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College of Science and Mathematics

Enhancing lives through learning, discovery and innovation

Website Update

Winter 2012

Greetings From Dean Bailey


Hello and welcome to the Winter 2012 edition of our college e-newsletter for alumni, parents and friends. "May you live in interesting times" is often cited as a Chinese curse, though it may have been a saying coined by British diplomats. Either way, it's a pretty good forecast for what 2012 is sure to bring to the College of Science and Mathematics and Cal Poly.
Read the full message from Dean Phil Bailey

Faculty, students on CSM third floor roof

Dean Phil Bailey (sixth from left) with COSAM faculty and students touring the Center for Science and Mathematics construction site in February. They're standing on what will be the "green roof" of the third floor.
Click on the photo above to open a slideshow of the latest construction photos
Click here for a gallery of photos documenting the center's progress

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University & College News


SLOSEA Fisheries Research is Expanding

Student and squidCal Poly’s Center for Coastal Marine Sciences won a scientific competition for a $720,000 state grant to help improve how California manages its near-shore fishing grounds. The grant will allow for an expansion of the research the center’s SLOSEA (San Luis Obispo Science and Ecosystem Alliance) program has been doing for the past five years: monitoring the impacts of California's relatively new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on fish populations. Cal Poly students and professors involved in the research program are regularly aboard local fishing boats catching, counting, measuring and releasing fish species at designated study spots inside and outside Central Coast Marine Protected Areas. They are documenting the impacts on fish populations, fishermen and the local economy when fishing is closed or restricted in the Marine Protected Areas.
Read more about the grant and the research
Read the coverage in the SLO Tribune

Biggest Wave of Applicants Ever Hits Cal Poly, College

Cal Poly has received about 45,000 applications for its incoming fall class, topping the previous record of 42,495 applications received in 2010. Cal Poly Assistant Vice President for Admissions, Recruiting and Financial Aid James Maraviglia said university officials still aren’t sure how many spaces will be available for new students. The big wave also lifted application records for the College of Science and Mathematics. Some 7,814 first-time freshmen and 1,105 transfer students applied to the college for fall 2012, compared to the 6,718 first-time freshmen and 944 transfer students who applied for fall quarter 2011. Maraviglia estimates that Cal Poly will have 3,860 undergraduate seats available for freshmen and transfers this fall. The exact number is still being determined. It's based on the assumption there will be no additional state funding cuts.
Read more in the SLO Tribune

Cal Poly Among Top 100 'Best Value' Universities on Kiplinger's List

BioSci graduatesCal Poly was among a handful of California's public universities named in January to the Best Value list by Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. Cal Poly ranked No. 83 on the list, which was revamped this year to put more emphasis on academics. Kiplinger's annual rankings honor 100 schools for their combination of quality and affordability. California universities making the 2012 list were UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego, which finished seventh, ninth and 10th, respectively. The nine other California schools which finished in the magazine’s top 100 are: UC Santa Barbara (17th), UC Davis (20th), UC Irvine (22nd), UC Santa Cruz (56th), San Diego State (77th), Cal Poly Pomona (91st), UC Riverside (95th) and Cal State Long Beach (98th).
See the Kiplinger's Article

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Science in the Community


The Butterflies are Back, and Cal Poly is Counting Them

Monarch butterflyStudents and volunteers with Cal Poly's Monarch Alert Project, headed by Biological Sciences Professor Francis Villablanca, are still busy counting butterflies. The count of Monarchs wintering at study sites in Pismo Beach and Pacific Grove is double what it was this time last year. That's good news, but it may not mean Monarch butterfly populations are bouncing back, according to Villablanca. Butterfly count data from the past two decades show a solid downhill trend for the Monarch population in the state, he warned.
Hear the interview with Professor Villablanca on California Public Radio
See the latest butterfly count data on the Monarch Project website

Professors, Students Present Research on Hunger, Poverty to Congresswoman

Cal Poly professors and students conducting research on hunger and food availability in San Luis Obispo County presented the initial findings to U.S. Rep. Lois Capps in January. Cal Poly’s STRIDE (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise) Center is partnering with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County to complete research required by a $100,000 Hunger Free Communities planning grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Rep. Capps with StudentsCal Poly received $30,000 from the grant to design and carry out key data-gathering and analysis efforts: a countywide food availability survey and a hunger/food security survey of about 800 county residents. Professors and students gathered data and conducted interviews between January and November 2011. A countywide committee of government, agriculture and social service agencies will use the remaining funds and the data gathered by Cal Poly to create a Hunger Free Community plan in 2012. Once the plan is completed, the county or social service agencies will be eligible to apply for USDA grants providing food and other assistance to aid local residents in need.
Read the presentation on the Cal Poly research findings (pdf)
Read more about the public health hunger survey
Read the study coverage in the SLO Tribune
See the story on KSBY-TV

Professor Helping Teachers Gear Up for Changes in Math Standards

Prof. Kate Riley

Cal Poly’s Mathematics Department is partnering with the Santa Maria-Bonita School District to improve students’ mathematics skills. Thanks to a $250,000 one-year grant from the federal Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) program, Cal Poly Mathematics Professor Kate Riley will be holding workshops for Santa Maria-Bonita elementary and middle school teachers throughout the 2011-2012 school year. The Cal Poly grant is one of 14 awarded in California this year and was chosen from a field of 50 applicants. The Cal Poly ITQ workshops will help 35 Santa Maria-Bonita fifth- through eighth-grade teachers gear up for the new California Common Core State Standards in Mathematics. The new standards, and testing to match them, will launch in fall 2014.
Read more on the ITQ grant
Read the story in the Santa Maria Times

Professor's Activity for All Group Helps Little Boy Walk

Four-year-old Nathan Cooper was born with spinal muscular atrophy. In December, he received a new device that will allow him to walk alongside his parents on dirt trails. The students who developed the four-wheeler nicknamed it the "Strider." Nathan is one of the latest people to be helped by the Cal Poly Kinesiology Department’s Activity for All project, headed by Kinesiology Professor and department chair Kevin Taylor.
Read about Nathan and his Strider

American Teacher documentary poster

More than 500 Attend School of Education Film Screening, Discussion on the 'American Teacher'

Cal Poly's School of Education hosted a documentary screening and discussion on the current state of public education in January. The event at the Fremont Theatre, drew a crowd of roughly 500 people. The panelists for the post-screening discussion were Julian Crocker, San Luis Obispo County superintendent of schools; Kim Ehrisman, an Oceano Elementary School teacher and Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) master teacher; Santa Maria High School Principal Joseph Domingues; and Santa Maria High School Assistant Principal Peter Flores.

Physics Professor, Students, Gearing Up to Learn by Bringing Technology to Guatemala

Guateca students with laptops

Forthe second summer in a row, some 20 Cal Poly students will head to Guatemala with Physics Professor Pete Schwartz to meet 20 Guatemalan students and adapt first-world technologies to the realities of life in the small mountain town of San Pablo, elevation 9,000 feet. It’s all part of Cal Poly’s upper-division Appropriate Technology courses. The classes focus on economic, resource, energy use and sustainability issues in developing nations. Students in the classes are encouraged to design and create sustainable energy, housing or transportation devices or systems, complete with business plans for implementing them in developing countries. During summer 2012, the Guateca Project students plan to create better-functioning greenhouses for San Pablo. That would allow residents to extend the growing season for the town’s two viable export crops: roses and tomatoes.

More on the Guateca Project

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Real World Research


paper test strip

Chem Professor Finds Simple Copier Toner Helps Paper Strips Cheaply Diagnose Diseases

Chemistry Professor Andres Martinez spent a year studying medical clinics in Africa, hoping to find a way to help doctors in impoverished areas find new tools to cheaply and rapidly diagnose disease. On his return to Cal Poly, he developed pre-treated strips of paper that would change color to diagnose disease in response to body fluids. The strips don't require refrigeration, are cheap, low-tech and could greatly help doctors diagnosing disease in undeveloped nations. In his ongoing research at Cal Poly, Martinez and his students think they've created a cheap and effective way to keep the paper test strips from becoming contaminated during handling, transport or use. Using a store-bought printer, Martinez coated his prototype paper test strips with up to six layers of ordinary printing toner. Martinez and his student lab team found that four layers made the devices watertight and protected samples from contamination at a cost of roughly one penny per strip.
Read about Martinez in Chemical and Engineering News Magazine

Cal Poly Now Among 200 Cold Physics Atom Trapping Labs Worldwide

Professor Gillen and student with MOT

Physics Professor Katharina Gillen and her students have built the university’s first Magneto Optical Atom Trap, boldly going where Cal Poly physics students have never gone before: on a quest to trap, freeze, slow and study atoms. Gillen, who specializes in atomic physics, received a three-year $200,000 National Science Foundation grant to fund final assembly of the trap, called a MOT in physics circles. The NSF grant is also funding a series of trapped atom experiments Gillen and her team of graduate and undergraduate students can now run on the MOT. In building the MOT and running experiments in it, Gillen's students are learning advanced laser and optics skills, computer programming, and real-world research skills.
More on the MOT

Stress Makes Dragonflies Drop Like, Well, Flies

Professor Shannon McCauley

Stress can kill on a dramatic scale, according to a study by Cal Poly Biological Sciences Professor Shannon McCauley. McCauley studied immature dragonflies forced to live next to scary predators. In a newly published study, dragonfly larvae living within sight and smell of predators such as fish had 2.5 to 4.3 times higher mortality than dragonfly larvae living in a predator-free environment — even though the dragonfly larvae were protected by a cage and could never be eaten by the predators. The study was published in the journal Nature and covered on CBC News.
Read the story on the CBC Web site


Bio Professor Solves Unexpected Mystery in Norway Fjord

Cal Poly Marine Biology Professor Mark Moline is on Fulbright study in Norway, doing research on climate change in the Arctic. Moline specializes in using autonomous underwater vehicles, shaped like mini-torpedos, to gather data under the seas. While on a run in a remote fjord in the Norwegian arctic, Moline's AUV found the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in the Adventfjorden nearly eight years ago. Moline is the 2011-12 Fulbright Chair in Arctic Studies at the University Centre in Svalbard, a research institution on the island.
Read the full story in Cape Cod Online
Read about more Arctic adventures in Professor Moline's blog

Physics Professor Aids Discovery of Magnetic Bacterium

Badwater Basin

Cal Poly Physics Professor Richard Frankel is part of an international team of scientists that discovered, documented and domesticated a magnetic, sulfate-breathing strain of bacteria from the wilds of Death Valley, a feat that will enhance the understanding of how bacteria make minerals and could aid advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology. Frankel worked with University of Nevada Las Vegas microbiologist Dennis Bazylinski and other scientists on the project. The group’s findings were published in the Dec. 23 issue of Science Magazine.
Read more about the new magnetic bacteria

Dropping Even A Few Pounds Helps Diabetic Women

Kinesiology Professor Suzanne Phelan and colleagues published a new study showing that overweight diabetic women who adopted and stuck with diet and exercise changes lost an average of 17 pounds in one year. Along with the weight loss came a lower risk of developing urinary incontinence. It also brought heart health and a host of other benefits. The study was published recently in the journal Urology.
More on Professor Phelan's study in Fox News

Professor, Student Present Research on Ancient Mountain Range

Professor Johnston and student

Cal Poly Geology Professor Scott Johnston and student Kenjo Agustsson spent a summer on the chilly slopes of Greenland, delving into the roots of ancient mountains to study the history and makeup of the Earth’s crust. Last fall, they presented their research findings at the 2011 Meeting of the Geological Society of America. The four-day event in Minneapolis drew some 6,300 scientists. The trek to Greenland in 2009 and the October trip to Minneapolis were funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Johnston’s research, presented at the conference, focused on finding out more about the chemical composition and stability in the deepest layers of the earth’s crust. Johnston chose Greenland for his research because it is home to the remnants of the western half of a giant mountain range created 400 million years ago when the tectonic plates underlying Europe and North America collided.
More on Johnston's research


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Fighting Crime with Science in the Big Apple

Marie Samples in the lab

New York City is a tough place to tackle crime, but Marie Samples uses science and her Cal Poly degree to do it every day. Samples (B.S., Biochemistry, 1982) is an assistant director at the Department of Forensic Biology in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner there.

It's the nation’s largest public forensic crime lab. Samples was profiled in Cal Poly Magazine's winter edition. You can read the extended version on the COSAM Website.
Extra: What are the most realistic crime dramas on TV? Samples answers.
Read the extended online Q&A with Alum Marie Samples


COSAM Grads Setting a Science Trend

Prof. Tomanek with Loredana Serafini

Cal Poly BioSci alumna Loredana Serafini and Professor Lars Tomanek were showcased in a Science Magazine story. The piece focused on university programs that produce bachelor's and master's grads ready to step right into biotech jobs that once required a doctorate.
(Above: Professor Tomanek and Serafini at her graduation).
Read the story


Alumni in the News

A Cal Poly alumnus and wildlife biologist was killed by a falling branch during a wind storm in Big Sur in November while caring for one of the California condors he was dedicated to saving. Find out more in

An education alum reminisces about his WWII days as a Tuskegee Airman as "Red Tails" hits theaters. One bio alumna is researching disease on the East Coast, while another is documenting rare plants in California. Read about them in the 2012 COSAM Alumni in the News column.

Alumni Notes

Browse through notes alumni have sent in from all over the country over the past year, with updates on what they're doing now.
Read Alumni Notes

Submit an Alumni Note

Coming Up


Bring the Kids, Explore the Oceans


Cal Poly students will be on hand with family-friendly fun at the Avila Beach Sea Life Center Saturday, Feb. 25 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children can see, touch and learn about hermit crabs, sea stars, sea urchins, clams, sea snails and more.


Today's Students


Master's Candidate Wins Wildlife Competition for Best Presentation

Cody Massing on boulder

Biological Sciences master's degree candidate Cody Massing won the Best Student Oral Presentation competition at the annual meeting of the Western Section of The Wildlife Society — an association of professional wildlife biologists and managers in California, Nevada and Hawaii.

She presented her research on behavioral plasticity (adaptability) in American Pikas in the face of climate change. This is the second year in a row that a Cal Poly biology grad student has been recognized at the event.
More on Massing's award

See her presentation on American Pikas (pdf)

Teaching Credential Candidate is an 'Unsung Hero'

Noel Friend and African childrenWhat kind of teachers does Cal Poly's School of Education produce? The kind who want to change the world. Teaching credential candidate Noel Friend, currently studying in the School of Education, was recognized as an Unsung Hero for her study abroad and fundraising work for AIDS orphans in Africa.

Friend is also one of the College of Science and Mathematics students who received scholarships from the Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation (MSR) this year.
Read the San Luis Obispo feature on Friend

Read about all nine COSAM MSR scholarship winners

STRIDE Chefs Bringing Nutrition to Middle Schools

chef students cookingA program designed to bring nutrition knowledge to middle school students and their families through after-school cooking classes will be used as a model across the country in 2012.

Cal Poly student Health Ambassadors  lead the Pink and Dude Chefs program, teaching middle school chefs-in-training how to use fresh ingredients to prepare healthy meals and snacks for their families, and serve as positive role models.

It's just one of the programs of the STRIDE (Science through Translational Research in Diet and Exercise) center, headed by Kinesiology Professor Ann McDermott.

Thanks to grants and private funding, STRIDE professors and students created a series of online training videos on how to recreate the program at their own schools.

Find out more about the
Pink and Dude Chefs training program

Visit the 'Pink and Dude Chefs' section on the STRIDE website (scroll down to see video)

COSAM Alumni Family Grows by 123 Grads

2011 December Grad with Butterfly CapSome 123 new graduates joined the College of Science and Mathematics alumni family in December during ceremonies in Mott Gym. Welcome!


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