12/9/16

Faculty Spotlight: Na Zhu of UM-Flint Engineering

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, of assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Na (Linda) Zhu, PhD, of assistant professor of mechanical engineering

Read below to learn more about her and the field of mechanical engineering, or join her in one of her Winter 2017 classes:

  • EGR 315 – Machine Element Design (TR, 2:30pm-3:45pm)
  • EGR 466 – Engineering Design II
    (W, 9am-11:30am, + (5) Friday meetings)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Research Interests:
Acoustics, vibration and noise control, signal processing, sensor and controls, automotive engineering

Why are you passionate about your field?
Acoustics, vibration and noise control in mechanical engineering has been a very practical yet challenging problem in the engineering area for decades, including applications not only in machine design, structure analysis and de-noising, but also in signal detection, acoustic emission for non-destructive evaluation, quality control, etc. In recent years, while media players, hearing-aid related devices, and cell phone industries rapidly grow, the demand of the de-noising, or say, audio/music extraction from background noise, becomes a new topic for mechanical engineers.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
Noise and vibration, sensors and signal processing, machine design, introduction to automotive engineering, and hybrid vehicle design

What is your latest or favorite research project?
My research is emphasis in the areas of noise control  and signal processing. I am now working on development of innovative technology for extracting specific acoustic features from mixed signals that may be contaminated by various unknown interfering signals and random background noise. The technology can be used on audio related devices and structure health monitoring.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
Brought up in a family surrounded by engineers and academic professionals, I have always dreamed of working in the engineering field. I selected mechanical engineering as my major because it fit my interest and skills best.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I hope I can bring new research projects to UM-Flint and make the mechanical engineering discipline stronger and more attractive. I want to share my knowledge and experience with students and help them be well prepared for their future career, which will also benefit the community and industry.

What do you hope for students in your field?
Engineering is a traditional yet fast growing field. I hope the students in engineering have a solid background of engineering knowledge as well as an open mind for creative ideas and innovative designs, and that they are always updated with the latest technologies.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
I want to be a friend to my students, not just somebody giving lectures and exams to them.
I practice yoga every day.
I am a big fan of manga (comic books). If you want to talk about Naruto, One Piece, Attack on Titan, etc., you can always come to me.


To learn more about engineering at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/engineering. To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

12/9/16

Faculty Spotlight: Justin Massing of UM-Flint Chemistry

Justin Massing, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Justin Massing, PhD, assistant professor of organic chemistry at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of organic chemistry, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • CHM 330 – Organic Chemistry
    (MW, 2:30-3:45pm + (4) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 331 – Organic Chemistry Lab
    (T, 8am-12pm; R, 12:30pm-4:30pm; + (2) Friday test dates)
  • CHM 452 – Biochemistry II (TR, 11am-12:15pm)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
I firmly believe that chemistry has the potential to address environmental and health issues on a global scale.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I’m most excited to teach spectroscopy of organic compounds (CHM 468) next fall. This course examines how different wavelengths of light can be applied towards elucidating organic structures. The spectroscopic techniques to be covered in this class are frequently employed in diagnosing disease and monitoring human health.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
My current research is focused on creating chemical probes that can detect molecular events associated with disease progression. Specifically, I want to noninvasively visualize epigenetic modifications known to influence DNA organization, and therefore how our genes are expressed.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
I fell in love with chemistry thanks to my 7th grade science teacher, whose genuine eccentricity made learning the subject an engaging experience.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
To share my passion for learning, and to meaningfully impact students’ lives.

What do you hope for students in your field?
I hope that all students at UM–Flint would pursue independent research at some point during their college career.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
My wife is also a chemist.
I do the cooking and cleaning at home.
My wife and I brew our own beer.


To learn more about chemistry and biochemistry at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/chemistry. To register for courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

12/8/16

Faculty Spotlight: Christopher Kowal of UM-Flint Communication

Christopher Kowal, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of communication.

Christopher Kowal, PhD, assistant professor of communication at UM-Flint

Christopher Kowal, PhD, assistant professor of communication at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of communication, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 courses:

  • COM 316 – Advanced Advertising (TR, 9:30am-10:45am)
  • COM 512 – Consulting & Training (online)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
I am passionate about what I do because it connects us and bonds us. I became an academic almost by accident, but have found that the curiosity that I have for understanding emotional communication has motivated me to ask questions and dive into concepts that we have often been misinformed about such as the role and importance emotions have on our interactions.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I love teaching about emotions, nonverbal communication and leadership.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
Measuring hormones before and after interfacing with tech devices and looking if body positioning mediated the results, we found it’s not the size of the device you use but rather how you use it.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
As an undergraduate student I was talking a theory class with the absolute worst instructor, she would read from her notes, get confused, confuse us, and then get angry at us. I’m sure she’s in a healthy relationship now. Anyway I was chatting with another professor and confessed that I hated the theory class. With a childlike look of disappointment she explained her passion for theory and helped me reframe how I was viewing the material. The instructor still made our lives miserable, but now I could look past the teaching and engage with the learning. I was able to touch and feel the theory that forms our understanding of our field.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I am hoping for a few things while I’m here at UM-Flint. First, I hope I can have an impact in teaching, research and community. I hope that I can reach and teach that [which] engages while challenging students to think about knowledge and information to inspire curiosity. I hope that my research is meaningful and correctly expands the academy. I hope that my work, my passion, with how we view and effectively use emotions can have a larger impact within our community. Understanding emotional communication is an important skill that can be acquired by any willing participant. I hope to be able to provide workshops for the community that might motivate and inspire entrepreneurial spirits. Further, I hope that I make and nurture many friendships on and off campus.

What do you hope for students in your field?
Be bold and fearless. Communication has emerged as an important and pivotal skill in business and life, and I hope our students will use their creative problem solving, their voice, and achieve great things.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
Politics, Sex, and religion are my favorite topics of discussion. My favorite saying is life begins at the end of your comfort zone. With that said, I am not afraid to back down from important and difficult topics or conversations.


To learn more about communication at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/communication. To register for winter courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

 

12/7/16

Faculty Spotlight: Kimberly Bender of UM-Flint Criminal Justice

Kimberly Bender, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of criminal justice.

Kimberly Bender, PhD, assistant professor of criminal justice at UM-Flint

Kimberly Bender, PhD, assistant professor of criminal justice at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about her and the field of criminal justice, or join her in one of her Winter 2017 classes:

  • CRJ 185 – Introduction to the Criminal Justice System
    (MW, 11am-12:15pm)
  • CRJ 388 – Corrections: A Critical Perspective
    (W, 5:30pm-8:15pm)
  • CRJ 430 – Processing Offenders (MW, 4pm-5:15pm)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field? 
The criminal justice field is one in which real, significant differences can be made. It is a field in which those who hold more power or status can create time and space for marginalized individuals to be heard. I feel honored that I have the ability to create that time and space and be the facilitator of much needed conversations. I often tell the women in prison whom I interview that they are the real change-makers. It is their experiences and the experiences of other men and women in the criminal justice system that need to be heard in order to begin making the much needed improvements.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
I find the Introduction to Criminal Justice course exciting to teach because it is one of the first classes that a criminal justice student takes. Students in the Intro class are usually full of questions and thoughts about the criminal justice system. As a teacher, one of the most exciting parts of the job is watching “the lightbulb go off.” I love when students begin to think about an idea or issue in a completely different way than they did when they first stepped foot into the classroom. For me, this is what learning is all about: showing students additional ways of thinking.

Corrections is another class I enjoy teaching very much. I am able to bring a great deal of my research into the classroom to share with the students. Rather than reading from a textbook, I can provide real life stories from men and women who have lived the prison life and who have experienced the major challenges of reintegrating into society.

What is your latest or favorite research project?
The latest research project I am working on uses in-depth interview data collected from 100 Baltimore City residents and protesters who shared their personal experiences and observations of the police prior to Freddie Gray’s death. The study explores if and how race and gender intersect with citizens’ strategies during their encounters with Baltimore police. Findings have implications as to how men and women across race make sense of police actions and how citizens manage their interactions with the police.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
I was a 19 year old undergraduate student majoring in Psychology at Ohio University. I took a class, “Psychology of Justice,” and on one particular day the professor held a book up. The front cover of the book resembled a yearbook with its 45 individual headshots. That day I learned all about wrongful conviction. Those 45 faces on the cover of the book were faces that had been exonerated through the innocence project. That class was so powerful for me that I went on to double major in criminal justice and further pursue my education.

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I understand that change does not always happen overnight nor does it always happen in big ways. However, if I can make any sort of positive change or difference in the lives of the students, the university and the community I will have been successful during my time at UM-Flint. I also hope to make strong and lasting connections with the students and faculty as well as the surrounding community.

What do you hope for students in your field?
It is my hope that criminal justice students use the knowledge that they learn in the classroom and apply it not only to their jobs, but to their everyday lives. I hope that they will use their knowledge and position to create a more equitable society and criminal justice system. A student recently told me that he believed he would be a better police officer after taking a Gender, Race, and Crime course that I taught. I see the classroom as a forum for discussing sensitive issues that are not often talked about in everyday life, but most definitely need to be discussed.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to teach. I did not know what I wanted to teach or who I wanted to teach, but I did know that being in the classroom conveying knowledge to others was something I could not live without.

A fun fact about me is that I am originally from Connecticut, but over the course of my life I spent many summers in Michigan with family and every November my family and I would drive to Detroit for the Detroit Lions’ Thanksgiving Day football game. Thus, I am and will always be a diehard Detroit Lions fan.

Lastly and most importantly, my door is always open to anyone who has questions, needs advice, or who just wants to chat.


To learn more about criminal justice at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/sac. To register for winter courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

12/1/16

Faculty Spotlight: Daniel Birchok of UM-Flint Anthropology

Daniel Birchok, PhD, joined the UM-Flint College of Arts & Sciences in Fall 2016 as an assistant professor of anthropology.

Daniel Birchok, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at UM-Flint

Daniel Birchok, PhD, assistant professor of anthropology at UM-Flint

Read below to learn more about him and the field of anthropology, or join him in one of his Winter 2017 classes:

  • ANT 100 – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
    (held TR, 9:30am-10:45am)
  • ANT 295 – Cultures of South Asia (held TR, 12:30pm-1:45pm)
  • ANT/SOC 301 – Social Theory (held TR, 2:30pm-3:45pm)

Students can register now at sis.umflint.edu or find more information at umflint.edu/register.

Why are you passionate about your field?
I want to answer this question by noting that I, like many of my colleagues, participate in many fields. My training is in both anthropology and history, and I also work in religious and Islamic studies. That said, the questions that most interest me are anthropological questions. What I find so exciting about anthropology is its ambition as a field. We anthropologists often cannot agree on what, precisely, we study, but that is because at its root anthropology is the study of the human, and we embrace a holistic and opportunistic approach to this project. The sheer ambition of it all has always impressed and excited me.

What are your favorite courses/subjects to teach?
Honestly, I just love to teach. Right now I am really enjoying teaching Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. The course revolves around fundamental concepts in the field, and ones that have the potential to change the ways in which students engage and interpret their social worlds. We discuss the merits and shortcomings of the concept of culture, and are about to turn to the anthropological critique of race, that is, how race can be such a powerful social reality even though it has no genetic basis. I try to structure all of my courses around such questions and concepts, but there is just something about the Intro course that gets at the fundamental potentials of the discipline for making sense of the world in transformative ways. I find helping students figure out how to take up these conceptual tools extremely exciting!

What is your latest or favorite research project?
I have an article that is forthcoming in Asian Studies Review that discusses two female Islamic “saints” in the rural area of Indonesia where I carry out field research. Southeast Asia is well-known for societies in which women are relatively powerful, but scholars have tended to understand this to be the result of local and indigenous cultural patterns, not Islam. I argue, in contrast, that the authority of these female saints, which is today claimed by some of their male descendants, is expressed in distinctly Islamic terms. This is, therefore, an instance of Muslims taking up the Islamic tradition in ways that challenge patrilineal and patriarchal social forms, forms that are also a part of the tradition, at least historically. This kind of internal complexity is quite common among Muslims and in Islamic societies, but it too often gets overlooked in public debate in the United States, where oversimplifications and stereotypes of Islam are the norm.

How did you fall in love with your discipline?
First and foremost, I fell in love with ethnographic methods, mainly as a result of a year I spent as an undergraduate student living in the Federated States of Micronesia. While there, I began experimenting with ethnography. There was something that I found intuitively compelling about the tensions that are central to ethnographic insight, for example, the critical perspective that comes from simultaneously being epistemologically close to yet distant from the object of one’s study. I carried out research about a kava ritual, but more than anything I fell in love with the challenges and rewards of ethnographic encounters and exchanges. (Note: Kava is a mild sedative, processed from the root of a pepper plant. It is socially and ritually consumed in several Pacific societies.)

What do you hope for your time at UM-Flint?
I am looking forward to growing as a scholar and a teacher. My family and I have lived in Southeast Michigan for fourteen years, so it is deeply satisfying to have landed a job in the region that has become our home. I am currently revising a book manuscript, about the family of saints that I discuss above, and every day I feel myself growing through that project. My experiences in the classroom have driven home that students here are very interested in the ways anthropology helps us to understand topics such as race, religion, concepts of person, etc. I am also hoping to develop an opportunity, through a program that I have helped to lead in the past, for University of Michigan-Flint students to travel to Indonesia. If all of this continues or comes to fruition, and I have no reason to believe that it will not, I will be a happy camper.

What do you hope for students in your field?
Whether anthropology majors or not, I hope that all of my students leave my classes with anthropological habits of mind that enrich their lives and help them to be more thoughtful citizens. There are many such habits that I try to instill, but I think the primary one is a capacity to suppress knee-jerk judgments about other people and ways of life in order to try to understand these people and ways of life in their own contexts. Anthropology is often thought of as being infused with an ethic of relativism, and this is not incorrect; but I want my students to recognize that this is a critical and strategic relativism, one that does not refuse the taking of political and moral stances, but that equips us to engage politics and morality in ways that are more careful and sophisticated than they otherwise might be.

What are three things you think people should know about you?
I am a native Pittsburgher and I am very hometown proud.

I love to play basketball, and try to do so multiple times a week.

I did not go to the Federated States of Micronesia to discover anthropology, actually. I was young, and in love, and chasing a significant other. We now have two kids and have been together for quite some time, so I guess it worked out in the end!


To learn more about anthropology at UM-Flint, visit umflint.edu/sac. To register for winter courses, visit sis.umflint.edu or umflint.edu/register.

10/25/16

Pursuing Passion: Stephanie Dean, UM-Flint Theatre

In the University of Michigan Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, faculty, staff, and students combine their passions with academic excellence as they participate in coursework, research, and creative pursuits. We are proud to spotlight some of these individuals in our new series: Pursuing Passion.

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

A Rock Musical with Feeling

Assistant Professor Stephanie Dean is the director of Next to Normal, an award-winning rock musical about a woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The show is the first production of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s 2016-17 season and will run October 28-30 and November 4-6.

Next to Normal began as a ten-minute play called Feeling Electric that explored the medical field’s approach to mental illness. But, noted Dean, “they began to realize that they story they wanted to tell wasn’t about the treatment, it was about the people, and they began to morph it into the Off-Broadway production that opened in 2008.” By 2011, the musical had enjoyed three years on Broadway and earned numerous awards, including three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The musical suited both the talent pool at the university and Dean’s desire for material that would challenge her students and herself.

She began work on the production long before students stepped on stage for auditions. Her spring and summer months were filled with research about the show’s sensitive subject matter. Recalled Dean, “I wanted to know: What is fact? What is fiction? And how was the production received by audiences when it came out? There was a lot of research that went into the research that [the writers] did.”

UM-Flint Theatre's Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of "Next to Normal."

UM-Flint Theatre’s Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of “Next to Normal.”

This is Not a Case Study

Dean wanted to be sure she was both respectful and accurate when representing the journey of someone being treated for bipolar disorder. The musical touches on a wide variety of topics related to the mental health field, including prescription drug use, electroconvulsive therapy, hallucinations, depression, and suicide.

“When I was doing the research, I read an interview in which the composer and lyricist had said they had not written the show to be  a case study,” said Dean. “Next to Normal takes dramatic liberties; everything that can happen to this woman does happen, and it not only affects her, but everyone around her. It’s important to understand that the writers wanted to create a story that people could relate to from many different viewpoints, depending on their own life experiences. Because of that, I truly believe that you cannot be an adult or even a teenager and not relate to something in this show.”

Dean consulted with Dr. Tom Wrobel of UM-Flint Psychology for insight on the script, and to learn about the validity of the portrayed treatments in today’s fields of psychology and psychiatry. She also talked with practicing therapists.

Stephanie Dean and the "Next to Normal" cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean and the “Next to Normal” cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Now that the show is in rehearsals, the preparation is paying off: “I feel like I have command of the material, and am well prepared to address the issues in the script in a way that is effective and within the scope of reality. I also feel prepared to work actors through these difficult topics and the emotions that come with that. Understanding the content and context at a deeper level allows me to find subtleties in the script and makes me better equipped to guide the actors to more nuanced performances and to speak to the designers about a unified vision.”

Working with a Student Cast

During the summer, Dean also spent time considering the emotional toll the production could have on its student actors and stage crew. “When you are working on a musical, it is not an exaggeration to say the music does not exit your head for the entire two months,” said Dean. “Between rehearsals, memorizing lines, working on music, etc., the actors and I are spending four to eight hours a day with this material. I had to ask myself, ‘how do I bring the students in and out of rehearsals in a way that is mentally healthy for them?'”

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of "Next to Normal."

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of “Next to Normal.”

Part of Dean’s work to answer that question took place during the summer in North Carolina where she studied a method of evoking emotion using breathing, posture, and facial expressions, rather than actual emotional stimuli. Dean has used this to inform her work with students, when she has had to help them be comfortable with difficult emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. She hopes it will also help her student cast process the heavy emotions that come with the Next to Normal script. “I’m interested in focusing the actors energies in rehearsals,” said Dean. “It is important to step into rehearsal as a group, leaving personal problems at the door, and to develop a supportive ensemble that can talk about problems if this story is hitting too close to home. Likewise, the actors have to be able to leave the characters and their problems in the theatre to avoid having an ’emotional hangover’ when they leave rehearsal.”

“Maybe the songs will be stuck in our heads, and some days it will be harder than others to put the show away outside of rehearsal; I recognize that,” continued Dean. “Alice Ripley, the actress who played the lead role in this musical on Broadway, talked in her interviews about having a very difficult time living this story night after night and not feeling it during the day.”

Dean hopes that what students are learning as UM-Flint Theatre performers will serve them well after graduation. “Part of my job as a teacher and as an acting teacher is to teach students to be physical and vocal vessels for the tough emotions their characters experience on stage without tying that too closely to their personal lives. Theatre reflects humanity. Humanity is messy. Therefore, the actors face this challenge throughout their entire professional career. I’m excited for this challenge.”

Her cast has responded very well to Next to Normal, and embraced its difficult themes. “On the first night I asked each of the cast members why this show was important to them,” remembered Dean. “I got some really interesting answers about how they each related to the material. Lots of stuff I wasn’t expecting. They each bring a lot of insight to this show.”

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Connecting with the Audience

“It’s important to me to help people understand that theatre doesn’t always have to be about entertainment. It can make you think about life and help you to relate to others and still be an incredibly wonderful, fulfilling, and positive experience that you want to have again.”

Because of its relatable material and high entertainment value, Dean hopes that Next to Normal can entice audiences to the UM-Flint Theatre. “This show has a profound and immediate purpose. It’s a show that invokes conversation about a topic that our society is afraid to address, and yet mental health effects everyone to different and varying degrees on a daily basis.”

During the October 28-30 and November 4-6 weekends, performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or at the UM-Flint Theatre box office (please arrive early if purchasing tickets at the door). The Sunday, November 6, performance will feature a talk-back session with the cast, crew, and director. All are invited to attend.


For more information on showtimes, ticket sales, and performances, visit umflint.edu/theatredance/season-information or call (810) 237-6522. To reach Director Stephanie Dean, email scdean@umflint.edu.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Physics and Hubble Telescope Research

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

Dr. Rajib Ganguly of UM-Flint Physics

In late June, 2016, Dr. Rajib Ganguly, Associate Chair of UM-Flint Physics and Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Sciences, Engineering and Physics, received some exciting news: his proposal to use the Hubble Telescope to observe eleven objects in deep space was approved.

Dr. Ganguly’s research will claim 19 of the spacecraft’s orbits during the next year. Over 891 proposals, requesting 25,600 orbits, were submitted this year–while only 3764 total orbits are available.

Dr. Ganguly’s successful proposal was a first for him and for UM-Flint.

In the UM-Flint Physics and Astronomy programs, Dr. Ganguly is known for his research on quasars–or, as he describes them, growing super-massive black holes that reside in the center of galaxies.

Read below as Dr. Ganguly shares more information on his upcoming work with the Hubble Telescope and other areas of research:

In everyday terms, what is your field of research and study?
I’m interested in the understanding the biggest, most massive black holes in the Universe, how they grew to be that size, how that growth affects its surroundings, their relationship to the galaxies in which they reside. To do that, I combine both an empirical and a theoretical approach, using data from a wide variety of telescopes (including Hubble!) and computer simulations.

What do you find fascinating about this work?
That’s a loaded question that could be answered in a many ways! I once posed a somewhat related question to an group at a recent outreach event: What do you think is the most awesome thing about space? I got lots of interesting answers mostly naming specific objects, like black holes, or phenomena, like the expansion of the Universe. Then I told the audience my answer. I find it completely amazing that, using only information encoded in the light that we get here on Earth, and our own ingenuity, we can figure this out about things in space. It is striking that the Universe appears to obey certain rules and that we humans can have the audacity to try to figure out what those rules are. That might be a more generic answer for any us doing research in the physical sciences.

Without getting too esoteric, the current research effort is interesting on several levels. We (the astronomy community) are trying to tell the story of how structure emerged in the Universe, how galaxies formed from that structure, and how they evolve. The growth of supermassive black holes in the nuclei of galaxies appears to have a connection with that evolution. Furthermore, we observe that, in some of these actively growing black holes, there is a substantial amount of matter being expelled from the system, which seems counter-intuitive. How does matter escape from the vicinity of a black hole? There is interesting, and extreme, physics that is needed to explain what is going on.

By testing our ideas about how those rules of nature work in the extreme environment of a black hole, we can hope to improve our understanding of those rules. And with greater understanding comes a greater power to help ourselves.

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

Dr. Ganguly working with UM-Flint Physics students

What is your history with the Hubble Telescope?
I have a long history with the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble was launched in 1990 and I began graduate school at Penn State in 1996. My first task before classes even started in my first year was to help my to-be-advisor finish preparing proposals for, if I recall correctly, the fourth cycle of Hubble observations. (We’re heading into the 24th cycle now.) By the time I was in my fourth year of grad school, I was writing my own Hubble proposals. I actually wrote one to fund my PhD dissertation research which repurposed existing Hubble data. I defended my PhD in 2002, and my first post-doctoctoral position was as a research scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD. That is basically ground-zero from where Hubble is operated, and the data are archived.

There are many divisions at the institute: a division for each of the instruments, a division for archiving the data, a division for conducting outreach, etc. My supervisor was connected to one of the instruments that was to go up with the fourth servicing mission. Of course, 2003 saw the tragic loss of Space Shuttle Columbia and the astronauts on board, which then grounded the remaining shuttle fleet, and the cancellation of that mission. That was not a happy time, and many of us had to reinvent our research goals/methodology, which I did during my second post-doctoral position at the University of Wyoming. Fate can be rather twisted, though. Eventually, the shuttle fleet was brought back for a time, Hubble was serviced again and those instruments brought new life to the observatory. My then-supervisor, Ken Sembach, is now the director of the Institute. And the new proposal that will see UM-Flint’s first Hubble observations will be taken with the very instrument that we were going to use back in 2003.

Who are you working with on this project?
For my sabbatical this past Winter semester, I went back to my old stomping grounds at Penn State. There, I continued working with my dissertation advisors, Professors Jane Charlton and Michael Eracleous. They are my primary collaborators on this project. I am also collaborating with Professor Charlton current graduate student (my academic brother), Chris Culliton, as well as Professor Eracleous’ post-doctoral researcher Dr. Jessie Runnoe. Dr. Runnoe actually did her PhD at the University of Wyoming, and worked with me while I was there. She will recently moved to the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

How will the data from the Hubble help advance your particular research?
There are a number of questions regarding the matter that is being ejected by black holes that are growing in the cores of galaxies. How much is there? How does that compare with how much is falling in? How does it get ejected? The inflow likely takes the form of a thin disk accreting onto the black hole. What shape does the outflow take? What governs that shape?

In a previous study, we identified targets in the existing archive of Hubble observations that were also luminous in the radio band. Radio emission arises from jets of material travelling at relativistic speeds along the rotation axis of the black hole. As a by-product, we can use radio maps to gauge the orientation of these systems. We found two things from that study: (1) nearly all of the radio-luminous objects are viewed with the jet pointing roughly toward us, and (2) none of them show evidence for outflowing material. So, the question is: Are these two things related? Is this telling us something important about the geometry of the outflowing gas? Or is there something more fundamentally, and subtly, heinous about growing black holes with jets that prevent them from having the types of outflows we observe in other objects. [I should note here that the jet itself does not include a sufficient amount of material to provide an explanation for the ejected matter that we observe.] So, we identified a sample of radio-luminous objects where the jets are not directed toward us and convincingly proposed to observe them to test the hypothesis that this is just an orientation effect, that we are getting at the actual geometry of the outflowing gas. A “null” result – that we don’t find any outflows in the proposed sample – will indicate the latter option, which might be even more interesting in terms of understanding what physics is important in driving outflows.

How will UM-Flint students be involved in this research?\
There are a number of aspects of this particular project that my students will assist me with. As the data are collected by Hubble and transmitted down the Earth and archived, we will need to download the data, and to process it so that we can make measurements of it. (The processing has to do with accounting for the ways in which the telescope and camera behave, and calibrating the data.) Since our primary goal is a fishing expedition, our first step will be to count the fish and to compare the statistics of outflows with other samples of objects. Furthermore, for any outflows that are detected, we want to use the high resolution afforded by the Hubble Space Telescope to make measure how much gas there is, and the characterize its physical conditions. This will shed clues as to the nature of the outflowing gas, and the relevant physical processes that affect/drive it.

What value can the general public find in attending your outreach events?
Science is fun, and exciting, and important, and necessary. There isn’t really a price tag on the scope of human knowledge about how nature works, and the rigorous means we use to expand both the breadth and depth of that knowledge. Our primary vehicle for public outreach is a massive event that we call AstroNite, offered once during each of the semesters (October for Fall, April for Winter).  During those events, we have activities that cover how we use information that is encoded in light to learn things about the Universe, what kinds of tools and machinery (e.g., telescopes, Mars Rovers) we use to explore other places, and how we can use observations to infer the story of planets, stars, galaxies, and the Universe as a whole.

This is the boldest and most audacious application of scientific principles – learning about no less than the entire Universe with just what we have figured out here on our tiny, precious Earth–and we use it to help inspire the next Carl Sagan, or Richard Feynman, or Stephen Hawking.


For more information on UM-Flint Physics, visit umflint.edu/physics.

10/25/16

UM-Flint Communication Celebrates 30 Years

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

Dr. Charles Apple of UM-Flint Communication

On October 6, 2016, members of UM-Flint Communication—both past and present—gathered to celebrate the newly independent department and all it has accomplished in its 30-year history.

“In 1986 when the COM degree was first introduced, the catalog noted that communication was both ‘one of the original liberal arts’ and that ‘effective communication is a basic life and career skill,'” said department chair Marcus Paroske. “That same blend of deep scholarly tradition and a healthy dose of applicable, practical skills is still  a hallmark of the department 30 years later.”

Continued Paroske, “Recent changes like the new M.A in Applied Communication degree and requiring internships for all communication majors builds on that tradition of combining theory and practice, of thinking deeply about human communication and also learning how to use that knowledge in speaking, writing, and group discussion, all in a context where faculty know and care about their students.”

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication's 30th Anniversary gathering

Alumni and guests at UM-Flint Communication’s 30th Anniversary gathering

In addition to celebrating the department itself, the October 6 gathering honored Dr. Charles Apple, associate professor emeritus.

Dr. Apple joined the UM-Flint in 1986, quickly becoming a favorite faculty member and serving as its leader from 1987 to 1998.

1988 alumna Sherry Hayden noted, “I took as many courses from him as possible. His enthusiasm for teaching, for people, and for the art of communication has inspired me throughout my life. He is gifted and has freely shared his gifts with this very fortunate community of learners.”

Her sentiment was echoed by Andrea Chirich, a 1989 alumna of the program. She said, “Dr. Apple was my favorite professor! He brought much real-world practicality to the study of communication. The lesson that stuck with me the most was when he had us set up corporations…That exercise had very practical application for me in my corporate career, helping me understand how the chain of command worked, and how I could help it be more effective.”

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Members of UM-Flint Communication gather to celebrate the new department and the program’s 30th anniversary

Read on as Dr. Apple shares his own memories of his career and his time at the University of  Michigan-Flint:

What theories or fundamentals have changed in your field over your career? What has remained the same?
This is a tricky one as the focus of the field has changed tremendously. When I was introduced to communication theory in 1965, the field focused on speech and classical rhetorical theory with a few courses at the upper level on other areas or contexts such as persuasion, organizational communication. The essential focus was on the spoken message with some concern for nonverbal theory. As the field moved into the 1970s things took on a broader application of classical rhetorical theory. Studies emerged on the study of social movements with the inclusion of modern forms of rhetorical theory. The field began to examine many other contexts of communication with a blend of rhetoric and modern social science theory—psychology, sociology, semiotics, etc. All of this was very appealing to me as I have always been more of an eclectic than a specialist. This why many of my courses and lectures have included ideas and theories from history, psychology, philosophy, and semiotics. Today, the study of communication continues to focus on speech and debate. However, it now examines such communication contexts as mass communication, film, small groups, interviewing, organizational communication, advertising, public relations, ethics in communication, rhetorical theory, health care communication, and communication and aging.

What were/are some of your favorite classes to teach? Why were/are they important for students?
I have taught a wide range of courses especially during the first 10 years here due to the lack of full-time faculty. Ethical issues in communication, film genre, social movements, propaganda, interpersonal communication, and conflict management [are some] favorites.

I think that ethics in communication is a critical course for any communication major or minor. The world of communication is rife with cases of shady to overtly unethical behavior. Someone once said that if you do not bring your ethics with you, someone else will give you theirs. I have found this to be true when I worked for a Fortune 100 service corporation and in my study of other contexts. Over the past 29 years of my teaching this course, I have found the majority of my students saying that they have never thought of what to do in most of the cases covered. I try to create a climate in the course where each student can find their own ethical beliefs. I rarely stress my own beliefs except for stressing that I believe in the dialogical approach to communication at all times.

I also believe that a strong course in interpersonal communication can serve to prepare students for their current and future relationships including personal, friends, worker relationships, and even difficult people. I stress the critical importance of how you talk to yourself. Self-talk has been studied in psychology and makes a cornerstone for me in preparing for how we conduct ourselves in relationships. I also stress the centrality of assertiveness. I have built my course on conflict management as a follow-up to interpersonal communication. Conflict is a basic reality of every relationship and the tools and techniques of handling ourselves in conflict are critical to the creation of any successful relationship.

I believe that my classes on social movements, propaganda, and film genre help my students prepare for how to digest those who change or try to change the culture in which we live. I have been lucky to have participated in the Civil Rights Movement and even marched with Dr. King. I also took part in the anti-war movement in the late 60s and early 70s. So I have firsthand experience with this powerful form of social and cultural change. I did my dissertation for my PhD on the conflict in Northern Ireland, including the history of the entire Irish question (or the English question as the Irish preferred to frame it). Propaganda overlaps with social movements both within the pro-change side and anti-change or governmental side. As Jacques Ellul has argued, there are both political propaganda and sociological propaganda. This connects to my approach to film genre. I try to awaken within my students the need to pay attention to the historical context of each film, the cultural values in evidence, the relative power of the narrative structure and effect, and any ties or connections to our cultural mythology. I have them watch films in three genres: mysteries, westerns, and adventure epics. Such films are seen by most audiences and I feel can have a profound impact on society.

What are some highlights of having been a part of the communication program/department at UM-Flint?
I have been able to see over 500 or 600 graduates grow during their coursework and after graduation. Our grads have done very well.  We have a grad in public relations who is presently placed in London. Another is a local TV news anchor. Quite a few work in departments of communication for a wide range of organization sizes.  Some have gone into teaching.  A few are out west in the film industry.

Over the years we have grown from a struggling-for-survival, developing program with a minimal faculty. Today there is a solid tenured faculty with a number of lecturers and part time faculty. We have graduated around 1,000 students. We have also had quite a few students who graduated with honors.

What are your hopes for the future of students in your field?
I hope that the field can maintain a balance between theory and practice. We have always been a mix, blending theory from other fields and applying it to a wide range of areas—speech, debate, sales, small group decision making, organizational effectiveness and interventions, TV and film production and critique, and so on. In my opinion we are a blend of liberal arts in terms of rhetorical criticism and practice along with modern social science theory and application.


For more information on the department, visit umflint.edu/communication or call 810.766.6679.

09/20/16

UM-Flint History Heads for Peaks and Valleys of Germany

Chris Molnar, Associate Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

UM-Flint History and the Wyatt Exploration Program

Since 2009, the Wyatt Exploration Program has allowed History students in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences to travel the world with their faculty—at almost no cost to the students themselves.

The program is funded from a generous bequest made by Dr. Dorothea E. Wyatt, the first chair of the Department of History and one of the original sixteen faculty members of the University of Michigan-Flint (or Flint College as it was called in 1956).

Each Wyatt journey is led by a History Department faculty member (known as the Wyatt Fellow) and explores a region and topics related to their field of study. Past trips abroad have been made to Poland, Japan, Wales, and London; others have explored topics closer to home, heading to the “Old South” and even staying in Flint.

Both UM-Flint History majors and minors are  eligible to apply for the Wyatt Exploration Program.

When history major Monica Wiggins transferred to UM-Flint from Mott Community College, she was ecstatic to find out about the Wyatt program and its support for students. She said, “When I found out via email that I had been selected, I screamed, cried, and then said a thank-you prayer to Dorothea Wyatt. Having the trip paid for enables ‘broke college students’ to experience another country and culture that they might otherwise not be able to. It makes you a better informed person. You study these places and events, and then getting to see them first hand and in person is completely different.”

A Life-Changing Journey

The Wyatt Program is officially announced each year at a Kick Off Celebration. This year’s event, held in early September, included talks by the 2015-16 Wyatt Fellow, Professor John Ellis; department chair, Professor Roy Hanashiro; and one of the student travelers from the 2016 trip to London, Melissa Ormechea-Smith.

Dr. Ellis described his trip as a transformational experience, and noted how special it was to see London through the eyes of his students, saying “that is an experience as a teacher that is irreplaceable.”

Melissa Ormechea-Smith - Social Studies TCP and English Literature student - speaking on the UM-Flint History trip to London, England, in 2016.

Melissa Ormechea-Smith – Social Studies TCP and English Literature student – speaking on the UM-Flint History trip to London, England, in 2016.

Melissa Ormechea-Smith, a student of education and english literature, was also changed by her three weeks in London, England. It was her first time abroad and she was grateful for the financial support provided by the Wyatt Program. She noted that, while trips to museums, palaces, and the financial district were memorable, it was the chance to visit the resting place of Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey that will really stay with her. Amidst awe-inspiring architecture and while being humbled by the sheer weight of history, said Smith “I was brought to tears by gratitude for the Wyatt experience. In that huge crowd, I had a profound personal experience.”

Smith is working on her secondary teacher’s certificate program (TCP) in social studies. She knows her experience in London will make her a better teacher and that it’s something she’ll share with her students. “I knew I wouldn’t be the same person coming home,” said Smith, “My perspective and outlook are forever changed.”

The 2016-17 Wyatt Exploration Program—titled “Germany: Land of Peaks and Valleys”—will be led by Dr. Chris Molnar, Assistant Professor of European History. Said Molnar, “It is a great honor to have been chosen by my colleagues as the 2016-2017 Wyatt Fellow. Now I am excited to have a chance to share my interest in German history and culture with the campus community and to take a group of students to Germany and Austria at the end of the year.”

Germany: Land of Peaks and Valleys

“When people hear ‘Germany,’” said Molnar at the Wyatt Kick Off event, “they think of two things: beer and Nazis.” With this in mind, Molnar chose his Wyatt Exploration Journey carefully—intent on showing his students that there are many more sides to Germany. He acknowledged the Third Reich and the Holocaust may be the darkest spots in Germany history, but reminded the audience that they are not the whole history.

Chris Molnar, Associate Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

Chris Molnar, Assistant Professor of UM-Flint History and 2016-17 Wyatt Fellow

Molnar plans to bring students to Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Munich—focusing on the Bavarian region of Germany and its Alpine mountain range. They will also stop in Salzburg, Austria. Said Molnar, “The mountains have shaped German and especially Austrian culture, and so Wyatt explorers will also have a chance to head up into the mountains to take in the fresh air, breathtaking views, and traditional alpine hospitality.”

Students will see the remains of a Roman fortification, visit the favorite seat of the Holy Roman Empire, cruise the Danube, ride a cable car to the peak of Untersberg mountain, and enjoy traditional fare at a variety of eateries.

Continued Molnar, “Those who take part in this year’s Wyatt trip will develop a much deeper appreciation for the complicated history and culture of a fascinating and beautiful country!”

Wyatt Events for Campus & Community

To be eligible for the Wyatt Exploration trip, History majors and minors attend a series of events in addition to the required coursework. The events consist of guest lectures and fun activities—most open to all campus and community members.

The 2016-17 Wyatt events include:

• Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Lecture: “The Many Faces of Munich: The Bavarian capital in the Turbulent Twentieth Century” with Dr. Derek Hastings, Associate Professor in History at Oakland University.
Time: 4pm
Location: 251 French Hall

• Saturday, October 15, 2016
Oktoberfest Celebration featuring a thirty-piece German brass band, a dance floor, and complementary Bavarian dinner buffet. Registration required.
Location: Flint Elks Lodge, 7177 E. Maple Ave., Grand Blanc, MI.

• Thursday, October 20, 2016
Lecture: “Terrorism and Security: or, How Did We Get Here? The Example of 1970s West Germany” with Dr. Karrin Hanshew, Associate Professor in History at Michigan State University.

• Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Wyatt Movie NightAli: Fear Eats the Soul

• Monday, November 14, 2016
Lecture: “The Modern Invention of the Medieval Executioner” with Dr. Joel Harrington, Professor of History at Vanderbilt University.

• Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Krampus: the South German Christmas Devil. Join us on St. Nick’s Day to hear Professor Molnar describe the murky origins, history, and cultural meaning of Krampus, the south German Christmas devil.

Full event details will be posted on the UM-Flint History website. Questions can also be directed to Chris Molnar at chrismol@umflint.edu.


For more information on the Wyatt Exploration Program, visit umflint.edu/history or call 810.762.3366.

Applications for the 2016-17 Wyatt Exploration journey to Germany open in November 2016 and close in early January 2017. History students interested in being considered should obtain a passport and further details from the UM-Flint History Department office.

08/24/16

Women of STEM: Samantha Grathoff

The College of Arts & Sciences at UM-Flint is proud to recognize some of the exceptional women of our STEM disciplines. As leaders, mentors, and educators, these women bring passion and talent to our students, classrooms, and the world of science, technology, engineering, and math.


A Leader in the Curiosity Academy

Samantha Grathoff is a lab coordinator, community engagement liaison, and adjunct lecturer for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in UM-Flint’s College of Arts & Sciences. She’s also one of the directors of the Curiosity Academy: a community club that engages middle school girls, mostly 6th to 8th graders, who have an interest in STEM subjects.

The Academy aims to reignite the girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math at an age when they may be moving away from such disciplines. Through fun projects and activities, the students are connected to educators and professionals in various STEM fields. Noted one recent student, “Curiosity Academy has been an amazing experience and I love that I got to do cool science projects with my friends. My favorite activities were sending the remote controlled cars down a zipline, doing the plant scavenger hunt, and, of course, going on cool field trips!”

Sam Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Samantha Grathoff works with students in a Curiosity Academy session at UM-Flint

Grathoff works “in all aspects of the program, from writing grant applications, developing lesson plans, advertising, and recruiting students, to recruiting speakers, coordinating field trips, developing a peer mentorship program, and, of course, working with the girls during their time with us.” She shares duties with fellow program directors Monique Wilhelm and Essence Wilson.

The Curiosity Academy’s mission closely aligns with Grathoff’s personal interests. Said Grathoff, “I believe that far too many people are intimidated by science, think that it’s only for ‘nerds’, or think that it’s a secluded community. I love to break those stereotypes by providing fun and interactive activities that explain scientific concepts and engage people.”

Grathoff’s desire for an inclusive community and increased confidence for her students is already being realized. Fifteen-year-old Alexis was asked what she likes about Curiosity Academy. She replied, “The sense of community it provides for all those in the program.” Her mother echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s not about the exclusion of boys, that has not been an issuse for Alexis, she can and does speak out in class. It’s more about my daughter learning a sense of community with other females. . . I found a program that embodies that.”

Added Grathoff, “Curiosity Academy has transformed girls from being reserved and quiet to outspoken and confident. It’s incredible that a program that meets only two hours per week can so strongly influence the participants.”

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

Curiosity Academy students conduct an experiment in the UM-Flint lab

A Love of Learning

When asked how she knew a career in STEM was right for her, Grathoff replied, “I was interested in math and science by elementary school. I recall doing workbooks for fun during the summers and having my parents quiz me on math at stores. It wasn’t until high school, however, that my true passion developed. I enrolled in physics, honors chemistry, and almost every biology class my high school offered. The material didn’t come naturally to me, but I loved learning it.”

Grathoff credits both her high school teachers and her parents for fostering her love of the STEM disciplines: “My high school science teachers shared their passion and enthusiasm with me and developed wonderful projects that really engaged me. I loved to see how much they enjoyed their careers, and how much fun STEM could be. My parents also inspired me. They helped me pursue my interests and gain experiences that would help advance my education.”

Grathoff’s role in the Curiosity Academy as a mentor is one that’s appreciated by both her students and their parents. Angie, one of the Academy parents, noted, “I think that the time and energy that these women put into our young women is remarkable and ‘grateful’ is really the best word to describe my feelings. The role models and examples they are [is] truly a blessing for my daughter and all of the girls.”

Sam Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Samantha Grathoff with one of her Curiosity Academy students.

Connecting with the Future

The Curiosity Academy is open to its participants for a small but important window of time in their lives. “My hope is that after Curiosity Academy, the girls’ perseverance, passion, and enthusiasm for STEM continues, regardless of roadblocks that they may encounter,” said Gratthoff. “Even if they decide that STEM isn’t the career for them, I hope that they can take what they’ve learned from Curiosity Academy and apply it to their personal and professional lives.”

For some of the girls, the Academy has already made a difference in their plans. Seventh grader Madison said, “Curiosity Academy has really changed my ideas on what I would like to major in college or what I would like to do for my career. I now would like to possibly go for a chemistry major or maybe even math!” She’s also found that it’s had a positive effect on her time in school: “Curiosity Academy really expanded my knowledge of science. I learned a lot more about plants, fossils, robotics, and so much more… Because of it, I learned a lot before it was even discussed at school, which helped me understand the topic a lot more.”

Madison has also absorbed the example of mentorship that Grathoff shows every day: “I love being a girl who loves STEM! it helps other girls at school see that girls can love topics like science and math, too!”

Whether they are interested in STEM disciplines or not, Grathoff believes “young girls should do what they enjoy doing, not what others think they should do.” She advises students to “try activities that you’ve never tried before. Put effort into every subject in school, even if you don’t think you like it. You never know what you’ll end up liking. Finally, don’t stop exploring. Ask questions, foster new friendships, and stay busy! It’s never too late to explore a new interest, whether it’s academic or for fun.”

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

2015-16 Curiosity Academy students at UM-Flint

Join the 2016-17 Curiosity Academy

Applications are now being accepted for this year’s Curiosity Academy class. The deadline is October 10, 2016. Admission is based solely on program interest and is limited to 24 participants. Partial and full tuition assistance is available.


To learn more about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UM-Flint, and their opportunities for students of all ages, visit their website at umflint.edu/chemistry. To connect with Samantha Grathoff, email sgrathof@umflint.edu.