Faculty Research

Immaculata’s faculty are committed academically, professionally, and personally.

Our faculty serve as both scholars and practitioners in their fields who have made significant contributions to academia, to the student population, and to the world. Learn more below about some of the exciting and innovative research currently underway by Immaculata faculty members.

Research at Immaculata University begins with curiosity, takes shape through vision and grows through exploration leading to discovery. At the core of research are the inquisitive and innovative faculty of Immaculata University. Faculty collaboration across interdisciplinary domains allows our faculty to connect singular ideas and develop multi-dimensional solutions to the scientific and social problems facing mankind.

In support of individual research interests, Immaculata faculty also strive to engage undergraduate and graduate students as active contributors to research projects. Faculty research thrives on national, regional and university levels as demonstrated through publications, conference presentations and university symposiums.

As samples of the diverse research performed at Immaculata, the following faculty features highlight recent and current research projects.

Sharon Pappas Barnes, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing

Dr. Barnes’ research examined the effect of a video-based simulation versus case study on clinical judgment of baccalaureate nursing students. A two-group posttest only experimental study examined the effect of a video-taped simulation vignette and a written case study on the clinical judgment of a convenience sample of 174 junior level pre-licensure baccalaureate nursing students. Judgment was assessed using a researcher developed reflective student questionnaire and reflective student rubric, based on Tanner’s Clinical Judgment Model and Lasater’s Clinical Judgment Rubric.

Although there was no statistically significant difference in clinical judgment scores between the groups, ancillary analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in clinical judgment scores between participants in the second semester of the junior year compared to participants in the first semester of the junior year. Utilization of these findings could guide educational strategies to foster clinical judgment development in nursing students and ultimately produce better-prepared nurses for the practice setting. Utilizing newly modified instruments of this type could provide nurse managers with valuable information about the level of clinical judgment of the new graduate nurse. This information may provide direction as to the content and length of mentorship programs and the type of unit a novice is best suited.

Laurie DiRosa, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Exercise Science

Dr. DiRosa’s current research addresses health/wellness challenges using two different approaches as described below.

Health MI Way: Peer Health/Wellness Coaching using Motivational Interviewing to Change Health Behaviors

The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of peer health/wellness coaching on health-related behaviors as measured by movement through the stages of change and self-reported perceptions of changes in health/wellness outcomes. The study will follow a quasi-experimental design. Subjects will be randomized into either the experimental group or wait-list control group through a computer generated randomization protocol. Experimental group subjects will complete at least three health-coaching sessions with a trained peer health coach. Wait-list control group subjects will not participate in the coaching sessions; however, once the study is complete, they will be offered the same health/wellness coaching sessions that were offered to the experimental group. All subjects (experimental and control) will be asked to complete a questionnaire about demographics and motivation to change a health behavior at the beginning and end of the study. Data will be analyzed and results will be presented at Immaculata University Research Symposium.

The Impact of Music on Attention, Fatigue, Form, and Communication among Adult Individuals with Developmental Disabilities in a Structured Fitness Program

Among individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), health disparities (such as, heart disease, obesity, lack of strength, balance and flexibility) are due, in part, to cognitively inaccessible health promotion programs. In response to the urgent need for effective physical activity interventions, an interdisciplinary team of music therapy and exercise science professionals designed a unique music therapy infused fitness program to increase physical health. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of music therapy on physical, social and cognitive outcomes among IDD participants. Participants in the program are individually guided through a tailored fitness program for eight weeks. Once a week, eurythmic music therapy using song transformation is incorporated into the session by graduate and undergraduate music therapy students. Comparisons between sessions with and without music therapy are being conducted. It is hypothesized that music therapy will increase participant engagement, motivation and focus, thereby increasing physical activity and improving health-related outcomes such as heart health, muscle strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility.

David E. Martinson, PhD, Professor of Psychology

Dr. Martinson’s recent research focuses on utilizing feedback in clinical supervision of counselors working with substance use disorders. Dr. Martinson implemented in select internship sites three clinical supervision feedback tools developed by Asbjørn Kärki Ulvestad in Norway. These were Goals for Supervision, Supervision Exchange Outcome, and Evaluation of Supervision Session (GFS, SEO, and ESS). Counseling students and site supervisors in Substance Use Disorder Clinics were surveyed in their use of these instruments in an attempt to develop useful clinical supervision tools and to promote culturally relevant collaborative supervision practices in a variety of supervision settings. Counseling graduate students researched the following: Helpfulness in improving supervision process; usefulness of the measures to develop culturally relevant practice; practical application to various supervision settings; and personal opinions, attitudes, and experiences of use of these scales. The presenters will introduce these tools and share the research results of this collaborative supervision project with the participants of the conference. They will allow for discussion of how these tools can help facilitate the counseling supervision process in a variety of transcultural supervision contexts. The research conducted could serve as a platform for counseling supervisors to create/utilize measures to strengthen the relationship between the counseling student and their respective supervisor and to act as a catalyst to guide novice student counselors in goal setting, skill building, developing coping skills, and track the alliance between a supervisor and supervisee.

Dr. Martinson is currently leading a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs on Opioid Prevention in Higher Education. An extensive task force of Immaculata faculty and staff is supporting Dr. Martinson in activities related to educational awareness, training, and community/ university partnerships to help counter the national opioid crisis.

Dr. James K. Murray, Jr., PhD, Professor of Organic Chemistry

Current research endeavors in Dr. Murray’s laboratory are divided into two broad categories: chemical education and medicinal chemistry. Projects related to chemical education involve the development of novel experiments that demonstrate advanced organic chemistry topics for inclusion in the second-year organic chemistry course. In March 2017, Dr. Murray and a group of undergraduate students published the results of a project related to the synthesis of the core of the anxiolytic drug Ambien. In medicinal chemistry, Dr. Murray has multiple projects identifying small organic molecules as inhibitors in multiple areas. One project involving collaborations with Professor Daniel Ginsburg of Immaculata University and Professor Hyunshun Shin of McMurry University in Abilene, TX, is looking at inhibitors of the Class I Histone Deacetylases (HDACs). Over-expression of this enzyme has been attributed to the progress of tumorigenesis, neurodegenerative diseases, and immune disorders. Dr. Murray’s research group are also collaborating with Professor Amy Brown of Neumann University looking at novel small molecules as inhibitors of various classes of bacteria. Dr. Murray’s group is collaborating with Professors Magid Abou-Gharbia and Ben Blass of the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery Research at the Temple University School of Pharmacy to conduct a broad screening of small molecules to determine therapeutic benefits.

In addition to his research, Dr. Murray is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS) having served as Councilor, as the 2019 Chair of the ACS Section, and now as Immediate Past-Chair. Dr. Murray also maintains membership in the Philadelphia Organic Chemists’ Club and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania Drug Discovery Institute.

Kelly A. Orlando, PhD, Associate Professor of Biology

Dr. Orlando’s research interests in microbiology and genetics are both independently driven and student-driven. The primary focus of the independent research has been an evolutionary study of a family of genes (the PMU family of phosphatases) involved in the utilization of nutrient sources in the pathogenic yeast Candida glabrata. One reason is that the PMU family is an excellent model for gene duplication and neofunctionalization; two gene duplication events have resulted in three genes with distinct activity, regulation and targets. In addition, C. glabrata is an important research topic because it is the cause of approximately 20% of all Candida infections, and when it enters the bloodstream it is associated with an approximately 30% mortality. In addition, some C. glabrata strains are highly resistant to the most common class of antifungal drugs. Therefore, a better understanding of this gene family could potentially lead to the development of a novel anti-fungal drug. In addition to studying the PMU family of genes in C. glabrata, another arm of the project is studying the morphological changes that occur in Candida glabrata when it becomes invasive and pathogenic, including its ability to form biofilm on catheters and other surfaces. Ideally, understanding the mechanism by which C. glabtata becomes pathogenic or forms biofilm could lead to discovery of a new method of prevention or treatment of C. glabrata infection.

Dr. Orlando leads a multitude of student-driven research projects that are focused on microbiological subjects. Recent examples include the following topics.

  • The Effects of Triclosan on Oral Microflora
  • Microbial Growth and Correlation Between Water Samples from the Delaware River and Van Sciver Lake
  • The Comparison of Cranberry Juice Versus Ciprofloxacin on Treating Urinary Tract Infections and the Analysis of Several Chemical Compounds Containing Possible Antibiotic Properties
  • Commercial Dog Food Contamination and Aerobic Growth
  • Analysis of biofilm formation on water pipes of different material
  • Effectiveness of antibacterial toothpaste on cavity-causing bacteria.


George M. Schwartz, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Leadership

As a professor and Director of Immaculata University’s Bachelor’s Degree Program in Emergency Planning & Management, Dr. Schwartz’s work and research is informed by more than 30 years of professional experience in the military and in human resource (HR) management and development. Dr. Schwartz’s training and experience leading National Guardsmen responding to natural disasters has also provided him with a tremendous foundation for leading Immaculata’s program in emergency management. His primary research interest is in the area of leadership spawned by his proud service as an American Citizen-Solider.

In “Graham Clears the Doorway,” Dr. Schwartz examined the potentially career-ending dilemma that National Guard General Henry Graham faced when he confronted Alabama Governor George Wallace about segregation within the University of Alabama. In “Death of a General: Edward Sigerfoos & Leaders in War” Dr. Schwartz examined how current general officers lead their troops in modern times, compared to General Edward Sigerfoos, who was the only American general killed in World War I. Dr. Schwartz was the lead author of the chapter in Homeland Security Cultures (edited by Siedschlag & Jerković, 2018) on military cultures.

Dr. Schwartz’s future research will continue to focus on leadership, the National Guard, and emergency management. He is completing an article based on a national survey of emergency managers regarding their interactions with community and faith-based organizations for disaster response. Adapting the civil-military relations model, Dr. Schwartz is also starting to research the leadership responsibilities that senior emergency management professionals share with elected leaders and the tensions that exist in that relationship.

Joshua J. Weikert, PhD, Assistant Professor of Politics

Dr. Weikert has researched and analyzed political candidate recruitment practices and differences culminating in the Sage Research Methods publication, “Inside two parties: ethnographic analysis of partisan differences in political candidate recruitment”. Ethnography (structured description of cultures and their behaviors) is especially useful in this research area, as candidate recruitment is a closed, “inside” process that incorporates several veto-holding stakeholders and a range of considerations that are challenging to disentangle using other methods. In other words, “the party decides,” and while it is not impossible to run under a party banner as an outsider, parties smooth the path and provide access to resources that other candidates may not enjoy. Participant-observer data are rich and more substantively significant. Dr. Weikert’s involvement in a “co-partisan” recruitment effort, paired with “inside” methodological views provided unique insights into American politics in the early 21st century. His findings partially demonstrated that candidate recruitment and parties are comparable, regardless of the ideological orientation of the party. However, distinct differences were also noted which spoke to the tactical political environment in which both parties found themselves.

Dr. Weikert recently researched tendencies of females seeking political office.

His publication “Wave or Trend: Female Candidates in Pennsylvania Elections in the Trump Era” to be published in Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics & Policy summarizes his findings. The 2018 elections saw a record number of women running for elected office in the United States and in Pennsylvania, but whether this represents a temporary wave or a lasting trend is not clear. Utilizing a combination of survey data from new candidates, elected officeholders, and party officials, Dr. Weikert examined the gender equality gains of 2018 in Pennsylvania’s legislature in historical and political context. The data provided evidence that formal recruitment of female candidates was common (but not universal), that the number of women running for and winning office increased by historic levels, and that a persistent and consistent motivation was discernible in large portions of the candidate body. In short, the parties actively recruited women to run for office, those recruitment efforts were successful, and those recruited were motivated by more than just a fleeting moment in history. Survey measures of female candidate persistence – whether they planned to run again and/or recruit new candidates – also indicated that women intend to remain similarly in years to come.

News Notes

Ms. Diane Grimes was invited to the Big Draw Headquarters in London on August 13, 2019 to announce new book, The Joy of Drawing a Mindfulness Approach and provided a lecture on the importance of drawing, creativity and wellness.

Ms. Diane Grimes was selected by the Director with Marquis Who’s Who to receive the Albert Nelson Marguis Lifetime Achievement Award. A member of a select group within Marquis Who’s Who is distinguished by: having been included in a Marquis Who’s Who publication for 20 or more years; having at least 30 years in her industry; and receiving multiple awards related to her field of expertise.

Dr. David Martinson presented research on feedback in family counseling: Martinson, D. (May 15, 2019). The Hagen Model: Using feedback in collaborative ways to help families. The International Association for Counselling (IAC) and Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) National Conference, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

Dr. Dawn Kriebel presented a poster titled “Implicit Theories of Intelligence and Children’s Response to Academic Challenge in Economically Disadvantaged Families,” at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Baltimore.

Dr. Michele Monaco presented “What, More Change? Who Moved My Cheese? A Generational Approach for Educators, Clinicians and Students” at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Educator Conference in Dallas, TX on February 15, 2019. Dr. Michele Monaco co-authored a chapter on Spinal Injuries in a textbook called: Emergency Care in Athletic Training.

Sister Agnes Cummings published a research article in the Advanced Nursing & Patient Care International Journal entitled, Meeting the Triple Aim of Population Health vs. Actual DSH Patient Experience on October 4.

Dr. Erin Kirschmann was the Undergraduate Enhancement Model stipend recipient, received a summer UGEM to perform scholarly research, prepared a publication regarding post-doctoral research, titled “Development of Working Memory in the Adolescent Rat,” and submitted for review to Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

Dr. Melissa Reed and Sister Annette Pelletier, IHM presented “Global Perspectives in Education Program at IU” at the International Education Conference sponsored by the CLUTE Institute in San Francisco, California on August 4-8, 2018.

A Unique Perspective

Meet Dr. Joshua Weikert, assistant professor in Politics. With his personal experience working in both major U.S. political parties, Dr. Weikert has an unusual perspective that he shares with his students. Combined with his love for lively class discussions, his courses on politics are engaging for all his students.

Learn more about Dr. Weikert’s love for both politics and teaching.

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