From The Chairman
Addressing Scientific Literacy
In 1983 the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued the report "A Nation at Risk," intended as a "wake-up call" to alert us to the decline in performance of US students in Education. Compared with students from Europe and Japan, our worst performance was in the areas of science and mathematics. Although the report initiated some educational reform, the overall situation has not really changed.
What can we do? At USC we can have the greatest impact by increasing the awareness of science and the appreciation of scientific methods to the entire student body. We should offer courses that are accessible to all students. In recent years we have assumed an expanding role in this area by offering more classes in our General Education courses which are especially developed for the non-scientist. This year we will have over one thousand students in our General Education classes. Combined with our pre-engineering, physics for life sciences and physics for architects courses, this means that nearly one-half of USC undergraduates take at least one course in our department.
USC is in the process of redesigning its General Education requirements and several of our faculty are designing courses that will play a large role in the new curriculum. We have found that students who are apprehensive about sciences are nevertheless fascinated by astronomy. Building on this interest is probably the best way to initiate those students into an understanding of what goes on in astronomy, physics, and science in general.
Our teaching laboratories are getting a lot of attention these days. Next year's students can expect to use more computerized experiments. For example, many of the traditional mechanics experiments such as measuring g with falling objects and using air tracks to prove conservation of momentum will be replaced with video cameras serving as the data collection tool. The video data is analyzed on a computer screen. In this way we can directly involve the student (even measuring his/her own velocity, angular momentum, etc.). A number of additional improvements are also underway with funding from the National Science Foundation. We need to impress non-science majors with the relevance of science in their own lives and careers. Alumni can also help by letting their colleagues, neighbors, and elected representatives know the long term benefits of science and science education.
In his valedictory address Banks explained his "strange combination" of majors while outlining a greater goal for society. He said his usual comment is that he is a "person who happens to be interested in two widely different fields." However, on a deeper level he said he has "a drive to combine two disparate ways of thinking." He continued by saying that he would like to see the combining of ideas occur more often in the future. Banks believes that "Those of us who are scientists must endeavor to eliminate the impressions of elitism in, and rigid separations between, our several disciplines." Those who are not should try to gain a better understanding of the basic issues and methods of science.
Graduating from USC is just the beginning of Banks' plans for the future. The week following graduation he married another USC graduate, Rebecca Robinson, a premed Biology and Russian major. Together they will be moving to Rochester where Michael will be attending graduate school at the University of Rochester. He is planning a future career in research and teaching.
Feinberg received his award for the development of temporal holograms, which he and Dr. Alexander Rebane patented last year. The temporal hologram provides a safer alternative to the standard x-rays used today. Using light rays to image through tissue, the idea developed by Feinberg and Rebane was to separate the "ballistic" light from scattered light as it goes through an object. Ballistic light travels in a straight line through the medium and reaches the film before the scattered light does. To create the image Feinberg and Rebane developed a way in which they could differentiate between light hitting the film at different times. The temporal hologram is the image created by the rays that reach the film first.
If you would like to read more about the awards given there is an article in the June 1995 edition of DISCOVER.
Dr. Robert Cole Retires
After finishing his undergraduate work at Berkeley and before working on his Ph.D. he worked in the Theoretical Reactor Physics Division of the Hanford Energy Works in Richland, Washington. While finishing his Ph.D. at the University of Washington, Seattle, Cole began his teaching career as a Teaching and Research Assistant.
After completing his Ph.D. in 1959 Dr. Cole was a visiting Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles until 1962 when he came to USC. In 1966 he became an Associate Professor.
In 1986 Dr. Cole was chosen to be the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies. He stayed in this position until his retirement.
After thirty years of hard work and dedication Dr. Cole remains devoted to the future of the Physics and Astronomy Department. Although he has officially retired he continues to work on new projects. Currently, he is rewriting the lab sections for 135a and 135b, Physics for the Life Sciences, to make the labs more practical for pre-med students.
This past year, March 13-18, the High Energy Theory Group of USC (Bars, Bouwknegt, Minahan, Nemeschansky, Pilch, Saleur, and Warner) hosted the annual international string's conference "Strings `95: Future Perspectives in String Theory." The conference was extremely successful with 130 enthusiastic participants from around the world. There were a large number of eminent physicists in attendance, including Profs. D. Gross (Princeton Univ.), J. Schwartz (Caltech) N. Seiberg (Rutgers Univ.), L. Susskind (Stanford), and E. Witten (IAS-Princeton). The success of the event was not only due to the participants but also to the organizational smoothness of Dr. Pilch and the concerted effort of the conference secretaries, Mary Khuu, Tricia Diamond, and Beverly Ferguson.
The main topics of the conference were the recent developments in understanding the strong coupling regime in 4-dimensional QCD through a strong-weak coupling duality. The presentation by Witten, in which he described a similar strong-weak coupling duality in String Theory, was one of the highlights of the conference. Other topics covered were Quantum Gravity, Topological and related supersymmetric theories, QCD strings, mirror symmetry, and W-algebras.
The proceedings of the conference will be published by World Scientific. More information on the Strings `95 conference can be obtained from the WEB through the Physics and Astronomy home page.
In June, Profs. Jack Feinberg (USC) and Dana Anderson (Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) co-chaired a conference on "Photorefractive Materials, Effects and Devices." The event was held in Estes Park, high in the Colorado Rockies. The conference was a great success with 150 submitted papers and more than 200 participants, many of whom traveled from abroad to attend the meeting.
An additional highlight included participants voting "The Swiss-cheese effect: Mapping 180 domains using photorefractive beam coupling" as the best poster presented at the meeting. The poster was presented by Stuart MacCormack and Jack Feinberg of USC and Barry Wechsler of Hughes Research Labs.
Other novel work is being done in the area of security. Professor Christoph von der Malsburg has designed a computer program that recognizes faces. Combining face recognition and a personal identification number, this device is used to control access to buildings. The original version of this project took two years to complete. It continues to improve with modifications and ongoing research. This research is funded by the Army Research Lab.
Teaching on the Internet
In October Gould became one of the first to receive a grant from the Jumpstart Program. The program is designed to integrate teaching and technology. It was originally established by USC's James Irvine Center for Scholarly Technology. Professor Gould's project, "Problem Solving Skills Development Using the Web," is to be worked into the 151 Physics course. The first step will be in creating a problem that will help students to `see' thermodynamic cycles.
Von der Malsburg's interests are focused on the phenomena of brain organization. Many current ideas about the creation of regular neural connectivity patterns during animal development can be traced back to his early work, which was based on the central theme of self-organization by co-operation and competition of individual connections. He created mathematical and computer models for the ontogenesis of topology-preserving connection patterns between eye and brain and for regular domains of orientation sensitivity and ocular dominance in the visual cortex. Von der Malsburg has more recently aroused interest with his proposal that temporal correlations in neural signals and rapidly modifiable connections are of fundamental importance for the organization and structure of mental entities. On the basis of these ideas he is presently using processes of rapid network self-organization to model the vision process, models he is applying with great success in biology and in computer vision.
Former graduate student Ms. Karla Souza-Dias returned to Brazil with her husband and daughter. She had begun working for the Physics Department in 1990 as the Director of the Physics and Astronomy Lecture Support Labs. After Dr. Cole's retirement she became the Director of Undergraduate Affairs. These duties have now been taken over by former graduate student Mr. Ty Buxman.
Others who have since joined the Department in the various offices and labs are Mr. Robert Knol, Ms. Amy Dieter, Ms. Julia Cummins, and Ms. Kristin Sabo.
On the 7th of February 1996, Herman Fae celebrated his 30th year with the USC Department of Physics & Astronomy.
Marmot the Cat
After obtaining his bachelors in Physics in 1960, Herbert L. Ailsleiger went on to work as an Electrical Engineer at JPL. In 1966 he participated in the H-bomb search in Spain. Today he owns and operates Herb's Aero Engineering. This company provides engineering design service to museums and collectors who are restoring World War II German aircraft.
Alan C. Nelson earned his bachelors in Physics in 1972, a MA in Geophysics in 1976, and his Ph.D. in Biophysics in 1980. Today he is the founder of NeoPath, Inc. NeoPath specializes in medical image interpretation and automated diagnosis for cancer screening.
After finishing his Ph.D. in 1983 James A. Menders was a technical staff member at TRW until 1989. Currently, he is a senior scientist for the Thermotax Corporation working on Applied Optical Physics.
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