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!

Note from the Dean

Warm inside

Winter is cold outside, but it is warm and alive inside at CBU.

Life is full of challenges, including those of weather and seasons.  We are starting to come to the end of winter, a time of little daylight, cold, and colds and flu.  As cold as it feels to us here, Memphis doesn’t have the cold of the North, where according to Jack London in his story To Build a Fire:

“He spat upon the snow, — a favorite northland trick, — and the sharp crackle of the instantly congealed spittle startled him. The spirit thermometer at Calumet had registered sixty below when he left, but he was certain it had grown much colder, how much colder he could not imagine.”

Sometimes it helps to compare your problems with others, but the problems still remain.  The person in Jack London’s story started out with full confidence in his abilities, so much so that he disregarded a major safety precaution which Jack London begins his story with:

“For land travel or seafaring, the world over, a companion is usually considered desirable. In the Klondike, as Tom Vincent found out, such a companion is absolutely essential. “

Both students and faculty face problems in college, but at CBU we try very hard to provide that travelling companion to help our faculty and students survive and even thrive in the face of problems.  To tackle real problems and succeed is one of the greatest thrills a person can experience.

I hope you enjoy this newsletter and appreciate the coming spring with its more abundant sunshine and warmer temperatures.

*To read the short story, see:

Featured Story: Faculty Development

Faculty development in the School of Sciences at CBU happens in many different ways. All faculty work on their courses, both keeping up with constantly expanding content and improving the course materials and delivery. Work on developing course web pages and web resources keeps many of our faculty active throughout the year. Work on new and improved laboratory experiments also keeps many of us busy and involved in the lab. Work on using the power of the computer to aid instruction also is a source of continued faculty effort. While many of our students do their senior research with researchers at local research institutions, some of the Sciences’ faculty are able to work with students on their student research. In particular, Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald, Dr. Stan Eisen, and Dr. James Moore, have worked with students in biology, Ms. Lynda Miller has worked with natural science students, Dr. Dennis Merat has worked with chemistry students, Professor Cathy Grilli has worked with math students, and Dr. John Varriano has worked with physics and even some engineering students on their senior research projects. In Computer Science, Dr. Arthur Yanushka oversees the Computer Science internships.

Dr. John Varriano, Professor of Physics, has worked to develop some web based resources for some of his physics courses, and was recently asked by the Educational Technology division of the Ministry of Education in Singapore to allow them to link to some of his on-line resources. Dr. Anna Ross, Professor of Biology, has also created impressive resources for the web and has received numerous requests for permission to use those resources. Br. Walter Schreiner, Associate Professor of Mathematics, has developed statistics manuals for the calculators we use and for SPSS that are regularly used by other schools. He has also developed several Maple worksheets including a new set for Calculus III.

Some of us are able to find the time to devote to the traditional form of faculty development: publishing our research. Listed below are some areas of active interest and some of the papers that were published by the Sciences faculty recently.

Dr. Leigh C. Becker, Professor of Mathematics, does research on Volterra integral equations.  Some of his recent results include theorems that allowed him to find closed-form solutions of integral equations that were previously unknown.  They are among some of the other results that appear in the following papers:
Resolvents for weakly singular kernels and fractional differential equations, Nonlinear Analysis: Theory, Methods & Applications,75, Issue 13 (Sept. 2012), pp. 4839-4861. 
Singular integral equations, Liapunov functionals, and resolvents, Nonlinear Analysis: Theory, Methods & Applications, 75, Issue 7 (May 2012), pp. 3277-3291 (coauthored with T. A. Burton and I. K. Purnaras).  Resolvents and solutions of weakly singular linear Volterra integral equations, Nonlinear Analysis: Theory, Methods & Applications,74, Issue 5 (March 2011), pp. 1892-1912.  Seven of his papers are cited in a recently published book by T. A Burton entitled Liapunov Theory for Integral Equations with Singular Kernels and Fractional Differential Equations ( 2012). Dr. Becker also reviewed papers for two journals last year.

Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald, Professor of Biology, writes:  “As a faculty member in science, it is important to stay current in my area of expertise, as developments progress so quickly.  One of the ways I am able to do this is to apply for summer faculty development funds.  These funds allow faculty to attend meetings, conduct research or update our classes.  I have been fortunate enough to receive summer support, which I used to attend an international meeting as well as a workshop, and it supported time to re-vamp my courses.  This past summer, I attended the International Congress of Eye Research in Berlin, Germany.  This was a small meeting by comparison to other meetings I normally attend: ARVO and Neuroscience that have 15-20 thousand people in attendance, and  ICER that has 500 attendees.  I was able to present my data and attend other sessions that were outside my field.  In this manner, I learned a lot about areas of research in the visual system that I would not normally read about.  I also had the opportunity to observe Dr. Felix Vasquez-Chon, Biology 1998, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow in Utah.  He moderated a session at the meeting and it was wonderful to see him ‘grow up’ in the scientific community.  It was not all work, Felix and I rented bikes and rode around Berlin.  It was a wonderful city. ”

Dr. James Moore

Dr. James Moore, Assistant Professor of Biology

Dr. James Moore, Assistant Professor of Biology, had two papers published in 2012:  Water stress interacts with early arrival to influence inter and intra-specific priority competition: A test using a greenhouse study. Journal of Vegetation Science 23(4): 647-656;  and  Long-term population demography of Trillium recurvatum (Beck) on loess bluffs in western TN. AoB-Plants doi: 10.1093/aobpla/pls015.

Dr. Anna Ross, Professor of Biology, attended the Annual Human Anatomy and Physiology Society Conference in May 2012.  Annual HAPS meetings are attended by A&P professors from across North America and feature two days of update seminars followed by two days of hands-on workshops.  Dr. Ross reports, “Having students use clay to help learn human muscles is an idea I’ve had my eye on for several years… but the name brand versions of the skeleton model cost several hundred dollars each and sculpting muscles in clay seemed far too time consuming.  Then I attended a workshop at the May 2012 HAPS meeting and saw that a couple of A&P professors had developed a cheaper method… using the Tiny Tim model skeletons (about $20 each) and strings of clay (instead of having to sculpt more realistic looking muscles).  They even have a web site that shows  about 60 muscles constructed this way.  After trying it during the workshop I decided I could make this work for CBU’s A&P course.”  So, early last summer Dr. Ross purchased 14 of the skeletons (one per student), 4 clay extruders, and a few pounds of good quality plasticene clay.  She then modified the A&P Supplement and syllabus to include this hands-on lab activity in the Biol 217 lab course.  This fall, each A&P student constructed a few assigned muscles on a small model skeleton.  Then the students examined each other’s models and identified the names and actions of the muscles other students constructed.  Dr. Ross reports that students really enjoyed the hands-on lab activity and befitted from practice learning the names and actions of human muscles.  Here are some photos of the students in action

new models in use

New models being used in Human Anatomy & Physiology

Dr. Johnny B. Holmes, Professor of Physics, and Dr. John Varriano, Professor of Physics, worked this year to update the physics computer assisted homework problem sets that they created. These 48 programs worked fine on the Windows XP and older windows operating systems, but the recent versions of Vista and Windows 7 required the use of a third-party DOSBOX routine. The updated programs now run directly on all of the windows operating systems.