Upcoming Mapping Tools WICshop

Want to look at how city demographics have changed over decades? Interested in putting data about health, housing, or quality of life indicators on a map? Want to make a neighborhood or regional policy or marketing proposal based on conditions or needs? The Penn Libraries subscribes to Social Explorer, PolicyMap, and SimplyMap, online mapping tools that allow you to easily find and map Census, policy, and business data for the United States. Come to the Simple Mapping Tools WICshop on June 2nd in the Collaborative Classroom to get a hands-on introduction to all three tools and see how they can support your research. You can find more information about the years and topics included, data export formats available, and more at the Online Mapping Tools guide, and register for the WICshop here. 

Philadelphia Housing Units:  Percent Owner-Occupied, 2010.
Philadelphia Housing Units: Percent Owner-Occupied, 2010. Social Explorer.
Philadelphia Housing Units: Owner-Occupied, 1970
Philadelphia Housing Units: Percent Owner-Occupied, 1970. Social Explorer.


Fear and Safety at Penn: A Collaborative Student Research Exhibit

Dr. Rosemary Frasso, Allison Golinkoff (TA) and graduate student research team – Qualitative Research Methods for Social Work (SW 781)

Research seldom happens in silos.  Be it through the literature review, data collection, or publication, group collaboration is the ingredient that brings new ideas and perspectives to the research process.  It is with this spirit that Dr. Rosemary Frasso (Rosie), Allison Golinkoff (TA), and the student researchers of the Qualitative Methods graduate course for Social Work and Public Health students took teamwork to new heights this spring in the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom.

From the start, the student researchers employed qualitative methods (Nominal Group Technique) to collectively determine the research topic of “fear and safety” at Penn. Next, each individual student-researcher conducted 5 intercept Freelisting interviews across campus to explore the topic. Using the full 360 degrees of writable whiteboard surfaces in the Collaborative Classroom, students began the process of analyzing Freelisting data to identify salient themes.

Student researchers begin organizing Freelisting data in the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom

Inspired by the work of Drs. Carolyn Cannuscio, Mariana Chilton, and Gala True, Rosie designed this class project employing Photo Elicitation interviewing.  Students later made use of this same technique to further explore the meaning of fear and safety across the Penn community.  As a team, the class selected a sampling strategy and each student-researcher was tasked with recruiting a participant from within the Penn community to explore how she/he perceives fear and safety.  Over the course of one week, research participants used their smartphones or cameras to take photographs of any aspects of their daily lives that made them think of fear or safety.  The photos were then used to guide an interview between the researcher and the participant about those topics.

Dr. Frasso turned to group collaboration in the Collaborative Classroom as a strategy to help the student researchers make sense of the sizable amount of data they all collected.    Through collaborative analysis, student researchers found that their participants’ views on fear and safety revolved around eight thematic categories: vulnerability; sense of belonging; fear of failure; surveillance; physical and mental health; fear of the unknown; sources of comfort; and spaces and places.

The student researchers of Dr. Frasso’s class see their research findings as a potential catalyst for change at Penn.  To this end, they have made their work visible in many ways.  You can view their research exhibit, complete with photos and participant quotes, just outside the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom (right before the WIC entrance, to the right).  Students also plan to share their findings with key members of the Penn community such as President Amy Gutmann, CAPS, and GAPSA.

For more information on displaying your students’ work or using Van Pelt’s Collaborative Classroom for enhanced teamwork and engagement, visit: http://www.library.upenn.edu/facilities/collab.html.


SketchUp in Theatre Design

This semester, I’ve had a chance to work more closely with 3D partSet designed in "Introduction to Theatre Design" modeling tools, as I’ve been assisting Eric Barratta’s Introduction to Theater Design class. Although I am well-versed with tools such as SolidWorks and PTC Creo, which allow you to control fine    details in manufacturing drawings, I find that building larger systems often present limitations and make evident the various complexities of part-modeling software and above all are way too time consuming.

As I wrote about last semester, we’ve had much demand for trainings on SketchUp as 3D modeling becomes more popular in various disciplines. 3D printing facilities around the campus added further fascination to learn 3D modeling software among patrons; being relatively easy to learn and free, SketchUp comes in really handy. Continue reading SketchUp in Theatre Design

Vote Healthy!

What does Healthy look like?
What does Healthy look like?

We received great entries for our What Does Healthy Look Like? video contest. We welcome all to vote for their favorite video entry from our seven contenders; voting closes on May 28. Thank you for supporting our student video creators! Award winners selected by our judging committee (which includes faculty, students, alumni and staff) and our popular choice award will be announced in early June. Our entries are:

  • Public Health at Penn
  • Immune Checkpoint Blockade: Ipilimumab and the CTLA-4 Receptor
  • 8-Bit Distracted
  • Sleep? I Think I Can Pencil That In?
  • Making Sense of Happiness
  • Outbreaks in Film
  • Will Always Be Loved

Which is your favorite?

Controlling Scholarship: Elsevier or Universities

Scholarship is the fuel on which modern universities rely. Without it, researchers cannot build upon the discoveries of their colleagues; students cannot learn from the expertise of others, and the progress of knowledge stagnates. Currently, that fuel is largely controlled by a small group of publishers, and with that control comes a great deal of power over how scholars distribute their work.

Recently, Elsevier ostensibly said they would like to help further the goal of sharing scholarship by “unleashing the power of academic sharing.” Yet, on closer review, Elsevier’s plan is really to do the exact opposite, and to increase their own revenues by inhibiting distribution. As a commercial company, it is hard to fault Elsevier for trying to make more money. Yet, there is a much larger issue at stake here.

On the surface, issues of network neutrality, rising costs in higher education, and growing income inequality seem unrelated to Elsevier’s policies on distributing academic articles. Yet, Prof. Lawrence Lessig, in a recent talk at the Association of College and Research Libraries suggested that many of these issues (including open access) are linked because they help to create a more equal society.

The question is: who is in the best position to create more equal access to scholarship? Is it companies like Elsevier? Or, is it the universities that rely on new research in order to continue functioning? According to 482 universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, the answer is resoundingly in favor of universities. Libraries, organizations, and individuals around the world are asking for a revision of this policy. More importantly, many of these organizations hope to find a better system for sharing scholarship.

So, what might seem to be an issue involving only institutional repositories, actually has much broader implications. Librarians may not be able to control debates on net neutrality, the spiraling costs of tuition or the growing inequality of income within society. We can, however, fight for equal access to research, and we can fight to ensure that universities, rather than for-profit corporations, control the fuel (i.e. scholarship) on which the academy relies.

For more information:







Exam vs. Nobel chat?

Students from Chem 251 class
Eric Shiuey and Evan Selzer

Should I take my organic chemistry exam or accept an invitation for coffee with a Nobel Prize winning scientist?  Eric Shiuey C’16 and Evan Selzer C’16 hesitated. Fortunately, their professor Jeffery Saven set them straight. Exam rescheduled!

The two students  set off for a chat at the Inn at Penn with Dr. Stanley Prusiner, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

A few weeks earlier, Eric and Evan had created a video for the course CHEM 251, Principles of Biological Chemistry. They had pored over journal articles on prions, a new class of pathogens discovered by Dr. Prusiner. As part of the assignment, students share links to their videos with the scientists whose work is referenced. Eric and Evan wrote to six scientists and four responded with feedback. One email brought a surprise! An invitation to meet with Dr. Prusiner when he visited Penn this April as part of the Year of Health activities.

Vickie Karasic and I met recently with Eric, Evan and Jeff to get the scoop.. Continue reading Exam vs. Nobel chat?