Faculty Notes: Supporting Teachers of Color

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Photo courtesy of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice Facebook page.

The fifth annual Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, co-directed by Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Rebeca Burciaga and Mexican American Studies Chair Marcos Pizarro, will be held in June in Los Angeles. The three-day conference is a professional development opportunity for elementary, middle and high school teachers, founded by former Assistant Professor of Elementary Education Rita Kohli to support the growth, success and retention of teachers of color.

The work of Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alejandro Garcia was cited in an article posted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s News Center, featuring researchers at “the forefront of a neglected corner of the scientific world, building mathematical models for fluids at the mesoscale.” According to the report, “fluctuating hydrodynamics could have enormous impacts in applications ranging from batteries to drug delivery to microfluidic devices.”

Inside Higher Education interviewed Department of English and Comparative Literature Lecturer Leah Griesmann, the originator of National Adjunct Walkout Day. On February 25, adjunct teachers in colleges across the United States and beyond joined the protest to bring attention to the plight of college adjuncts whose job security and paychecks are minimal. “I can tell you on behalf of adjuncts everywhere that the system is broken, and you might believe me. But there’s no denying something’s going on when thousands and thousands of adjuncts and allies say the same thing,” Greismann said. She first suggested the idea of a walkout on social media in the fall of 2014. Greismann recently received an Elizabeth George Foundation grant in fiction and a MacDowell Colony artist fellowship.

Department of Aviation and Technology Lecturer Dianne Hall was profiled in Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette about her work as an engineer and firefighter and her recent trip to Pakistan in connection with SJSU’s partnership with Allama Iqbal Open University. “San Jose State is helping AIOU enhance its computer science degree,” she told the newspaper. “The intent is to train students in remote areas, where literacy is quite low, to do software engineering.” Hall visited Pakistan to train faculty to teach online and to speak about being female in male-dominated professions, encouraging by example women to study computer science or pursue “whatever they wanted to do,” Hall said.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Claire Komives and her team of researchers have developed a new opossum-based antidote to counteract poisonous snakebites that also might prove effective in counteracting scorpion, plant and bacterial toxins. Komives presented her research findings at a March meeting of the American Chemical Society. Because the anti-venom is inexpensive, Komives is optimistic that it will be distributed to underserved areas across the globe, including India, Southeast Asia and Africa, where thousands of people each year are bitten by poisonous snakes.

Publications forthcoming for Professor of Counselor Education Jason Laker include Supporting and Enhancing Learning on Campus: Effective Pedagogy In and Outside the Classroom (Routledge, 2016) and a chapter in Handbook of Student Affairs Administration (Jossey-Bass, 2015), “Unfinished Business, Dirty Laundry, and Hope for Multicultural Campus Communities.” Prior to joining the Lurie College of Education faculty, Laker served as SJSU’s vice president for student affairs.

Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging Kasuen Mauldin received an Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award in recognition of her teaching, mentoring and leadership in the field from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the country. Mauldin joined SJSU’s faculty in 2011. “Effective educators are organized and prepared, professional and fair, resourceful and well connected, and believe there is always room for improvement,” she said.

March 2015 marks the two-year anniversary of a $2 increase in San José’s minimum wage. To mark the occasion, Professor of Sociology Scott Myers-Lipton, who co-founded San Jose’s minimum wage campaign, contributed an article to the San Jose Mercury News, addressing lessons learned from the successful initiative as well as what remains to be done to “undo the extreme inequality caused by the political and economic changes of the past 35 years.”

Professor of Accounting and Finance Annette Nellen was appointed to the California State Board of Equalization Executive Director’s Advisory Council for a two-year term. She will serve from 2015 to 2017. The BOE, a public agency charged with tax administration and fee collection, also acts as the appellate body for business, franchise and personal tax appeals.

The Salud Familiar program, co-founded by Professor of Health Science Kathleen Roe, received a Program Excellence Award from the Society for Public Health Education. A partnership between SJSU and McKinley Elementary School, the Salud Familiar program teaches McKinley students about healthy lifestyles and promotes academic success.

Professor of Screen Writing Scott Sublett reports that SJSU’s RTVF students have achieved national recognition for screenwriting excellence, receiving four awards from Broadcast Education Association, whose Festival of Media Arts ranks as the nation’s most important film competition for RTVF programs. Lauren Serpa took second place in the feature-length screenplay category; Risha Rose received an honorable mention in the same category; and Rachel Compton and Kevin Briot both received honorable mention citations in the short screenplay category. “Once again, SJSU has the most honorees in the nation, reinforcing our dominance in the category and recognizing our department’s emphasis and excellence in screenwriting,” said David Kahn, chair of the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Miri VanHoven received a highly competitive National Institute of Health RO-1 grant for her research project “The Effect of Normal and Prolonged Sensory Activity on Neural Circuits.” VanHoven and team will conduct both molecular and physiological studies of the molecular mechanisms that govern how sensory activities affect connectivity between nerve cells. The molecular work will be performed at SJSU’s VanHoven lab, providing students the opportunity to participate in the research process.

 

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State Students Report Major Discovery in Space

Posted May 25, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Katy Murphy

SAN JOSE — A San Jose State undergrad grieving the loss of his mother shifted his gaze to outer space and made what could prove to be a remarkable discovery: a system of stars so dense, his professor said, astronomy has no word for it.

In only a week 21-year-old Michael Sandoval stumbled upon what he and his professor have named a hypercompact cluster, which they argue is the intensely starry remains of one galaxy that has been consumed by another.

Astrophysics professor Aaron Romanowsky said it’s astounding how quickly his student may have discovered what “some people take years and never find.”

The stellar search was a welcome diversion for Sandoval, whose mother, Holly Houser, died of cancer in October. In the last years of his mom’s life, the physics major lived at home, juggling her care with his education, sometimes rushing her to the emergency room at night and dragging himself to class the next day from Fremont.

Months later, enrolled in his first astrophysics course, he learned classmate Richard Vo had discovered an unusual stellar object — possibly the densest ever found.

His reaction was immediate: “I want to find one too.”

Read the full story. 

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics

Finding His Future in the Stars

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics, inside the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The observatory houses the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes, which collect data Richard uses for his research (photo courtesy of Richard Vo).

Richard Vo’s Astronomical Discovery is Rooted in Family’s Support

As the youngest of 10 in a low-income family, this San Jose native found his future in the stars, though life hasn’t always seemed as brilliant as the galaxies he’s admired.

Surviving anywhere

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics, was born and raised in South San Jose in a working-class family. “It’s kind of weird just growing up in a big family, in one house.  It felt like a giant sleepover every day.”

Richard said his parents, now both of retirement age, have always worked and to this day his mother continues to cater, serving others to help provide for the family.  “My mom has been working at home since as long as I can remember,” he said. “She caters food (and) delivers food. She’s been doing that for a long time, ever since I was born, and she’s still doing that today.”

As a result of their parents reverence for hard work, Richard’s oldest brother Trung Vo said all of his siblings are self motivated. If ever they desired to participate in an extracurricular activity, they had to provide the funds. “Now we appreciate what we work hard for… We all can survive anywhere,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the conditions, we’ll adapt, and that’s the good thing about (growing up with little resources). When you’re a kid, you look at others like ‘Oh man, how come they have everything I don’t have’ but now that I am grown, I’m glad we went through that because now I understand we can live (through anything).” Richard Vo has had many different jobs since he was 16, from bowling alleys and retail to tutoring, to get what he wanted. Tutoring has been especially rewarding.

When I help somebody out and they do well, it puts a smile on my face,” he said.

Lyly Mai, an Administration of Justice major at West Valley College, met Vo three years ago and works with him at Learning Star Tutoring Center. In that time, she has observed Richard’s easy-going and approachable personality reach his students. She said Richard works with youths in the eighth grade and older and is able to break down walls with them in a way the other teachers can’t. “He really doesn’t make the kids feel uncomfortable,” she said. “When we see new kids, they feel really shy and don’t want to interact with anyone but with him, he tries to open up, so they will open up and ask questions.”

Getting involved 

SJSU was not Richard’s first choice and he was frustrated that he had to go to a university in a place all too familiar.  “I have a huge family and everyone moved out, so someone had to stay at home with my mom and dad. Since I’m the youngest, I kind of had no choice,” he said. “I wanted to explore, be a college student, basically just live a whole new life and go somewhere to a city I’d never been before because everything in San Jose just felt so ordinary for me. Growing up here, nothing’s changed. I wanted change.”

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard’s co-curricular and extracurricular activities have helped him build confidence (Christiana Cobb photo).

He found the change he was longing for first in his fraternity. During his sophomore year, Richard contemplated transferring to the University of Southern California but at the same time, he joined Alpha Omega Tao and became more involved at SJSU.

That was all the change I needed,” Richard said. “I realized you don’t have to go far to find change, you’ve just got to find change wherever you are.”

Skyler Rohrbaugh, ’16 Business Marketing, is one of Richard’s fraternity brothers and in the time they have known each other, Rohrbaugh has seen Richard as a big part of the fraternity. “His big-and- little family line [his fraternity big brothers and little brothers] is one of the tighter ones in our house,” he said. “They all really like each other and have a genuine family/friend bond.”

Part of Richard’s initial dissatisfaction with SJSU came with his disconnection with his electrical engineering major, which he entered after much influence from his brother Trung. Trung, a mechanical engineer, advised Richard to be an engineer because of Richard’s skill in math and science. Trung knew that being an engineer is a good way to make a living quickly after college. Richard said that engineering was something his brother “knew” Richard would be good at, but Richard was not convinced, so he switched.

Changing majors

Richard siblings are not very supportive of his career path because they don’t quite understand what he is studying or what he will do with his degree. As the youngest, Richard said he feels the pressure to succeed and be the “the biggest shining star in the family.” However, Trung said that he truly wants Richard to be happy and have the best life he can.  Trung said he advised Richard that in his pursuit of physics and higher education, he should work to financially support his endeavors.

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

From the Keck Observatory telescope room, Richard video chats with Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky in San Jose (photo courtesy of Romanowsky).

Richard began to truly understand what he wanted to do after his first physics class. “When I took my first physics class, that’s when I got the idea of majoring in physics,” he said. He said changing majors is one of the greater decisions of his life.

It’s always really good to figure out what you want to do and what you have a passion for,” Richard said.

As Richard became more invested in physics, he began working on a breath-taking discovery that could potentially define his future. In fall 2012, Richard took a computational methods course with Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky and later emailed him with interest in researching objects in the sky. “I wanted a better knowledge of what I wanted to study,” he said. “You don’t want to pursue a career on something if you don’t know what it’s about.”

As a newer professor, Romanowsky said this was the first time a student approached him about doing any independent study research.

“It’s been really good too, to see how he’s stuck with it,” Romanowsky said. “It takes a long time to get anywhere, and you have to really have patience and be able to deal with frustration. A lot of people will start a research project and kind of give up after a while because it’s taken so long or they get stuck.”

Following his passion

In January 2013, Richard began his research. Though he had been intrigued with astronomy and the stars, he didn’t quite understand what today’s astronomers do. Romanowsky introduced him to using software to find different astronomical objects, which upon further inspection may turn out to be stars, supernovas, galaxies, asteroids – any number of things twinkling in the night sky. “You know looking though telescopes doesn’t really happen these days, it’s basically like giant digital cameras,” Romanowsky said.

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard conducted research this term at the Keck Observatory while preparing to publish details of his major discovery (photo courtesy of Richard Vo).

In fact, the first time Richard looked into a telescope was last summer when he had the opportunity to look into his nephew’s.

I spent three months trying to figure out the programs,” Richard said. “I saw a whole different side of the computer world.”

Once he nailed down the computer skills, Richard stumbled upon his own discovery, which will soon be described in detail in an academic journal. For now, all Richard can share is his discovery is linked to a paper Romanowsky released in September about the sighting of an ultra-compact galaxy, the densest of its kind up to that point. Richard’s discovery is a record breaker and younger than other like objects. As of a result of his finding, Richard had the opportunity to do further research this term at the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii.

Richard worked tirelessly with people all over the world and was in awe of the technology used to observe at his object. He said he hopes this is not the end of his education, as he prepares to write his journal article and look deeper into his object.

Planning for the future

Despite his success as a student, Richard expressed concerns for what happens after he receives his bachelor’s degree, though he does desire to go to graduate school and continue researching.

Richard’s supporters don’t see any reason for him to worry. “He’s nervous but, to be honest, when I look at him, I know he’s good with his future,” said Mai, Richard’s co-worker. “I see a lot of people our age who don’t know where they’re going or what they want. With him, he knows exactly what he wants. He’s goal-oriented and he’s going for his goal.”

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Alejandro Garcia (Peter Caravalho photo)

The Outstanding Professor Award recognizes a faculty member for overall excellence in academic assignment. This year’s winner comes from the College of Science.

San Jose State Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alejandro Garcia insists that there is no secret recipe for teaching, but he tries to instill in his students that they must always look with “keen, fresh eyes” in order to understand how things move in the world. This approach to teaching helped him earn the 2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Award.

Garcia’s effectiveness as a professor can be seen through his professional work in physics and animation, and the input he brings to the classroom.  Garcia has been recognized for his commitment to bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to the visual arts, having developed a MUSE class entitled The Nexus of Art and Science in 2006 and an SJSU Studies class entitled Physics of Animation in 2009. The latter course, which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the physics and animation departments within the College of Science and the College of Humanities and the Arts, is the product of one of two NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM grants Garcia has earned; the most recent one looks into the optics of animation.

As physics consultant at DreamWorks Animation SKG, Garcia applied traditional physics to the art of animation in the film Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and, in this capacity, was able to bring valuable information back to his students about how physics is used in a major feature film studio.

In addition to his physics of animation work, Garcia actively participates in the fluctuating hydrodynamics research program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and regularly organizes international conferences. He has published more than 80 technical journal manuscripts and his work has been cited 1,400 since 2007.

The physics scholar is also dedicated in the classroom. According to one student, Garcia “takes the time to ensure that the material, no matter how complex, was presented in such a manner that would easily be absorbed by all students.”

“He is not opposed to resorting to dynamic (occasionally fearsome) demonstrations or wildly comic delivery,” said one colleague. “Exploding pumpkins, beds of nails, and hair-raising electrical currents find a place in a curriculum designed to help visually oriented students understand the importance of science in the production of convincing imagery.”

“I make it very clear that sometimes they specifically need to violate the laws of physics in what they are doing, because if they want to create a compelling story, they have to use the right tools for the job,” he said.

Garcia earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin and completed post-docs at Free University of Brussels and the University of California in Los Angeles.

Spartans at Work: At SLAC, “Everything That I’m Doing Here is Completely Brand New”

Spartans at Work: At SLAC, I am Learning to “Quantify the Energy of Terahertz Fields Using Electro-Optical Sampling”

Intern standing in front of the two-mile linear accelerator at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Tom George, Electrical Engineering’15, is an intern for this year’s SLAC Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship summer program, where he uses lasers to test the terahertz signals on energy (Peter Caravalho photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the class of 2015’s Tom George.)

Every day, Tom George, ’15 Electrical Engineering, walks a mile and a half to get to the facility where he works, but he doesn’t mind.

George is spending summer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) just outside of Palo Alto, tucked away on top of a hill and across 426 acres. George is one of 20 interns chosen to participate in this year’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship summer program, which teaches students how to effectively do research, make a presentation and write a paper.

“People here are showing me how much more interesting physics can be than from what we get in the classroom experience,” George said.

SLAC is a research lab operated by Stanford for the U.S. Department of Energy. For over 40 years, the two-mile linear accelerator has been on the forefront of physics research and is famous for looking into the structure of molecules.

George works in the Linac Coherent Light Source facility, using cutting-edge lasers to test the recent progress of terahertz signals on energy.

Learning to Persevere

According to George, everything that he has worked on is brand new. He has had to learn a new lab program in order to take measurements and conduct experiments, not to mention working with lasers that use pump probe techniques. He’s even learning something about himself.

“I’m learning that I get frustrated at times when things don’t work, but that I have to persevere and keep working and even start over if I have to,” George said.

George’s experiences with professors and fellow students in SJSU’s Department of Electrical Engineering have helped him find a passion for teaching.

“SJSU is more like a family and I love that about SJSU,” George said