Monday, May 23, 2016
Brown Gymnasium – Scott Brown Gymnasium

Animal magnetism

Monday, February 29, 2016
Brown Gymnasium – Scott Brown Gymnasium

Animal magnetism

Caltech Students and Alumni Receive 2016 NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

This year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected 20 current Caltech students and 13 alumni to receive its Graduate Research Fellowships. The awards support three years of graduate study within a five-year fellowship period in research-based master's or doctoral programs in science or engineering.

The NSF notes that the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) "is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy to develop the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation." The selection criteria used to identify NSF fellows reflect the potential of the applicant to advance knowledge and benefit society.

Caltech's awardees for 2016 are seniors Kurtis Mickel Carsch, Webster Guan, Soumya Kannan, Emil Timergalievich Khabiboullin, Laura Shou, and Karthik Guruswamy Siva; and graduate students Hannah Marie Allen, Charles H. Arnett, Sarah Michelle Cohen, Heidi Klumpe, Rachel Ann Krueger, Usha Farey Lingappa, Joseph P. Messinger, Andres Ortiz-Munoz, Shyam M. Saladi, Lee Michael Saper, Nancy Helen Thomas, Annelise Christine Thompson, Elise M. Tookmanian, and Jeremy Chi-Pang Tran. The graduate student awardees join 136 current NSF fellows enrolled at Caltech, representing approximately 20 percent of the domestic graduate student population.

Caltech alumni in the 2016 class of Graduate Fellows are: Sidney Douglas Buchbinder, Kaitlin Ching, Katherine Jennie Fisher, Emmett Daniel Goodman, Edward W. Huang, Jacqueline Maslyn, Misha Raffiee, Connor Edwin Rosen, Nicole Nisha Thadani, Malvika Verma, Eugene Aaron Vinitsky, Yushu Joy Xie, and Doris Xin.

In total this year, the NSF selected 2,000 GRFP recipients from a pool of nearly 17,000 applicants. Caltech's Fellowships Advising & Study Abroad Office works with current students and recent Caltech graduates interested in applying for an NSF fellowship, sponsoring a panel discussion of previous winners each fall and offering one-on-one advising.

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NSF Awards Graduate Research Fellowships
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20 current Caltech students and 13 alumni will receive fellowships to support graduate study.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

TA Workshop: Getting the Biggest ‘Bang for Your Buck’ - Teaching strategies for busy TAs

Living—and Giving—the Caltech Dream

Growing up in Tehran, Iran, Mory Gharib (PhD '83) attended large, crowded schools. He was the kid who always raised his hand in class and asked tough questions. He craved one-on-one time with his teachers, which seldom came to pass.

So when the young Gharib read a newspaper article about a school in California with a three-to-one student-faculty ratio, it seemed almost unimaginable. Over the years, though, that school—Caltech—remained in his thoughts.

Years later, Gharib finally made it to Caltech as a graduate student. Since that time, he has built a distinguished career as a  researcher, mentor, inventor, entrepreneur, leader, and benefactor. And he has continued to search for the answers to tough questions.

"I couldn't have done this anywhere else," he says, referring to his career. "Caltech took care of me, and I have to take care of it."

In appreciation for the opportunities Caltech afforded him, Gharib—who currently serves as the Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering, director of Caltech's Graduate Aerospace Laboratories, and vice provost—has created an endowed fellowship fund to support new generations of Caltech graduate students.

Read the full story on the Caltech Giving website.

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Living—and Giving—the Caltech Dream
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In appreciation for the opportunities Caltech afforded him, Mory Gharib is supporting future graduate students through an endowed fellowship fund.
Monday, March 28, 2016 to Friday, April 15, 2016
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space) – Center for Student Services

Spring TA Training -- 2016

Rothenberg Wins Feynman Prize

The 2016 Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching has been awarded to Ellen Rothenberg, the Albert Billings Ruddock Professor of Biology.

Established in 1993, the Feynman Prize annually honors "a professor who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching." Rothenberg, who has been at Caltech since joining the faculty as an assistant professor in 1982, was nominated for the prize by her students, who cited qualities such as her passion for teaching and her engagement with students as the reason for their nominations.

Rothenberg investigates the regulatory mechanisms that control blood stem cell differentiation and the development of T lymphocytes—white blood cells that play an important role in immunity. Not surprisingly, when she began at Caltech, her first teaching assignment was Immunology (Bi 114), a course that she continued to teach for 25 years, consistently receiving high ratings from her students in her teaching-quality feedback reports. In 1989, Rothenberg also introduced Caltech's first course on the molecular biology of blood development, Hematopoiesis: A Developmental System (Bi 214)—a course that she still teaches every other year.

Rothenberg recently was instrumental to changes made to the introductory biology courses at Caltech. "I was the chair of the Curriculum Committee, and I noticed that there were issues that arose for both students and faculty with the first two introductory courses," she says. Beginning in 2008, she began redeveloping and teaching these introductory courses, Cell Biology (Bi 9) and then molecular biology (Bi 8). A student's first two terms at Caltech are mandatory pass/fail, "and we discovered that the students are actually really excited to do something hard when it's on a pass/fail basis," she explains.

In a letter of nomination, one of Rothenberg's students said that she appreciated the challenge to learn more complicated material in an introductory course. "In her course, Professor Rothenberg emphasizes important concepts about molecular biology; however, she also takes time to explore higher-level concepts with incredible enthusiasm," the student said. "This introduced me to the many complex systems I could learn about while showing me how exciting biological research is. I also sit on the Curriculum Committee, which she leads, and I have seen how she constantly returns to the idea of what will help students learn best and what will train them effectively."

Another student who nominated Rothenberg wrote that "… she showed students that, contrary to what they might have heard, biology was not simply a 'memorization game,' but rather a logic puzzle. By slowly introducing us to different research techniques, she allowed us to see how we could pose and answer questions in biology ourselves."

In addition to challenging her students to learn in a new way, Rothenberg says that these introductory courses also challenged her to teach differently. Because introductory courses have larger class sizes, she says it was inherently more difficult to get to know her students. So, she found ways to connect with her students outside of class time. "She spends a lot of time with her students," one student said in a nomination, "even actively participating in recitation sections with her TAs, an unusual task for professors. She strives to improve her class every year."

Previously, Rothenberg was awarded the Biology Undergraduate Students Advisory Council Award for excellence in teaching four times, the Ferguson Prize for Undergraduate Teaching twice, and the ASCIT Award for Undergraduate Teaching twice. In addition, she has chaired the divisional Curriculum Committee for the past several years, working to rationalize the biology curriculum and to put the best teachers in place for each course. As part of her work on the Curriculum Committee, she interacts closely with the Biology Undergraduate Students Advisory Council.

"Winning this award and being recognized at an institutional level…it means a lot to me. And I'm also really humbled that I'm the first biologist ever to get the Feynman Prize," she says. "I love teaching. The greatest gift you can give someone is to share your understanding with them and to help them develop their own understanding. That incredible connection between the way you appreciate the complexity of the world and the way you can give students the tools to see things that you never saw before—it's really beautiful. And the fact that this institute has a way of valuing that is really wonderful," she adds.

The Feynman Prize has been endowed through the generosity of Caltech Associates Ione and Robert E. Paradise and an anonymous local couple. Some of the most recent winners of the Feynman Prize include Kevin Gilmartin, professor of English; Steven Frautschi, professor of theoretical physics, emeritus; and Paul Asimow, professor of geology and geochemistry.

Nominations for next year's Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching will be solicited in the fall. Further information about the prize can be found on the Provost's Office website.

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Rothenberg Wins Feynman Prize
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The 2016 Richard Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching has been awarded to Ellen Rothenberg, the Albert Billings Ruddock Professor of Biology.

Teaching Science

On February 29th, Caltech's Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach (CTLO) brought together more than 50 teachers from local K-12 schools and nearly as many volunteers from Caltech, Pasadena City College, and other associated institutions to look at new ways to develop lessons and design experiments that will engage students while also aligning with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) disciplinary core standards. This Community Science Event is the fourth in a series of events that have been organized by CTLO over the last year.

Tuesday's program included a variety of lab demonstrations and activities, including everything from building a vacuum cannon that shoots ping pong balls at speeds up to 500 miles per hour to recreating the innards of a photocopier.

In the picture, Caltech volunteer Luis Goncalves demonstrates electricity and magnetism by using a motor and generator. Two solenoid coils of wire are connected together electrically and then suspended using a spring and a magnet above each coil. When one magnet drops down it induces an electrical current in one coil which then creates a magnetic field in the other coil, causing it to drop and mimic the motion of the first magnet.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Modeling molecules at the microscale

Student-Faculty Colloquium Seeks to Improve Diversity, Climate at Caltech

The Student-Faculty Colloquium (SFC) is a forum designed to bring graduate students, faculty, and the administration together to discuss issues they find important. The daylong event, planned by the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and scheduled for February 11, 2016, will begin with a keynote address by Caltech president Thomas Rosenbaum, followed by presentations on campus culture, mentoring, diversity, and work-life balance. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Four sessions, each led by two graduate student cochairs and at least one faculty cochair, are planned for the day. "The overwhelming enthusiasm and support of everyone we talk to—the faculty, the administration—speaks volumes to how important people at Caltech think these issues are," says SFC organizer Allison Strom, a grad student.

"What I'm most proud of is that the graduate students have involved faculty in the panels and discussions. They've made it a joint effort. It's not just the graduate students talking to the faculty; it's a dialogue," says Felicia Hunt, GSC advisor, assistant vice president for equity, accessibility, and inclusion initiatives, and Title IX coordinator. "We don't have a class on planning a conference. To be able to pick it up and run with it takes an incredible amount of initiative."

All sessions are centered on discussions for the "sharing of ideas across departments, which goes with Caltech's identity as a collaborative institution," says grad student Natalie Higgins, cochair of the session "Supporting Students through Mentoring Networks."

Grad student Emily Blythe, cochair of the session "Admissions and Recruitment," agrees. "We see the SFC as a really good way to get everyone from different options in a room together. Certainly, options are doing great things the others don't know about," says Blythe.

Students in different departments may also be facing similar problems, as "many of the issues graduate students face transcend departments," says Strom. "The challenges of being a scientist or engineer are pretty universal."

The SFC aims to address these matters by facilitating conversation and opening lines of communication among students and faculty "to create a network of people you can talk to for advice," says Higgins.

The main goals of the discussion in the mentoring networks session include making students and faculty aware of the issues that grad students face and of available resources for dealing with these issues, and attempting to fill any gaps in this system. The session will also provide information about "nonresearch mentoring—mentoring for other aspects of life," says grad student Henry Ngo, Higgins's cochair. "We're not just researchers; there are different worlds we need to seek out."

Similarly, Blythe hopes "to get a sort of best practices guide out of this to make sure everyone feels welcome at Caltech."

The admissions and recruitment session, says grad student Sofia Quinodoz, Blythe's cochair, is a good opportunity to discuss "how each option can recruit the best people." She anticipates that gradstudents sharing their experiences with professors will "show them how they can help with recruitment" by letting them know what has and has not worked at Caltech.

The session "Professional and Career Development," cochaired by grad students Parham Noorzad and Andrew Robbins, will address the development of skills necessary for navigating graduate school and future work and the preparation required to navigate the job market. These discussions are important, especially for grad students, since "just finishing your thesis is not enough to get a job; you need presentation and interview skills," says Noorzad.

Faculty at the professional and career development session will be able to offer "perspective on preparing students for different careers and to share their experiences with students, whether they have gone on to industry or academia," says Robbins.

One challenge of the GSC is "getting people who aren't interested in being student leaders involved in conversations," says Strom. "They don't have to be involved in student government to have their voices heard, so the SFC will hopefully provide them with an opportunity to do that."

Grad students Gina Duggan and Alicia Lanz are organizing a panel of students and faculty for the session "Advisor-Advisee Relationships" to address concerns identified from the Graduate Exit Survey and to answer questions about advisor/advisee styles, methods of communication, and expectations. "As graduate dean," says Doug Rees, Roscoe Gilkey Dickinson Professor of Chemistry and dean of graduate studies, "one thing I've learned is that each lab and option has its own ways of doing things. We won't find just one solution, but we'll find what the basic elements are for a happy and productive relationship."

"I am excited to hear what members of the faculty think about these issues," says Duggan, one of the student panelists. "They've all been grad students also."

Engaging students and faculty in this discussion is one of the main points of the SFC. "Now is a good time for departments; they seem more receptive and open to change," says Lanz, the panel moderator.

"What I want from the day is to give students the confidence to be able to advocate for themselves," says Strom. "With more information, they can be more confident with their identities as scientists and people and figure out what they want to do in the future."

The schedule for the day can be found on the GSC website.

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Student-Faculty Colloquium February 11
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The daylong event includes a keynote address by Caltech's president followed by sessions on campus culture, mentoring, diversity, and work-life balance.

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