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School of Sciences Newsletter
November 2008

By Johnny B. Holmes, Ph.D., Dean of the School of Sciences

Featuring Computer Science and Technology in Teaching

Note from the Dean News of the Moment Featured Article: Technology in Teaching Featured Alum Thank you's Featured Department: Computer Science

Dr. Holmes

A Note from the Dean

Beautiful surroundings and good tools really help. They really do. Our wonderful new and refurbished buildings do make a difference in our work. But more important than the physical surroundings are the people you work with. As much as I enjoy the windows in my office and the nice classrooms and labs that I teach in, I really value and appreciate the dedicated (and fun) faculty I work with and the students that are in my classes. At CBU I find it easy to remember that it is the students and their learning and development that are our reason for being here.

In this month's newsletter we feature the Computer Science department and the technology that we use in teaching. Computer Science and related areas are making a national comeback after the dot.com bust of a few years ago as we rediscover how efficient (and fun) this discipline can be. As good as the principles and tools are, however, it still depends on the people using those principles and working with those tools. I'm proud of the way our professors both challenge and help our students in all of the sciences, and I hope this newsletter gives you at least a glimpse of their efforts.

I hope you are enjoying these newsletters. Due to final exams, then the holidays, and then the logistics of starting up a new semester, the next newsletter is scheduled for February. If you have comments, questions or reactions, you may send an e-mail now to jholmes@cbu.edu . There are other newsletters from the other schools at CBU.

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News of the Moment

Ribbon cutting at the Dedication

The image on the right shows the ribbon being cut at the dedication. From left to right: Mr. Willis H. Willey III, Chairman, Board of Trustee at CBU; Mr. Martin F. Thompson, Secretary, Board of Directors at the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc.; Mrs. Barbara Jacobs, Program Director at the Plough Foundation; Mr. H. Lance Forsdick, President of CBU; Dr. Marguerite Cooper, Associate Professor of Chemistry at CBU; and Mr. Bob Wilson. Click on the image for a larger view.

The official dedication of the new Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences and the completely renovated and refurbished Assisi Hall was held on Tuesday, October 28. Bishop Terry Steib of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis performed the blessing. A reception followed in the new Plough Courtyard which is the area between the two science buildings: Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences and Assisi Hall.

On Oct. 23, Mole Day, the Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, performed chemistry demonstrations at Holy Family School. CBU alum Garrett Smithson, Natural Science 2005, was one of the teachers for whose students the demos were performed.

NATIONAL CHEMISTRY WEEK (October 27-Oct. 31): The Chemistry Department celebrated National Chemistry Week by having demonstrations each day in the Buckman Quad. On Monday, the week started off with a bang by detonating hydrogen balloons at approximately 12 noon. On Tuesday, the famous Diet Coke/Mentos candy fountain was performed with many students. On Wednesday, a large scale thermite reaction was created, making liquid iron in a flower pot. On Thursday, the department made "gold pennies" to give away. On Friday, they finished off the week with another bang of hydrogen/oxygen balloons.


MAA meeting

The image on the left is from the MAA student meeting. Click on the image for a larger view.

On October 30, the CBU Student Chapter of the Mathematical Association of America had a "Dress Like a Mathematician Halloween Party & Pumpkin Carving" party. Several students and faculty dressed up and presented a brief biography of their favorite mathematician.

On November 5, Beta Beta Beta, the Biology Honor Society, held mock interview sessions for students interested in the health professional schools. The 30-minute interview sessions began with a dinner at 6:30PM.

On November 6 the Health Career Opportunities Fair was held at CBU from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the Sabbatini Lounge, Thomas Center. The annual Fair is arranged to help CBU students find out about graduate programs in health care. At the annual Health Career Opportunities Fair representatives of health-related graduate programs are available to answer students' questions about their programs. This event is anchored by the various schools of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, and representatives from other regional universities and from the military scholarship programs join in.

On November 14, Beta Beta Beta, the Biology Honor Society, held its annual Bowlathon for Uganda with the proceeds donated to the Hope North Community in Uganda that shelters and educates Ugandans displaced by the war. This year a new water pump system will need to be installed or Hope North is in danger of being shut down. It will cost over $5,000 -- BBB's goal is to meet $2,000 of the cost with this event.

On Friday, November 21, the CBU Student Chapter of the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) will hold its Chess Prodigy 2008 event as a fund raiser for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The event will be at 2 PM in the Student Lounge (2nd floor) in the new Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences building. Contact Professor Cathy Carter (at ccarter@cbu.edu) for more details.


Alumni News

Zachary Maxwell

Some very sad news: The world lost a wonderful, caring and compassionate man with the death of Dr. Zachary Maxwell on October 26, 2008. Zach grabbed life with gusto in everything that he did. He was friends with all and was successful in his endeavors. Zach was very intelligent and graduated at the top of his class both from CBU (class of 1998) and UT Medical school (class of 2002). But he was so much more than someone that learned from books. He learned from life. He could have gone anywhere to practice medicine, but chose to study and practice family medicine in his home town of Covington. He married his long time girlfriend Melanie and together they had one child, Mia, who is three. Listening to his friends, co-workers, family and friends in the church during his funeral, everyone felt a personal loss with his death. We will miss you Zach. An online guestbook is available for condolences through November 26. Pictured with Zach are his parents at graduation from UTCHS in May 2002.

A note from Jami S. Gattuso, MSN, RN, CPON, Natural Science 1983: "Dr. Holmes, thanks for the science newsletters that are being sent. I enjoy them and am glad to see the changes and work that you all are doing! I am a proud CBU alum—class of 1983, Natural Science. I went to nursing school at UT Memphis and got both a BSN and MSN. I work in the Division of Nursing Research at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and am involved in studying quality of life, fatigue/sleep, and end-of-life issues. I also coordinate an in-house fellowship program for research and evidence-based practice. My husband, Frank, is a CBU 1984 alum (history major) and we have 3 daughters, the oldest of whom is a sophomore at CBU!"

From Frank Rameriez, chemistry 2008: "Everything is going well! Just trying to keep on top of all these classes but I am learning so much and loving every moment. I am so glad the CBU School of Science pushed me because if they hadn't I would be struggling."

Michael Herr, biology 2008, dropped by the other evening and expressed essentially the same comments as Frank above. He was especially thankful for his biochemistry course at CBU.

Dino Basic, biology 2003, announced his engagement to Merima Besic (yes only one letter different). The wedding will be June 20, 2009.

Corta Thompson, biology 2004, announced her engagement to Bo Ronnie Nilsson. She is a traveling nurse currently working on the cardiac floor. "Travel nursing is when you are employed by an agency and you travel to where there is a need for nurses. they pay really well and all your expenses are payed. You can take out contract to work at the location from anywhere to 6 weeks to a year. Plus you get to go to places like New York, Hawaii, and Alaska. Basically anywhere."

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Featured Story: Technology in Teaching

physics computer homework example

The image on the left shows a screen from one of the computer homework programs developed at CBU on the theory of relativity.

Many faculty members at CBU have made very good use of technology in the classroom and in their course support materials. Powerpoint provides a useful classroom tool. As with any tool, it has the potential to be abused, but it also has the power to be a way of providing clear and concise notes including images and graphs. Some of the professors post the powerpoint presentations on their web sites as a way of providing good class notes that can be annotated by the students in lecture, freeing up time for the students to listen and participate in class. Another powerful tool is spreadsheets that can show numerical techniques and provide simulations. These also are sometimes posted on professors’ websites and can be used and experimented with by students. Some of our professors use WebCT as a tool to provide graded homework and class information.

But computers provide more than just powerpoint and spreadsheets. In the Physics Department here at CBU, I have worked with Dr. John Varriano to create computer homework program sets that have been downloaded by hundreds of other educators around the world. I started this work in about 1980, so there are now plenty of CBU science and engineering graduates that are familiar with these. Based on student comments on course evaluations and student performance on tests, these program sets are a useful learning tool.


students working in Human Anatomy & Physiology I Lab

The image on the right shows students using the Biopac system in their Human Anatomy & Physiology Lab (BIOL 217L).

Biology is very image intensive, and our biology faculty have used the ability of the computer to store and retrieve images quickly. Particularly outstanding in this area is Dr. Anna Ross. She has shared with me many notes of thanks from around the world for her resources she makes available on the web. And the biology resources on our intranet are even more extensive!

In chemistry, molecules exist in three dimensional space, so the computer is now an important tool to “see” these molecules in 3-D. We have a Molecular Modeling Center on the chemistry floor to aid our students in this. Dr. Mike Condren, professor of chemistry at CBU, is one of our local experts on the use of WebCT since he has developed several of his chemistry courses with this tool.

In mathematics, the department uses the Maple programs to help visualize functions in several dimensions (parameters). Not only do the math faculty use this tool, they also create tools that they share with others in the world. For instance, Dr. Leigh Becker worked with a CBU student, Micah Wheeler, on his senior research that was presented at the 2005 CBU research poster session. It was entitled A Trapezoidal Method for a Volterra System of Integral Equations. A Maple worksheet was developed from this research, and it has been published by Maplesoft at its Maple Application Center web site.

The use of computers in the lab is everywhere. They provide excellent tools in the gathering of data and in the analysis of that data. Almost every instrument now has a computer interface. We try, however, in the labs to really let the students see and understand what is really going on and not just learn to push buttons.

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Thank You's to Science Faculty

There are two thank-yous this month: one from a recent Math graduate and one from a school that our student affiliates of the American Chemical Society visited.

Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2008 15:25:46 -0400 
To: jholmes@cbu.edu 
Subject: Thank you to the School of Sciences 

Hello Dr. Holmes,

This is Micah Wheeler; I graduated in 2004 from CBU with a degree in Mathematics.
I am writing to express my gratitude for the quality of education I received from 
the dedicated professors and community at CBU.  When such capable educators set a 
high standard for their students it challenges us to expand our own capabilities.

I recently passed the Society of Actuaries Probability exam.  This a very rigorous 
test, and without the solid background and study discipline I gained from CBU I 
would not have been able to pass it.

Thanks for all that you do.

Micah


SAACS at Holy Family Catholic School

The image on the right shows Dr. Mike Condren with students from Holy Family School watching a chemistry demonstration. Click on the image for a larger view.

Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2008 13:33:56 -0500
From: Mille P. Smith
To: mcondren@cbu.edu
Cc: Garrett Smithson
Subject: Thank you!

Dear Dr. Condren:

On behalf of the students and staff at Holy Family School, I thank you for brining the demonstrations and experiments to our school. The best learning is when you can observe, touch, and watch the demonstrations! The pictures are proof and it was so kind of you to send those as well.

Thanks again for making the trip down and please do come again!

Sincerely,

Mille Smith, Principal
Holy Family School
395 N. West Street
Holly Springs, MS 38635

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Featured Alum: William Horner, Mathematics 1980

Bill Horner

The image on the right shows our featured alum, William Horner. Click on the image for a larger view.

I graduated from CBC in 1980 with a B.S. in Mathematics. As a high school student I had little interest in mathematics, but my mathematical curiosity bloomed while taking calculus courses as part of the engineering curriculum. Eventually it dawned on me that my interest in mathematics far exceeded my interest (and talent) in engineering, and I became a math major. Drs. Yanushka and Becker were my professors for most of my upper division math courses. I recall that they were both excellent lecturers. It was not until after my graduation from CBC that I learned that they are gifted researchers as well. There were quite a few math majors for a school the size of Christian Brothers, and classes were rather large. It was clear to me that my professors were highly dedicated to their work, and to this day I sincerely appreciate their encouragement and guidance.

After getting my bachelors degree I earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Memphis State University. For the past 20 years, I have been a faculty member of the mathematics department at the University of Southern Mississippi. My doctoral thesis was in Differential Equations, but after publishing a few papers based on my dissertation I switched my area to Analysis and Operator Theory. I had the good fortune to collaborate with three professors from Memphis State and "haunted" their department for several summers after taking the job at USM. My research has probably been the most fulfilling aspect of my job, though I enjoy teaching as well. Our department is small for a university having around 15,000 students, so I've taught over 25 truly distinct courses.

The job opportunities for our bachelors recipients are quite variable, of course, with three of the major determinants being the student's academic record, choice of minor, and willingness to relocate. Students who choose Computer Science as a minor tend to fare particularly well, and a number of our students have found positions with defense contractors and the like. The graduates of our master's program have found good jobs, several teaching at the community college level and others entering industry. At least 6 of our master's students have gone on to earn Ph.D.'s in mathematics or engineering, and I am happy for their success and to have been a part of their training. While I'm handing out (unsolicited) career advice, let me sound a note of caution to undergraduate mathematics majors contemplating graduate school. If you anticipate earning a Ph.D. in mathematics, then the importance of getting your degree from a highly ranked program cannot be overemphasized. Please take a careful look at the faculties of several mathematics departments, paying special attention to where these folks got their degrees. You might be surprised to find that a large percentage of math Ph.D.'s earn their degree at topfight schools, and consequently departments which are not among the elite can attract faculty from these prestigious programs. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is a large and seemingly perpetual oversupply of research mathematicians. This has all the implications you might imagine. While my case may represent an "outlier", I am a full professor in a math department at a state university, with 20 years experience, who would require a raise of several thousand dollars to match the salary of a novice chemical engineer with a bachelor's degree. But having a math degree can be lucrative as well. Periodically our department solicits data from our graduates, including salary ranges, and it is clear that a bachelor's degree in mathematics, with good grades and some computer background, can put you on the path to a prosperous career.

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Featured Department: Computer Science
(In each issue we feature a different department or major.)

Computer Science lab

The image on the left shows students working in a Computer Science Lab in the new CW 324 lab room. Click on the image for a larger view.

CBU offers two related degrees in the broad field of computing with courses taught in three schools. The School of Business offers courses in Information Technology Management (ITM), the School of Engineering has a major in Computer Engineering (ECE) and the School of Sciences has a major in Computer Science (CS). The ITM courses prepare a graduate to manage software that solves problems in a business environment. The ECE degree prepares a graduate to design hardware and software. The CS degree prepares a graduate to develop software. A computer scientist designs algorithms to solve applied problems efficiently with software in such areas as video games, search engines, bioinformatics and secure communication. For example, one reason why Google is such a widely used tool for web searches is the speed and quality of its search algorithm.

Dr. Pascal Bedrossian, a CS faculty member, used a genetic algorithm to create a final exam schedule that meets the needs of both students and faculty. His algorithm creates a final exam schedule that a) has no conflicts for students; b) has no student taking four exams on any day; c) allows faculty to schedule multiple sections in one time slot for a common final exam; and d) minimizes those students who have three exams on one day. His algorithm represents a significant improvement over the old way where some students had to resolve conflicts of two finals in the same period and common final exams for multiple sections were difficult to accomodate.

Our Computer Science majors take an internship course in their junior year where they help to develop software for local businesses. They next take a capstone course in their senior year in which they complete a software project for industry in order to gain additional experience and use their skills and knowledge bases to solve a real problem.

The Computer Science degree requires an option in computer engineering, information technology management, bioinformatics or forensics. Bioinformatics applies techniques of computer science to solve biological problems at the molecular level. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital uses bioinformatics as one of its research tools to find cures for diseases. A computer scientist in forensics applies techniques of computer science to answer questions in the legal field.

CBU offers the opportunity to obtain dual degrees in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, and dual degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics.

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