Loogman Faculty Research Grant Winners

Dr. Donald Very

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Project: "Preliminary Clinical Utility Assessment of a Novel Competitive Immunoassay in the Detection of Proteinuria in Ghanaian Patients with Sickle Cell Disease" (2022)

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a group of inherited genetic disorders that are very common in sub-Saharan Africa. Associated high morbidity and mortality, SCD is a cause of chronic renal disease as manifested by proteinuria, an excess amount of protein in the urine. As standard tests for proteinuria measure albumin, a relatively large protein, we hypothesize that a test that measures smaller-sized proteins may provide an earlier indication of the onset of proteinuria, permitting earlier therapeutic intervention. Numerous studies in patients with chronic diseases have demonstrated the benefit of early therapeutic intervention in decreasing proteinuria and delaying the progression to end-stage renal disease.

Previously, we developed, published, and patented an immunoassay utilizing proprietary reagents that can quantitate small proteins in human diabetic urine. We have validated the use of this assay in the diagnosis of diabetic proteinuria, while its utility in detecting SCD-associated proteinuria is unknown.

Consistent with Duquesne University's mission of commitment to the people of Africa and in the Spiritan tradition of service, we seek to address this unmet diagnostic need in African patients with SCD. In partnership with the Yale University School of Medicine, the University of Ghana College of Health Sciences, and the non-profit Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration, we wish to evaluate the clinical utility of our urinary protein immunoassay in a proof-of-concept study of 150 patients with and without SCD.

Dr. David Lapinsky

School of Pharmacy and Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Project: "Accelerating Childhood African Cryptosporidiosis Drug Discovery and Development" (2022)

The waterborne disease Cryptosporidiosis is one of the leading causes of childhood diarrhea in Africa. Infection by microscopic parasites called Cryptosporidium causes watery diarrhea and other symptoms. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, recent statistics indicate Cryptosporidium infections were estimated to contribute to close to 200,000 deaths in children less than 24-months old. On a continent where a lack of infrastructure and sanitation goes hand-in-hand with poverty and HIV, Cryptosporidiosis can create striking adverse effects on African child growth, development, nutrition, and cognitive ability.

A lack of new drug targets and drug pipeline attrition represent significant challenges in Cryptosporidium drug discovery. Nitazoxanide is the only drug currently approved by the FDA to treat Cryptosporidium infections. However, nitazoxanide has a wide range of efficacy in patients (i.e., from 80% in healthy adults to only 56% in malnourished children). Furthermore, nitazoxanide proves ineffective in immunocompromised (e.g., HIV) patients subjected to high-dose prolonged treatment. As a result, there is an urgent/critical need for more effective and safe Cryptosporidiosis therapies.

The main aim of this project is for Duquesne University undergraduate researchers to make chemicals called "fully functionalized small-molecule probes" (FFSMPs). The Huston Lab (The University of Vermont; http://www.med.uvm.edu/vciid/lab_huston) will investigate these FFSMP chemicals by integrating Cryptosporidium-based drug screening with drug target and mechanism of action studies. In particular, the FFSMPs in this project are innovative because the chemicals for Cryptosporidium-based drug screening are pre-engineered to facilitate drug target identification from years to weeks.

In short, the direct integration of FFSMP chemical libraries into drug screening campaigns can facilitate the discovery of drug candidates and drug targets. In particular, we expect the application of this previously validated research strategy to significantly reduce experimental effort and timelines for drug discovery and drug development concerning childhood African Cryptosporidiosis.

Dr. Aman Gebru, S.J.D.

School of Law

Project: "Biopiracy and Biodiversity Protection: The Case of Teff Flour Patents" (2021)

Biopiracy, the process of exploiting and patenting biological products and processes without the authorization of the provider of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, has been widely criticized. The chapter addresses this phenomenon using the example of the Teff flour patents issued in the Netherlands, and their impact on the Ethiopian people, for whom Teff is a food staple, and against whom these patents could be enforced. The case study exemplifies numerous instances of biopiracy where the patent applicants either received a patent for non-inventive contributions or receive broader rights than they deserve. It will criticize the cross-border abuses that biopiracy enables, advocating for a more balanced regime that ensures the recognition of contributions made by source communities and inventive entities, and the equitable sharing of benefits.

Dr. Xia Chao

School of Education

Project: "Transnational Grassroots Multilingualism in Africa Town in Guangzhou: A Visual Ethnography" (2021)

This visual ethnographic study, which is built on transnationalism and language and literacy as social practice theory, aims to examine the multilingual practices and perceptions of African migrants at the intersection of their transnational experiences and identities in the context of Africa Town in Guangzhou, China.


Drs. Yvonne Weidman and David Kahler

School of Nursing and Bayer School of Natural & Environmental Sciences

Project: "Water and Daily Life in Olkakola with Photovoice" (2020)

Lack of consistent access to safe water has been associated with adverse effects on health and quality of life. Duquesne University's Pure Thirst--in partnership with Spiritans, faculty, students, and community members-has explored ways to increase water access and improve water quality in Olkokola, Tanzania. Results show a lack of consistent access to water proximal to residents; outdated, unregulated water pipes; and unsafe levels of fluoride. However, the impact of these issues on everyday life in the community is not fully understood. Faculty from the Center for Environmental Research and Education and the School of Nursing propose to lead students in the conduction of a cross-disciplinary, community-based participatory research study using Photovoice qualitative research methodology to determine: "What is the lived experience of the members of the Olkokola community as they obtain and use water for their daily lives?". Photovoice provides individuals the opportunity to take photographs to reveal what they perceive as significant. Collaborative interpretation yields research themes and salient insights not otherwise attainable through questionnaires, observations, or interviews. Through their own photographs, Olkokola community members will be empowered to share their struggles, barriers, and health related issues faced while accessing and using water. Intended study outcomes include strengthening the partnership between Pure Thirst and the Olkokola community; developing a collaborative plan for prioritizing research projects and seeking funding; and disseminating the findings from this unique collaborative, cross-disciplinary project through publication of a peer reviewed manuscript co-authored by faculty and students.

Dr. Derek Hook 

School of Liberal Arts

Project: "Sobukwe: Man of Letters" (2020)

Robert Sobukwe was the first leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress, the political party that offered the most robust challenge to South Africa's institutionalized system of white supremacy (apartheid) in the late 1950's. Often compared to Mandela, although sadly far less historically recognized, Sobukwe's legacy has for many years been subject to a ‘consensus of forgetting' (Hook, 2017). What is surprising is that this historical pattern of marginalization continues even in post-apartheid South Africa. The ‘Sobukwe: Man of Letters' project responds to this gap in South African history by gathering, transcribing and editing a series of Robert Sobukwe's hitherto unpublished letters, alongside many of his speeches and political writings. The envisaged volume, tentatively entitled Sobukwe: Man of Letters will collect, edit, footnote and introduce Sobukwe's correspondence during the last five years of his life. It includes also a series of unpublished interviews alongside an introductory essay which argues that Sobukwe was not only a political thinker and leader, but also a man of letters who used literature -poetry, drama, novels, African folk-lore and non-fiction - both as a way of shaping his political agendas and mediating the suffering of long-term solitary confinement he was forced to endure earlier in his life.

Dr. Suzanne Barnard

School of Liberal Arts, Psychology 

Project: "That Great Uncertainty External to Everything: Time, Memory, and Disapora in John Akomfrah's 'The Nine Muses" and "Vertigo Sea'" (2019)

Abstract Forthcoming

Dr. Morgan Chitiyo

School of Education, Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education

Project: "Examining the Causes, Nature, and Management of Challenging Behavior in Schools in Namibia and Ghana" (2019)

Teachers around the world continue to face the challenge of educating students who display challenging behavior. Since problem behavior interferes with academic achievement, it is incumbent upon teachers to implement effective behavior management strategies that help to address this challenge. In efforts to address this, researchers continue to identify evidence-based practices that are designed to successfully address challenging behavior in schools. To help African educational systems successfully adopt some of these evidence-based interventions, it is important to first understand how challenging behavior is perceived across the different African countries. Thus, the purpose of this study is to examine the perceived causes, nature, and management of problem behavior in Namibia and Ghana. Using the survey method of data collection, in the form of a Likert scale and open-end questions, data will be collected from schoolteachers in the two countries. Descriptive and inferential statistics will be used to analyze quantitative data while qualitative data will be analyzed for trends and themes that emerge-anchored in grounded theory. This study is significant in that it will promote better understanding of how problem behavior in schools is perceived in Namibia and Ghana. Such understanding will help promote the adoption, implementation, and use of evidence-based interventions designed to support positive behavior in schools. Specifically, researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and teacher-preparation programs in Africa will gain insight on cultural variables that may be sustaining the use of punitive behavior management strategies and hinder adoption of proactive and positive behavior supports. This would be a good starting point to start conversations that may help to shift perceptions and a culture of violence, which some researchers have linked to behavior management practices in African schools.

Dr. Waganesh Zeleke, EdD., LCPC

School of Education

Project: "Managing the Mental Health Impacts of Migration: Emphasis on Ethiopian Migrants in the Middle East and South Africa" (2019)

Abstract Forthcoming

Resulting Publications:

  • "Re-conceptualizing human trafficking: The experiences of Ethiopian returnee migrants," Journal of Trafficking, Organized Crime and Security, 2015
  • "Mental Health and Somatic Distress among Ethiopian Migrant Returnees from the Middle East," International Journal of Mental Health & Psychiatry, 2015, 1:2 
  • "Mental Health and Somatic Distress among Ethiopian Migrant Returnees from the Middle East and South Africa" Annual Conference of American Menthal Health Counseling Association, 2015

Dr. Maureen O'Brien

School of Liberal Arts 

Project: "A Study of Catechists in West Africa" (2018)

Loogman Grant funding supported this project's investigation of the theological and ministerial self-understandings of catechists in a Catholic diocese of West Africa, along with the role played by their catechetical training and formation in the quality of their self-reflection and practice. Funds were utilized for travel and other costs associated with a 5-week stay in the diocese, during which qualitative data were collected through the researcher's visits to catechists' ministry sites, interviews and focus groups with catechists and parishioners, and observation of training programs. Funds also covered transcription of audio recordings. The researcher has presented and published results in academic theological venues. 


Dr. Kevin Tidgewell and Dr. Benedict Kolber 

The Mylan School of Pharmacy and Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Project: "A Multi-Continent Collaboration in Pain Research and Treatment: Using Ethnopharmacological Knowledge from Cameroon to Develop Novel Pain Treatments" (2017)

This proposal describes a new collaboration that we have been developing since October 2016 between Drs. Benedict Kolber (Biological Sciences, BSNES) and Kevin Tidgewell (Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmacy) at Duquesne and Dr. Télesphore Benoît Nguelefack at the University of Dschang in Cameroon, West Africa. These three Principal Investigators (PIs) are experts in the identification and development of novel pain treatments from natural sources. Drs. Kolber and Tidgewell have been collaborating here at Duquesne to find new pain treatments and anti-depression drugs from the ocean since 2012. Kolber and Tidgewell have received numerous grants together to fund this research and have presented our work at international meetings and in peer-reviewed publications1. Primarily, we isolate fractions from bacteria that are screened using a NIH-funded screening system and then tested in live animal models. Tidgewell worked on plant natural products for pain during his PhD research2,3.

Dr. Nguelefack uses ethnopharmacological knowledge from local Cameroonian villages' use of natural plants to systematically test whether these plants actually relieve pain under controlled conditions. In a discussion at an international conference in Japan, we recognized the mutually beneficial relationship that could be built between Duquesne and University of Dschang. As a group we have developed a work-flow that includes initial testing and screening of plant extracts by Dr. Nguelefack's group in Cameroon, followed by fractionation, in vitro (i.e. test tube) screening, and additional in vivo (i.e. in animals) screening here at Duquesne. Once we have determined and isolated pure compounds from the Cameroonian plants, we will send these compounds back to Cameroon for final in vivo testing, making this a full-circle collaboration. We currently have a material transfer agreement in process between Dschang and Duquesne and are excited to pursue this collaboration.

This research proposal is focused on two species, Paullinia pinnata and Baillonella toxisperma, that have been identified by Nguelefack as having the potential for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving activity. P. pinnata is a woody vine species found in Western Africa that is used in traditional medicine for a variety of purposes including for the treatment of itch and rheumatoid arthritis. The Nguelefack lab has found that crude extracts (i.e. water and alcohol) of this plant significantly decrease arthritis-like pain and inflammation in rats. B. toxisperma (known as moabi) is a tree that is harvested for nut oil as well as for use in traditional medicine. Extracts of B. toxisperma decrease pain-like behavior in two different models of acute and persistent pain in rats. Although the in vivo evidence for these extracts is strong, there are key knowledge gaps that will prevent further development of these extracts for the treatment of inflammation and pain in humans. It remains to be determined what specific molecular targets are involved in the observed effects and which compounds in the crude extracts are mediating the observed pain-relieving effects. We anticipate that one or more pure compounds in P. pinnata and B. toxisperma bind to specific "pain" receptors.


Dr. Rachel Ayieko and Dr. Gibbs Kanyongo

School of Education

Project: "The Relationships between Teacher Quality and Sixth Grade Students' Mathematics Competencies in Kenya and Zimbabwe" (2017)

Abstract Forthcoming


Dr. Tsegaye Beru and Dr. Kirk W. Junker

Center for Legal Information and School of Law

Project: "Constitutional Review and Customary Dispute Resolution by the People in the Ethiopian Legal System" (2016)

Abstract Forthcoming

Father Peter Ikechukwu Osuji, C.S.Sp., Ph.D

Center for Healthcare Ethics

Project: "Informed Refusal of Treatment in Africa (Igbo) Traditional Medicine in Imo State, Nigeria" (2015)

In the context of African Traditional Medicine (ATM), are adult patients allowed to refuse effective and standard treatment even against both their self-interest and the consensus decision of the family and kindred elder, and the ATM doctor? If they do, what happens?

The study adopted a qualitative research methodology. It concentrated on 15 participants, i.e., five elders, five women, and five traditional medicine doctors from the study area, the Igbo people of Imo State of Nigeria. Applying a triangulation technique, data were collected through semi-structured face-to-face oral interviews.

The results showed that adult males and females, and even married women, can and do refuse medical treatment. Consent is a pre-condition for treatment in ATM. No adult is forced to take treatment except mentally ill patients and children in certain situations. Patients who refused treatment from an ATM doctor are accepted by other doctors, and even the initial doctor should the patient return.

Albeit a pilot project, overwhelming evidence attests to the importance of consent as permission to treat and, more importantly, a show of trust and confidence in the doctor. The belief is that without consent (trust), the treatment will be ineffective. Therefore, doctors will not treat patients without their consent. This is contrary to the literature that suggests widespread medical paternalism and lack of consent in Africa. My research confirms that adult patients can and do refuse treatment in the Relational Autonomy in Informed Consent (RAIC) approach of the ATM.

Dr. Derek Hook

School of Psychology

Project: "To Support Research on Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe's Importance to the Apartheid Movement" (2015)

‘Young Sobukwe' is a biographical project which developed an account of a formative period in the life of one of South Africa's greatest Africanist intellectuals and opponents of apartheid regime - Robert Sobukwe. The research utilized photographs, interviews and archival material gathered in a 2014 research trip to South Africa. The aim of the project was to utilize archival documents and letters to explore the period of Robert Sobukwe's imprisonment on the infamous Robben Island between 1963 to 1969. The research resulted in a published journal article 'A Threatening Embodiment of Freedom or: Sobukwe and Repression' and it formed an integral part of a subsequent book: Lie on Your Wounds: Selected Prison Letters of Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe published in 2019 by Wits University Press.

Resulting Publications:

  • Hook, D. (2016). A threatening personification of freedom or: Sobukwe and repression. Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies, 17(2), 1-24. DOI: 10.1080/17533171.2016.1171471
  • Hook, D. (2016). Sobukwe and the psychosocial. Psychology in Society, 50
  • Ramose, M. & Hook, D. (2016). To whom does the land belong? Psychology in Society, 50


Dr. Morgan Chitiyo and Dr. Elizabeth Hughes

School of Education, Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education

Project: "To Support a Project Centered Around the General and Special Education Teachers' Professional Development Needs in Selected South African Countries" (2014)

Abstract Forthcoming

Resulting Publications:

  • Chitiyo, M., Hughes, E. M., et al (in progress). A comparative analysis of special education professional development needs in Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
  • Chitiyo, M., Hughes, E. M., Haihambo, C., Taukeni, S.G., & Montgomery, K., & Chitiyo, G. (2016). An assessment of special education professional development needs in Namibia. Człowiek Niepełnosprawność Społeczeństwo (Man- Disability-Society), 3(33), 5-18.
  • Hughes, E. M., Chitiyo, M., Itimu-Phiri A., & Montgomery, K. (2016). Assessing the special education professional development needs of northern Malawian schoolteachers.British Journal of Special Education, 43(2), 159-177. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8578.12128
  • Chitiyo, M., Hughes, E. M., Changara, D. M., Chitiyo, G., & Montgomery, K. (2016). Special Education professional development needs in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Inclusive Education, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2016.1184326

Tune in soon for bibliography details of publishing and research.