ECU Report

Four ECU students received North Carolina Space Grant research scholarships for 2021-2022. From left, engineering majors Elliot Paul and Nia Wilson and geology majors Mikayla Dixon and Katherine Foster will each receive $8,000 to continue their studies and research in aerospace and aviation. They are among 11 undergraduate students from across the state to receive the scholarships. N.C. Space Grant is a consortium of academic institutions that promote, develop and support aeronautics and space-related science, engineering and technology education and training.

Faculty explore experiences as Black women in academia

Clockwise from top left: Loni Crumb, Mikkaka Overstreet, Janee’ Avent Harris and Christy Howard.

Mikkaka Overstreet, Janeé Avent Harris, Loni Crumb and Christy Howard, faculty members in the ECU College of Education, wrote about their experience holding an inaugural faculty of color writing retreat in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 

The article follows the rich storytelling history of Black women scholars who have carved out spaces where they can tell their truths and asks how Black women faculty create and navigate spaces to promote their success within academia. 

Overstreet, Avent Harris, Crumb and Howard planned to hold their retreat at a waterfront beach home. Their article turns their experience renting a cottage that didn’t match the listing into a metaphor of their experiences working in academia. 

“In my opinion, this is how literal or figurative storms should be faced in both personal and professional environments: with solidarity,” Crumb said. “No movement is done alone. 

“One of the most beautiful things about Black women is that as the storms come into our lives, we are prepared to weather them. We are equipped to figure it out. The retreat proved to be no different, but this time, we were not ‘one of few’ in the context of academia; we were collectively prepared and united to face the obstacle of claiming our time in the context of our retreat.” 

They plan to hold future retreats and would like to expand them. 

“The question, ‘How do Black women faculty create and navigate spaces to promote their success within academia?’ is a question we all should be asking ourselves and each other in order to improve,” said Allison Crowe, acting chair for the Department of Interdisciplinary Professions in the College of Education. 

Their article, “Facing the Storm: Our First Annual Faculty of Color Writing Retreat as a Microcosm for Being a Black Woman in the Academy,” was published in June. 

– Kristen Martin

Cheyenne Daniel ’20 of Raleigh, a citizen of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, performs a hoop dance at the Indigenous Space dedication Nov. 9 at the ECU Main Campus Student Center. The space recognizes the history and impact of the eight tribes of North Carolina: the Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of Saponi, Sappony and Waccamaw-Siouan. It will also feature artwork by Haliwa-Saponi potter Senora Lynch. The East Carolina Native American Organization will hold its 28th annual powwow March 26 at Minges Coliseum.

Research looks at bacteria behaviors

Holly Ellis, a microbiologist at the Brody School of Medicine, has received a $525,000 National Science Foundation grant to study the structural and functional properties of bacterial enzyme systems. Understanding how bacteria make metabolic adjustments in order to survive could have implications in drug development. 

“Bacteria need basic elements in order to survive,” Ellis said. “The bacteria we are investigating are pathogenic (disease-causing) organisms that utilize clever tactics to avoid the host immune response.” 

Holly Ellis, left, earned a National Science Foundation grant to study bacteria, with implications on future drug development.

The enzyme system under investigation, Ellis said, enables bacteria to use alternative sulfur sources to remain viable in their host. The overall goal of the project is to determine how distinct structural properties dictate function so researchers can manipulate the properties to modify activity.

“Many of the enzyme systems we are evaluating have medical relevance and would be excellent targets for drug development,” Ellis said. “Some of the outcomes from the proposed studies will answer important questions about enzyme structure and function that can be applied to other enzyme systems. These questions are new concepts and would change established ideas regarding enzyme structure and function.”

Her project is titled “Coordinated mechanistic approaches to desulfonation in two-component FMN monooxygenases .”

– Spaine Stephens

You’re invited to join ECU’s latest social media program, Social Pirates!

Social Pirates: Earn points with Social Pirates to win ECU-themed prizes! Sound like the perfect fit? Sign up at

By becoming a social ambassador with ECU and Social Toaster, we’ll send you our most exciting news to share with your friends and followers. The best part? The more you share and participate, the more rewards you’ll earn. 

Social media has become an essential tool for promoting the many wonderful things that happen at ECU. Over the years, we have developed significant audiences for many of our social media accounts. We reach even more people when we can activate those audiences to share our content through their own individual networks. 

This is the idea behind Social Pirates, a new online tool launching in January 2022. It uses Social Toaster – the leading platform used by universities around the country for developing social media ambassadors. The platform provides tools to build a network of ambassadors, distribute targeted content and incentivize these ambassadors to share this content.