Silicon Valley Business Journal: SJSU’s Answer to Gender Disparity

Posted by the Silicon Valley Business Journal April 8, 2014.

By Jon Xavier

The solution to the tech industry’s gender problem must start with schools. After all, it’s hard to hire more women for tech jobs if there aren’t enough female applicants entering the job market. But faculty and administrators are fighting a hard battle. They have to smash stereotypes that prevent women from applying to science and engineering schools to begin with.

Melanie McNeil is a chemical engineering professor at San Jose State University and the head of the College of Engineering’s Women in Engineering program, which seeks to provide mentorship, outreach and events to bring more women into engineering majors and increase their leadership opportunities.

In this interview, McNeil outlines what schools are doing to close the gender gap.

Read the full story.

Student Research Competition

35th Annual Student Research Competition

Student Research Competition

William Slocumb, ’14 Materials Engineering, collaborated with Andrea Kramer, an orthotic resident at Hanger Clinic, on research they presented at a recent conference (photo courtesy of William Slocumb).

Seven Spartans will advance to the 28th Annual California State University Student Research Competition May 2 and 3 at California State University, East Bay.

All seven students and their faculty mentors will be honored at the 35th Annual SJSU Student Research Forum beginning at noon April 10 in Engineering 285/287.

Student constructs prosthetic using tools.

Slocumb sections down materials for testing (photo courtesy of William Slocumb).

The Graduate Studies and Research Committee selects San Jose State’s finalists from a pool of nominees sent forward by SJSU’s seven colleges.

It’s important to note the competition is open to all students, including those majoring in the creative arts and design fields.

Each college has its own robust reviewing committee, so we ultimately see the best of the best,” said Cheryl Cowan, Graduate Studies and Research Administrative Support Coordinator.

Among this year’s winners are William Slocumb, ’14 Materials Engineering. His research, “Design of Bamboo Fiber Reinforced Composites for Use in Orthotics and Prosthetics,” focuses on making cost-effective prosthetics from sustainable materials.

Bamboo Prosthetics

Being selected to represent SJSU “is validating to me is [because this] shows that people are responding to what I’m doing and that this technology is doable, relevant and helpful,” he said.

Slocumb was inspired by a Chinese man who spent eight years building his own bionic hands after a fishing accident.

For people in developing countries, this research not only impacts their ability to thrive but also their survival and well being,” Slocumb said.

Pinto self portrait

A self portrait by Mark Pinto, ’14 MFA Photography.

Mentor and Professor Guna Selvaduray encouraged Slocumb to enter the competition because of his student’s “passion, productivity and capability to take complete ownership of the project.”

“Very few people are able to see the benefits of doing research that combines different traditional fields, and how the results can be used productively in a particular application,” Selvaduray said.

Connecting With Veterans

Mark Pinto ’14 MFA Photography, is one of two art students advancing to the systemwide research competition.

Representing “San Jose State and [showing] key people how great the art and graduate departments are–that is exciting to me,” he said.

Pinto’s entry, a collection of photography entitled “The War Veteran’s Voice,” provides insight into the extended costs of war.  A Marine veteran, Pinto learned a lot about himself while creating his entry.

It’s very personal, and each time I do it, I realize how connected I am to the veteran community, the suffering of the survivors, and those who did not make it as well,” he said.

Soldiers, represented by action figures, mourn the loss of a comrade, with gravestones in the background.

“Suicide Joe” by Mark Pinto.

Alumni Connect Students to Employers

Hundreds of job seekers stood in line outside the SJSU Event Center March 5 for a shot at landing an employment opportunity at the Expo ’14 Job and Internship Fair.

Among the hopefuls waiting was Sameera Pappu, ’14 Electrical Engineering, who shared her desire to network with a few companies that match her special telecommunication skill set.

“It’s better you do your own research and target two or three employers, instead of waiting in the long lines” at the fair, Pappu said.

Many students like Pappu prepared by logging into the SJSU Career Center website, researching companies on SpartaJobs, and completing the online Job Success Webinar, which gained them early-bird access.

Alumni connections

Also working hard to prepare for the fair were SJSU alumni volunteers, identifiable by blue spirit ribbons. They showed their Spartan pride by serving as connecting points between students and employers.

Marie Norman, ’93 Journalism, and director of talent acquisition and HR business partner for Financial Engines, has volunteered at the career fair for more than a decade.

She says that SJSU job fairs have gotten more competitive over the years and it takes longer for students to find opportunities that fit their interests and goals.

But her favorite part of her job is playing an instrumental role in people’s lives and matching opportunities with individuals. In the end, Norman says it’s about knowing and understanding what an employee wants and that goes beyond technical and functional skills.

It’s that the company’s philosophy aligns with a person’s core values and allows them to thrive,” she said.

Submitting resumes

Across the Event Center, Mercedes Hernandez, ’11 Business Administration, and a Symantic HR campus representative, resourced contact information for prospective employees via an electronic tablet provided by the SJSU Career Center.

In a week, students such as Trevor Uyeda, ’15 Computer Science, who’s not worried about the competition because of his experience in graphic user interface, will receive an invitation to upload their updated resumes to Symantec’s database and see recruiting deadlines.

This will give us a good feel for what they need and what we have to offer,” said Hernandez.

The SJSU Career Center works with over 20,000 hiring representatives and businesses both locally and globally and connected students with over 33,000 jobs and internship opportunities through SpartaJobs last semester.

Connecting With the Biomedical Industry

Connecting With the Biomedical Industry

Connecting With the Biomedical Industry

Biomedical Engineering Society President Daniel Khuc presents Dr. Deborah Kilpatrick an award of appreciation at a previous conference (Robert Bain photo).

When Harjot Hans, ’14 biomedical engineering, graduates in June, he hopes to have the connections he needs to find work in his chosen field, thanks in part to his role helping organize the 2014 Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference.

The event will be held 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. March 26 at San Jose State. This is an opportunity not just for Hans and his fellow Biomedical Engineering Society members, who organize the conference, but for all students campuswide. All majors are welcome to attend.

Plenary session speakers include Brad Vale, head of Johnson & Johnson Development Corporation, and Michael Harrison, University of California, San Francisco, professor emeritus of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences.

Parallel sessions will focus on topics such as applications of nanotechnologies in medicine, novel biomedical technologies, and prosthetics/bionics. For Hans, it’s valuable to learn about what’s trending in the industry.

Biomedical engineering is such a broad field,” Hans said. “Speakers tell us what’s going on now.”

The day closes with a CEO panel and student poster session. Registration rates start at $10 for Biomedical Engineering Society members.


woman pushing stroller and carrying baby while walking out of King Library

Inspired by His Sister, Spartan Designs App


Designed by SJSU students, the Bloom app minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy (image courtesy of Jarad Bell and Cherie Yamaguchi).

It all began with a Spartan’s sister, who needed a good way to track data that would help keep her and her baby healthy through a difficult pregnancy.

That simple observation, by graduate student Jarad Bell, ’15 Human Factors, inspired plans for a new app recently accepted to the second round of a prestigious international design competition.

“The competition received 65 submissions from around the world and their manuscript was selected as one of the top 12,” wrote Assistant Professor Jeremiah Still of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Graduate Program.

Competing Internationally

The SJSU team will travel in April to Toronto, Canada, to present their work at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference on human-computer interaction.

“It is clear by the academic participation and industry sponsors, including Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg and Autodesk, that this is the place to shine,” Still said.

Five students collaborated on “Bloom: Fostering Healthy and Peaceful Pregnancies with Personal Analytics”: Bell, graduate students Cherie Yamaguchi, ’14 Human Factors, Max Wenger, ’14 Human Factors, and Peter McEvoy, ’15 Human Factors, and undergraduate Auriana Shokrpour, ’14 Psychology.

This year’s challenge was “to design an object, interface, system or service intended to help us to develop and share self-awareness, understanding or appreciation for our body data,” according to organizers.

Developing the App

The SJSU team set out to develop an app that would foster healthy and peaceful pregnancies by motivating expectant mothers to sustain beneficial habits and behaviors.

Within the Psychology of Design Lab, the team worked hard to develop and complete an iterative research and design process that explored how persuasive design characteristics could be employed to encourage self-monitoring and motivationally sustain healthy behavior in expectant mothers. 

Bloom minimizes risk by providing daily goals that adapt to the changing needs of an expectant mother over the course of her pregnancy.

In addition, the app maximizes peace of mind by offering tools that augment self-awareness and facilitate enriched communication between the medical community and expectant mothers.

Sister’s Feedback

“I have shared the project with my sister,” Bell said. “She felt that the app is the perfect way for pregnant women to take control of their health and be proactive about any complications or issues that may arise.”

Building Roller Coasters, Becoming Engineers

Building Roller Coasters, Becoming Engineers

Building Roller Coasters, Becoming Engineers

At the Science Extravaganza, SJSU students and industry professionals will help students build foam tube roller coasters to learn principles of physics (photo from a previous year courtesy of the Engineering Student Success Programs).

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, Calif., — On Saturday, Feb. 8, approximately 500 Bay Area middle school students will be on the San Jose State University campus for the annual all-day Science Extravaganza event, hosted by SJSU’s Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists (SOLES) in partnership with the Bay Area Chapter of Latinos in Science and Engineering (MAES) and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

Led by SJSU students and local industry professionals, middle school students will participate in a variety of hands-on academic enrichment activities to help them get excited about college and potential STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.

Examples of student team activities include the following:

  • Building foam tube roller coasters to learn the principles of physics such as friction, centripetal forces and acceleration.
  • “Think Like a Robot,” led by Cisco, where students will create code to make a robot perform a specific task.
  • “Electromagnetic Motors,” where students will build their own motors while learning about magnetism.
  • Some students will also participate in an event on the principles of aviation.

Seeing the Potential in STEM

“Science Extravaganza is a fantastic opportunity for young students to see the potential and opportunity in STEM fields,” said Jared Tuberty, executive director, Engineering Student Success Programs.

“With projected shortages in U.S. STEM workers, it’s a critical challenge for educators to get young people excited about science to help meet this shortfall. In surveys of prior participants, 80 percent said Science Extravaganza influenced their decision to go to college and consider STEM careers.”

More than 100 SJSU student volunteers will serve as leaders and mentors during the event and more than 24 MAES technology professionals and industry representatives will serve as workshop facilitators to promote STEM and the value of higher education among participants. Twenty-one Santa Clara County schools have been invited to participate in this year’s event.

Corporate Support

A number of local companies are supporting Science Extravaganza, including AMD (Advanced Micro Devices), Santa Clara Valley Water District, Cisco, Blach, Engineers Without Borders, The Society of Women Engineers, and The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Chronicle of Higher Education: San Jose State U. Adopts More edX Content for Outsourcing Trial

Posted by the Chronicle of Higher Education Jan. 30, 2014.

By Steve Kolowich

San Jose State University’s experiment with online video lectures featuring professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—by way of edX, the nonprofit provider of massive open online courses—produced some promising early results. In the fall of 2012, students in two traditional sections of an introductory electrical-engineering course earned passing grades at rates of 57 percent and 74 percent, respectively. In an experimental third section, which was “flipped” to incorporate the MIT videos, the pass rate was 95 percent.

So what’s happened since? San Jose State has remained in the spotlight, but interest in the outcomes of a second and a third trial has taken a back seat to big-picture battles over the role of outside content providers in technology-intensive classrooms.

The university has not released data from last year’s experiments with the MIT content. But slides from a presentation that edX’s president, Anant Agarwal, gave to edX members at a private conference in November showed the outcome of the second trial, which happened in the spring of 2013, edX said.

Read the full story.

From Undergrads to Business Leaders

SJSU's I2P team members in a group photo.

SJSU’s I2P team included Jared Oliva, Tu Nguyen, Maleeha Naqvi, Kyle Tang and their adviser, Professor Guna Selvaduray (CSU Public Affairs photo).

Hurt your elbow? Can’t lift your backpack?

SJSU students have created a forearm support device perfect for this situation and they are well on their way toward realizing their dream of transforming their idea into a business opportunity.

This month, they were finalists in the CSUPERB-I2P® Early-Stage Biotechnology Commercialization Challenge, part of the 21st Annual CSU Biotechnology Forum right here in Silicon Valley.

SJSU student shows visitor a poster for his project.

Duc Pham, ’15 Biochemistry, presents his poster to San Francisco State Professor George Gassner (Daryl Eggers photo).

The forum is a networking and professional development opportunity for students, faculty members and industry professionals. Everyone gathers for workshops, meetings, award presentations and poster sessions.

For example, Professor of Chemistry Daryl Eggers moderated a bioengineering reception to bring more engineers to the forum, which is quite interdisciplinary, including fields like kinesiology and physics.

The Exo-Arm

This includes SJSU’s I2P (Idea to Product) team. Three members are biomedical engineering majors, a fourth is studying business administration and a fifth is majoring in history.

Together, they presented the “Exo-Arm,” a simple, light but effective device designed to help people with limited mobility at the elbow carry objects weighing up to 30 pounds.

This product addresses the gap in the market between robotic exoskeletons and traditional slings,” said Jared Oliva, ’14 History.


An exoskeleton is an external skeleton that supports and protects an animal, like this spider. The Exo-Arm would also strengthen the human arm.

The engineering students built the prototype, while the business and history majors developed the branding and business plan. Their adviser was Professor of Material and Chemical Engineering Guna Selvaduray. Tech Futures Group also provided guidance.

Entrepreneurship Education

The main goal of the I2P competition was entrepreneurship education, which means helping students learn what is needed to transform a life sciences idea into a commercial product.

“Out of the 20 teams in the preliminaries, San Jose State made it to the final round. Juggling final exams, part-time jobs and, for one team member, a newborn baby, we worked hard on our final presentation in front of the I2P judges,” Oliva said.

Although we ultimately did not win, the I2P Competition proved to be an invaluable experience for everyone.”

So valuable that the team is keeping design details under wraps.

“We are working on getting everything set,” Oliva said, “so that we can start putting it out there again.”

students on computers

SJSU Appoints Director of the Cybersecurity and Big Data Initiative

Professor Sigurd Meldal (photo by Robert Bain)

Professor Sigurd Meldal (photo by Robert Bain)

Professor of Computer Engineering Sigurd Meldal has been appointed director of the San Jose State University Cybersecurity and Big Data Initiative.

SJSU’s goal is to develop a premiere, interdisciplinary institute in the heart of Silicon Valley focusing on the challenges of cybersecurity and big data.

Meldal is the first full-time director of this two-year-old effort, composed of academic and pre-professional work for students, teaching and research by SJSU faculty members, and outreach to industry leaders.

In alignment with all of these efforts, SJSU has hosted and organized events, symposia and summer schools such as the annual Symposium on Curriculum Development in Security and Information Assurance (CDSIA) for the past six years and the U.S. Cyber Challenge for the past two years.

Interdisciplinary programs

Meldal’s work will include coordinating the efforts of five SJSU colleges and over 30 faculty members contributing to this endeavor. This will involve nurturing the development of new courses and certificates for SJSU students, academic enrichment opportunities for K-12 students and educators, and government and corporate partnerships including an advisory council.

Meldal received a doctorate from the University of Oslo, and taught at the University of Bergen, Stanford University and California Polytechnic State University before joining San Jose State in 2002 to serve as chair of the then new Department of Computer Engineering. Meldal also serves as a co-director at the National Science and Technology Center for Ubiquitous Secure Technology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Security, privacy, and public policy

He describes his research interests to include “the many aspects of concurrent processing, with an emphasis on its formalization by means of programming, prototyping and specification formalisms with supporting tools such as language frameworks for prototyping of distributed architectures and the abstraction mechanisms necessary for large-scale conformance checking.”

Professor Meldal has long been interested in the interplay of security and computing, contributing to the design of support systems for the surveillance of nuclear arms treaty compliance. In particular, he is interested in the security aspects of ubiquitous computing and mobile devices, as well as the interplay of security with privacy and public policy.

The Power of Gratitude: Sharing Success

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

“I never thought I’d be here,” says Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering. Since transferring from an East Bay community college, Le has completed two internships—with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and with The CORE Group construction company, where he served as lead estimator on a hospital project. This year, he was elected SJSU chapter president for the Associated General Contractors of California and he received the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“At SJSU, there are lots of ups and downs,” says Le. “Receiving this scholarship gives me the motivation to keep going—academically and professionally. It gets hard.”

Le is quick to share the credit for his success. “A lot of people helped me out,” he says. Now, along with becoming “the best project manager out there,” Le hopes to mentor students who will impact their communities with innovative ideas for a sustainable future. Down the line, he dreams of endowing a scholarship in his name for other students like himself who, he says, “you’d never think could be engineers.”

“Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success,” says Le. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

View The Power of Gratitude series.

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU: NSA Accused of Breaking into Yahoo, Google Data Centers

KTVU interviews Professor Meldal about reports that the NSA has broken into Yahoo and Google data centers.

Posted by KTVU Oct. 30, 2013.

KTVU interviewed SJSU Department of Computer Engineering Chair Sigurd Meldal in response to reports that the National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. Meldal is interim director of the SJSU Cybersecurity Cluster and co-director of the National Science Foundation-funded Team for Research in Ubiquitous Secure Technology (TRUST). 

View the full story. 

10 Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

Spartan Squad Students

Students earn points and prizes for attending home games. Everyone who registers will be entered into a drawing for an all-expenses paid trip to the Oct. 5 football game in Hawaii. (Christina Olivas Photo)

1. Register for Spartan Squad Student Rewards and win a trip to Hawaii!

2. ESPN will broadcast Friday night’s football game. During breaks in the action, see spots on judo, animation, Spartan Racing and Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol.

3. After receiving the Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coaching Award, kinesiology alumna Valerie Garcia Quintero said this:

“At a banquet last week, I was given the opportunity to speak and when I did, I made sure to speak about how wonderful and amazing the faculty and my department was at SJSU and how much I learned from them. I’ve been asked how I know how to coach and I tell them that I have had great coaches to learn from but I was extremely lucky to have had professionals in the field to teach me through my major.”

4. Check out this video showing how donors power all majors, including nursing, business, and urban and regional planning.

5. The SJSU chapter of political science honor society Pi Sigma Alpha was named the best in the nation for the 2012-13 academic year.

“My department is very proud of these students for achieving this national recognition for the first time in SJSU’s history,” Professor Ken Peter said. “Sol Jobrack, chapter president, is a full-time student and new father and commutes daily from Stockton on the train, on which he works as a transit officer. Bill McCraw, who is marking his 50th year teaching at SJSU, was one of the founding faculty members of SJSU’s chapter.”

6. Three Silicon Valley Startup Cup finalists are from SJSU. Their ideas? A gamer lounge, laboratory supply service and cranium x-ray shield.

10 Reasons to be a Proud Spartan

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library presents this six-week series focusing on film history and popular music.

7. Where else can you go to the library to check out the shared history of film and pop music from the blues and Broadway to rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop? Live performances included!

8. George Whaley, professor emeritus of human resource management, has received the 2013 Trailblazer Award from The PhD Project, which helps African American, Native American and Hispanic students earn their PhDs and become business professors.

9. SJSU’s renowned occupational therapy program is celebrating its 70th anniversary. Think of all the people living better lives with help from our graduates.

10. Spartans stay connected online. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest.

Student Assistant Amanda Holst contributed to this report.

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

U.S. News Rankings: SJSU Eighth Overall

“Our ranking reflects the academic achievements of our students, the quality of our programs, and San Jose State’s role powering Silicon Valley,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. (Christina Olivas photo)

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, Calif., — The 2014 edition of the U.S. News & World Report college rankings, available now online, shows SJSU at eighth overall among the West’s top public universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, up from ninth overall last year.

“Our ranking reflects the academic achievements of our students, the quality of our programs, and San Jose State’s role powering Silicon Valley,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “More students than ever are applying to San Jose State because SJSU offers over 130 bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 110 fields, including excellent programs in business, engineering, science, education, art, humanities, social sciences, and applied sciences and arts.”

San Jose State’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering also received top marks, ranking second in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, excluding service academies, up from third last year.

“There is no doubt about it. A huge percentage of the engineers, scientists and business professionals powering Silicon Valley chose to develop their talents at San Jose State University because SJSU offers moderately priced, nationally recognized programs right here in the epicenter of innovation,” President Qayoumi said.

Read more from U.S. News & World Report.

San José State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 31,300 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

The Hyperloop: Realistic?

How Realistic is the Hyperloop?

Two SJSU experts — a mechanical engineering professor and a transportation expert — comment on Elon Musk’s latest transportation venture (image courtesy of Tesla Motors).

Posted July 19 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

By Preeti Upadhyaya

All week, the buzz around the proposed Hyperloop transport system has been growing steadily as the world tries to figure out just how commuters are supposed to get between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

In typical Elon Musk build-the-suspense fashion, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO will make us wait until Aug. 12 to reveal plans for his ultra-fast transport system. That leaves us plenty of time to speculate about the feasibility of this potentially transformational idea.

So far, most experts theorize that Musk will employ a pneumatic tube system to make the Hyperloop a reality, though he has denied this on Twitter. Think of the plastic cylindrical container you use to transport documents at a drive up bank teller and you’ve got the basic idea.

This isn’t exactly a new concept, said Phil Kesten, a physics professor at Santa Clara University.

“You’d have trains, kind of like bullets, shooting up and down a tube,” said Kesten, who explained that friction would be minimized through a magnetic levitation system keeping the sides of the train from hitting the tube.

After some quick number crunching, Kesten calculated that a Hyperloop train would have to accelerate at a rate of 0.3 Gs for at least 15 minutes to live up to Musk’s promise of a SF to LA commute of 30 minutes. To put that into perspective, when a regular commercial airplane takes off, passengers experience 0.2 G, but for a very short period of time.

“After 15 minutes at 0.3 G, I suspect most of us wouldn’t be very happy,” Kesten said.

Kesten estimated that to make the Hyperloop work, the train would have to move at a peak speed of 5,000 miles an hour. That’s about 10 times the speed of a commercial jet.

While it may be physically uncomfortable, the Hyperloop is not theoretically impossible, said Burford Furman, a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at San Jose State University.

“There’s nothing here that violates fundamental physics,” said Furman, who is an expert in the area of automated transit networks.

Furman explained that if you use automated transit technology as a model for how the Hyperloop would unfold, the issue of cost will inevitably pose a big roadblock.

“The big costs are in the guideway, the thing that supports and guides the trains. And the larger the structure, the more it costs,” he said.

Until we learn more from Musk himself, it will be difficult to reconcile this issue with his statement that the Hyperloop could be built at one-tenth the cost of California’s proposed high-speed rail system.

The cost would be “at least on the order of what it would take for high-speed rail,” said Furman. “It would probably go beyond that because this technology hasn’t been proven yet. High-speed rail and that technology exists already all over the world.”

High-speed rail in California itself is an embattled project, facing severe scrutiny and criticism for its cost, environmental impact and a host of other factors.

But at least the ball is rolling for that effort, said Rod Dirdon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, a San Jose-based research institute focusing on intermodal surface transportation issues.

Diridon said that Musk and his Hyperloop face an uphill battle in terms of securing project clearance.

That would have to come after extensive engineering studies and tests. Diridon said Musk must create a complete concept, build a test track, build a demonstration track to work out the kinks and acquire federal safety certifications as well as environmental clearance.

Only after that is complete can the project move forward with public hearings and obtaining land use rights from cities.

Diridon paints a dizzying picture of the red tape and bureaucracy that has mired the high-speed rail project in California.

The initial efforts to get environmental clearance started in 1996 and took until 2008 to approve only the route, station locations and mode of transport. Even then, the bullet train only has project clearance for the portion of the Central Valley, Diridon said.

Elon Musk would be building his Hyperloop from scratch with no prior models to draw on at the scale he is envisioning. Diridon suggested the time frame for the Hyperloop would be at least that of the high-speed rail project, and that’s being extremely generous.

While the challenges facing Hyperloop may be discouraging, Diridon stressed that he is supporting Musk’s efforts and anyone else who is looking at solutions beyond our current transport system.

“I’d do anything in the world to help this get beyond the institutional barriers in the way,” Diridon said. “But it will take a whole lot of effort to make it to primetime.”

Innovations in Engineering Education

Engineering Education Innovators

Innovations in Engineering Education

Mark and Carolyn Guidry at the 2006 Engineering Awards Banquet (photo courtesy of the Guidry family).

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

SAN JOSE, CA – To support San Jose State University’s groundbreaking efforts to develop new approaches to teaching engineering, the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation has made a $2.5 million gift commitment, establishing the Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education.

“We are grateful the Guidry family values San Jose State’s position at the forefront of the transformation now underway in higher education,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “The Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education will help SJSU make a major impact in this field.”

The Carolyn Guidry Professor of Engineering Education will be a senior faculty member who is a national leader in engineering education and higher education research. This professor will conduct research in approaches and strategies for teaching engineering, resulting in the development of best practices for retention and learning outcomes for engineering students at the university level.

“My family strongly believes in the power of education and that we must continually transform engineering education to produce graduates with the tools needed for the world as it will be, not merely as it is today,” said Gayle Guidry Dilley, Carolyn’s daughter and the president of the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation.

All three of the couple’s children graduated with degrees in engineering or computer science. David earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at University of California, Berkeley, and an MBA at London Business School; Mike earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering at San Jose State; and Gayle earned a bachelor’s in computer science at Chico State.

Mark and Carolyn Guidry

The late Carolyn Guidry, ’79 MS Computer Engineering, was born in Mississippi and spent her childhood in various states across the Deep South. She earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Louisiana State University in 1959. One week after graduation, she married Mark Guidry, a fellow electrical engineering major she met at LSU.

Carolyn began her career at Boeing, but she soon put her engineering career on hold and devoted 20 years to raising their three children. She later returned to school and earned her master’s in computer engineering from SJSU in 1979. She joined Hewlett-Packard and was a member of the design team for several HP computers until 1988. At HP, she was directly responsible for the development of a new flexible interconnect ribbon cable and the micro code for a new computer.

In partnership with Mark, Carolyn founded two successful companies:  Simon Software, a semiconductor design software company, and Avasem Corporation, a semiconductor product development company. Both eventually merged with other companies, and the combined companies became leaders in their respective fields.

Carolyn became a full-time volunteer for the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose, developing its computer systems and software, and assisting in the development of concepts and funding.

Family foundation

After the Guidrys’ second company was acquired by Integrated Circuit Systems in 1993, she founded the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation and managed all aspects of the organization, which is devoted to supporting education and the arts.

Carolyn received an Alumni Award of Distinction from SJSU’s Davidson College of Engineering in 2006, and both she and Mark were inducted into the LSU College of Engineering’s Hall of Distinction in 2001. Carolyn passed away in 2009.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from LSU, Mark took a position at Boeing, in Seattle, Washington. He subsequently earned a master’s in electrical engineering from University of Washington and a doctoral degree from Iowa State University.

Mark taught at LSU, where he conducted research in semiconductor technology, laser technology and radio wave propagation. Prior to founding their companies, Mark, now retired, worked for Fairchild Semiconductor in Palo Alto, a small San Diego company and Texas Instruments in Houston.

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

Spartans at Work: Monterey Bay Aquarium

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with marine science alumna Sonya Sankaran.)

Sitting atop a yellow grassy hill, Pajaro Valley High School overlooks the Watsonville State Wildlife Area and a series of sloughs that make up the area’s wetlands. Watsonville, located about a half hour northeast of Monterey, is a community known for agriculture. Farms rely on the Pajaro River, which flows into Monterey Bay.

To teach high school students about their natural surroundings, Sonya Sankaran, ’12 M.S. Marine Science, works as a senior bilingual education specialist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While attending graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML), she began volunteering with the aquarium and later found out about this opportunity.

SJSU is the administrator of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the home of the master’s of marine science program for seven California State Universities. Thanks to her education, Sankaran is able to connect her students with the right experts for their research projects.

“Working at Moss Landing opened innumerable doors for me, which has allowed me to open doors for our students,” she said.

Her specific teen program with the aquarium, Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (W.A.T.C.H.), is a year-round elective science course offered by Pajaro Valley High School and Watsonville High School. For two weeks over the summer, students learn more about the Pajaro River Watershed from a combination of high school teachers, scientists and W.A.T.C.H. staff as preparation for their year-long school projects. Students have investigated the effects of non-native species on native species, ocean acidification and phytotoxins at a local lake.

Sankaran and her W.A.T.C.H. colleague Enrique Melgoza started their jobs together in April 2012. They are both fluent in Spanish, a useful skill since most of the students in the program come from Spanish-speaking households. Melgoza, ’08 Aviation Management, was raised in Watsonville and said he can relate to their students.

“Some of them don’t have a role model,” Melgoza said, “and for me, I don’t see myself as a role model for them. But they see me as a role model because I’ve been through what they’re going through right now. Then, going to San Jose State and having all of the knowledge—and being successful in my educational career and bringing it back—has helped me out.”

They teach their students to do field work, such as gathering samples and using a water quality testing kit that wirelessly connects with an iPad app. Sankaran’s favorite part of her job is giving her students the opportunity to study and connect with the outdoor environment, especially the ocean.

“A lot of young people don’t have time or opportunities to explore anymore,” she said, adding she enjoys “being able to give them experiences that demonstrate their relationship with the ocean and inspire conservation of their natural resources—experiences that they can share with their community, and eventually, take into their careers.”

San Jose Mercury News: Aspiring Immigrants Would be Ranked Under U.S. Senate Points Plan

Posted July 13, 2013 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Matt O’Brien

For decades, America judged most aspiring immigrants by who they knew, not what they knew. Family ties meant more than work experience or advanced degrees.

But in the future, a new scorecard favoring workers whose résumés best fit the country’s priorities could radically change who is able to settle in the United States. The U.S. Senate’s immigration bill creates a ranking system that, beginning in 2018, would weigh many prospective immigrants on a 100-point scale measuring work experience, English fluency, education and other factors.

Those who score highest — up to 250,000 people each year, split between white-collar and blue-collar workers — would win a green card, giving them permanent U.S. residency.

Months of hearings dominated by lawmakers’ more pressing debate over illegal immigration and border security obscured the “merit-based” system — described in just 17 pages of the 1,197-page measure, which passed last month in a historic vote and now awaits a more contentious debate in the House of Representatives.

If it survives the House’s scrutiny, experts say the bill’s points system and other provisions favoring job skills could, in ways hard to predict, be the most dramatic reshaping and expansion of legal immigration in generations. To help understand how it would work, the Bay Area News Group invited several foreigners living in the region, and hoping to stay, to see how they would score if such a system were in use now.

How we ranked immigrants

A Transylvanian tech entrepreneur, a former Swedish Olympian and a Nepali gas station attendant were among those who volunteered to rank themselves using the description in the Senate bill.

None came near the maximum 100 points for high-skilled workers — a score requiring a nearly impossible combination of accomplishments: founding a business, earning a doctorate and having seven years of full-time U.S. work experience in a high-skill field by age 25. Workers whose jobs do not require college preparation would be measured differently on an 85-point scale.

Some who graded themselves were pleased with how it worked. Others were disappointed. Several said the points inadequately measured their life experience, contributions and promise.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would judge a few subjective categories — such as an “exceptional” work record. One thing became clear: The green cards are open to anyone in the world, but roughly half the points can only be accumulated through U.S. work experience.

“In my view that’s a good thing,” said Madeleine Sumption, an analyst at the independent Migration Policy Institute. “That weighting on jobs skills is more likely to admit people who will actually find work here.”

That means the system favors anyone who can first establish a temporary but legal foothold here, such as tech workers gaining Silicon Valley job experience on an H-1B visa, or lower-skilled workers — from Mendocino County loggers to Tahoe resort crews — invited by employers as guest workers. Because the Senate bill also welcomes tens of thousands more of those guest workers, many of those likely to rank highest on the blue-collar points scale are not yet living here. Here is how four Bay Area volunteers fared in the 100-point scale for professional workers:

Eric La Fleur, Sweden, graphic designer

Points: 44

In his favor: Highlights include six years working as a graphic designer (12 of 20 possible points); English fluency (perfect 10 points) and being from Sweden (5 of 5 points) because it sends so few immigrants here; he would bump up to a more competitive 54 points when his brother, a permanent resident through marriage, becomes a citizen. Points against him: Not having an advanced degree, not owning his own business or working in the top five highest-demand occupations.

His story: Swimming 100 meters in just over 49 seconds made La Fleur a world-class freestyle swimmer. Sweden sent him to Athens to compete in the 2004 Olympic Games. But athletic feats give no advantage in the worldwide race for a green card.

Now a 33-year-old graphic designer with a San Francisco ad firm, La Fleur’s U.S. stay is coming to an end after 13 years, his entire adult life, first as a college student and later on a temporary H-1B work visa.

“I’m in the middle of looking for a job in Europe,” he said. “I have to leave. I’m out of here in two months.”

He would rather stay, because his parents and brother now live in the United States, but he has few options.

With just 44 points out of the 100 possible for professional workers, La Fleur would have little to show against those with higher degrees and higher-demand jobs. Still, he thinks assigning points is better than today’s system.

“It’s anchored a little bit more to reality, and how tied you are to the country and how much you could contribute if you wanted to,” he said.

If only, he said, the Senate’s classification system had “even more nuance, more details in what you could score points on.”

Karin Puertas, Panama, and Marcos Mardero, Mexico; engineering students

Points: 28 for Puertas; 44 for Mardero 

In their favor: An engineering master’s degree (10 of 15 possible points) and a job offer in a relatively high-skilled field (8 of 10 points) help make Mardero, 28, competitive; Puertas, 24, could see a similar rise in rankings as she nears graduation from the same San Jose State program. 

Points against them: Lack of U.S. work experience; no extra points for Mexico, but 5 points for being from Panama. 

Their stories: These two Latin American students are classmates studying industrial and systems engineering. 

Mardero is obtaining his master’s degree this year, so his looming graduation and a job offer put him ahead, for now, in the rankings.

Both earned full graduate scholarships from their nations on the condition that they return to work for a few years, but both also would seek permanent U.S. residency if they could.

The hardest part, Puertas said, is finding a U.S. company to sponsor her for a temporary visa: Only that would offer the work experience to make her competitive.

But both classmates might have a better, clearer alternative: The Senate bill would also grant an unlimited number of green cards for people who earn advanced U.S. degrees in science, engineering, technology or math.

Anda Gansca, Romania, tech entrepreneur

Points: 66

In her favor: Highlights include being a startup entrepreneur who employs at least two high-skilled workers (perfect 10 points): she also gets 8 points (the maximum) just for being younger than 25 (she’s 24).

Points against her: Having a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University earns her 5 points, but having a doctorate would be worth 15.

Her story: Gansca left her native Transylvania for Stanford in 2007 with a desire to “start a revolution that brings good change to people’s lives.”

She risked most of her savings after graduation to start a San Francisco company. She was lucky, she said, to obtain a five-year visa for investors.

Founded one year ago, her firm, Knotch, has designed a Yelp-like mobile app on which users rate their sentiments on topics — from sports games to politics — using a color-coded spectrum moving from hot to cold.

As the designer of an online ranking system, she was not too impressed with the Senate’s point scale.

Although she ranked highest in our group, she wonders whether the points categories are too rigid.

“People are just incredibly talented sometimes and that’s difficult to quantify,” she said.

A better system would be “more a trial or error type of thing. No one knows who’s going to be a good entrepreneur.”

Here is how two Bay Area residents fared on the 85-point scale for workers whose jobs do not require college degrees:

Sajjan Pandey, Nepal, gas station attendant

Points: 49

In his favor: Highlights include six years of full-time U.S. work (12 points), a steady job (10 points) and good work record (10 points); he’s also fluent in English (10 points) and from a country that does not send many immigrants here (5 points).

Points against him: At 58, his age gets him no points. And if the courts deny his pending claim for political asylum, he would likely have to return to Nepal and be unable to compete in the points system until he is well into his 60s.

His story: The gray-haired Pandey works the night shift at a gas station near Oakland’s airport.

“It’s an easy job for people like me,” said the Alameda resident, who once owned a popular restaurant in his hometown of Katmandu.

Pandey earns enough to pay his rent, but his seven years in the Bay Area have been lonely and on edge not knowing whether he can stay permanently.

He left his wife, sons, daughters and a 6-month-old granddaughter back home when he landed in San Francisco on a tourist visa in 2006, the last year of Nepal’s decadelong civil war. He sought political asylum saying that Maoist thugs threatened his life, but a judge denied his claim. An appeals board is reviewing the case.

The Senate bill has kindled his hopes. If deciding who gets a green card “was done quickly — just yes or no — it would be better for me,” he said. “The time factor is killing me.”

Reylla Ferraz da Silva, Brazil, housekeeper

Points: 41

In her favor: Highlights include being a primary caretaker (10 points); a good work record (10 points); knowing enough English to get by (5 of 10 points); civic involvement through her church (maximum 2 points).

Points against her: Most of her past work, paid under the table, did not count; no points either for being from Brazil, which sends many immigrants to the United States.

Her story: Da Silva’s thorough housekeeping in Peninsula homes has kept her in high demand, but immigration problems have long dogged her.

She reached a nadir in May when immigration agents jailed the nursing mother for 14 days in Richmond, keeping her from her 9-month-old son, Enzo, until a community outcry led to her release.

Few legal options exist for the 35-year-old San Bruno woman, a pastor-in-training who says more than half the congregants of her Assembly of God church share similar immigration problems. She is doubtful that the Senate’s plan will offer relief.

Even if a points system existed when she was in Brazil, her lack of U.S. work experience would have made it impossible for her to accumulate many points, she said. There are no points, she noted, for desiring freedom and liberty.

Once a low-level bureaucrat in her home state of Goias, da Silva crossed into the United States illegally and is seeking asylum because of persecution she says she experienced in Brazil.

The immigration bill’s best help for her might be its offer of 10-year probationary status for immigrants here illegally. If denied asylum and deported, she would not be eligible to apply for a green card for at least a decade.

San Jose Mercury News: Los Gatos Rotary Club Member Honored at White House Ceremony

San Jose Mercury News: Los Gatos Rotary Club Member Honored at White House Ceremony

(Editor’s note: Doug McNeil, ’83 Industrial Technology, is an SJSU alumnus.)

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News April 4, 2013

By Sal Pizarro

Monte Sereno resident Doug McNeil is the guy who keeps track of the history of the Los Gatos Morning Rotary Club. Now, he’ll have to add himself to the club’s list of historic accomplishments.

McNeil is one of 12 Rotary Club members nationwide being feted as “Champions of Change” at the White House on Friday during its second annual Rotary Day. McNeil’s being singled out for his work on the club’s Lighting for Literacy project, which provides low-cost solar lighting for communities without access to electricity.

A frequent commencement speaker for San Jose State‘s College of Engineering, McNeil grew up in Cupertino and graduated from Lynbrook High in 1977. He’s now a senior director at Kinestral Technologies in San Francisco.

The attention that the program is receiving has even gone interstellar: Astronaut Yvonne Cagle dropped in last week on students who were building some of the Lighting for Literacy units that will be installed in Colonet, Mexico next week.

Discovering Other Worlds

Discovering Other Worlds

Discovering Other Worlds

The IPPW conference will include a public lecture by Robert Manning of the Mars Science Laboratory at 5 p.m. June 18 in the Tech Museum. He will discuss the successful landing of the Curiosity rover, shown here in a self-portrait (NASA image).

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, San Jose State University, 408-656-6999
Ruth Dasso Marlaire, NASA Ames Research Center, 650-604-4709

SAN JOSE, CA – One of humankind’s most challenging ventures, sending space vehicles to other worlds, will draw 150 international experts to San Jose State University June 17-21 for the 10th International Planetary Probe Workshop. The event is co-hosted by SJSU and the NASA Ames Research Center. The conference is open to members of the media. Reporters should contact SJSU to RSVP.

“This workshop encourages international cooperation in planetary probe missions, new technologies, and scientific discoveries,” said SJSU Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Periklis Papalopoulos. “In addition, students from around the world will present their work and interact with the leaders in their discipline areas.”

Highlights will include the presentation of the Al Seiff Memorial Award to James O. Arnold. Arnold and Seiff were contemporaries, building careers around President Kennedy’s push to put a man on the moon. Both men played key roles in determining the aerodynamics and aerothermodynamics of the Apollo re-entry vehicle and other NASA space exploration missions.

This year’s keynote speaker is David Korsmeyer, director of engineering at Ames, who will discuss the past, present and future of planetary research at Ames.

Giant planets, airless bodies

The workshop also will include tours and sessions on many topics, such as missions to the “giant planets” (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune); missions to Mars; and key enabling technologies and instrumentation for missions to “airless bodies” (asteroids, comets and moons).

In addition, Ames will feature an exhibit at The Tech Museum of Innovation, featuring artifacts and models of current and previous spacecraft missions. The showcase of memorabilia will be on display June 20 – July 31.

The public is invited to view a full-size mockup of the Galileo probe (which entered Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995), test models from Ames’ Arc-Jet and Hypervelocity Free-Flight Facility and models of future satellites.

Mission to Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory Project Chief Engineer Robert Manning also will be present to discuss the successful landing of Curiosity Rover on Mars. Manning will speak at 5 p.m. June 18 at the Tech. His talk is entitled “The Challenges of Going to Mars: Mars Science Laboratory” and is open to the public.

Manning was responsible for ensuring that the design, the test program and the team would collaborate to result in a successful mission.

Sponsors include SJSU, NASA, the European Space Agency, the National Center for Advanced Small Spacecraft Technologies, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Idaho, Analytical Graphics Inc., Earthrise Space Inc. and Science and Technology Corp.


Engineering Convocation: “Architects of the Future”

Engineering Convocation: “Be Confident and Dream Big”

Dean Andrew Hsu congratulated the 750 bachelor and master’s candidates for their achievement in one of the “most challenging programs on campus.” (Stan Olszewski photo)

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

The flash of cameras danced to the rhythm of “Pomp and Circumstance” in SJSU’s Event Center May 24 as family and friends whistled, jumped up and down, and flailed their hands to get the attention of loved one walking to their seats center-arena at the College of Engineering convocation.

Dean Andrew Hsu opened the ceremony by welcoming proud parents, family, faculty and staff members. Before turning the event over to the keynote speaker, Hsu congratulated the 750 bachelor and master’s candidates for their achievement in one of the “most challenging programs on campus.”

Hsu closed by commending graduates on their “abilities and ethics to build a career and make the world a better place” and told them to “be confident and dream big.”

In his address, Animatics Co-Founder and CEO Robert Bigler talked about the challenges he faced turning his SJSU senior project into a motion control and automation company. The key, he said, was his SJSU education and “extracting positive insight from failure.”

Bigler advised graduates to “dedicate yourself to the process and there will be no limits” and reminded them “we are in the middle of a technological renaissance; you will be architects of what will be an extremely new future,” he said.


In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from child and adolescent development majors. More will be shared at Commencement.

Drupa Desai: “I would like to give a shout out to Prof. Avtar Singh who has played a great role in my years at SJSU. He has been great motivation and inspiration.

Elnaz Morad: “Mom, you are the sun of my life, Vahid you are the sunshine of my life and Golnaz you are the joy of my life. Thanks for your support.”

Ian Lopez Aguilar: “To my wife Daisy and daughter Isabella for all the support!”