Greetings from the College of Science and Mathematics
This is a very exciting time for the college and the university. Our college just began fall quarter with some 865 bright new students. The preliminary average GPA for our new freshmen was 3.84; the preliminary average GPA for our new transfer students was 3.23. We also have new and award-winning professors who will be teaching them.
We're also getting a new look. Parents, faculty, staff and students are beginning to stop and watch the amazing progress on the construction of the new Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics building. Its six-story steel frame can now be seen from almost anywhere on campus.
The week before fall quarter began in September, we celebrated a peak experience: Gilbane Building Company and Cal Poly hosted a "Topping Out" ceremony. Topping Out is the term for the placement of the final steel beam completing a structure's frame. It's a tradition among builders to mark this achievement with a celebration honoring the workers on the project.
Cal Poly's new President Jeffrey D. Armstrong and I were honored to speak to the workers before the final beam's lift-off. Some 200 construction workers and 100 faculty and staff members attended the event and everyone was able to sign the final beam. We hope you can take a few minutes to enjoy the photos of the center and the Topping Out that we've put online; you'll find links to them below.
If you'll be on campus anytime this fall, stop by the COSAM Faculty Offices East (Bldg. 25) and head to the breezeway for a look at the site. And whenever you're on campus, feel free to stop by my office and say hi, and let me know where you are now and how you're doing. It's going to be a big year — and we want to keep you posted on all of it.
Phil Bailey, Dean
College of Science and Mathematics
A Peak Experience For the CSM Construction Project Sept. 15
Cal Poly's Baker Center construction project passed a major milestone Sept. 15: the placement of the final steel beam completing the frame of the six-story structure. Gilbane Construction Company held a "Topping Out" celebration to mark the occasion. The six-story, $132 million, 197,000 square-foot building was made possible by voter-approved state education construction bonds and $20 million in private donations to Cal Poly. It is set to open in 2013, and it will offer classrooms, lab space and offices for the university's Physics, Chemistry and Soil Science programs, as well as an open area and terraces for student study and meeting places. The top floor of the center will house labs and offices for COSAM's Western Coatings Technologies Center and the Environmental Biotechnology Institute.
See slideshow from the Topping Out
Get project details & webcam links
New Faces, Trading Places and Retirements
New faces are popping up all over the college this fall. Nearly 20 COSAM faculty and staff members have retired since last spring, and the college added 12 new employees. Who’s new? Faculty members include Vardha Bennert, Luis Reyes (Physics); Sandra Clement, Kristin Hardy and Sean Lema (Biology); Shanju Zhang (Chemistry); Gregory Scott and Alan Kiste (Chemistry and Biochemistry); Robert Easton (Mathematics); and Julie Herron and Elizabeth Meyer (School of Education).
Find out more about who's new, who's retiring and who has traded places
First Class of Stem Cell Specialty Master’s Degree Candidates Graduates
The first crop of master’s degree candidates in the university's new Master of Science stem cell specialty program graduated this summer after an intensive two-year program. The specialty degree program admits only 10 students per year. They spend the first year of the program at Cal Poly, taking Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering courses, and one Animal Science course. They then go on to an intensive 1-week stem cell research session at UC San Diego. It’s at UCSD where the students first work with actual human stem cells – cells that can be manipulated into many other types of cells. After completing the UCSD seminar, they go on to serve a nine-month internship in a California research lab or private company working with stem cells. The grad students return for one last quarter at Cal Poly to present their research.
Find out more about the specialty stem cell master's degree program
Nerve cell photo by Nissim Benvenisty, Wikimedia Commons
$3 Million NIH Grant Allows STRIDE Professor, Students to Study Weight Loss in Low-Income Mothers
Professor Suzanne Phelan (center), research assistants Ana Stewart
(left) and Anna Brannen pull up the 'Fit Moms' Website.
A Cal Poly professor has been awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop new ways to help low-income mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight within a year of giving birth. Kinesiology Professor Suzanne Phelan of Cal Poly’s STRIDE Center (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise) will work with mothers at 12 clinics in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. The study is the first of its kind in the nation. Phelan’s theory is that an additional online program aimed at multi-ethnic, low-income mothers could result in better weight-loss success for those mothers.
More on Professor Phelan's study
SLOSEA, Professor Wendt Offer to Aid Research on Impacts of New Fishing Regulations
Cal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences is working with local fishermen and federal and state officials to help smooth out rough spots in new commercial catch regulations. Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), came to Morro Bay in August for a private meeting with fishermen from the Central Coast and Northern California, city and state legislative officials and conservation agency representatives. Professor Dean Wendt, executive director of SLOSEA (San Luis Obispo Science and Ecosystem Alliance) and associate dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, also spoke at the meeting. “My main input was to stress the importance of linking the fishing industry’s observations with the kind of scientific information we are collecting,” Wendt said. Cal Poly professors and students have been working with local fishermen for the past five years.
Read more on SLOSEA and the new fishing regulations
Professors Moline and Clark Team with CSULB for Shark Research
Tracking the movements of sharks may become a bit easier soon thanks to a project involving students and faculty from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and CSU Long Beach. Cal Poly Computer Science Professor Chris Clark and Marine Biology Professor Mark Moline are collaborating with CSU Long Beach Marine Biology Professor Christopher Lowe on the shark tracking project, which involves using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) from Cal Poly. The AUVs, which resemble torpedoes, gather and send data to scientists. Cal Poly professors Clark and Moline have extensive experience in using AUVs for ocean research around the world.
Read more about the shark research | Read SLO Tribune coverage of the research
Mathematics Department Hosts International Research Conference
The Mathematics Department hosted the ninth annual international conference on Permutation Patterns (PP2011) this summer. The prestigious conference drew 46 professional mathematicians, university academics and doctoral students from across the U.S. as well as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, New Zealand, Iceland and South Korea. Speakers gave some 30 research talks on the state of permutation patterns study. Professor Igor Pak from UCLA and Professor Jeffrey Remmel from UC San Diego were the featured speakers. The proceedings of PP2011 will appear as a special edition of "Pure Mathematics and Applications." Cal Poly Math professors Jeffrey Liese, Anthony Mendes, and Don Rawlings organized the conference after receiving a $20,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Noyce Program Sending Math Teachers to High-Risk Schools
Noyce Math Scholars (l-r) Alyssa Hamlin, Shawn Garrity
and Alyssa Eubank
The Cal Poly Math Department is looking to expand a scholarship and training program for new math teachers funded by a $425,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The Noyce Scholars program is helping Cal Poly retain top math students and then train them to be math teachers in high schools and middle schools in disadvantaged districts. The NSF grant program offers scholarships of $10,000 a year for one or two years to students seeking California math teaching credentials. Recipients also get additional training and support on how to successfully teach math to underprivileged teens. The Noyce Scholars, in return, agree to teach from two to four years in “high needs” school districts – those having one or more schools with more than 50 percent of their students qualifying for the federal free lunch program.
Find out more about the program and current Cal Poly Noyce Math Scholar students
Kinesiology Major Completes ExxonMobil Internship
Mattie McGowen, a junior kinesiology major, was one of 60 college students chosen for the 2011 ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program in Dallas. The program provides exemplary students with eight-week, paid internships at Dallas nonprofit agencies. McGowen, from Turlock, spent the summer with White Rock YMCA. She planned and facilitated teen camp activities, field trips and special events; attended nonprofit management seminars; and managed grant evaluations.
More on McGowen
NIH Grant Brings Hancock Students to Cal Poly
for Hands-On Science
Thanks to an $848,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health, 14 students from Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria spent their summer as paid research interns at Cal Poly. This is the third summer Cal Poly has hosted Hancock College students through the NIH’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. The students are paid $10 an hour for up to 30 hours a week working under the supervision of Cal Poly faculty.
The aim of the grant is to increase the number of minority students who earn degrees in biomedical or behavioral science fields and go on to successful careers in science-related fields. "We’re hoping they all go on to careers in science once they see how cool research is,” said Cal Poly Biological Sciences Professor Emily Taylor, who coordinates the summer program.
Professor Ruef Receives Award for Special Education Achievements
Cal Poly School of Education Professor Michael Ruef has received the 2011 Thomas Haring Award in recognition of his efforts on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The award is given annually by the UC Santa Barbara Gervitz School of Education. In selecting Ruef for the ward, The Gervitz School noted that his work “represents the best in leadership, citizen activism and advocacy.” He received the award at a ceremony in early June, along with four other recipients. Ruef is a professor and co-coordinator of Special Education Programs in Cal Poly’s School of Education. He is a founding member of the board of directors for the Central Coast Autism Spectrum Center.
Details on the award
Statistics Professors Receive MERLOT Award for Multimedia/Online Teaching
Cal Poly Statistics Professors Allan Rossman and Beth Chance have received a national award for a web "applet" they developed to illustrate different topics and concepts in the area of statistics and probability.
The Rossman/Chance Applet Collection received a 2011 Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources. The award was granted by the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT). The national program recognizes and promotes outstanding online resources designed to enhance teaching and learning. The award is granted to honor authors and developers of these resources for their contributions to the academic community.
In granting the award, the MERLOT Statistics Editorial Board wrote: “We regularly use this collection in our own courses to help students to better grasp complex ideas and concepts.” Rossman and Chance were honored with a ceremony and plaque at the 2011 MERLOT/Sloan-C Emerging Technologies Conference this summer in San Jose.
Details on the MERLOT Award
Photo courtesy MERLOT
Bio Professor Ritter Receives President’s Community Service Award
Cal Poly Biology Professor Matt Ritter has received the 2011 President’s Community Service Award. Ritter, a botany expert, has served on the city of San Luis Obispo’s Tree Committee for two years, leading a master planning effort and helping to make San Luis Obispo a “Tree City USA.” In nominations for the award, Ritter’s enthusiasm for the city’s urban forest was described as “infectious,” inspiring others to plant and protect local trees. The annual awards are coordinated by The Community Center, a Student Life and Leadership program. Ritter received the award in the “Significant Contribution” category, which recognizes an organization or individual that exhibits excellence in identifying a need, creating awareness, providing a new service, or having a lasting impact on a broad community population through their volunteer service.
BioSci Operations Manager Named Outstanding Staff Member
Biological Sciences Department Operations Manager Nancy Reid was one of three Cal Poly employees recognized as 2010-2011 Outstanding Staff by President Jeffrey D. Armstrong at Fall Conference. Reid (B.S., Biological Sciences, ’78) has worked as a technical staff member in various areas of the biology department since graduating. In nominating her for the award, co-workers comments included: "Nancy is the epitome of a colleague. Not only is she a pleasure to work with, she is an expert on many levels and we trust her knowledge. Nancy has an insightful, positive and gracious manner coupled with the ability and willingness to do anything."
Chemistry Professor Marshall 'Marty' Wright
Marshall "Marty" Wright, 85, passed away peacefully after a two-year battle with cancer on July 26, 2011. A native of Portland, Ore., Wright earned bachelor's degrees in Chemistry (1946) and Philosophy (1952) at Reed College, and his M.A. in Chemistry at the University of Oregon in Eugene (1949). He brought his family to San Luis Obispo in 1960, where he taught chemistry for 31 years at Cal Poly, retiring from full-time teaching in 1988. During the spring quarter of 1991, he returned to campus to teach a course in Jazz History. Both Professor Wright and his wife, Virginia, were musicians.
More on Professor Wright
Chemistry Professor Glenn Wight
H. Glenn Wight, professor emeritus of Chemistry, passed away on July 23, 2011, in San Luis Obispo at the age of 90. A decorated veteran of the U.S. Army Infantry during World War II, Glenn earned his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. He began teaching at Cal Poly in 1952 at a starting salary of $325 per month when the campus had 3,000 students — all men. He joined the Physical Sciences Department, which at the time included Chemistry, Physics, Geology and Astronomy, and had 10 faculty members. Professor Wight was instrumental in creating a Chemistry Department that offered a major accredited by the American Chemical Society.
More on Professor Wight
Two Chemistry Alumni Receive $90,000 NSF Fellowships
Two Cal Poly Chemistry alumni have been awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships of $90,000 each. Chemistry grads Crystal Valdez and Joseph Carlson are pursuing advanced degrees at UCLA and UC Irvine, respectively. Each will receive $30,000 a year for the next three years from the NSF.
Valdez graduated from Cal Poly in 2009 with a degree in Biochemistry and is is pursuing a doctorate in Physical Chemistry. She hopes to become a university professor once she earns her doctorate. Carlson graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in Chemistry in 2010. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in Organic Chemistry. He’s thinking of going into industry after earning a doctorate, thanks to a Cal Poly internship at Gilead Sciences.
More on the NSF winners, their research - and what they learned at Cal Poly
Genomics Institute Leader Named 2011 Honored Alumnus
Eric E. Schadt, Ph.D. (B.S., Mathematics, 1991) has been named the 2011 College of Science and Mathematics Honored Alumnus. The annual awards, hosted by the Cal Poly Alumni Association, will honor one alumnus from each college during Homecoming Weekend at an evening reception Friday, Oct. 15.
Schadt was appointed in May as the director of the new Mount Sinai Institute for Genomics and Multiscale Biology. The institute is a partnership between the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and Pacific Biosciences of California, Inc. Schadt is continuing in his role as chief scientific officer there at Pacific Biosciences.
Schadt is one of the world's foremost experts in computational biology and a founding member of Sage Bionetworks, an open access genomics initiative designed to build and support databases and an accessible platform for creating innovative dynamic disease models.
In addition to his Cal Poly undergraduate degree, Schadt earned a Master of Arts in Pure Mathematics from UCLA and his doctorate in Bio-Mathematics from UCLA.
Cal Poly June Commencement Video Goes National: Marine Surprises Math Grad
Cal Poly math grad Jessica Freedman got a special surprise during the College of Science and Mathematics commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 11. Thanks to some advanced planning from her parents and the Dean's Office, the ceremony featured an appearance by her brother, Eric Freedman, a Marine just home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
See the video ABC used
Alumni in the News
Bio grads were all over the news recently. Rachel Clancy was named Cal Poly's Female Athlete of the Year, Serra Hoagland was the cover story on Winds of Change magazine, and Tony Waters was named Outstanding Professor at his university. Chemistry, Kinesiology and Liberal Studies grads were in the news too. Find out who they are and if you know them.
COSAM Alumni in the News
Alumni: Tell us What's Up
Haven't been in the news, but want to let your classmates know what you're up to?
Tell us - and let us know if you'd like to speak to students about your career or be a mentor.
Read alumni notes
Are We Alone in the Universe? Find out Oct. 8
Astronomer, NASA award winner and SETI Research Director Jill Tarter will give a free public talk on campus Oct. 8 titled, "Are We Alone?
Hear the latest perspective on the search for intelligent life in the universe from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Business Building Rotunda (03-213).
Tarter's scientific recognition includes two Public Service Medals from NASA. She was one of three TED prize-winners in 2009, and was a recipient of the Silicon Valley Women of Influence 2010 Award.
She has served as Project Scientist for NASA’s SETI program, the High Resolution Microwave Survey.
In 2004, Time Magazine named her one of the its "100 Most Influential People" in the world.
Details on Tarter's Talk
SLO Down for Homecoming BBQ, Winetasting Oct. 15
Join alumni, friends and families for the afternoon on O'Neill Green for the annual Tailgate BBQ and Cal Poly Alumni Association Wine Tasting Saturday Oct. 15.This year's event features music by blues-folk band Julie and the Bad Dogs. The Homecoming football game kicks off at 6 p.m. in Spanos Stadium.
Tour Cal Poly Pier Nov. 5
Come see what's new at The Cal Poly Pier in Avila Beach Nov. 5. The pier will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and admission is free. The Cal Poly Center for Coastal Marine Sciences is inviting alumni, family, friends and the community to find out more about the center's marine research.
Bring the kids and enjoy special touch-tanks full of marine creatures. Learn more about research projects on Morro Bay's ecosystem, sustaining local fisheries, and mapping ocean currents on the Central Coast.
Watch the COSAM News page for more details coming in October.