All posts by admin

This is my bio.

Architecture Promoting Creativity

Article in 8/4/16 NY Times discusses the power of open design architecture to stimulate creativity on academic campuses. Moveable furniture, couches, open hallways, glass panels instead of walls, all designed to encourage colleagues to interact with each other and foster an environment likely to stimulate creativity.

Avoid The Dental Drill!

We’re back after a brief blog break for the summer. No child enjoys the dentist and the dental drill in particular elicits unease amongst even the most calm young patients. Never mind that having a cavity filled isn’t exactly cheap (at least $100). An article in today’s New York Times highlights a cost effective, painless way to apply a chemical coating to cavities to prevent further tooth decay and also avoid the pain of a dental drill. Cavities have been filled by placing a coating over the part of the tooth that has rotted. The infamous dental drill is required to cut away the rotten material. A newly developed form of flouride (silver diamine flouride) can be painted onto a cavity to stop the cavity from further rotting. No painful numbing shots, no dental drills, and only $25. The child then loses the baby tooth and has avoided costly and uncomfortable drill-based cavity fills. Currently, few dentists know about the treatment and use it in their practices. What are obstacles to adopting a new treatment? Why are scientists not researching treatments such as this to make painful and uncomfortable processes easier for youngsters?

What Do You Notice?

A newly published book, Visual Intelligence, by art historian and lawyer Amy E. Herman sheds light on the power of observation as an invaluable tool in all types of careers. Ms. Herman has created a career based on her love of art and used it to improve the skills of law enforcement and future doctors. After running a course for a decade that has taken police officers and medical students into art galleries of New York City to study paintings to hone observational skills, Ms. Herman now writes about these experiences and suggests (too frequently) that they are applicable to all professions. If you can get past the first person accounts of how she has or hasn’t noticed things in her life through her glamorous world travels and if you can overlook her often incomplete and perfunctory-seeming explanation of the science underlying her work, this book is an excellent tool for all students. Of particular note: high school students exposed to this type of observational study went on to have higher standardized test scores. Do you think of yourself as a good observer? Do you notice details that others may miss? How do you think observational skills may be helpful in improving your academic performance? Or on the job performance?

Please, Linger On Campus!

In the May 17 New York Times, columnist David Brooks identifies the single challenge facing our era as social isolation. Feelings of isolation and solitary study are a particular challenge facing students at all “commuter schools” (both 4-year and community colleges) largely because students often come together for a handful of hours for class each week, then return to their jobs, families and non-academic life. High prices for parking, erratic public transit and demanding employers and family members only work to strengthen the pull away from campus. Students may not fully appreciate it but academic life goes beyond the classroom experience. Whether it is the lunch with a fellow student you don’t know who explains her passion for chemistry, or the casual chat with a professor in office hours (or facilities like Alexandria’s Science Resource Center), you gain much by using the campus to learn beyond the walls of the classroom. In an era of increasingly interchangeable sources of educational material (you can learn facts by diligently using resources on the Internet or even taking online classes), the live, in person experience is what can help you learn and work with others to shape your future. So despite obstacles, I encourage students to spend time studying at school, getting involved with activities, making a new friend in the cafeteria or asking a professor (even one you don’t know) a question. And if I randomly ask you a question in the hall (and I don’t know you), stop and chat because you are learning at a rare institution: an academic environment with many faculty assigned to relatively few students. My college freshman biology class? 300+ students!  What are the obstacles holding you back from being a more active part of the campus community?  What are obstacles you’ve encountered from students, faculty or the physical layout of campus?  Are there suitable locations for you to engage with others?

New In The NVCC Library: “Aristotle’s Ladder, Darwin’s Tree”

The crack staff at the NVCC-Alexandria library notified me of a new addition to the collection: Aristotle’s Ladder, Darwin’s Tree: The evolution of visual metaphors for biological order. Upon reading the book, by Prof. J. David Archibald at San Diego State Univ, I imagine students interested in biology and also fascinated by graphic design, history (including Ancient Rome) or art would enjoy this 200 page text replete with diagrams, paintings, and drawings. The only complaint? No color, only black and white!  While this may be warranted for pen and ink B&W sketches, it took away much of the visual impact of Ed. Hitchcock’s 1852 Paleontological Chart, which was originally published in color. Odd to omit color, especially for a text focused on visual metaphors. Otherwise, worth reading for students interested in taxonomy and visual organization of information.

How The Army Made Your Dinner

In Anastacia Marx de Salcedo’s book “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the US Military Shapes the Way You Eat,” she tells the story of how military developments in food technology have impacted what we find at the grocery store. From canned foods developed by Napoleon’s army, to the current MRE indestructible bags, and the food contents, she paints an amazing picture of how food we love (such as Cheetos, McRib sandwiches, and even energy bars) are the result of government research projects. Bio 102 students will love reading about the ways acetylene gas is broken up to preserve fruits & vegetables longer.   What are favorite food snacks you enjoy?  What are traditional ways of preserving food?  Why is food preservation necessary/How can food change?

Digging Deeper Into Success Stories

During the graduation season, students may wistfully look at their classmates’ success (in school, or in the job market) and imagine that they just aren’t as smart or as lucky. Writer, politician, and professor Charles Wheelan’s book “10 1/2 Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said” gives background into his struggles which have ultimately led to triumph. A diminutive, short book (118 pages on 5×7 inch pages) based on a commencement speech he gave at his alma mater, Dartmouth, it bears reading as students plan for life after college.

Bacteria Sacrifice Themselves For The Community

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered that large clusters Pseudomonas aeruginosa send out anti-respiration signals to members of the cluster to induce suicide.  The dead bacteria then become part of the bacteria’s notoriously tricky antibiotic defense system – its biofilm.  While industrial researchers have found that bacterial biofilms have potential as coatings for boats (to decrease fiction moving through the water),  the biofilms cause infections to better resist treatment and increase the odds of patient relapse.   This bacteria often hits patients hospitalized for an extended time hardest (called nosocomial infection) and also causes infection in particularly moist environments lung and urinary tracts.   By understanding the cell suicide mechanism and the chemical responsible for causing it and the resulting biofilm, the hope is that new treatments can be developed to better fight the infection.  How might biofilms be actually helpful (where are slick, robust surfaces important)?

Why Should I Write Outside Class?

Georgetown Univ. computer science professor Cal Newport has written numerous books on how to excel academically – from becoming a straight A student with less effort (he did, at the competitive Ivy League school, Dartmouth), to creating your own successful career (he does, by teaching at Georgetown). One of Prof. Newport’s recommendations bears repeating: “Write outside class”. No matter what your area of study or employment after graduation, you will be well served by being able to write clearly and quickly. Newport suggests spending time writing outside class and this bears repeating and amplification. Whether it be career-focused writing (regular resume revisions, cover letters), blogging about a topic of interest, keeping a journal, or actually writing freelance articles, you will benefit. Writing is difficult, can take years to develop proficiency and is undervalued in school relative to its importance in the workforce. Students may be able to learn how to use a computer in a few weeks, but learning to write well is to develop a craft that cannot occur in weeks or months. What is holding you back in your writing?