September 2018 Newsletter: Provost Update – A New Year Full of Opportunities

Dear University Community,

Welcome back! I am pleased to be starting an exciting year with all of you at San Jose State University. We begin this new academic year with nearly 36,000 regular and special session students, a cohort of 65 tenure/tenure-track new faculty and many exciting opportunities to advance our research, scholarship and creative activities, and our student success mission.

In these early weeks, I have immersed myself in getting to know about all of you at events such as the faculty-in-residence and faculty fellows reception; a new faculty reception; and the 15th Anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, among other gatherings. I have also shared a bit about myself. As I said during a marathon of college welcomes on Aug. 20, I have 45 years of experience in higher education dating back to my time as a teaching fellow at New York University. It has been an honor to have had such a long career in the academy, with much of my time spent as a professor of Public Health and administrator at Montclair State University.

These have been rich experiences balancing teaching, research on women’s health issues and administrative work at a public university not unlike San Jose State, and it has been gratifying. When I first visited SJSU last year as a consultant for then-Provost Andy Feinstein, the exemplary record of scholarly accomplishment by faculty and students here impressed me. Early fall events on campus afforded an opportunity to more deeply understand who the faculty are at San Jose State, and,  it was invigorating to meet so many faculty and staff firsthand.

This fall continues with many more events, including the University Scholars Series that highlights the extraordinary work of our faculty, starting with Associate Professor Aaron Romanowsky from the Department of Physics and Astronomy on Sept. 26, at noon, in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Room 225/229. See the full schedule online.

We also begin the academic year with one of our own recognized with the California State University Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award. Margaret “Peggy” Stevenson founded the Record Clearance Project, a program that provides SJSU students an opportunity to work within the justice system while providing community service. These students help those with a criminal conviction expunge their records so they can have a new lease on life. Read more online.

As I shared with faculty in a memo on Sept. 4, we are launching a new Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (RSCA) Reassigned Time program in January. It will redefine what it looks like to be a teacher-scholar at San Jose State. This program builds on a three-year project started by former Provost Feinstein to understand and develop a means through which RSCA for faculty may be equitably and fully supported by the university, and used as a way to advance the professional work of our faculty.

We recognize three broad areas of faculty endeavor – teaching, scholarship and service – and faculty are expected to be active in each area. Scholarship is a core activity for all faculty members, and scholar/artists are critically important for student development and engagement in the wider academic community. I look forward to working with college deans to implement this new program for tenured and tenure track faculty to help them succeed with their RSCA agendas while also providing our students with conceptual skills that prepare them for careers and a future we can only begin to imagine.

Let’s have a great semester!

Sincerely,

Joan C. Ficke
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Kinesiology Lab Connects Students with Cerebral Palsy Patients and Research Skills

Assistant Professor Areum Jensen works with a clinical research participant in her kinesiology lab.(Photo: Brandon Chew)

Assistant Professor Areum Jensen works with a clinical research participant in her kinesiology lab. (Photo: Brandon Chew)

Areum Jensen first learned about the field of kinesiology from an English teacher. She was completing a bachelor’s in biology at Sangmyung University in Seoul, Korea, and had long been interested in understanding how exercise can improve health. As a child, her mother had often been ill and suffered from severe asthma. However, once her mother began a regiment of exercise – starting with one minute a day and building up to being able to compete in an amateur tennis tournament years later – Jensen became a believer that exercise could be medicine.

“I tried to figure out what I wanted to learn next,” said Jensen, who is an assistant professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Kinesiology. “I had an English teacher who had been a sports medicine doctor in Canada. He said I had to go to America or Canada to study kinesiology.”

Jensen applied and was admitted to a master’s of exercise physiology program at San Francisco State University. After finishing her degree, she decided to pursue a Ph.D. in medical physiology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine so that she could learn the knowledge and techniques needed to conduct clinical research. There, she first became involved with studies of individuals with neurological disorders such as autism.

At San Jose State University, she is continuing her clinical research agenda through internal grants from her college and the university, as well as the support of student researchers. Through the Undergraduate Research Grant Program, coordinated by SJSU’s Office of Research and the Center for Faculty Development, she was able to work with three students in 2017-18 and has four students engaging with her for 2018-19.

“I couldn’t do my research alone,” she said. “The clinical nature of my work means I need students and assistants. It is amazing to work together and see how motivated my students are. I am very proud.”

Jensen is quick to point out the successes and accomplishments of last year’s research team — Rachel Christensen, ’17 Kinesiology, Pooja Pal, ’18 Kinesiology, and Cory Low, ’18 Kinesiology. The students were president and dean’s scholars; received scholarships; and were recognized for scholar and service scholarships by the Department of Kinesiology and the American Kinesiology Association. The high point for Jensen as a mentor — all were accepted to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs immediately following graduation while most candidates take much longer to complete the requirements to apply for such programs.

“We were all very fortunate to have Dr. Jensen as our lab instructor in our physiological assessment course,” Christensen said. “It was easy to see her passion for exercise physiology.”

Areum Jensen, an assistant professor of Kinesiology, works with students on clinical research that will compare physiological function of control participants and participants with autism.

Areum Jensen, an assistant professor of Kinesiology, works with students on clinical research that will compare physiological function of control participants and participants with autism.

Working under Jensen’s leadership, the students explored the relationship between muscular strength, bone mineral density and balance in adults with cerebral palsy, among other relationships between physiology and function in the population. Jensen’s ultimate goal is to help populations with neurological disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy to reap the benefits of exercise. The students presented their work at the national meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in May 2018.

“It was an opportunity we all couldn’t pass up,” Christensen said, noting that Jensen served as a mentor through the undergraduate research grant application process. “I feel so much closer to my peers, and I’ve gained such a tremendous mentor in Dr. Jensen throughout this process…I love that it provided a gateway to attend conferences as well.”

Pal said she was looking to engage in research to develop skills she would need to enter a physical therapy program, but she discovered the best part of the research was working with the participants involved in the study.

“Whenever the cerebral palsy research team would go to Ability Now Bay Area in Oakland to train the research participants, they would be super enthusiastic every morning to exercise,” Pal said. “Their high spirits on most days gave all of us a happy boost.”

Christensen is attending California State University Fresno’s Doctorate of Physical Therapy program, while Pal started this fall at the University of the Pacific.

“This research opportunity helped me understand a patient-focused career in physical therapy,” Pal said. “I was able to enhance my communication and teamwork skills.”

Both graduates agreed that they made meaningful connections with professors and fellow classmates.

“The Kinesiology Department is truly an incredible department filled with faculty and staff that really want great things for their students and are willing to go above and beyond to help us reach our goals,” Christensen said. “I am extremely happy that I got to be a part of such a wonderful community at San Jose State, and I am sure I will be back.”

Jensen, who teaches clinical physiology classes, said that the research has made her more aware of including an array of information in her classes about different disorders that affect the body including neurological disorders that can strike diverse individuals.

“Before I spent a lot of time in class on cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and cancer,” she said. “Having done research on populations with neurological disorders, I can see that those disorders were neglected and I am bringing them into the classroom and giving them a little more time.”

SJSU Students Build Hyperloop Prototype

Academic leaders and industry partners talk with members of SJSU's Spartan Hyperloop team at the Innovation Design Collaborative at San Jose State on Friday, June, 8, 2018. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

Academic leaders and industry partners talk with members of SJSU’s Spartan Hyperloop team at the Innovation Design Collaborative at San Jose State on Friday, June, 8, 2018. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

By David Goll

Visionaries view a futuristic tube containing capsules, or “pods,” speeding passengers more than 700 miles per hour between the Bay Area and Los Angeles in about a half hour as one way to help ease the Golden State’s congested roadways.

And engineers of the future studying today at San Jose State University want to play a big part in moving what is called “hyperloop” technology from design and testing phases into reality. They are looking for solutions for one of the world’s busiest travel corridors in the nation’s most-populous state, boasting the world’s fifth-largest economy.

“In general, there has been a lack of innovation in the transportation sector,” said Ali-Imran Tayeb, who earned bachelor’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Physics in December from SJSU. “The cars, planes and boats keep getting better, but we haven’t seen new forms of transportation systems. We learned a lot from the (2018 Hyperloop Pod) competition. There’s such a strong need for this type of travel.”

Tayeb co-founded the Spartan Hyperloop project three years ago and leads its Mechanical team. In July, he was among a team of 20 SJSU undergraduates and recent graduates who took their Spartan Hyperloop magnetic levitation creation to participate in the 2018 Hyperloop Pod competition sponsored by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX. Headquartered in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne, SpaceX is most known for its space-exploration technology and rocket launches. It was founded and is led by Elon Musk, also the high-profile CEO and co-founder of the Fremont-based upscale electric car manufacturer, Tesla Inc.

This version of Spartan Hyperloop — a 6-1/2-foot long, 2-1/2-foot wide, 2-foot high, 320-pound creation composed of an aluminum frame, battery packs and high-speed spinning magnets among other elements — was built to half the scale of the SUV-sized vehicle envisioned to transport passengers and cargo. Design of the SJSU project beat out 100 other entries from universities worldwide, making SJSU one of only two teams to qualify for the SpaceX competition in the levitation category. Unfortunately, a technical failure on the road disqualified the team from competing against the other qualifying team, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Thomas Baker, an SJSU senior majoring in Electrical Engineering who heads up the Spartan Hyperloop Electrical team, said mechanical problems affected the prototype, but work will continue to perfect Spartan Hyperloop.

Baker said a perfected Spartan Hyperloop design would operate by taking advantage of the low-friction environment of the tube to generate enough speed to cause levitation.

He said the SJSU team has had up to 60 members. Funding for the project came mostly from the university and corporate sponsors, but $2,200 was also raised through a Crowdfunding campaign supported by University Advancement, Baker said.

“We’ve worked really hard to get students from all of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) disciplines involved, as well as business and marketing,” Baker said.

SJSU has participated in all three years of the SpaceX competition, he said, having previously been a runner-up in design, before building Spartan Hyperloop this year.

Musk’s initial Hyperloop concept, introduced in 2012, included reduced-pressure tubes providing pathways for pressured capsules propelled by linear induction motors and axial compressors riding on air bearings. A proposed 350-mile route connecting California’s two-largest population and business centers would roughly parallel Interstate 5 through the Central Valley. Another of Musk’s companies, The Boring Co., has also proposed smaller-scale projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, with a possible extension to New York.

One study put the cost of building the Bay Area-to-Los Angeles Hyperloop connection at $6 billion for a passengers-only option and $7.5 billion for a larger tube that would carry both people and vehicles. Plans to build a high-speed rail line, already under construction in the San Joaquin Valley, are now estimated to cost $77 billion to connect the Bay Area to Los Angeles, and up to $98 billion to complete the full 800-mile system.

Baker considers the Hyperloop system – still on the drawing boards — a better deal.

“I have reservations about high-speed rail, which is using older technology and requires lots of infrastructure costs,” he said, noting contrasts in cost and environmental impacts. “We would be able to line (the tube) with solar panels and use the resulting energy for local communities along the line or give back to the grid.”

Trauma Transcends Generations for Refugees

Yvonne Kwan Yvonne Kwan poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

Assistant Professor Yvonne Kwan poses for a portrait on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

Yvonne Kwan, a second-year assistant professor of Asian American studies in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, grew up in a working-class southern California city with a sizeable Latinx community. She said growing up, she learned little about Asian American history or culture during her K-12 education. It was not until she took an ethnic studies course in college that this first-generation Asian American began to feel connected to her cultural heritage. She changed her major from molecular biology to ethnic studies.

When she began dating a boyfriend who was Cambodian American, now her husband, she began to learn about Cambodian culture and the experience of refugees who lived through genocide to help her gain an understanding of her in-laws. But she also found a fertile area for research. Kwan’s scholarly work has provided enough insight to fill a book; she is in the process of finalizing a manuscript entitled, “Afterlives of Diaspora: Cambodian American Trauma and Memory.”

“Some children were born in refugee camps, but they are too young to remember,” Kwan said.

Her book posits that while social trauma may not be verbalized or articulated, children of survivors can still develop the capacity to both identify with and experience the pain of previous generations.

“The trauma of genocide can have an effect decades after the initial event,” she said.

Kwan’s research has found that while many of the Cambodian refugees who lived through the genocide do not talk about their experiences, the transmission of trauma happens through the silences and fragments within the family.

“For the older generation there is so much pain and a lot of these people are Buddhist so suffering is a part of life and they don’t see the point in rehashing it,” Kwan said. “The next generation is using anything they can find to fill the void. They read a ton of books or listen to other people (outside their families) tell the story.”

Since joining the SJSU campus in fall 2017, Kwan has been active on a task force that aims to provide more support for Asian Pacific Islander Desi (South Asian) American (APIDA) students. The task force, which includes faculty, staff and students, aims to determine what resources will be most helpful to students with these cultural identities as well as how to break down myths about the groups.

Both from her research and early work on the task force, Kwan said she sees a need to connect students to resources, whether it be helping them navigate academic advising or providing mental health services in a space where they feel safe.

“Students don’t always know what they need and sometimes they don’t know what to ask for,” Kwan said.

Keck Foundation Grant Establishes Freshman Research Initiative

SJSU professors will are using a grant from the WM Keck Foundation to create a freshmen research initiative. Clockwise from back left: Assistant Professor Alberto Rascón, Jr., Professor Resa Kelly, the program evaluator; Professor Daryl Eggers; Assistant Professor Laura Miller Conrad; Mallory Kato, the program manager; and Professor Lionel Cheruzel, the principal investigator on the grant. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

SJSU professors are using a grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to create a freshmen research initiative. Clockwise from back left: Assistant Professor Alberto Rascón, Jr., Professor Resa Kelly, the program evaluator; Professor Daryl Eggers; Assistant Professor Laura Miller Conrad; Mallory Kato, the program manager; and Professor Lionel Cheruzel, the principal investigator on the grant. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

The new Freshman Initiative: Research to Engage Students (F.I.R.E.S) will launch this year and is poised to help the university advance both its research and student success missions. Enabled by a $325,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, this new program aims to engage undergraduate students in scientific research from the very beginning of their time at San Jose State University.

The team spearheading this program includes four chemistry professors from the College of Science with experimental research laboratories: Professor Lionel Cheruzel, the principal investigator on the grant, Assistant Professors Laura Miller Conrad and Alberto Rascón, Jr., Professor Daryl Eggers, Professor Resa Kelly, the program evaluator along with Mallory Kato, the program manager.

Cheruzel and his colleagues strive to usher in a research-driven educational culture by introducing first-year students to the benefits of research. In order to do so, an introduction to research course (Chem 190) will be used to foster student’s spirit of discovery and train them in the basic skills necessary to excel in a research environment.

At the end of the course, students will work directly with two professors’ laboratories in two-week research streams. During these streams, students will have the opportunity to look closely at the various research questions being investigated, perform cutting-edge research, and learn how to be part of the scientific community.

Cheruzel believes the experience will motivate these students to [continue] on in one of the various research laboratories throughout the remainder of their undergraduate career to supplement their degree.

“There are benefits to having students who can stay on for three or four years doing research,” Cheruzel said. “Some of my most productive students have come straight out of Chem 1A.”

Within each of the research laboratories, the professors have seen how engaging in lab work and publishing their findings in notable journals has benefitted their students. After applying their education to real-world problems, demonstrating a persistence to training and developing stronger connections with faculty, these research students not only leave SJSU with a bachelor’s degree but with a skillset that distinguishes them from their competition.

“They are highly marketable,” Cheruzel said, noting that many of his former students have gone on to prestigious graduate schools or started careers with prominent biotech companies.

Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company.  The Foundation’s grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering and undergraduate education.  The Foundation also maintains a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth.  For more information, please visit www. wmkeck.org.