Friday, January 29, 2016
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

Course Ombudsperson Training, Winter 2016

A Healthy Start

Science and medicine, it would seem, have always gone hand in hand. But for centuries, they were actually two very disparate fields. Identifying a need for "investigators who are well trained in both basic science and clinical research," the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in 1964 to help streamline completion of dual medical and doctoral degrees. The purpose of developing this highly competitive MD/PhD program was to support "the training of students with outstanding credentials and potential who are motivated to undertake careers in biomedical research and academic medicine."

Recognizing Caltech's strength in the biological and chemical sciences, UCLA—which first established an MSTP in 1983—formed an affiliation with the Institute in 1997 to offer an average of two students the opportunity to perform graduate research at the partner school through the MSTP; PhD thesis work is done at Caltech for UCLA medical students, and when completed they return to UCLA to finish their MD studies.

The vast majority of alumni who have completed their postgraduate training are actively involved in biomedical research as physician-scientists at outstanding research institutions across the country. Although the MSTP represented the first formal affiliation between UCLA and Caltech, the success of the combined UCLA-Caltech MSTP spearheaded and served as a model for several other joint efforts that benefit from the complementary strengths of the two institutions, including the Specialized Training and Advanced Research (STAR) fellowship program for physician-scientists, and the Institute for Molecular Medicine.

A joint program with the University of Southern California soon followed. In 1998, the Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation awarded Caltech funding to support a joint MD/PhD program with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The grant established the Norris Foundation MD/PhD Scholars Fund, which supports Caltech PhD candidates from Keck. Administered by Caltech in cooperation with USC, the program accepts two students each year. As with the UCLA program, students spend their first two years in medical school, taking preclinical science courses, with summers spent at Caltech gaining exposure to the academic research environment. They then come to Caltech, spending three to five years on their PhDs before returning to their medical school for the final two clinical years.

The late Caltech biologist Paul Patterson, who passed away in 2014, was instrumental in developing the joint degree program. He believed that Caltech graduate students should also have an opportunity to explore their work in a clinical setting.

"Paul showed creativity both in curriculum development, in student mentoring, and in bringing the Caltech faculty together to support a program, which was in collaboration with another major institution," says Richard Bergman, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute, who helped Patterson form the initial collaboration with USC. "His contributions in this regard educated several generations of students who, today, continue to make important contributions to medical science. This was a great legacy of Professor Patterson."

Additional funding for students in the MD/PhD programs has come from a provost-directed endowed fund called the W. R. Hearst Endowed Scholarship for MD/PhD Students; from the Lee-Ramo Life Sciences Fund; and through lab support for medical research from the W. M. Keck Foundation Fund for Discovery in Basic Medical Research. The Division of Biology and Biological Engineering also provides support to students and scholars who are headed for careers in medicine through an endowed fund from the Walter and Sylvia Treadway Foundation.

Since the start of the two MD/PhD programs, 64 students have been accepted to work toward dual degrees, and 40 have received PhDs from Caltech.

This story was reprinted from the Winter 2015 E&S magazine. See the full issue online.

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A Healthy Start
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Explore the origins of Caltech's joint MD/PhD programs, which help students develop expertise in both basic science and clinical research.
Monday, November 30, 2015

Microbial diners, drive-ins, and dives: deep-sea edition

Volunteers for Vets

For the last three years, Caltech students and staff have been lending a hand at Pasadena City College, providing free tutoring and mentoring to some of the campus's nearly 800 student veterans. This past spring, 19 Caltech community members participated. Their involvement is part of a larger volunteer program, run through PCC's Veterans Resource Center (VRC)—established in 2010 under a grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office—that provides support and guidance to the campus veterans. 

Patricia D'Orange-Martin, coordinator of the VRC, calls the Caltech cohort "the core of our tutoring/mentoring team" and credits it with providing more than 60 percent of the program's support, "particularly for veterans preparing to transfer to four-year colleges and universities." 

Urte Barker, the creator of the tutoring program, started the center with a handful of volunteers. In 2012, she decided she was ready to enlarge the group of tutors and expand academic support, especially in higher-level math and science subjects, and approached Caltech through its Center for Teaching, Learning and Outreach (CTLO) and through the Caltech Y.

The Caltech community responded enthusiastically. Some tutors are undergrads, including Dennis Lam, a junior majoring in computer science. "The veterans I've worked with are motivated, hard working, and have a clear picture of where they want to be in the next stages of their lives," Lam says. Volunteers have also come from the ranks of Caltech's graduate students, postdocs, administrators—even a postdoc's chemistry-teacher wife.

Serving veterans, says Mitch Aiken, associate director for educational outreach at CTLO, "provides our students with the chance to deliver meaningful one-on-one outreach." It also allows them to "give back, expand their own worldview, and get in some excellent real-world teaching experience," he says.

"We're looking for mentors and role models of all ages," says Barker. "Current or recent students are close enough to their own study years to remember the feeling. Older volunteers bring invaluable experience in life-skills development."

"At first, I thought I'd need to be a subject-matter expert," says volunteer Elizabeth DeClue of Caltech Purchasing Services. "But tutoring turned out to be much more about supporting the student and sharing what it takes to be successful."

The need is great, Barker says. "Society has created this huge group of people in their 20s and 30s, dropped them back in school while they're scrambling to gain traction in civilian life and told them to catch up. Some are pursuing careers that will require years of study. Others have memory or health issues." With the military's emphasis on pride and self-sufficiency, however, veterans often resist seeking help, she says. "I keep reminding them: 'What you're learning in college will become your toolbox for your career and your life. Commit to it.'"

Volunteer tutor and former JPL education coordinator Rich Alvidrez understands from personal experience the issues these vets face. "I found myself very rusty in math after I left the Air Force to begin my college education, so I can understand how difficult it is for some vets to get back after being out of school."

Lessons learned extend far beyond the textbook. "Many students' lives prior to military service lacked enrichment opportunities," Barker says. "Now they're picking up valuable life skills: time management, prioritizing school against outside interests, perspective about opportunities they'd never heard of. That's uplifting and empowering."

Although the potential demand for tutors still outstrips the supply, Barker remains optimistic. "So far, we've just been putting drops on a hot stone," she says. "We also lost some wonderful people after graduation this year. But at the Caltech Y's Community Service and Advocacy Fair in October, I met people with phenomenal amounts of heart and energy. This program creates a feeling of effectiveness and personal satisfaction that keeps our volunteers coming back."

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Volunteers for Vets
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Caltech students and staff provide free tutoring and mentoring to some of Pasadena City College's nearly 800 student veterans.

Learning to Teach

For many graduate students, the Caltech doctoral program is not only about producing innovative science, but also about beginning an academic career. To support their peers in their growth as educators, a group of graduate students began the Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET) in 2006. The program's mission is to help members of the Caltech community—including postdocs, undergraduates, professors, and graduate students—become more effective teachers and communicators. To this end, CPET hosts regular seminars and workshops, featuring speakers such as Feynman Teaching Prize winners as well as presidents and faculty from other universities.

"We know that many of the students and postdocs at Caltech will go on to become faculty at some of the top institutions around the world, so we have a chance to help these talented individuals develop not only as researchers but also as educators," says Daniel Thomas, one of the two graduate student CPET co-directors. "We can also help TAs, professors, and postdocs model excellent teaching for the undergraduate and graduate students here at Caltech, creating an effective learning environment that can be emulated elsewhere."

Over the summer, CPET helped plan Caltech's third annual teaching conference, held on September 24, 2015. With sessions led by faculty, staff, and graduate teaching assistants from Caltech and other local universities, the conference drew approximately 350 participants from across Caltech's divisions and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. One subject of the conference was how to create an inclusive classroom. "An inclusive classroom is one in which all students, regardless of their backgrounds, have the support necessary to succeed and feel that their contributions to the class are important," says Kelsey Boyle, CPET's other co-director. "We have to do our best to connect with students and understand their perspective so that unencumbered learning can take place."

A trademark of a Caltech education is weekly problem sets, as well as take-home exams. How to design these assignments in order to effectively measure and challenge student learning has been an ongoing focus of workshops at the annual teaching conference. "It takes a great deal of work to make a problem set that has problems that can pinpoint student misconceptions, avoid confusion, and be completed in a reasonable amount of time," Boyle says.

CPET also provides a certificate program that gives participants an introduction to best practices in the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as opportunities for real-time feedback as they teach. Students can receive a Certificate of Interest in University Teaching by participating in six CPET seminars or workshops and submitting reflective journal entries. Several hundred people participate in one or more of CPET's seminars or workshops each year, and CPET expects to award more than 10 Certificates of Interest in 2015-2016. CPET also offers a Certificate of Practice in University Teaching, in which participants work with CPET and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO) on developing and practicing lessons for real Caltech courses. This second certificate program is in its first year and has eight participants.

"The CPET certificate program is one of a very few, if not the only, student- and peer-led program of its kind," says Cassandra Horii, the director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach. "I'm incredibly proud of and grateful to CPET for their innovation and leadership in this area, including adding a Certificate of Practice in University Teaching program for those who want to extend their knowledge and skills of effective teaching even further through experience, feedback, and creation of their own teaching materials."

"We are in an exciting period in the history of STEM teaching, with faculty and education experts across the country realizing that teaching styles that actively engage with students are significantly more effective than traditional lectures," says Thomas. "Using methods such as 'flipping' the classroom—when students read or watch lectures outside of the classroom and do 'homework' problems collaboratively during traditional class time—as well as collecting student feedback during class and incorporating peer tutors, can help students improve their conceptual understanding. We can get students to be more passionate about a class when we engage with them."

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Lori Dajose
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Learning to Teach
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To support their peers in their growth as educators, a group of graduate students began the Caltech Project for Effective Teaching (CPET) in 2006.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Beckman Institute Auditorium – Beckman Institute

Teaching Statement Workshop

Feynman's Nobel Year

A Milestone in Physics

Fifty years ago on October 21, 1965, Caltech's Richard Feynman shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. The three independently brokered workable marriages between 20th-century quantum mechanics and 19th-century electromagnetic field theory.

Quantum electrodynamics, as this previously reluctant partnership is known, treats the behavior of electromagnetic fields in the same manner as it treats the behavior of the electrons producing them—as particles, whose interactions can be described using probability theory. (In this case, the particles are little packages of electromagnetic energy called photons, which we usually think of as particles of light.) The so-called probability amplitude for anything more elaborate than an isolated hydrogen atom is far too complex to solve directly, so the standard quantum-mechanics approach is to start with a solvable, relatively simple equation and keep adding smaller and smaller corrections to it according to well-defined rules. The solution gets closer and closer to the actual answer as the corrections diminish in size, so you simply decide how accurate you need to be for the task at hand. However, describing an electromagnetic field in such a manner means allowing the photons to carry infinite momentum, and it had become clear by the late 1930s that such equations did not converge on the correct answer—adding corrections merely piled infinities upon infinities.

While Schwinger and Tomonaga used highly mathematical approaches to the problem, Feynman characteristically took a different point of view. He drew pictures of every possible interaction between photons and electrons, including those involving "virtual" particles undetectable by the outside world. For example, an electron can spontaneously emit and reabsorb a photon—a self-interaction that contributes appreciably to the electron's mass. And a photon can transmute into an electron and its antimatter twin, the positron, with the two immediately annihilating each another to produce a new photon and helping to create the so-called vacuum energy that pervades empty space. Far more complex pictures are possible—and usually necessary. These iconic doodles, now called Feynman diagrams, allowed him to calculate each scenario's probability amplitude independently and add them all up to get the correct answer.

Back in the 1960s, Nobel laureates got a congratulatory 9:00 a.m. telegram from Stockholm rather than a 3:00 a.m. phone call. Even so, Feynman was awakened at 3:45 a.m. by a reporter who broke the news to him, then asked, "Aren't you pleased to hear that you've won the prize?" "I could have found out later this morning," the groggy Feynman replied. "Well, how do you feel, now that you've won it?" the reporter persisted.

At the customary press conference held at a more reasonable hour at Caltech's faculty club, the Athenaeum, a reporter asked, "Is there any way your work can be explained in layman's terms?" "There certainly must be," Feynman replied. "But I don't know what it is."

Feynman was a master teacher with a flair for showmanship, and for him to be at a loss for words—even in jest—may have been a first. The final installment of his textbook The Feynman Lectures on Physics had come out that June. Distilled from the Physics 1 and 2 course sequence he had taught to 180 Caltech freshmen in 1961–62 and to the same group as sophomores the following year, the work's three volumes appeared in 1963, 1964, and 1965. The lectures, a complete reimagining of introductory physics, had been motivated by the rapid pace of discoveries in the field in the 1950s and by the improvements in high-school mathematics instruction brought on by the space race—which the Soviets were winning in 1961 by a score of three to nothing, having successively put the first satellite, the first animal (Laika the dog), and the first human (Yuri Gagarin) into orbit.

"A substantial number" of Caltech's physics faculty had proffered outlines of topics the two-year course should cover, wrote professor Robert Leighton (BS '41, MS '44, PhD '47) in the foreword to the series. He noted that the hundred-plus lectures were envisioned as "a cooperative effort by N staff members who would share the total burden symmetrically and equally: each man would take responsibility for 1/N of the material, deliver the lectures, and write text material for his part." This unworkable scheme was quickly abandoned after physics professor Matthew Sands volunteered Feynman for the entire job. Feynman agreed—on the condition that he did not have to write anything. Instead, each lecture was audiotaped and transcribed, and every diagram was photographed. "It was expected that the necessary editing would be minor . . . to be done by one or two graduate students on a part-time basis. Unfortunately, this expectation was short-lived," Leighton wrote. In fact, it "required the close attention of a professional physicist for from ten to twenty hours per lecture!" Leighton and Sands worked on it by turn, with Feynman doing the final edit himself.

In the end, however, it was all worth the effort. More than 1.5 million sets of the iconic, bright red volumes have been sold in English alone, and at least a dozen translations into other languages exist. The book has gone through three editions and remains in print to this day; on September 13, 2013 Caltech posted a freely available electronic version whose equations and graphics scale automatically to the reader's device. In the 25 months since then, the site has been accessed more than eight million times by nearly 1.7 million individuals.

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Douglas Smith
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Feynman's Nobel Year
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Feynman's Nobel Year
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Richard Feynman had a banner year in 1965, sharing the Nobel Prize in Physics and seeing the final volume of "The Feynman Lectures on Physics" published.

Making A World of Difference: Engineers Week

On October 1, 2015, Caltech celebrated the launch of Engineers Week with a panel discussion on diversity and how engineers are making a world of difference. The launch was designed to energize national and international groups in their planning of programs and events to celebrate the accomplishments of engineers as well as to inspire the next generation during Engineers Week, which will be February 21–26, 2016. 

The Caltech event and webcast was opened by Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics, and the panel was moderated by Guruswami "Ravi" Ravichandran, the holder of the Otis Booth Leadership Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science and the John E. Goode, Jr., Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. The in-person audience included members of the Engineering and Environmental Science Academy at Pasadena's John Muir High School as well as Caltech students who are members of the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers Without Borders, and Science & Engineering Policy at Caltech.

Panel members included: Domniki Asimaki, Caltech professor of mechanical and civil engineering; Caltech senior Aileen Cheng, the president of the Caltech Society of Women Engineers; Sandra H. Magnus, executive director of American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Andrew Smart, director of Society Programs and Industry Relations for SAE International; and John J. Tracy, chief technology officer of The Boeing Company.

As part of the wide-ranging discussion, the panelists shared with the audience an engineering accomplishment or solution that stirred their imagination. When asked to describe the motivation for her future research endeavors, Cheng recalled her response as a young girl to learning that her father was ill. "When I first learned my dad had Hepatitis B, I said, 'I've got to cure him'"—sparking an early interest in bioengineering, which she has also combined with computer science at Caltech. "I decided to look at ways to help people live longer."

The launch of Engineers Week is an annual event organized by DiscoverE, a foundation dedicated to sustaining and growing a dynamic engineering profession through outreach, education, celebration, and volunteerism. Each year an academic and a corporate partner are chosen to host the event and webcast. This year the academic partner was Caltech and the corporate partner was The Boeing Company.

Learn more about the 2016 Engineers Week by visiting http://www.discovere.org/our-programs/engineers-week.

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Trity Pourbahrami
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Making A World of Difference
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On October 1, 2015, Caltech celebrated the launch of Engineers Week with a panel discussion on diversity and how engineers are making a world of difference.
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

Communication Strategies for Tutoring and Office Hours

Friday, October 23, 2015
Winnett Lounge – Winnett Student Center

TeachWeek Caltech Capstone Panel

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