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.

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

English students record oral histories of ’67 riots

Students from Wayne State University’s English Writing and Community class (ENG 3020) had the unique opportunity to meet with seniors at the Hannan Center who lived through the events in Detroit during the summer of 1967.

The Hannan Center supports the senior community in Detroit through shared learning classes and workshops. The students met with the seniors at the Hannan Center for the majority of the course, and the Hannan seniors met the students on Wayne State’s campus as well.

“This is the first course where the class and community partnership is extremely focused on a historical event, that event being the 1967 rebellion,” said Professor Thomas Trimble, who led the course.

This semester’s ENG 3020 course allowed students to learn about the 1967 rebellions in the form of oral history  while enhancing their own writing and interviewing skills. In this multigenerational class, students went to the Hannan Center to meet with senior residents to interview them about their experiences during the 1967 Detroit riots. Students recorded and documented the retellings to refine their writing skills, but more importantly to preserve these unique perspectives of a key moment in Detroit’s history.

Student Kasey Rechter felt the community learning aspect of the course made learning about the riots more engaging: “Being able to interview my partner gave me a real connection with the subject of the riots and also a connection with the interviewee.”

The course provided many perspectives on the 1967 Detroit riots from the people who actually lived through it.

Psychology student Sophie Hanna felt an appreciation for the course: “Seeing these stories told by so many different personalities made me realize how many perspectives there are about the rebellion that I hadn’t considered before.”

Written by Christiana Castillo, CLAS Public Relations Associate

Speech language pathology student uses classroom knowledge abroad

Carley Vincke, a second-year speech language pathology graduate student at Wayne State University, recently had the unique opportunity to visit Kumasi, Ghana, for an 11-day mission trip.

There, Vincke was able to apply the techniques she learned in her studies with several families affected by disability.

“In Ghana I was with a team of five Americans, three of whom were volunteers familiar with working with people with disabilities, two physical therapists, and me, a soon-to-be speech pathologist.”
It’s clear that Vincke has a passion for both speech pathology and working with children. While abroad, she was able to assess a young girl with aspiration pneumonia and show her mother how to feed her without harming her.
“I was able to implement the strategies I learned from a dysphagia class I took at WSU. Showing her mother proper feeding techniques and how to position her child made such a difference!”

If not for Vincke’s intervention, the young girl’s aspiration pneumonia would have most likely progressed, which could have led to death.
“I wanted the people who were affected by these disabilities to know they are loved and that they do have a purpose, that they are not mistakes and that their disability does not define them. Speech pathology is one way for me to do this.”
Vincke is currently getting clinical experience at Detroit Receiving Hospital, where she is learning more about swallowing techniques and speech pathology. Next semester, she will complete her last internship at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, where she will continue to learn more about disabilities and how speech language pathology can help others. After graduation, Vincke hopes to work with children in a clinical setting and possibly start her own mission to help more people the way she did in Ghana.
“All the professors in the speech pathology department are incredibly understanding and knowledgeable. I think Wayne State provides the best clinical experience there is for graduate school.”

Mob, spies and rock ‘n’ roll: history alum Dennis Barrie has done it all


Wayne State University alumnus Dr. Dennis Barrie’s love for museums started at a young age when his parents dragged him kicking and screaming to every museum they could find. Visiting museums became part of his everyday life and his appreciation for creative and artistic minds deepened with each new cultural institution he visited. Barrie has since channeled his passion into developing innovative museums of his own, including the International Spy Museum, The Mob Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.

“I really had a love for museums and creating art itself, but I wasn’t very good at it. So I drew that into a great interest in those who do create, which turned into a great love for the visual arts,” said Barrie, whose passion in art and history has spilled from his home to his career.

Barrie started his career doing archival work for the Smithsonian Institution, which allowed him to travel while finishing his doctorate.

“I went back and forth to Washington but the Smithsonian also had a branch office in the Detroit Institute of Arts. I actually had an office there at the DIA; it made my academic and personal life possible.”

While Barrie worked for the Smithsonian, he traveled the world, leading special travel programs for the Archives related to art. He went to Europe, China and across the United States. Whenever he travels, visiting museums is a top priority. Many of his favorite museums, however, are his own.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., is an innovative museum for which Barrie led the entire development. It is the only public museum in the United States dedicated to educating the public about espionage and preserving the history of the “invisible” career.

“No one thought a spy museum, a real spy museum, could be done,” Barrie said. “Our team managed to put together real spies and real agents to create a museum that was a huge popular and critical success.”

The Mob Museum in Las Vegas tackles the complex history of organized crime throughout the United States. Barrie was the creative director for the Mob Museum, which is filled with interactive exhibits and is another museum no one thought could be successful.

“The organized crime in Vegas came in from other cities, so it was a way to explore Detroit, Tampa, Kansas City, Chicago and all the organized-crime cities,” Barrie said. We got to know many of the mob families and FBI personnel — it’s a very complex story.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum commemorates the great performers of rock and the lifestyle those artists lived. Barrie was the founding executive director of the museum. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it is a one-of-a-kind museum and exists to preserve and celebrate the history of rock and roll.

“The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was an incredible experience,” Barrie said. “A major museum devoted to rock culture had never been done before. It’s one of the best museums in the country.”

Barrie’s history of organizing innovative museums will continue to grow. Currently, he is working to create a U.S. Olympic museum in Colorado Springs, which is expected to debut in two to three years. He is also working on a project to develop a psychology museum.

While Barrie undoubtedly loves the museums he has helped design, he feels a special connection to the Detroit Institute of Arts after working there, and is especially fond of its American art collection.

“Museums broaden your world. One of the advantages of going to Wayne State is that you don’t have to drive miles away to experience great museums and culture.”