Faculty Notes for May 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

Associate Professor Andrea Bechert, Department of Television, Radio, Film & Theatre, designed the sets for the Center Repertory Theatre’s April production of Sisters Matsumoto, a play by Philip Kan Gotanda exploring the return of three sisters to their Stockton farm post-World War II. Bechert’s scenic design talents are currently on display at The Mountain Play’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Performances run until June 18 at Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre in Marin.

Associate Professor Christine Hagie, chair of the Department of Special Education, joined the board of Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs. Founded in San Jose in 1974, the organization provides individualized learning programs for students diagnosed on the autism spectrum and those with similar learning disorders.

Lecturer Michael Hernandez, School of Music and Dance, soprano saxophonist and founder of the Mana Quartet, performed at Jamestown Community College’s Scharmann Theatre on April 12. The concert featured works by Quantz, Singelée, Brahms and Piazzolla. Hernandez, who as been featured on NPR’s “Performance Today,” is also a D’Addario Performing Artist.

Released this month: “Chapter Five” (OA2 Records) by the Bicoastal Collective, one half of which is School of Music and Dance Professor Aaron Lington, a baritone saxophonist. Lington shares writing and arranging credits with trumpeter and long-time collaborator Paul Tynan, who is based in Nova Scotia, hence the name of their duo. The two met in the master’s program at the University of North Texas. This, their fifth album together, was recorded with an 18-piece big band. “It’s always been our dream to do a big-band record, and we were finally able to make this happen,” Lington said. Read more online.

Center for Literary Arts Director and Department of English Associate Professor Cathleen Miller received a 2017 Silicon Valley Artist Laureate award in recognition of her creative accomplishments and community arts involvement. She is the author of The Birdhouse Chronicles: Survivng the Joys of Country Life and Champion of Choice, a biography of UN leader Nafis Sadik, named by Booklist as one of the top ten biographies of 2013. Miller also serves as editor-in-chief of SJSU’s Reed Magazine. Read more online.

“A landmark day for San Jose State University and Armenian people,” reported The Armenian Mirror-Spectator on the occasion of President Mary Papazian’s inauguration this month as the university’s 30th president. Papazian is the first Armenian woman president of a California State University campus and only the third woman president of SJSU. Read more online.

 

‘Disability at Work’ Panel Teaches Students to Expand Their Horizons

Attendee Rosse Strada poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Victor Tsaran at the "Disablilty At Work" Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

Attendee Rosse Strada poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Victor Tsaran at the “Disablilty At Work” Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

By Riley Wilcox and America Yamaguchi, Communication Studies students

On May 5, San Jose State University students hosted a panel on “Disability at Work. Students enrolled in Communication Studies 132F Dis/Ability Communications with Professor Bettina Brockmann coordinated the three-person panel event that was open to the public in the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Library. The event was widely publicized, with invitations going out to the entire Communication Studies department as well as all Accessible Education Center (AEC) registered students, and a Facebook event post that made it clear the event was open to the public. The panel’s purpose was to inform the audience about employment and accessibility difficulties for people with disabilities.

The speakers included Victor Tsaran, technical program manager at Google, Karo Caran, who also works in accessibility at Google and is an  accomplished author, and Joseph Fox, senior vice president at SAP Ariba.

Tsaran and Caran presented together, speaking on their experiences growing up as vision-impaired children in Ukraine and Poland respectively, and the differences in their experiences in mainstream and specialized education programs. Tsaran and Caran both work with Google to increase the accessibility of the user interfaces for Google and Google Play. They concentrated on perspectives in ableism for people with disabilities, and the similarities between ableism and other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism and homophobia.

Dreams became a theme that emerged throughout the event. Caran pursued a dream of studying Chinese that early instructors had hesitated about due to her vision impairment.

“I work in the business of dreams,” Tsaran said. “I had a few dreams—I wanted to teach history at my school of the blind. But [when I came to the United States], my dreams expanded as my horizons were expanded.”

He noted that his university’s dedication to accessibility created a capacity for dreams he had not had before. Working in the tech industry, the pair also spoke on how computers are “great enablers,” that allow people to speak, get their point across and have a sense of self. Caran explained that because times are changing, and so much of the world is now accessed through an electronic platform, society must more than ever make sure that computer technology is accessible for everyone.

Joseph Fox, who also works in the tech industry, is the parent of four children, three of whom are on the Autism spectrum. Fox spoke on always having a “parent view” before having a “business view.” He said he has found as a father, as an employer and as a student, there were many challenges for people with disabilities. Fox presents frequently on the benefits of hiring a neurodiverse workforce, informs parents of resources for their children, informs young adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder on toolsets and programs to aide them, and highlights for employers the best ways to incorporate accessibility into the workforce. Some of his key advice includes self advocacy and the benefits of finding peers and mentors who can help young adults to obtain the accommodations they need. He also recommends employers to develop hiring processes that do not involve interviews because people who are capable of the job may not always be impressive during interviews. Under Fox’s leadership, SAP Ariba announced in May 2013 a goal of having one percent of its global workforce represented by those on the Autism Spectrum.

After Fox’s presentation, the floor was opened to audience questions. Some of the key messages were that accessibility development requires trial and error, and that the best way to reduce ableism is to maximize exposure by reading and meeting more people with disabilities.

May 2017 Newsletter: Student Researchers Place at CSU-wide Competition in April

Photo: James Tensuan From left, Jeland Palicte, Bryan Dang and Professor Colleen O'Leary-Kelley, explore virtual reality as a teaching tool for nursing simulations. The students competed at the CSU Student Research Competition in April, along with eight other Spartans.

Photo: James Tensuan
From left, Jeland Palicte, Bryan Dang and Professor Colleen O’Leary-Kelley, explore virtual reality as a teaching tool for nursing simulations. The students competed at the CSU Student Research Competition in April, along with eight other Spartans.

By David Goll

On April 28 and 29, 10 Spartans represented San Jose State University at the 31st Annual California State University Student Research Competition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Of the eight projects presented, two students received second place honors: Ryan T. Scott, who competed in the graduate-level category of biological and agricultural sciences and Mary Ryan, who competed in the graduate-level category of humanities and letters.

Scott worked on his project with his faculty mentor Peggy Plato, a kinesiology professor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. He studied how zoledronate, a drug given to prevent bone loss, prevents simulated weightlessness-induced bone loss while blunting the efficacy of a mechanical loading countermeasure. Ryan worked on her project with faculty mentor Daniel Silverman, an associate professor of linguistics and language, in the College of Humanities and the Arts. She compared data of Western Andalusian and Castilian Spanish speakers to explain lenition in the language, a type of sound change that alters consonants to make them sound more vowel like. The winners from all 23 CSU campuses are recognized online.

The students who competed at the CSU level first participated in SJSU’s Research Competition on March 1 and 2. They were recognized along with other students involved in a diverse cross section of research, scholarship and creative activities (RSCA) at SJSU’s 38th Annual Student Research Forum on April 5. The event showcased the wide variety of RSCA in which students are engaged. Some are searching for solutions to streamline and lower the cost of training health care workers while others are working to combine artistic andacademic passions by transforming an elaborate art form from 17th-century France to come alive in modern times.

“I was ecstatic when I heard I was among the (SJSU) finalists,” said Sarah Lysgaard, a graduate student in art history, at the forum on April 5. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Public speaking has not been one of my strong points.”

Lysgaard’s three-year project, titled “Ballet de la Nuit: Staging the Absolute Monarchy of Louis XIV,” highlights one of the extravagant, 12-hour theatrical spectacles incorporating music, dance and poetry of centuries ago.

“I researched the meaning of these productions in the 17th century, but also how they still have an impact on our arts today, and the world in general,” Lysgaard said. “They set the ground rules and structures for fashion, the arts and government still in use today.”

Gilles Muller, SJSU’s associate dean of research, oversees the SJSU competition. Each of the seven colleges can select up to four individual or team projects to compete. This year, entries came from five colleges: the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, the College of Humanities and the Arts, the College of Science and the College of Social Sciences.

Viewing of the research competition was open to faculty, friends and relatives of student researchers, along with the judges. Muller hopes to expand access to attend the competition more broadly next year.

“We want our student research to be a celebration of their work,” said Muller, who arrived as a professor in the SJSU Department of Chemistry in 2004. “And we want a broad and diverse range of research projects.”

Another student research project has great commercial potential, according to Colleen O’Leary-Kelley, SJSU professor of nursing and Clinical Simulation coordinator for the School of Nursing. She served as the faculty mentor for two December graduates, Bryan Dang and Jeland Palicte, whose project was titled, “Virtual Reality in Simulation Training: a Comparative Study for Heightening Learning Immersion to Increase University Bandwidth.”

Still students at the time, Dang and Palicte plunged into the project, theorizing virtual reality cameras could provide a cheaper way to provide training for student nurses. Most schools today rely on high-fidelity patient simulation, or computerized manikins that simulate human patients. Training occurs not only for the students tending to the manikin, but for those offsite who can observe through television cameras.

“They can birth babies, wet the bed, do almost everything a human can do,” Dang said. “Except jump out of bed.”

However, the manikins are also expensive, ranging in price from $30,000 to $120,000 each, Dang said.

Dang and Palicte’s project revealed some improvement in training when virtual reality cameras are used at bedside instead of a TV. It allows “an unlimited number of students to be able to observe in real time, kind of like having Google Earth,” he said.

Further research will be necessary to establish VR’s superiority as a training tool.

See the full list of finalists online.

Faculty Notes for April 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

On April 13, Assistant Professor Margareta Ackerman, Department of Computer Science, lectured at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics on her algorithmic songwriting systems, a way for musicians to utilize artificial intelligence systems to aid creativity. Ackerman’s ALYSIA (Automated LYrical SongwrIting Application) generates and suggests melodies based on human-provided lyrics. A second system, MABLE, will develop lyrics in collaboration with humans.

Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre Professor Buddy Butler received a Black Legend Award, an award that celebrates the contributions and achievements of African Americans in the Bay Area, at a red-carpet gala held at the Hammer Theatre Center. The February event also served as a fundraiser to build the San José Black History Museum, Silicon Valley. The recipient of numerous honors during his career, Butler has also been recognized with an Obie, the NAACP Trailblazer Award and the Black Theatre Networks Winona Fletcher Award for Outstanding Achievement and Excellence in Black Theatre.

Photographs of women in cocktail dresses from the 1950s, taken by Barbara Christiansen, former Department of Home Economics professor, are part of the current exhibition at History Park’s McKay Gallery titled “Fashion to Die for: A Shopper’s Dilemma.” The exhibit was designed to showcase some of the perils of fashion for both animals and humans.

High Country News profiled Department of Meteorology Associate Professor Craig Clements and Assistant Professor Neil Lareau in an extensive article on the dangers of erratic wildfires, the history of some of the worst U.S. wildfires and the new technologies that are helping fire meteorologists like Clements and Lareau better predict their behavior. Read more online.

Professor Emeritus Gary Greene, Moss Landing Marine Labs, current marine geologist at the SeaDoc Tombolo Mapping Lab on Orcas Island, was this month’s featured speaker at a lecture series hosted by Friends of Skagit Beaches. His topic, “Exploring the Salish Sea Floor,” covered the impact of tsunamis and earthquakes on marine habitats and the feeding patterns of marine birds, fish and mammals.

In March, John Lipp, former faculty member in the Continuing Education Program, assumed the post of acting director of the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter. He also serves as executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization that advocates for abused and neglected children. Past positions include board president of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and president/CEO of San Francisco’s Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS).

Douglas Metz, instructor in the Department of Health Science and Recreation for nine years, joined CenCal Health’s Board of Directors. He is also current deputy director of primary care/family health at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. For 16 years, he was a practicing podiatric physician and surgeon in San José.

As part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design lecture series at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, Associate Professor Virginia San Fratello, Department of Design, gave a talk titled “Data + Dust” on the development of materials for three-dimensional printing and the design and fabrication of 3D printed architecture. San Fratello is a partner at Rael San Fratello and co-founder of Emerging Objects, both firms headquartered in Oakland. In 2016, she was named Educator of the Year by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

Lecturer Jason Wozniak, American Studies Program, co-organized “You Are Not a Loan,” a two-day campus event to address the impact of financial debt on students’ lives and possible solutions to the problem through a series of lectures, panel discussions and workshops. “We are living in a time where it’s increasingly normal for students to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to get an education. There is nothing normal or ethical about that, and yet, being an indebted student has been normalized,” Wozniak said. As part of the program, student debt experts from Stanford, Iowa State and San Diego State addressed indebtedness from the perspectives of philosophy, comparative literature, economics, art, politics and education studies.

April 2017 Newsletter: SJSU Professor Yambrach Develops Water Vest for Developing Countries

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging help to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging help to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

In parts of the world where potable water is difficult to reach and even harder to transport, a San Jose State University professor has devised an invention that could dramatically improve the quality of daily life.

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, has developed the Fritz Water Vest, a 10-liter, double-pouch “vest” made of sturdy, multi-layer plastic material that can serve as an alternative to transporting water in heavy buckets, vases or other containers. Such tasks in developing countries are typically handled by women and children. The work can result in injuries to those transporting water-filled containers, which carry up to five gallons, atop their heads.

The vest-like water carrier that can be worn over the head — with the pouches suspended over the chest and back — could also find application in more affluent nations like the United States during emergency situations resulting from floods, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters that interrupt the supply and availability of clean water.

Yambrach, who arrived at San Jose State in 2007, is a veteran of the packaging industry, starting his career 40 years ago at the Chrysler automobile company in Michigan. He went on to work in the pharmaceutical and medical device sectors before moving into academia, including at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York.

Yambrach said he first became aware of the phenomenon of people in impoverished nations having to walk long distances on a daily basis to fetch clean water for drinking and cooking purposes during his childhood. He attended a Catholic elementary school and heard church missionaries talk of seeing women and girls hauling water long distances on their heads.

According to the United Nations, women and girls in sub-Saharan African nations spend 40 billion hours annually collecting water — equivalent to a year’s worth of labor by the entire workforce of France, which numbers about 30 million. Water for the Ages, a blog written by water activist Abigail Brown, estimates the average distance traveled daily by those fetching water in Africa and Asia is 3.7 miles. Brown said water carriers can suffer severe neck and spine damage from toting heavy, inflexible water containers.

Yambrach said he has tried to take everything into account in designing his life-saving vest.

A prototype of the water vest. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

A prototype of the water vest. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

“The construction of the vest makes it very robust,” Yambrach said, noting the edges of the vest are heat-sealed to make it leakproof. “We have even included an additive in the material to inhibit microbial growth,” he said.

The vest is being beta tested in the African nations of Ethiopia and Burundi, as well as Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean region.

Manufacturing of the vest is being overseen by Heritage Packaging of Victor, N.Y. News of Yambrach’s invention has attracted the attention of former colleagues and students. One of those is Eric Steigelman, a student in Yambrach’s packaging science class at the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2006. Now a San Diego-based entrepreneur, Steigelman is handling marketing of the vest and the beta-testing projects.

“I am helping the organization find strategic partnerships,” Steigelman said, adding that he hopes to partner with larger companies to “leverage their strengths in funding and distribution. The beauty of this solution is that it is so intuitive. It doesn’t require a lot of instruction or direction. It can help millions of people who struggle every day with water issues, or temporarily because of an emergency.”

Steigelman said one such situation here in the U.S. that has occurred to him as an opportunity for the water vest is the contaminated water crisis in Flint, Mich., where cost-cutting measures by state officials led to the city’s water supply becoming polluted with lead and other toxins.

“The worldwide problem is so big and broad, you need a simple, inexpensive solution to have any chance of success,” he said. “Whether it is a daily need or an emergency, the water vest is a really effective solution.”