan is also a mentor for Wayne State’s Gaining Options Girl Investigate Real Life program (GO-GIRL), where she encourages middle school girls to pursue STEM related careers.
“There have been times that I have been challenged by my peers in my undergraduate experience. I wish I would’ve had extra encouragement to pursue the sciences, so being able to mentor seventh grade girls is so fulfilling,” she said.
Kabalan provides tours of WSU’s science labs and facilities to GO-GIRL students. With the help of Kabalan and other mentors, the middle school students were able to make an informative application for a smartphone exploring the life of an anthropologist.
This summer, Kabalan will be a research assistant for 30-year-old study. It will involve studying jack pine trees through Dan Kashian’s research lab with WSU master student Julia Sosin.
“Wayne State has given me the opportunity to really find my niche and discover new interests,” Kabalan said.

Organic chemistry alumni Osama Musa is now a leader in innovative chemistry practices

When Osama Musa was in the first grade, he fell in love with science and math. Because of his interest and the encouragement he received from teachers, he kept seeking knowledge. By the age of 16, he knew that he wanted to be a chemist. He majored in organic chemistry during his undergraduate career and completed a masters in chemistry before coming to Wayne State University for his Ph.D. Musa is a passionate chemist who now encourages young scientists across the world to engage in innovative practices. He is a member of the Board of Advisors in Manhattan College’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as vice president and chief technology officer at Ashland Inc.
“Wayne State’s organic chemistry program is one of a kind, and really allowed me to advance my knowledge and open new opportunities,” Musa said.
After earning his Ph.D., Musa spent a year as a postdoctoral research assistant at WSU. During this time he was also a teaching assistant and received multiple awards for his work. Musa was then given the opportunity to be a project supervisor. He took the position after his research at WSU was over, and his innovative practices and passion in organic chemistry ultimately allowed him to hold multiple leadership roles in the world of science.
“Wayne State gave me excellent leadership skills and a great work ethic,” he said. “People asked me where I learned everything; I obtained all this knowledge during my time at Wayne State”
Musa now gives leadership talks to universities and research facilities throughout the world. He is passionate about sharing skills with others to help them become inspiring leaders. He advises current Wayne State students to strive to learn more about their disciplines and areas of interest, reach out to peers and professors, and seek knowledge and new experiences. Beyond the lab, Musa enjoys traveling the world and has had the opportunity to collaborate with scientists abroad.
“The leadership skills and collaboration among professors at Wayne State made me confident. The encouragement I received from my peers and professors made it possible for me to strive to always be the best I can be,” he said.

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Science Hall greenhouse is the home of Biodiversity Network

On top of Wayne State’s Science Hall is a greenhouse that had not been used for about 10 years. That greenhouse is now home to the Biodiversity Network. The new student organization has reclaimed the space as a spot for urban ecologists, gardening enthusiasts, and those curious about food systems and starting a garden. Here, students are able to help grow vegetables, herbs, native plants — and new relationships.
The Biodiversity Network was created by undergraduate biochemistry student Stathis Pauls and urban planning graduate students Adam Pruitt and Natalie Lyons. Michelle Serryn, the lab coordinator for the biology department, is the faculty member involved in the Biodiversity Network. With the collaboration of Pruitt and Serryn, the greenhouse was transformed into the new space for the Biodiversity Network,
“Really, we want the space to be a place for people to collaborate and share their knowledge and passions,” said Pruitt while cleaning out a tank that will soon be the home for mantids.
The greenhouse is bustling with life. Members of the organization mix soil, plant transplants, help raise mantids and honey bees, and grow food. “Our hope in creating the Biodiversity Network was that people throughout campus and the Detroit community would be able to come together to learn about organic urban gardening and food systems,” said Pauls.
The group has already successfully started growing herbs and vegetables in the greenhouse.
“Once all our transplants are ready, we will move them to Warrior Garden, then the food we grow will be shared with the student organizations such as Students Feeding Students and the Wayne State food pantry.” said Lyons.
Written by CLAS communications associate Christiana Castillo 

WSU alumna Leah Ellenberg’s passion for neuropsychology has taken her from research to application

WSU alumna Leah Ellenberg’s passion for neuropsychology has taken her from research to application.

Dr. Leah Ellenberg is a leader in the field of pediatric neuropsychology. Her passion for psychology started at Wayne State and has led her to a dynamic career in neuropsychology, a field that examines the relationship between the brain and behavior. Ellenberg serves as an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, leads her own private practice in neuropsychology, and is actively involved in research on adult survivors of childhood brain tumors.

Ellenberg’s passion for neuropsychology started in 1969, when she took her first psychology class with Professor Melvin Schwartz. Her brother, Dr. Maury Ellenberg — who is also a Wayne State alum — suggested the class to her.

“Mel Schwartz’s class is what got me excited about psychology. He was great at explaining psychology in an incredibly scientific and innovative way. It sparked my interest to major in psychology.”

Dr. Ellenberg moved to California for her psychology internship at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Her expertise in pediatric neuropsychology gave her the opportunity to officially join the staff at Children’s Hospital LA after she completed her dissertation research at Caltech.

“I was part of the Psychosocial Program in the pision of Hematology-Oncology, providing services and doing research with kids with cancer. I was the only one in the group with training in neuropsychology, thanks to WSU, so I naturally was put in charge of the program for kids with brain tumors.”

Ellenberg maintains her interest in this patient group, and recently became part of the Childhood Cancer Survivors Study, which looks at what happens to survivors of various forms of childhood cancer.

Shortly after, she began her private practice in clinical neuropsychology, specializing in pediatrics. Over the years, she brought on four associates to work with her. Ellenberg is continuing her research in an article titled “Adult Neurobehavioral Late Effects of Pediatric Low Grade Brain Tumors,” which is expected to be ready for publication later this year. Ellenberg is also an associate clinical professor at UCLA, where she teaches graduate-level students and mentors neuropsychology students who are completing internships.

When she’s not in the classroom, office or lab, Ellenberg spends time traveling abroad. She has gone to Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Some of her favorite trips have been with Operation Smile, where she serves as a volunteer psychologist for children in third world countries undergoing surgery for facial deformities, such as cleft lip and palate.

Ellenberg spent the first two years of her undergraduate education at Wayne State. From there, she transferred to the University of Michigan, where she majored in psychology. After obtaining her BA from U of M, Ellenberg decided to come back to WSU for graduate school in 1972 and received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1978.

“Wayne State was fabulous in psychology. It was very innovative and still is.”

Ellenberg spent time at Wayne State studying at the different libraries on campus to research neuropsychology and picking the brains of psychology professors to gain more information. She had several externships in the area at child guidance clinics and the Allen Park VA. “The Wayne State faculty was excellent. They were passionate about what they did and cared about their students. Every psychology professor I had throughout my time at Wayne State I felt I could talk to, was interested in me and respected me.

“There is a lot to gain from Wayne State University’s open atmosphere. There are endless ways to learn, and being open to new ways to learn and new relationships is so important.”

Written by CLAS Communications Associate Christiana Castillo

Freedom House

March 22, 2017.

There has been a terrorist attack in France. There has been a bombing in Istanbul that left 23 people dead. The world is in a tragic and heart breaking place, all over. Today I want to share some good news, some chances for positivity and great change.


Freedom House, which is located in SouthWest Detroit Michigan recently had their funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development cut off, but as of today, March 22, 2017 it has been restored! If you are not familiar with Freedom House, FH exists to give asylum seekers a safe place. They help those who were in persecution gain access to psychological and physical care, they help provide food, career building opportunities, and English language learning courses.

Freedom House gained $329,943 from donations and events put on by community members that realize how essential their existence is for new beginnings for asylum seekers. Here is a link to help understand the urgency needed to continue donations is

Freedom House will use its extra funds to ensure even more resources and possible staff members to their community.

Transgender Communities

During the first two months of 2017 there have been seven reported killings within the transgender community. Two of these deaths occurred within 48 hours of each other during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. One death is one death too many, and the oppression of the transgender community needs to be a spotlight in our current society. With Trump’s administration making significant steps backwards for the rights and human security of the trans community, I feel that it is crucial to stress the importance of empathy for all people, especially the trans community. Most of the deaths that have occurred have been transpeople of color. I have heard comments that express the trans community as being attention seekers. Here is a short video explaining the Hijra, an ancient type of trans/third gender culture in India. The Hijra takes it’s influences from the Hindu goddess Bachuchara Mata. A goddess that was honored and considered Hijra. When India was colonized, Hijra people became outcasts. I bring this up to remind us all of the profound depth that trans culture has, and hopefully to expand one’s open mindedness to trans culture.

Trayvon Martin

Two days ago it was the five year anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. An unarmed seventeen year old teenager was killed by a volunteer neighborhood watch guard, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman walked away from the case with no charges, no repercussions for murder. This is not the first case of a black person being killed and there being no justice in United States History and it was not the last, sadly. Despite the heartbreak and injustice, it is essential to move forward and bring awareness to these issues.

All Things Considered host Audie Cornish was able to interview Patrisse Khan-Cullors, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. The podcast is titled “Black Lives Matter Finds ‘Renewed Focus’ 5 Years After Trayvon Martin” and explores the growth of the BLM movement over the course of the past five years.

Khan-Cullors believes that the movement is becoming less reactionary and more productive, but believes that there needs to be more long term goals, including BLM supporters possibly being in office.

This podcast from NPR was hard to listen to because Trayvon Martin’s death should have never happened, but it was comforting to hear Khan-Cullors speak about the BLM with courage and a hopeful attitude towards the future.

Skin, color, and evolution

Here is a podcast from the NPR Morning Edition show called “Your Family May Once Have Been A Different Color”. This podcast dissects the possibilities of the different skin colors your ancestors may have had, beyond interracial marriages. This podcast from 2009 which is only seven minutes and twelve seconds long is still relevant, especially today. This podcast explains how humans can re-evolve their skin colors from light to dark or darker to lighter skin. Human evolution has both high and slow rates of change that affects skin colors. Skin color is not fixed, it is fluid. It is a part of evolution. It is not an indicator of someones character. I am hoping that with a greater understanding of the science of our skin colors, there will be less reasons for people to be racist or bigoted because one’s melanin.

People Can Change

Snap Judgment released a podcast titled “The Rabbi and the KKK”. I don’t want give away the whole true story, but a Jewish family moved into a new neighborhood, and was verbally threatened by a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) group. The father of the home was also a Rabbi. He took it upon himself to frequently call a KKK member named Larry Trap and ask him over voicemail why he did the terrifying things he did.

“I want to get out of what I’m doing but I don’t know how” Larry, the KKK member to the Rabbi.

My whole point in posting this particular podcast is to show that despite our current political climate, and with a resurgence of the KKK, is it is possible for people to change both their minds and actions to choose love. I am hoping that this podcast inspires others to communicate with and know their neighbors, be open minded, and to not be discouraged.