Archive for October, 2009

Spring 2010 Courses

PAWS registration period is creeping closer and closer.

*Fingers crossed*, I will have my glory day in the hot sun because I am the gatekeeper to my own destiny (yes, I did indeed just quote “Nacho Libre”), in other words, I will get into ALL my courses in one swift registration.

Here are the courses I am considering:

1. JPW Feature Writing Monday-Thursday 12:30-1:50

JPW Computer Assisted Reporting Monday-Thursday 2-3:20 Closed

JPW Media Ethics Monday-Thursday 4-5:20

ANT Epidemiology Monday-Thursday 10-11:20

2. Other Options

SOC Culture Health and Illness Wednesday 5:30-8:20

COM Monday-Thursday 3:30-4:50

JPW Magazine Writing Wednesday 5:30-8:20

I’m interested in pursuing the newly created public health minor, for which I need to take:

* Epidemiology

* Global Public Health or U.S. Public Health and Social Policy

* Science — Themes in Biology

* COM Health Communications Campaigns

* Methods of Communication Research


NSF Grant Shakes Up the Geoscience Curriculum

Assistant professor of physics Dr. Maggie Benoit admits that seismological instruction at the undergraduate level can be outdated and perhaps a little boring. However, she is looking to change that with a recently funded grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The $200,000 award from NSF’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) program will support the creation of curricular materials that foster hands-on and active engagement with cutting-edge research and authentic data.

In collaboration with the Education and Outreach Program of the national consortium Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) as well as representatives from the seismological research community, Benoit intends to bring into the classroom ten Grand Challenges identified as promising research directions on the frontier of seismology. These ten challenges, formally known as the “Seismological Grand Challenges in Understanding Earth’s Dynamic System,” were formulated at the Long Range Science Plan for Seismology workshop in 2008 to guide fundamental research for the next several decades. In developing classroom activities, including six inquiry-based laboratory exercises, based on each of the ten “Grand Challenges,” Benoit hopes to address the shortcomings in current seismological instruction.

According to Benoit, laboratory experiments in geoscience courses utilize methods that are generally outdated and fail to address misconceptions many students have about seismic phenomena. For example, one of the most common exercises is one in which students triangulate the location of an earthquake by means of an S-P method that has not been used since the late 1960’s. “When students leave their courses, there seems to be a real lack of understanding about seismology, waves and earthquakes,” explained Benoit. “Incorporating the Grand Challenges into laboratory activities is a much more fun and engaging way to meet the learning needs of students.”

As lead investigator, Benoit is responsible for the design of the data-intensive instructional modules which will be tested at three pilot institutions, including TCNJ. From there, the activities will be evaluated by undergraduate educators and seismological researchers and disseminated to instructors through education outreach programs utilizing IRIS’s existing national infrastructure. “Our goal is to have as many instructors adopt these modules as possible,” said Benoit. “We are planning special sessions at national meetings in geophysics devoted to faculty and seismologists around the country sharing ideas about how to fulfill the rest of the great challenges and so far there has been a lot of great feedback.”

One of the first activities Benoit developed explores the connection between seismology and climate change as demonstrated by the increase of glacial earthquakes along the coast of Greenland in the past fifteen years. Addressing Grand Challenge #3: “How do processes in the ocean and atmosphere interact with the solid Earth,” this exercise enables students to interpret and analyze authentic data to determine the cause of glacial earthquakes. “One of the goals of this project, other than just providing new activities for geoscientists to teach, is to get students excited about seismology,” said Benoit. “We are trying to pick really new discoveries and connect them to students’ lives.”

Dr. John Taber, Program Manager for IRIS’s Education and Outreach Program, expects the activities to become an important part of earth science curriculum nationwide. “We are pleased to be partnering with TCNJ on this project because the target audience is primarily students in colleges without graduate programs in seismology and the project was first proposed by Dr. Benoit,” Taber said. “Once [the activities] are tested, they will be distributed throughout the U.S., which is likely to enhance TCNJ’s profile among earth science departments.”

TCNJ physics department currently has nine students within the earth science track, and there are plans in the works to transform the track into a geophysics concentration. Benoit is excited about the new possibilities for students in geophysics and acknowledges that her involvement in the ten challenges program will greatly improve TCNJ’s standing in the community. “This will put TCNJ on the map in terms of the program we have here for geophysics,” Benoit said. “Having a higher profile not just in the teaching community but in research, will definitely help our students go on to graduate school.”

View article on TCNJ’s School of Science website

Computer Science Student and Professor Present at International Grace Hopper Conference

csconference_002As a female pioneer in computer science, the legacy of U.S. Navy Admiral Grace Hopper lives on in women like computer science senior Autumn Breese and assistant professor Dr. Monisha Pulimood, who joined approximately 1,600 professionals, educators, and students in a celebration of women in computing at the leading conference for women in the field.

The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference was co-founded in 1994 by Dr. Anita Borg and Dr. Telle Whitney to honor Hopper and aims both to celebrate the considerable achievements of women in the field as well as to inspire, educate, and create awareness of opportunities for women in computer science. The 2009 conference was held in Tucson, Arizona from September 30 to October 3.

Accustomed to attending conferences where women are in the minority, Pulimood says that one of the best parts of this conference was simply being able to interact with so many female computing professionals in one location. “It provided a place for professors, researchers, industry professionals along with graduate and undergraduate students to all come together and exchange ideas and thoughts about what’s going on in the computing field,” said Pulimood. “There was a lot of mentoring and networking going on, and they were really two key elements of the conference.” In addition to meeting leading professionals in the field and receiving one-on-one advice from faculty about graduate school, Breese says she unknowingly had the amazing opportunity to talk with Fran Allen, the first woman to receive the Turing Award, widely regarded as the “Nobel Prize of computing.”

Pulimood and Breese participated together in a panel session entitled, “The Best Way: Research by Undergraduates,” which also featured Dr. Andrea Danyluk, co-chair of the Collaborative Research Experience for Undergraduates (CREU) program, and Dr. Jan Cuny, program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program. Addressing the topic from a faculty perspective, Pulimood explained the advantages of being involved in undergraduate research, while Breese spoke from the student perspective of one who has significant experience in research, including undergraduate research experiences at TCNJ through the CREU program and at two off-campus Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs.

Pulimood noted it was particularly exciting to present with these two prominent women because their programs have provided amazing experiences for undergraduates at The College of New Jersey. As mentioned above, Breese participated in the CREU program last year, working with Dr. Peter DePasquale, assistant professor of computer science at TCNJ.  In addition, Pulimood, along with associate professor of computer science Dr. Ursula Wolz and associate professor of English Dr. Kim Pearson, are collaboratively heading a multidisciplinary CREU project involving three students, one each from computer science, interactive multimedia, and journalism.

Furthermore, Pulimood moderated another panel session, “Best Practices for Introductory Computer Science,” with faculty from other institutions that discussed the use of non-traditional teaching techniques, tools, and curricular approaches to reach a wider audience of potential computer science students. She said the collective purpose was to identify the range of learning environments that attract women and other underrepresented groups to the discipline in a manner that does not “dumb down” what and how it is taught.

Both Pulimood and Breese agreed that the conference was a great way to inspire and recognize women in a field where they are in the definite minority. “It was definitely encouraging for me to attend this conference and see so many women in computer science. I don’t understand why there aren’t more,” explained Breese. “I think sometimes the fact that computer science is a male-dominated field keeps it male-dominated because women are intimidated.”

“It is not that men are all running around like cave-man saying ‘Ugh, get out girls,’” she said with a laugh. “But I feel that if we could send every freshmen girl to a conference like this one, they would see how many women there really are and that they can be successful just like them.”

Pulimood plans on attending next year, primarily because she has a CREU grant that funds the three students working on the CREU project to accompany her. In the vein of Breese’s comment, however, she hopes to obtain funding so that more women within the computer science department can attend the Grace Hopper conference in the future.

View article on TCNJ’s School of Science website

Oink, oink– A Personal Testimony to What it’s Like to Have Swine Flu

Day 1: As I listened intently for the gender implications implicit in the lyrics of Beat It and Our Lips Are Sealed in the midst my honors midterm (yes,  I am in fact taking a course on Gender, Sexuality and Popular Music in the 1980s), a fellow classmate sneezed, I breathed in and — voila! — tiny viral particles invaded my immune system and prepared for ultimate domination. Well, that is at least when, where and how I imagine it happened (it does make perfect sense since she also had sudden onset of symptoms and so on) Regardless, at some point Monday I was infected with the dreaded swine flu, please read on for details.

Day 2: According to my doctor, symptoms usually present the day after infection and come about suddenly. And so that’s how it went for me. Returning home from a productive morning writing an article about “The Science Behind HOUSE,” I had a sudden onset of a severe headache, cough, sniffles, body aches, fatigue, and fever. I assumed it was just tiredness from my “Paranormal Activity” escapades the previous evening, but as I slept the afternoon away, my fever soared higher and higher and I started getting the chills. I barely slept at all that night, between alternating night sweats and chills along with a fever that refused to respond to Motrin.

Day 3: During the day, my fever modulated to around 99 to 100, which is pretty good compared to the scorching 102 or above from last night. I decide to head home so that I don’t spread whatever I have, which of course at this point I am assuming is swine flu as I have already gotten the regular flu shot. This night was the worst. Despite doses of two Advil every 4 hours, my temperature refused to duck below 102, and in order to get any relief, I had to use ice packs to bring down the fever. Once again, slept very little due to chills and returning fever. By the way, did I mention I have asthma? Wheezing, hacking cough and chest pains always brighten the flu experience.

Day 4: Luckily scored a doctor’s appointment this morning, where I was at first told that I most likely had swine flu and would be prescribed Tamiflu as a precautionary measure due to my asthma. THEN, the doctor persuaded me NOT to have the nasal swab to test if it is in fact H1N1 because the office apparently doesn’t have a lot of swabs left and testing is a hassle. However, I insisted because I didn’t want to end up with it again later this season if it turns out that’s not what I have now.

So, we do the swab. Basically, they stick a big q-tip up your nose and it burns like you just snorted hot sauce. But then, despite my symptoms and the impending nasal swab results, the doctor  concludes that I probably don’t have swine flu because I am sitting upright and am “dressed properly.”

Regardless, the test comes back positive and I start my twice a day for five days prescription for Tamiflu, an antiviral medication. A quick summary of the symptoms for the day: fever spiked to 102 midday, had to use those ice packs again but then went down to normal and stayed within 99-100 the whole night! Also, I rediscovered the wonders of alternating Tylenol and Motrin, which helped enormously to keep the fever regulated. Slept like a baby.

Day 5: Tamiflu seems to have worked wonders as I have not had a fever all day. Cough is still present but wheezing has lessened and body aches reduced. Only down side is that the medication has the unfortunate side effect of nausea, but that is easily overcome by eating a little something or taking it with milk.

Swine Flu Indicators (based on my personal experience not a general list, please see CDC for specifics):

Sudden onset


Unproductive Cough (non-mucus producing)/Runny nose

Loss of Appetite

Body Aches (felt like I was run over by a bulldozer)


School of Science Website: Physics Majors Hit the Sand for Annual Volleyball Match

Physics Majors Hit the Sand For Annual Volleyball Match

Newton’s laws of motion and gravity were put to the test as physics majors hit the sand for the 14th annual freshmen vs. upperclassmen volleyball match on Wednesday, September 9th, 2009. volley ball

Overcast skies could not dampen the enthusiasm of the students and faculty members who participated in the afternoon of friendly competition and welcoming spirit.  According to Dr. Nathan Magee, the event is a requirement of the freshmen seminar class and one of its main purposes is to break the ice between members of the department.  “Freshman are able to see their professors in a little bit more accessible and laid back context,” said Dr. Magee, Physics Chair and third-year participant. “In doing so, they get to know them as more than just talking heads in the classroom and also get the chance to meet some of the upperclassmen.”

With approximately 80 majors, Physics Club advisor Dr. Romulo Ochoa explained that the match was a great way for students to meet one another in the relatively small and close-knit department.  “There are only about twenty physics freshmen in a college of 1,300, so the chances of them meeting outside the department is about 1 in 65,” Ochoa said. “Volleyball is a relatively easy game to play and a fun way to connect.”

vball2 Corey Tang, senior physics major and treasurer of the Astronomy Club, emphasized the   importance of building relationships with fellow majors and faculty members. He explained that learning to rely on one another is essential and the volleyball match provides a great vehicle for doing so.

According to freshman Dacoda Nelson, the best part of the volleyball game was getting to know the faculty. Although he had met several professors prior to the game, he said he was more comfortable approaching them afterward. “It was really good just to see the professors as regular people and know you can talk to them,” explained Nelson.  “They can’t be that stuffy if they are playing volleyball,” he added with a laugh.

Reggie Ponder Response

As the first in a series of guest chats with professionals in the field this semester, Reginald Ponder was equally engaging and informative. I am very glad we were able to utilize the web-cam and Skype program despite initial technical difficulties because being able to talk person-to-person truly enhances the dialogue, especially towards the end when the class was perhaps a bit shy. With a career in advertising and a gig as a movie critic, Ponder is a great example of someone whose career fits his interests well, especially with his wide variety of side projects (syndicated shows in the works, movie critic for radio program and so on). His educational and career paths are an inspiration because he followed his interests from sociology to marketing and film, something I admire because at this point I am not quite sure of the career I would like to pursue.

One aspect of his talk that I really enjoyed was his inside perspective on the advertising industry. I had never before considered the wide array of careers available for writers and creative minds within advertising, whether it be media gurus, public relations or his role as a liaison between the client and company. It was also interesting to learn about his specialty in targeted ethnic marketing, which seems to take particular advantage of the “-ologies” he mentioned (sociology and psychology). There seems to be an added challenge in tailoring advertisements to a specific population because of the need to be in tune with the pulse of the community and aware of any sensitivities. However, our society is diverse and in order for a company to be successful, it needs to be aware of its audience and avoid offensive ads like the one Ponder mentioned (the car company with the tasteless commercial) that ultimately resulted in a major boycott.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from the discussion with Ponder was his advice on creating one’s personal brand. As evident on his LinkedIn page, in addition to listing the positions he has held, Ponder emphasized his skills and expertise, a key component to one’s brand. Furthermore, I particularly liked his concept of your personal website being like a business card. It helped relate to me the changing frontier of communications and job hunting in which perspective employers have an increased number of ways of learning about you via the Internet, whether it be your blog or pictures on your Facebook. Although I had been aware of this prior to the talk, after class last Wednesday I went back to my room and looked through my Facebook and website from an objective perspective. I did this to ensure it properly reflected the person I want to project because, as Ponder stated, it is the first impression in today’s society.

Overall, I really appreciate Ponder taking the time to speak with our class and his straightforward advice was really helpful. One question I did have for him that I did not get a chance to ask was how he would describe himself in terms of his brand. An advertiser? Movie critic? Both? Now that I am aware of the type of advertising he works in, I have been paying closer attention to commercials and advertisements to see if I can pick up any special marketing tools. I also plan on doing something similar when I watch movies, perhaps also keeping up to date on those movies he has reviewed because his perspective is really unique and offers a different take on subject matter than I normally pick up on, for example, the scalping reference in “Inglourious Basterds.” One can learn a lot about our society and the stereotypes that are subtly present by having a broader, more objective point of view in one’s interactions with others, a skill that would prove invaluable in any career.

A morning chat with Liz Henry

Last Wednesday in my Introduction to Professional Writing class we had the opportunity to chat with Liz Henry, writer, literary translator, blogger and self-described computer geek, about copyright law and the open-source movement. Despite technological difficulties involving a failed attempt at communication via Second Life, we finally were able to proceed with the talk with Skype.

It was really interesting to talk with someone who is both a writer and programmer as we go about creating our personal websites and become more familiar with web design. Of particular interest was the discussion on copyright laws, which is obviously important to keep in mind. I agree with the idea that although copyright laws were established with the intent of protecting an author’s work, at times they can be very restrictive and almost harmful to the flow of information. As a translator of Spanish poems, Henry cited her experience in trying to contact the copyright owner of a poem from 1925, with the ultimate conclusion that no one knew who owned the copyright. On a side not, she went ahead and translated it. (Way to go!)

I think that as an artist, whether you are a writer, painter, web designer or software programmer, there is of course the desire to protect your work from being stolen but also the desire to promote a sort of collaborative mentality in sharing ideas. Creative Commons, a site I had never heard of before, is an excellent way to accomplish these seemingly contradictory desires. By deciding how to license one’s creative work online, you can ensure that others can use it without bugging you for permission. As Henry mentioned, perhaps someone will read the work, respect it and hire you because it was made widely available. Overall, Creative Commons will be a great resource in building my web site, and I’m grateful that Henry took the time to discuss it.

In addition, I enjoyed learning about the history of the open source movement, essentially the belief that making software code freely available to programmers is the best way to stimulate the production of robust software. In this way, programmers will be inspired to produce high-quality programs by working together with similarly skilled individuals. The open source movement ties in with our discussion of copyright and Henry’s analogies of the bread recipe and car technology was a great way to understand the concept. She explained that she and many others in the movement want to control and understand their possessions “all the way,” for example looking under the hood of your car to see how it works. With bread, you can purchase it and eat but what if it were illegal to share recipes on how to make bread? That is basically the dilemma the open source movement seeks the overcome. Many people own software, use it and yet never know how to make their own.

I had never thought too much about the concept of openness in programming language and software code, “free speech not as in free beer” as Henry joked, but it does make a lot of sense. If we had more time, I would have liked her to explain more about the open source movement and software that was developed in that way, such as Apache.

One comment Henry made that particularly resonated with me was that she wished she had put more of her work “out there” earlier in order to build her reputation and spread her work. With this class and our portfolio website, I think I have been given an excellent opportunity to take that step and make the most of the array of resources available on the Internet. Like Henry mentioned, the Internet is a great public filing system for my work and an excellent knowledge management system for the information flow. Overall, Henry was a great guest speaker and as I mentioned before, I wish that we had had more time to talk further, especially about the book recovery project she mentioned at the end.