Annual Event Celebrates Faculty and Student Research April 23

Professor Emily Wughalter, Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski and Tania Rojas pose for a photo at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Student Research Fair in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz

Professor Emily Wughalter, right, and recent graduates Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski and Tania Rojas pose for a photo at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Student Research Fair in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz

SJSU’s Annual Celebration of Research on April 23, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom features a full program to celebrate student and faculty research. Students, faculty and staff are invited to watch presentations from 2018-19 Early Career Investigator Award recipients Assistant Professor of meteorology and climate science Minghui Diao and Assistant Professor of Psychology Susan Syncerski. During the event, SJSU Student Research Competition finalists will be recognized. The 12 undergraduate and graduate students will represent SJSU at the CSU Student Research Competition on April 26 and 27 at CSU Fullerton. In addition, 50 Undergraduate-Faculty Research Pairs will share posters of the work they’ve completed in the last year. The event is sponsored by the SJSU Research Foundation, the Office of Research and the Center for Faculty Development.

The Undergraduate-Faculty Research Pairs program offers grants to students who are engaged in research, scholarship or creative activities across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including the students who worked with kinesiology Professor Emily Wughalter on understanding how women athletes portray themselves on social media.

Women in Sports

Wughalter along with doctoral candidate from Oregon State University Jafra Thomas mentored four undergraduate students: Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski, Tania Rojas and Bernice Fan. The SJSU students who graduated in spring 2018 reviewed studies from the 1970s that found women athletes to be “apologetic” and studied the way current-day female athletes presented themselves to see if attitudes had shifted.

“It was empowering to meet other women who felt the same way about how women should be allowed to be unapologetic about the sport they participate in,” said Bernice Fan, ’Kinesiology 18. “This experience empowered me to be more convicted in my beliefs and gave me an opportunity to not only learn from the individuals in the project but to learn from a woman in the past (Professor Jan Felshin) who shared the same perspective 45 years ago.”

Lilani, ’18 Kinesiology, minor, Nutrition and Food Science, said her focus on the research project was examining the behavior of a women’s rugby team.

“My favorite experience has been presenting our research because I felt empowered by the women in the room who connected with our research,” she said. “All the minutes our team spent on diving into literature and discussing our reflections came to life in that room.”

Thomas, who met Wughalter at the 2017 National Association of Kinesiology in Higher Education, said working on the student-led project offered insight into the portrayal of women in sports that he had not studied in his own coursework, but that he believed it would be helpful in his future teaching and research.

“I was pleased to work with these students and to introduce them to the design of research,” Wughalter said. “Their work has already been presented at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Undergraduate Research Fair in October 2018 and then at a Western Society for Physical Education of College Women national conference. I am extremely proud of these students and their work.

Understanding Particles and Electrons

Kris McBrian, who will graduate in May 2019, and Elena Fader, who plans to graduate in May 2020, have been working with physics and astronomy Professor Ehsan Khatami. Fader is studying the properties of electrons moving around in an ionic crystal while McBrian has shown that a specific artificial neural network called a restricted Boltzmann machine can be used to simulate how quantum particles behave on a lattice.

“I’ve learned that being part of research is not only ideal for graduate school and experience, but it gives me an idea of which field I would like to pursue in the future,” Fader said. “Fortunately, the faculty in the physics and astronomy department are always looking for students interested in research.”

The experience has helped Fader move outside of her comfort zone and allowed her to network with a guest professor. McBrian said he was so intrigued with running simulations and machine learning he wanted to continue his work beyond a computational physics course project.

“As frustrating as it was at first, I’ll never forget the day when the simulation finally started agreeing with theory or the humbling experience of presenting this research at a physics conference,” he said.

Safer Li-ion Batteries

Victor Leong Gin He, a materials engineering student who will graduate in spring 2020, has been working with Assistant Professor of chemical and materials engineering Professor Dahyun Oh on creating safe Li-ion batteries in both aqueous and solid states.

“I joined the lab out of a curiosity to learn,” He said. “I wanted an opportunity to gain valuable experiences and a skill set before graduating. I stepped in with no knowledge of batteries and I’ve been growing at a steady pace thanks to the opportunity and guidance given by Dr. Oh.”

He said he is hoping to make a significant contribution to the electrochemical industry in the years to come.

Learning Numbers

Working with Associate Professor of child and adolescent development Emily Slusser, Sandra Arellano, who will graduate in May 2019, studied how children come to understand that number words refer only to discrete numerosity and not continuous spatial extent. They used three fun games to measure 3-5 year old’s understanding of number and counting as well as their executive functioning and control (a measure of general thinking and intelligence.) Results will be shared at an upcoming Western Psychological Association Conference in Pasadena.

Arellano signed on for the project because she wanted to gain research experience to better understand the field. She is now interested in pursuing a PhD in cognitive science.

“I enjoyed observing children’s cognitive abilities during the administered tasks and understanding that the data analysis can be applied to support children’s academics in the long run,” Arellano said.

ISB Groundbreaking

San Jose State University will break ground on its new Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB) on Thursday, April 25, at 10 a.m. on the university’s campus in front of Duncan Hall, with the 15th Annual College of Science Student Research Fair taking place in the Duncan Hall breezeway following the groundbreaking ceremony. The building will expand opportunities for faculty and student research. Complete groundbreaking event information may be found at sjsu.edu/sciencepark.

Our Crazy Winter Weather

Our Crazy Winter Weather

Spartans have had few opportunities to break out their umbrellas this year, unlike back in 2009, when storms pelted campus (Stefan Armijo photo).

Still nearly no rain in San Jose! Meanwhile, storms have socked the rest of the country. What gives?

Our Crazy Winter Weather

A weather map showing wind patterns worldwide, with the North Pole in the center. Note the ridge parked off the West Coast, resulting in just four inches of rain this year (SJSU Department of Meteorology and Climate Science).

The Polar Vortex hovering over the Midwest and East Coast is linked to a stubborn ridge parked off the West Coast, yielding mostly sunny skies here and record lows elsewhere, says Professor Alison Bridger, chair of the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

Why is this happening? Could it be global warming? Graduate students and faculty members here are studying  underlying factors.

This is an excellent example of applied weather research which would have direct applications to we citizens in that it would explain and demystify extreme weather phenomena,” Bridger writes.

Learn more from the California State University system’s only meteorology department.