Congratulations to our COS Faculty!

Welcome to the inaugural post in the College of Science Blog. I plan to use this as a vehicle to comment regularly on news within our college and how it is impacting Silicon Valley, the state, and the world. We will be continuing the Scientist Newsletter (with a new issue hopefully coming out early this summer), but I saw value in having a mechanism to report news on a more regular and timely basis as well.

In this time of budgetary uncertainty in the CSU, the faculty in the College of Science continue to excel. I wanted to take the opportunity in my initial post on this new COS blog to share some remarkable accomplishments from our faculty in the last few months. Bear in mind that this list of accomplishments is not comprehensive, and most of our faculty publish and seek (and receive) extramural funding on a regular basis.

Craig Clements in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science was recognized as the outstanding young investigator by the San Jose State University Research Foundation in 2010-2011, and had brought in roughly $2.3 M in external funding since arriving at SJSU in 2007. Craig recently received the highly prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, which recognizes early career investigators who the agency feels have the potential to make significant contributions in their fields. The Award will provide Clements an additional $800K in research funding spread over five years to pursue his work involving the study of how fires affect weather patterns. Only 8 SJSU faculty have received NSF career awards, with the other two recipients from the College of Science being Eugene Cordero, also from the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, and Ferdie Rivera from the Department of Mathematics.

Lionel Cheruzel from the Department of Chemistry was recently named one of this year’s outstanding Young Researchers by the SJSU Research Foundation. Dr. Cheruzel has brought in $480K in grants in his three years at SJSU, and runs a busy lab with nine research students (eight undergraduates and one graduate). Cheruzel’s area of study is enzyme Cytochrome P540, which has the distinctive property of being able to oxidize an unactivated carbon-hydrogen bond. Elsewhere in the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Joseph Pesek recently celebrated the publication of his 200th scholarly paper, a milestone achieved by few of his peers.

In Biological Sciences, Drs. Julio Soto, Miri van Hoven, and Rachael French recently received word that their proposal to procure a Confocal Microscope for SJSU was funded by the National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrument program. Confocal microscopes allow researchers to extract digitally sliced images from intact cells and have a variety of biological, chemical, and biotechnological applications.

Dr. Jon Hendricks of the Department of Geology was also recently awarded a National Science Foundation research grant focusing on digitizing fossil organisms as a mechanism to better understand their biogrographic distributions. This is a large-scale collaborative project that also involves colleagues at the University of Kansas and Ohio University. Geology/Science Education Professor Paula Messina spent a year on a Difference in Pay leave during which she was part of the team doing the extremely important task of revising the national Science Standards for K-12 Education.

Michael Kaufman, Professor and Chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was named the 2011-2012 SJSU President’s Scholar. Kaufman, who also chaired the Academic Senate from 2009-20011, has over 30 refereed publications, and his chief research focus is modeling the early evolution of stars.

The May 11 issue of Science Magazine (v. 336, pp.  664-65) highlighted the research of another outstanding COS Faculty Member, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories’ Nick Welschmeyer. For the last two years, Dr. Welschmeyer has been part of an international team that is one of several groups studying the best ways to treat ballast water expelled from oceangoing vessels. Large cargo ships rely on a significant amount of ballast water to provide weight to stabilize their hulls, but the ballast water, pumped in where the ship begins its voyage, carries with it a significant biotic load along with the water. When the ship in question is making a transoceanic voyage, the expelled water often carries with it species that are not native to the ship’s final destination.

Finally, we have concluded a successful round of recruitments within the department that will bring seven new faculty members to the College of Science this fall. In the Department of Biological Sciences, microbiologist Betsy Skrovan will be joining us from the University of Washington and neurophysiologist Katie Wilkinson will be arriving from Emory University. Skrovan received her Ph.D from UC San Diego and Wilkinson received hers from the University of Wisconsin. The Department of Mathematics is welcoming biostatistician Andrea Gottlieb, who is finishing her doctorate from UC Davis this summer. The Department of Physics and Astronomy has recruited Dr. Aaron Romanowsky, who received his doctorate from Harvard and is currently with the University of California Observatories in Santa Cruz. They also hired condensed matter physicist Dr. Ranko Heindl, who received his doctorate from the University of South Florida and is coming to us from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado. Finally, we are welcoming two faculty members to augment our expertise in STEM Education, with joint appointments in the Science Education program and COS departments. Cassandra Paul is finishing her doctorate at the University of California Davis this summer, studying modes of learning and their assessment in core physics classes.  Elly Walsh just defended her dissertation at the University of Washington, and studies climate change education. We are indeed fortunate to welcome this outstanding group of newcomers, who I fully expect to match the high standards of scholarly achievement set by our current faculty.