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 2016 Newsletter: Provost Update: A Culture of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

As Provost, I am always excited to learn about the amazing research, scholarship and creative activity (RSCA) our students and faculty accomplish. I also understand the dedication that is required to balance teaching, service and RSCA. From my own experience in conducting and publishing research, I know both faculty and students benefit from a campus culture that supports such endeavors.

I am committed to creating an environment that fosters this important aspect of higher education. In the last two years, we have invested $2.2 million to support university-wide workshops and college-specific programs to assist faculty in starting or continuing their RSCA agendas. Annual funding for RSCA has been built into our budget and we are finalizing a plan to ensure it remains a key priority.

My hope is that our current planning efforts will foster more stellar research like that of two faculty members honored at the Celebration of Research this month with Early Career Investigator Awards. Aaron Romanowsky, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Science, and Virginia San Fratello, from the Department of Design in the College of Humanities and the Arts, both exemplify the Spartan spirit of innovation. Romanowsky and his students are discovering new galaxies while San Fratello is using 3-D printing to create sustainable building materials. Both have been recognized by colleagues in their disciplines and have been successful in securing funding to further their research.

At the Celebration of Research, I was also pleased to highlight our Undergraduate Research Pairs program and see the wide range of projects students are pursuing with faculty mentors, some of which we highlight in this month’s newsletter. High-impact practices, including undergraduate research, improve student learning and support student retention, but faculty also benefit from students as research assistants. I applaud our faculty for their commitment to engaging students in their research along with attracting public and private funding to support regional, national and global collaborations.

The SJSU Research Foundation plays an essential role in sustaining our efforts. In 2014-15, the Research Foundation oversaw more than $63 million in revenues that included resources from grants and contracts with government agencies, corporations and private foundations to support more than 150 RSCA projects. See the full list of contracts and awards along with stories of faculty and student work in the San Jose State University Research Foundation 2014-15 Annual Report published this month. I am dedicated to the continued growth of the SJSU research enterprise and the role of the SJSU Research Foundation in supporting our campus.