Annual Event Celebrates Faculty and Student Research April 23

Professor Emily Wughalter, Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski and Tania Rojas pose for a photo at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Student Research Fair in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz

Professor Emily Wughalter, right, and recent graduates Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski and Tania Rojas pose for a photo at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Student Research Fair in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz

SJSU’s Annual Celebration of Research on April 23, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom features a full program to celebrate student and faculty research. Students, faculty and staff are invited to watch presentations from 2018-19 Early Career Investigator Award recipients Assistant Professor of meteorology and climate science Minghui Diao and Assistant Professor of Psychology Susan Syncerski. During the event, SJSU Student Research Competition finalists will be recognized. The 12 undergraduate and graduate students will represent SJSU at the CSU Student Research Competition on April 26 and 27 at CSU Fullerton. In addition, 50 Undergraduate-Faculty Research Pairs will share posters of the work they’ve completed in the last year. The event is sponsored by the SJSU Research Foundation, the Office of Research and the Center for Faculty Development.

The Undergraduate-Faculty Research Pairs program offers grants to students who are engaged in research, scholarship or creative activities across a broad spectrum of disciplines, including the students who worked with kinesiology Professor Emily Wughalter on understanding how women athletes portray themselves on social media.

Women in Sports

Wughalter along with doctoral candidate from Oregon State University Jafra Thomas mentored four undergraduate students: Aqdas Lilani, Tiffany Raczynski, Tania Rojas and Bernice Fan. The SJSU students who graduated in spring 2018 reviewed studies from the 1970s that found women athletes to be “apologetic” and studied the way current-day female athletes presented themselves to see if attitudes had shifted.

“It was empowering to meet other women who felt the same way about how women should be allowed to be unapologetic about the sport they participate in,” said Bernice Fan, ’Kinesiology 18. “This experience empowered me to be more convicted in my beliefs and gave me an opportunity to not only learn from the individuals in the project but to learn from a woman in the past (Professor Jan Felshin) who shared the same perspective 45 years ago.”

Lilani, ’18 Kinesiology, minor, Nutrition and Food Science, said her focus on the research project was examining the behavior of a women’s rugby team.

“My favorite experience has been presenting our research because I felt empowered by the women in the room who connected with our research,” she said. “All the minutes our team spent on diving into literature and discussing our reflections came to life in that room.”

Thomas, who met Wughalter at the 2017 National Association of Kinesiology in Higher Education, said working on the student-led project offered insight into the portrayal of women in sports that he had not studied in his own coursework, but that he believed it would be helpful in his future teaching and research.

“I was pleased to work with these students and to introduce them to the design of research,” Wughalter said. “Their work has already been presented at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Undergraduate Research Fair in October 2018 and then at a Western Society for Physical Education of College Women national conference. I am extremely proud of these students and their work.

Understanding Particles and Electrons

Kris McBrian, who will graduate in May 2019, and Elena Fader, who plans to graduate in May 2020, have been working with physics and astronomy Professor Ehsan Khatami. Fader is studying the properties of electrons moving around in an ionic crystal while McBrian has shown that a specific artificial neural network called a restricted Boltzmann machine can be used to simulate how quantum particles behave on a lattice.

“I’ve learned that being part of research is not only ideal for graduate school and experience, but it gives me an idea of which field I would like to pursue in the future,” Fader said. “Fortunately, the faculty in the physics and astronomy department are always looking for students interested in research.”

The experience has helped Fader move outside of her comfort zone and allowed her to network with a guest professor. McBrian said he was so intrigued with running simulations and machine learning he wanted to continue his work beyond a computational physics course project.

“As frustrating as it was at first, I’ll never forget the day when the simulation finally started agreeing with theory or the humbling experience of presenting this research at a physics conference,” he said.

Safer Li-ion Batteries

Victor Leong Gin He, a materials engineering student who will graduate in spring 2020, has been working with Assistant Professor of chemical and materials engineering Professor Dahyun Oh on creating safe Li-ion batteries in both aqueous and solid states.

“I joined the lab out of a curiosity to learn,” He said. “I wanted an opportunity to gain valuable experiences and a skill set before graduating. I stepped in with no knowledge of batteries and I’ve been growing at a steady pace thanks to the opportunity and guidance given by Dr. Oh.”

He said he is hoping to make a significant contribution to the electrochemical industry in the years to come.

Learning Numbers

Working with Associate Professor of child and adolescent development Emily Slusser, Sandra Arellano, who will graduate in May 2019, studied how children come to understand that number words refer only to discrete numerosity and not continuous spatial extent. They used three fun games to measure 3-5 year old’s understanding of number and counting as well as their executive functioning and control (a measure of general thinking and intelligence.) Results will be shared at an upcoming Western Psychological Association Conference in Pasadena.

Arellano signed on for the project because she wanted to gain research experience to better understand the field. She is now interested in pursuing a PhD in cognitive science.

“I enjoyed observing children’s cognitive abilities during the administered tasks and understanding that the data analysis can be applied to support children’s academics in the long run,” Arellano said.

ISB Groundbreaking

San Jose State University will break ground on its new Interdisciplinary Science Building (ISB) on Thursday, April 25, at 10 a.m. on the university’s campus in front of Duncan Hall, with the 15th Annual College of Science Student Research Fair taking place in the Duncan Hall breezeway following the groundbreaking ceremony. The building will expand opportunities for faculty and student research. Complete groundbreaking event information may be found at

SJSU Physics Professor’s Groundbreaking Research Featured in ‘Science’

Ehsan Khatami is one of two San Jose State University faculty members selected as an Early Career Investigator Award winners in 2017-18. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Ehsan Khatami is one of two San Jose State University faculty members selected as Early Career Investigator Award winners in 2017-18. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

San Jose State University Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami in collaboration with a group of professors from MIT and the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms published today in the journal Science their latest experimental discovery about conduction in a tiny system of atoms in a vacuum.

Khatami, who was granted early tenure and promotion to associate professor this year, received a funding from the National Science Foundation with colleague Sen Chiao, of the Meteorology Department to build the first high-performance computing cluster on campus. The equipment has proven essential to his research as well as the work of students and faculty in other disciplines that require big data analysis.

In his most recent article, Khatami and his colleagues discuss an experiment that is impossible to perform using real materials. They were able to focus on the movement of atoms’ intrinsic magnetic field, or “spin,” across a few microns without disturbing their charge arrangement (charge is another intrinsic property of atoms) as the first of its kind with a quantum system. The results shed light on the mostly unexplored spin transport property of models condensed matter scientists use to describe the unusual behavior of solids at very low temperatures.

Atoms are like small magnets, so applying a magnetic force pushes them around, here to the left (top left). Since these atoms repel each other, they cannot move if there are no empty sites (top middle). But the atomic “magnetic needles” are still free to move, with stronger magnets (red) diffusing to the left in the image, and weaker magnets (blue) having to make room and move to the right (bottom row). This so-called spin transport is resolved atom by atom in the cold atom quantum emulator.

Atoms are like small magnets, so applying a magnetic force pushes them around, here to the left (top left). Since these atoms repel each other, they cannot move if there are no empty sites (top middle). But the atomic “magnetic needles” are still free to move, with stronger magnets (red) diffusing to the left in the image, and weaker magnets (blue) having to make room and move to the right (bottom row). This so-called spin transport is resolved atom by atom in the cold atom quantum emulator.

Khatami’s research aims to help scientists understand how superconductivity works—a finding that could potentially pave the way for a room-temperature superconductor, which would improve transportation and data storage and make homes more energy efficient by creating materials that allow better use of electricity. That is, as electricity goes through a device such as a phone or laptop, none of the electronic components would heat up. Superconductivity is the property of zero electrical resistance in some substances at very low temperatures (<-135 degrees Celsius).

The experiment was carried out using 400 atoms cooled down to just a hair above absolute zero temperature (<-273 degrees Celsius). The atoms were manipulated to be two different types and to act as if they were electrons in a solid with two species of spin. The atoms were then trapped in a square box to see how they would respond when magnetic fields keeping one species on the left side and one species on the right side of the box were turned off. Scientists watched the process by using an electron gas microscope to measure the speed at which mixing takes place and deduce the “spin” current.

Khatami compares the box of atoms to a shallow pool of water – if there was a divider in the middle with clear water on one side and water dyed black on the other side when the divider is suddenly removed the water would mix together and turn gray. The two shades of water would be similar to the two spin species in the quantum experiment, with the behavior of the atoms governed by quantum mechanics.

To support the experiment, Khatami used more than 300,000 CPU hours on SJSU’s Spartan High-Performance Computer to solve the underlying theoretical model that was emulated in the experiment to support experimental observations.

“As exciting as these findings have been, there are still so many unanswered questions we can explore using similar setups,” he said. “For example, the dependence of spin transport on the temperature or the concentration of atoms in the box can be studied.”

Khatami received the SJSU 2017-18 Early Career Investigator Award and has offered insights into his research on the web series Physics Girl. He was featured in the Fall/Winter 2018 edition of Washington Square alumni magazine.

Faculty Notes: Supporting Teachers of Color


Photo courtesy of the Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice Facebook page.

The fifth annual Institute for Teachers of Color Committed to Racial Justice, co-directed by Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Rebeca Burciaga and Mexican American Studies Chair Marcos Pizarro, will be held in June in Los Angeles. The three-day conference is a professional development opportunity for elementary, middle and high school teachers, founded by former Assistant Professor of Elementary Education Rita Kohli to support the growth, success and retention of teachers of color.

The work of Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alejandro Garcia was cited in an article posted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s News Center, featuring researchers at “the forefront of a neglected corner of the scientific world, building mathematical models for fluids at the mesoscale.” According to the report, “fluctuating hydrodynamics could have enormous impacts in applications ranging from batteries to drug delivery to microfluidic devices.”

Inside Higher Education interviewed Department of English and Comparative Literature Lecturer Leah Griesmann, the originator of National Adjunct Walkout Day. On February 25, adjunct teachers in colleges across the United States and beyond joined the protest to bring attention to the plight of college adjuncts whose job security and paychecks are minimal. “I can tell you on behalf of adjuncts everywhere that the system is broken, and you might believe me. But there’s no denying something’s going on when thousands and thousands of adjuncts and allies say the same thing,” Greismann said. She first suggested the idea of a walkout on social media in the fall of 2014. Greismann recently received an Elizabeth George Foundation grant in fiction and a MacDowell Colony artist fellowship.

Department of Aviation and Technology Lecturer Dianne Hall was profiled in Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette about her work as an engineer and firefighter and her recent trip to Pakistan in connection with SJSU’s partnership with Allama Iqbal Open University. “San Jose State is helping AIOU enhance its computer science degree,” she told the newspaper. “The intent is to train students in remote areas, where literacy is quite low, to do software engineering.” Hall visited Pakistan to train faculty to teach online and to speak about being female in male-dominated professions, encouraging by example women to study computer science or pursue “whatever they wanted to do,” Hall said.

Professor of Chemical Engineering Claire Komives and her team of researchers have developed a new opossum-based antidote to counteract poisonous snakebites that also might prove effective in counteracting scorpion, plant and bacterial toxins. Komives presented her research findings at a March meeting of the American Chemical Society. Because the anti-venom is inexpensive, Komives is optimistic that it will be distributed to underserved areas across the globe, including India, Southeast Asia and Africa, where thousands of people each year are bitten by poisonous snakes.

Publications forthcoming for Professor of Counselor Education Jason Laker include Supporting and Enhancing Learning on Campus: Effective Pedagogy In and Outside the Classroom (Routledge, 2016) and a chapter in Handbook of Student Affairs Administration (Jossey-Bass, 2015), “Unfinished Business, Dirty Laundry, and Hope for Multicultural Campus Communities.” Prior to joining the Lurie College of Education faculty, Laker served as SJSU’s vice president for student affairs.

Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging Kasuen Mauldin received an Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award in recognition of her teaching, mentoring and leadership in the field from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals in the country. Mauldin joined SJSU’s faculty in 2011. “Effective educators are organized and prepared, professional and fair, resourceful and well connected, and believe there is always room for improvement,” she said.

March 2015 marks the two-year anniversary of a $2 increase in San José’s minimum wage. To mark the occasion, Professor of Sociology Scott Myers-Lipton, who co-founded San Jose’s minimum wage campaign, contributed an article to the San Jose Mercury News, addressing lessons learned from the successful initiative as well as what remains to be done to “undo the extreme inequality caused by the political and economic changes of the past 35 years.”

Professor of Accounting and Finance Annette Nellen was appointed to the California State Board of Equalization Executive Director’s Advisory Council for a two-year term. She will serve from 2015 to 2017. The BOE, a public agency charged with tax administration and fee collection, also acts as the appellate body for business, franchise and personal tax appeals.

The Salud Familiar program, co-founded by Professor of Health Science Kathleen Roe, received a Program Excellence Award from the Society for Public Health Education. A partnership between SJSU and McKinley Elementary School, the Salud Familiar program teaches McKinley students about healthy lifestyles and promotes academic success.

Professor of Screen Writing Scott Sublett reports that SJSU’s RTVF students have achieved national recognition for screenwriting excellence, receiving four awards from Broadcast Education Association, whose Festival of Media Arts ranks as the nation’s most important film competition for RTVF programs. Lauren Serpa took second place in the feature-length screenplay category; Risha Rose received an honorable mention in the same category; and Rachel Compton and Kevin Briot both received honorable mention citations in the short screenplay category. “Once again, SJSU has the most honorees in the nation, reinforcing our dominance in the category and recognizing our department’s emphasis and excellence in screenwriting,” said David Kahn, chair of the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre.

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Miri VanHoven received a highly competitive National Institute of Health RO-1 grant for her research project “The Effect of Normal and Prolonged Sensory Activity on Neural Circuits.” VanHoven and team will conduct both molecular and physiological studies of the molecular mechanisms that govern how sensory activities affect connectivity between nerve cells. The molecular work will be performed at SJSU’s VanHoven lab, providing students the opportunity to participate in the research process.


San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State Students Report Major Discovery in Space

Posted May 25, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Katy Murphy

SAN JOSE — A San Jose State undergrad grieving the loss of his mother shifted his gaze to outer space and made what could prove to be a remarkable discovery: a system of stars so dense, his professor said, astronomy has no word for it.

In only a week 21-year-old Michael Sandoval stumbled upon what he and his professor have named a hypercompact cluster, which they argue is the intensely starry remains of one galaxy that has been consumed by another.

Astrophysics professor Aaron Romanowsky said it’s astounding how quickly his student may have discovered what “some people take years and never find.”

The stellar search was a welcome diversion for Sandoval, whose mother, Holly Houser, died of cancer in October. In the last years of his mom’s life, the physics major lived at home, juggling her care with his education, sometimes rushing her to the emergency room at night and dragging himself to class the next day from Fremont.

Months later, enrolled in his first astrophysics course, he learned classmate Richard Vo had discovered an unusual stellar object — possibly the densest ever found.

His reaction was immediate: “I want to find one too.”

Read the full story. 

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics

Finding His Future in the Stars

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics, inside the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The observatory houses the world’s largest optical and infrared telescopes, which collect data Richard uses for his research (photo courtesy of Richard Vo).

Richard Vo’s Astronomical Discovery is Rooted in Family’s Support

As the youngest of 10 in a low-income family, this San Jose native found his future in the stars, though life hasn’t always seemed as brilliant as the galaxies he’s admired.

Surviving anywhere

Richard Vo, ’14 Physics, was born and raised in South San Jose in a working-class family. “It’s kind of weird just growing up in a big family, in one house.  It felt like a giant sleepover every day.”

Richard said his parents, now both of retirement age, have always worked and to this day his mother continues to cater, serving others to help provide for the family.  “My mom has been working at home since as long as I can remember,” he said. “She caters food (and) delivers food. She’s been doing that for a long time, ever since I was born, and she’s still doing that today.”

As a result of their parents reverence for hard work, Richard’s oldest brother Trung Vo said all of his siblings are self motivated. If ever they desired to participate in an extracurricular activity, they had to provide the funds. “Now we appreciate what we work hard for… We all can survive anywhere,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the conditions, we’ll adapt, and that’s the good thing about (growing up with little resources). When you’re a kid, you look at others like ‘Oh man, how come they have everything I don’t have’ but now that I am grown, I’m glad we went through that because now I understand we can live (through anything).” Richard Vo has had many different jobs since he was 16, from bowling alleys and retail to tutoring, to get what he wanted. Tutoring has been especially rewarding.

When I help somebody out and they do well, it puts a smile on my face,” he said.

Lyly Mai, an Administration of Justice major at West Valley College, met Vo three years ago and works with him at Learning Star Tutoring Center. In that time, she has observed Richard’s easy-going and approachable personality reach his students. She said Richard works with youths in the eighth grade and older and is able to break down walls with them in a way the other teachers can’t. “He really doesn’t make the kids feel uncomfortable,” she said. “When we see new kids, they feel really shy and don’t want to interact with anyone but with him, he tries to open up, so they will open up and ask questions.”

Getting involved 

SJSU was not Richard’s first choice and he was frustrated that he had to go to a university in a place all too familiar.  “I have a huge family and everyone moved out, so someone had to stay at home with my mom and dad. Since I’m the youngest, I kind of had no choice,” he said. “I wanted to explore, be a college student, basically just live a whole new life and go somewhere to a city I’d never been before because everything in San Jose just felt so ordinary for me. Growing up here, nothing’s changed. I wanted change.”

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard’s co-curricular and extracurricular activities have helped him build confidence (Christiana Cobb photo).

He found the change he was longing for first in his fraternity. During his sophomore year, Richard contemplated transferring to the University of Southern California but at the same time, he joined Alpha Omega Tao and became more involved at SJSU.

That was all the change I needed,” Richard said. “I realized you don’t have to go far to find change, you’ve just got to find change wherever you are.”

Skyler Rohrbaugh, ’16 Business Marketing, is one of Richard’s fraternity brothers and in the time they have known each other, Rohrbaugh has seen Richard as a big part of the fraternity. “His big-and- little family line [his fraternity big brothers and little brothers] is one of the tighter ones in our house,” he said. “They all really like each other and have a genuine family/friend bond.”

Part of Richard’s initial dissatisfaction with SJSU came with his disconnection with his electrical engineering major, which he entered after much influence from his brother Trung. Trung, a mechanical engineer, advised Richard to be an engineer because of Richard’s skill in math and science. Trung knew that being an engineer is a good way to make a living quickly after college. Richard said that engineering was something his brother “knew” Richard would be good at, but Richard was not convinced, so he switched.

Changing majors

Richard siblings are not very supportive of his career path because they don’t quite understand what he is studying or what he will do with his degree. As the youngest, Richard said he feels the pressure to succeed and be the “the biggest shining star in the family.” However, Trung said that he truly wants Richard to be happy and have the best life he can.  Trung said he advised Richard that in his pursuit of physics and higher education, he should work to financially support his endeavors.

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

From the Keck Observatory telescope room, Richard video chats with Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky in San Jose (photo courtesy of Romanowsky).

Richard began to truly understand what he wanted to do after his first physics class. “When I took my first physics class, that’s when I got the idea of majoring in physics,” he said. He said changing majors is one of the greater decisions of his life.

It’s always really good to figure out what you want to do and what you have a passion for,” Richard said.

As Richard became more invested in physics, he began working on a breath-taking discovery that could potentially define his future. In fall 2012, Richard took a computational methods course with Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky and later emailed him with interest in researching objects in the sky. “I wanted a better knowledge of what I wanted to study,” he said. “You don’t want to pursue a career on something if you don’t know what it’s about.”

As a newer professor, Romanowsky said this was the first time a student approached him about doing any independent study research.

“It’s been really good too, to see how he’s stuck with it,” Romanowsky said. “It takes a long time to get anywhere, and you have to really have patience and be able to deal with frustration. A lot of people will start a research project and kind of give up after a while because it’s taken so long or they get stuck.”

Following his passion

In January 2013, Richard began his research. Though he had been intrigued with astronomy and the stars, he didn’t quite understand what today’s astronomers do. Romanowsky introduced him to using software to find different astronomical objects, which upon further inspection may turn out to be stars, supernovas, galaxies, asteroids – any number of things twinkling in the night sky. “You know looking though telescopes doesn’t really happen these days, it’s basically like giant digital cameras,” Romanowsky said.

Richard Vo,’14 Physics

Richard conducted research this term at the Keck Observatory while preparing to publish details of his major discovery (photo courtesy of Richard Vo).

In fact, the first time Richard looked into a telescope was last summer when he had the opportunity to look into his nephew’s.

I spent three months trying to figure out the programs,” Richard said. “I saw a whole different side of the computer world.”

Once he nailed down the computer skills, Richard stumbled upon his own discovery, which will soon be described in detail in an academic journal. For now, all Richard can share is his discovery is linked to a paper Romanowsky released in September about the sighting of an ultra-compact galaxy, the densest of its kind up to that point. Richard’s discovery is a record breaker and younger than other like objects. As of a result of his finding, Richard had the opportunity to do further research this term at the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii.

Richard worked tirelessly with people all over the world and was in awe of the technology used to observe at his object. He said he hopes this is not the end of his education, as he prepares to write his journal article and look deeper into his object.

Planning for the future

Despite his success as a student, Richard expressed concerns for what happens after he receives his bachelor’s degree, though he does desire to go to graduate school and continue researching.

Richard’s supporters don’t see any reason for him to worry. “He’s nervous but, to be honest, when I look at him, I know he’s good with his future,” said Mai, Richard’s co-worker. “I see a lot of people our age who don’t know where they’re going or what they want. With him, he knows exactly what he wants. He’s goal-oriented and he’s going for his goal.”

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Alejandro Garcia (Peter Caravalho photo)

The Outstanding Professor Award recognizes a faculty member for overall excellence in academic assignment. This year’s winner comes from the College of Science.

San Jose State Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alejandro Garcia insists that there is no secret recipe for teaching, but he tries to instill in his students that they must always look with “keen, fresh eyes” in order to understand how things move in the world. This approach to teaching helped him earn the 2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Award.

Garcia’s effectiveness as a professor can be seen through his professional work in physics and animation, and the input he brings to the classroom.  Garcia has been recognized for his commitment to bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to the visual arts, having developed a MUSE class entitled The Nexus of Art and Science in 2006 and an SJSU Studies class entitled Physics of Animation in 2009. The latter course, which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the physics and animation departments within the College of Science and the College of Humanities and the Arts, is the product of one of two NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM grants Garcia has earned; the most recent one looks into the optics of animation.

As physics consultant at DreamWorks Animation SKG, Garcia applied traditional physics to the art of animation in the film Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and, in this capacity, was able to bring valuable information back to his students about how physics is used in a major feature film studio.

In addition to his physics of animation work, Garcia actively participates in the fluctuating hydrodynamics research program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and regularly organizes international conferences. He has published more than 80 technical journal manuscripts and his work has been cited 1,400 since 2007.

The physics scholar is also dedicated in the classroom. According to one student, Garcia “takes the time to ensure that the material, no matter how complex, was presented in such a manner that would easily be absorbed by all students.”

“He is not opposed to resorting to dynamic (occasionally fearsome) demonstrations or wildly comic delivery,” said one colleague. “Exploding pumpkins, beds of nails, and hair-raising electrical currents find a place in a curriculum designed to help visually oriented students understand the importance of science in the production of convincing imagery.”

“I make it very clear that sometimes they specifically need to violate the laws of physics in what they are doing, because if they want to create a compelling story, they have to use the right tools for the job,” he said.

Garcia earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin and completed post-docs at Free University of Brussels and the University of California in Los Angeles.

Spartans at Work: At SLAC, “Everything That I’m Doing Here is Completely Brand New”

Spartans at Work: At SLAC, I am Learning to “Quantify the Energy of Terahertz Fields Using Electro-Optical Sampling”

Intern standing in front of the two-mile linear accelerator at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Tom George, Electrical Engineering’15, is an intern for this year’s SLAC Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship summer program, where he uses lasers to test the terahertz signals on energy (Peter Caravalho photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with the class of 2015’s Tom George.)

Every day, Tom George, ’15 Electrical Engineering, walks a mile and a half to get to the facility where he works, but he doesn’t mind.

George is spending summer at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) just outside of Palo Alto, tucked away on top of a hill and across 426 acres. George is one of 20 interns chosen to participate in this year’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship summer program, which teaches students how to effectively do research, make a presentation and write a paper.

“People here are showing me how much more interesting physics can be than from what we get in the classroom experience,” George said.

SLAC is a research lab operated by Stanford for the U.S. Department of Energy. For over 40 years, the two-mile linear accelerator has been on the forefront of physics research and is famous for looking into the structure of molecules.

George works in the Linac Coherent Light Source facility, using cutting-edge lasers to test the recent progress of terahertz signals on energy.

Learning to Persevere

According to George, everything that he has worked on is brand new. He has had to learn a new lab program in order to take measurements and conduct experiments, not to mention working with lasers that use pump probe techniques. He’s even learning something about himself.

“I’m learning that I get frustrated at times when things don’t work, but that I have to persevere and keep working and even start over if I have to,” George said.

George’s experiences with professors and fellow students in SJSU’s Department of Electrical Engineering have helped him find a passion for teaching.

“SJSU is more like a family and I love that about SJSU,” George said