Four Pfeiffer Faculty Members Promoted to Associate Professor

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Academics

Four faculty members at Pfeiffer University have achieved the rank of associate professor. They are Dr. Jason Emory (chemistry); Dr. Laura Reichenberg (biology); Dr. Elizabeth Harrison (music); and Dr. Sandra Holley (accounting). 

Jason Emory joined Pfeiffer’s chemistry faculty as an assistant professor in 2014, having earned a doctorate from Louisiana State University. His one-on-one mentoring of students often rests on the contributions they make to his research, which develops microfluidic technologies in field-portable analytical instruments for such purposes as point-of-care diagnostics and real-time monitoring of the environment.  

“Undergraduate research was a transformative experience for me,” Emory said, referring to his bachelor’s studies at UNC Charlotte. “I got to work one-on-one with a faculty member. It created a passion in me for research. At Pfeiffer, I’ve strived to give my students that same passion.” 

Emory is preparing a manuscript for publication that documents alumnus Eli Bostian and current student Jordy Featherstone’s work on developing a low-cost spin coater for the fabrication of microfluidic devices. This laid the foundation for Emory and his students designing and producing magnetic microvalves to control the flow of reagents and samples inside their microfluidic platforms. 

If all goes as planned, Emory’s students will have helped develop field-portable instruments that can realize two applications: point-of-care testing for Lyme disease (Cameron Walker’s project) and an environmental sensor that can be deployed in lakes and rivers (Nathan Ray’s project). The sensor would monitor heavy metal such as that found in the Dan River coal ash spill. 

If point-of-care-testing for Lyme disease were available to doctors, they could get test results right away and start an appropriate treatment while the patient is still in the office. They wouldn’t need to send samples to a lab, wait days for results, and have the patient come back in for treatment.  

As for environmental testing, had an array of field-portable devices been placed on the Dan River before the coal ash spill, scientists would have identified the problem far earlier, pinpointed the location of the leak, and prevented much of the environmental damage. 

“We want to make devices that can be placed in rivers and lakes to continuously test for heavy metals and send us the data in real-time,” Emory said. “Typically, only a few samples are collected and sent to a lab for testing, which is slow and provides limited data.”  

Over the next several years, Emory plans to pursue several goals, including publishing research work and having students present their work at the Pittcon Conference, a national conference on analytical chemistry, and at other regional and state conferences.  

A Bachelor of Science in biochemistry is being explored along with the possibility of a Master of Science in biomedical science. 

Emory also plans on making “recitation hour” a part of all the chemistry courses he teaches, not just General Chemistry. He sets aside an hour of his regular lecture each week for recitation, a pedagogy method whereby students work in small groups to solve chemical problems together. Several benefits are realized through recitation: Students work together and build collaboration skills. They hear the material repeated from a peer instead of the professor, reinforcing what they’ve learned. They develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

In 2009, Sandra Holley, who holds a doctorate in business with a specialization in accounting from Capella University, began teaching online accounting classes at Pfeiffer as an adjunct professor. In 2017, two years after being promoted to assistant professor, she began overseeing the Undergraduate Accounting Program and the Graduate Financial Fraud Investigations Program. She said she has strengthened both programs by implementing changes based on feedback from professors and industry leaders.  

For example, the undergraduate accounting program dropped Financial Fraud and Fraud Examinations as a major and, instead, offered it as a concentration because even though the major “looked good on paper, it fell short of preparing students for a true role in fraud examination, as industry leaders look for individuals with auditing experience.” 

Another change: The MSFFI program now enables students to obtain Certified Fraud Examiners Licensure, having incorporated preparation for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners exam into the capstone class.  

Lastly, the Student Accounting Society at Pfeiffer now provides opportunities for juniors and rising seniors to become members of the International Accounting Honors Society, which provides scholarships and networking opportunities. Holley also secured Pfeiffer’s charter in Delta Mu Delta, a business honor society that also offers scholarships and networking opportunities. 

As for what Holley wants to accomplish over the next several years, this would include raising awareness of Pfeiffer’s accounting programs, strengthening relationships with community colleges, obtaining the Institute of Management Accountants endorsement of Pfeiffer’s accounting programs, and securing more internship opportunities for students. 

Elizabeth Harrison, who holds a doctorate from Stanford University, began teaching music at Pfeiffer in 2015 and serves as its coordinator of music. She views teaching as one of her best contributions.  

“My goal in each class is to engage each and every student, and to excite my students about their potential as future professional musicians,” Harrison said. “My students tell me that my classes are difficult but fair. They enjoy learning and they enjoy maturing as musicians.” 

Harrison’s many other accomplishments include: guiding the music department through the accreditation process with the National Association of Schools of Music; updating the music curriculum so that it meets the needs of Pfeiffer’s students while also helping them achieve high standards in music; and raising the standards of Pfeiffer’s music program.  

Over the next few years, Harrison has several goals, including bringing back the music education degree, restoring an instrumental music program, and increasing full-time faculty. She also wants more “good students,” which she described as those who are “willing to put in the time and effort to become very successful musicians.” 

She wants more top-tier instruments, and she’d like to revitalize the Piedmont Institute for Communication, Music, and Art (PICMA), which sponsors everything from competitions for high school students to multidisciplinary events on campus. Also on her wish list are a top-tier fine arts building as well as yearly travel experiences that expose students to performances, instrument builders, and culture across the United States and abroad. 

Laura Reichenberg joined Pfeiffer’s biology faculty in 2014, having earned a doctorate from North Carolina State University. During her tenure at the university, she has made her mark in several areas, including research, outreach, and promotion. 

Her collaborative research on the development of therapeutics in soybeans has resulted in manuscripts in three peer-reviewed publications. She has mentored the research of five honors students and of seven Milton Rose Scholars.  

The Milton Rose Scholars Program, which Reichenberg also coordinates, offers merit-based scholarships to Pfeiffer students majoring in the sciences or mathematics. The research projects of Milton Rose Scholars are showcased at the George Pfeiffer Symposium, an annual community-wide event that Reichenberg coordinates.  

Reichenberg has raised the profile of Pfeiffer’s science programs in a variety of ways. Her students have presented their research at five of the 10 professional meetings she has attended during her time at Pfeiffer. She has introduced the Milton Rose program at a conference on Excellent Practices in Mentoring Undergraduate Research. 

She helped make Pfeiffer an Institution Partner of the Plant Pathways Elucidation Project (P2EP) at the North Carolina Research campus. So far, four of Pfeiffer’s biology students have been accepted into this program, which is described as “a student-driven initiative that fuses plant science with human health.” 

Reichenberg is a board member of the North Carolina Academy of Science (NCAS), and she’s the executive director of The Collegiate Academy of the NC Academy of Science (CANCAS). She organized and directed the Undergraduate Research Workshop of CANCAS, which was held this past October at Pfeiffer.  

Finally, Reichenberg directs Project GENES, a Burroughs Wellcome Fund-underwritten program that stands for Genetics Education for the Next Era of Science. In Project GENES, Pfeiffer partners with Independence High School, Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, and Gray Stone Day School. Pfeiffer faculty and high school science teachers deliver DNA Technology Modules during after-school and summer programs for 9th and 10th-grade students. Each module engages students to learn by hands-on participation and investigation with the goal of building collaboration skills and confidence in the field of DNA technology. The Project GENES summer program, which is held on the Pfeiffer University campus, is a five-day residential program that enables students to focus on original experiment design and application of basic DNA knowledge.  

Over a three-year project period, 360 students will be reached through Project GENES, with each receiving approximately 70 contact hours during the program year to increase their interest in and excitement about STEM, DNA technology, and a future career in DNA science.  

“This program is a great recruitment tool and helps to raise the visibility of our biology program, as well as Pfeiffer University,” Reichenberg said. “This is also a great opportunity for our Pfeiffer science majors. Through this program, they have the opportunity to act as mentors to each student, help with experiments in both the afterschool and summer programs, and attend each module visit.” 

Over the next several years, Reichenberg intends to continue writing grants, serving on Pfeiffer’s Faculty Senate, and providing research and outreach opportunities for biology majors.