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UMaine Today Magazine

Student Focus

Lin Lin
Lin Lin

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UMaine graduate researcher uses ultrasonic technology to detect defective membranes used in industry and medicine.

Remember that kid in fifth grade who took apart his dad's new watch just to see how it worked? Deconstruction is great in theory, but it won't buy a new timepiece.

The idea of destroying something just to see if it is working properly goes against the grain, yet for many manufacturing processes, the destruction of filtration membranes for testing purposes is an unavoidable part of quality control. University of Maine doctoral candidate Lin Lin is working to change all that, applying ultrasonic technology in ways that can locate the defect without the destruction.

"By using ultrasonic techniques, we can conduct tests in real time without removing the membrane from the manufacturing process," says Lin, whose work has captured the attention of Millipore Corp., and Exxon-Mobil, among other companies. "Traditional testing methods required that a sample of the membrane be removed and sent to the lab, which interrupts the process and never directly answers the question regarding the quality of the membranes as they are used."

Under the guidance of UMaine mechanical engineering professor Michael Peterson, Lin is quickly becoming the leading expert in the use of ultrasonic waves for the study of membranes, and is working to develop important new tools for both research and industrial applications.

With such applications as the filtering of active viruses from vaccines and the removal of impurities from water, membranes are a critical part of thousands of manufacturing processes. Making sure they are operating at maximum efficiency can save time, money and even lives. Lin's master's work at UMaine focused on developing ultrasound testing techniques that could be easily conducted outside the lab techniques that Millipore hopes to apply to quality control in manufacturing. The testing method allows large area defect detection without interrupting the pharmaceutical manufacturing process.

Lin's doctoral research focuses on the basic science behind the action of membranes. By comparing the behavior of reflected sound waves at the interface of sample membranes and the fluids in which they are immersed, her work is helping scientists better understand how pore size and other factors affect membrane function. Industry collaborators have helped support Lin's work and have shown a strong interest in the potential it has for improving manufacturing processes.

"Membranes are incredibly important in our lives, but there is so much of the basic science that we still don't know," says Lin. "Oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, the Navy; many applications depend on an understanding of how fluids and porous materials interact. This is a really big market, and there are a lot of questions that we need to answer."

Jason Charland
Jason Charland

In Mind

Geriatric mental health essential for sustaining quality of life.

For the past five years, Jason Charland has been a direct care provider in a group home for adults with mental illness, assisting residents with daily living tasks and recreational activities, supporting social skill development and administering medications. The experience prompted him to pursue a master's degree in social work at the University of Maine.

"What I really understood is the impact you can have on an individual's quality of life," he says. "Providing interaction and support is very rewarding."

In the Master of Social Work (MSW) Program, Charland has worked as a field student, then as a graduate research assistant in UMaine's Center on Aging. He has been involved in varied Center on Aging projects, including researching the transportation needs of elders with chronic illness, elder abuse screening and education in the primary care setting, and prescription drug conference planning.

Charland's full-time job as a direct care provider also gave him a unique perspective on a research project designed to improve services for the elderly with mental health issues in the state. He developed a training program on geriatric mental health for direct care providers and compiled information on elder suicide prevention for the Maine Joint Advisory Committee on Select Services for Older Persons, and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The joint advisory committee and the department were charged by the legislature with addressing issues in a law passed in 2005 to improve access and delivery of mental health services to older adults.

Charland developed a five-hour training curriculum for direct care service providers working with Maine's older adults in long-term care, residential and home care settings. The educational program covers aging myths and keys to healthy aging, late-life depression and elder suicide risk, Alzheimer's disease and dementia, other mental illnesses, management of difficult behaviors and substance abuse.

"All older adults have unique needs," Charland says. "Becoming aware of those needs when it comes to mental health will help the quality of services direct care workers provide."

The effects of chronic illness, multiple medications and isolation complicate mental health issues in elders. In some settings, the social network for the elderly is reduced to other residents and the facility's staff.

"That's why it's so important for the staff to be supportive and understand symptoms and behaviors presented as the result of mental illness, offering a safe and caring environment in which to keep the person's dignity and respect intact," he says. "Support can offer some relief."

In long-term care facilities, there is a prevalence of mental health problems in elders, as well as a high turnover rate and shortage of direct care workers, Charland says. It is estimated that more than 60 percent of persons in nursing facilities and 53 percent in residential care have mental health diagnoses. Charland cautions that a small percentage of the elderly population is in institutional care, and these numbers do not reflect mental health issues of the general population of adults age 65 and older.

Training staff in how to deal with mental health problems has been shown to improve patient outcomes, including fewer depressive symptoms and better management of aggressive behaviors. Staff members have greater job satisfaction and better job performance.

"Understanding the best ways to interact with presenting behaviors can impact the older adult's quality of life," says Charland. "This is a proactive approach to increase preventative skills of workers to anticipate and redirect disruptive behaviors."

Charland also compiled research on best practices for addressing elder suicide. He found only two states, Oregon and Pennsylvania, have formal elder suicide prevention plans in place.

"Most state suicide prevention programs are targeted to youth, but now Maine is starting to take a lifespan approach inclusive of all age groups."

In Maine, more than 18 percent of all suicides approximately 30 a year occur after age 65, which mirrors the national average. Nationally, the rate of suicide among white men age 85 and older is 4.6 times greater than the rate for all ages.

Among the risk factors for elder suicide: loss of spouse, living alone, access to lethal means, and physical and mental illness.

Charland's three major recommendations involve more frequent depression screenings for elders in primary care settings, coordination of elder suicide prevention efforts with the existing Maine Youth Suicide Prevention Program, and training for "gatekeepers," like volunteers who deliver meals, in order to identify at-risk older adults and refer them for help.

"The most compelling finding was that screenings for depression by primary care physicians have the most promising effect," Charland says. "Older adults trust their doctors and are willing to talk to them about mental health issues when they may not want to go to a psychologist or psychiatrist."

Above all, when caring for elders with mental health issues, it's important to see the people, not their disease or challenging behaviors, says Charland, who completes his graduate work in May.

"It's been a great opportunity to work on these two projects knowing the end products will be used in one way or another to positively impact the lives of older Mainers."

Jacob Cayouette
Jacob Cayouette

Bat Boy
UMaine first-year student and Iraq war veteran spreads his artistic wings

When Jacob Cayouette auditioned for a role in his first college musical, he didn't know the play about a lonely, pointy-eared, sharp-toothed boy discovered living in a cave. As a first-semester theater student at the University of Maine, all Cayouette hoped for was a bit part that would give him a few minutes in the footlights.

But Cayouette's acting and singing talents landed him the title role in UMaine's spring production of Bat Boy: The Musical. And while the casting call stunned Cayouette, it was no surprise to those who know him and his lifelong love of the stage.

"I've been acting or acting out in front of my family since I was 3," admits the Rockport, Maine, native. "I was the middle child trying to grab attention. I've always been in love with theater."

His parents, a Christian singing duo known as the Cayouettes, regularly toured the Northeast. When Cayouette and his two siblings were old enough, they joined their parents on stage. Cayouette performed with them until he was 10.

"My dad has a powerful voice. He's a real people person who likes to tell stories. My mom has great tone. She's quiet and musically diverse, playing piano, guitar and trumpet. She was the one who started my love for every type of music.

"I'm a tenor with a pretty high voice and decent falsetto range. I like to think I got a little of both my mom and dad's voices."

At Camden Hills Regional High School, Cayouette's first taste of theater came as a member of the chorus in a production of Guys and Dolls. It was the first of nine high school plays, including every musical, in which he took the stage and an increasing share of the spotlight. But to pursue his passion for theater and music, Cayouette made the tough decision as a sophomore to give up athletics, which he excelled in all his life.

"I loved sports," he says, "but music and theater were more fun."

Two months after graduating high school in 2002, Cayouette was in the Army. He enlisted, he says, because of Sept. 11, just as his brother had done a year earlier, and because a military career would give him two opportunities: money for college to major in theater, and world travel.

Cayouette turned 18 in basic training. That January, he and the rest of the 17th Signal Battalion headed to Iraq for a six-month stint.

"The military shows your breaking points," he says. "You get to know fear and yourself well."

When he was back in Germany where his unit was stationed, Cayouette submitted an audition tape for the U.S. Army Soldier Show, an annual touring company of amateur artists selected from active duty soldiers to spend nearly seven months performing a live musical review. He was selected to be one of 18 performers for the 2004 tour, which involved 110 shows in 57 locations worldwide before audiences of up to 10,000.

It was his first professional performance gig. And it went by all too quickly. By January 2005, Cayouette was back in Iraq, this time for a year.

"I never wanted to go back after the first time," he says. "I heard halfway through the show that we had to return and I was upset and scared. Everybody's scared. Then comes the point that you just do it. It's like winning a bad lottery."

Cayouette is proud of his military service, and the maturity and life experiences he gained. "I don't necessarily agree with the war, but I have a lot of respect for the soldiers who go and do it without question," he says.

"I'm glad I joined the military. I grew up a lot in four years. I got in great shape and got some discipline. Traveled a lot, met my girlfriend in Germany and performed in a professional production. The experience also gave me a lot to work with on stage."

Last July, Cayouette was discharged from the Army. A month later, he enrolled as a theater major at the University of Maine. Not long after that, he was tapped for what he says is unequivocally his all-time favorite theatrical role.

"Everyone who's not been accepted or misunderstood can identify with Bat Boy. I've been misunderstood plenty of times in my life," Cayouette says.

"For me, one line in the play says it all: I know I'm strange, so help me change. Because I see myself in Bat Boy, this is my favorite role."


UMaine Today Magazine
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