Fall 2013 Newsletter
Greetings from Dean Bailey
It's been a great fall for the College of Science & Mathematics and for Cal Poly. It's so exciting to see students using the Warren J. Baker Center for Science & Mathematics. There are lots of students studying in the living rooms or finding the smaller study nooks on each floor. There should be because there's more than 400 spots for them!
College and University News
Warren J. Baker Center for Science & Mathematics Dedicated Nov. 1
The campus community, donors, alumni and friends of Cal Poly gathered to dedicate the new Warren J. Baker Center for Science & Mathematics Nov. 1. President Jeffrey D. Armstrong and Phil Bailey, dean of the College of Science & Mathematics, recognized the contributions of donors, architects, builders and artists as well as Cal Poly faculty, staff and students.
Faculty Members Receive Distinguished Teaching Award
Seth Bush, a chemistry professor, and Dylan Retsek, a mathematics professor, both received the Cal Poly Distinguished Teaching Award for 2012-13. The universitywide award honors tenured faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching, innovative instructional approaches, and concern for individual student success, among other criteria.
Emmy Award-Winning Science Journalist is Honored Alumnus
Brian Hackney graduated in 1986 with degrees in physics and electronic engineering. He worked briefly as an engineer, before pursuing a successful career in broadcast journalism. As a science editor, meteorologist and news anchor, Hackney has won 18 Emmy awards in categories from best news anchor to best documentary to best breaking news coverage. Hackney currently anchors the news and weather at the CBS-owned station in San Francisco and in the summer of 2013, won five Emmy awards, representing more than half the awards won by the entire station. Hackney has reported everywhere from Chile to Switzerland and has interviewed countless celebrities from Carl Sagan to Paul McCartney.
New Faces and Fond Farewells
A number of new faces joined the college this year, and a few old friends said goodbye. Learn who's new and who retired.
Kinesiology Professor Awarded $3.3 Million NIH Grant to Study Fathers' Health During Pregnancy
Not many pregnancy studies focus on dads, but Kinesiology Professor Todd Hagobian is changing that. Hagobian recently received a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study whether mothers who change their eating and exercise habits during pregnancy will rub off on fathers.
Are Black Holes the Chicken or the Egg?
Which came first, the galaxy or the black hole? Physics Professor Vardha Bennert and her students will investigate that question with a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Virtually all the galaxies for which astrophysicists have collected and analyzed data have black holes at their centers. As the scientific community has studied these black holes, it has found a consistent relationship between the mass of a black hole and the mass of its host galaxy, which suggests that as one forms and grows, it causes the other to form and grow. But which one started the whole thing?
Bridging the Gap between Academia and Sacramento
On Oct. 4, Cal Poly hosted a one-day workshop presented by the CSU’s Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST). Science faculty and students learned successful strategies for connecting academia to the legislature.
Science and Education in the Community
STRIDE Volunteers at City to Sea Half-Marathon
STRIDE's A-Team and Health Ambassadors teamed up to host the Kids' Zone and Kids' Fun Run at the City to the Sea Half Marathon in October. More than 200 kids participated throughout the day, and close to 30 STRIDE volunteers made it possible.
Biology Professor Develops Tree Identification App
If you've ever wondered, "What tree is that?" the answer is now, "There's an app for that." Matt Ritter, a biology professor, has developed City Tree, an iPhone app called for identifying urban trees.
Trees that thrive in urban environments are somewhat uniform around the world. According to Ritter, the same 450 or so trees are used in cities across the globe. "If you're in Singapore or L.A. or San Francisco, you can identify the trees using this app," Ritter said.
CSI Cal Poly
A terrible crime took place in Cal Poly's Learn by Doing Lab this summer: someone stole the candy jars. Luckily, students from Pacheco Elementary School solved the mystery using skills they'd learned during the four-day Learn by Doing Science Summer Camp.
Cal Poly Partners with Local Teachers to Put Common Core into Practice
The Common Core standards are here, and Cal Poly's School of Education is working with local teachers to prepare. This summer, a team of professors held a free workshop attended by 103 local K-6 teachers and administrators representing all of San Luis Obispo County's school districts and two out-of-county districts.
It's a Jungle Out There
Biology student George Brusch spent the summer in the Costa Rican rain forest studying the thermal tolerance of some amphibians and reptiles to learn how global climate change will affect them. Brusch traveled to Costa Rica through the competitive research experience for undergraduates program run by the Organization for Tropical Studies. Brusch wrote about and photographed his research and daily life in this biodiversity hotspot.
Read Brusch's blog
Physics Alumnus Keeps World's Largest Telescope Running
Aside from being a proud member of the League of Physicists Who Own Tractors, Mike Pollard (B.S., Physics, 1998) is the senior engineer in the Technical Services Department at W. M. Keck Observatory, home to the two largest and most scientifically productive optical and infrared telescopes in the world. Set atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano, Keck Observatory's 10-meter-diameter mirrors allow the world's top physicists to take advantage of the clear, dark atmosphere above the island. All areas of astronomy and astrophysics research have greatly benefited from the observatory.