Student Research Competition Deadline Approaches

The Office of Research in partnership with the Research Foundation provides undergraduate and graduate research students the opportunity to present their work and compete for selection as SJSU representatives at the annual CSU Student Research Competition.  SJSU representatives will receive funds for expenses for reasonable travel/accommodations to the CSU Student Research Competition held at California State University, Sacramento on May 4, 2018, and May 5, 2018.  Travel will be covered by the monetary award to the student.

Students eligible to compete at SJSU and at the CSU-wide competition are undergraduate and graduate students currently enrolled as well as alumni/alumnae who received their degrees in Spring (May 2017), Summer (August 2017), or Fall (December 2017) of the prior academic year are eligible.  The research presented should be appropriate to the student’s discipline and career goals.  Proprietary research is excluded.  Each college may send forward a total of four student projects (undergraduate and/or graduate) representing outstanding research or creative activity.

The SJSU Student Research Competition will be held on February 28, 2018, and March 1, 2018, in the King Library Room 225 from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and is open to the SJSU Community.

Students interested in submitting their work for consideration are asked to contact their College office or visit the Student Research Competition website for additional information.  Colleges are to submit applications to the Office of Research at no later than February 19, 2018.

Khatami and Schuster to Receive Early Career Investigator Award

Left to right, Ian Cooke, Dr. Dave Schuster and Soham Shah pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Schuster has received a grant for cybersecurity research. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Left to right, Ian Cooke, Dr. Dave Schuster and Soham Shah pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Schuster has received a grant for cybersecurity research. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Assistant Professor Ehsan Khatami, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science, and Assistant Professor David Schuster, from the Department of Psychology in College of Social Sciences, have been chosen to receive the Early Career Investigator Award for 2017. Their selection was recommended by the Early Career Investigator Award Subcommittee, consisting of SJSU Research Foundation Board members and SJSU faculty. They will be honored at the annual SJSU Celebration of Research on April 4, 2018, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union ballroom. The event is open to the SJSU campus community.

The SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Awards recognize tenure-track SJSU faculty who have excelled in areas of research, scholarship or creative activity (RSCA) as evidenced by their success in securing funds for RSCA, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and carrying out other important scholarly and creative activities at an early or beginning point in their careers at SJSU. One award goes to a faculty member in the College of Science or the College of Engineering, and another is made to a faculty member from the other colleges combined. Each winner receives a cash award of $1,000 to be used at their discretion.

In the three years since he joined the Physics & Astronomy faculty, Ehsan Khatami has made remarkable contributions to the computational infrastructure and capabilities in the department and college; published extensively in the highest-ranked science journals, including one paper in Nature and two in Science, with co-authors from institutions like MIT, Harvard, and Princeton; and served as research mentor for seven undergraduate and six graduate students.

Dr. Khatami was hired to help expand the department’s offerings in computational physics throughout the curriculum. The first project he undertook was to build the department’s first modern high-performance computational cluster, which is used extensively by students enrolled in big-data courses and undertaking computational research. Because of his computational expertise, Dr. Khatami joined Dr. Sen Chiao as Co-PI on the successful NSF Major Research Instrumentation proposal that funded the $900K supercomputer now installed at the Research Foundation. He also was awarded a three-year NSF Research at Undergraduate Institutions grant for his project on “Disorder in Strongly Correlated Systems.”

College of Science Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami had research published in September 2016.

College of Science Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami had research published in September 2016.

Dr. Khatami and his students have expanded their research focus to apply machine learning techniques to the solution of complex quantum problems, and one of his graduate students has been the lead author on two papers, one already published and highlighted in Physical Review X. This paper is just one of the 12 published and two submitted papers that Dr. Khatami and his collaborators have produced since he arrived at SJSU.

In addition, Dr. Khatami has been recognized by others outside the institution. In 2016, he was named one of only seven Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) Scholars. This three-year visiting position is awarded to faculty at teaching-intensive institutions who engage in ongoing research activity, and provides support for six weeks of travel to the KITP program at UC Santa Barbara. He has given several invited talks and has participated in national and international conferences, all of which spread the word about the outstanding research being done at San José State University.

David Schuster joined SJSU’s faculty in August 2013 and established himself early on as a highly productive grant writer and scholar.  His research is designed to increase understanding of individual and shared cognition in complex environments and is applicable to areas such as the cognitive aspects of cybersecurity, and perceptual training for real-world pattern recognition in such domains as aviation, transportation security training, and military human-robot interaction.

Dr. Schuster’s grant activity and success have been remarkable. He was granted the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for early career faculty, the CAREER Award, in 2016. Additionally, he serves as Co-PI with an SJSU colleague on a collaborative research NSF grant. He was also awarded a supplemental grant by NSF in support of undergraduate research training at SJSU. Dr. Schuster has been successful in his pursuit of internal grant funding as well, earning a number of awards in support of his research and the research of SJSU students.

Dr. Schuster has also been a productive scholar. He has one co-authored, peer-reviewed article this year, as well as one in press. He has authored four peer-reviewed articles in his short time at SJSU, as well as multiple peer-reviewed proceedings papers, two book chapters, and a number of invited research presentations.

Further, Dr. Schuster has made tremendous contributions to his students’ research productivity. He is serving, or has served, on five master’s thesis committees, chairing two, has an active research lab of undergraduate and graduate students. He also oversees the training of research assistants employed through his grants. He is highly committed to providing SJSU students with top-notch educational opportunities and research training.

Please join us in congratulating our two 2017 Early Career Investigator Award Winners.

Professor Janet Stemwedel Joins Elite Group of AAAS Fellows

Janet Stemwedel

Janet Stemwedel

Janet D. Stemwedel, a professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy in the College of Humanities and the Arts has been elected to the rank of Fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She is one of 396 AAAS members across disciplines to be awarded the distinction in 2017 and was recognized in the section on History and Philosophy of Science. Each year the Council of the AAAS elects members whose “efforts on behalf of the advancement of science or its applications are scientifically or socially distinguished.”

She joins an elite group of Fellows in a tradition that dates back to 1874. Among past Fellows are Maria Mitchell, who discovered a comet that now carries her name; inventor Thomas Edison; anthropologist Margaret Mead, and biologist James Watson. Earlier this year, five AAAS Fellows were named as 2017 Nobel laureates.

Stemwedel, who holds doctorate degrees in both chemistry and philosophy, was recognized for distinguished contributions to the philosophy of science and ethics, and for exceptional efforts to promote the public understanding of science and scientists in culture.

“It’s hard to imagine engaging in the work for which I’m being honored any place else but San José State,” Stemwedel noted. “I’ve been blessed here with colleagues and an academic environment that has fully supported both my interdisciplinary work and non-traditional activities like blogging, podcasts, and tweeting that bring my scholarship out of the ‘ivory tower’ and into contact with the wider world. As a philosopher who helps the public to understand scientists and scientists to understand the public, I’m working to build a future that’s more humane for everyone. I’m delighted to share this recognition with San José State.”

She shared some of her research in a 2016 University Scholars Series lecture in which she discussed the ethical dimensions of being a good scientist that extend beyond avoiding or responding to scientific misconduct.

“Scientific knowledge is the result of particular kinds of interactions between human scientists who are also interacting with the piece of the world they’re studying,” she said. “Once you have an activity that requires humans to interact with each other, ethics has to be part of the story.”

Stemwedel contributes to and has maintained blogs where she is able to engage with an audience of working scientists and students from different disciplines and countries who are at various stages of their careers.

“They tell me if they think I’m missing an important feature of their scientific interactions, or if they find my ethical prescriptions implausible,” she said. “My audience also brings new questions to my attention, whether they’re from breaking news stories or from issues they’re trying to work out in their own lives as scientists.”

The ultimate goal of her research is to find ways to help scientists do their jobs better and to successfully share their findings with nonscientists.

“There are lots of ways to use philosophical tools – like logic and conceptual analysis – to develop strategies to address challenges in the real world, and lots of different challenges for which having a philosopher – or a college graduate with a philosophy degree – on your team might make a difference,” she said.

Spartan Aviation Program Ranked Fourth in the Nation

San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Aviation Program was recently ranked first on the West Coast and fourth in the nation by the Best Colleges website. The website ranks schools based on a variety of factors such as tuition, retention rates and the median starting salary for graduates.

The site acknowledges the history of SJSU’s Department of Aviation Technology, which was founded in 1936 when math students expressed a desire to study flight. During World War II, SJSU was one of 13 U.S. schools to become part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program. The department currently offers two bachelor’s programs – in Aviation and Industrial Technology – that allow students to specialize in operations, maintenance management, aviation management or professional flight.
Department Chair Fred Barez said the ranking is due to the achievements of faculty, staff and students, noting that students regularly participate in conferences and competitions across the country.

“They are our best ambassadors to promote and spread the word about our program to gain such national attention and recognition,” Barez said. “The department financially supports such student activities and I am very pleased to see the results.”

SJSU Astronomer Adds To Understanding of Star Formation and Black Holes

San Jose State University’s Aaron Romanowsky, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, revealed new research findings in a Jan. 1 article published in Nature. Romanowsky and his coworkers discovered that while bright new stars are formed at a rapid rate in new galaxies how quickly that rate slows is determined by the mass of the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The idea that the mass of black holes affects the rate at which stars are formed throughout the lifespan of a galaxy has been around for decades, but the team with which Romanowsky worked discovered the first observational evidence that this is the case. The precise nature of the feedback from the black hole that quenches star formation remains uncertain, according to coauthor Romanowsky, who is also an astronomer at UC Observatories.

“There are different ways a black hole can put energy out into the galaxy, and theorists have all kinds of ideas about how quenching happens, but there’s more work to be done to fit these new observations into the models,” Romanowsky said.

Read more about the findings.