February 2017 Newsletter: Student-Faculty Research Pairs Share Findings

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)13

By Barry Zepel

A college student’s ability to learn is most positively impacted when the pupil has the opportunity to work as a partner on a research project with a member of the faculty, according to findings presented at a recent American Association of Colleges and Universities conference.

SJSU’s Student-Faculty Research Pairs program provides opportunities for 33 undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors. The 33 pairs will share their work at the Celebration of Research, on Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

With the help and guidance of the Center for Faculty Development, each pair prepares a poster to describe their project and the questions they hope their research will answer. Created through the university’s unique “Explorations in Research, Scholarships and Creative Activity” program umbrella in 2012, it offers undergraduates the opportunity to enrich their student experience while attending SJSU.

“As a pair, the idea is for the student and faculty member to write their proposal together, rather than the student write it and faculty member only approve it,” said Amy Strage, assistant vice president for Faculty Development.

This year’s research areas range from astronomy to healthcare-related topics to exploration into areas of mental health to ballet.

“Compact Galaxies & Black Holes” is the topic for juniors Devin Cunningham and Chris Dixon who are working with Aaron J. Romanowsky, associate professor of physics and astronomy. One of their research questions is “What are the origins of compact stellar systems?”

“With my previous affinity for black holes and stars, I wasn’t sure what to work on with Dr. Romanowsky,” said Dixon, a physics and astronomy major. “I’ve always found astronomy and black holes very interesting. I’ve never done any research before this.”

Cunningham, whose eventual academic goal is to complete doctoral studies in theoretical physics, added: “After attending a seminar showcasing Dr. Romanowsky’s research, Chris and I sought to work (with) him.”

Junior biology student Puneet Sanghera has been working with Katie Wilkinson, an assistant professor of biological sciences on “The Effects of Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammation on Spinal Cord Excitability.” Wilkinson’s lab interests have included proprioception – “the ability to sense where your body is in space,” she explained.

February 2017 Newsletter: Spring University Scholars Series Launches

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

When Shannon Rose Riley was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis – with a background in fine arts, performance art and video, among other artistic disciplines – a conversation with a respected colleague more than a decade ago encouraged her to follow her passion for the nations of Cuba and Haiti and their impact on American arts, culture and society.

It eventually led to Riley publishing the book entitled, “Performing Race and Erasure: Cuba, Haiti, and US Culture, 1898-1940” last year. Riley, an associate professor who also serves as chair of the Department of Humanities and coordinator of the university’s Creative Arts Program, will discuss her book on March 22 as part of the Spring University Scholars Series.

This season’s Scholars Series will also feature presentations by Ahmet Bindal, a computer engineering professor, and Sotoudeh Hamedi-Hagh, an associate professor in electrical engineering, on Feb. 22; and Rachael French, an associate professor in biological sciences, April 26.

Riley said the spark that led to her book grew out of a conversation she had with the late Marc Blanchard, a highly regarded UC Davis comparative literature professor, who was impressed with her passion on the subject.

“I was talking about my belief that those countries, which are on opposite sides of the Windward Passage and provide a corridor for travel between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, have had a major impact on culture in the United States,” Riley said.

The proximity has been significant to the nation’s artistic culture as well as perceptions of race and racial relations in the U.S. Riley’s interest in the Caribbean grew out of a trip she made to Haiti through the Art Institute of Chicago as a young art student.

Representing the diversity of topics in the Scholars Series, Bindal and Hamedi-Hagh will discuss their book entitled “Silicon Nanowire Transistors”. Published in late 2015, it describes the “n-” and “p-channel” Silicon Nanowire Transistor designs with single and dual-work functions, which emphasize low static and dynamic power consumption. The book reveals a process flow for fabrication and generates Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis (SPICE) models for building different digital and analog circuitry.

The final event in the University Scholars Series will feature French, who will discuss her research into how the growth and development of fruit fly offspring are affected by exposure to alcohol. She hopes the research can someday help develop new treatments for babies with fetal alcohol syndrome.

All lectures will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on their respective dates in Room 225/229 of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

February 2017 Newsletter: Second Cohort Under Way for University Grants Academy

Professors applying for grants listen to Amy D'Andrade speak during the start of the University Grants Academy at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Professors applying for grants listen to Amy D’Andrade speak during the start of the University Grants Academy at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By Barry Zepel

The thought of writing a research grant proposal can be a mind-boggling challenge for anyone who has never done it before. For a young faculty member with a full 12-unit load of classes, finding the time to do research – and pursue funding to support it – can seem impossible.

Sensing that anxiety from new instructors five years ago, Amy D’Andrade felt she and some of her colleagues in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts (CASA) could help by serving as mentors. They began teaching the many steps of grant writing to a few of their interested CASA associates to allay those fears.

From D’Andrade’s experimental program the professor in the School of Social Work created a campus-wide University Grants Academy (UGA). The program launched in 2015-16 with the enthusiastic support of the Office of Research, theResearch Foundation and the Center for Faculty Development.

“We thought about how a faculty member would benefit in order to maximize the chances of submitting proposals successfully,” said D’Andrade, who now has responsibilities as UGA director and associate dean of research for CASA.

The UGA cohort begins with a series of four workshops, held between September and November, that breakdown the grant writing and funding
process into smaller “essential elements: Time, Information, Idea-to-Proposal, Finding a Funder, Drafting a Budget, and Writing the Narrative.” The fall sessions were open to the all SJSU faculty.

This spring semester, 22 faculty members are continuing with the program. Each participant is working with a set of senior faculty mentors with successful grant writing experience, as well as with the support of grant writing experts from the Office of Research, the Research Foundation and University Advancement. To help them in their participation, each grant writing novice is given three units of assigned time to reduce their spring teaching schedule.

Meekyung Han, a professor of social work at SJSU since 2005, took part in last year’s UGA. She credits D’Andrade and John Lee, a professor of mechanical engineering, for providing strong guidance through the submission process of her first grant proposal “Breaking barriers to empowering family caregivers of persons with mental illness.”

“The UGA certainly enhanced my capacity to plan, develop, complete and submit an external grant proposal independently,” Han said. “My knowledge and confidence in writing a grant proposal for external funders have greatly improved. I successfully submitted my first federal grant proposal to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

Jordan Schettler, in his second year at SJSU as an assistant professor of mathematics, submitted a grant proposal on “Research Experiences for Undergraduates to the National Science Foundation. He credits the UGA and faculty members Michael Kaufman (Physics) and Julio Soto (Biology) for “providing tons of useful information.”

“I am a great deal better prepared,” Schettler said. “In particular, I have an infinitely richer understanding of the balance between the budget and the guidelines.”

Additional information about the UGA is available online or by emailing Amy D’Andrade.

February 2017 Newsletter: Early Career Investigator Awardees Honored in February

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

Research into subjects as varied as how exposure to alcohol can affect the development of both humans and insects, as well as the impacts of trauma on vulnerable populations, will be recognized during San Jose State University’s annual Celebration of Research.

Receiving the 2017 Early Career Investigator Awards during the Feb. 16 ceremony at the Diaz Compean Student Union ballroom will be Rachael French, associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Miranda Worthen, assistant professor in the Department of Health Sciences and Recreation.

French has generated more than $1.2 million in external funding to support her work examining how the development of the common fruit fly is affected by laying its eggs in the alcohol-rich environment of newly rotting fruit. Financial backing for her studies, which began when she was doing post-doctoral work at the University of California, San Francisco, comes from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. She has three graduate students and six undergraduate students assisting her work.

“We wanted to see if we could detect the detrimental impacts alcohol could have on development of the flies,” said French, who earned a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Washington in 2003. “They can cope with exposure to higher levels of alcohol, but we wanted to see if fewer survived and if growth was slower in those that do. We found some of the impacts are similar to mammals.”

French hopes her research could lead to treatments for babies suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome. That would likely occur “way down the line,” she said.

Worthen came to San Jose State in 2012 after earning a doctoral degree in epidemiology from UC Berkeley, a MPhil in international development from Oxford University and a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University. She described her research as wide-ranging, focusing on social justice and public health, specializing in the areas of gender and violence. She has raised “more than $100,000” for her projects, including from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and The Thoracic Foundation.

Her interest in these issues was sparked at an early age. Her mother, Kaethe Weingarten, with whom Worthen has co-authored academic papers, is a retired associate clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

“My mother always impressed on me that your own personal experience can have an important impact on your research and the questions you ask,” Worthen said, who has published articles about her experience with trauma.

Worthen and French were selected by members of the Early Career Investigator subcommittee, comprised of Research Foundation board members and faculty. One award goes to a College of Science or Engineering faculty member, the other to a faculty member in another college. Each winner receives a cash award of $1,000.

February 2017 Newsletter: Researchers Target Human Factors in Cybersecurity

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)

By Barry Zepel

Anyone aware of last year’s reports about Russian hacking of the Democratic and Republican parties’ computer networks will be familiar with the term “cybersecurity.” As hackers attempt to invade network systems via the Internet – to either damage them or steal proprietary information – cybersecurity has become among the highest priorities for governments, corporations and many other types of organizations.

David Schuster, an SJSU faculty member since 2013, won a National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award grant of $516,000 over five years to conduct research on strengthening cybersecurity and computer network defense. The approach that Schuster and his team of SJSU students are taking in their research is very different than what most people might expect. Schuster is an assistant professor of psychology – not computer science or information technology.

“My field within psychology is called human factors psychology,” Schuster said. “Human factors psychologists study things like the design of a technological device – such as a smartphone – to determine the easiest way to make that device most intuitive for any person to operate with a minimum of frustration. Human factors psychologists study both the technology side and the human side.”

Schuster and his 14 assistants – seven graduate students and seven undergraduates – are focusing their research on the people hired to defend computer networks, not on the technology itself. Two of his graduate students are paid through research assistantships, while two undergraduates are compensated through scholarships; other students are volunteers. They all are dedicated to their research assignments in the Virtual Environments, Cognition and Training Research Laboratory managed by Schuster, located in the newly renovated Dudley Moorhead Hall.

“We aren’t studying the individual using their computer at home and wanting to remain safe on the Internet,” Schuster explained. “Rather, we want to get to know the cybersecurity professionals charged with protecting the computer network systems of organizations like corporations, governments, universities and school districts – organizations across all sectors.”

Schuster notes that no organization can protect its computer network by simply using or turning on some security software.

“There is at some level someone who is making decisions that determine the effectiveness of that organization’s line of defense against a cyber attack,” he said. “We are studying those people; learning who they are, what their role is within the organization, what decisions they make on an ongoing basis, and how those decisions impact the overall cybersecurity of their organization.”

Soham Shah, an undergraduate majoring in computer science, said he spends 10 to 12 hours per week working in Schuster’s lab. The research matches his intellectual passions.

“My interest has been to know more about cybersecurity,” Shah said. But beyond that, “I am learning how to think. Being part of the lab and doing the research is broadening my horizon and lending me a unique perspective.”

Ian Cooke, a second-year graduate student working on his master’s degree in research and experimental psychology, feels the tasks he takes on in Schuster’s lab are a perfect fit with his interests and goals.

“I live for this kind of stuff. I love research,” Cooke said. “I love working on projects that are actionable in some way (like) developing a tool to facilitate some socio-technological need to solve problems, as opposed to simply recognizing them. That’s what I am doing here.”

Schuster, as the grant’s principal investigator, gives credit to his students for “their work ethic, determination and contributions to the research.”

“We’re really one unified team at the moment, as we’re all working towards similar milestones,” Schuster explained. “I continue to be impressed by what the students are capable of, and how they rise to new challenges. With research, there’s one new unexpected challenge after another.”

Ultimately, Schuster’s goal is for their research findings to help determine ways for cyber security employees to make better decisions that more effectively protect their organizational computer networks.