Note from the Dean 10/14

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

As Dean of the School of Sciences, it is my great pleasure to work with so many fine and dedicated teachers.  I have enjoyed working these many years at CBU because CBU values good teaching and attracts good teachers.

One of my main jobs as dean is to try to evaluate the teaching of the Sciences’ faculty.  I have found this to be very tricky.  Do I reward effort?  As a teacher, I only reward the performance of my students.  I encourage my students to do the work and say that good performance requires work. But to perform well requires effective work by the student, not just any type of work.  As a teacher, I try to design work for students that will effectively lead them to understand the course material.  As dean, I do try to recognize the work that faculty members put into their courses, but is it effective work?

Now comes the question of how to judge teaching performance.  I’m not an expert in all of the areas of physics, much less all of the areas of science and mathematics.  We have student evaluations of every course every semester, but are the students experts in judging teacher performance?  In some respects, I would say yes – an enjoyable course is usually an effective course.  Most students do want to learn and do appreciate when they seem to actually learn.  In other respects, I would say no – an enjoyable course does not necessarily mean the course accomplished its goals.  Further, do students accurately realize how much (or how little) they have learned?  If teaching is done well, students often think that what they have learned they already knew since one of the great arts of teaching is having students discover things on their own.

Overall, though, it is easy to see how well the Sciences’ faculty do their work when we look at the successes our graduates have obtained.  I hope this newsletter shows you some of those successes.

Note from the Dean 9/14

The Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

The Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

The Who, What, and Why of college.  Should college prepare you for a job?  It should prepare you for more than a job – it should prepare you for a career in particular and for life in general.  How does it do that?  A college degree addresses the three questions of Who, What, and Why.  WHO:  In a professional career, as with life in general, you have to deal with a lot of different people from a lot of different cultures.  Cultures that are different by region of the world and even by region of the city.  WHAT:  In a professional career, you have to know the language of the discipline, all its terms and inner workings.  WHY:  To be a top professional, you have to know why the systems are designed the way they are.  You have to also understand the inter-connections that exist among and within systems.  You can better anticipate, and then minimize, unintended consequences (e.g., side effects, collateral damage) if you can see those inter-connections.  With broad knowledge (general education and support courses) AND detailed knowledge (major courses), seeing those inter-connections is greatly enhanced.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter that features the success of our graduates as well as showing you how busy we are as the semester begins.  If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know at .

Note from the Dean 4/14

Spring at CW

It was a long winter (for Memphis), but it is finally starting to look and feel like spring!

Sometimes I think we don’t appreciate how much we have learned.  Once we know something well, we tend to think it should be as obvious to everyone else as it now is to us.  I tell my students that physics is easy once you understand it – the problem is that it is sometimes hard to get to that understanding.  One of the major difficulties for teachers is to recognize that parts of their subjects really are not as obvious as they seem to be to them.  The opposite extreme is to think that only really bright people can understand what we do.  We teachers have to find a balance between assuming our subjects are obvious or nearly impossible.

As the academic year sprints toward the end, I enjoy seeing how much my students have learned.  I hope in this issue of the newsletter you can get a sense of how much the students and graduates of CBU have learned and see a sample of their many accomplishments.

Note from the Dean 3/14

BIOL 218 Lab

Spring is late this March, so here is an inside picture: Human Anatomy & Physiology students earned AHA certification in Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers (taught by the faculty of CBU’s Physician Assistant Program) last month.

Competition and Cooperation.  Creativity and Critical thinking.  Physics (science) and Philosophy (art).  Are these pairs opposites or complements?  How about Rights and Responsibilities, and Efficiency and Effectiveness?  How curious that the first letters of each of the five pairs is the same!  Does thinking about these pairs help prepare for a career or for life – or for both?   Last month I talked about the importance of questions, and here I go again – asking questions.

Earlier this month we held the regional Science Olympiad here at CBU, and later this month we will host the regional Science Fair.  Throughout history, people have created competitions to test people’s skills in areas that were important to their society:  the Greeks had the Olympics (and we have resurrected those games), the Wild West had the rodeos (and we still have those), and now we have similar competitions in science.  Note that these competitions are both individual and team oriented, so cooperation plays a large part in these competitions.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter that features how CBU students are involved in all of these questions.

Note from the Dean 2/14

BIOL 321 L lab

Dr. Thompson-Jaeger’s BIOL 321L Microbiology lab

Information is everywhere and available almost instantaneously.  So what is the point of a formal education?  I suggest that the point of true education is to get students to ask good questions.  Last fall I gave a presentation to an AP Physics class at a local high school, and last month one of the students came to an Admissions event at CBU and said he recognized me – as the person who made the class feel dumb!  How could anyone make a very bright high school teenager “feel dumb”?  I suspect it was because in my presentation I did not present a lot of information (so the students could go blah, blah, blah, so what).  Instead I asked a lot of questions.  Basic questions, such as, what is time, what is distance?  The questions were so basic, that they were hard, if not impossible, to answer simply because they were so elementary.  But to ask good questions, we must know something – really know it and not just have things memorized. Labs help students get their hands on the subject (see the image above) so that they can  know the subject better. That cyclic process of knowing and asking takes work, guidance, and encouragement.

In the School of Sciences, we want our students to know how something works but also why that something works.  With an understanding of why, we can hopefully keep asking the good questions that keep our society and us as individuals moving forward.  I hope you enjoy this newsletter where we showcase our students moving forward.

Note from the Dean 11/13

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences in the fall - courtesy of Leslie Herlihy

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences in the fall
courtesy of Leslie Herlihy

“You can be whatever you want to be.”  Have you heard that before?  Have you told others that?  Have you ever “wished upon a star”?  In the city, you can hardly see any stars, so that phrase is somewhat dated, but the sentiment isn’t.  Are you still waiting for someone to give you what you want – like winning the lottery?  The reality is that life is hard a lot of times.  That is what makes the beautiful fall picture above so great – it rises above the hard day to day problems.  College can be very hard, even for the bright students but especially for the under prepared students.  I have had many, many conversations with faculty who are trying to find ways of helping students recognize and face the problems of college in particular and life in general.  While faculty can’t give students an education, they can help them earn that education both in the classroom and lab and outside the formal settings.  I enjoy working with such a faculty!

In this newsletter we feature an alum who talks about his college experiences at CBU, and we have three different articles about faculty working with students.  Our News of the Moment is filled with activities and special student successes.  I hope you enjoy reading about our students.  If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know at .

Note from the Dean 10/13

Cooper-Wilson as fall approaches

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences as fall approaches.

Little words can make big differences.  In physics, Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion says ∑F = ma.  But are the forces, F, the forces on the object or by the object?  This is an important distinction, and Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion deals with this.  (The answer is on, not by.)  In teaching, we can’t learn things for students; we learn with students.  We are there to help students learn because we can’t learn things for them.  In a similar way, we can’t give students self respect; but we can help them earn it.

In this newsletter, as with all our newsletters, we try to show how well our students do learn and some of the many ways our faculty help them in this process.  We have a featured article on the MHIRT program where students have an opportunity to do summer research in Brazil and other places where the trips are paid for and the students earn a stipend.  We have another article on our new Ecology degree along with an article on an interesting course on the Biology of Zoo Animals.  We also continue to feature an alum and a couple of tutors in our Math Center.

I hope you enjoy reading about our students and faculty and their work.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at

Note from the Dean 9/13

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

“That makes sense.”  As a teacher, that is the phrase that I enjoy most coming from a student.  As a scientist, we have a belief that we can make sense of the physical universe, and that belief has led us to great technologies that make life more pleasant and allows us more time to use that human trait of curiosity.  But the technologies are only a side benefit.  Scientists and mathematicians do their work because it is fun and exhilarating!

In this issue we look at our “Student Success” data for the School of Sciences.  Both students and faculty work very hard to achieve these successes, and it is my belief that they put in this hard work because it is ultimately fun and rewarding.  We also see an individual student success in our featured alum, as well as the many individual successes of our students’ research this summer.

I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter.  If you have comments or suggestions, please let me know at .

Note from the Dean

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

Cooper-Wilson Center for the Life Sciences

A student in my Intro to Physics I class once told me that when he was in high school taking trig, he told his teacher that this subject was useless and that he would never use the sine function again.  He laughed when he told me that.  Anyone who has worked in science or math knows that basic trig comes up whenever you are dealing with 3-dimensional space and whenever you are dealing with things that oscillate like sound and light and cell phone signals (actually a form of light).  By the way, our featured department in this issue is the Physics Department!

Life is full of surprises, twists, and turns.  Who really knows what any one person will find absolutely essential and what will become superfluous.  It is my hope that our graduating students will have found some area to pursue that will bring them enjoyment as well as financial well-being.  It is also my hope that they will also carry away with them an enjoyment of learning and discovering new things.  See our featured alum in this issue for a nice example of this hope fulfilled.

In this last month of the academic year, I wish all of our students the best, and I hope they can find the time to appreciate the spring weather and each other.

Note from the Dean

Spring in blossom by Cooper-Wilson

Spring blossoms by Cooper-Wilson

Spring break is over, but I’m not sure winter is.  It is close to freezing this morning as I write this note.  Last year we had such a mild winter that I had plenty of choices for a great springtime picture for the March 2012 newsletter, but this year I had a hard time finding a picture to take that would show spring.  The forecast for Friday, the date for the newsletter to go out, is for a high around 70, and for me that qualifies as spring weather – yeah!  While the Memphis winter this year was much colder than average, we had nothing like the snowy winter weather of the Midwest and Northeast.

College teaching is a lot like spring.  Students come to college with a lot of potential hidden inside.  It is the job of the professors to warm and water that potential so it can become a beautiful and fruitful reality.  Like spring thunderstorms, college teaching has its trials and tribulations, for both students and faculty.  But the beauty of the subject, like the sun, will eventually shine forth.  To glimpse that light and to be able to share that light with others is an absolute pleasure for me as a professor.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter with its many items including the featured alum, the featured article on student groups, the nice thank you note, and the featured department: mathematics.

Follow us on Facebook -Christian Brothers University School of Sciences  and Twitter @CBUSciences!