SJSU Professor’s Design work Sets Stage for Fun Home

A scene from the musical Fun Home shows the set design of SJSU Assistant Professor Andrea Bechert.

A scene from the musical Fun Home shows the set design of SJSU Assistant Professor Andrea Bechert.

Andrea Bechert, an assistant professor and designer in the Department of Film and Theatre, will have her scenic design on display during an October run of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical Fun Home at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts. The show, presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, is based on MacArthur Fellow Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel that details her experience growing up in a loving yet dysfunctional family that owns a funeral home.

The set design was an especially challenging project as the storyline is based on Bechdel’s memories—it moves back and forth between the author’s childhood, college years and present life—sometimes with three actresses playing Alison at different ages on stage at once. Rather than building fully realist sets, she played with filing the stage with elements to suggest a home, such as a couch, a chair, with windowpanes and curtains in the background.

Bechert talked about her work on Fun Home in a recent San Jose Mercury News article, and noted that she felt an especially personal connection to Bechdel’s story.

“When I was an undergrad, I feel like I went through a lot of the same things that Alison Bechdel did,” Bechert said. “I was coming out and trying to come to grips with my sexuality, and it was still something that wasn’t talked about too much. People were starting to be okay with it.”

Fun Home will be presented October 3 – October 28 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. For more information, visit TheatreWorks.org.

October 2018 Newsletter: Nursing Professor’s Research on Postpartum Depression Offers Advice to Clinicians

Deepika Goyal

Deepika Goyal

Deepika Goyal, a professor in the College of Health and Human Sciences Valley Foundation School of Nursing, will present the second University Scholar Series lecture on Oct. 24, from noon to 1 p.m., in MLK 225/229. During the event, she will share her research about Asian American women and postpartum depression. Her research suggests stigma, shame and lack of knowledge regarding postpartum depression symptoms may prevent this group from receiving timely treatment. Her findings provide information for clinicians on how to provide culturally-informed care and promote optimal maternal-child well-being outcomes.

In addition, Goyal has co-authored a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine Postpartum Health special issue Sept. 27 that suggests a link between perinatal depression and the season in which a woman gives birth. Goyal worked with colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco to analyze information from 293 first-time mothers who had been involved in a randomized clinical trial on sleep before and after pregnancy.

The researchers found an overall risk of depression of 30 percent, with the lowest incidences when a woman’s final trimester coincided with longer daylight hours when the risk dropped to 26 percent. For the women who gave birth from August through early November when days are shortening, the risk was the highest at 35 percent.

“Among first-time mothers, the length of day in the third trimester, specifically the day lengths that are shortening compared to day lengths that are short, long or lengthening, were associated with concurrent depressive symptom severity,” Goyal said.

Based on these findings, the team has suggested that clinicians could suggest light therapy, outdoor activity during daylight hours and vitamin D as measures to minimize postpartum depressive symptoms.

“Women should be encouraged to get frequent exposure to daylight throughout their pregnancies to enhance their vitamin D levels and to suppress the hormone melatonin,” added Goyal, who said that clinicians should also advise their patients to get more exercise outdoors when weather and safety permit. “Daily walks during daylight hours may be more effective in improving mood than walking inside a shopping mall or using a treadmill in a gym. Likewise, early morning or late evening walks may be relaxing but would be less effective in increasing vitamin D exposure or suppressing melatonin.”

For more on the University Scholars Series, visit the events page online.

Video: Engineering Students Gain Global Perspective on Technology

It’s a fun, intense, fascinating three-week multi-cultural experience across the Pacific that can change a San Jose State University student’s life. Students who traveled on the Global Technology Institute’s summer 2018 trip to Taiwan kicked off the Charles W. Davidson’s College of Engineering’s Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium on September 13 with a pitch to attract 2019 participants.

The program aims to educate college students on issues of the global economy, technology,energy and the environment while also providing them with a research or entrepreneurial experience. The most recent cohort shares highlights about their lectures and seminars at Chung Yuan Christian University in Jungli, Taiwan, as well as their cultural immersion. Students visited Taiwanese companies and government facilities, art museums, amusement parks, aboriginal villages, night markets and national scenic areas.

Watch the student’s presentation, videos of recent speakers and view upcoming lectures on the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium website.

Faculty Tenure and Promotion: Katherine “Katie” Wilkinson

Katie Wilkinson

Katie Wilkinson

Katie Wilkinson

Tenure and promotion to associate professor

Years at SJSU: 6

Department: Biology

RSCA focus: Neurons in the muscle that sense stretch and how diseases impact them.

Associate Professor Katie Wilkinson, who has enlisted the help of undergraduate and graduate students in her research, is working on a four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue their work in understanding basic biology of stretch-sensitive neurons. She and her students have published four papers since 2015, including a cover article for Nature Neuroscience as well as recent pieces for the Physiological Society’s Physiological Reports and PLOS One. She is especially pleased that four former lab students are now in doctoral programs.

“I love seeing where students end up after they leave SJSU,” she said.”

In addition to her research, Wilkinson led the redesign of introductory biology courses, served on the University Graduate Studies and Research Committee, and was active with the management team for the STEM Cell Internship in Laboratory-based Learning masters program, among other service activities.

Her advice to students?

“Pursue research experiences early,” she said. “The best way to know if you like Biology and want a career in research is to try it out.”

Note: Congratulations to the 43 faculty members who received tenure and/or promotion for 2018-19. We have invited each faculty member to participate in a series of posts profiling their teaching, service, and research, scholarship and creativity activities. Those faculty who opted to participate will be featured throughout the fall semester on the Academic Spotlight blog and the digital sign in the Administration Building lobby.

 

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.”