(We’ve been following Daniel Angerhausen, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics, Applied Physics, and Astronomy, in his quest to conduct research aboard NASA’s flying observatory, SOFIA. From anticipation in April, to disappointment in May, we are pleased to at last report success and joy. Congratulations Daniel!)
“So I spent the night at 42,000 feet on a billion dollar NASA aircraft observing an alien world 63 light-years away. How was your night?” — Tweet from Daniel the morning after his very first flight on the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).
I finally did it: I flew on SOFIA — and it was truly amazing.
I grew up in Schenectady and as a kid one of my favorite Electric City excursions was a trip to the science museum and, even better, the planetarium it contained. I have fond memories of snuggling into the reclining planetarium chairs and watching as stars, planets and constellations were pointed out, visiting the museum’s optical illusion exhibit and trying, often in vain, to see the old woman within what looked to me like simply a picture of a young woman. Touching the Van de Graafe generator that made my hair stand on end was another classic museum experience.
After nearly two decades, I visited the museum — now called miSci — again last week and it’s grown up a lot. miSci features even more interactive, hands-on exhibits and some very cool artifacts highlighting Schenectady’s history in technological innovation.
Today marks the first day of the new school year here at Rensselaer! We at The Approach would like to take this opportunity to welcome our first-year students, welcome back our returning students, and applaud our ever-outstanding faculty and staff! Here’s to another great year!
What better way to mark the occasion than with some good news? The preeminent science journal Nature recently featured a Q&A with our very own Riccardo Bevilacqua, pictured above in his lab. A distinguished assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering here at Rensselaer, Riccardo spends his time and energy dreaming up and designing fascinating new ways to control spacecraft and satellites. He navigates this bold trek with funding from the NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, DARPA, and the Office of Naval Research. (Read about some of those funding awards here and here.)
Liping Huang is an assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer. We ask Liping about her work:
Q: What problems are you trying to solve?
A: Glasses are everywhere in our daily lives, functioning with excellent optical, electronic, mechanical, and bio-related properties. Yet, glasses are usually brittle; their service lifetime is often capped by mechanical failures. For instance, cracked or broken screens account for 82% of all accidental iPhone4 damages . My research has been mainly focused on understanding the brittleness of glasses and how to make glasses tougher.
How would you describe your research to a first-grader?
If you accidentally dropped a glass cup or an iPad on a concrete floor, what would happen and why? My research is to design glass that is less likely to break, or touch-screen devices like iPad can be used for long time without any scratches on the surface.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I believe that teaching is not just a matter of teaching the knowledge itself; it is furthermore about teaching students how to learn, where to find out what they need to know, and how to use the information they get. In this respect I am inspired by the proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Eric Shapiro, Amanda Knight, and Diogo Moitinho de Almeida winners of one of five “Outstanding” prizes in the Interdisciplinary Contest in Modeling
Here’s a knotty problem: There is a relationship between human activity, damage to the environment, and harm to people (greenhouse gases leads to sea level rise which threatens coastal populations), but the cause-and-effect isn’t always clear. And while environmentalists collect stats on damage to the environment (pollutants in air and water, deforestation, species loss), policy makers who can shape human activity think in terms of harm to people (public health crisis, unemployment, threats to infrastructure). So how can we close the loop between human actions, environmental changes, and effects on humanity to save the planet and ourselves?
All hands on deck! It’s Rensselaer biology professor Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer, with partners Harry Kolar (right) from IBM and Eric Siy (left) from the FUND for Lake George. They were on the water yesterday celebrating the launch of the Jefferson Project, an exciting new research effort to turn Lake George into the world’s biggest and most scrutinized freshwater lab experiment.
(What you don’t see in this photo is me and some of my colleagues, in a second boat, about 20 feet off in the distance.)
You can read all about the Jefferson Project here, and check out some news stories about it here, here, and here.
Also, below is part of a great blog post written by Sandra and Eric for the IBM Smarter Planet blog. See the full post here.
Drosophilia melanogster Wing Stroke, by Chris Newhard
Now here is something really fun! The School of Science just posted a gallery of images from their Research Photo Contest. These are photos that chronicle the work of researchers within the School of Science at Rensselaer, and they run the gamut from a glorious shot of twilight on an Adirondack lake – taken in the course of work through the Rensselaer Darrin Freshwater Institute, to “the Arginine magic” — an image produced from molecular dynamics simulation to help develop a model for how drugs are moved through mammalian cells.
Laurie Leshin, dean of the School of Science, had this to say when asked why the school held the contest: