Posts filed under ‘Faculty research’
Six months after the Sandusky scandal broke, there are still questions. Lots of them. And, as Penn State president Rodney Erickson told Alumni Council, “There may be some questions we’ll never have answers for.”
That said, Erickson and Karen Peetz, chair of the Board of Trustees, answered as many as they could Friday afternoon from members of Alumni Council. They touched on everything from the relationship between the trustees and the president (something they agreed is not well enough understood) to what Peetz called “the super-positive of the enduring spirit of Penn Staters.” And they fielded several questions about Joe Paterno, including one that’s been asked at just about every opportunity: When and how will Penn State honor its late football coach?
Peetz said, as she has previously, that Penn State must wait until the Freeh report, more formally known as the findings of the trustees’ special investigations task force, before moving forward on plans to honor Paterno. She called the upcoming report “the ultimate in transparency.”
Former FBI director Louis Freeh was hired by the trustees just weeks after the scandal and charged with looking into all of the issues surrounding the scandal since. His findings—which Peetz said will not be edited by the board—are expected in August or September.
The task force does not have subpoena power. But Peetz said she spoke with Freeh’s investigators for three hours, that more than 200 people have been interviewed, and that Freeh is working with the state attorney general. “These people are not kidding around,” she said. “This is the FBI incarnate, and I don’t think anyone’s lying, I’ll tell you that.” (more…)
A history professor, Sally McMurry, was going through old tax rolls in the basement of the Centre County Historical Museum in Bellefonte, and she needed a break. (Understandably.) She happened to notice a hunk of what appeared to be deteriorating leather on one of the shelves, and when she opened it, she discovered it was records from the Civil War, a list of deserters from Pennsylvania.
So she alerted her colleague, William Blair, head of Penn State’s George and Ann Richards Civil War Center, who was amazed. “I’d never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “That’s not easy to do these days.”
Thus began some detective work for Blair, whose current research focuses on northern homefronts during the Civil War. This was a detour, but (more…)
Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann, who was at the center of the 2009 controversy dubbed “Climategate,” did not engage in scientific misconduct, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation.
The controversy arose when a computer server at a British climate-research center was hacked in November 2009, and emails among climate researchers—including Mann—were published on the Internet. Climate-change skeptics claimed that the emails showed that Mann and the others had manipulated data in order to reach the conclusions that global warming is real.
Penn State investigated Mann a year ago in conjunction with the controversy and also found no evidence of research impropriety. Several other bodies, including the National Academy of Sciences, have reached the same conclusion.
Mann’s website at Penn State contains links to some of the news stories about him, including one from last month in which he talks about the attacks he’s experienced from global-warming skeptics and others.
Tina Hay, editor
As the chief meteorologist for WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa., Joe Calhoun ’81 is concerned about the short term. Like most TV meteorologists, he has stories about viewers calling to ask whether it’s going to rain later that day and if they should cancel their picnic, or graduation, or whatever. He knows his viewers have bigger questions, too, about climate change, but he wasn’t always sure how to handle them. He’s been out of the classroom for a long time, and he wasn’t up on the latest science.
And that’s why he was part of a committee that helped to develop a one-day workshop in which Penn State’s top climate researchers gathered with about a dozen of the state’s television meteorologists to discuss the science of climate change.
“These are issues we need to address,” Calhoun said.
And as for the researchers? They wanted to explain the science to the meteorologists—in a politics-free, collegial environment—but they also wanted some help. As organizer Jon Nese ’83, ’85g ’89g, a senior lecturer in meteorology, explained, television viewers trust the meteorologists on their local channels, so by making sure that those meteorologists understand the science, researchers can make sure that television viewers are getting the best possible information.
Nese told the broadcasters, “You excel at telling engaging, simple stories about a complex phenomenon.” (more…)
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…)
Erika Poole, an assistant professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, describes herself as “part nerd, part athlete.” Which explains the title of the presentation she gave in the IST Building’s flashy “cybertorium” recently: “Exergaming: Health or Hype?”
I went to the presentation because, honestly, the concept of exergaming—that’s using a video game system such as Wii Fit or Kinect to exercise—has always seemed a little ridiculous to me. Unless there’s, say, a foot or so of snow and some scattered ice on the ground, I prefer to “play” outside. I’ve been that way since I was a little kid, when Mom would occasionally call into the living room, “Get your nose out of that book and get outside!”
Apparently that’s becoming less common. The average kid spends (more…)
Anyone attending Huddle with the Faculty on Saturday morning is in for a treat—the speaker is Richard Alley, Evan Pugh professor of geosciences and one of the climate scientists honored with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.
Better yet, even if you can’t make it to the Nittany Lion Inn at 9 a.m., you can still enjoy Alley’s talk—and even participate. You can watch live at this link from WPSU, and you’ll also be able to submit questions from the comfort of your own home (or tailgate, I guess). If you want to follow along on Twitter, the hashtag is #PSUhuddle10.
The multimedia and social media options are only appropriate considering the topic of Alley’s talk: “A Lark in the Parks: Communicating the Joy of Science in a YouTube World.” And if you’ve not seen Alley in action, you should definitely do a quick search on YouTube, where you’ll find gems including Alley putting his own spin on Proud Mary (“rolling … to the future”) and performing “Rock Around the Silicates.”
Lori Shontz, 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…)
Geosciences professor Rudy Slingerland knew what had brought so many people to his Huddle with the Faculty presentation Saturday morning: the Marcellus Shale. So he took a few minutes to disabuse us of the notion that he could provide any hot financial tips.
He explained how he had told his father that he had no interest in the family’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bradford County—”I’m going to be a geology professor,” Slingerland ’77g had said—and how someone else now owns the land that’s worth $2 million in natural gas leases.
But Slingerland’s career decision paid off for us as he traced Pennsylvania’s vital role in the energy industry, from wood to coal to oil to natural gas. He made sure we fully understood these two themes:
—A population’s demand for a certain energy source eventually depletes that energy source.
—There is no environmentally benign energy source.
That established, Slingerman delivered a wonderfully informative lecture. You want to talk about crossing the boundaries of academic disciplines? In the course of an hour, he touched on geology, history, art, and sports, and he even threw in a pop culture reference: “Black gold. Texas tea.” (Beverly Hillbillies, of course.) (more…)