March 2012


Roy Wensley.Dear Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,

Welcome to spring 2012! This academic year has been full of activity in the School of Science. We have seen a second year of increased enrollments: introductory calculus, chemistry and physics courses for first-year students saw an increase of almost 50 percent, while introductory psychology courses experienced a 15 percent increase. Included in this newsletter are stories about student achievements, faculty scholarship, faculty retirements and the first expenditures from our new equipment endowment. As always, I enjoy hearing from School of Science alumni. If you have news to share or would like to come to campus for a visit, please contact me at

Roy Wensley
Dean of Science
Professor of Physics


Summer Research
Last summer, 13 students were awarded summer research grants from the School of Science. Each worked with a faculty mentor for 10 weeks. On October 22, the students presented their research results at a poster session in the Brousseau Atrium. A committee composed of five science faculty members and two science majors judged the posters and written research reports. Three students' projects were selected for special recognition.

On November 10-12, these three students traveled to Raleigh, N.C., to present their results at the Sigma Xi Annual Meeting and International Research Conference. Professor Keith Ogawa accompanied the students.

Research in Mathematics
During January 2012, two School of Science mathematics majors, Xiaowei Li and Rachel Phillips, attended the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Li and Phillips presented their poster, entitled "Minimum Vector Rank and Complement Critical Graphs," based on work with Professor Michael Nathanson as participants in the 2011 School of Science Summer Research Program. Professor Ellen Veomett accompanied the students.

Student Receives Fulbright Award
Kathryn Orr, a chemistry major who graduated in May 2011, was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship. Katy describes her plans:

"My Fulbright begins in February 2012 at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. I'll be conducting research with Kimberly Hageman, who is an atmospheric chemist. I'll be researching the downwind pollution of cars travelling through the Arthur's Pass National Park. I'll be gathering samples of vegetation leading away from Highway 73 at Klondike Corner. From there, I'll be analyzing the vegetation for the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a major component in car exhaust. For the analysis, I'll be using the Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy machine available in Dr. Hageman's lab to compare the extract from each sample to standards of the compounds I plan to study."

2011 Commencement Award Winners
Read about our award winners.

St. Luke Pre-Medical Society
The students purchased a Christmas tree and asked the Saint Mary's community for help decorating it with scarves, mittens and hats, to be given to a local charity. The College community responded generously, and the students have decided to host an annual "Mitten Tree Decorating Party."

Science Students Host Japanese Students
In the "Science and Society Seminar," Saint Mary's hosted 27 undergraduate students from Osaka University in Japan during early September. Many students from the School of Science served as "science buddies," taking the Japanese students to class with them and engaging with the Japanese students in social activities. Faculty members Carla Bossard, Steve Bachofer and Chris Jones from the School of Science created special lectures for the students. Read more.

Students Meet with Woodrow Wilson Fellow
On February 13, three Saint Mary's science majors — Brian Shaw, Vincent O'Brien and Karen Trang — engaged with Woodrow Wilson Fellow Shannon Brownlee in a panel discussion about her book, "Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer."


STEM Education
The Contra Costa Times profiled STEM Education Advocate Professor Steve Bachofer of the Department of Chemistry last spring. The School of Science professor's ongoing interest in improving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in K-12 grades and on into college is spotlighted in the article, as is his concern for water resources in the state.

Jan Term — The "Taste" of Chemistry
The Contra Costa Times ran two articles on January Term that featured courses taught by faculty members in the School of Science:

The article "TASTY EDUCATION: Quenching a culinary thirst" prominently featured Saint Mary's Biology Professor Anthony Talo and interviewed him about his course, "Battle of the Beverage Titans: Coffee vs. Tea," which explored the science behind the appeal of the two beverages. Also interviewed was Chemistry Professor Alexander Pandell, a self-described wine alchemist who teaches the course "Wine: From A to Zin, " an introductory course on wine appreciation. See the article.

Professor Michelle Shulman and students from her Jan Term Course, "How Baking Works: A Tasty Way to Explore Science," are featured in a San Jose Mercury News photo article, "Saint Mary's Puts the Chemistry in Baking." See the article.

Professor Chris Jones in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science was chosen by the Alumni Association as the recipient of the annual Saint John Baptist de La Salle Award, which is "presented to a member of the faculty or staff who has, over a period of years, demonstrated a personal commitment to the students of Saint Mary's College above and beyond their employee responsibilities..." Professor Jones will be honored at the 2012 Alumni Awards Celebration on Saturday, April 28, 2012. More information.

New Faculty: Several new faculty members joined the School of Science in the 2011-12 academic year. They are: Michael Allocca, Jeff Bernard, Sandy Chang, Lucianna Lautze, Michael Marchetti and Ellen Veomett. Learn more about these new members of our school.

In summer 2011, Professors Chris Jones and Weiwei Pan hosted a math camp for gifted high school math students. More than 80 students applied for 20 spaces. Read more.

Faculty Profiles — Saint Mary's Magazine
The winter issue of Saint Mary's magazine is out, and it includes profiles of Roy Wensley, dean and professor of Physics and Astronomy, and several science alumni. Carla Bossard, professor of Biology and department chair, is also featured for teaching 20 years of Jan Term travel courses! Read more.

Faculty Scholarship
Read about our faculty's latest publications.

Three faculty members in the School of Science will be retiring at the end of this academic year: Professor Lidia Luquet is retiring after 28 years as a member of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science; Brother Raphael Patton has been associated with both the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and the Integral Program for 42 years; and Professor (and former Dean of Science) Philip Leitner has been a member of the Department of Biology for 50 years. These three faculty members represent 120 years of experience! A reception to honor them is scheduled for May 4 at 4:30 p.m. in the Brousseau Atrium.

In Memorium
 On July 17, 2011, Professor Arcenta (Art) Orton, a valued member of the Psychology Department, passed away. He had taught at the College since 1970. For 40 years, he taught "African American Psychology," a course he was hired to develop. He was scheduled to teach two sections of the course in the upcoming academic year. A memorial service was held for the Saint Mary's Community in the Chapel on October 27, 2011. Read more.

 Professor William (Bill) Perkins, who taught in the Environmental and Earth Sciences Program since the spring of 2002 and was instrumental in building the program, died on January 25, 2012. He served as director of the program from 2005 until this year. Bill came to us after a 30+ year career at Gulf and Chevron oil companies, having worked in over 60 different locations around the world. A memorial service for the community was held on February 28, 2012, in the Brousseau Atrium.

Equipment Endowment
Equipment was recently purchased using the Equipment Endowment Fund: A qPCR (Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction) instrument and a state-of-the-art stereo dissecting microscope.

Professor Keith Garrison explains the purpose and use of the qPCR:

 "This instrument will allow us to detect when genes are turned on, turned up and turned off in various cells under various conditions. The instrument measures the amount of PCR product generated in each cycle of the reaction, allowing the quantification of the amount of starting material in the reaction, rather than simply amplify the material. This instrument will definitely be useful in our genetics and molecular biology courses and in summer research projects involving students." (Todd Jenkins is seen using the instrument.)

Professor Michael Marchetti explains the purpose and use of the new microscope:

"The Leica M125 stereo dissecting microscope, with a digital internet-ready camera attached, will allow me to examine aquatic macroinvertebrates and communicate images of my findings with colleagues at the California Department of Fish and Game for collaborative and identification purposes."


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