From the Dean's Desk -- January 31, 2013

IBM Awards Jeff Pittges International Honor

Information technology associate professor Jeff Pittges was awarded a 2012 IBM Faculty Award to further his research on teaching Business Intelligence.   The award includes a $10,000 donation for research.  The IBM Faculty Awards is a worldwide competitive program, and nominations for these awards must be initiated by someone within IBM.  Pittges is the only professor from Virginia who received this award in 2012.  Award winners hail from universities across the globe including Carnegie Mellon University, University of Cambridge, Columbia University, University of Michigan, Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and MSU Moscow State University.  Pittges was one of 91 information technology faculty members to receive this international award.


RU Chemistry Club Wins National Honor

The American Chemical Society awarded the RU Chemistry Club with the 2011-2012 Commendable Chapter Award.  "Essentially, this means that the ACS likes what we're doing to promote our club and chemistry in general, and hopes that other clubs across the nation will follow suit," says 2011-2012 club president Jacob Shelton.

Shelton says that it's truly amazing to think about how much our daily lives are influenced by chemistry.  "All of our outreach efforts have been devoted to illustrating this point and to show that chemistry isn't just a field of science, but a way of life that we all participate in.  Most of all, it's really a lot of fun," says Shelton.

The Chemistry Club's 40 members perform chemistry demonstrations for local children, and assists the chemistry department in the RU Science Exploration Day, which has helped local boy scouts and girl scouts obtain the chemistry merit badge.

The club also participates in campus-wide events such as Club Fair, Earth Day, and The Highlanders Festival in order to promote the organization and its goals.  Last year, the group performed a chemistry demonstration for the residents of the Floyd Hall dormitory.

Shelton says, "overall, we have been commended for promoting chemistry both inside and outside the classroom, and we plan to continue doing just that!"

Faculty and Students Present Sea Ice Research

Physics professor Rhett Herman, junior physics major Alec Frazier, Southwest Virginia Governor’s School teacher Dan Blake and student Andrew Vaccaro recently discovered a correlation between the surface temperature of sea ice in Barrow, Alaska and its depth.  The group and other students in the Physics 450—Arctic Geophysics class conducted research during February and March 2012 in Barrow.  Since then Herman, Frazier, Blake and Vaccaro have been crunching numbers and analyzing data.  “We now just have to nail down the modeling parameters, and we might have a way to get the ice thickness over a large area in a very short time,” says Herman.

 Last month, the group presented their research findings at the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) 45th annual fall meeting in San Francisco.  Their poster presentation “Correlation between the surface temperature and thickness of Arctic sea ice” was a popular stop for arctic researchers from across the globe.  For example, the group presented their research to one of the world’s leading arctic researchers James Maslanik from the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  “Alec and Andrew did very well in their presentation, answering all of the technical questions.  I stayed back to let them have a chance to be at the forefront,” says Herman.


Biology Faculty and Students Present Bird Research at National Conference

Biology faculty member Jason Davis and biology majors Laken Cooper, Tara Paterson and Kristan Cale traveled to San Francisco in January to present their research at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology conference.

Cooper presented a talk Stop on Red: Neophobia and corticosterone in house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Paterson presented a poster Effect of captivity on hippocamal volume of Passer domseticus, and Cale presented her poster Developmental Investigation of Juvenile Hormone and Royal Jelly in Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa).

Cooper, a senior biology major and Radford native, says that presenting at this conference that was dominated by graduate students was a little overwhelming.  "Surprising, given the norm, most of the attendants expect you to be a graduate student and are delightfully surprised and impressed when they find out that you are not," says Cooper.

Davis says the students represented Radford University very well and many of the faculty in attendance were amazed that they were undergraduate students.  "Laken gave her talk to a packed auditorium, Kristan and Tara were so busy talking to people in front of their posters that I couldn't even find a moment to step in and check on them.  They did an incredible job, made me very proud, and represented Radford fantastically well," says Davis.

Cooper says this was a great learning experience. "From this experience, I was able to make connections with other professors as well as get feedback for ideas of future study," says Cooper.  She also enjoyed hearing talks from other disciplines, which made her think of other areas of interest she might want to explore.

Chemistry Students Present Research at American Chemical Society Meeting

Chemistry students and faculty presented their collaborative research at the Southeast Regional meeting of the American Chemical Society in Raleigh, N.C. 

Chemistry chair Joe Wirgau and students Michelle McDonald and Anthony Eid presented a poster Effect of Iron (II) Chelator on the Growth Rate of Escherichia coli Under Oxidative STress in the Presence of Ascorbate and Desferrioxamine B.

Chemistry faculty member Tim Fuhrer and his student Chris Pregot presented Computational study of synergistic effects of chlorine and fluorine as catalysts for fullerene formation.

Virginia Whales? Explore the Fossils of Ancient Whales of Virginia During MES Public Lecture


The first Museum of the Earth Sciences public lecture for the spring semester "Ghost Strata: Determining the age and depositional history of the Carmel Church Quarry" is Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Hurlburt Auditorium. Admission is free and open to anyone.

Alton C. “Butch” Dooley, Jr., Curator of Paleontology and Acting Assistant Director of Research and Collections at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville, will discuss the Carmel Church Quarry in eastern Virginia that is well known for its fossil whales and other marine animals. He says determining the age of this deposit has been a painstaking process that has taken many years of work. He will examine the Carmel Church deposits as a case study of how paleontologists determine the age of a fossil deposit.

RU Planetarium Welcomes More than 3,000 Visitors in 2012

The RU Science Days and RU Planetarium are introducing thousands of people to the wonders of science and the "great beyond."  During 2012, the RU Planetarium hosted a total of 3,349 guests for 128 separate shows in the facility.  Since its opening in October of 1999, the RU Planetarium has welcomed 31,815 visitors for 1,239 shows.

Science Days is a collaborative program among college disciplines that offers a day of science for K-12 students from schools across our region that includes forensic anthropology and archaeology, physics, RU Greenhouse tours, Museum of the Earth Sciences tours, RU Planetarium show, and a chemistry magic show.  In 2012, 1,841 students participated in Science Days in Reed and Curie Halls.


Our first STEM Club meeting was held on Thursday, January 24. The CSAT STEM Club meetings will be held every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Stuart Hall Lounge. However on February 7, we will be meeting in Reed Hall to go to the Museum of the Earth Sciences at 7 p.m., and will not have a normal meeting.

During the month of February, the CSAT STEM Club will have boxes placed around campus in Reed, Young, Davis, and Walker Halls for a canned food drive.

The club will be going to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. on April 13 for the spring trip. The trip is $15 per person and registration forms may be picked up at our club meetings or from Dr. Laura Jacobsen in Peters Hall. Anyone who is in a STEM discipline may attend.

On February 23, the CSAT STEM Club will be volunteering for Open House. Volunteers would be in charge of setting up, cleaning up, talking to perspective students about the CSAT disciplines, and directing people where to go.

We look forward to seeing both new and old members at our meetings and at our events.

Jasmine Jackson
CSAT STEM Club Secretary