ACUMEN Spring 2022

16 ACUMEN • SPRING 2022 “These aren’t just abstract concepts that came from a textbook. Students are being taught by someone who is invested in that area,” says Babcock, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Ph.D. in neuroscience and joined the Lehigh faculty in 2016. “These are some really interesting topics. There are people here at this same university who you can learn from about these ongoing areas of exploration.” Conversations That Bring Society and Culture to Life Feeling the fabric of a Jewish prayer shawl, examining the intricate designs of a tzedakah (charity) box, contributing to a classroom cookbook or studying the cultural icons at Epcot spark personal stories that bring religion studies to life for Lehigh students. “Conversation is really at the heart of the humanities. It is what we do in the classroom. It is what we do with our colleagues, and it’s what I do in my work,” says Jodi Eichler-Levine, professor of religion studies and the Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization. the signaling pathways must remain active through communication between the motor neuron and the muscle that it’s targeting. She is recording the electrical activity across the synapses so she can measure at what level they are working. Eight to 10 undergraduates work in the Babcock Lab and perform any procedure they are willing to learn, including dissection, behavioral tests, molecular biology, microscopy of the brain and nervous system, and isolating muscle tissue and staining it for neuronal tissue. “Having the opportunity to work in a research lab allows students to go through the scientific process. You’re basically at the cutting edge trying to answer questions that we don’t have answers to,” says Babcock, who says that the experience teaches responsibility, creativity, perseverance and scientific literacy. “Dr. Babcock empowered me to pursue research on a disease that affects myself and my family. He taught me practical research skills, how to think like a scientist and how to persevere through adversity in research and professional life,” says Russell Caratenuto ’20, a medical student at Rutgers University who, as a Lehigh molecular biology undergraduate and Eckardt Scholar, studied synaptic defects in the Drosophila model of muscular dystrophy. Researching what makes certain cells vulnerable to disease is in the fabric of what Babcock teaches in courses such as Neurodegenerative Diseases in Model Organisms and Human Physiology. Daniel Babcock in his lab. His research group is shedding light on neurodegenerative diseases by examining he neuromuscular junction where a motor neuron is connecting to a muscle. DOUGLAS BENEDICT