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College of Science and Mathematics

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Website Update

Faculty Notes - Winter 2016

Biological Sciences Department

Gita Kolluru and students Crystal Castillo, Michele Hendrickson, Meghan Hughes, Paris Krause, Krista LePiane, Colleen McCann, Emily Pavia, Colin Porter, Ellen Scott and McCall Willrodt published a paper in the journal Ethology. The researchers examined mating behavior in a Cuban freshwater fish to determine whether females prefer males who later go on to win fights with other males, or whether females prefer different qualities in males than those that make them good at fighting.

Jennifer O’Leary received a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. O’Leary will use her award to expand a program that combines science with policy in the management of marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean. Read more about the fellowship.

Ben Ruttenberg published a paper on parrotfish in the journal Oecologia. The study found that different species of parrotfish, which may eat algae that can overgrow on coral reefs, differ greatly in what and where they eat. Ruttenberg also received a NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center Grant to investigate the ecological impacts of fishery management actions.

Emily Taylor and alumnus George Brusch published a paper in the journal Oecologia on the thermal tolerances of lizards at La Selva, Costa Rica. Several species of lizards may be at risk of extinction in the near future due to global climate change. Taylor and students Emily Gawne and Nick Pollock published the results of a study that showed that ticks take longer to feed on lizards when temperatures are low. This tick species is the vector that spreads Lyme disease, but when infected ticks feed on lizards, the lizards' immune system kills the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The paper appeared in the journal Experimental and Applied Acarology.

Francis Villablanca published a paper in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology that presents DNA evidence of inter-species breeding in birds. He also participated in a study that identified the remains of two birds that are rare or previously unknown to occur in California. That study was published in Western Birds. He published a third paper in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management that reviewed the population decline of the Morro Bay kangaroo rat. Villablanca received grants from the U.S. Department of Defense, California State Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

Phil Costanzo and Andres Martinez and graduate students Haydn Mitchell and Spencer Schultz published a paper in the journal Chromatography on the use of hydrogels to stabilize reagents for point of care devices.

Andres Martinez and students Conor Camplisson, Kevin Schilling and William Pedrotti published an article in Lab on a Chip about the development of two-ply paper channels that wick fluids faster than conventional single-ply channels.

Shanju Zhang with Corinne Lehr, Ray Fernando and graphic communications professor Xiaoying Rong were awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop a printable carbon nanotube-enhanced osmosis membranes for water desalination. Read more about the desalination membrane. Zhang and students John Abdou, Gregory Braggin, Yanqi Luo, Alexandra Stevenson and Danielle Chun published a paper in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces. Their research demonstrated for the first time that graphene can promote aligned lamellar crystals of polymers at interfaces, which have shown improved thermal resistance and new polymorphism as compared to the control polymer.

Mathematics Department

Todd Grundmeier contributed a chapter on developing the problem-posing abilities of future teachers in the book “Problem Posing in Mathematics Learning and Teaching.”

Anthony Mendes published his first book, “Counting with Symmetric Functions.” The book covers how to solve advanced counting problems using the tool of symmetric polynomials. For example, “How many ways are there to rearrange the numbers 1 through 100 such that there are no two consecutive decreases in the rearrangement?”

Erin Pearse published a paper titled Lattice-Type Self-Similar Sets with Pluriphase Generators Fail to Be Minkowski Measurable in the journal Mathematische Zeitschrift and a paper titled Symmetric Pairs and Self-Adjoint Extensions of Operators, with Applications to Energy Networks in the journal Complex Analysis and Operator Theory.

Tony Samuel published a paper titled Intermediate β-shifts of Finite Type in Discrete and Continuous Dynamical Systems and another in Annales Henri Poincaré titled On the Convergence to Equilibrium of Unbounded Observables Under a Family of Intermittent Interval Maps. Samuel also received grants from the German Research Foundation, the largest research funding organization in Germany, and the National Science Foundation.

Todor Todorov and Cal Poly alumnus James Hall published an article titled Ordered Fields, the Purge of Infinitesimals from Mathematics and the Rigorousness of Infinitesimal Calculus in the Bulgarian Journal of Physics. The article presents a characterization of the completeness of the field of real numbers and discusses the completeness of non-Archimedean fields.

Physics Department

Vardha Bennert and physics alumni Bryan Scott, Charlie Showley and Kelsi Flatland co-authored a paper in The Astrophysical Journal on so-called fading active galactic nucleus observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. Bennert, physics alumna Rebecca Rosen and mechanical engineering major Maren Cosens published an article in The Astrophysical Journal that compares the masses of supermassive black holes to the properties of the host galaxy. Bennert also co-authored a publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The results show that the stellar-velocity dispersion  of host galaxies can be determined for luminous quasars.

Jodi Christiansen was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for student-faculty research on gamma rays and dark matter using the VERITAS telescope in Arizona.

Scott Fraser published three papers in the journal Physical Review D on how static black holes interact by maximizing or minimizing their total energy. Physics alumnus Shaker Funkhouser co-authored one of the papers.

Themis Mastoridis published two papers in the journal Physics Review, Special Topics, Accelerators and Beams. One paper focused on the proposed addition of crab cavities to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and one presented a new algorithm to measure how close particles are to the ideal position in the LHC.

David Mitchell was awarded the Student California Teacher’s Association Most Influential Faculty Award for the 2014-15 school year.

Stephanie Wissel published papers in the journals Physical Review Letters and Astroparticle Physics on the detection and measurement of cosmic rays.

School of Education

Briana Ronan published an article in Literacy Research: Theory, Method and Practice. The study examines how adolescent students develop online academic texts through intertextual moves that traverse multilingual and modal boundaries. She also contributed a chapter to “Studies in Writing.” The chapter focused on text design processes of English Language Learners during a social studies writing intervention.

Leah Wood published two articles in Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. One study investigated the effects of explicit, systematic instruction and adapted stories presented on an iPad on the reading engagement and comprehension skills of elementary aged students with intellectual disability and autism. The other investigated the effects of systematic prompting procedures on students' ability to ask and answer questions about grade-level social studies content.

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