Friday, April 11, 2014
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Jamie Bock Wins George W. Goddard Award

James J. (Jamie) Bock, professor of physics at Caltech and senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, is the 2014 recipient of the George W. Goddard Award from SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

SPIE selected Bock for the award in recognition of his development of sensitive bolometer arrays for studies of distant, dusty galaxies and the cosmic microwave background radiation, leading to their use on the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) on the Herschel Space Observatory and the High Frequency Instrument (HFI) on the Planck Surveyor spacecraft.

Bock is a principal investigator on a collaboration that successfully measured B-mode polarization signals from the period immediately following the Big Bang—a research finding that has been hailed as one of the most significant scientific developments in recent times. Bock and scientists at Caltech and JPL developed and perfected the BICEP1 and BICEP2 instruments, stationed at the South Pole, that were essential to this research project.

"I am honored to receive the 2014 George W. Goddard Award from SPIE," says Bock. "This was only possible thanks to the unique environment we enjoy at JPL and Caltech, a combination of wonderful colleagues, one-of-a-kind facilities, and support for pioneering science experiments."

Bock received his BS from Duke University in 1987 and his PhD from UC Berkeley in 1994. He served as a research scientist at JPL from 1994 to 2012, when he was named senior research scientist. He was a visiting associate at Caltech from 1994 until 2008 and a senior faculty associate from 2008 to 2012, when he was named a professor of physics.

The George W. Goddard Award is given annually in recognition of exceptional achievement in optical or photonic technology or instrumentation for earth, planetary, or astronomical science, reconnaissance, or surveillance from airborne or space platforms. The award is for the invention and development of a new process or technique, technology, instrumentation, or system.

Previous Caltech- and JPL-affiliated winners of the George W. Goddard Award include Lew Allen Jr. (1978), JPL director from 1982 to 1990; James B. Breckinridge (2003), visiting associate in aerospace; Moustafa Chahine (2010), chief scientist at JPL; Bruce Murray (1967), Caltech professor of planetary science, emeritus, and former head of JPL; and Caltech alumni (BS '65) Jerry E. Nelson (1993), currently a Thirty Meter Telescope project scientist.

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Jamie Bock Wins George W. Goddard Award
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space)

Teaching & Learning in the American System: Student-Teacher Interactions

Reflecting on BICEP2

On Monday, March 17, 2014, collaborators working with the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole presented the world with its first direct evidence of primordial gravitational waves and thus of cosmic inflation. Caltech professor of physics Jamie Bock, co–principal investigator for BICEP2 and the chief architect of the telescope's detectors, described the finding as "mind-boggling."

Cosmologists were thrilled by the news that BICEP2 had observed B-mode polarization in the cosmic microwave background at a level twice the intensity they had expected. This faint swirling polarization is thought to be a relic of the rapid inflation of the universe, faster than the speed of light, that took place in the first "trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang," according to Caltech senior research associate Sean Carroll, who along with John Preskill, the Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at Caltech, has been blogging about both the specifics of the BICEP2 finding and its implications.

A massively energetic event like inflation would have produced gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity but never directly detected. As they traveled through the early universe, these gravitational waves should have left their signature on the cosmic microwave background, which is the oldest visible radiation in our universe, dating to 300,000 years after the Big Bang.

This prediction about the behavior of primordial gravitational waves and its polarizing effect on the cosmic microwave background was made in the late 1990s by, among others, Marc Kamionkowski, a professor of theoretical astrophysics at Caltech from 1999 to 2011 who is now at Johns Hopkins University. Kamionkowski describes the BICEP2 finding as "not just a home run," but "a grand slam," while Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at MIT says, "If this stays true, it will go down as one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science."

But it wasn't just cosmologists who took notice. In the days since the announcement, headlines around the world have announced the cosmological finding from BICEP2, and journalists from The New York Times to Al Jazeera have proclaimed this a "landmark in science" and an "epic discovery."

The BICEP experiments that have caught the world's attention began at Caltech in 2001 with discussions between Bock, then a research associate at JPL, and Brian Keating, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech, about how to design a telescope that could observe the cosmic microwave background across a relatively large area of the sky. When Bock and Keating brought the idea to the late Andrew Lange, then Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Physics at Caltech, Lange declared it a wild goose chase . . . and then happily plunged in.

As the BICEP project developed, Lange and Bock brought talented graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to join the BICEP team at Caltech and JPL. Former Caltech graduate student Randol Aikin (PhD '13), a BICEP2 collaborator now on staff at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, says, "In addition to being superb scientists, Andrew and Jamie had an extraordinary capacity to empower students and give them room to take ownership of their work."

Among the postdoctoral scholars nurtured at Caltech are John Kovac, now a professor at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who was the first Kilroy Fellow in Astrophysics at Caltech, and Chao-Lin Kuo, now a professor at Stanford University and an associate at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; both are principal investigators on the BICEP2 project along with Bock and Clem Pryke of the University of Minnesota. (The project has a co-PI structure. At each stage of the BICEP experiments, one PI takes the lead. Lange was the leader for BICEP1; Kovac is the leader for BICEP2, and Kuo is the leader for BICEP3, already in progress.)

By the standards of other major experiments in physics, such as the Planck space telescope or the Large Hadron Collider, the BICEP2 team is quite small; there are just 47 coauthors on the paper that has disseminated the experiment's results, and only around 20 team members working closely on the core analysis. The BICEP2 team credits its success to the team members' focus, dedication, and close collaboration, and, says Keating, to the skill and determination of Bock, "one of the hardest working scientists I've ever met." Adds Hien Nguyen, a BICEP2 collaborator from JPL, says, "It's always a pleasure to sit back and see Jamie in action. There are a lot of details in the telescope that never would have been there if Jamie didn't pay attention at the beginning. He actually foresaw the intricacy of the experiment way ahead of time."

A strong public/private partnership has sustained this project throughout its 12-year history. The BICEP2 finding was made possible through grants from the National Science Foundation and the gifts of generous donors, including the W. M. Keck Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The Moore Foundation, along with Caltech and JPL internal funds provided the support to invent the unique detectors that were essential to achieving these results. A grant from the Keck Foundation funded the building of the Keck Array telescopes that have helped to provide preliminary confirmation of the BICEP2 results. The John M. Robinson estate granted additional funding to BICEP2 at a critical time, while the Jim and Nellie Kilroy Foundation provided resources to support members of the team at Caltech.

At a celebration for the Caltech/JPL BICEP2 team, Cyndi Atherton, previously of the Moore Foundation, said, "When I first took over supervision of the foundation's grant to Caltech for the BICEP2 project, my colleagues told me, 'We don't quite know what they're going to do, but there's this group of really smart people at Caltech and JPL. We're going to give them money and we're going to let them work.' I think you have made Gordon and Betty Moore and the Keck family proud to be associated with this project. I know my colleagues and I are walking taller this week, saying 'This is what science does for us.'"

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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Cahill, Hameetman Auditorium

Dark Matter in Southern California (DaMaSC) Symposium

Jamie Bock to Speak on BICEP2 Experiment

On Thursday, March 20, 2014, Jamie Bock, professor of physics at Caltech and senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), will be giving a talk on the BICEP2 experiment and its recent detection of B-mode polarization indicating the effect of gravitational waves on the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The BICEP experiments began in 2002 as a collaboration between Bock and the late Andrew Lange, the former Marvin L. Goldberger Professor of Physics at Caltech.

Bock will review data from BICEP2 observations at the South Pole conducted over three observing seasons from 2010 to 2012. He will describe the BICEP-2 experiment, discuss how the observations were undertaken and how the data were processed, and will explain why the BICEP2 team is confident that its finding is that of a strong B-mode polarization in the CMB, evidence of cosmic inflation and of primordial gravitational waves.

This talk is part of Caltech's regular weekly Physics Research Conference series. It will be held at 4 p.m. in the Feynman Lecture Hall, 201 East Bridge on the Caltech campus.

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Cynthia Eller
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BICEP2 Discovers First Direct Evidence of Inflation and Primordial Gravitational Waves

Astronomers announced today that they have acquired the first direct evidence that gravitational waves rippled through our infant universe during an explosive period of growth called inflation. This is the strongest confirmation yet of cosmic inflation theories, which say the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in less than the blink of an eye.

"The implications for this detection stagger the mind," says Jamie Bock, professor of physics at Caltech, laboratory senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and project co-leader. "We are measuring a signal that comes from the dawn of time."

Our universe burst into existence in an event known as the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Fractions of a second later, space itself ripped apart, expanding exponentially in an episode known as inflation. Telltale signs of this early chapter in our universe's history are imprinted in the skies in a relic glow called the cosmic microwave background. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe.

Small, quantum fluctuations were amplified to enormous sizes by the inflationary expansion of the universe. This process created density waves that make small differences in temperature across the sky where the universe was denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and clusters of galaxies. But as theorized, inflation should also produce gravitational waves, ripples in space-time propagating throughout the universe. Observations from the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole now demonstrate that gravitational waves were created in abundance during the early inflation of the universe.

On Earth, light can become polarized by scattering off surfaces, such as a car or pond, causing the glare that polarized sunglasses are designed to reduce. In space, the radiation of the cosmic microwave background, influenced by the squeezing of gravitational waves, was scattered by electrons, and became polarized, too.

Because gravitational waves have a "handedness"—they can have both left- and right-handed polarizations—they leave behind a characteristic pattern of polarization on the cosmic microwave background known as B-mode polarization. "The swirly B-mode pattern of polarization is a unique signature of gravitational waves," says collaboration co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo of Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky."

In order to detect this B-mode polarization, the team examined spatial scales on the sky spanning about one to five degrees (two to 10 times the width of the full moon), which allowed them to gather photons from a broad swath of the cosmic microwave background in an area of the sky where we can see clearly through our own Milky Way galaxy. To do this, the team traveled to the South Pole to take advantage of the cold, dry, stable air. "The South Pole is the closest you can get to space and still be on the ground," says John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, project co-leader and BICEP2 principal investigator. "It's one of the driest and clearest locations on Earth, perfect for observing the faint microwaves from the Big Bang."

The team also invented completely new technology for making these measurements. "Our approach was like building a camera on a printed circuit board," says Bock. "The circuit board included an antenna to focus and filter polarized light, a micro-machined detector that turns the radiation into heat, and a superconducting thermometer to measure this heat." The detector arrays were made at JPL's Microdevices Laboratory.

The BICEP2 team was surprised to detect a B-mode polarization signal considerably stronger than many cosmologists expected. The team analyzed the data for more than three years in an effort to rule out any errors. They also considered whether dust in our galaxy could produce the observed pattern, but the data suggest this is highly unlikely. "This has been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but instead we found a crowbar," says project co-leader Clem Pryke, of the University of Minnesota.

The prediction that the cosmic microwave background would show a B-mode polarization from gravitational waves produced during the inflationary period was made in 1996 by several theoretical physicists including Marc Kamionkowski, who was a member of the Caltech faculty from 1999 to 2011, and is now on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University. Kamionkowski says this discovery "is powerful evidence for inflation. I'd call it a smoking gun. We've now learned that gravitational waves are abundant, and can learn more about the process that powered inflation. This is a remarkable advance in cosmology."

The BICEP project originated at Caltech in 2002 as a collaboration between Bock and the late physicist Andrew Lange.

BICEP2 is the second stage of a coordinated program with the BICEP and Keck Array experiments, which has a co-PI structure. The four principal investigators are Bock, Kovac, Kuo, and Pryke. All have worked together on the present result, along with talented teams of students and scientists. Other major collaborating institutions for BICEP2 include the University of California at San Diego, the University of British Columbia, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Toronto, Cardiff University, and Commissariat à l'energie atomique.

BICEP2 is funded by the National Science Foundation. NSF also runs the South Pole Station where BICEP2 and the other telescopes used in this work are located. The W. M. Keck Foundation also contributed major funding for the construction of the team's telescopes. NASA, JPL, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation generously supported the development of the ultrasensitive detector arrays that made these measurements possible.

There are two papers, published March 17, 2014, reporting these results: "BICEP2 I: Detection of B-mode polarization at degree angular scales" and "BICEP2 II: Experiment and Three-Year Data Set."

The journal papers, along with additional technical details, can be found on the BICEP2 release website.

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Building BICEP2: A Conversation with Jamie Bock

Caltech Professor of Physics Jamie Bock and his collaborators announced on March 17, 2014 that they have successfully measured a B-mode polarization signal in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) using the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole. This signal is an important confirmation of key aspects of the theory of cosmic inflation, about how the universe may have behaved in the first fractions of a second of its existence to create the universe we live in today. Inflation was first proposed in 1980 by Alan Guth, a theoretical physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to explain some unusual features of our universe, especially its surprising homogeneity. For all the clumping of stars and galaxies we see in the night sky, the universe seen through the CMB is extremely uniform—so much so that it has been difficult for physicists to believe that the various pieces of the sky were not all in immediate contact with one another at an earlier point in the universe's development.

Since the theory of cosmic inflation was first advanced, most physicists have come to agree that inflation is the best explanation we have for the observable universe. Yet the hope of acquiring direct evidence of inflation was for a long time regarded as a vain one. In 1997, MIT physicist Alan Lightman wrote that since "the extremely rapid cosmic expansion . . . happened so long ago, we will probably never know with certainty whether that event in fact occurred."

And yet now, thanks to a set of bold experiments undertaken with the BICEP telescopes, we seem to be closing in on direct confirmation of the theory of inflation. Bock recently discussed the design of the BICEP instrumentation and how it detected a signal from the dawn of time.

How did the BICEP program begin?

It all started with tennis. In 2001 I played tennis every week with Brian Keating, a Caltech postdoc who is now at UCSD. After a few sets, Brian and I would talk about science for a while. He kept bugging me about doing a CMB polarization experiment that would study structures on degree angular scales—portions of the sky larger than the full moon. Brian was pretty engaged with theoretical astrophysicists, and I liked to design new experiments, so it was a nice combination. Once we got going, our ideas for a new project came together quickly. We knew we were going to need a great team to pull it off, so we wrote a concept proposal that we brought to my colleague at Caltech, the late physicist Andrew Lange. Brian remembers Lange saying, "What you're proposing will cost 10 million dollars . . . but that's okay . . . that's okay!"

The last 13 years have been all about the hard work of designing and running the experiment, building and perfecting the technologies, and analyzing the data. You don't get anywhere in experimental physics without building a team, and what a great team we have! John Kovac came to Caltech as a postdoc shortly thereafter and was a relentless force to organize our team of students, to make sure everything—and I do mean everything—was working as well as it possibly could. Chao-Lin Kuo, also a postdoc at JPL and Caltech, came up with some great ideas, especially new designs to improve the detectors. Both have now gone on to professorships, at Harvard and Stanford, respectively, and are central players in our program. Clem Pryke, now at the University of Minnesota, organized and led the data analysis, a gargantuan task that he's done brilliantly. Our students stepped up to each fill major roles, and the collaboration has been simply amazing. I have never worked with a better group of individuals and am proud to consider myself a member of the team.

What can BICEP see that other telescopes cannot?

BICEP was the first experiment of its kind to go after just the gravitational wave B-modes. This was scientifically risky, because on large degree scales there was no guaranteed signal. It was "B-modes or bust." As a result, we were out in Antarctica running our BICEP instrumentation years before we had any real competition. That has certainly changed now. The field is hypercompetitive! But those first years were really valuable as a learning experience about how to make these difficult measurements.

How does BICEP differ from a traditional large-scale optical or sub-millimeter telescope?

First of all, I should say I love small telescopes. I've done four projects that use small telescopes, each for a unique purpose. Small telescopes have an overlooked capability to gather a lot of light with a wide field of view. This capability keeps on opening doors to new experiments, and especially applications in space where smaller, lighter telescopes are a great advantage. The BICEP telescope is based on a refractor with two lenses. This is not exactly a new idea in optical astronomy; it is similar to Galileo's telescope. But it was a novel approach in CMB measurements and gave us an enormous 20-degree field of view. In fact the light-gathering power of BICEP is not so different from that of the 10-meter telescope looming over us at the South Pole, but BICEP's aperture is just 26 centimeters.

What are the technical challenges involved in looking at a broader rather than a smaller piece of the sky?

To make accurate measurements over a wide area, the challenge is to control false signals. I especially worry about the instrument having a tiny response to the earth, which is a billion times brighter than the signal we want to detect. Our small telescope design works like a champ! We have surrounded the whole telescope with absorbing surfaces cooled to 4 degrees above absolute zero. Then we use an absorbing screen around the primary lens to soak up remaining radiation. Finally, to remove from the system any effects that might arise from having a preferred direction, we spin our telescope around its axis every day. These are things you just can't do with a big telescope.

How is BICEP2 different from the first BICEP instrument, BICEP1?

When the BICEP experiment first began, I was already working on some radical and long-term ideas for building detectors. But it was clearly going to be unrealistic to create completely new detectors while we were also fielding a completely new experiment. So BICEP1 used detectors that were similar to those that Andrew Lange and I developed for the European Space Agency's Planck satellite. These are "spider-web" bolometers. Bolometers are instruments that measure electromagnetic radiation by turning it into heat and measuring the temperature. Spider-web bolometers are made from a fine mesh standing in free space, with just enough material to catch millimeter-wave radiation. These devices that Lange and I developed were made at JPL's Microdevices Laboratory from a micromachined membrane. BICEP1 was a new version of this that we cooked up to detect polarization. But it was designed from the very beginning to accommodate the new technology we were already developing. The new detectors fit right into the telescope.

BICEP2 gets to the same sensitivity as BICEP1 in a tenth of the time. It would have taken BICEP1 30 years to get to where we are with the BICEP2 results that just came out. I really like working at the South Pole, but 30 years? That's a bit much.

How do you achieve this technological improvement?

The name of the game in making a more sensitive CMB polarization experiment is observing with more detectors. But a CMB detector is more than that. It is really a light-gathering, filtering, detection, and readout system. So the challenge is not like going from 35-mm film to a digital chip in your camera, it's like producing the entire camera on a chip. Our approach was basically to make a camera that detects both intensity and polarization via a printed circuit board.

The original inspiration for these ideas came from Caltech physics professor Jonas Zmuidzinas. We feed the detector with an array of little antennas. The radiation goes to a little bolometer at the end of the antenna where it is converted into heat and measured with a superconducting thermometer. Finally multiple detectors are read out together with a superconducting amplifier called a SQUID, developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Did you expect that BICEP2 would be able to detect B-mode polarization if it were in the CMB?

Honestly, I thought we would continue for decades to drill down to lower and lower levels of signal from the CMB, and never see the B-mode polarization. I was psychologically prepared for that, even expecting it. Our team was becoming increasingly discouraged. Then at a group meeting last March, we saw our first result from BICEP2 showing a B-mode polarization. We reviewed a plot on a projector screen that looked just like the signal we were trying to find, only a lot bigger. There was a sudden transition in the room, from "What on earth are we doing wrong?" to "Maybe this is real!"

For an entire year following this, we debated all the effects that could cause a false signal. There were weeks at a time where we chased a subtle effect that might compromise the data, only to find out that fixing it didn't really make much of a difference. In the end, what finally put us over the top was comparing the BICEP2 maps against the BICEP1 maps, and then against two full years of observations from the new Keck Array experiment at the South Pole, equivalent to an array of five BICEP2 instruments. They all matched.

Over the past months, we gradually became more and more certain that the signal we were seeing was real. It is a strange experience to be going through the activities of daily life, all the while carrying around this gem of knowledge in your head.

How does it feel to be engineering optics that can visualize the remnants of the earliest events in our universe?

It is mind-boggling that we can infer anything about the very instant of the birth of our universe nearly 14 billion years ago. I feel this measurement of the B-mode polarization of the CMB is ahead of its time. The process that produced the polarization involves physics we don't understand, energies beyond the Standard Model, and detecting gravitational waves that were born from quantum fluctuations. I hope this is just the beginning for getting to a real understanding of the exotic physics powering inflation.

But most of all, it is amazing to me that our little band of intrepid scientists, students, postdocs—all of whom I consider colleagues and friends—could build a machine that could actually tell us about the birth of the universe.

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Cynthia Eller
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Caltech Appoints Diana Jergovic to Newly Created Position of Vice President for Strategy Implementation

Caltech has named Diana Jergovic as its vice president for strategy implementation. In the newly created position, Jergovic will collaborate closely with the president and provost, and with the division chairs, faculty, and senior leadership on campus and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to execute and integrate Caltech's strategic initiatives and projects and ensure that they complement and support the overall education and research missions of the campus and JPL. This appointment returns the number of vice presidents at the Institute to six.

"Supporting the faculty is Caltech's highest priority," says Edward Stolper, provost and interim president, "and as we pursue complex interdisciplinary and institutional initiatives, we do so with the expectation that they will evolve over a long time horizon. The VP for strategy implementation will help the Institute ensure long-term success for our most important new activities."

In her present role as associate provost for academic and budgetary initiatives at the University of Chicago, Jergovic serves as a liaison between the Office of the Provost and the other academic and administrative offices on campus, and advances campus-wide strategic initiatives. She engages in efforts spanning every university function, including development, major construction, and budgeting, as well as with faculty governance and stewardship matters. Jergovic also serves as chief of staff to University of Chicago provost Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Caltech's president-elect.

"In order to continue Caltech's leadership role and to define new areas of eminence, we will inevitably have to forge new partnerships and collaborations—some internal, some external, some both," Rosenbaum says. "The VP for strategy implementation is intended to provide support for the faculty and faculty leaders in realizing their goals for the most ambitious projects and collaborations, implementing ideas and helping create the structures that make them possible. I was looking for a person who had experience in delivering large-scale projects, understood deeply the culture of a top-tier research university, and could think creatively about a national treasure like JPL."

"My career has evolved in an environment where faculty governance is paramount," Jergovic says. "Over the years, I have cultivated a collaborative approach working alongside a very dedicated faculty leadership. My hope is to bring this experience to Caltech and to integrate it into the existing leadership team in a manner that simultaneously leverages my strengths and allows us together to ensure that the Institute continues to flourish, to retain its position as the world's leading research university, and to retain its recognition as such."

Prior to her position as associate provost, Jergovic was the University of Chicago's assistant vice president for research and education, responsible for the financial management and oversight of all administrative aspects of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Argonne National Laboratory. She engaged in research-related programmatic planning with a special emphasis on the interface between the university and Argonne National Laboratory. This ranged from the development of the university's Science and Technology Outreach and Mentoring Program (STOMP), a weekly outreach program administered by university faculty, staff, and students in low-income neighborhood schools on the South Side of Chicago, to extensive responsibilities with the university's successful bid to retain management of Argonne National Laboratory.

From 1994 to 2001, Jergovic was a research scientist with the university-affiliated National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and, in 2001, served as project director for NORC's Florida Ballot Project, an initiative that examined, classified, and created an archive of the markings on Florida's 175,000 uncertified ballots from its contested 2000 presidential election.

Jergovic earned a BS in psychology and an MA and PhD in developmental psychology, all from Loyola University Chicago, and an MBA from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago.

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Monday, March 31, 2014
Center for Student Services 360 (Workshop Space)

Unleashing Collaborative Learning through Technology: A Study of Tablet-Mediated Student Learning

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