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

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Photo courtesy of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

California braces for yet another menacing fire season

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

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

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

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

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

Intel from above the flames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solving a bigger problem

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

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

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

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

Wildfires in 2020 California

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

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

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

A community service

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

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

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

WRF-SFIRE is available on mobile platforms

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

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

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

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

Alumna Olive Burata Coauthors Scientific Article on Multidrug-Resistance Transporters

Olive Burata.

Olive Burata.

On November 27, Nature Communications published a scientific article coauthored by Olive Burata, ’14 BS, ’18 MS, Biochemistry. The article, entitled “The structural basis of promiscuity in small multidrug resistance transporters,” studies the small drug resistance (SMR) family, which contain protein drug exporters that help bacteria become resistant to toxic chemicals. Burata, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, said the publication demonstrates how scientists can unlock how SMR proteins work to help bacteria survive in the presence of antibiotics, antiseptics or disinfectant. The study provided the first high-resolution image of one of the protein members of this family that will allow scientists to study the protein in very close detail.

High-resolution structure of Gdx-Clo, a protein member of the small multidrug resistance family that has given bacteria resistance against antibiotics, antiseptics, and disinfectants. Image courtesy of Olive Burata.

“This publication really brought together all the multidisciplinary scientific training I have obtained from my two mentors: Dr. Alberto Rascón from SJSU and Dr. Randy Stockbridge from the University of Michigan,” said Burata. “Both skills and techniques that I have learned from each of their labs have significantly contributed to my rapid understanding of this work. Although early in my career, this work alone has already encompassed skills I have learned as a biochemist, biophysicist, structural biologist, microbiologist and organic chemist.”

Burata said the multidrug-resistance bacteria research could have a big impact on one of the biggest side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—that is, the increasing amounts of resistance bacteria being produced. As people increasingly rely on disinfectants and antiseptic products like hand sanitizers, 70 percent alcohol and Lysol and bleach products, they are not only killing any COVID-19 viral particles but also exposing the bacteria to the products, “giving them ample opportunities to become resistant to them—a double-edged sword.” As a member of Rascón’s lab at San José State, she studied enzymes called proteases that are similar to the ones associated with causing viral pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 infection.

“There are a lot of labs right now trying to find ways to make these enzymes force the virus to be less deadly,” she said, adding that her experience in Rascón’s lab introduced her to enzymology and ignited a passion for learning. “Six years ago, Dr. Rascón first introduced his research work on mosquito protease enzymology during the first day of class in my last semester of undergrad. I fell in love with how amazing enzymology was and its simple application in helping human lives. I had no research experience, my grades were mediocre, nor did I have any plans after graduating, but I immediately reached out to Dr. Rascón on that same day to ask if I could join his lab. I became a different person that day with a strong sense of determination. My pre-undergrad self would have never imagined coming this far (2,000 miles from California) in pursuing my passion and having constant support from my mentors, family and friends.”

SJSU Takes on Pandemics 100 Years Apart

The Spanish flu swept across the campus of the San Jose Normal School, now known as San Jose State University, in October 1918. Then, like now, the school took steps to protect the campus community. Students, faculty, and staff volunteered their time and resources to help the campus and the San Jose region weather the pandemic.

According to the June 1919 LaTorre yearbook, the school closed on October 11, reopened a month later, then closed again December 3 for another month. Students were charged with making their own reusable cloth masks and were required to wear them when classes resumed.

The Normal Hospital

San Jose Normal School Students in 1918

Students at the San Jose Normal School wore masks during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Source: 1918 La Torre yearbook, courtesy of SJSU Special Collections and Archives.

Hospitals in San Jose were so overcrowded at the time that the Intermediate Building on campus was converted into The Normal Hospital and a house on 12th Street was rented and made into a convalescent ward. Some 75 volunteer nurses worked at both makeshift hospitals. The Household Arts Department made meals for the patients. Students and faculty volunteered to care for patients; they donated cots, bedding, clothing, food, and flowers.

“One remarkable feature of the Normal School’s response was how its student body, mainly women, volunteered to serve as untrained nurses, literally putting their lives on the line to serve their community,” said History Professor and Director of the Burdick Military History Project Jonathan Roth.

According to the yearbook, the response and outpouring from the campus and the local community were wonderful. Here’s an excerpt: “And we are proud to know that in a time of great testing, our faculty and students proved themselves loyal and true in the highest sense.”

One hundred and two years later, the San Jose State community is once again being tested by another pandemic— Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Once again, the SJSU community is stepping up, rallying resources to fight the disease.

Similar to the 1918 flu outbreak, campus leaders have taken measures to protect students, faculty and staff. In an effort to promote social distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus, SJSU administrators moved classes online.

Two SJSU alumni, working on the cutting edge of biotechnology, have helped their company, Cepheid, develop the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be administered at hospitals and urgent care centers and deliver test results within 45 minutes.

As local hospitals and emergency rooms run out of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies, SJSU’s College of Science stepped in to help.

Boxes of gloves and masks going to Valley Medical Foundation.

Boxes of gloves and masks going to Valley Medical Foundation. Photo: Dean Michael Kaufman

“A group of biology and College of Science staff and faculty contacted me about our stock of gloves and masks, which normally would have been used in spring 2020 biology labs that are no longer meeting,” said College of Science Dean Michael Kaufman. “We quickly inventoried the materials and contacted Valley Medical Foundation. In the end we were able to contribute 56 cases of gloves, plus a smaller supply of N95 and surgical masks. We know that many SJSU graduates are part of the healthcare teams there, so it was especially meaningful to be able to contribute this personal protective equipment to Valley Medical.”

  • The university also donated hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl to a local company to make hand sanitizer, said SJSU Vice President of Administration of Finance Charlie Faas.
  • Faculty in the industrial design department are using 3-D printers to make test kit swabs and badly needed ventilator parts for front line medical staff.
3D printer

SJSU Industrial Design faculty members are using 3-D printers to make ventilator parts, test swab kits and face shield parts. Photo: Jesus Hernandez.

Although the times and the resources are different, students, faculty and staff at the Normal School, and now San Jose State, are uniting, supporting each other, proving themselves loyal and true to help overcome the global pandemics of 1918 and 2020.

SJSU Alumni Develop Test for Rapid COVID-19 Results

Two San Jose State University alumni are part of the team that developed the first rapid COVID-19 test that delivers results in 45 minutes.

David Persing

David Persing, ’79 Biochemistry, is one of two SJSU alumni working at Cepheid to develop a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: David Schmitz.

Dr. David Persing,‘79, Biochemistry, and Rich Nolasco, ‘08, Mechanical Engineering, work for Sunnyvale-based Cepheid. The molecular diagnostic testing company announced on March 21 that it has received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its SAR-CoV-2 Xpert Xpress test. It is the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be administered at point-of-contact locations, such as hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers, and delivers rapid results.

Persing is the executive vice president, chief medical and technology officer for Cepheid. He explains in this video how the COVID-19 rapid test works and why it’s so important.

Persing graduated from SJSU with a degree in biochemistry and then earned an MD-PhD in genetics. He founded the Mayo Clinic’s Molecular Microbiology Laboratory. Eventually, he left academia to focus on cancer and infectious diseases in the biotech industry. In an interview with Washington Square Magazine in 2019, Persing said “It was gratifying to treat one patient at a time, but I ultimately decided I needed to amplify the impact of my research and touch the lives of many people simultaneously.”

Richard Nolasco

Richard Nolasco, ’08 Mechanical Engineering, is a member of a team at Cepheid working on a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: Courtesy of Rich Nolasco.

SJSU alumnus Rich Nolasco graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and works as a failure investigation engineer at Cepheid.

“When I joined the Cepheid team in late 2015, I knew that the company and my work directly affected lives around the world in a positive way,” said Nolasco. “When I found out that Cepheid was coming up with a test to detect the virus, I knew it would make a huge and positive impact.”

Cepheid expects to begin rolling out the COVID-19 rapid test at the end of March.

2020 Faculty Award Winners

San Jose State has recognized four distinguished faculty members for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service. Read more about each recipient:

President’s Scholar: Lawrence Quill, Department of Political Science

Outstanding Professor: Charlotte Sunseri, Department of Anthropology

Outstanding Lecturer: Sharmin Khan, Department of Linguistics

Distinguished Service: Karen Singmaster, Department of Chemistry

Plans Approved for San Jose State University’s Interdisciplinary Science Building

The structure will be located in the southwest quadrant of campus, near Duncan Hall, one of two existing science buildings.

The structure will be located in the southwest quadrant of campus, near Duncan Hall, one of two existing science buildings.

SJSU Media Relations:
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749,

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University received final approval today from the California State University Board of Trustees for plans to build an eight-story, 161,200-square-foot, $181 million Interdisciplinary Science Building.

“On behalf of San Jose State University, I would like to thank the California State University Board of Trustees for approving our Interdisciplinary Science Building and supporting our efforts to bring our students a new cutting-edge academic research and teaching building befitting SJSU’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley,” President Mary A. Papazian said.

The Interdisciplinary Science Building will be financed with CSU Systemwide Revenue Bonds, campus designated capital reserves, auxiliary reserves, and continuing education reserves.

The structure will be located in the southwest quadrant of campus, near Duncan Hall, one of two existing science buildings. The current Science Building was completed in 1957 and Duncan Hall in 1967, making the ISB the first new science building in more than a half century.

Construction is slated to begin in 2019, and anticipated to be completed in 2021. The collaborative design/build contractor is McCarthy Building Companies, Inc. The project architect is FLAD Architects

Supporting collaboration and partnerships

The project primarily will serve San Jose State’s College of Science, which currently enrolls more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in programs for biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics and statistics, meteorology and climate science, physics and astronomy, and science education. The college also administers the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

ISB building

The eight-story, 161,200-square-foot structure will contain chemistry and biology labs and more.

“San Jose State University’s new Interdisciplinary Science Building will provide essential teaching, research and collaboration space for our STEM students, extending learning beyond the classroom. In addition, the building will enhance our growing partnerships with industry leaders in Silicon Valley,” Dean Michael Kaufman said.

  • Features will including the following:
    Biology and chemistry teaching and research labs, collaboration space, 41 faculty offices, and administrative and support areas.
  • A mentoring hub on each floor where students will work on interdisciplinary projects, connect with faculty, and meet with industry partners.
  • A collaborative core in hallways between classrooms and research labs that will allow student and faculty researchers to brainstorm and plan their projects.
  • A high-performance computing suite for astronomers, physicists, social scientists, health professionals and more, where students and faculty from different disciplines can share their work and improve their research techniques.

Designed to meet or exceed environmental standards

“San Jose State University’s Interdisciplinary Science Building will be forward-looking—to the future of education and of Silicon Valley,” Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas said. “The proposed approach enables the campus to best use its limited land base to increase campus density to accommodate the academic program.”

This project will be designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver and target LEED Gold in order to meet the sustainability objectives of the campus by using an efficient building envelope that will reduce heating and cooling demand.

Other sustainable design features will include efficient LED lighting systems, a cool roof, and the use of recycled water in restrooms and for landscape irrigation.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area. 

SJSU Students Join Nationwide Solar Eclipse Weather Data Project

SJSU meteorology lecturer Arthur Eiserloh and a student team, under the supervision of Professor Sen Chiao, will travel to Oregon, where they will take radiosonde measurements during the eclipse. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

SJSU meteorology lecturer Arthur Eiserloh (right of the monitor) and a student team prepare to study the eclipse (Photos: James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism).

Media contact:
Robin McElhatton,, 408-924-1749

SAN JOSE, CA — San Jose State University students will travel to Oregon to be among the first researchers in the nation to measure atmospheric conditions during the total solar eclipse Aug. 21.

NBC Bay Area catches a demo.

NBC Bay Area catches a demo.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our meteorology students to investigate how the atmosphere responds during a brief disruption in the sun’s energy. They will be part of the most well-documented and most studied total solar eclipse so far,” said Arthur Eiserloh, lecturer in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

The SJSU group will team up with students from Oregon Coast Community College in Newport, Ore. They will release eight radiosonde devices. Each device will be carried by a balloon to various levels of the atmosphere and will transmit measurements by radio. The team will study air temperature, air pressure, moisture and winds.

Lecturer Arthur Eiserloh and a student team, including Arianna Jordan (second from the right) study the radiosonde instrument (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Photojournalism).

Eiserloh and students, including Arianna Jordan (second from the right) study the radiosonde instrument.

“When I first heard about this project, it seemed like a really good opportunity. Projects like this motivate people in STEM majors,” said Arianna Jordan, ’18 Meteorology and Climate Science. “It’s going to be a really amazing experience and I’m excited to share what we find with the world.”

The San Jose-Oregon team members are joining students from 13 universities nationwide in the Solar Eclipse Radiosonde Project. The SJSU group is working under the auspices of the SJSU Center for Applied Atmospheric Research and Education, directed by Sen Chiao, associate professor of meteorology and climate science.

The center is a NASA Minority University Research and Education Project, which seeks to support underrepresented minorities in atmospheric-related disciplines, including meteorology, climate, physics, hydrology, public health, and engineering, at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Eiserloh and students practice using instruments that will measure the meteorological impact of the eclipse.

Eiserloh and students practice using instruments that will measure the meteorological impact of the eclipse.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

A 1973 Graduate Returns to Participate in Commencement

When Elizabeth López learned that her uncle Jesse Musquez, ’73 Math, had completed his degree but never walked in Commencement, she asked why. As an undergraduate graduation evaluator at San Jose State’s Office of the Registrar, she knew how important it is for college students to celebrate their graduation.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in graduation,” López said. “It’s a celebration of a big achievement, and I thought he would enjoy being a part of it.”

Back in 1973, Musquez was a young father of two, with a third on the way. As a Vietnam veteran, Musquez had already overcome significant obstacles in pursuing his education. When he was a young child, his family had worked for the automotive industry in Michigan before moving out west to pick apricots, cotton and grapes in the Valley of Heart’s Delight.

Musquez family 2017

The Musquez family in the 1970s. From left to right, Christopher Daniel, Maria, Jesse, Marcos and Anna (all photos courtesy of the Musquez family).

Determined to be the first in his family to complete a college degree, Musquez put himself through school on the G.I. Bill and worked full-time to support his wife and children. Just as he was completing the final requirements for graduation, his sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly, leaving three small children. Instead of donning his cap and gown, Musquez, along with his wife and his in-laws, focused on providing care for their family—a consistent theme throughout his life.

When she heard this story, López felt moved to do something. She investigated what it would take to bring her uncle to CEFCU Stadium on May 27 in cap and gown.

Achieving the American Dream

“My father is a fantastic example of someone who came from very simple means and has accomplished so much. He is an example of the American dream,” said Musquez’s daughter Anna Martorana, ’99 Molecular Biology.

Musquez, age 73, had originally pursued math as a pathway to coding, though at the time that he graduated, there weren’t any jobs in the field. Instead he chose a career in electronics, working for several years for Fairchild Semiconductor before entering international sales.

Musquez family today

The Musquez family today.

“For being someone who picked cotton and worked in the fields to graduating from San Jose State, it’s been a long journey,” Musquez said.

Throughout his successful career, the focus has always been on family. It’s no surprise that he’ll be surrounded by 15 family members on the big day, many of them flying in from out of town.

Family man

Jesse Musquez in cap and gown

Jesse Musquez in cap and gown.

“My dad is so much about everyone else in the family,” said Martorana, who attended San Jose State as a young parent herself and now works for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “He is the foundation of the family but he is often in the background. We’re thrilled to get this opportunity to recognize him and what he’s accomplished.”

When he went to pick up his cap and gown, surrounded by graduates of the Class of 2017, he says the excitement was palpable.

“It’s going to be fun to put on a gown and sit there with all these young people,” he said. “When I went to get my gown, you could feel the energy of all the students. You can feel their hard work and you can sense that their families have done the work to get them where they’re at. I’m happy to do this.”

Student Hackathon Explores Internet of Things

San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors whip out their laptops and begin downloading Python and JavaScript software (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors whip out their laptops and begin downloading Python and JavaScript software (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Thirty San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors spent a recent Saturday hunched over hardware chips and sensors as part of a two-week Internet of Things Workshop that kicked off on March 19.

The workshop, born from collaboration between the SJSU Department of Computer Science and Aeris, a Santa Clara-based cellular network operator, offers students not only an introduction to various scripting languages but also the opportunity to create their own applications.

“I am thinking about a smart parking garage, so you have an app that says ‘this car is leaving this spot right now,’ then you can direct the people looking for spots to that spot,” said Dennis Hsu, ’16 MS Computer Science.

But even a simple idea requires sophisticated tech tools and collaborating with experts. This is where Aeris comes in.

Aeris senior software engineer Maanasa Madiraju gives thirty San Jose State computer software engineering majors an introduction to downloading software needed for the workshop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Aeris senior software engineer Maanasa Madiraju gives thirty San Jose State computer software engineering majors an introduction to downloading software needed for the workshop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, and Robinson Raju, MS Computer Science ’16, review the accounts they’ve just set up on Aeris’ cloud management system (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, and Robinson Raju, MS Computer Science ’16, review the accounts they’ve just set up on Aeris’ cloud management system (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, takes a closer look at a blinking Tessel Board as it connects to her laptop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, takes a closer look at a blinking Tessel Board as it connects to her laptop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

“One of the original goals of this was a basic hackathon but at a much higher level, so most of the work is going to be with JavaScript, Python, the Tessel platform and the types of sensors that feed data into the Internet of Things,” said Harry Plant, vice president of social sector at Aeris. “More importantly, I would like [students] to take away a sense of working at a Silicon Valley company.”

The thirty students are divided into ten groups of three, where they are tasked to work collaboratively to build an application over the course of two weeks to solve a real world problem or an application that has commercial value.

Groups were armed with a box of components to kick-start their product development stage, which included AeroCloud credentials to access the company’s Cloud system, a Tessel board hardware platform, connecting cable, climate or RFID (radio-frequency identification) modules, and Python and JavaScript software for coding.

Maanasa Madiraju, Aeris senior software engineer, guided participants in connecting Tessel boards to their laptops and navigating the company’s data management system.

“Our basic objective is to help students learn new languages so they can use them for the mainstream jobs,” Madiraju said.

Hsu, who envisioned the parking garage app, said prior to attending the workshop kick-off, the idea of the Internet of Things was an abstract concept as it relates to the broader connected world.

“I like that we got hands-on experience with the devices and actually doing the programming with professionals who give us their feedback and their ideas,” Hsu said.

Paired with Vihneshwari Chandrasekaran, ’17 MS Computer Science, Hsu said most of their early conceptual application ideas were born from various examples provided in short information sessions proctored by Aeris software engineers.

Aeris engineers suggested exploring applications that improve society in some capacity like water filter sensors for water crises, refrigerator sensors to prevent food spoiling and mobile payment applications.

Over the next two weeks, participants will have the opportunity to visit Aeris offices to attend “office hour” sessions, where they can de-bug ideas and gain feedback from Aeris engineers on how to improve their applications.

Students will present their final applications to Aeris on April 2, in a judging process that takes into consideration originality of the idea, technical achievement and execution, and real world value or commercial viability.

“There are two end goals,” Plant said. In addition to completing an app, the firm wants to “bring more students into Silicon Valley workplace and to expose them to the Internet of Things, and have them think from a design perspective,”


Student Helps Develop New 3D Technology

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

When holographic reality tech company LEIA Inc. invited 16 computer science students to participate in an automotive hackathon last December, the startup looked forward to the results.

The students did not disappoint, delivering projects utilizing the company’s 3D technology in various capacities including car displays, speedometers, navigation and automation.

But the hackathon was extra meaningful for one Spartan: Daniel Geisler, ’17 Computer Science, is now a member of the company’s software development team.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

“We saw that Daniel was very quick at figuring stuff out and working with the other students and teams, and he had a good technical background,” said LEIA Inc. Project Lead Loren Beyerstein. “We originally were hoping to hire several interns and it turned out that we decided that it was best to start out with one, and we’re hoping that we can bring in more in the future.”

Geisler joined the team in February as an intern, where he’s been working on improving the company’s 3GS technology, a 3D technology that runs in a user’s web browser, so its holographic technology can work smoothly on any platform including Mac, Windows or Android.

The company’s name reflects a scene from Star Wars IV when Luke finds an S.O.S. message from Leia. R2D2 displays the message in 3D. In 1977, this was science fiction. Today, it’s becoming reality.

“I’m trying to describe it more elegantly than just ‘awesome,’ but it is awesome,” Geisler said. “It’s really brand-new technology that is not out in the wild yet, so it’s really good to get first-hand experience before it’s out.”

Although Geisler has only been working with the company for a little over a month, Armand Niederberger, director of data science and algorithms at LEIA Inc., said his contributions are immeasurable.

“He helped build the LEIA Core Library when he first started,” Niederberger said. “In the beginning especially and still now, [he’s] very crucial to helping us get our code clean and to the next level, and to making sure it works with the latest software out there.”

Part of Geisler’s role entails translating the company’s code so it can be utilized on any platform on any computing environment, which can be a tedious task.

Geisler spends eight hours a day fishing through code and ensuring that LEIA Inc.’s animation demos run smoothly.

More recently, Geisler has utilized his prior videogame development experience in fine-tuning LEIA Inc.’s mesh animation, which is technology that is intended to mirror a human’s facial expression and duplicate it on a 3D-simulated character, or avatar.

“I literally just sit there tweaking some code and looking at it to see if it’s working right [by making facial expressions],” Geisler said.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

The technology, which for now offers two avatar choices of either a monkey or a pixie-like character, is intended to one day provide users the opportunity to 3D holographic chat with other users.

“So you’ll be looking at someone else’s avatar, and they’re looking at your avatar, and you’re seeing their real-time face as the monkey, and you’ll be seeing theirs as whatever avatar they want,” Geisler said.

Debra Caires, Geisler’s computer science lecturer, said she is thrilled that her student has benefited from the opportunity to work with a Silicon Valley startup company in SJSU’s backyard and have a hand in developing emerging technology.

“[LEIA Inc.] didn’t view Daniel as merely a student. LEIA presented in the classroom during one of our Wednesday night tech talk events and was already looking at our students as professionals and individuals who have intellectual value,” Caires said. “These collaborations between students and startups [are] phenomenal opportunities.”

Geisler, who sometimes even dreams of finding solutions to 3D technology in his sleep, said his experience is beyond what can be taught in the classroom.

“It’s cool just to see a developer’s environment, like how people in the industry work, and to work with professional code that other developers are going to be using,” Geisler said. “I love to program, so [this is] forcing me to do what I love.”


SJSU Meteorologist Forecasts Super Bowl Weather

Photo: Christina Olivas

Photo: Christina Olivas

Jan Null (Photo: David Schmitz)

Jan Null (Photo: David Schmitz)

By Jan Null, Lecturer of Meteorology and Climate Science and Certified Consulting Meteorologist

This week will see the eyes of the world focused on the San Francisco Bay Area for Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016, and the days preceding. Game day is still at the far end of the meteorological forecast model’s capabilities, and consequently, it is still a tossup as to whether it will actually rain in Santa Clara on that day. There is even a lesser chance of rain during the four-hour period of play.

The general trend for the entire week of activities preceding the Super Bowl is both good news and bad news.  The good news is that only a couple weak weather systems will move through the region during that time, but the bad news is that most Californians would rather see more rain toward the mitigation of the drought.

Looking at the past 49 years during the week preceding the Super Bowl, it has rained on average two days, with an average rainfall amount of 0.81 inches at the Mineta-San Jose International Airport, just three miles away from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. That rain occurred on 37 of the 49 weeks, or 76 percent of the time. It is also interesting to note that the two wettest Super Bowl weeks were during the strong El Nino events of 1997-98 (6.76 inches) and 1972-73 (2.23 inches).

Over the past 49 February 7ths it has rained 41 percent of the time on game day, but probably on the order of 15 percent of the time during the late afternoon.

The bottom line looks like any precipitation will be more of nuisance and not a deluge.


Scientific American Selects Philosophy Professor for New Blog Network

Janet's photo

Professor Stemwedel's new blog,"Doing Good Science," debuted July 5 on the Scientific American network.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

What Associate Professor of Philosophy Janet D. Stemwedel began as a way to extend conversations that “just would not fit into the confines of two 75-minute lectures a week” has hit the big time.

Scientific American, the leading science publication for general audiences, has selected her “Doing Good Science” blog for its new network.

Why philosophy and science? Stemwedel holds doctoral degrees in philosophy and physical chemistry. Her blog “will focus on what’s involved with doing good science, and what ethics has to do with it.”

An experienced blogger, she’s found her online work enriches her academic life. Faculty members “sometimes have boundary issues,” she said.

“Our interests often lead us to explore disciplines other than the ones we’re trained in, our research spills over into our teaching, and both spill into our interactions with the world beyond the campus. Blogging is just another place where the boundaries keep moving for me.”

Here’s more on her life in the blogosphere.

Q. How does it feel to be selected?
A. I’m very excited to be one of the bloggers selected to blog for the new Scientific American Blog network, especially given the other talented writers there and the multitude of engaging perspectives they take in exploring science and places science intersects with our everyday lives.  The network seems like a perfect embodiment of what we often describe as “life-long learning,” capturing especially the element of curiosity that propels us to keep learning and making connections.

Q. How did you get started?
A. My academic life at San José State is directly responsible for my entry into the blogosphere: In February 2005, when discussions in my “Ethics in Science” course (Phil 133) just would not fit into the confines of two 75-minute lectures a week, I created a blog to let those conversations continue.  The blog was also a place to link and analyze news stories about scientists behaving badly, and soon, quite unexpectedly, I had readers (and commenters) who weren’t enrolled in my classes — readers who included scientists, philosophers, and all manner of interested non-experts from all over the world.  I maintained that blog (“Adventures in Ethics and Science”) at from January 2006 to August 2010.  Currently, “Adventures in Ethics and Science” is part of the Scientopia blog community.

Q. Tell us about “Doing Good Science.”
A. At Scientific American, I’ve launched a brand new blog called “Doing Good Science” which will focus on what’s involved with doing good science, and what ethics has to do with it.  This means there will be posts exploring the strategies for scientific knowledge-building, the ways a scientific community whose members can play well with each other is essential to such knowledge-building, and the obligations scientific communities have to the larger society (and vice versa).  The idea here will be to tease out how being ethical is not an extra something added to the scientist’s plate, but rather an integral part of the job of doing science in the first place.

Q. Why is a philosopher blogging on science?
A. I come at these questions the way I do in part due to my peculiar academic trajectory (I earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry before I realized that I really wanted to be a philosopher of science when I grew up, then going back to get a Ph.D in philosophy).  As a philosopher, I’m at home exploring different accounts of what’s required to build knowledge about the world, or what’s involved in being ethical.  As a non-practicing chemist, I still have vivid memories of what it was like to be a junior member of the tribe of science trying to learn what I needed to in order to be a grown-up scientist.  Having a feel for how scientific communities function, and for what kinds of pressures their members encounter in different pieces of their careers, helps me keep my philosophical focus on understanding how actual scientists (not some abstract idealization of science) get the job done — and, when they run into problems, what kind of philosophical insights could help them deal with those problems.

Q. Do you receive much feedback?
A. Having readers who are living in the scientific world I’m describing keeps me honest; if my analysis seems wrong or my advice seems useless, they won’t hesitate to tell me!  Meanwhile, having readers who are neither scientists nor philosophers pushes me to be really clear in my writing, to explain things in everyday language rather than discipline-bound jargon. SJSU faculty sometimes have boundary issues — our interests often lead us to explore disciplines other than the ones we’re trained in, our research spills over into our teaching, and both spill into our interactions with the world beyond the campus.  Blogging is just another place where the boundaries keep moving for me.

Glass beakers, tubes, tags red lightbulbs and other scientific tools.

7th Annual College of Science Student Research Day

Date: May 13, 2011

10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Duncan Hall, Ground Floor Breezeway

Summary: See the latest in student research at the 7th Annual College of Science Student Research Day.  Approximately 122  SJSU students working with College of Science faculty on original scientific research will present their results on a fascinating array of projects.

For more information contact

Scientists, Artists, Educators Collaborate to Create Climate-Action Superhero

By Eugene Cordero

A San Jose State faculty-student team is aiming to reduce annual carbon emissions by 1 million pounds using nothing more than a green sword.

Through a campus collaboration, scientists, artists and educators have created the Green Ninja, a climate-action superhero.

The Green Ninja is an educational project designed to help students understand the complexities of climate change and act on solutions that produce real and measurable change.

A series of live action and animated films highlight the adventures of the Green Ninja navigating some of the more challenging areas in climate science.

Although the project is based on firm science led by the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, the effort is being brought to life by faculty and students from the film and animation/illustration departments.

When scientists and filmmakers work together, interesting things happen as seen in their first series of webisodes available at the Green Ninja website.

Educational materials are currently being developed to help K-12 teachers integrate Green Ninja climate science topics into standards-based math and science education.

In addition, a series of web, phone and Facebook tools is being developed to facilitate informal student education.

One of these tools allows students to track their home energy consumption, and using Green Ninja methods, reduce their energy use and carbon emissions.

Impressive Group of Collaborators

The Department of Meteorology and Climate Science has brought together an impressive group of collaborators for this project.

From the  Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre come Babak Sarrafan, Barnaby Dallas and Nick Martinez, who are faculty members and directors at Spartan Films.

Babak Sarrafan created the Green Ninja character and, together with his RTVF 130 students, completed “The Green Ninja: Episode 1.”

David Chai, a professor of animation/illustration, is leading a number of student teams on various Green Ninja animation films.

Ellen Metzger, geology professor and director of science education, is helping to develop education materials so that K-12 teachers can use the Green Ninja in their classrooms.

Numerous students are working on aspects of the project including animation development by Marty Cooper, Michael Fong, Michelle Ikemoto, Joelle Murray and Aden Scott.

Software development students include Jay Patel, Srivatsan Srinivasan Vasishta, and Rachana Shaw.

Environmental Studies student Lina Prada works as a research analyst and web content developer.

Cordero is an associate professor of meteorology and climate science.#

Professor and five students inside ZEM House.

Multidisciplinary Team Builds Zero Emissions House

Professor and five students inside ZEM House.

Professor Jinny Rhee with students inside their ZEM house (Rhee, Michael Signorelli, Kendrick Lau, Eden Specht and daughter, Michael Murray and Jesus Contreras). Photo by Elena Polanco.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

What’s the best thing about SJSU’s very first ZEM (that’s zero-emissions) house?

We built it,” said mechanical engineering major Eden Specht.

“We” means 25 students from five departments, making this one of San Jose State’s most ambitious interdisciplinary senior projects ever.

Specht placed the emphasis on the “we” because students built the whole thing from the ground up: drawing up plans, picking out materials, and hammering the whole thing together.

You can check out their pride and joy — and perhaps learn something new about sustainability — at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Open House 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 16. Featuring department presentations, lab demonstrations and the like, the engineering event is timed to coincide with Admitted Spartan Day.

Bright Blue Walls

“This far exceeds anything I’ve ever supervised before,” said Jinny Rhee, associate professor of mechanical engineering.

The house is definitely a site to behold, its bright blue angled walls rising from the engineering courtyard (which, by the way, is chock full of all sorts of inventions). With just one room, the house was built more for learning than living, though all the techniques are very much applicable to real homes.

For instance, that power blue material peeking out from unfinished interior? That’s insulation made from recycled denim jeans. And the angled, south-facing front wall? That’s a passive solar element that keeps the house cool during the summer and warm during the winter given seasonal changes in the sun’s path.

The house is also equipped with a heat pump, solar panels and LED lighting with motion detectors, though there’s not much need for daytime lighting. Sunlight fills the interior without heating it up thanks to a bank of small, north-facing windows along the peak of the A-frame roof.

The project is being funded by a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant. Other sponsors include Westinghouse Solar, Sun Xtender, Heartwood Communities, Schneider Electric, and Prestige Glass and Storefront Company. Rhee is the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators are David Parent (electrical engineering), Anuradha Basu (business), Leslie Speer (industrial design), and Larry Gerston (political science).

Working together, students from all these departments drafted plans, built a model, sought support from corporations and foundations, and then began construction March 1. Even a couple civil engineering students pitched in, adding trusses to ensure the 100-square-foot structure is earthquake-safe.

Real World Experience

Though the house is considered coursework, it’s clear that for students like Specht, it’s about far more than getting a good grade. A new father who comes to campus carrying his baby girl, he pours time into the effort, motivated by the opportunity to do hands-on work on a well funded endeavor supported by many faculty members.

“This is my favorite part of being an engineering student,” he said.

For mechanical engineering major Kendrick Lau, working with students with all kinds of expertise, from finance to fire safety, is invaluable.

“We get to see what it’s like in the real world before we hit the real world,” he said.

To Professor Rhee, the house sends a very clear message about the contributions technology can make to sustainability.

“I plan on researching green buildings for years to come,” she said.#

Palo Alto’s Gunn Robotics Team, seen here in red costumes at the 2008-09 Silicon Valley Regionals, has competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition since 1996. Photo courtesy Gunn Robotics.

Robotics Competition Brings the Bay’s Future Engineers to SJSU

Palo Alto’s Gunn Robotics Team, seen here in red costumes at the 2008-09 Silicon Valley Regionals, has competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition since 1996. Photo courtesy Gunn Robotics.

Palo Alto’s Gunn Robotics Team, seen here in red costumes at the 2008-09 Silicon Valley Regionals, has competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition since 1996. Photo courtesy Gunn Robotics.

By Teresa Ruiz, Web Communications Specialist

More than 50 teams of high school students, their mentors, supporters and volunteers from all over the Bay Area will fill the SJSU Event Center to take part in the For Inspiration and Recognition of and Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition March 31-April 2. The event, which will also draw a handful of teams from other parts of the state, is open to the public and free of charge.

Dubbed by its creators as the “the varsity sport for the mind,” the FIRST Robotics Competition fuses the excitement of a sporting event with science and technology. It gives students the chance to compete against peers internationally while gaining real-world engineering experience. The Event Center will host the Silicon Valley regional competition, where teams from San Jose and surrounding communities such as Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View and Saratoga will represent the South Bay. The competition will give the budding engineers a small taste of college life when they visit the SJSU campus.The best will move on to the state level, then compete for their shot to take center stage at the international championships in April.

“It’s not just about robots,” said FIRST founder Dean Kamen, the entrepreneur known for inventing the Segway scooter. “It’s about building self confidence, respect and important relationships with people who invent new technologies to make a better future.”

Students are challenged to form teams of 15 to 25 peers, think up a theme and work for six weeks to build and program robots that will perform competitive tasks. Students are rewarded points for teamwork, professionalism and the ability to overcome challenges, but the goals of building lasting partnerships and industry connections are emphasized over high scores.

“It’s like life. You never have enough information. You never have enough time. There are always competing things and you must have a strategy. We’ve created a microcosm of the real engineering experience,” said FIRST National Advisor Woodie Flowers.

Now in its 20th year, the FIRST Robotics Competition involves nearly 52,000 students from nine countries including the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel and Germany. Sponsors include Boeing, NASA, JC Penny, General Motors and Rockwell Automation. More than $14 million in scholarships from about 140 sponsors will be offered as part of the event.

Learn more about FIRST, the regional competition or follow all the action leading up to the championships in the FRC blog.

MESA students at MESA 2010 Day.

MESA Day 2011 Brings 700 Middle and High School Students to SJSU for Day of Math, Science and Fun

Students watch as judges test a bridge at MESA Day 2010.

MESA Day 2010

By Christina Ramos and Pat Lopes Harris, Director of Media Relations

The San Jose State University Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement (MESA) Schools Program will host its annual MESA Day Preliminary Competitions from from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 5 at SJSU.  Students from nearby school districts will participate in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) competitions designed to help them apply their academic skills to hands-on and real world experiences.

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Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero

Eugene Cordero Named Google Science Communication Fellow

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero.

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero has been named a Google Science Communication Fellow.

Google announced the selection of its 21 fellows last week. The fellows all have some history of outreach working with the general public in the climate science field, and were chosen based on their ability to communicate their expertise in ways that the general public can understand. Other considerations included technical and social media skills, and the use of Google products.

“We will together explore technology and ways of interacting with people to come up with new ways to communicate climate science to a broader community,” said Cordero.

Google took interest in Cordero because of his public-education and outreach experience with climate change. In addition to eight years at San Jose State, Cordero spent five years at an Australian research university studying ozone depletion, and has given over 100 public talks on a book he co-authored. “Cool Cuisine: Taking the Bite out of Global Warming” focuses on food choices and the connection they have with the environment. Cordero has also created a climate-action superhero, the Green Ninja, to educate online audiences about climate science.

A three-day workshop at Google, designed to open up scientific dialogue, is set for June.  After the workshop, the Google Science Communication Fellows will be given the opportunity to apply for grants to continue with their projects. The most influential projects will win a Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic trip to the Arctic, representing the voyage as a science communicator.

“I look forward to interacting with people and making this information mainstream,” says Cordero.

The Department of Meteorology and Climate Science added climate science as a new major last fall. The new concentration focuses on weather climate and using modules to see what affect humans are having on the planet. The main focus is on climate and weather, but other broader topics include the energy of water, agriculture and carbon emissions.#