San Jose State University’s CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose partnered to host the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Fiesta at McKinley Elementary School Oct. 20. Students and faculty from many departments, including Health Science, Environmental Studies and the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business worked together to host an afternoon of fun for neighborhood children and their families. SJSU students planned fun activities to teach kids about sustainability and health.
Dr. Lionel Cheruzel, an associate professor of chemistry in the College of Science, has been working on light-driven biocatalysts work with students in his research lab since joining San Jose State in 2009.
“We are making good progress, thanks to a great team of research students over the years,” he said, on a Friday afternoon in his Duncan Hall office.
Cheruzel will be sharing his research on Oct. 19, at noon, in MLK 255/257, as part of the fall 2016 University Scholars Series. His research is currently funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and he strives to offer opportunities for students from diverse backgrounds in his lab.
Most semesters he has 15 to 20 students working with him on biocatalysts that may someday create green and sustainable synthesis pathways for pharmaceuticals, fragrances and fine chemicals. He and his students have published 10 articles since 2010. He focuses on recruiting undergraduate students, but also hosts high school interns during the summer and supports graduate-level researchers.
“I like recruiting lower division students because they can stay in the lab longer – for three or four years,” he said. “I get to see them grow as a researcher.”
Cheruzel recruits his students from chemistry, biology and engineering classes. For the last three years, Mallory Kato, ’09 Chemistry, ’13 MS Chemistry, has helped with the experiments and managing the lab.
Like Cheruzel, Kato enjoys working with students in the lab, and she sees the benefit of lab work to understanding the curriculum from her own experience as a student.
Chemistry master’s student Caroline Harmon and Evelynn Henry, ’16 Biochemistry, said one of the greatest things they learned from Cheruzel is how to conduct research with limited resources.
“The way Dr. C uses things in an original way – making it work for what he needs – is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned,” Harmon said. “Sometimes I can see how the wheels are churning.”
Henry placed as a finalist in the 2016 SJSU Student Research Competition for her project with Cheruzel as her faculty mentor.
“We are getting to apply things we learned,” she said. “It is very different. I learned a lot on site, and it made me appreciate my education.”
While Cheruzel said he enjoys teaching, his true passion is working with students in the lab.
“Research makes me happy,” he said.
When Sarat Lue, an electrical engineering student, arrived at SJSU he said he wanted a way to connect with his new community.
“(Michael Fallon) told me about the Coyote Creek project and I thought it would be a good opportunity to make an impact in my new community,” Lue said. “I feel a sense of belonging to this community because I am making a positive impact and driving this community forward.”
Michael Fallon is the director of the SJSU Center for Community Learning & Leadership (CCLL). He facilitates partnerships between the university and organizations that help students engage in the community while developing leadership skills. In the latest National Survey of Student Engagement, SJSU students reported a higher participation in service learning, compared to their peers in California and the nation.
Lue was one of several group leaders who guided 222 volunteers on a massive cleanup of the South Bay watershed on Oct. 17. Since August 2014, volunteers have removed 62 tons of trash from the creek.
The SJSU Restore Coyote Creek project is one part of the South Bay Creeks Collaborative, which includes SJSU faculty, staff and students; community organizations; the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The group received the Outstanding Environmental Project of the Year Award at the San Francisco Estuary Conference in August for its work.
Deb Kramer has been the program manager for Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful since May, when she was hired through a joint grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the City of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
Kramer said SJSU has helped the grant go even further through volunteer efforts, “in so many ways.”
“From more hands on the creek to more awareness to student activities to student projects,” she said, the university has provided key resources.
In addition to physical cleanups, students and faculty have also raised awareness about the watershed. Students and faculty were instrumental in hosting the Coyote Creek Howl conference last spring, a one-day summit that focused on the ecology and human issues related to the watershed.
Social Work students have been involved in looking at the homeless population around the creek. CCLL and the Social Work Graduate Student Association hosted a premiere of a documentary, “Exodus from the Jungle,” at SJSU in October with homeless advocacy groups. The documentary looks at several homeless residents who sought new shelter after being removed from an area along Coyote Creek known as “The Jungle” which closed in 2014.
“We are facing obstacles such as homeless people living along the creek,” Lue said. “Unfortunately for them, there is no permanent solution to house them which forces them to rely on quiet spots along the creek to rest their heads.”
A team of Spartans pedaled hundreds of miles along the California coast this spring to raise awareness about climate change and to support SJSU’s environmental outreach program, The Green Ninja Project. The team included two professors, one alumna, one staff member and three students. Some are avid cyclists, while others were beginning bicyclists when they started training for the 320-mile ride.
The team members included Clare and Eugene Cordero, Paul Schmitt, Kelly Chang, Huong Cheng, Ramya Shenoy, Leah Tremblay and Gaby De La Cruz Tello. They raised $25,000 for the Green Ninja Project. The project is an interdisciplinary effort to teach middle school students about environmental issues and sustainability.
A group of San Jose State faculty, students and staff are looking at a new way to offer general education courses to Spartans in their first two years on campus as part of the Educational Excellence and Student Experience priority. Katherine Cushing, an associate professor of environmental studies, got involved in the discussions about creating general education pathways around themes last spring.
As a professor of water resource management, she said she was interested in working on a pathway related to sustainability. The other potential themes include creativity and global citizenship. Cushing said the University Sustainability Board members spoke at freshmen orientations over the summer to increase awareness of activities on campus and also mentioned some of the sustainability-related lower division general education courses.
Joyce Lum, a business major, is also part of the committee focused on general education pathways. As an Associated Student Board of Director, she said she made an effort to get involved in committees to be a voice for students.
As a business major she took GE courses in her first two years that related to globalization and sustainability.
“When I took classes that were related to each other, I found it a lot easier to pay attention in class because I could actually connect what I previously learned with what I was currently learning,” she said.
Lum said she wants to change the perspective students have of general education courses as she has heard negative comments from some students.
“It’s disheartening to hear this because I know the professors that teach these courses are very passionate about teaching and knowledgeable about their subjects,” she said.
The group working on the sustainability pathways has identified three clusters of courses that include climate change, sustainability policy and ethics, and art and sustainability.
“We’re still in the beginning stages of coordinating these pathways, but I can’t wait to see it implemented,” Lum said.