Faculty News and Notes for February 2018: Publications, Quotes and More

Fox News KTVU interviewed Assistant Professor Serena Alexander, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, about the planned billion-dollar expansion of the Mineta San Jose International Airport, which Alexander links to the ongoing tech boom. “The relationship between airports and economic growth is self-reinforcing and simultaneous,” she said. In 2017, passenger numbers at the airport increased by 1.7 million, according to an airport spokesperson.

In a Mercury News article, Department of Engineering Lecturer and Guided Pathways Academic Advisor Ahmed Banafa commented on the two chip flaws, dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, that have put computers and smartphones at risk worldwide, allowing hackers to steal data from the memory of running apps. “Here is the simple truth: every CPU created since 1995 is a victim of these bugs,” Banafa said.

BEAM Media, launched in 2017 to cover “luxury niches,” interviewed Professor Ken Gehrt, Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences, about the market for luxury Japanese fruits. “Fine fruit is part of the elaborately nuanced process of relationship cultivation in Japan,” Gehrt said. In 2016, a “pair of choice Hokkaido rockmelons went for a record $27,240” at auction, the article reported. Read more online.

Department of Music and Dance Lecturer Michael Hernandez, saxophonist and founding member of the Mana Quartet, weighed in on the San Francisco Classical Voice query: “Is Classical Music Getting More Saxy?” Invented in Belgium in the 19th century by Adolph Sax, the instrument was originally considered—and designed to be—an orchestral instrument, the article argues. Read more online.

Professor and Chair Melinda Jackson, Department of Political Science, was among those interviewed by the Mercury News regarding last month’s Women’s Marches in the Bay Area and throughout the nation. Bolstered by the social movements #MeToo and #TimesUp, tens of thousands of U.S. women marched with a focus on mobilizing women voters and encouraging more women to run for public office. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers, a record number of women have announced as candidates in the 2018 elections. Read more online.

EdSurge interviewed Associate Professor Roxana Marachi, Department of Teacher Education, on the debate regarding the harmful effects on children’s development and wellbeing from constant access to tech devices. Marachi sides with educators who urge parents to wait until at least 8th grade before buying their children smartphones. Parents should recognize that devices and apps are designed to be addictive and should protect their children accordingly, Marachi said.

Associate Professor Harry Mathias, Department of Film and Theatre, was a featured presenter at the International Cinema Technology Association’s Los Angeles Seminar Series in January. An expert on image and projection quality, Mathias discussed the crossroads of technology and art in a special lecture. The two-day event also offered sessions on moviegoer research and new trends in cinema technology.

Professor Joseph Pesek, Department of Chemistry, has been tapped to receive the American Chemical Society’s 2018 Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution. Well known for the development of silica hydride-based stationary phases for liquid chromatography, Pesek has published more than 230 works in his field. The award, sponsored by the Research Corporation of Science Advancement, will be presented on March 20 in conjunction with the 255th ACS national meeting in New Orleans.

Indian Express interviewed Associate Professor Aaron Romanowsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy, about the “supermassive black holes” that determine the lifespan of stars in every galaxy. “There are different ways a black hole can put energy out into the galaxy, and theorists have all kinds of ideas about how quenching (a star formation) happens. There’s more work to be done to fit these new observations in the models,” Romanowsky said.

iSchool Associate Professor Michael Stephens gave the keynote address at the Conference About Libraries and Literacy (C.A.L.L) held earlier this month on the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse campus. The conference focuses on the role of libraries in promoting literacy among kindergarten through college students.



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.

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.

Faculty Notes for November 2016: Publications, Quotes and More

The Kite Runner Poster

The Kite Runner Poster

Department of Journalism Lecturer Lisa Fernandez was recognized and applauded by NBC Bay Area news for the “small act of kindness” that helped student Brandon Beebe get back into the classroom after a series of financial setbacks left him homeless. Fernandez reached out to her Facebook community who “within minutes jumped in and asked what they could do to help,” Fernandez reported—help that ranged from direct financial assistance to connections to other sources of financial aid and housing assistance. For more of the story, including information about Beebe’s GoFundMe page.

Mother Nature Network interviewed Department of Physics and Astronomy Lecturer Friedemann Freund about the “earthquake lights” that appeared over New Zealand during the peak of the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Freund, who co-authored a paper on the topic, theorizes that earthquake lights result when certain types of rock, under stress, produce electrical charges. Read more online.

Published this month through Cornell University’s East Asia Series: Department of History Assistant Professor Xiaojia Hou’s Negotiating Socialism in Rural China: Mao, Peasants and Local Cadres in Shanxi 1949-1953, the first monograph in English about the beginnings of China’s agricultural collectivization. Hou specializes in research about China’s socialist transformation in the 1950s and joined SJSU’s history faculty in the fall of 2015.

Dean Walter Jacobs, College of Social Sciences, was elected to the executive board of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, a national association based at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The council provides professional development programming to its member deans and works to sustain the arts and sciences as a leading influence in American higher education.

With help from her public relations class, Department of Journalism Lecturer Halima Kazem is spearheading a fundraiser for Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, selling the brightly colored bags those refugees fashioned from life vests worn while fleeing their country by boat. The bags sell between $14 and $40 and Kazem hopes to sell all 130 bags by Christmas, raising approximately $3,000 for the refugees. For more information, contact Kazem at halima.kazem@sjsu.edu.

Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Materials Engineering Professor Claire Komives’s antivenom research made the news again in a Pensacola News Journal report extolling the role of the possum in developing snakebite antivenom. (Possums are immune to the poison inflicted by snakebites.) Komives has previously presented her research findings at the American Chemical Society’s national conference.

Both Popular Science and inverse.com noted iSchool Lecturer Susan Maret’s Freedom of Information Act request regarding the role of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in “the development and application of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems.” The 88-page document Maret received in response details the feasibility of using flying insects for purposes of espionage. Read more online and at Maret’s blog.

Department of Communication Studies Associate Professor Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel The Kite Runner will open at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End on December 21 and run through March 11, 2017. Spangler’s adaptation was staged at San José Repertory Theatre in 2009 for its U.S. premiere and at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2013 for its European premiere.

Professor Emeritus Karl Eric Toepfer, Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre, is a contributing writer to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, an online research resource. Toepfer’s articles focus on two important figures in modern dance in Germany, Dore Hoyer and Harald Kreutzberg.

The San Jose Mercury News interviewed Dean Lisa Vollendorf, College of Humanities and the Arts, about the inspiration behind the Hammer Theatre Center and the city/university collaboration that resulted in an approximately $1 million refurbishment of the San José Repertory Theatre, turning that facility into a first-class performing arts venue for SJSU students and the larger South Bay community.

NPR affiliate KTEP in El Paso, Texas, interviewed Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Ken Wharton for a Science Studio: Quantum Theory segment that aired on November 20. Listen online.

Professor Fritz Yambrach, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, is concept designer and team organizer of the Fritz Water Vest, a flexible device designed to help populations in disaster or impoverished areas more easily transport water. The vest is currently being beta tested in Ethiopia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Burundi.

SJSU Professor Adds to Understanding of Massive Star Eta Carinae

San Jose State University’s Thomas Madura, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, helped to develop wind collision models to understand activity in Eta Carinae, a massive, bright stellar binary system. Madura worked with an international research team led by Gerd Weigelt from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. The team studied Eta Carinae for the first time using near-infrared interferometric imaging techniques.

In the central region of the binary, the powerful stellar winds from both stars collide at speeds up to 10 million km per hour. The team obtained unique images of the wind collision regions between the two stars. These discoveries improve our understanding of this enigmatic stellar monster. The observations were carried out with the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Read the full press release and see images online.