CMU Professor Aims to Make Sense of Sense

Carnegie Mellon University professor Alison Barth has gained a better understanding of touch after being part of an international team of researchers that linked a group of neurons to a specific type of somatosensation.


Carnegie Mellon University professor of biological sciences Alison Barth has gained a better feel for touch after being part of an international team of researchers that linked a group of neurons to a specific type of somatosensation. Of the senses, touch might be the least understood. “Somatosensation is critical,” Barth said in a news release. “You can somewhat overcome losing your sense of smell, sight, taste or hearing. But if you lose your sense of touch, you wouldn’t be able to sit up or walk.” The study found that a specific group of neurons had a quicker, stronger reaction when a puff of air hit a mouse’s whiskers, showing that neurons are individuals with specific jobs in the cortex. These findings were published in the Dec. 3 issue of Neuron.

For the past few weeks, students in Washington & Jefferson’s Economics and Business Department have taken advantage of a first-time partnership between the school and the Fullbridge Program. The three-week program, which was offered for credit during the January intersession term, taught the fundamentals of entrepreneurship — a mix of research, analysis, communication, valuation and other skills relevant in the business and finance fields. The course is taught by instructors from the Fullbridge Program, a career accelerator that helps to prepare students for life after graduation, and provided lessons with expert entrepreneurs, corporations and law firms.

You can forgive Cheryl Hatch for not being present for the first classes she taught this semester at Allegheny College. Hatch, a visiting assistant professor of journalism in the public interest, was 3,500 miles from Meadville campus, covering stories in Liberia as part of a program funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. She arrived in Liberia this past Dec. 29, along with writer Brian Caster, ready to contribute her photojournalism skills to coverage of the U.S. military’s efforts to aid the Liberian government in fighting Ebola. Their first story was published Jan. 5 by VICE News. Don’t worry about her students missing out on their education: Hatch, who returned from the program on Jan. 16, was able to Skype with her newswriting and multimedia classes on Jan. 13. “I teach by example,” she said in a news release. “I want the students to see me do the work I love outside the classroom and bring it back to the classroom. Journalism is real life in real time.”

Categories: Great Minds