Pregnancy and Childbirth During COVID-19: SJSU Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal Collects Critical Data from Women’s Experiences

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, San José State University Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal, ’02 MSN, recognized that it could pose significant risks for pregnant and nursing mothers — especially to their mental health. For many pregnant and postpartum women, social distancing limited access to critical support networks, while fear of the virus itself increased the likelihood of them experiencing anxiety and depression. 

Over the past 18 months, Goyal has partnered with colleagues across the United States and Europe to study pregnancy, birth and postpartum outcomes — and how they were affected by the pandemic — resulting in multiple studies and five publications. 

Deepika Goyal

San José State Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal.

In addition to serving as a professor at SJSU, Goyal is a nurse practitioner at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s obstetrics and gynecology department. In spring 2020, she reached out to University of Connecticut School of Nursing Professor Cheryl Beck and researchers in the United Kingdom to collect data from women who gave birth after Feb. 1, 2020.

Their forthcoming study, “Postpartum Depressive Symptoms & Experiences During COVID-19,” is one of three papers Goyal co-authored that will be published in early 2022 in a special issue of MCN, The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, dedicated to COVID-19 and maternal mental health. Goyal and her research partners found that 75% of women surveyed were living with depressive symptoms. 

“Women described this time as challenging due to changes in health-care delivery — virtual versus in-person appointments — and limiting in-person appointments to the mother, often excluding dads or partners,” said Goyal. “Women felt lonely and isolated and had limited social support, all while caring for a newborn and sheltering in place.”

It doesn’t help that the pandemic has increased the risk of depression and anxiety, two conditions that pregnant and postpartum mothers are especially vulnerable to experiencing. While her first study focused on postpartum experiences, Goyal still wanted to understand how the pandemic affected women during pregnancy. 

To do this, she partnered with Cindy Liu, director of the Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, to examine data obtained from pregnant women who participated in the hospital’s Perinatal Experiences and COVID-19 Effects study from May to November 2020.

Together, they published “Patient Satisfaction with Virtual-Based Prenatal Care: Implications after the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and collaborated on a second paper, “Unmet prenatal expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” to be published in the same MCN 2022 special issue.

The study concluded that nearly 90% of women preferred in-person care under non-pandemic conditions. While the majority of respondents appeared satisfied with their virtual care, Goyal added that the constant shift in COVID-19 protocols caused miscommunications between women and their health-care providers. 

“Unfortunately, the new and changing nature of COVID has created inconsistent messaging and care, which creates miscommunication, misunderstanding and frustration,” she said. “For first-time mothers, this is the only experience they have. However, women who have given birth in non-pandemic times are just trying to get through the best they can.”

Throughout her collaborations with academic partners during the pandemic, Goyal noticed that Asian Americans were not well-represented in COVID-19 studies. So she collaborated with Meekyung Han, professor of social work at San José State, and they conducted a separate study to examine the experiences of pregnant and postpartum Asian American mothers, which included interviewing first-time moms and women with children already at home. 

Dr. Huynh-Nhu Le and graduate student Talia Feldman-Schwartz from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., helped with the data analysis. The study, entitled “Perinatal experiences of Asian American women during COVID-19,” is also in press with MCN.

Goyal’s research since the start of the pandemic has revealed some similar themes, regardless of race. 

“Pregnancy and childbirth are vulnerable times for women, their partners and their families, and COVID only added to this already vulnerable time by shifting health-care delivery,” she said. “The additional risk of severe illness for pregnant women who contract COVID-19 and subsequent adverse outcomes such as preterm birth also added to the heightened stress.”

As a health-care provider, she recommends that everyone — especially new mothers — get the COVID-19 vaccine. For those wishing to learn more about the vaccine, she urges people to rely on trusted resources, such as their health-care providers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

 “The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has changed nursing care,” she said, adding that her conversations with expecting mothers now revolve around “the virus, mutations and the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“As far as research, COVID-19 created a unique opportunity to study pregnancy, birth and postpartum outcomes during a large-scale public health crisis that only happens once a century.”

SJSU Students Use Bioinformatics to Study How Living Organisms React to Space Travel

International Space Station

SJSU bioinformatics students helped NASA scientists better understand how living organisms react to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. Image courtesy of NASA.

How does space travel impact the human body? That’s a question scientists are still trying to answer. This summer, they got a little closer to the answer, thanks to some extra help from San José State University students.

A cohort of biology and computer science undergraduate students were the first to participate in San José State’s new bioinformatics internship program with NASA, developed by two SJSU College of Science faculty: Philip Heller, assistant professor of computer science, and Bree Grillo-Hill, assistant professor of biology.

Equipped with knowledge from their SJSU biology and computer science courses — plus training from a bioinformatics bootcamp — six students joined NASA’s GeneLab project. They helped analyze and interpret publicly available data that revealed the RNA of different organisms, including humans, plants, insects and mice, in order to compare how those organisms responded to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. The internship began in June and ended in August.

“The goal was to gain insights into the biological processes that degrade astronauts’ health in microgravity and other stressful conditions,” explained Heller. “These insights will drive decisions about lowering astronaut health risks, so the implications for science are profound.”

For example, Evelyn Wong, ’21 Biology, analyzed data to help NASA researchers better understand how and if cancer could be a risk following space travel.

“Astronauts are exposed to radiation when traveling to space, which makes them likely candidates for developing cancer later in life,” she explained. “I studied samples that might be able to help identify that possibility for developing cancer in the future.”

Wong said she’s not a natural programmer, so the internship offered her an opportunity to gain new data processing skills while putting her biology knowledge to use. Her hard work paid off: After her internship wrapped up in August, Wong began working as a full-time research associate contracted by Blue Marble Space Institute of Science to work with NASA.

That’s the kind of success Heller was hoping his students would achieve when he developed the internship. Bioinformatics is an increasingly important field, he noted. San José State offers a minor in bioinformatics as well as a master’s degree.

Preserved tissue samples

Publicly available data gathered from preserved tissues such as those seen here, archived at the NASA Ames Research Center, were analyzed and interpreted with the help of SJSU bioinformatics students. Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart

Grillo-Hill emphasized that the experience can give students an edge in job searches and graduate school applications.

“Many cutting-edge projects in biology research require generating, managing and analyzing large data sets,” she explained. “Our bioinformatics minor teaches students the tools to do this, and internships give them the opportunity to practice these skills on real data sets.”

With NASA’s Artemis program to land humans — the first woman and first person of color, specifically — on the moon in 2024, “the urgency is high” to better understand how humans respond to space travel, Heller emphasized.

He hoped to create a program that would allow both SJSU and NASA to reap the benefits. SJSU could supply a steady stream of talented students interested in bioinformatics, and the next generation of scientists could gain valuable first-hand interdisciplinary experience, he said.

While this isn’t the only opportunity SJSU students have to intern with NASA — the College of Engineering, for example, helps place aerospace engineering students into internships with the agency — it’s the first chance for SJSU students interested in bioinformatics.

To make sure students were ready to hit the ground running, Heller, in collaboration with NASA GeneLab and Universities Space Research Association, kicked off the program with a five-day intensive bootcamp that acquainted students with NASA’s processes and goals and provided a deeper understanding of the field.

Kevin Truong, ’22 Computer Science, found the experience of working in an interdisciplinary environment with NASA scientists eye-opening.

“Working in bioinformatics gave me the opportunity to explore different fields and to learn things I didn’t know — and that I’ll likely never understand. And that’s OK if there is someone else on your team who can explain it. Sometimes, I will be the one to explain things to someone else.

“It’s a fascinating field and can be challenging, but in the end you get to create greater things.”

Heller emphasized that “even if the interns don’t become NASA scientists, they will gain training and experience in techniques that are commonly used in biotech, so we believe their long-term career experiences will be greatly enriched.”

Aeowynn Coakley, ’21 Biology, already feels that her future as a research scientist has been influenced by the experience.

“Whatever I do next, I want to work with an interdisciplinary team. You can go so much further and understand so much more working together that way,” she said.

“Bioinformatics is a really important tool to make meaningful inferences about data being collected,” she continued. “We are in an era of big data, and there’s so much biological information out there and so many scientists working siloed as they delve into this data. Through bioinformatics, we can make really meaningful contributions to the field by introducing an interdisciplinary perspective.”

Learn more about San José State’s MS in Bioinformatics and minor in Bioinformatics.

NSF Grant to Accelerate Wildfire Research at SJSU

SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, with a truck equipped for wildfire surveillance. Photo by Robert C. Bain

Wildfire research at San José State University is about to move faster than ever before — and in partnership with key industry and government stakeholders — thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF grant awards the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) the designation of an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC), making it part of a program designed to accelerate the impact of research by establishing close relationships with industry innovators, government leaders and world-class academic teams.

WIRC will be the only IUCRC in the U.S. focusing on wildfire research. 

Functioning as an IUCRC will allow wildfire research at SJSU to move at an unprecedented speed, explained Craig Clements, director of WIRC and professor of meteorology. Typically, the academic research process can require months of waiting for funding and approval. In this case, funding is available and projects can start as soon as the stakeholders approve.

WIRC will partner with a board of industry innovators and government agencies, including: San Diego Gas & Electric Company; Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Southern California Edison; Technosylva, Inc.; Jupiter Intelligence, Inc.; State Farm Insurance; CSAA Insurance Group; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and others.

Those members will each contribute an annual fee of $50,000, which will allow them to work directly with WIRC faculty to determine research goals, share industry data and prioritize the most pressing needs in the area of wildfire research. In addition to annual membership fees, the NSF provides $750,000 over a five-year period.

“This is going to be transformative for our faculty and students in terms of what we can accomplish,” said Clements. “And the members will benefit because they will get access to research results before anyone else. Our students will get to interact with industry and government members, and members get to interact with our talent pool.”

WIRC has identified five initial key areas of research in which it will engage partners, focusing on both physical and social science aspects of wildfire research, according to its proposal submitted to the NSF. Those areas include:

Fire weather and coupled fire-atmosphere modeling and forecasting: In order for industry and government members to make the best fire management decisions, WIRC will prioritize learning how fire interacts with the atmosphere and across complex terrain. 

Fire behavior monitoring and modeling: As remote sensing and long-wave infrared technologies have advanced, WIRC plans to conduct scientific measurements of real-time wildfire data for the first time — which can then be shared with scientists and fire managers around the world as well as contribute to more accurate fire predictions. 

Wildfire management and policy: How individuals and communities respond to wildfires varies. WIRC will expand its research on how social and behavioral factors contribute to evacuation plans and trust in wildfire management. Additionally, researchers will examine barriers to prescribed fire use on private lands and residential areas. 

Climate change and wildfire risk: As climate change continues, wildfire locations, frequencies, intensities, size and duration will change, too. Researchers will produce detailed information on how climate change has influenced wildfire behavior in the past and how it will likely impact the future. 

STEM fire education and workforce development: In the past, wildfire experts have typically been firefighters. But today, wildfire expertise is interdisciplinary and includes land management agencies, nonprofits, teachers, land-use planners, public health experts, landscape architects, building scientists, insurance agencies and more. WIRC wants to develop a wildfire training program for the next generation of fire-adapted professionals and communities. 

SJSU researchers will work with the U.S. Forest Service Fire Science Lab to train community teachers, park rangers and outdoor educators so that they can teach residents in fire-prone ecosystems how to be more fire adaptive from a young age. WIRC also plans to train the next generation of wildfire experts through a wildfire minor at SJSU and by streamlining opportunities for underrepresented minority students to work with industry members. 

Clements will continue to serve as director of WIRC and primary investigator (PI) along with Amanda Stasiewicz, assistant professor of wildfire management, as co-director and co-PI.

Other leadership faculty include Adam Kochanski, co-PI and assistant professor of wildfire meteorology; Ali Tohidi, co-PI and assistant professor of fire dynamics and mechanical engineering; Kate Wilkin, co-PI and assistant professor of fire ecology; Mario Miguel Valero Pérez, senior personnel and assistant professor of wildfire remote sensing; and Patrick Brown, senior personnel and assistant professor of meteorology and climate science. 

Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for research and innovation at San José State, said the IUCRC designation is an excellent demonstration of the public impact that SJSU research is delivering to local and global communities.

“It is great to see the continuing support from the National Science Foundation to this critically important research program at San José State,” said Abousalem.

“With record-size wildfires currently ravaging through California’s ecosystems and communities, the value and impact of this collaborative research work could not be more timely. SJSU has the depth of expertise and the interdisciplinarity needed to understand, assess, mitigate and manage these wildfires through targeted partnerships with industry and government.”

Lurie College Reimagines the Future of Education at the Inaugural Learner Design Summit

San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education hosted a free Learner Design Summit to kickstart an ongoing dialogue about the future of education.

Rebeca Burciaga and Veneice Guillory-Lacy REP4

SJSU Lurie College faculty Rebeca Burciaga (left) and Veneice Guillory-Lacy (right) helped create the Learner Design Summit in July 2021. Photo by Robert Bain.

How do you design inclusive models for teaching and learning? It’s simple: Ask the students.

Last week, the Lurie College held its first Learner Design Summit to launch SJSU’s regional Rapid Education Prototyping (REP4) Alliance.

The REP4 Alliance is a powerful network of regional and national education, industry and technology leaders, led by the six founding higher education partners, including the Lurie College. This alliance brings together diverse learners to develop new ideas for higher education programming using liberatory design principles.

At the summit, a total of 25 local students, including rising 11th and 12th graders, recent high school graduates, community college students and SJSU undergraduates collaborated and designed creative proposals, or “prototypes,” to address existing challenges in the higher education system.

“A prototype is a pitch that students prepare to showcase the needs and solutions that create institutional change,” said Rebeca Burciaga, professor of educational leadership and Chicana and Chicano Studies as well as the faculty executive director of SJSU’s Institute of Emancipatory Education (IEE).

“SJSU student mentors are leading what we call ‘dream teams’ to dream up these ideas. We hope to find ways to incorporate their solutions and perhaps work with campus leaders to make those immediate changes.”

San José State President Mary Papazian kicked off the weeklong event with a message for the Spartan community.

“We believe that initiatives such as emancipatory education and REP4 support the development of equitable and inclusive educational systems that nurture the creativity and brilliance of all learners so that our diverse, democratic society can truly thrive,” she said.

“Collectively, the themes of this work are well-aligned with SJSU’s interests in advancing and transforming our educational systems, which many of us believe are in urgent need of radical change.”

The Equity Ambassadors team will be presenting their prototype on Aug. 5. Photo credit: Robert Bain.

Summit participants presented their proposals to SJSU campus leadership this week. Faculty advisors selected the top two group finalists: the Creative Connections team, which provided recommendations for pairing high school students with college mentors, and the Equity Ambassadors team, which suggested creating a career support program for low-income, immigrant and first-generation students.

Both groups will be sharing their prototypes in the online REP4 National Convening on August 5, which brings together student leaders from across the country. By presenting their prototypes to a national audience, the SJSU finalists will have the chance to have their ideas included in REP4’s online search tool for education partners. The repository will make it possible for schools to search for education prototypes that can be put into practice and lead to more equitable education.

“REP4 at SJSU gave high school students and college students alike the opportunity to dream up and reimagine what higher education could look like in the future,” said Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Veneice Guillory-Lacy, who helped design the agenda and curriculum for the summit.

“It was amazing to witness the students come up with inclusive, equitable and transformational prototypes. We have been blown away by the ingenuity and creativity the REP4 students have displayed in such a short amount of time. We are excited for the future of higher education.”

Creating connections

The Creative Connections team will be presenting at the REP4 National Convening on Aug. 5. The team is composed of SJSU designer Joy Everson, ’22 Mathematics, SJSU mentor Vinson Vu, ’23 Business Administration, community college designer JC Jacinto and high school designers Simon Cha and Amelie Pak. Photo by Robert Bain.

“I really, really enjoyed this experience of meeting and connecting with great people,” said JC Jacinto, one of the community college design leaders. “Everybody shared what problems they had faced, and that really opened up my mind to see what we can do and what we need to change.”

High school design leader Nicole Hoang added that she attended the summit because she wanted to “solve student debt,” but decided to zero in on specific student costs.

“We were able to come up with this really smart solution of partnering with companies to pay for student textbooks,” she said. “Our presentation template and our student mentors were super helpful, and I really enjoyed this experience.”

“REP4 is directly connected to the transformative mission of SJSU and the emancipatory vision of our Institute for Emancipatory Education,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College.

“IEE is founded on the principles of centering marginalized learners, partnering with community and bridging boundaries. These principles will guide our work with REP4.”

The national event will take the best ideas from regional summits to the next level and is hosted by Grand Valley State University. There, learners will present, advocate and respond to questions about their prototypes. The goal of the REP4 Alliance is to prototype, enrich, test and scale new approaches designed together with learners.

“This is a great opportunity for students to help us reimagine higher education and better serve our current and future students by creating more inclusive and equitable campus policies and practices,” added Burciaga.

Learn more about SJSU’s Learner Design Summit and the REP4 Alliance.

How Diamonds Could Unlock the Secrets of Quantum Physics

What makes diamonds so valuable? Most of us would point to their brilliance, clarity and beauty. But Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at San José State, has a different answer: He looks to diamonds as the key to unearthing the secrets of quantum physics.

Smallwood and his collaborators are examining silicon-vacancy centers, which are a type of atom-sized flaw, in diamonds in order to better understand quantum physics. Illustration by Pourya Nadimi

Smallwood and his collaborators are using diamonds to better understand how the world works at the scale of a single atom. His recent findings, “Hidden Silicon-Vacancy Centers in Diamonds,” were published in May in the journal Physical Review Letters.

In the jewelry store, people typically look for the diamond with the fewest flaws. But Smallwood explained that, in the lab, these flaws are exactly what can make diamond samples so special.

He and fellow researchers create atom-sized flaws in the diamonds. Then, using a laser with pulses of light less than a trillionth of a second, they can observe the details and properties of those flaws “in a way we never had been able to before,” Smallwood said.

Exploring new territory

Christopher Smallwood

Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

Why diamonds? To start, their crystal clear makeup allows scientists to easily access flaws with laser technology, Smallwood explained.

But what’s more, they contain a treasure trove of quantum secrets for physicists to uncover.

“There are literally books about optical resonances in diamonds for which no one understands the underlying origin,” he said. By resonances, he means physical responses in the diamonds to outside stimuli, such as light.

“From an experimental physicist’s point of view, it’s really great to have so much left to explore.”

Smallwood noted that his research takes place amid Silicon Valley’s push toward quantum engineering — that is, applying quantum physics to technology. Currently, IBM and Google, for example, are building quantum computers, which will have the power to apply quantum physics knowledge to solve today’s most pressing issues, like creating sustainable energy, reducing emissions and developing more helpful artificial intelligence.

Smallwood’s research demonstrates how San José State could become a key player in this process.

“I’ve seen a number of companies pop up in and around Silicon Valley in recent years aiming to make new inroads in quantum technology, and SJSU is well-positioned to help train the workforce required to make these technological dreams a reality,” Smallwood explained. “The publication of this paper helps underscore this potential.”

Shining light at San José State

Smallwood’s recent findings tie closely with his project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation he received in 2020. The grant has allowed Smallwood to advance San José State’s capabilities of studying the properties of diamonds and other materials through light.

“SJSU is great because of the ways it allows me to directly work with undergraduate and master’s students and stay active in the laboratory,” he said. “Student participation in these research efforts is crucial. And I’ve got some extraordinary graduate and undergraduate students currently working in my group.”

One of those students is Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics, who is helping Smallwood to better understand the recent findings. Together, he and Smallwood will work on another manuscript that explores the theory behind the work, which they will submit for publication.

Tommy Wen Chin, '22 Physics

Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics

Chin said he’s gaining valuable experience for the future: He plans to pursue a PhD in physics and a career in academic research.

“This experience will give me a significant head start in that process, as I learn not only to perform research, but also to formally report it through publications. Being a first author on a publication as an undergraduate student is very rare within academic circles, and this will enhance my credibility as I apply for programs.”

But most importantly, Chin said he is getting to explore his passion and advance his knowledge of quantum physics.

“The opportunity to learn something new in physics is what drives me,” he shared. “The process of research projects often involves learning bits and pieces of the physics here and there. The most interesting and exciting part for me is when all these little pieces fit together seamlessly and tell a cohesive story.”

Smallwood, of course, understands Chin’s passion for quantum physics and the research process as a whole.

“There’s something really aesthetically beautiful about the theoretical side of the work, and on the experimental side, you get to build things with your own hands,” Smallwood said. “I enjoy working with lasers and shining light on things because — even at the level of high-level physics experiments — seeing is believing.”

View Smallwood’s published study in the Physical Review Letters journal.

Economic Outlook is Bright for California, Nationwide

California’s economy is raging back strong from the pandemic according to a California Outlook report from Beacon Economics, an independent economic research and consulting firm. The United States is experiencing a similar trend — all signs point to a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity by the end of 2021.

San José State University’s Center for Banking and Financial Services hosted its annual Economic Summit this week, including a panel discussion with Christopher Thornberg, a founding Partner of Beacon Economics, and Congressman Ro Khanna, which was moderated by Jay Ross, attorney at Hopkins & Carley.

Khanna represents California’s 17th Congressional District and serves on a number of House committees, including Agriculture, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform, in which he chairs the Environmental Subcommittee.

Khanna spoke on his three areas of focus for economic recovery: clean technology and tackling climate change, equity in a digital economy, and empowerment of “essential” workers — physical laborers and those in in-person, service industries — “who make our economy run.”

Khanna sees collaboration with academic institutions and the private sector as key to each of these areas. He cited SJSU as a “model public university,” including in its “extraordinary partnerships with the private sector and government” and believes the university is a “pillar of the Silicon Valley economy.”

Beacon Economics’ recent economic and social impact report confirms Khanna’s position. The report shows that San José State generates $1.6 billion in labor in California, with nearly half in Santa Clara County alone; $606.9 in tax revenue that benefits local, state and federal governments; and $4.1 billion in economic impact statewide.

In addition, Beacon found SJSU undergraduates typically graduate with less than half the average debt of California college graduates, and are then recruited by some of the world’s biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley.

According to Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean Dan Moshavi, “The demand for a San José State and a Cal State education is very high.”

“But what is most critical for today’s students, especially those at SJSU, is developing ‘soft skills,’” Moshavi explained, which relate to how we work.

“One of the things we’re working on in the College of Business is career and professional readiness,” said Moshavi. “Forty-two percent of our students are first-generation students. A lot of them have not had exposure to what professional life looks like, especially in Silicon Valley. Part of what we do is prepare those students in the soft skills, in understanding what it means to walk into a professional environment and engage. That’s a high priority for us.”

This is all great news for current students who are preparing to enter the workforce — and an economy that is still in recovery.

Beacon has long partnered with San José State to provide the economic forecast at the annual summit. As Moshavi introduced Thornberg for his presentation at the event, he praised their work, saying: “Beacon has grown, as many of you have watched at this event over the years, to be one of the most respected economic forecasting firms in the state.”

Key insights for navigating a post-COVID economy

Thornberg provided a comprehensive forecast of the local, state and national economy. The annual analysis is key for Silicon Valley businesses, who can use the relevant information from his report to guide decision-making.

He described four key themes related to economic recovery that can be taken from the pandemic:

  1. Although we’ve experienced a “tragic natural disaster,” history shows that these events do not have lasting impacts on economies — a “quicker-than-normal” recovery from COVID-19 was almost guaranteed.
  2. The United States’ fiscal and monetary policies during the pandemic created a “rocketship recovery,” which means the economy will be overheated for the next couple of years, carrying risks of inflation, higher interest rates and high public debt.
  3. The recovery is “accelerating underlying trends” that were already happening pre-pandemic.
    The housing situation is stable. It’s not about pricing or a “bubble” — yet — it’s about supply of available housing for those who want it.
  4. Thornberg said this is a very different business cycle that what the U.S. experienced in 2008 in regards to the pre-recession economy (subprime lending level during the Great Recession versus a healthy economy in 2020), consumer finances (low vs. high savings rates) and underlying drivers of the recession itself (demand shock vs. supply shock).

“This [time of the COVID-19 pandemic] was the deepest recession in history and also the shortest recession in history,” said Thornberg.

Unfortunately, there is still evidence of distress in the economy because the recovery is unbalanced. For example, services are lagging behind while durable and non-durable goods are way above trend.

San Francisco, he said, is about 35 percent down from where they were pre-pandemic because of their reliance on tourism and business-related travel, while San Jose remained relatively stable.

Goods trade is hot, but supply is slow because of the extraordinary demand we are experiencing at the moment.

Overall, national profits are up, along with corporate profits; tech employment is also up, which is great news for Silicon Valley.

Restaurants, hotels, airlines and entertainment are still struggling to get back; they couldn’t rebound until the vaccine rollout and the virus was under control. Yet, travel is currently picking up, and pent up demand for it is at an all-time high — Thornberg suggested buying tickets and planning your travel for the rest of the year now, as prices are expected to continue to rise.

There is a supply crisis in housing in California. Thornberg explained that middle-income people in the state are tired of being outbid for homes and are migrating to other areas where they can find houses without as much competition. With interest rates low and mortgage rates down, we’re seeing a “panic buying market,” not a “bubble” as with the previous recession.

Commercial real estate is still slow; suburban retail in particular has been impacted because of online shopping.

The labor market is “way behind in recovery,” despite employers adding 850,000 workers in June, the largest gain in 10 months. Thornberg explained the reason is a shortage of labor supply, meaning there are a tremendous amount of jobs available but not enough people to fill them.

This is due to a few factors: Some unemployed workers were temporarily laid off and are waiting for their jobs to come back, some are still using their unemployment benefits, and others have money in the bank and are comfortable with waiting for the “right” jobs, which Thornberg described as ones that will lead to better opportunities down the road.

In addition, a great deal of people retired during the pandemic, many of them seniors, and voluntary quits are at an all-time high.

Overall, Thornberg advised the tight labor market is here to stay, and this shortage of labor supply will continue. The answer: Businesses must consider how to retool in order to compensate for the labor shortage long term.

In short, parts of the economy are still struggling, but the strong growth we are experiencing will provide relief. Thornberg stressed the importance of refraining from referring to everything as a crisis, in favor of looking toward the future — now.

“We need to think about the generations coming behind us, whether we’re talking about climate change, whether we’re talking about housing supply, whether we’re talking about the basic issue of the fiscal deficit. We need to go back to thinking about tomorrow.”

For more economic insights see Christopher Thornberg’s full presentation or register here to view the full webinar.

Social Work Professor Finds Online Substance-Abuse Prevention Programs Work During a Pandemic

Edward Cohen, Professor of Social Work

Most in-person gatherings went virtual when the pandemic hit in March 2020 — including substance abuse prevention groups. Turns out, virtual meetings like these can still yield positive outcomes for the participants.

That’s what Edward Cohen, professor for San José State’s School of Social Work, discovered when the in-person Celebrating Families!, an intervention program that focuses on improving parental skills and relationships in families where at least one parent has a substance abuse problem, moved to an online format. He studied participants’ outcomes and satisfaction in the program over 16 weeks, then published his findings in the journal Research on Social Work Practice.

What can we do with this information now that it’s becoming safer to meet in-person? The SJSU News and Editorial Team sat down with Cohen, who shared his insight on the wider implications of his study.

You define Celebrating Families! (CF!) as a family-based intervention program. What does that mean?

Edward Cohen (EC): Family-based interventions are those that attempt to strengthen families, reduce harm caused by poverty and traumatic experiences, improve parenting, and prevent future problems for family members such as child abuse, substance use problems and family violence.

These programs work by recognizing the centrality of the family in child development and strengthening resiliencies — those factors that help people deal with adversity. These interventions draw from the theories and practices of family therapy, child development, neuropsychology, trauma-informed care, peer support and cognitive behavioral therapies.

CF! is one of several programs that serve families in groups and provide classes focused on parenting skills development, improved family communication, improved healthy living, reduced violence in the home and reduced harmful substance use, among other goals.

What were the main concerns about moving this program online?

EC: CF! is a very relational type of program: It focuses on engaging families who need but have not made the best use of formal treatment services. The classes include a lot of experiential exercises, role modeling of positive behavior and personal support — all easier to do in person. And because all family members are involved in each class, they also include breakout groups for children and adolescents.

The program developers and treatment sites had concerns initially about the ability of group leaders to do similar work with online classes. Also, these families tend to have fewer technology resources, such as newer computers and Internet connectivity, which could limit participation.

However, our hope was that it would have a wider reach, and that delivering the content directly to families’ homes would provide a more realistic setting for families to practice new skills.

What surprised you about your findings?

EC: The online program performed much better than anyone expected. Some sites — CF! has sites all over the U.S. — reported better attendance in the online classes, especially in the early days of the pandemic when most people were home. Later in the year, however, some sites reported a lot of distractions — family members Zooming in from the car or while shopping, for example.

Nevertheless, the outcomes, measured by valid and reliable instruments, consistently have shown improved parenting skills, emotional health, relationships and self-confidence of parents. There were very few differences in outcomes comparing the previous in-person classes to those delivered online; both modes showed improvement.

The access to technology was also better than expected and did not pose a problem for most families. And Latinx families, which comprised 65 percent of one large sample in California, improved at the same rate as non-Latinx families in both the in-person and online classes. We’re hoping to see similar results in other sites, including Native American tribal authorities that have implemented CF!.

Now that we know CF! was effective online, would a family-based intervention online program serve as a suitable stand-in when an in-person program might not be available?

EC: It seems that it could. However, one area of concern is the difficulty in delivering the program to young children.

Most sites using the specialized curriculum for children up to 7 years old could only work online with the parents, whereas the in-person classes were able to provide therapeutic play activities for children on similar topics discussed by the adults at the same time.

Also, as the pandemic progressed, middle-school children seemed to suffer “Zoom burnout” from online schoolwork and were less interested in participating in the online activities. Adolescents seemed to have a better sustained response to the online activities.

Increased substance use seems to be a recurring theme during the pandemic. That makes us think that there may be an increase in issues relating to substance abuse and families. What has your research uncovered about how we can deal with this issue moving forward?

EC: The developers of CF! hope to break the cycle of substance-use problems, which tend to be intergenerational, as is family violence. Such programs have a place in the continuum of care: as a way to engage families in treatment and get them on the road to recovery.

However, there are gaps in our treatment systems, and for various reasons, people fall through the cracks and don’t get the treatment they need in formal outpatient clinics. The hope is that interventions like CF! will be expanded beyond the current families whose problems have already reached a crisis point — and extended to families early enough before major crises occur, like child maltreatment or intimate partner violence related to substance abuse.

CF! is currently expanding implementation of its newer early childhood programs. Both early prevention and later-stage interventions are needed to address the current increase in substance addiction problems.

As we start to open back up and in-person interactions become more and more safe, what can we do with these findings?

EC: I think that the online experience will have a lasting impact on how these sites deliver this program, even when they return to full in-person mode. I can imagine a hybrid type of intervention, especially in rural areas, similar to how telemedicine was initially developed to provide medical care to rural communities. Even in urban areas like San José, I expect we will see more online communication, such as special “homework” to practice at home what is learned in-person at the agency.

In terms of future research, we don’t know the longer term impact of this program. Sixteen weeks is such a short time period in these families’ lives, so we will be conducting more research from program graduates, and we will be trying to collect data about long-term avoidance of child maltreatment, violence and substance use problems.

To learn more about Cohen’s work, read the entire published study.

Social Sciences Faculty Publish an Anthology Reflecting on the Aftermath of George Floyd’s Murder

Walt Jacobs, dean of SJSU’s College of Social Sciences, co-edited this anthology with faculty members Wendy Thompson Taiwo and Amy August. Photo courtesy of Walt Jacobs.

On May 25, 2020, Minnesota resident George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin – a tragedy captured on a cell phone video by a bystander on a nearby sidewalk.
Four days later, San José State College of Social Sciences Dean and Sociology Professor Walt Jacobs emailed his faculty and staff to acknowledge their collective grief and offer a few ideas about how they could respond by contributing to the national dialogue about race in America.

“As human beings, many of us are overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation and the intense emotions it has created,” Jacobs wrote on May 29. “As members of an institution that strives for social justice, we feel discouraged and outraged. And, as social scientists, we are wondering how our disciplines and our knowledge can contribute to solutions.”

That email, coupled with a conversation Jacobs later had with SJSU African American Studies Assistant Professor Wendy Thompson Taiwo, blossomed into a series of essays for The Society Pages. Inspired by the responses he was getting from colleagues with ties to Minnesota, Jacobs recruited Taiwo and Assistant Professor of Sociology Amy August to curate and edit an anthology of 36 essays titled “Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Progressive Illusion” (published by Minnesota Historical Society Press).

A “wonderful and wretched” place for people of color

"Sparked" editors

Three SJSU faculty collaborated to edit “Sparked”: Amy August (top left), Walt Jacobs (top right) and Wendy Thompson Taiwo (center). Photo courtesy of Walt Jacobs.

A self-identified Minnesotan, Jacobs served as a professor of African American Studies at the University of Minnesota for 14 years, five of which he was department chair. Floyd’s murder just a mile from Jacobs’ former home sparked his desire to contextualize the intersectionality of race, culture and academia so often defined as “Minnesota nice.”

As he wrote in a 2016 “Blackasotan” essay, Jacobs asserts that “[life in] the land of 10,000 lakes helped [him] see that there were 10,000 ways to be Black.”

Thompson Taiwo’s experiences as a Black academic and mother in Minnesota prove Jacobs’ thesis. During her four years as assistant professor of ethnic studies at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Thompson Taiwo said she “experienced unmistakably racist personal incidents and saw the way that anti-Blackness operated on a structural level.

“Walt had a more positive relationship to Minnesota; not that he never experienced racism, but for me, it was stark. Thus, the juxtaposition that got this whole project started: Minnesota, for Black people, is both wonderful (Walt) and wretched (me).”

The anthology, published close to the anniversary of Floyd’s death and not long after Chauvin’s guilty verdict, brings together the perspectives of social scientists, professors and academics who work or have worked in Minnesota.

The essays present reflections on racial dynamics in the Twin Cities and the intersection of “wonderful and wretched” sides of that existence, revealing deep complexities, ingrained inequalities and diverse personal experiences. Writers probe how social scientists can offer the data and education required to contribute to change.

“Data is really important — but how we contextualize the data and the narratives we create about that data is equally powerful,” said Thompson Taiwo.

“To bring it directly to SJSU, how can we look at current efforts on campus — defunding and removing the police, enhancing the profile of the African American Studies Department, which provides a lens for understanding anti-Blackness and the long history and continuation of police murders of Black people, putting resources toward hiring more Black faculty and recruiting Black students — and lend our energies and solidarity to pushing those forward?

“Through collective grief and rage comes transformation. There is no reason why that transformation cannot continue on our campus and within our surrounding communities.”

August’s preface, “Coloring in the Progressive Illusion: An Introduction to Racial Dynamics in Minnesota,” provides some benchmark demographics and data detailing racial disparities in home ownership, health care, generational wealth and criminal justice.

As assistant director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society, and Social Change, she collaborates with a team of colleagues and student interns to promote social justice in and through sports. Like Jacobs and Thompson Taiwo, she studied and taught in Minnesota for several years.

“Helping to edit this book was a way to better understand how academics of color, including many of my friends and colleagues, were making sense of the racism and racial dynamics in an allegedly ‘progressive’ Minnesota,” said August.

“Because it was within the broader racial context that George Floyd was brutally murdered, within which the Black Lives Matter movement experienced yet another reawakening, and within which Minnesotans are even now reacting to the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin, I see these essays as must-reads for all those interested in eradicating anti-Blackness and transforming race relations in Minneapolis and beyond,” she added.

Into the future

Jacobs, Thompson Taiwo and August conclude the anthology with an essay entitled “Where Will We Be on May 25, 2022?” They reflect on their initial reactions to Floyd’s murder and their hopes for the future.

Thompson Taiwo writes:

“What if we can, in the wake of George Floyd’s stolen life, have it all, everything our foremothers and othermothers and heroes and ancestors pocketed away and scrimped and hungered and struggled for? To find freedom this way requires one to dig deep into the speculative Black feminist tradition of imagining otherwise and otherworlds, knowing full well that we as Black people continue to live in the long afterlife of slavery, in the forever time of social death, and in a country that is consciously trapped in its own violent white settler colonial origin story.”

The College of Social Sciences’ Institute for Metropolitan Studies hosted a book launch event on May 18, 2021 at which Jacobs, Thompson Taiwo and contributor Marcia Williams, adjunct assistant professor of social and cultural sciences at Marquette University, were interviewed by Gordon Douglas, SJSU assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning. The college will be hosting additional online book events in fall 2021.

Learn more about “Sparked” here.

 

New “21@2021” Virtual Exhibit Elevates an Ancient Chinese Artform to a New Realm

21@2021 Virtual Exhibit

What do the ancient art of Chinese brush painting and virtual reality have in common? Hint: It’s not their age.

SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library’s new “21@2021” virtual exhibit showcases the more than 6,000-year-old art of Chinese painting done on colorful lanterns — including a virtual reality (VR) experience that puts guests literally in touch with the artwork — in celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

As one of the oldest styles of painting in the world, Chinese brush painting is considered a living art. Its themes typically reflect serenity and peace and easily lend themselves to contemporary execution for modern day artists and enthusiasts.

The exhibition highlights the artwork of three generations of the Chan Lim family, who have been pioneering new media, styles and techniques that integrate Western art with the Chinese brush style in the United States and around the world for more than half a century.

Unlike Western brushes, the Chinese brush features a handle made of bamboo and topped with animal hair used for making meticulous strokes on rice paper — which is also very difficult to correct if mistakes are made. The finished works are then stretched and mounted on thicker paper to make them stronger and often attached to scrolls, or in this case lanterns, for hanging.

The driving force behind “21@2021” is Lucas College and Graduate School of Business faculty member Bobbi Makani-Lim, PhD, who contributed to and curated the exhibit along with her husband Felix Chan Lim, PhD, a faculty member of Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program who works in the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry. The pair also co-teach a course about the tradition of Chinese brush painting at Stanford.

Art binds the family together

As Makani-Lim describes, it is a common language among them: “When you talk about Chinese brush painting, everyone understands this is what we do as a family.”

Pre-COVID-19, the family would put on exhibits of their work around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and China; in shopping malls in Asia, thousands would attend to view the 300-400 works of art in a given show. The Chan Lim family currently has artworks on exhibit at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

They held their first art exhibition at San José State in 2018. In addition to the Chinese brush, they displayed oil and acrylic paintings, Chinese fans as well as ceramics. The show was so well received, they decided to return for the 20th anniversary of the Chan Lim family’s artistic collaborations in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The family had already begun shipping lanterns from overseas to contribute to what had originally been planned as an in-person exhibit. They pivoted quickly and came up with a new gameplan: a digital experience that would include a virtual reality component.

“The digital format allows our guests to have a feeling of being in a natural exhibit, and if they have VR goggles, they can go in and actually play with some of the lanterns,” said Makani-Lim.

“VR isn’t just for gaming, it can be for art exhibits,” too, she added.

Taking art to the next level

For the King Library, “It is the first example of an interactive VR experience,” says Lesley Seacrist, the library’s ‎project and communications manager. “That means multiple users can be in the same room at the same time and can interact with each other. It’s like being in an actual museum.”

All visitors can enter seven different themed “rooms” and use their keyboard to navigate around and view the hanging lanterns and paintings on the virtual walls. There are also slide shows that play in the background that describe the themes and their popularity in Chinese painting.

More than 500 hours of human and computer time went into creating the virtual reality piece, including setting the scenes, rendering the lanterns, and developing digital galleries for the artwork, according to Jon Oakes, the library’s technology labs coordinator. They had to take photos and videos of the more than 70 lanterns to capture every angle, horizontal and vertical, over several weeks.

With VR goggles, guests can reach out and touch the lanterns, a feature that would not normally be possible in a physical environment because of their delicate nature.

Sharing culture and tradition

It’s been over a year since students, faculty, staff and community members have been able to freely wander the halls of the King Library’s fifth floor, where “21@2021” would have been held.

The fifth floor is also where the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American Studies Center’s (AAACNA) collections of art, artifacts, books, resources and other documents of cultural heritage are housed. Among the goals of the center is to provide a gathering space for SJSU and community members that promotes and supports programming that celebrates historically underrepresented groups.

“We are bringing a very traditional art into a very modern sort of space,” said Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, librarian and director of the AAACNA center and curator of its multifaceted collections. To her, it’s an exciting space — a gallery of art and culture — with a lot of room and potential for creativity and technology to come together.

“I think what’s so beautiful is that we are exhibiting this very traditional art with contemporary artists, and to bring it to students and communities who don’t necessarily know [Chinese brush painting], it’s exciting that we are incorporating people into the art in a very innovative format,” she added.

Ultimately, postponing the exhibit brought the opportunity to reimagine how visitors can experience the art into a new realm of virtual reality — one that allows them to experience art in a tangible way again, interacting with others while remaining in the comfort of their own spaces.

“We’re hoping we’re able to reach different generations and help them get that feeling that this art is thousands of years old,” said Makani-Lim. “We’ve got to keep it going, so it doesn’t end up like another one of those things that you just read about but no longer exists,” she added.

“Usually for younger generations, Chinese painting is not something that they like to do, but because you’re adding technology, now you’re doing something different, enticing them to look at the art another way,” said Lim.

Learn more and view the “21@2021″ virtual exhibit, including a recording of a recent special talk about Chinese culture and brush painting, and demonstrations from exhibition artists and of the virtual reality experience.

San José State University Hosts First CSU-Wide Grad Slam

California State University Grad Slam 2021

Graduate students often invest years of their lives working on focused, in-depth research in their field. Ultimately, they must successfully defend their conclusions to a select committee of faculty advisors with expertise in that area of study.

Now, imagine what it would be like to distill the key ideas of that yearlong research into a presentation that is accessible and interesting for everyone — and do it in three minutes or less.

That’s exactly what graduate students from across 12 California State University (CSU) campuses will do in the first-ever CSU Grad Slam on May 6, hosted by San José State.

Grad Slam is a fast-paced, dynamic competition in which graduate students across all fields face off for the top short presentation of research. The event offers the opportunity for up-and-coming student-researchers to showcase their scholarship and creativity, while challenging them to effectively convey their work in three-minute snackable sound bites to a non-specialist audience.

The system-wide event is a collaborative effort across many of the CSU campuses. Those participating include: Bakersfield, Chico, Dominguez Hills, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Sacramento, San José, San Francisco, and Sonoma State.

As the founding university of the CSU system and its leadership in graduate education, San José State is a natural fit to host the inaugural competition. SJSU held its first Grad Slam in 2019, a few short months after the university’s launch of the College of Graduate Studies that January.

The main event

According to SJSU’s College of Graduate Studies Dean Marc d’Alarcao, the creation of this year’s CSU-wide competition encouraged a number of the other CSUs to create their own Grad Slam, from which they will send their top two winners to the system event.

A total of 21 participants from across the 12 campuses will present their research in this year’s livestream virtual competition. San José State is sending its top two winners from the SJSU Grad Slam, which occurred on April 29: Guadalupe “Lupe” Franco (first place) from the MS Environmental Studies program and Remie Gail Mandawe (second place) from the MS Physiology program.

Lupe Franco and Remie Gail Mandawe.

(L-R) SJSU 2021 Grad Slam Winners Lupe Franco and Remie Gail Mandawe.

Franco’s presentation, “Wicked Problems: Understanding How Cities and Counties in California are Tackling Climate Change and Homelessness, emphasizes the need for jurisdictions and planners to “create equitable and just strategies that include the voices of unhoused populations and gain them the access to basic resources needed to protect them from climate change.”

Mandawe’s presentation, “Targeting the Source of our Sixth Sense Using Blue Light” explores how to target and isolate gamma motor neurons in the brain using blue light and better understand why motor dysfunction and motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, occur.

The CSU Grad Slam will start with preliminary rounds in the morning, in which small groups of the competitors will present live in three “rooms” over Zoom to panels of three judges. The top-scoring students from each room will advance to the afternoon round for the chance to win one of three cash prizes: first place, second place and the People’s Choice award.

The public can watch the event online and vote on the People’s Choice award in real time during the final segment of the program. Three different judges will score the afternoon’s competitors.

Although there will ultimately be only three winners, everyone who participates gains tremendous benefits from the process. Not only are the graduate students able to develop vital research communication and presentation skills, they can engage with and be inspired by other emerging researchers.

“I think it is beneficial to the graduate students to feel appreciated and have the opportunity to see what their colleagues are doing in a concise and interesting way,” said d’Alarcao.

“It’s invigorating to realize that you’re part of an intellectual community that has all of these different things happening, and that’s really positive for the participants.”

Register today to see CSU’s top graduate student research.

Celebration of Research Event Honors Investigators, Highlights Creativity

Ellen Middaugh

Ellen Middaugh, assistant professor of child and adolescent development, is one of this year’s winners of the SJSU Early Career Investigator Award. Her work was honored at the Celebration of Research on April 29.

Thomas Madura studies the lives of massive stars — from how they’re born to how they die a giant, explosive death.

He also investigates ways to teach young blind or visually impaired students about astronomy, which Madura, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at San José State, says is usually thought of as a “visual science.” By 3D printing models of nebulae, planets, star clusters and the like, Madura’s work lets those students hold pieces of the galaxies in their hands.

Madura was one of two faculty awarded the prestigious SJSU Early Career Investigator Award (ECIA) for his work at the university’s annual Celebration of Research, hosted virtually by the Division of Research and Innovation on April 29. The ECIA recognizes tenure-track faculty members who have excelled in research, scholarship and creative activity at an early point in their careers.

The Celebration of Research, which drew more than 400 attendees, honored both students and faculty for research, innovation and creative activities. In between awards and recognitions, the event also featured artistic performances and accomplishments.

Ellen Middaugh, assistant professor of child and adolescent development, also received the ECIA award for her work on youth civic engagement — particularly on how to teach social media and Internet skills to those aged 15 to 25.

The goal of Middaugh’s work is to create informed, empowered and ethical civic engagement among adolescents and young adults, “so that people really understand the issues that affect them, they feel that they can have a voice, and they’re mindful of how their words and sharing of information impact other people,” she said.

The event also recognized the work of the two ECIA recipients from 2019, who would have been honored during last year’s Celebration of Research had the event not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Blisniuk, associate professor of geology and 2019 ECIA recipient, was celebrated for her work investigating how landscapes change overtime from earthquakes and climate change.

Also a 2019 ECIA recipient, Yue “Wilson” Yuan, assistant professor of justice studies, was honored for his research studying the origins of fear of crime and how individuals and communities — Asian and Latino, in particular — react to criminal victimization.

The program also featured a special highlight of the “Teeter-Totter Wall” design project, created by Virginia San Fratello, the chair of the Department of Design, and UC Berkeley professor Ronald Rael. Earlier this year, San Fratello was presented with the prestigious Beazley Design of the Year award for her creativity, which brought together people at the U.S.-Mexico border on bright pink seesaws and received international recognition.

Guadalupe Franco, a student in the MS Environmental Studies program, won first place in the SJSU Grad Slam. She presented her three-minute thesis presentation on tackling homelessness and climate change.

Recognizing student research and creative activities

SJSU students took part in two research-based competitions — the 2021 SJSU Grad Slam and the SJSU Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (RSCA) Competition — for which the winners were announced at the event.

In a Grad Slam competition, graduate students condense the theses of their research projects into engaging, three-minute presentations — which must be understandable by a lay audience. Prizes are awarded based on the success of their presentations.

Guadalupe Franco, in the MS Environmental Studies program, received first place for her thesis, “Wicked Problems: Understanding How Cities and Counties in California are Tackling Climate Change and Homelessness.”

Second place went to Remie Gail Mandawe, who is in the Physiology master’s program, for “Targeting the Source of our Sixth Sense Using Blue Light.”

Celebration of Research attendees voted live for the recipient of the People’s Choice Award. They selected Holt Hanley, who is in the Meteorology master’s program, for his thesis “Estimating the Key Drivers of Wildfire Using Artificial Neural Networks.”

Both Franco and Mandawe will represent SJSU at the CSU Grad Slam on May 6 — the first system-wide competition, which San José State will host.

The eight RSCA Competition finalists — Aeowynn Coakley, Muhammad Khan, Terri Lee, Tomasz Lewicki, Victor Lui, Alaysia Palmer, Nicholas Roubineau and Hung Tong — went on to compete in the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition, held virtually on April 30 and May 1.

Khan, ’22 Biological Sciences, won first place in Biological and Agricultural Sciences – Undergraduate category at the state-wide event for his research, “Mutagenesis and Recombinant Expression of Aedes aegypti Serine Protease I (AaSPI), a possible N-Terminal Nucleophile (Ntn) Hydrolase.”

The SJSU Choraliers gave a socially distanced performance.

Amid the honors and recognition, the ceremony elevated artistic feats. Directed by Jeffrey Benson and featuring Vocal Performance major Daniel Rios, the SJSU Choraliers performed a socially distanced rendition of “I’ll Be On My Way” by Shawn Kirchner.

Spartan Film Studios showed their short film “Breakfast,” based on the short story by John Steinbeck and made in large part by SJSU students. The film has been accepted into the Beverly Hills International Film Festival.

The pathway to transformation

In 2019, Mohamed Abousalem joined San José State as the inaugural vice president of research and innovation with a goal: to realize the university’s potential for growth and increased societal impact through research. The Celebration of Research highlighted accomplishments in achieving that goal.

“No wonder San José State University is ranked the #1 Most Transformative University in the nation,” Abousalem said.

“Through the great research work that our faculty and students do, we are able to contribute to solving today’s problems and mitigate tomorrow’s challenges, alongside our industry and community partners.

“Public impact is the primary goal for the San José State University research enterprise,” he continued. “We are focused on bringing real value to our local and global communities, while supporting the scholarly careers of our faculty and providing our students with unique experiential learning.”

SJSU President Mary Papazian noted that when the university developed its Transformation 2030 Strategic Plan, leadership “quickly realized that research was a strategic growth area for the university.”

For example, one of the goals within the plan is to Excel and Lead.

“One of the ways we do that is by engaging students through faculty-mentored research, scholarship and creative activities,” Papazian explained. “Another one of our Transformation 2030 goals is to Connect and Contribute. And indeed, our research aligns with this goal.

“Our research and innovation brings value to our communities by contributing to an improved overall quality of life and by fueling economic growth. This will become even more critical as the state and regional economy emerges from this pandemic.”

Those who missed the event or want to catch it again will soon be able to access a recording on the Division of Research and Innovation website.

Computer Engineering Faculty Receives NSF Grant to Protect Biometric Data

Nima Karimian, assistant professor of computer engineering

Nima Karimian, assistant professor of computer engineering, recently received a National Science Foundation grant to better understand how to protect biometric data. Photo courtesy of Nima Karimian.

When your password on an account is compromised, you change it. But what happens when your password is your fingerprint?

Facial recognition, fingerprint Touch ID, iris scanning and even voice commands to Alexa or Siri are all examples of technology that use our biometric data to access personal information. Nima Karimian, assistant professor of computer engineering at San José State, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to better understand how to keep that data as safe as possible.

Karimian was awarded $175,000 from the NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) to strengthen biometric security systems, particularly from breaches known as side-channel attacks. Those infiltrations rely on details gathered when a system is designed and implemented — like the amount of time it may take a user to enter a password.

The NSF CISE award supports research among early-career faculty who are in their first three years in an academic position after earning their PhD. The CRII program provides resources to help early-career primary investigators launch a career in research.

Karimian said that biometric data will be used in many ways in the future to “make everyday tasks more efficient and comfortable.” Think bank account access, airport security, border identity checkpoints, patient authentication in health care settings and more.

“At the same time, sharing biometric data may introduce theft, privacy threats and illegal access to confidential information,” he explained.

“For instance, if your fingerprint or face biometric data is compromised by an adversary, it could be reused to gain unauthorized access to a system or even duplicate the biometric data to hack into victims’ devices or accounts.”

While side-channel attacks are well understood in other contexts, Karimian argues they’ve been understudied in systems that use biometric data. His research project, “Physical Side-Channel Attacks in Biometric Systems,” will develop metrics, deep-learning algorithms, protocols and tools for physical side-channel attacks and countermeasures in biometric systems.

“Receiving this prestigious award is a great honor for me,” Karimian said. “This grant allows me to launch my independent research here at SJSU and to start new research directions developing secure biometric systems that can protect citizens’ privacy.

Karimian added that he hopes the grant will allow him to support both graduate and undergraduate students from underrepresented groups.

“Dr. Karimian’s grant is right in line with the Davidson College of Engineering’s objectives to conduct research that addresses important societal needs,” noted Sheryl H. Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“In the case of this project, our college will play a part in advancing hardware security, with the potential for significant global impact based upon the increasing use of biometric data.”

Karimian emphasized that “biometric data is part of your identity, which represents the entire you and can never be changed. When a password is compromised, it can be changed, but you can’t change your identity if the same scenario happens with biometric data.”

“Hence, it is important to find the vulnerabilities of biometric technologies and protect them from being hacked and leaked.”

To learn more about Karimian’s work, visit nimakarimian.com.

SJSU Fire Weather Research Workshop Highlights Advances in Wildfire Prediction and Tracking

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Photo courtesy of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

California braces for yet another menacing fire season

Twice a month, San José State researchers collect samples from local vegetation, or “fuels”—and what they found for April was foreboding: Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, told KPIX 5 News last week.

“This is the time of year when the fuels should have the most moisture content of the season, and they’re actually the lowest we’ve ever measured for April,” he said in the news report.

But there’s hope: Fire prediction and tracking tools are advancing—a key takeaway from SJSU’s Fire Weather Research Workshop held April 8-9—and the university is leading the effort in providing fire management agencies with state-of-the-art resources to help curb the spread of wildfires.

The virtual event drew hundreds of researchers, students and fire management stakeholders from 20 countries to discuss the latest research and technology on fighting wildfires.

On the same day, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a $536 million plan to prepare the state for the upcoming fire season. The California Legislature passed the package on April 12, and Newsom signed it April 13.

Intel from above the flames

Once a windstorm and an ignition come together, there’s little to be done.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop that fire,” explained Clements.

The best shot is to try to contain the fire with an “initial attack,” he continued. “That’s where remote sensing technology comes in, because the sooner you can detect the fire, the faster you can get into it.”

WRF-SFIRE is a forecast and modeling system—and a crucial resource to help curb the spread of wildfires—that relies on remote sensing technology. Developed and operated by SJSU, the system pairs data from satellite and infrared imaging with a simulation tool, and it combines a weather forecast model (Weather Research Forecast) with a fire-spread model (SFIRE).

During the workshop, faculty shared updates on WRF-SFIRE, including the addition of wildfire smoke dispersion forecasts, improved data input and analysis, more options for running simulations, and even a mobile-friendly interface.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

But while tracking and prediction technology is advancing, not enough satellite and infrared imaging data is being gathered in day-to-day fire management operations, noted Miguel Valero Peréz, assistant professor of wildfire behavior and remote sensing at SJSU. He said that bringing that process up to speed is crucial and requires widespread collaboration.

“We need to collaborate with everyone—fire management agencies, academia, industry. We can only solve this problem if we work together,” Valero Peréz emphasized.

Solving a bigger problem

Newsom’s package may be able to help the state get ahead of the game as another dangerous fire season approaches. His plan provides funding to invest in workforce training, vegetation and terrain management, home protection and more.

But the effort to track conditions needs to be year-round, Clements told NBC Bay Area News.

“We need to be doing predictions for the conditions that would lead up to a severe fire season, so using the state-of-the-science modeling we have at San José State and running that operationally throughout the whole season versus a fire here and a fire there like we usually do,” he explained on the news report.

Joaquin Ramirez is principal consultant with Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company that partners with SJSU by using WRF-SFIRE to assist management agencies like Cal Fire during fire season. In 2020, they offered Cal Fire support with more than 9,000 fires.

Wildfires in 2020 California

Joaquin Ramirez of Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company, provided a look back at 2020 fires in California.

He said the workshop is proof of the exciting research and technology in progress, but that there’s still much to do when it comes to solving the wider problem.

“An all-hands job is needed, starting from supporting citizens that understand that we have to live with fire in a smarter way—and that we need to support scientists as much as we support our firefighters.”

A community service

Clements said that while the workshop is about exchanging research and ideas, it’s also about providing information directly to those fighting fires on the front lines.

Because it’s free and several topics are covered in a shorter amount of time, it can be a good alternative to a conference, which might not always be an option for fire management agency employees.

“It’s part of our service to the community to host this workshop and to have it to be free to anyone,” he explained. “It’s about accessibility to the knowledge.”

WRF-SFIRE is available on mobile platforms

WRF-SFIRE is now accessible on mobile devices, a new addition to the system by wildfire researchers at SJSU.

Martin Kurtovich, senior utilities engineer for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), said their staff participated to engage on important fire science topics—particularly wildfire modeling and predictions for forecasting future fire conditions.

He added, “I appreciate the important work being done at SJSU in not only conducting important research on California wildfires but also training future leaders in wildfire management.”

Learn more about SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center here.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Health and Well-being of the LGBTQ+ Community?: A Q&A With Laurie Drabble

Laurie Drabble.

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty.

It’s known that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning+ (LGBTQ+) community face health disparities driven by social stigma and discrimination. But what happens when you introduce a global pandemic?

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty with the San José State University College of Health and Human Sciences, explored the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community by serving as co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, which was published earlier this year.

The issue also featured her recent research exploring alcohol and marijuana use among LGBTQ+ women during the pandemic.

The SJSU Editorial and News team sat down with Drabble to learn more:

What is the biggest takeaway from this special issue?

Laurie Drabble (LD): Social stigma and discrimination are important drivers of disparities in risk for depression, anxiety and suicidality among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-binary groups. LGBTQ+ people also reported more job loss and financial difficulty compared to heterosexual and cisgender people. These risks were amplified during the with COVID-19 pandemic and need to be addressed.

What surprised you about the research findings?

LD: Research in the special issue found that LGBTQ+ individuals were more likely than heterosexual people to adhere to social distancing guidelines. This may not be entirely surprising, given collective experience with the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

That past experience heightened community buy-in about the importance of public health strategies to curb disease transmission—and contributed to viewing adherence to public health guidelines as more of a collective responsibility than an individual choice.

However, adhering to guidelines was also associated with psychological distress, which underscores the importance of both formal and social support in public health crises.

This issue pulls together data and research that spans the globe. Did the U.S. stand out?

LD: I was struck by the commonalities between countries. In particular, studies described the negative impact of losing access to LGBTQ+ positive spaces, reduced access to social support, and concerns about invisibility and potential discrimination.

It was also notable that LGBTQ+ people across countries use technology to connect with community, friends and family more than heterosexual and cisgender groups. This is likely a consequence of being part of a community that is defined by common identity rather than location. So, many LGBTQ+ people already used apps, social media and technology tools to find community before the pandemic.

Health disparities already existed in the LGBTQ+ community. Are we making any progress in closing these gaps?

LD: We were making progress in some ways. For example, research has consistently found that reducing structural stigma—such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—has helped reduce disparities in mental health outcomes.

However, research from our special issue and other studies suggest that LGBTQ+ people—particularly LGBTQ people of color—are disproportionately experiencing health and economic harms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to make sure that policies and services intended to address the impact of the pandemic include the needs of LGBTQ+ populations.

Let’s talk about your research focusing on LGBTQ+ women and marijuana and alcohol use during the pandemic. What surprised you about what you learned?

LD: One of the more interesting findings was the degree to which routines or norms associated with alcohol and marijuana use were disrupted or changed.

For example, some study participants described drinking more because they used alcohol to mark the end of the day, and many described using more alcohol and marijuana to simply relieve stress or boredom. Others used less, because they were not spending time in social settings where they would typically drink alcohol or use marijuana with friends.

Sexual minority women had greater risks for hazardous drinking and drug use compared to heterosexual women before the pandemic, so it will be important to continue to study [post pandemic] whether or not these risks have been amplified over time.

Now that we have this information, what do we need to do about it?

LD: First, we need to continue to reduce stigma and address the economic impacts of the pandemic that disproportionately impact people of color and sexual and gender minorities.

For example, a growing number of states have passed harmful laws allowing health and social service providers to be exempt on religious grounds from laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex or gender identity. These trends are deeply concerning, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, given our research suggesting that LGBTQ+ people are frequent users of Internet-based communications and apps, enhancing access to online and remote health and mental health services would be timely.

Third, the research in this issue highlighted the importance of access to community and social support. So it is critical to provide financial support to ensure the survival of LGBTQ+ health and social service organizations, as well as LGBTQ+-centered physical spaces.

How can this information help us better care for the LGBTQ+ members of our SJSU community?

LD: For many LGBTQ+ young adults, university communities are important for finding safe and affirming support, particularly for students who may need to live with unsupportive families for financial reasons. Providing opportunities for social support and counseling—such as those provided by the SJSU PRIDE Center and Student Services—are crucial.

Read more about Drabble’s research and these topics.

Geology Professor Kim Blisniuk Unearths New Information About Southern California’s Next “Big One”

Kim Blisniuk, Associate Professor of Geology

Photo: Patrick Record

Ten years ago, two female geologists went for a hike in the Coachella Valley desert along a southern portion of the San Andreas Fault. One of them was Kimberly Blisniuk, now an associate professor of geology at San José State University. The pair spent days in the desert, traversing the landscape, studying its ridges and formations.

They weren’t sure what they were looking for. The San Andreas is a well-studied fault: The roughly 750-mile geographical rift running the length of most of California is positioned to set off what’s known as the next “Big One”—a massive earthquake predicted to strike Southern California, devastating the Los Angeles area, in particular.

Still, Blisniuk wanted to see if the terrain revealed something—anything—that might have been missed or not yet understood by geologists before them.

Sure enough, she found something. And after a decade of work to confirm her discovery, Blisniuk’s research, published March 24 in Science Advances, indicates that the highly anticipated earthquake—which scientists say is about 80 years overdue—might not ravage LA as much as previously thought.

Read the full story about Blisniuk’s findings here.

Lurie College Case Study Illuminates Unequal Access to Internet in Central California Amid COVID-19

California Assemblymember Rivas taps SJSU to provide data for new broadband legislation

In spring 2020, as schools began to close in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, California Assemblymember Robert Rivas, ’11 MPA, saw how “blatant” limited access to broadband Internet was negatively impacting families in his district—Assembly District 30, which spans from Morgan Hill to King City.

As a native of California’s central coast and an alumnus of San José State, Rivas hoped that by collaborating with faculty members to collect data in the region, the state Legislature would benefit from scientific information to help address the lack of broadband access in the state.

“COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the broadband inequities that have existed in our state for years,” said Rivas.

Shortly after, a conversation with San José State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr., sparked an opportunity for Rivas to gather data that could support potential legislation to improve broadband access.

Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

(L-R) Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College of Education, recommended that Assistant Professors of Teacher Education Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz collaborate to create a case study about the lack of broadband access in the coastal town of Watsonville. Together, the faculty partnered with teachers at Watsonville High School’s Education, Community, Humanitarian, Outreach (ECHO) Leadership Academy to create curriculum that involved high schoolers in the data collection process.

The project sought to answer a few key questions: How could students attend online school with limited Wi-Fi? How could residents access telehealth services without reliable Internet? And how did the pandemic shed light on infrastructure inequities across California?

Mapping Inequity

Students interviewed members of their communities about their Wi-Fi access since the pandemic began in March 2020. Poza and Visintainer presented the resulting case study, along with a series of maps created by the SJSU Spatial Analytics and Visualization (SAVi) Center, led by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Ahoura Zandiatashbar, that depicted broadband access by demographic across District 30.

“Now that both jobs and education are increasingly relying on high-quality Internet access, the lack of Internet access means a barrier to the upward mobility of residents,” said Zandiatashbar. 

The maps specifically use American Community Survey 2018 data to highlight school-age children, Hispanic and African-American populations, as well as residents with below-poverty earnings. The SAVi team also used Fixed Broadband deployment data released by the Federal Communication Commission to identify four types of broadband service available. 

Early analysis revealed that communities with a higher proportion of vulnerable households live in areas with lower broadband access fixed services. 

“Our work shows that the neighborhoods of these individuals are suffering from insufficient service providers or the provided service is at a low speed,” explained Zandiatashbar.

“The fact that this region has had issues with Internet access has less to do with the Internet itself, but rather the populations affected,” said Muñoz-Muñoz. “Our racial identities connect with how we speak and choose to communicate, so these inextricable issues make it a social justice matter, a racial matter, a linguistic matter, and a right to learn matter.”

According to Poza, Internet access is not an all-or-nothing issue. A household might have to share wireless accounts across multiple families, which affects speed and reliability. Slow connectivity, in turn, makes it difficult for students to download resources and upload completed assignments.

This was acutely demonstrated when Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo tweeted an image of two young girls sitting outside Taco Bell with laptops in August of 2020, attempting to attend online school by accessing the restaurant’s Wi-Fi. The picture went viral, epitomizing the height of the digital divide.

“That photo captured this inequity at its core,” said Rivas. “Low-income families of color are facing the brunt of this pandemic, and it is research like San José State’s broadband report that informs our legislative response to this digital divide through data and facts.”

“Many of the participants mentioned the psychological and mental health costs of managing all this during a pandemic,” said Visintainer. “These kids are often portrayed as students who don’t care or aren’t motivated, but it’s very obvious that’s not the case and that they’re fighting so much harder to just access school right now, much less learn.”

From Research to Legislation

Poza and Visintainer were allotted five minutes with Rivas to explain how unequal access to Internet hotspots was just one way that the pandemic had amplified issues across the region. Central to their argument was that adding broadband infrastructure alone would not address the issues these communities experienced.

“Working with the ECHO Academy students, working with their teachers and hearing from their families and community members, made it abundantly clear that they are as brilliant, motivated and dignified as anyone in Silicon Valley,” said Poza.

“Their lack of access to broadband, housing or financial insecurity or their disproportionate exposure to COVID-19 risk are the results of policy decisions underlying these Band-Aid fixes around infrastructure in years past.”

How can policymakers and education researchers move beyond the Band-Aid? While there is no single cure for social, racial and economic inequity, this collaboration between the Lurie College and Assemblymember Rivas’ office is one critical step in closing the digital divide.

This was made clear in December, when Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, ’84 Accounting, introduced Assembly Bill 14, which Rivas co-authored, in the California Legislature. The bill, nicknamed the “Internet for All Act of 2021,” would allow educational agencies to report on issues with Internet access as it affects student learning.

“As a graduate of San José State, I am excited to work with the university community,” said Aguiar-Curry. “I know how educational, or anchor institutions, as they are defined in my AB 14, are critical hubs for learning and community engagement. We need the support of every educational, health and public safety institution in California so we can deliver 21st-century Internet technology to all Californians now.”

In the end, the 175 ECHO Academy students who participated in the project with the Lurie faculty had the satisfaction of knowing that the data they collected could lead to positive change not only in their hometown but also across the region. While their contributions could support Rivas’ campaign to improve wireless access, the project empowered students to reflect on pre-existing inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and what steps they could take to address them.

SJSU Researchers Launch New COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

A dashboard showing various charts that focus on different areas such as unemployment claims and open businesses.

COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

Experts from the Department of Economics at San José State have developed a first-of-its-kind online tool to help Silicon Valley businesses analyze and respond to changing economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley provides visual insight into key economic indicators for the San José Metro area, including employment trends, housing supply and demand, and business closures due to COVID-19 restrictions. With near real-time updates, the dashboard can track the current state of the local economy and trends that show the impact of the pandemic on the Silicon Valley community.

Assistant Professor of Economics Justin Rietz and graduate student Ji An Lee, ‘21, MS Computer Science, with the support of the College of Social Sciences and College of Science, developed the dashboard for various users. “We have specifically targeted this tool to be useful for policymakers, researchers, government officials, business leaders and community members in the greater Bay Area,” said Assistant Professor Rietz.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley is unique because it tracks data daily at the local level. Most economic data is tracked monthly or quarterly at the state and national levels.

“Given the economic volatility created by COVID-19, it is important to have data on a daily basis that shows sudden changes in economic conditions,” said Assistant Professor Rietz. “Also, as policies put in place to fight COVID-19, such as shelter-in-place orders, are often at the county level, an accurate picture of local economic conditions requires granular data that can parse out trends that might otherwise be lost in data aggregated at the state or national level.”

The timely and targeted insights provided by the COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley can also aid in local government policy-making regarding the pandemic, provide business leaders with a tool to help determine potential customer demand, and help inform personal and commercial real estate pricing decisions.

New Study Sheds Light on Endangered Seabirds and the Need for International Protection

Laysan and black-footed albatrosses at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Photo credit: SJSU Professor Scott Shaffer

SJSU Biological Sciences Professor Scott Shaffer and an international team of researchers published a paper in the scientific journal Science Advances on endangered seabirds’ movements and the need to protect these highly threatened seabirds using a global approach.

The researchers tracked the movements of 5,775 individual birds belonging to 39 species from across the globe. The birds were equipped with bio-loggers, or miniature electronic data recorders, at 87 remote breeding sites in 17 countries.

In the Pacific Ocean alone, researchers studied albatrosses at colonies on the Japanese island of Torishima in the North Pacific, to subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia in the South Pacific, which hosts some of the highest diversity of albatrosses and petrels globally.

“This was a truly international effort for a global conservation need,” said Professor Shaffer. “Hopefully, the results of this research will bring about meaningful change to protect these amazing ocean travelers.”

The researchers found that all albatrosses and petrels studied spend at least 39% of their time on the high seas, which are international waters where no single country has jurisdiction. Yet, these high seas regions cover half of the world’s oceans and a third of the earth’s surface. They discovered all species regularly cross into other countries’ territorial waters, meaning that no single nation can adequately ensure their conservation.

“Seabirds like albatrosses are the ultimate globetrotters,” said Martin Beal, lead author of the study at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre at Instituto Universitário in Lisbon, Portugal (ISPA). “But this incredible lifestyle makes them vulnerable to threats in places where legal protection is inadequate.”

Albatrosses and large petrels are among the world’s most threatened animals, with over half of the species at risk of extinction. While at sea, they face many threats, including injury or death from entanglement with fishing gear, the impact from pollution, and loss of their natural prey due to overfishing and climate change.

“This means that a Black-footed Albatross breeding in the protected Northwest Hawaiian Islands can fall victim to a fishing operation from any number of flag nations on the high seas,” said Professor Shaffer. “Protective measures to avoid bird entanglements are not standardized, and it’s a real challenge to verify compliance at any given time.”

For example, the endangered Amsterdam Albatross spends 47% of its time in the international waters of the Indian Ocean. Although it benefits from strong protection at its only breeding colony on Amsterdam Island (one of the French Southern Territories), its conservation at sea is much more challenging.

When roaming the seas in search of their prey—squid, the fewer than 100 remaining adult Amsterdam Albatrosses use a vast area stretching from South Africa to Australia, requiring international coordination to minimize the risk of being killed in fishing gear.

In a global-scale collaboration, the team of researchers revealed the extent to which seabirds connect countries, as well as to the high seas. The study comes as the United Nations discusses a global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in international waters.

“Our study unequivocally shows that albatrosses and large petrels need reliable protection that extends beyond the borders of any single country,” said Beal. “This treaty represents a massive opportunity for countries to commit to protecting species wherever they may roam.”

Legal measures up for discussion under the treaty include instituting environmental impact assessments on industrial activities in the high seas.  Beal added, “Animals have no concept of human borders. What we have shown here with seabirds is certainly true for many other marine animals, like sea turtles, seals, whales, and fish. To ensure their survival, we must work together to protect and conserve the global ocean.”

The study was made possible thanks to the cooperation of dozens of researchers across 16 countries, who agreed to share their data through the Seabird Tracking Database, a repository managed by BirdLife International to facilitate international collaborations between researchers working on the conservation of seabirds.

San José State University Launches Cybersecurity and Coding Bootcamps With Fullstack Academy

Photo courtesy of Fullstack Academy

To meet demand for tech jobs in the region, San José State University (SJSU) and Fullstack Academy have launched tech bootcamp programs focused on training aspiring cybersecurity and coding professionals.

Offered through SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE), the bootcamps will be presented in a live online format and are geared to train early-career and experienced professionals of any IT level.

Equipping students with the skills and portfolios to enter the tech workforce in just 26 weeks, the SJSU/Fullstack program is uniquely positioned to serve the burgeoning Silicon Valley market, a region long considered the nation’s center for technology and innovation.

San José has more than 10,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs and nearly 17,000 software job openings, according to Cyberseek.

Bootcamp graduates will qualify for high paying cybersecurity or coding jobs. Pay for beginner-level software engineers in the area is roughly $95,000, and cybersecurity analysts are making nearly $80,000 according to Glassdoor. Both figures well exceed the average San José entry-level salary of $36,807.

“Tracing its origins to Silicon Valley, the tech industry continues to grow at an accelerated pace,” said SJSU College of Professional and Global Education Dean, Ruth Duran Huard, Ph.D. “While these cybersecurity and coding bootcamps will present opportunities for those interested in transitioning into the tech market, the part-time live online format provides greater accessibility to anyone considering a career change or looking to develop a new skill-set.”

“Given the influence of the California market, it’s essential that we continue to expand our footprint in the state,” said Mogan Subramanian, president of Fullstack Academy. “To meet the state’s ever-growing demand for skilled technology experts, we’ve now partnered with our fifth prestigious higher learning institution, having already launched with the University of San Diego; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; CalTech; and California State University East Bay.”

Applications are now being accepted for the new part-time, 26-week bootcamps. The SJSU Cyber Bootcamp will teach students how to monitor and secure systems, networks and applications, and deploy offensive and defensive tactics needed to appropriately respond to cyber breaches. The SJSU Coding Bootcamp will provide Fullstack JavaScript training, giving students a foundation in front- and back-end web development and the crucial programming skills needed for in-demand coding jobs.

The bootcamps, which do not require SJSU enrollment or prior technical experience, will run from May 24 to November 20, 2021. Students must apply for the bootcamps by May 13, 2021. Scholarships are offered for SJSU alumni, current students and employees, as well as military personnel.

SJSU Hosts Wildfire Briefing: Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California

(L-R) Vincent J. Del Casino, SJSU Provost, Eli Goodsell, Director of Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves, California State University, Chico, Craig Clements, Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, San José State University

Wildfire is one of the most critical issues facing California in the 21st century. According to CalFire, five of the top 20 wildfires in California occurred in 2020, including the largest single fire in state history. The agency reports a record 4.2 million acres burned,10,500 structures damaged or destroyed, and 33 people killed due to wildfires in 2020 alone.

To address the problem, San José State University brought together wildfire experts from across the California State University (CSU) system at the Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California briefing on January 15, 2021.

California State Senator John Laid, representing District 17, provided opening remarks at the briefing.

“Simply put, we are at an inflection point about wildland fire in California,” Senator Laird said. “We have to work to make sure we change how California responds, and that is the important message of today.”

Wildfire experts from eight CSU campuses participated in the briefing, including:

  • Lisa Bentley, Assistant Professor, Sonoma State University
  • Craig Clements, Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, San José State University
  • Eli Goodsell, Director of Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves, California State University, Chico
  • Megan Jennings, Assistant Adjunct Professor and Director of the Institute for Ecological Monitoring and Management, San Diego State University
  • Jeff Kane, Associate Professor and Director of the Wildland Fire Laboratory, Humboldt State University
  • Matt E. Rahn, Director of the Environmental Leadership Institute, California State University, San Marcos
  • Michael Thomas, Retired Chief for Los Angeles Fire Department and Assistant Professor at CAL State, LA
  • Dan Turner, Interim Director of the Wildland Urban Interface Institute, California Polytechnic State University

The experts discussed the impacts of climate change on landscapes and species; the need to look at the wildland-urban interface and community build-outs; the risk to vulnerable populations, especially indigenous communities and those that have been impacted by wildfires already; and the massive economic impacts of wildfires.

Each CSU representative also talked about how their campus is helping to mitigate wildfires and wildfire smoke impacts through research, analysis, state-of-the-art prediction tools, and educating future wildfire scientists.

SJSU Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center Craig Clements told participants, “Our Fire and Smoke Prediction System (WRF-SFIRE) is the most advanced forecasting tool in the nation. We ran it operationally over the fires in the Bay Area all fire season. We hope to run it over the entire state of California in 2021 to protect communities from smoke impacts better. To do this, we will need increased computing resources.”

More than 220 people, including local and state legislative staff, government agency officials, industry and academic representatives attended the virtual briefing.

“At the CSU, we are tackling this fast-growing problem head-on by making investments in leading-edge fire research, both basic and applied,” said SJSU Provost Vincent J. Del Casino, who moderated the briefing. “We are also passionate about educating the next generation of fire scientists at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Workforce development, which builds resilience in communities and natural environments, is a key part of the DNA of the CSU.”

The recording of the Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California briefing is here

Learn more about SJSU’s research and work related to wildfires:

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Read about San José State’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU