SJSU News SJSU Today offers the latest news and shares the stories of the people at San Jose State University. Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:48:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SJSU Holds Active Shooter Exercise Mon, 21 Jul 2014 22:02:00 +0000
UPD officers

University Police Department officers will participate in an active shooter exercise July 25 at King Library (Christina Olivas photo).

San Jose State University would like to advise our neighbors, the public and the media that the University Police Department will hold an active shooter exercise 9 a.m. to noon July 25 inside the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Library. The library will be closed to the public until 1:30 p.m. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.

The media will be able to observe the exercise from outside the library. Media parking will be provided in Lot 1. We will hold two brief press opportunities at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Tower Hall.

The California State University system requires each campus to hold a full-scale exercise every five years. This exercise will be a simulation designed to help employees and first responders practice responding in a coordinated fashion to an active shooter.

The San Jose Police Department, San Jose Fire Department and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office will take part in the exercise as well as library employees. Expect to see many public safety officers and vehicles outside the library and to hear the sounds of simulated gunfire.

Please direct questions to Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU media relations,, 408-924-1748.

]]> 0
Distant “Hungry Twin” Shows How Galaxies Grow Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:15:20 +0000 galaxy

The Umbrella Galaxy takes its name from a mysterious feature seen on the left here, that is now found to be debris from a tiny galaxy, only a 50th its size, shredded apart by gravity. The image is a combination of data from the 0.5-meter BlackBird Remote Observatory Telescope and Suprime-Cam on the 8-meter Subaru Telescope. The inset shows a small cluster of stars embedded in the stream, which marks the center of the disrupted galaxy (image by R. Jay Gabany).

MAUNA KEA, HAWAII – Scientists studying a ‘twin’ of the Milky Way have used the W. M. Keck Observatory and Subaru Observatory to accurately model how it is swallowing another, smaller galaxy, according to newly published research co-authored by San Jose State University assistant professor of physics and astronomy Aaron Romanowsky.

This is important because our whole concept about what galaxies are and how they grow has not been fully verified,” Romanowsky said. “We think they are constantly swallowing up smaller galaxies as part of a cosmic food chain, all pulled together by a mysterious form of invisible dark matter. We sometimes get a glimpse of the hidden vista being lit up when a galaxy is torn apart. That’s what occurred here.”

The work, led by Caroline Foster of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, has used the Umbrella (NGC 4651) galaxy to reveal insights in galactic behavior.

An Umbrella Galaxy

The Umbrella lies 62 million light-years away, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices. Its faint parasol is composed of a stellar stream, thought to be the remnants of a smaller galaxy being pulled apart by the large galaxy’s intense gravitational field. The Umbrella will eventually absorb this small galaxy completely.

The merging of small galaxies into larger ones is common throughout the universe, but because the shredded galaxies are so faint it has been hard to extract details in three-dimensions about how such mergers proceed. Using the most powerful optical facilities in the world, the twin, 10-meter Keck Observatory and the 8-meter Subaru Telescope, near the summit of Mauna Kea, Foster and her collaborators have determined enough about the character of the merger to provide a detailed model of how and when it occurred.

“Through new techniques we have been able to measure the movements of the stars in the very distant, very faint, stellar stream in the Umbrella,” Foster said. “This allows us, for the first time, to reconstruct the history of the system.”

Being able to study streams this far away means that we can reconstruct the assembly histories of many more galaxies,” Romanowsky said. “In turn that means we can get a handle on how often these ‘minor mergers’ — thought to be an important way that galaxies grow — actually occur. We can also map out the orbits of the stellar streams to test the pull of gravity for exotic effects, much like the Moon going around the Earth but without having to wait 300 million years for the orbit to complete.”

The present work is a follow-up to a 2010 study, led by Dr. David Martínez-Delgado (University of Heidelberg), which used small robotic telescopes to image eight isolated spiral galaxies, and found the signs of mergers — shells, clouds and arcs of tidal debris — in six of them.

The W. M. Keck Observatory operates the largest, most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectroscopy and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Speedy Tracers

DEIMOS (the DEep Imaging and Multi-Object Spectrograph) boasts the largest field of view (16.7 arcmin by 5 arcmin) of any of the Keck instruments, and the largest number of pixels (64 Mpix). It is used primarily in its multi-object mode, obtaining simultaneous spectra of up to 130 galaxies or stars. Astronomers study fields of distant galaxies with DEIMOS, efficiently probing the most distant corners of the universe with high sensitivity.

Keck Observatory is a private 501(c)3 non-profit organization and a scientific partnership of the California Institute of Technology, the University of California and NASA.

After taking panoramic images of the Umbrella with Suprime-Cam on Subaru, the scientists used the DEIMOS instrument, installed on the Keck II telescope, to map out the motions of the stream and hence determine how the galaxy is being shredded.

The stars in the stream are incredibly faint, so it was necessary to use a proxy technique to measure the speeds of brighter tracer objects moving along with the stream stars. These bright tracers include globular star clusters, planetary nebulae (dying stars that glow like neon lights), and patches of glowing hydrogen gas.

]]> 0
NBC Bay Area: San Jose State Student Killed in Car Crash Remembered at Graduation Thu, 29 May 2014 20:01:17 +0000 Posted May 24, 2014 by NBC Bay Area.

By Kris Sanchez and Vince Cestone

Saturday was graduation day for San Jose State University, but one young woman who worked hard to earn her degree was not there to receive her diploma–she died in a car crash two weeks ago.

Even if just for a brief moment, the university brought back her mother’s smile.

On graduation day, there were tears of happiness at Spartan Stadium, but up in Suite 5, some tears of sorrow too, as the family of Rosita Aragon listened for her name.

Rosita Aragon was one class short of her Spanish degree from San Jose State when she died in her father’s arms after a car crash the day before Mother’s Day.

View the full story. 

]]> 0
San Jose Mercury News: SJSU Program Gives Reformed Criminals a Second Chance Thu, 29 May 2014 19:43:24 +0000 Posted May 22, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Mark Gomez

SAN JOSE — Armando Aguilar was tired of living in the shadow of his rap sheet.

Six years removed from his last conviction — for second-degree commercial burglary, under influence of meth and possession of a stolen check — and after he cleaned up his life, Aguilar graduated from San Jose City College in 2009 with a state certification to work as an alcohol and drug counselor. He soon found a job working with adults.

But when he applied for a job counseling youth, his criminal history killed his chances.

Soon after that, Aguilar heard about a free program at San Jose State that helps people who have turned their lives around remove certain misdemeanor and felony convictions from the public record. With the help of SJSU justice studies students, Aguilar’s criminal history was wiped clean by a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge.

“The fact I got everything expunged was a relief for me,” said Aguilar, 38, who was hired in October to work with at-risk youth in the East Bay and has informed his employer about his past. “I was able to close a chapter on that part of my life.”

Read the full story.

]]> 0
San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State Students Report Major Discovery in Space Thu, 29 May 2014 19:37:52 +0000 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. 

]]> 0
San Jose Mercury News: SJSU Graduation Celebrates Grit, Sacrifice Thu, 29 May 2014 19:29:19 +0000 Posted May 24, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Lisa Krieger

Some of the biggest lessons that electrical engineer Donald Flowers II, learned at school happened outside the classroom. Discipline. Time management. Financial budgeting. Focus.

“You cannot give up,” said the 34-year-old Flowers, one of several thousand ebullient San Jose State students celebrating their Saturday graduation in Spartan Stadium’s bright morning sun.

“It takes sacrifice,” he said. “At holidays, I’d be sitting around the table with my whole family, with my laptop open.”

Flowers reflects the kind of success the university has made its mission: offering working students — many of them older or immigrants and transfers from two-year campuses — the intellectual rigor and credentials needed to lift themselves securely into the middle class.

Read the full story. 


]]> 0
Symantec Gives $250,000 to Cybersecurity Program Thu, 22 May 2014 23:17:46 +0000 GSN

Members of San Jose State’s Information Security Club work with Girls STEM Network participants (photo courtesy of Virginia Lehmkuhl Dakhwe).

Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU media relations, 408-924-1748

San Jose, CA—Symantec Corp. has made a $250,000 gift to San Jose State University in support of Girls STEM Network (GSN): Cybersecurity, which provides girls and young women with the opportunity to increase their knowledge of computer science and cybersecurity, enabling their entire community to learn about STEM topics and careers.

San Jose State University would like to thank Symantec for supporting our vision for the creation of a more diverse science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce through the development of innovative programs reaching under-served communities,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said.


Looking over the shoulder of a Girls STEM Network participant (photo courtesy of Virginia Lehmkuhl Dakhwe).

This is Symantec’s second gift to GSN, following up on a $25,000 grant made in 2013 to support a pilot program. San Jose State is seeking to significantly expand the STEM workforce, with a specific focus on the recruitment of girls and young women into the computer science and cybersecurity fields, where they remain drastically underrepresented.

In collaboration with community-based organizations, San Jose State’s Jay Pinson STEM Education program facilitates the Girls STEM Network as an extracurricular activity. Instructors with content expertise lead the program, supported by SJSU students enrolled in the university’s Communication Studies 157 service learning course. Over 100 girls and young women have participated in GSN to date.

GSN enables girls and young women to learn skills and communicate about these complex topics while developing strong relationships with mentors. The program also provides opportunities for SJSU students to gain experience in STEM-centered teaching and mentoring, potentially contributing to the pipeline of well-prepared STEM teachers.

Instructional sessions culminate in community events where participants showcase presentations and digital artifacts created within the program. Family members and teachers attend these events, further expanding the reach of the Girls STEM Network.

San Jose State University — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.




]]> 0
Student Success Fee Update Fri, 16 May 2014 01:15:29 +0000 Student Success Fee

The university will sustain its commitment to all existing student support programs while implementing a fee reduction for the 2014-15 academic year (Bruce F. Cramer photo).

Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

San Jose, CASan Jose State University, in consultation with elected student leaders, announced today fundamental changes to the Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee. With these changes, the university will sustain its commitment to all existing student support programs while implementing a fee reduction for the 2014-15 academic year.

“This semester was a good time to re-consider this fee, which we introduced two years ago,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi. “We had very productive discussions with student leaders and we will continue to welcome input from the university community.”

Here are the changes students should expect this fall:

  • The Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee will be “unbundled.” This means it will be split into three components: the Instructionally Related Activities Fee ($147), Course Support Fee ($30), and Student Success Fee ($118).
  • When combined, the total of the three fees will be $295 for fall 2014, equivalent to the fall 2013 rate and well below the $375 rate originally set for fall 2014.
  • This change will clarify the purpose of each fee and facilitate comparisons with other CSU campuses.

Here is how the changes will impact programming and oversight:

  • Revenue from these fees will allow San Jose State to support all existing programs and several new proposals for 2014-15.
  • Athletics will continue to receive support through the Instructionally Related Activities Fee. This was the case previous to the introduction of the SSETF, which incorporated the IRA.
  • Associated Students, the Academic Senate and the divisions of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs will share oversight of these fees.

A few weeks ago, elected student leaders proposed holding a student poll to obtain feedback on the appropriate amounts for these fees. The administration voiced support for this approach. However, student leaders felt garnering sufficient student feedback was unrealistic at this point in the semester due to competing priorities such as final exams, graduation, employment, and housing.

“Students have the right to know what their fees are paying for and unbundling the Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee will improve this needed transparency,” said Nicholas Ayala, Associated Students of SJSU president. “Our interest in the future of this fee is what is in the best interest of all San Jose State students. In order to make an informed recommendation, there must be adequate time for students to be educated and weigh in on this decision.”

San Jose State University—Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,850 employees—is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

]]> 0
Honors Convocation Tue, 06 May 2014 04:40:13 +0000 Over 3,545 undergraduates were honored at the 2014 Honors Convocation April 25 in the Event Center.

The university’s top academic performers, seated in rows, flooded the floor as family and friends packed the stands. All rose as faculty and SJSU Air Force Color Guard entered.

The President’s Scholars, all 4.0 students, self-introduced and then crossed the stage, producing a stream of names and majors displaying the amazing diversity at SJSU.

Each dean congratulated, as a group, his or her Dean’s Scholars, undergraduates who earned a 3.65 or higher GPA in at least two contiguous semesters of the three semesters prior to the event.

Also honored were the 2013-2014 Outstanding Professor Winifred Schultz-Krohn and alumnus Charles W. Davidson, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the region’s most successful and influential real estate developers.

After receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Davidson delivered a short speech addressing the classic question for college speakers: What can the youths of today do to build a better tomorrow?

Start with yourself, the only person over whom you have complete control,” Davidson said. “Always keep in mind your moral compass and keep it balanced. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To thy own self be true. Keep this in mind and you can help make this a better society.”

]]> 0
Finding His Future in the Stars Sun, 04 May 2014 22:20:59 +0000 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.”

]]> 0