August 2010
In This Issue
Program Highlight
Department Happenings
Alumni News
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Welcome to our second College newsletter. With most of the students gone, summer may seem like a relaxing time for a University - but this is not the case. Faculty have been teaching summer school and many have used the summer to focus on their research. Here in the Dean's Office, we have had time to reflect on just how far Fresno State has matured in terms of research. Back in 1960 the California master plan for higher education only allowed the CSU to assume a minor role in research. However, many faculty saw research as fundamentally important to their professional development and continued to engage in these activities without the use of state resources. Many faculty believed their involvement in research was essential for teaching effectiveness and student learning. In short, they valued the synergy between teaching and research. How true - and in 1990 the mission of the CSU was broadened to include 'research, scholarship and creative activity in support of its undergraduate and graduate instructional mission.'

In the last 5 years the College has hired 41 new faculty all with a requirement to establish productive research laboratories involving students. Eighty five percent of these faculty had postdoctoral or industry experience totaling an impressive 203 years. In this same time period, College faculty generated some $18.5 million in external grants and contracts and published an impressive 531 research papers, most involving students.

You can tell we are immensely proud of our faculty and despite challenging budget times the Dean's Office will continue to support research and scholarship since this is key to student success in the sciences.

For more information on the College go to the College of Science and Mathematics website
Program Highlight

Science and Health Careers Information Center

SHCICA ribbon cutting ceremony marked the Grand Opening of the new Science and Health Careers Information Center on April 14, 2010. President Welty and Provost Covino joined Dean Rogerson in the official opening of the Center.  Speaking to the crowd of students, faculty and staff gathered in the Science 1 lobby, Dean Rogerson announced the Center is a "one-stop-shop" for students seeking information about program and degree options, referrals to advisors, student clubs, and scholarships offered by the College of Science and Mathematics. Two computers are provided for student research.  Visitors to the Center are welcome to coffee and frequent cookie feasts!  The Center is a partnership with California State University, Fresno, College of Science and Mathematics and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Fresno Latino Center for Medical Education and Research and home to Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) and the Premedical Health Scholars Program. 

Visit us in the new Science and Health Careers Information Center in Science 1, Room 136!

Department Happenings


A new life line for Life Sciences: redesigning a biology course for non-majors to educate informed global citizens
Teaching biology or other sciences to non-scientists is not supposed to be an uphill struggle.  As kids, we all loved animals, and we seem to be a bottomless pit of "why" questions.  But somewhere between kindergarten and college, the natural scientist in so many of us is lost.  At Fresno State, Biology 10 Life Science is the course taken by almost a third of all our undergraduate students to fulfill their General Education requirement in the natural sciences.  This course got a drastic face lift this spring semester with help from Dean for Undergraduate Studies Dennis Nef. The redesign of the course by the Biology 10 Committee was chaired by Dr. Ulrike Müller and composed of five biology faculty members and instructional support staff Charlie Kronberg.

The main goal of the redesign was to move away from a survey class and towards an issue-based course.  The new course will focus on important current biologically related health and political issues in the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of the world.  Did you know that life expectancy in the Central Valley is several years lower than in Los Angeles because of our low air quality?  Would you like to find out more about why life expectancy is stalled and even decreasing in Fresno County and all over the US, reversing a century long trend?  Then Biology 10 is the course for you.  By focusing on current issues that are relevant to all informed citizens, the redesigned biology course hopes to stimulate student learning about the relevant science.  The students will be evaluated on their ability to gather information to arrive at sound decisions about such issues as "should you get vaccinated against swine flu?" or "Should you support the protection of delta smelt or demand changes in California's water management?"  Other parts of the course will allow students to evaluate the claims of health foods to learn about human nutrition and diet-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, and to discuss the pros and cons of antibiotic use in farm animals.

With up to 260 students in each lecture section and few of them in the same major, Biology 10 can be a course in which the individual student feels lost in anonymity.  To break this isolation and help the students form study groups, the redesigned course is making use of the many active-learning strategies promoted by CSALT in their workshops.  Through clicker surveys, think-pair-share and group projects, students will be encouraged to engage with each other and teach each other.

The redesigned course will be taught for the first time in fall 2010 by Ulrike Müller in a pilot section of 72 students.  Every other committee faculty member (Drs. Constable, Crosbie, Schreiber and Zechman) has volunteered to teach the course at least once in the next academic year.  In spring 2011, one section of the redesigned Biology 10 will become a member of the First-Year-Experience, an initiative that combines the First-Year-Experience spearheaded by Dennis Nef and Colleen Torgerson with a national initiative for global citizenship brought to our campus by Martin Shapiro, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.

    Biology Faculty Member Teaches Course
    at Shoals Marine Lab, Cornell University

Dr. Rick Zechman, Professor in the Department of Biology, taught the Field Marine Science course at Shoals Marine Lab, a summer marine science program run by Cornell University and located on Appledore Island in the Gulf of Maine. The four-week course covers a broad range of experiences for undergraduate students, including intertidal biological diversity and ecology, marine vertebrate diversity, and oceanography. The students also take part in a long term research project, an intertidal transect study, conducted on Appledore Island for nearly forty years.
Dr. Zechman has taught the Shoals Marine Lab course for the 17th time this past summer.

Biology Vert    Grinnell Resurvey Scientists Use Fresno 
    State Vertebrate Collection
Dr. Kevin Rowe and Dr. Adam Smith made use of mammal specimens found in the Fresno State Vertebrate Collection.  Dr. Rowe and Dr. Smith are part of the Grinnell Resurvey Project that is revisiting sites in California where vertebrate fauna was originally surveyed and documented by Dr. Joseph Grinnell from the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology nearly a century ago.  Dr. Grinnell's meticulous record keeping and field notes helped establish a historical baseline for vertebrate distribution and habitat quality against which the results of modern studies could be compared.  

The Fresno State Vertebrate Collection contains historical specimens of local species, along with information on when and where the specimen was collected, as well as gender, reproductive condition, age, and other biologically important data that were of interest to the Resurvey team.  The Vertebrate Collection contains about 3500 mammals and 2500 birds prepared as study skins, the oldest of which were collected in the late 1800s.  This and other university collections are valuable resources for biology lab classes, for geneticists and molecular biologists seeking DNA samples, and for population biologists and ecologists studying a region's past and present biodiversity.

Science and Mathematics Education Center (SMEC)
The Science and Mathematics Education Center (SMEC) is home to the Natural Science degree program and works collaboratively with the Kremen School of Education and Human Development to support, nurture, and educate science and mathematics students on a career track to teaching. SMEC's primary goal is to provide an enhancement program, the Early Field Experience (EFE), for undergraduate students to work in science and math classrooms prior to entering the credential program.

This summer, SMEC sponsored "The Solar Neighborhood: Earth and Space," a professional development program that included a NASA facilitated two-week course on space science. Attendees were undergraduate, credential students, and inservice teachers from several CSU campuses who are participants of the Robert C. Noyce Scholarship program, funded by the National Science Foundation.

This past May, SMEC's Natural Science Club proudly offered a community outreach program titled Circuit Science. Over 1,000 children from 3rd - 6th grade learned about science and math by visiting "stations" on age appropriate and standards-based topics in planetary science, chemistry, physics, Earth science, biology, and mathematics.

SMEC has provided over 80 students with summer research opportunities through the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program over the last 8 years. This summer, ten students were selected for a summer internship at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Ames Research Cener, and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, as well as the SETI Institute, Lawrence Berkley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and others. Biology Faculty Member Teaches Course at Shoals Marine Lab, Cornell University

For further information about SMEC please visit our website at


The Fresno State Department of Chemistry is pleased to announce the launch of its new honors program.  Five students have been selected to begin the program starting in the fall of 2010.  This four semester program is designed to encourage highly qualified students to participate in applying the understanding of chemical concepts they have developed as chemistry majors through service and original scientific research.  Such participation will allow students to refine their critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills essential to success in graduate and professional education.  For more information about the program, applying for the program, or how you can support the program please contact Dr. Eric Person (

Chemistry StudentsIn the first semester the honors students will take a peer instruction course focused on developing a service ethic and strengthening their oral communications skills. The vehicle for developing and enhancing these skills is asking the students to tutor high school and general chemistry students.  This will force students to think carefully about how to communicate technical information they know and are comfortable with others who struggle with the same information.  This course is part of a system-wide learn and serve grant to develop and enhance service learning courses in STEM fields.

In the following semester the honors students will join our graduate students in a research techniques class.  At this stage they will have begun and independent research project with a tenure track faculty member.  This course will cover literature review and research, experimental design, scientific writing, and continue to work on their oral communication skills and confidence.

The third semester asks them to attend and participate in the department seminar series.  Instead of presenting, these students will be critically evaluating seminars as a means of improving their own presentation skills and evaluating what chemical disciplines interest them most for graduate study. 

In the final semester, as a culminating experience, students will complete their research project and present it formally at one or more scientific conferences.

We anticipate that each of these students will attend a graduate program in chemistry, pharmacy, or medicine.  This program was designed and developed to best prepare students for success in these programs.

As far as donations are concerned, those interested in supporting the program should consider helping fund the research supplies that students will need to complete these projects or help cover the expenses of sending students to regional and national scientific conferences to present their research.  Even as much as $1,000 per student goes a long way to ensure that student progress is not hampered by waiting for needed supplies and materials.

In other news
"The WildLife" radio show features Forensic Science graduate student Michael Gonzalez on his award winning thesis. 
Read more at:


Earth and Environmental Sciences

Research in Honduras
Figure 1. View to the West from near Agua Azul and Isla del Venado across the lake to the limestone mountains and cloud forests of Santa Barbara National Park. The indigenous Lenca people regard this island as the birth place of humanity in the "Lake of Creation"
Over Winter Break 2008/2009, Dr. Peter Van de Water from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences was part of a National Geographic funded research study of the largest lake in central Honduras, Lago de Yahoa (Figure 1 and 2). Sediments from the bottom of the lake were recovered in 2000 to 2002.  These sediments spanned the past 12,000 years.  Preliminary analysis of pollen and spores in the deepest layers indicated drier and cooler conditions, transitioning to more tropical vegetation during the last 8,000 to 10,000 years.  The environment of the tropics during the height of the last ice age, approximately 20,000 years ago, is poorly understood.  The aim of the research was to identify potential coring sites to recover these older sediments thus providing a greater understanding of environmental and vegetation change in the northern tropics of North America.

Figure 2. Location of Lago de Yohoa in Honduras along with the Seismic survey paths and circled numbers indicating proposed new coring sites determined during the 2008/2009 research trip.
During the ten days of research, Kirk McIntosh from the University of Texas, Austin, profiled the bottom of the lake using a chirp-sonar that penetrates below the sediment surface and shows density differences between layers in the sediment pile.  The strong reflection, shown as the dark boundary in Figure 3, is the current lake bottom.  The sporadic layers deeper in the sediment pile are older layers. Within the lake sediment, the deeper layer on the sonar profile is thought to be the impenetrable layer that the earlier coring attempt could not get through, dated at about 12,000 years ago. Understanding the lake bottom allowed the research team to identify six different localities for further work where deeper, older sediments may be obtainable.

Figure 3. Multiple reflections characterize sediments in the southwestern area of the lake. Recovery and dating of theses deposits may identify significance of the multiple reflectors

In addition to characterizing the bottom of the lake in terms of its underlying sediment, a bathymetric map was constructed showing the deepest lake waters to the northwest. Sediments in this area showed faulting that is in line with the Yojoa volcanic field fits into regional extension and rifting of the Central American crust. 

From this work the team identified six potential coring sites in the lake basin.  In addition the team did field reconnaissance of the volcanic field to the north that was instrumental in blocking the drainage and creating the current lake.  At the same time, colleagues in Honduras from Zamarano's Center for Biodiversity, and the associated Regional Institute of Biodiversity (IRBIO), joined us in field reconnaissance of the current vegetation and other ecological features of the area.  For example, pollen at the bottom of the previous cores, dated to 12,000 years ago, shows the presence of fir pollen.  Fir trees were tentatively identified growing to the west on Santa Barbara Peak at approximately 9,000 ft in elevation, thousands of feet higher than the lake surface. The elevation difference is suggestive of the type of changes that have occurred in the tropics since the last ice age. Funding is being sought to return to the lake for further research.

In other news
Some big news for the future is that the Fresno State EES department was chosen to host the 2013 GSA Cordilleran Section meeting.  A GSA Cordilleran Section meeting is a regional meeting, drawing geoscientists mainly from western North America.  These meetings can draw up to about 1000 participants and are held in the spring; our meeting is tentatively scheduled for late May 2013.  The plan for the 2013 meeting is ambitious for it is not envisioned as an "ordinary" regional meeting.  It is planned as having an international flair that will at minimum be "Pacific Rim", bringing in researchers from Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, as well as the usual western North America. This will be a real showcase for the department faculty and students.
The dual strengths of student research and a strong field-based undergraduate curriculum are building a reputation for this department that is spreading far beyond our region.  That an incoming undergraduate from southern California chose our department over many, including UC departments, speaks to these strengths.  This student told me that she chose to attend Fresno State because she believed our field curriculum was superior the other departments she visited and because our very active undergraduate research program. 

Rachel Prohoroff in her senior thesis research area in western Marin County. She is studying structural geology and tectonics associated with subduction process in the Franciscan Complex rocks there

The Department of Mathematics held the Math Field Day (an annual mathematics competition for middle and high schools) on April 17. Over 500 students attended the event.
Math Field Day

The Eighth Annual Fresno State Integration Bee was held on April 20. This competition is similar to a spelling bee. But instead of spelling words, the contestants have to evaluate integrals. Katherine Urabe was the integration champion.

Over 50 students, guests, faculty and staff attended the Annual Mathematics Graduation Dinner on May 13 at the Thai Royal Orchid.

The sixth Annual Mathematics Convocation attracted over 200 students, guests, faculty, and staff on May 21.

In other news
Dr. Carmen Caprau published two articles: "On the sl(2) foam cohomology computations"  and "Universal Khovanov-Rozansky sl(2) cohomology", both in the Journal of Knot Theory and Its Ramifications.

Dr. Oscar Vega also published two articles: "Generalized j-planes" and "Geometric structures arising from generalized j-planes", both in Note di Matematica.
Dr. Ke Wu published "Estimating the Convolution of Distributions Under the Partial Koziol-Green Model of Random Censorship" in the Far East Journal of Theoretical Statistics.

Dr. Tamas Forgacs was awarded an $18,000 minigrant from the Center for Undergraduate Research in Mathematics from BYU to engage in research with four undergraduate students during the academic year 2010-2011.

Dr. Adnan Sabuwala gave several talks at national and international meetings. His first talk was at the SIAM-SEAS conference held in Raleigh, NC. The second talk was at the 8th AIMS International Conference on Dynamical Systems, Differential Equations and Applications in Dresden, Germany.

Dr. Agnes Tuska  presented at the History of Mathematics and Teaching of Mathematics conference in Hungary.

Dr. Agnes Tuska and Dr. Oscar Vega founded the Geogebra Institute of California. In the future they will give workshops, and professional development to teachers by using this free dynamic geometry software. The Geogebra institutes are all over the world!

As part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates program sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Oscar Vega taught at the University of Iowa for the summer.

Undergraduate student Benjamin Wright scored a whopping 28 points on this year's Putnam Exam (a contest for undergraduates across the U.S. and Canada). This puts him in the top 10% of the more than 4000 contestants.



Research at the Strongly Correlated Electron Laboratory (SCE Lab)

Dr. Pei-Chun Ho's research is focused on strongly correlated electron materials, which usually contain transition metals or rare Earth elements.  In these materials, electron-electron interactions are much stronger than in simple metals, such as aluminum or copper.  Due to these interactions, a variety of intriguing behaviors can occur, such as superconductivity, heavy Fermi liquid behavior, non-Fermi liquid behavior, valence fluctuation, and Kondo insulating behavior. 
The prospects of using these properties to make extremely powerful magnets, both large and small, and efficient electrical materials give strongly correlated electron materials great potential, in fields such as energy conservation, medical imaging, and information storage, a favorite example being small mp3 players. Because many of the novel phenomena take place at low temperatures and in high magnetic fields, Dr. Ho's laboratory is both a low temperature and a high magnetic field facility.

When the conduction electrons are in the periodic crystalline structure of a metal, the electrons act like independent entities and move freely.  But in the strongly correlated electron materials, the electron-electron interactions are so strong, the electrons act together in unison.


This is the low temperature and high magnetic field facility at Dr. Ho's Strongly Correlated Electron Laboratory.  The temperature can reach down to 1.6 Kelvin (-456° F), and the magnetic field can go as high as 9 telsa, which is 180,000 times greater than Earth's field.  It is the coldest place in Fresno.


This shows Dr. Ho working with students in her research group, setting up an electrical resistivity probe on a cryocooler.  It can cool down to ~11 K.



Studying Stress in Spouses Caring for People with Alzheimer's Disease
Amanda Mortimer's lab in the Department of Psychology is concentrating on the people who help others.  Care giving for a spouse with Alzheimer's Disease can be very stressful, and Dr. Mortimer's lab is trying to discover ways that caregivers can protect themselves from that stress.  The Couples' Long Term Interaction Project is funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to increase Research Infrastructure in Minority Institutions.  The project is an interdisciplinary effort, including contributions from Dr. Alejandro Calderon in Biology, Conrad Rios, a Nurse Practitioner, two oncoming Psychology Master's students, and 6 undergraduate Psychology students.  By videotaping couples' arguments, Dr. Mortimer plans to explore what types of behavioral interactions are seen in people with high stress responses, and what types are seen in those who are more relaxed.  To get information about how stressed caregivers are, the project looks at how their salivary cortisol, a stress hormone, changes during the time of the argument.  Because Mexican Americans are at increased risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease, and are more likely to keep their people at home during the disease progression, Dr. Mortimer is comparing Mexican-American and Caucasian stress responses.  Greater understanding of stress responses to behavioral interactions may lead to a long term increase in understanding of how to manage care giving interactions at home in a way that will help our seniors stay less stressed during difficult times.

News from Alumni, Emeriti, and Friends

Dr. Steve Rodemeyer, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, was recently named an ACS Fellow.  The purpose of the ACS Fellows Program is to recognize and honor members of the American Chemical Society for their outstanding achievements in and contributions to the science, the profession, and service to the Society.


College of Science and Mathematics
Graduate Medalist
Taylor Harris, completed her Master of Arts in Psychology with a 4.0 GPA. Her focus was on applied behavior analysis. She received the Outstanding Undergraduate Award in Psychology, the Milton J. Linder Memorial Scholarship, and the Tokalon Ina Gregg Thomas Memorial Scholarship. She was student Fresno State chapter vice president of the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. She was an intern for the Central Valley Regional Center's parenting class and an assistant director at the Central Valley Autism Center. This year she taught a research methods class in psychology and oversaw undergraduate research projects.Harris plans to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology and teach at the university level.

College of Science and Mathematics
Undergraduate Medalist
Heather Upton
Heather E. Upton, completed a B.S. in Biology - Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology option and a second major in Chemistry with a 3.86 GPA. She received numerous academic and research awards. She presented on her research at local, national and international conferences. At a recent conference, Upton was recognized as outstanding undergraduate in the sciences for the CSU system. She was president of the campus Biology and Chemistry club. She is a Science and Mathematics founding member of the Consortium for Evolutionary Studies. Upton volunteered at the Discovery Center in Fresno and helped raise funds for AIDS and the United Nations Mine Action Service. She has been accepted into doctoral programs at three prestigious universities.



Fresno State's Centennial Homecoming!
Saturday, October 16, 2010

Tailgate of the Century is the official tailgate party for the 2010 Homecoming game as your Bulldogs face New Mexico State Aggies.  Join the Fresno State Alumni Association for food, fun, beverages, and some good ol' Bulldog spirit!  With visits from the Fresno State Marching Band, the Spirit Squad, and more. This event is open to students, families, alumni, and the community and will be held just west of the Peace Garden on campus along the parade route.  For tailgate and game ticket packages, call the FSAA at (559) 278-ALUM.

Parade including vintage cars, student, and community floats.  We hear the Physics Department will have a float at the parade.

Halftime activities at the Homecoming Football Game vs. New Mexico State Halftime: As part of the halftime ceremony, the Alumni Awards Recipients (who were honored the night before at the Top Dog Alumni Awards Gala) will be recognized on the 50 year line during halftime for their accomplishments and special honor.  Also featured will be a special Centennial performance by the Fresno State Marching Band and fireworks after the game.  For more information visit
Fresno State Centennial Celebration website.