Alumni Advisory Council Offers Advice

CAST alumni council The College of Science and Technology Alumni Advisory Council met with the dean, program coordinators, chairs, director, and members of the Center for the Sciences building committee on Friday, September 30.

Alumni attending included:

  • Mr. Rob Mancini, Chief Technology Officer for Washington, D.C.
  • Dr. Earnie Paylor, President of WorldTech International
  • Dr. Racquel Collins-Underwood, cancer researcher, St. Judes Children's Research Hospital
  • Mr. Mark Hanna, Research and Development Manager, Johnson & Johnson
  • Mr. Chris Flor, Director of Consulting,Southwest Virginia Center of Excellence, CGI Federal
  • Mr. Seth Peery, Senior GIS Architect, Enterprise GIS Research and Development Administration department at Virginia Tech
The group discussed the latest college accomplishments, changes and the planning for the new building. Distinguished alumni from many college programs offered insight into the needs of companies with employees in science, technology and math. In addition to proficiency in the STEM disciplines, they also emphasized the need for students to be able write effectively.

After the meeting, the alumni spoke with interested students about their experiences upon graduation and job search tips.

The CSAT Alumni Advisory Council will meet again in October 2012.

IT Students Presents Cyber-Security Research at Prestigious Conference

Information technology student Austin DeVinney's interest and curiosity has paid off with a summer internship opportunity with cyber-security expert and Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Virginia David Evans.

Evans was invited to Radford University by the CSAT STEM Club in the spring as a speaker for the Distinguished Lecture Series. Information technology faculty member Prem Uppuluri says that's when DeVinney took advantage of opportunity.

"Immediately after the lecture, Austin got a chance to meet informally with Dr. Evans," says Uppuluri. "This meeting impressed Dr. Evans enough that it turned into a summer research opportunity for him at UVa," says Uppuluri.

During the summer, DeVinney collaborated with Evans and his computer security student group. "I came into the group and was put on a project called 'GuardRails.' It is a source-to-source Ruby on Rails security framework that will take annotated code and transform it into a more secure version," says DeVinney.

In addition to the project, DeVinney collaborated with Evans on an academic poster that detailed features and integrations of the 'GuardRails' system, which he presented in August at the USENIX Secruity Symposium 2011 in San Francisco.

According to Uppuluri, this was an incredible opportunity for DeVinney to meet some of the leading scientists in computing. He says this symposium is considered by many security experts as the best conference in the world.

Many national media publications such as InformationWeek, Computer World and Forbes, attend the conference to learn about the leading edge of computing research.

DeVinney said that he continues to work with Evans throughout the school year. "We are currently developing an add-on for Google+ that I cannot give details on just yet," he adds.

Students Present Research at American Chemical Society Meeting

Chemistry Students Present In October, five undergraduate researchers in chemistry presented their work at the South East Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS) in Richmond.

Students across the college receive undergraduate research experience and, with the encouragement and guidance of their faculty mentors, travel to regional and international conferences to present their work.

Students Brittany Wike and Alex Noble presented their research with chemistry faculty member Kimberly Lane entitled "Mutagenesis of the active site and subunit interfaces in bacterial β- glucuronidase."

"We are looking at the active site and subunit interfaces of the enzyme to learn more about the thermodynamics of it," says Wike about her research.

Wike took biochemistry with Lane and knew that she wanted to be involved in Lane's research. "I expressed my interest in her research and joining her team. That semester she took me in as one of her researching students," says Wike.

Wike says that SERMACS was her first conference and she loved it. "The experience as a whole was just incredible. The posters and the presentations were interesting, and the way the conference was laid out was well done," she says. She enjoyed that there was always something to learn and do at the conference. "I particularly enjoyed walking around the different vendors and seeing what new gadgets they brought with them. I also like the graduate schools that came and passed out information about their programs," she said.

She said that as a biology major and chemistry minor, the conference allowed her to learn more about research across the region. "I was able to also appreciate more of the things some of the other presenters were talking about because the professors at RU do such a nice job explaining material and helping students. I think that was the best part about this experience in regards to my education experience at Radford," she explains.

The presentations and speaking with the vendors at the conference gave Wike an idea of what awaits her upon graduation. "SERMACS gave me a little bit of a window into what it would be like at some of the schools that came to give out graduate school information, or maybe one day I will work with one of the vendors to buy a piece of equipment," says Wike.

Chemistry student Rebecca Mayfield presented a poster regarding her work with faculty mentor Joe Wirgau entitled "Thermodynamic investigation of ternary complex formation of ferrioxamine B and imdazole." Wirgau gave a talk about this research in addition to his previous research results entitled "Role of ternary complex formation with iron(II) chelators in the reduction of ferrioxamine B by biological reducing agents." He says that his research is attempting to better understand redox chemistry of the iron overload drug Desferal.

Mayfield said that she enjoyed learning more about graduate programs available for chemistry students. "There was a graduate fair at the conference, which was a good time to get to talk with reps from various graduate programs and to get a feel for some different career opportunities after graduation. It was also good just to talk with professionals and people already in the work-force," she says.

Chemistry student Jacob Shelton presented his research with faculty mentor Christine Hermann entitled "Synthesis of Ethanol from Sugar, Starch, and Cellulosic Feedstocks."

Chemistry faculty member Tim Fuhrer and his student Chris Pregot presented their research "Computational evidence for the effect of chlorine as a catalyst for fullerene formation." In addition, Fuhrer gave a talk entitled "Y2C2@C92 and Y2C2@C82: Two distinct carousel type cluster rotations."

Professors and Alumnus Collaborate to Promote Land Productivity

Biology associate professor Christine Small will be collaborating with management associate professors Iain Clelland and Gary Fetter, and CSAT Alumni Advisory Council member and geography alumnus David Bradshaw on a project to increase land productivity in southwestern Virginia. The study "Terra2B: Development and Scenario Testing of a GIS-based Model of Appalachian Agroecosystems Management" is funded by a $17,700 Radford University Faculty Research Grant.

The project will develop and test a science and technology-based model of Appalachian agroecosystem management on privately-owned lands in southwestern Virginia. "Our goal is to enhance economic growth for land owners and local communities by increasing and generating new avenues for natural resource productivity while also maintaining ecosystem integrity," says Small.

According to Small, about half of the population of the New River Valley (NRV) region live on land classified as rural. Yet more than 700,000 acres of land in the NRV is owned by private citizens who live outside of the state. She says, these tracts are unmanaged and the potential financial productivity is lost.

Non-residents currently have few options to manage their land effectively. Labor is difficult to acquire. Information is difficult to utilize because of its complexity. The support network for private landowners is fractured and severely limited. Another complication is that state and federal employment for advisors, such as agricultural extension officers, is being reduced, leaving a rural workforce that lacks expertise.

As a result, it is quite common for land, the most basic business asset, to be a drain rather than a source of income.

Small adds, private land management practices can have significant impacts on local ecosystems. For example, agricultural land remains the largest contributor of soil erosion and fertilizers and insecticides making their way into streams and other aquatic systems. Erosion from poorly designed forest roads is also a major problem for freshwater fish populations, rare mussels, and other invertebrates in wetland systems, says Small. Large areas of the rural southwest Virginia landscape are underutilized for various reasons, including labor migration from rural to suburban or urban areas, low soil productivity and landscape constraints such as steep topography, low agricultural commodity margins, and fragmented land ownership patterns.

The Terra2B project is currently in its initial phase. The team will work throughout the 2011-2012 academic year and through the summer on database establishment and model testing. Initial work will focus on expanding a GIS database for a 200 acre farm in Giles County in collaboration with Bradshaw, president of InteractiveGIS in Blacksburg, and Robert Giles, Professor Emeritus of Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources .

The team will expand this initial database by adding clusters of absentee land owner tracts and ecosystem, best management practices, and cost and revenue data.

The funded proposal includes a fall 2011 and spring 2012 undergraduate biology student to aid in collection of field and digital data, the development of a GIS database, and more extensive literature review on indicators of ecosystem health and sustainable land use practices. Kiersten Newtoff, an undergraduate biology major with an environmental concentration and geospatial minor will be working with Small on this project throughout the year. The grant also includes a stipend for a graduate assistantship in the College of Business and Economics.

"This project will bring together our best current knowledge for predicting effects of natural and human-induced environmental change resulting from managerial decisions on agroecosystems. We are making use of modern technological advances in remote sensing, GIS, and Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) to precisely test for optimized agroecosystem outcomes on clusters of private land tracts," adds Small

The research team hopes to create a system that helps absentee and local landowners make the most of their resources in an environmentally responsible way.

SCHEV Approves Geospatial Science Program

Geospatial Balloon The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) on Tuesday approved a Radford University degree program that will prepare students for careers in geospatial sciences.

The College of Science and Technology's new geospatial science program, approved by RU's Board of Visitors in November, is set to begin in the fall and to graduate its first class in 2015.

The geospatial science degree program, the first of its kind in Virginia, will provide specialized coursework for students who seek training in geographic information systems (GIS), digital cartography techniques and applications, remote sensing, environmental issues and geography in preparation for careers in geoinformatics or environmental planning and management.

"The degree in geospatial sciences will provide Radford University students enhanced opportunities to join a rapidly evolving workforce and to serve the Commonwealth by applying advanced technology and spatial analysis techniques to conduct research and solve problems," said Orion Rogers, dean of the College of Science and Technology. "This emerging field is transforming the way that geographic data is analyzed for scientific research and applications as well as the way business is conducted globally."

The program is designed to prepare students for careers as GIS analysts, planners, surveyors, cartographers, environmental quality engineers, water quality engineers and telephone systems mapmakers.

Students enrolled in the geospatial science program will gain knowledge in the classroom, laboratory and in the field, working alongside faculty expert mentors while using the latest geospatial science technology.

"Our students will benefit from the faculty expertise that already exists in geographic information systems, digital cartographic techniques, digital imaging processing and GIS field research methods," Rogers said.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) administers a variety of educational programs and makes higher education public policy recommendations to the governor and General Assembly in such areas as capital and operating budget planning, enrollment projections, institutional technology needs and student financial aid.

Physics and Anthropological Sciences Professors Research Better Way to Identify Covert Burials of Human Remains

Analyzing historic burials may give clues to the best way to find covert burials at crime scenes. Anthropological sciences professor Cliff Boyd and physics professor Rhett Herman think that examining and documenting Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) signals from marked and unmarked graves at historic cemeteries will help law enforcement effectively use GPR to recognize unmarked burials at crime scenes.

“With similar soil conditions and similar antennae on the GPR, graves from historic cemeteries and graves from crime scenes should be comparable,” says Boyd. He says, at a crime scene “we will be able to then say, yes, there is a burial here, based on what we know graves look like from known cemeteries.”

Boyd and Herman are able to conduct their research project “Using Remote-Sensing of Known Grave Sites to Develop a Forensic Science Model for Identifying Covert Burials” thanks to a $15,542 Radford University faculty research award.

Their project seeks to collect data to statistically evaluate and validate non-invasive, or non-intrusive, search techniques which are commonly used by law enforcement and forensic personnel in conducting searches for covert burials. This research focuses specifically on the use of GPR.

The project goals are to compare the efficiency of three different types of antennae used with the GPR—the 100MHz, 250MHz, and 500MHz—in terms of their identification of known grave sites in western Virginia. By evaluating the success in identifying known sites in various settings, more accurate estimates of their success in locating covert or hidden graves (especially cold cases) in similar environments can be developed. This information will greatly benefit law enforcement agencies in western Virginia by identifying best practices for searching for covert burials (excavated to hide human remains or other incriminating materials) using the GPR. This will reduce the time and funds needed for law enforcement to successfully complete a search.

RU Museum of the Earth Sciences Now Affiliate of VMNH

MES The Radford University Museum of the Earth Sciences (MES) has become an affiliate of the Virginia Museum of Natural History (VMNH).

According to VMNH this three-year-long designation implies mutual recognition and support of their common educational purpose. RU's MES was chosen as an affiliate because of its emphasis of Virginia's natural history and is recognized as a science-based facility devoted to research and the education of patrons of all ages in one or more disciplines of the natural sciences.

This partnership offers the RU MES enhanced opportunities to host VMNH traveling exhibits, to offer lectures by VMNH curators, to publish articles in the VMNH newsletter, to link to VMNH's website as an affiliate, and to receive collections advice and assistance from VMNH's collections department.

The Museum of the Earth Sciences, a component of the geology program in the School of Environmental and Physical Sciences, College of Science and Technology serves as an educational resource for earth science related themes for the university, K-12 students, and the general public. Encompassing the earth science related fields of geology, oceanography and physical anthropology, the Museum of the Earth Sciences fosters an appreciation of the Earth, its past, present, and future, and its interaction with humans.

Math Major Interns at Aspen Motion Technologies in Quality Control and Optimization

Math Aspen Motion Senior mathematics major and Charlottesville native Paul Sauer wanted to put his classroom knowledge to the test in an internship with local manufacturing company Aspen Motion Technologies. With a dual concentration in applied math and statistics, Sauer says this experience allows him to get a feel of what might be expected of him in the “real-world.”

“I think this is a going to be a great experience for me because I am actually applying the knowledge I have learned throughout college to real life problems in industry. My courses in applied mathematics have definitely helped me develop a new way of thinking by allowing me to view a problem from multiple angles and figure out the best way to solve it. My statistics courses however, have absolutely been the most helpful towards my internship as the internship is dealing with statistical experiments,” says Sauer.

His internship will conclude at the end of this semester and he is hoping that it will prepare him for a future as a statistician in industry or manufacturing.

Sauer says he is working mainly with quality control and optimization during his internship. Aspen Motions makes small brushless DC motors which go in a variety of products including the water pumps that cool the IBM super computers, Jacobson lawnmowers, industrial fans and data storage devices.

“I currently am working on a design of an experiment dealing with the potting of silicone in the motor for the Jacobson lawnmower,” says Sauer. “When the lawnmower reaches an operating temperature of 150 degrees Celsius, the silicone begins to bubble and seep into the internal diameter of the motor resulting in poor performance. My experiment deals with how the silicone is originally potted. I am trying various combinations of factors that are involved in the process to try and find the combination that produces no bubbling in the silicone,” says Sauer.

Mathematics and statistics department chair Jill Stewart helped Sauer find this internship experience. “I have been working with Dan Snuffer, the Quality Engineer at Aspen, for several years now placing interns. Dan serves as the site supervisor and I serve as the faculty supervisor for interns at Aspen. I procured the internship for Paul last spring when I learned that Paul needed the course,” adds Stewart.

Stewart says an internship is an invaluable experience. “There is a chasm of difference between the college experience and the experience of a real job. Internships bridge that gap. Students learn about the origination of problems, the process of teamwork, ways to research solutions, etc. when they spend time on a factory floor or in a business office. Through the internship experience a student gets a jump on collegiality, a positive attitude, good work ethic, and professional behavior,” says Stewart.

“To students debating on whether or not to do an internship before graduation, I would say go for it. It has been one of the best learning experiences for me and has really given me a glimpse of what I will possibly be doing in the future. It is a lot of work, but the payoff is humongous,” adds Sauer.