Note from the Dean
Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

Fall colors in front of the Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life
Sciences. Click on the image for a larger view.

Change is everywhere! Change is very obvious in the seasons with the trees and the temperature. Education's very reason for existence is one of change - helping our students develop and grow into productive and happy members of society. Education itself is changing with new knowledge, new technologies and new theories. This month our featured department is Computer Science, a field that was not even in existence until relatively recently. Our featured alum is a good example of change in a person's life. Warren tells a very interesting story with what appears to be a very happy ending with a great job at Google and a new family.

As you can see from the News of the Moment section, we remain busy in the School of Sciences. To supplement the classwork and lab work, our student groups remain active. As we work our way into the holiday season, I wish you the very best for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.

I hope you are enjoying these newsletters, and I look forward to sharing more of our work with you in February, after the holidays and after the start of the spring semester. If you have comments, questions or reactions, you may send an e-mail now to jholmes@cbu.edu .

News of the Moment
Halloween gig

The image above shows Dr. Stan Eisen and the Death Warmed Over band
on Halloween. Click on the image for a larger view.

On October 30 there was a Faculty/Staff Halloween Constume Contest held in the dining hall with music provided by our own Death Warmed Over band led by Dr. Stan Eisen, Professor of Biology. The event raised $200 for Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center. Members of the band (see image on the right) include: Steve Ritter (Aramark) - drums, Dr. Eisen - keyboard, Matt Vincent (sophomore) - lead vocalist, Kathleen Nelson (Junior Biology major) - flute, Rex Browning (dual enrollment student) - guitar, and Larry Anderson (Sophomore Chemistry major) - electric bass.

Dr. Ted Clarke, Assistant Professor of Physics, and Dr. Leigh C. Becker Professor of Mathematics, attended the Differential Equations Weekend Conference sponsored by the University of Memphis on November 7, 2009. Dr. Becker gave a talk entitled Uniformly continuous and asymptotically stable solutions of Volterra integro-differential equations.

On November 13 the annual Bowling for Uganda event was held at Billy Hardwick's All Star Lanes. Initial estimates put the number of people participating at about 125 and the money raised at about $1,200. More information about the fundraising efforts and winning teams will be in the next issue. This annual event is a fund raiser for the benefit of Hope North, Uganda, one of the MHIRT summer locations.


The 2nd Annual Dress Like a Mathematician Halloween Party & Pumpkin Contest was held on October 30 and sponsored by the Student Section of the Mathematical Association of America. It was quite a success. Our own Dr. Yanuska (aka Paul Garrison) attended, as well as deceased mathematicians: Eveste Galois, David Hilbert, and Omar Khayam. Guests enjoyed "pumpkin pi" and Halloween treats. The Pumpkin Carvers all creatively used mathematical symbols in the design of their jack-o-lanterns. While all participants deserved prizes, the first place award went to Catherine Del Bove and Brent Holmes, 2nd place to Andrew Fayne, Luck Eck, and Andrew Greenop. The image on the left shows students and pumpkins at the MAA's Pumpkin Contest.


Ting Wong presenting at the meeting

Ting Wong is shown above with her poster at the meeting
in Phoenix.

Ting Wong, Biology 2010, presented a poster at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Phoenix, AZ, last week. Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald also attended and served as a judge for the presentations of other students. The title of Ting's paper is Role of Alpha-1-Adrenergic Receptors on the Reconsolidation of Olfactor Fear. Coauthors are Fabricio H. DoMonte and Antonio Padua Carobrez. This research was funded by the NIH-MHIRT grant and was conducted at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brasil.


On November 15 CBU's chapter of Alpha Chi inducted new members. Among those inducted were science majors Mary Jane Dickey, Jennifer Cobb, Natalie Hart, Caitlin Ashley and Cheryl Clausel. Current science members are Kathleen Nelson, Elizabeth Calabretta, Rachel Haag, and Thang Pham. Alpha Chi is a multidisciplinary society whose purpose is to promote academic excellence and exemplary character among college and university students and to honor those who achieve such distinction. The number of individuals invited is limited to the top 10% based on the senior and junior classes within each school.



Alumni News

In the image on the left, Melody Allensworth, Biology 2009, is shown presenting at the Society for Neuroscience meeting as mentioned in last month's newsletter. Click on the image for a larger view.

Tim O'Leary, Biology 1999, and his wife Sarah just had their second child, Emma, born August 31, 2009.

Patrick Shirley, Natural Science 2006, and his wife Ashley had a daughter, Isabelle, born October 13, 2009.

Jackie Moore, Natural Science 2006, an All-Gulf South Conference basketball player for the Lady Bucs from 2003 to 2005, died suddenly on November 4 while working out at Eastern Illinois University, where she was assistant basketball coach and had recently earned a master's degree. She was in her third season as an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois. After graduating from CBU, she played professionally in Austria for a year. She is survived by her parents, William Moore and Rosemarie Gignac, older brother Eddie and younger sister Stephanie. Please remember Jackie and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

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Featured Story: Dual Degrees

It has always been possible to major in more than one academic field at CBU, and a few students have taken that opportunity. In one case, a student majored in five different subjects. A few years ago, Dr. Pascal Bedrossian developed a paradigm for a couple dual degrees, one with Computer Science and Mathematics, and the other with Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. These have proved very popular with students.

CHEM 115 lab

The image above shows students working in the CHEM 115
General Chemistry lab. Click on the image for a larger view.

Recently, the state of Tennessee began supporting high school students taking college level courses that counted both for high school credit and for college credit. Along with the traditional Advanced Placement courses, these dual enrollment courses now supply some entering college freshmen with quite a few college credits. One way to use these credits is to try to shorten the traditional four years of college. However, we would like to provide an alternative to this, since there is more to college than the collection of credits - opportunities for social growth and networking as well as opportunities to investigate many different academic areas. To provide this second opportunity to use the dual enrollment and AP credits, we thought it might be attractive to offer dual degrees, i.e., major in two different areas.

In the sciences, we realized that some areas were closely linked and had many courses in common. Dr. Bedrossian recognized this in creating his two dual degree programs. We found several others where it would only take a few courses to create dual degrees, including Math and Physics, Biology and Biochemistry, and Math and Chemistry. There were other pairs that could be done if the student had some credits coming into college. Right now, we have identified fifteen dual degree possiblities that look very doable. We are creating course checklists for these right now. You can see the possibilities on our web page at: dual degrees. If you would like information on any other possibility, please feel free to e-mail me at jholmes@cbu.edu .


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Featured Alum:
Warren Turkal , Computer Science 2003

I graduated with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Art in May of 2003. I have had quite a few interesting experiences and jobs since then and am now living in Campbell, California, part of Silicon Valley. I am also very involved in educating folks about free software (free as in freedom, please see http://www.fsf.org/ for more info). I have given talks to various groups and have engaged in consulting various companies on using free software.

Shortly before I graduated I was summoned for jury duty at the Federal court in Memphis, TN. Originally, my service was scheduled for the same week as my finals, and I thought that conflict would get me out of it. I was wrong; I just got rescheduled. Considering that I didn't have a job yet, I thought it would probably be an interesting experience, and I hoped I would get selected. I did, and I ended up serving as the foreman on a really interesting criminal case. After the defendant was convicted, he fled and became a fugitive. He was actually caught in late 2007.

Warrren Turkal and his son

warren Turkal and his new son.
Click on the image to get a bigger view.

My first job after college was as a contact Unix System Administrator at FedEx Services in Collierville, TN. I paid off all of my student loans during this contract. I strongly recommend avoiding student loans (and any other debt) if at all possible. During my FedEx contract, I actually interviewed for a contract position with Google in Atlanta to work in a data center, and failed to get hired. I actually paid one of my friends to drive to Atlanta so that I could try to rest on the way as I had to leave immediately after work to get there on time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get much rest. We got to our hotel after midnight and with only a few hours to spare before the interview. Then, I woke up later than I wanted to. However, I feel that my greatest mistake was wearing a suit to the interview. I was interviewed by one guy with a backward hat, jeans, and a T-shirt, while the other fellow had on jeans and a casual shirt. Due to lack of rest, I blanked on some really simple computer trivia, and I was kicking myself the whole way back to Memphis as a result.

Back at FedEx, I eventually converted to a full-time employee, and my title became Technical Analyst. With this, I realized a goal from the time that I was a young teenager. One of my close family friends was an employee of FedEx, and I always wanted to be employed there. However, things didn't work out so well there. While certain positions were almost certainly more interesting than mine, I found myself less and less motivated by my work as time went on. My manager also made my time there really unpleasant. I have some really good stories though. During most of my tenure at FedEx, I was also consulting with local businesses on IT issues involving Linux and other free software on the side. I ran a company called Penguin Techs during this time. I worked at FedEx at night and ran my business by day. Having gone as far as I felt that I could in my FedEx job, I quit for a job with a small web hosting company in Memphis in late October 2005. I was willing to go anywhere to get away from my group at FedEx. This new job only lasted for about two weeks.

I finally realized that I just needed to leave Memphis to take my career where I wanted, so I took a road trip to visit some of my family near Denver, Colorado. I applied for nearly every job for a Linux systems administrator in the greater Denver area while I was there. I received no callbacks during the trip, and headed back a couple weeks later. I then got a call from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, about a job as a Research Associate (actually a Linux systems administrator) for a small research group in the Department of Atmospheric Science. I flew out for the interview in December and started the job in the middle of January 2006. I also moved Penguin Techs to Colorado. It was a beautiful location, and I learned a lot by being the expert for all of our systems. I really enjoyed the Fort Collins area. My favorite part of the town was the local free software scene. There was a weekly group that I attended called Hacking Society that had a lot of really interesting people involved. While this group wasn't strictly a free software group, there was a lot of discussion around that topic. I also had the opportunity to consult with an attorney on some computer forensics during my time in Fort Collins.

In early 2007, I was contacted by a recruiter at Google for a Site Reliability Engineer position in Mountain View, California. I was certainly surprised they called me back given my abysmal interview performance before, but I certainly was interested. After a long and arduous interview process, I found out that I had the job. I moved out to Campbell, California, and started in July 2007. I have one thing to say about this job. This is the best job I have ever had, by a long shot. I currently work with the infrastructure systems. I also have a few other projects on which I work that make up about 20% of my work. These projects are related to free software production or research and development of new technology. I also get to work with a lot of really great people. Some of the most notable include Ken Thompson (one of the creators of UNIX), Guido van Rossum (creator of the Python programming language), and Jeremy Allison (core developer for SAMBA). Shortly after I started at Google, I had the opportunity to address the Public Relation Society of America in Memphis. I got to talk about the future of mobile technology and where I thought it was headed. It was a really fun experience.

On July 4, 2008, I got married in Las Vegas, Nevada, with my wife's and my family there. I got to drive a DeLorean back to my hotel that night. On October 9, 2009, Aerick Linus Turkal, my first son, was born. Things just keep getting better!

I would like to end with a little advice. Don't ever stop looking for what makes you happy. I feel that my willingness to think outside my box has allowed me the opportunity to go much farther in my life and career than would have otherwise been possible, and I am very happy for that. Also, if you have an interest in free software, please don't hesitate to contact me by email at wt@penguintechs.org with any questions.

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Thank You Notes to Sciences Faculty

This month we have a thank you note to Dr. Pascal Bedrossian, Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science.

May 15, 2009

Dear Dr. Bedrossian

I hope this letter finds you and your family in the best of health. It has been a year to date since I graduated from Christian Brothers University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. I am writing this letter to express my gratitude and sincere appreciation to you and the entire Mathematics Department at Christian Brothers University for their excellent work and dedication to imparting knowledge to students.

I am currently employed, as a Sub Systems Engineer, at Western Digital Inc., one of the pioneers in the Hard Disk Drive field. My work has been recognized not only by my superiors but also by my fellow work colleagues. I take pride when I tell everyone that I am a graduate from Christian Brothers University. The knowledge and opportunities that I have extracted from the four years I spent at CBU will last with me for the rest of my career and for which I am extremely grateful.

On a person note, Dr. Bedrossian, I had the honor of taking most of my Mathematics classes from you. You also gave me the opportunity to work at the CBU Math Center. Tutoring was an amazing opportunity to exercise my mathematical skills. I have been putting your guidance and advice to practice on a daily basis to make myself a better person.

I owe the University a lot for the professional it has helped shape me into, and I would like to have a long-lasting relationship with CBU. Once again, I thank you for the advice and guidance you have provided me while I was an undergraduate student at CBU.

Yours Sincerely,

Navin Prabhu

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Featured Major: Computer Science

CBU offers two related degrees in the broad field of computing with courses taught in three schools. The School of Business offers courses in Management Information Systems (MIS), the School of Engineering has a major in Computer Engineering (ECE) and the School of Sciences has a major in Computer Science (CS). The MIS 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.

Computer Science lab

The image on the above shows students working in the Computer Science Lab.
Click on the image for a larger view.

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. As mentioned in the featured article above, we are developing course checklists for additional dual degree options in CS with Biology, Chemistry and Physics.