Posts by Karen
When the Nobel Prize in physics was announced Tuesday, Shane Burns, Colorado College physics professor, shared the special elation of knowing a great deal about the work that went into the award.
Burns is one of a small group of people, including Nobel winner Saul Perlmutter, who began the work that resulted in the 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. Burns has continued to work with the group, now known as the Supernova Cosmology Project, since its inception in 1989.
Burns and Perlmutter searched for supernovae, which are massive exploding stars, when they were graduate students in the 1980s at the University of California at Berkeley. Burns fell in love with teaching and eventually came to Colorado College, while Perlmutter remained at Berkeley, where he is a professor of physics.
With Perlmutter the “undisputed leader” of the group that became the Supernova Cosmology Project, Burns worked with as many as 30 other scientists to observe supernovae. He is a co-author of the team’s most recent paper, published in June 2010 in the Astrophysical Journal. They were in intense competition with another supernova research team, whose two leaders shared the Nobel with Perlmutter.
Using time on the Hubble space telescope, Burns worked on the project by studying the infrared brightness of supernovae during the summers and blocks off from Colorado College. Some of his calculations were done on a high-powered Mac workstation on his office desk in Barnes Science Center, in contrast to his work two decades earlier on the largest computer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the PDP1144, a behemoth the size of a washer-dryer combination with a fraction of the capacity of his current desktop computer.
One summer in Berkeley, Burns brought in a Colorado College physics student, Katy-Robin Garton ‘01, who did measurements for the project. Garton and Burns are co-authors, with several others in the Supernova Cosmology Project, of a 2003 paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. Garton lives in Missoula, Montana, and is a documentary filmmaker.
“It was beautiful science,” said Garton, who remembers the project for its elegance and accessibility.
Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess, leader of a competing supernova research team, shared the Nobel Prize with Perlmutter.
The Colorado House of Representatives recently awarded Burns a commendation for his part in the Nobel Prize.
Burns lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Stormy, an office coordinator in the music department. They have two children.
Improved treatments for cancer, better window coatings, and effective sunscreens are among the many outcomes of nanotechnology, the study of structures so small they are measured in the same way that one measures light. The field is growing rapidly, and a wide variety of nanomaterials are flowing into consumer goods and waste streams.
But we don’t know much about the long-term effects of these new materials, according to associate professor of chemistry Murphy Brasuel and student Kelsey Wise ’12, whose peer-reviewed article on the subject was published last month in the journal “Nanotechnogy, Science and Applications.”
Their article, “The current state of engineered nanomaterials in consumer goods and waste streams: the need to develop nanoproperty-quantifiable sensors for monitoring engineered nanomaterials,” is a review of current applications of certain nanoparticles, methods used to characterize and quantify them, their presence in the environment, and what research has been done into their toxicity.
Brasuel, whose graduate work was on the development of nanoparticle sensors to monitor communication between cells, notes that nanoparticles have different properties than the same substance in larger form – one reason that so little is known about the effects of nanomaterials . A nanoparticle of titanium oxide, for example, a key ingredient in some mineral-based sunscreens, is different than a “bulk” version of the same material.
The nano version of titanium oxide is valued for its ability to be spread transparently over the skin as it absorbs UV light. It’s used as a pigment in toothpaste and some foods, has potential in solar and fuel cells and hydrogen production, and it’s used in self-cleaning windows because it’s good at creating reactive species that break down organic materials.
Besides titanium oxide, the article discussed four other nanomaterials that are in demand or will be soon be available to consumers. These are carbon nanotubes (used in cosmetics, paints, filters, and reinforced plastics), semiconductor quantum dots (poised to be used in targeted drug delivery, cancer detection, and image-guided surgery), and gold and silver (used widely in consumer products). The article notes that the properties that make these nanomaterials so useful could also make them toxic.
“But we don’t know,” said Brasuel, who called for more work on possible effects.
“Nanotechnology is growing very rapidly on the development side but not so much on the regulation of exposure side,” Brasuel said. “How do we monitor these materials in the environment?”
Brasuel and Wise discovered that relatively little has been done to study possible effects of exposure. “It’s hard to talk about this without fearmongering,” said Brasuel, who notes that some consumer groups fear the worse and are against nanotechnology, while industry groups tend to emphasize their view that nanoparticles are absolutely safe.
“The truth is probably in between,” Brasuel said. “It’s not going to be completely benign, but not so harmful, either.”
Brasuel, who is incoming chair of the chemistry department, and Wise, who is also a captain of the college’s women’s soccer team, worked most of the summer of 2010 and the spring semester of 2011 on the article.
“I learned something completely new and fascinating,” said Wise of her work on the article. She spent this summer in a pre-med program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, where she worked with a psychologist doing research on tumors in children.
Her work on nanotechnology contributed to her thinking about technology and society and long-term effects as she studied this summer, she said, noting that nanoparticles are used in some cancer treatment, though not in the work she did at Baylor.
“It’s so new. There’s a lot to be done,” Wise said. She returns to Colorado College in August for soccer practice – she plays center midfield – and for her senior year as a chemistry major. She plans to apply to medical school. She’s from Fairview, Texas, and went to high school nearby in Allen, Texas.
The Dean’s Advisory Committee and the Colorado College Venture Grant Fund supported Brasuel and Wise’s research.
When mathematics professor Marlow Anderson turned his love of scuba diving into a course, “The Mathematics of Scuba Diving,” in 2001, the possible textbooks were either too technical or too simple. “They were loathe to have even a single equation,” Anderson said of the too-simple books. So he began to provide his own notes for the mathematical explorations course.
Those notes turned into a 197-page book, “The Physics of Scuba Diving,” just released by Nottingham University Press. Designed for readers who aren’t necessarily interested in “hard-core” calculus, the book explains the science and math involved in avoiding decompression sickness, the painful and sometimes fatal consequence of ascending too fast from a deep dive.
Decompression sickness — the bends — results when the extra nitrogen a diver’s body has absorbed while the diver breathes compressed air at depth leaves the body too quickly as the diver ascends. The process is described mathematically using the idea of exponential decay, which takes into account changes in pressure at various depths during a dive.
Anderson describes the history, math, and science behind the rows and columns of numbers that make up dive tables, which are designed to help divers plan safe dives. From his first scuba training more than 15 years ago, dive tables provoked his curiosity. “As a mathematician and educator, I naturally wondered: where do these numbers come from? They were obviously based on physics and mathematics somehow,” he writes. “My personal quest to understand those dive tables has resulted in this book.”
Anderson, a PADI-certified assistant instructor of diving, has dived all over the world. He recently returned from Tobago, where he encountered manta rays swimming playfully overhead during a couple of dives.
Darlene Garcia, career counselor at the Career Center, was awarded the National Career Development Association’s Outstanding Career Practitioner Award for 2010 at a conference July 1 in San Francisco.
The award recognizes practicing career counselors, consultants, or teachers for outstanding performance in day-to-date service for people and takes into consideration:
- Years of service in direct work with people in regard to career development in education, business and industry, and/or private practice;
- Quality of service as indicated by innovative programs, recognition by local organizations, publications, etc;
- Service to the profession as indicated by participation and leadership in professional associations at the local, state, and/or national levels.
Garcia has been a career counselor at CC since August 2001. She developed a method for combining in-depth assessments (MBTI Step II and Strong College and Career) to help students learn more about who they are, including their strengths, interests, and values. As an MBTI Master Practitioner, Garcia helps students identify their personal themes, so that they may explore and consider opportunities that fit them, simplifying the career exploration, preparation, and job search process. Over the years, these assessment appointments have become very popular among students, especially sophomores and seniors, she says. Beyond her own work with students, Garcia has brought Myers-Brigg theory to staff to help them understand themselves and CC students. She has also used the MBTI to help students understand their own and others’ preferred learning styles.
In addition to her work with MBTI and Strong, Garcia was involved in the development and leadership of the First Generation Group on campus, which provides support and education by staff and faculty to students who are one of the first generation to attend a four-year college. Outside of CC, she regularly presents on career issues and provides career counseling to the Colorado Springs community.
Sue Aiken, CC ’62, is a career counselor who encountered Garcia a few years ago at a career conference in Sacramento, Calif. After the initial conversation at the conference, Aiken called Garcia to ask her if there are any special projects she would like funded. Garcia told her she would like to combine the assessments and Aiken agreed to help fund the pilot. As a past recipient of the NCDA Outstanding Career Practitioner award herself, Aiken was present at the awards luncheon at the San Francisco conference.
The Woman’s Club of Colorado Springs presented a check for $13,443 to Colorado College on Wednesday, March 24, in a ceremony in Slocum Hall. The money will be added to a scholarship fund the Woman’s Club established at CC in 2002.
Jim Swanson, director of financial aid, accepted the gift on behalf of Colorado College.
The Woman’s Club of Colorado Springs Scholarship Fund provides scholarships each year for two female CC students who are from Colorado Springs and who have participated in community service during high school or college.
The Woman’s Club of Colorado Springs was formed in 1902 to support the philanthropic needs of the community.
A new website optimized for mobile browsers will be launched shortly after winter break. The site is intended to make information easier to access when you’re away from your computer. It’s not meant to be a replacement for the main website.
For a sneak preview, point your iPhone, Blackberry, Android or other smartphone to m.coloradocollege.edu. Comments are welcome.
Jayne Blewitt, Alumni Parent Program Specialist, Alumni & Parent Relations
Tobias Brace, Staff Nurse, Boettcher Health Center
Justin Freeman, Database Records Specialist, Advancement Services
Sarah Jaecks, Database Records Specialist, Advancement Services
Monica Leahy, Admission & Financial Aid Specialist, Admission Office/Financial Aid Office
Brenda Maldonado, Staff Nurse, Boettcher Health Center
Kevin Morgan, Patrol Officer, Campus Safety
John Papuga, Groundskeeper, Facilities Services
Jon Ramsay, Patrol Officer, Campus Safety
Margaret Rustenbeck, Staff Assistant, Facilities Services
Kim Wigglesworth, Lab Supervisor, Boettcher Heath Center