Posts filed under ‘Eberly College of Science’
Twice a year, I find myself staring at my computer screen feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.
When it comes time to schedule classes, I’m always intimidated by eLion’s lists and lists of courses. That’s what happens when you go to a school with 40,000 students and more than 160 majors. I’m usually fine with classes in my areas of study (journalism and English), but general education courses are a different story. There simply are too many. Some seem intriguing; some, not so much.
Gen-ed requirements have changed a lot over the years: Now, all baccalaureate degree programs include a 45-credit gen-ed component, including three credits in health and physical activity, nine credits in natural science, six credits in art, six credits in humanities, and six credits in social and behavioral sciences.
So as students begin to schedule for fall 2012, I took a look at some of Penn State’s more interesting gen-ed courses. I begin with a class I took last year—a class where SpongeBob appears on the syllabus.
Course: Geosci 040: The Sea Around Us
Requirement satisfied: GN (Natural Science)
Why I took it: I’m not a science person at all. I had to late drop meteorology my freshman year (who knew predicting weather included calculus?) and needed an easier science class to take.
Interesting assignment: Once, we reported to the HUB-Robeson Center for class. Our lab that day consisted of analyzing the aquarium on the bottom floor. I had no idea there was such an intricate ecosystem living just 100 feet away from Sbarro’s. The most interesting aspect, to me, was that the 500-gallon tank has a self-regulated lighting system, which gets dark at night to mimic the real ocean.
What I got out of it: A new appreciation for beaches and environmentalism. When I visited Cape Cod last summer, I had a hard time looking at the dunes without thinking about how big they once were, and how they got there.
Course: CMLIT 120: The Literature of the Occult
Requirement satisfied: GH (Humanities)
Interesting assignment: Read the third installment of the Harry Potter series.
What you can get out of it: “In all honesty, an appreciation for the Harry Potter series,” says Alexa Agugliaro, who says she wasn’t on the J.K. Rowling bandwagon before enrolling in the course. “There are a lot of major drabby classes that people have to take while they’re here, so why not, if you have the room, take a cool class about like vampires and monsters.” It’s not all Harry Potter and Twilight, though. Agugliaro wrote her final term paper on the witches in Macbeth.
Side note: Agugliaro says the teacher wore a wizard hat and a robe every day and had a magic wand.
Course: KINES 028: Fencing
Requirement satisfied: GHA (Health and Physical Activity)
Interesting assignment: Just fence. Senior Matt Giacometti said there’s not much variety to the course, but he doesn’t mind. Students participate in basic drills, then fence each other. “It’s fun,” Giacometti says. “Exactly what you want from the class.”
What you can get out of it: “A ton,” Giacometti says. “I’m learning from coaches that have succeeded at the highest level. These guys have coached Olympians.” Giacometti’s professors for the course? Assistant coaches with the Penn State varsity fencing team—a program with 12 national championships and more than 170 All-Americans in the last 28 years. Did you know that Suzie Paxton ’93, a former Nittany Lion fencer and 1996 Olympian, started fencing in this gym class?
Course: Applied Linguistics 100
Requirement satisfied: GS (Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Interesting assignment: During one class, the students were asked to think of as many examples of semantic word as they could. As junior Jackie Giraldo recalls, “That was the first time I ever heard the word yinz,” Giraldo says.
What you can get out of it: Says Giraldo: “I learned how language has evolved over time, but also got a deeper look at how words have evolved, how syntax has evolved, and why things are said different ways in different places. I definitely have a new appreciation of communication of different cultures.”
Course: INART 115: Popular Music in America
Requirement satisfied: GA (Arts)
Interesting assignment: Students were required to participate in online discussions. One debate revolved around who is the most influential musician today, with one student making a good case that the answer was definitively Lady Gaga.
What you can get out of it: “I now understand the hardships that a lot of musicians had to endure in the past in great music from that, era like the jazz and blues,” junior Jared Cruz says. “And it also influenced the development of music nowadays.”
Emily Kaplan, intern
As Lori Shontz mentioned the week before last, we recently had a first-hand look at the Millennium Science Complex, which should be finished sometime later this summer.
Project manager Dick Tennent from the Office of Physical Plant was nice enough to give some of the magazine staff a walk-through of the building. It’s Penn State’s largest building ever, and should be home to some pretty innovative research. It brings together together Penn State researchers in the life sciences and the materials sciences—two areas of science that have more in common than you might think.
(Research/Penn State did an excellent article a few years back that shows a good example of the intersection of the two areas: the effort to develop electrical-stimulation devices to implant into the brains of people with epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders. You can read the article here.)
Jessie Knuth, our graphic designer, and I both took cameras along on the Millennium Science Complex tour, and we’ve posted a collection of photos to an album on our Facebook page. You can check it out here.
Tina Hay, editor
The first thing I noticed about the Millennium Science Complex—the new gigantic (275,000 square feet), state-of-the-art building between Pollock Halls and the Eisenhower Auditorium parking garage—was the beautiful landscaping in the building’s northwest corner. My husband and I bicycled past a couple of weeks ago, and we stopped to admire the ferns and flowers nestled under what we called an “open spot” in the building’s roof.
Turns out, those ferns and flowers are far more than decoration.
On The Penn Stater’s tour of the building Thursday afternoon, senior project manager Dick Tennant explained (more…)
Let’s get this out of the way first. Woolly mammoths are not going to roam the earth again, said Beth Shapiro, Penn State assistant biology professor and recipient of a 2009 MacArthur Fellowship, despite the fact that researchers have isolated the DNA of the extinct animals.
That’s because even if we could recreate the animals, we couldn’t recreate their environment. Mammoths need the extremely cold temperatures and abundant grasslands of the steppe tundra, she said, “which doesn’t exist today.”
I can hear my husband now: “Bummer.”
But there are still plenty of fascinating ideas in Shapiro’s research into ancient DNA, which she discussed earlier this week in a talk at the always entertaining and informative Research Unplugged program.
Shapiro’s research is centered in Beringia, the land mass between Russia and Alaska. (Or, as she put it: “the part of the world Sarah Palin can see from her backyard.”) By studying the DNA extracted from the bones of herbivores such as musk ox, mammoth, horses, and bison, she is gaining insight into how evolution happens.
In a talk titled “Where Have All the Dodos Gone? The Role of Climate and Humans in Mass Extinctions,” she explained how it’s impossible to pin the blame for the extinction of megafauna on the Ice Age or on the appearance of humans.
That’s because our cover story, Muscle Memory, features your memories from phys ed classes. So of course that made me think back to my own experiences.
I took a class from assistant fencing coach Wes Glon—he of the 12-time NCAA champions—and learned to truly appreciate a sport I had known nothing about. I loved my only 8 a.m. class in four years of college—ice skating—because my teacher, Betz Hanley ’67g, blasted the Olympics theme music every morning, making it impossible to stay sleepy and disinterested.
But the class I really remember is personal defense with then-wrestling coach Rich Lorenzo ’68, ’75g, who was both incredibly kind and incredibly serious about making sure that all of us women learned practical ways to defend ourselves. We didn’t even sweat in the first couple of classes, while he reviewed tips to keep ourselves safe that didn’t involve physical force. (more…)
On my way back to my office from the Playhouse Theatre on Thursday, I swung by the site of the Millennium Science Complex to see how that’s coming along. I figured since I had my camera, I’d head up to the top of the Eisenhower Parking Deck and get an updated version of the panoramic photo we posted back in November 2009, when the construction was in its early stages.
Well, that vantage point no longer works—it appears that, when I wasn’t looking, they went and practically finished the building. Actually it’s about 70% complete, according to the folks in Physical Plant, but it’s now tall enough, and filled-in enough, that the view from the top of the parking deck is pretty much nothing but solid building—the north wall of the materials-sciences wing.
So I went down closer to ground level and tried to shoot a series of images to stitch together into a panoramic in Photoshop, but for whatever reason, the stitching part didn’t work out, and the panoramas I got were all messed up.
(I’ve done panoramas a million times before, so I’m not sure what my problem is. I’m tempted to blame the new camera I just bought, or the new version of Photoshop on my computer, but I’m guessing it was operator error: I just need to work on my shooting technique to better control the exposure and the perspective.)
Anyway, I did get the shot above, which shows the part of the building where the materials-science wing and the life-sciences wing meet. There will be a plaza there and, as you can see, a pretty cool skylight over the atrium.
Sometime I need to walk over there in the morning light and get you some images of the other side of the building—the part that faces Pollock Road. It’s a really impressive building.
The Millennium Science Complex was designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the same folks who did the IST Building at Penn State, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, and other fancy stuff worldwide. The MSC should be completed later this summer.
Tina Hay, editor
Bob Eberly ’39 was a giant of Penn State philanthropy, the namesake of both the Eberly College of Science and Penn State Fayette, the Eberly Campus. Eberly died in 2004, but he’s hardly forgotten, something a new book aims to ensure. Giving Back: Reflections on the Eberly Legacy, includes 12 chapters written by friends and colleagues; among the contributors are Penn State president Graham Spanier, former Fayette campus chancellor Greg Gray ’77, and Henry Oppermann ’61.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
I’m a fan of birds and birding, and a listserv I check from time to time is the State College Bird Club’s listserv. Some of those people are way more serious about birding than I am and will drop what they’re doing to drive out to, say, Colyer Lake or the Toftrees Pond if there’s been a sighting of a bufflehead or a Baird’s sandpiper or something.
But once in a while a posting catches my eye, and lately I’ve been enjoying the photos of hawks and other raptors that Donald Bryant has been sharing with the group.
Bryant, who’s a Penn State faculty member—his title is Ernest C. Pollard Professor of Biotechnology—is on sabbatical at Montana State University right now. He studies the microorganisms that live in hot springs in Yellowstone National Park and nearby areas. (You can read an article about his research at the Research/Penn State website.)
In his spare time, he takes his Nikon D300—and his zoom lens, and his teleconverter—out looking for hawks, falcons, and other raptors. They’re apparently not hard to find: (more…)
Penn State chemistry professor Stephen J. Benkovic on Friday was named one of 10 recipients of the 2010 National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research. Benkovic, the University’s Evan Pugh professor and Eberly Chair in chemistry, is considered one of the world’s foremost mechanistic enzymologists; I won’t pretend to understand what that means, but knowing that his research has helped provide the foundation for certain antibiotics and cancer drugs (among many other advances) tells me it’s impressive, important work.
You can find the list of this year’s winners, announced by President Obama last Friday, on the White House website.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
Peter Hudson, Willaman professor of biology and director of Penn State’s Huck Institute for the Life Sciences, opened his appearance at the Alumni Association’s “Huddle with the Faculty” event Saturday morning by looking out at the audience and saying, “I was told not to frighten you.”
Everyone laughed; we were, after all, aware of the lecture’s title: “Expecting the Unexpected: Threats from Emerging Diseases.” Then some guy in back of me said, “Bring it on.”
And Hudson did. He was charming and engaging and occasionally funny as he explained three key facets of infectious disease research: Where do the diseases come from? Who is responsible? What are the threats? It’s not exactly his fault that I washed my hands about 17 times between the lecture and the Temple game or that I considered, briefly, covering my mouth and nose with a mask at the stadium. (more…)