Eric Sembrat's Test Bonanza

Image: 

Meet Spring 2017 Graduate James Farmer

Monday, May 1, 2017

From a difficult family life and erratic performance in high school, to a B.S. in Physics from Georgia Tech, James T. Farmer proves that academic success is possible despite huge odds. His  academic career at Georgia Tech is a testament to his determination.

An unstable home life resulted in attending five high schools; a tour in the Navy was a means of escape. But Farmer’s hard work resulted in not only enrolling in Tech, but succeeding in the School of Physics. Now he hopes to add more chapters to his success story as a doctoral student.

What attracted you to Georgia Tech?

I was initially interested in aerospace engineering. As such, I was attracted to Georgia Tech for the rigor and reputation of the engineering school.

How would you describe your life before enrolling in Georgia Tech?

I was in the Navy before college. I joined because I didn't have a lot of options when I graduated from high school. I was working full time while attending Middle Georgia State University. I had enrolled there with the intention of transferring to Georgia Tech for aerospace engineering.

What is the most important thing you learned while at Georgia Tech?

I learned the difference between a student and a scholar. I've learned how to use the resources available to me to teach myself outside of the classroom.

What surprised or disappointed you the most about Georgia Tech?

I’ve had no real surprises and no real disappointments.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

Associate Professor Flavio Fenton as had a big impact on my development. He has been my research advisor since I started at Georgia Tech and has pushed me to go after many opportunities I would not have even known about without him.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

My most vivid memory involves staying up all night in the Howey Library to work out homework assignments. I also enjoyed the Washington, D.C., trip with the Society of Physics Students.

If you participated in experiential learning activities, what was the most valuable outcome of your experience?

I’ve had great undergraduate research experiences thanks to Dr. Fenton, and I’ve had the opportunity to present my work at conferences.

On the basis of your experience, what advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?

Work hard, study relentlessly, but never pass up an opportunity to relieve some stress.

What feedback would you give to Georgia Tech to improve the campus experience for future students?

I would ask them to increase funding for undergraduate research programs. I’ve learned more about how to be successful in my future career by doing research than I could possibly learn in a classroom.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I’ll be enrolling in a physics Ph.D. program. I’ve been accepted to a few schools but haven’t yet chosen which one I'll attend.

 
Media Contact: 

Renay San Miguel
Communications officer/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

Summary: 

From a difficult family life and a challenging high school experience to success in the School of Physics, James T. Farmer proves academic success is possible if one is determined.

Intro: 

From a difficult family life and a challenging high school experience to success in the School of Physics, James T. Farmer proves academic success is possible if one is determined.

Alumni: 

10th Southeast Meeting on Soft Materials

The Soft Materials Workgroup of Georgia Tech and Emory University are hosting the 10th annual meeting of researchers interested in soft materials, fluids, and biophysics to discuss their work and inspire new partnerships.

The day will include breakfast, lunch, and coffee. 

Registration is FREE, but required. Registration deadline is May 8, 2017.

The following are the invited speakers:

Extracting Hidden Hierarchies in Complex Spatial Biological and Physical Network

Natural and man-made transport webs are frequently dominated by dense sets of nested cycles. The architecture of these networks -- the topology and edge weights -- determines how efficiently the networks perform their function. Yet, the set of tools that can characterize such a weighted cycle-rich architecture in a physically relevant, mathematically compact way is sparse.

10th Southeast Meeting on Soft Materials

Invited speakers:

Ravi Kane, Georgia Tech

Alberto Fernandez-Nieves, Georgia Tech

Eric Weeks, Emory University

Khalid Salaita, Emory University

The rest of the time will be allotted to SHORT presentations (3 minute “sound bites”) that are intended to give the audience a flavor for the research topics and the techniques used to address the research problems discussed. We hope and expect that students will attend whether or not their faculty adviser can attend.

Shape-Reconfigurable Colloids

The ability to reconfigure elementary building blocks from one structure to another is key to many biological system. Bringing the intrinsic adaptability of biological systems to traditional synthetic materials is currently one of the biggest scientific challenges in material engineering. Here we introduce a new design concept for the experimental realization of self-assembling systems with built-in shape-shifting elements.

Signals and forces that control the dynamics of multicellular tissues

Jennifer Zallen is an HHMI Investigator at Sloan Kettering Institute. Her lab uses multidisciplinary approaches from cell and developmental biology, physics, engineering, and computer science to study how tissue architecture is dynamically remodeled throughout development.  A major morphogenetic event during the development of the embryo is the elongation of the head-to-tail body axis, a process that requires rapid and coordinated movements of hundreds of cells. 

Andrew Zangwill: Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award

Friday, April 21, 2017

Andrew Zangwill is the recipient of the 2017 Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award. Zangwill is a professor in the School of Physics. His selection is based on his outstanding teaching record, exemplary service, and leadership.

Students praise Zangwill’s dedication, passion, and effectiveness.

He displays “great enthusiasm for, and depth of scholarship in, the subject” he teaches, says one former student. “His lectures are well-prepared and engaging. Instead of set office hours he welcomes and encourages students to ask questions any time,” another former student says. “Succeeding in his class gave me the confidence that I could actually do physics, something that I honestly doubted before,” this student says. Zangwill “cares about every student in his class,” another student says. “He wants all of us to succeed, and for those of us who were struggling, he gave extra help.”

Zangwill is unique in having taught almost all the required courses in the B.S. and Ph.D. programs, as well as all the introductory courses, says School of Physics Chair Pablo Laguna. “That’s an amazing feat not easily achieved and requiring an outstanding breadth of knowledge in physics.” 

For all the courses Zangwill has taught, his overall teaching effectiveness scores have been consistently high, averaging 4.8/5 over 31 semesters. “These scores show strong commitment to being a good teacher,” Laguna says, “not only for School of Physics students but for all Georgia Tech students.”  

From 2004 to January 2017, Zangwill was the associate chair for graduate programs in the School of Physics. “His top priorities were always the education and well-being of graduate students,” Laguna says. Among his initiatives was eliminating qualifying exams. Zangwill convinced the school by showing a strong correlation between grades in first-year classes and success in the qualifying exam, indicating that the exam adds no new information.

Physics graduate students welcomed the change. They became more engaged with their courses, they were less stressed, and they could dedicate their first summer to research rather than reviewing for the exam.

Zangwill has written two textbooks. Physics at Surfaces, published in 1988, is a graduate-level introduction to the physics and chemical physics of solid surfaces. Modern Electrodynamics, published in 2012, is a graduate-level textbook for electrodynamics.

The electrodynamics book has received rave reviews, some of which are featured in Amazon.com. “Because of its clarity and insight,” Laguna says, “this book has become the standard text not only in our school but at many physics departments throughout the country.”

Zangwill’s influence on physics education at Georgia Tech cannot be overstated. “He has permanently changed my direction as a scientist,” says one Ph.D. student. “I now confront research problems with the tools and perspectives he taught me through his lectures and textbook.

“I am glad that the Ector award for teaching exists at Georgia Tech,” Zangwill says. “We are a heavily research-oriented institution, but it’s nice to see that Tech also recognizes and celebrates faculty members who have also made a strong and sustained commitment to teaching.”

Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Andrew Zangwill is the recipient of the 2017 Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award. Zangwill is a professor in the School of Physics. His selection is based on his outstanding teaching record, exemplary service, and leadership.

Intro: 

Andrew Zangwill is the recipient of the 2017 Class of 1940 W. Howard Ector Outstanding Teacher Award. Zangwill is a professor in the School of Physics. His selection is based on his outstanding teaching record, exemplary service, and leadership.

Alumni: 

Double Georgia Tech Honors for Flavio Fenton in 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Flavio H. Fenton has two good reasons to be flashing a wide smile these days. He’s a double winner in Georgia Tech’s 2017 award season, taking home the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award and a Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award. That Fenton excels in both categories is not surprising. That he receives the two awards in the same year is icing on the cake.   

What makes an award-winning undergraduate research mentor? According to those who know Fenton, the recipe includes trust, empathy, encouragement, enthusiasm to engage with students, and skill to tailor projects to students’ interest and strengths. Then add to those essentials a liberal dash of openness that invites excellence from all sources, especially women and underrepresented minorities.

Physics major James T. “Tim” Famer is one of many undergraduates Fenton mentored. Coming from chaotic family circumstances, Farmer overcame academic disadvantage through self-motivation. Now he is poised to graduate and has been accepted by four graduate schools. Farmer credits his success in large part to his research experience in Fenton’s CHAOS (Complex Heart Arrhythmias and other Oscillating Systems) lab.

Farmer’s experience exemplifies Fenton’s mentoring approach. “The atmosphere in the lab is open and inviting,” Farmer says. “I was quickly able to build relationships with senior members. With their help I was quickly able to establish my own serious research project.”

Farmer says the cohesion that Fenton fosters in the CHAOS lab is what enabled him to be successful in his undergraduate research. Fenton “has an extraordinary ability to work diligently toward goals while remaining cheerful, open, and approachable,” Farmer says, “and an innate ability to bring people together to work happily and productively.”

Under Fenton’s guidance, Farmer has coauthored conference papers, has presented a poster in an international conference, and has been selected to present at talk at a physics society meeting. Fenton’s encouragement to compete for research awards has landed Farmer multiple awards for his research.

Altogether nine of Fenton mentees have received Presidential Undergraduate Research Awards (PURA) awards and two Petit undergraduate research scholarships.

Since joining Tech in 2012, Fenton has mentored 20 undergraduate and six high school students, which is extraordinary, says School of Physics Chair Pablo Laguna.  Of these, 14 have been women or members of underrepresented groups.

A tireless advocate for science, Fenton encourages his students to also engage with the public. For example, he brings public attention to the physics of heart arrhythmias through performance of a human spiral wave, featured recently in Physics Today. Last year, he and Ph.D. student Andrea Welsh co-organized the Conference of Undergraduate Women in Physics at Georgia Tech.

Fenton’s effectiveness as an educator extends not only to lucky undergraduates he welcomes to his lab but also to numerous Georgia Tech students who take his introductory physics courses. For the outstanding quality and effectiveness of his teaching, Georgia Tech selected Fenton as a recipient of the 2017 Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award.

A typical Fenton lecture is not only effective, but also enjoyable and engaging, often employing scribbles on a whiteboard, information on projection screens, video clips, live demonstrations, and clicker interactions. He does what it takes to engage, educate, and inspire students.

Fenton’s efforts are richly rewarded, not only by consistently high scores in teacher effectiveness but also by students’ heartfelt appreciation. He “made me feel as though he was teaching the material directly to each individual,” one student says. “His passion for the subject and excitement in teaching it made it easier to appreciate and understand the material.”

“A helluva physics professor,” is how another student describes Fenton. Instead of a no-frills, by-the-book class this student expected, he got a “fascinating” physics lectures spiced with a dash of humor.

For one student, a B in Fenton’s course was worth more than an A in other courses, because Fenton made this student “enjoy learning physics, enjoy coming to class and practicing problems,” and feeling accomplished with grades below A “because I worked hard for those grades, enjoyed the concepts I was learning, and felt like I was not just memorizing but truly gaining new knowledge.”  

Students also appreciate Fenton’s generous office hours. Students say they have met with Fenton for up to four hours in one session or even on a Saturday. “He makes himself available and goes out of his way to make sure his students are getting the education they came to Tech for,” a student says. 

“I would find him working with struggling students at his whiteboard at 8 am or 8 pm, with equal probability,” a colleague says. His availability would increase as the semester progressed and the material became more difficult. According to this colleague, one student’s C would have been an F were it not for Fenton’s tireless efforts.  

 “I believe that a successful teacher is one who communicates to students – even those who claim to ‘hate’ science – the stimulation, excitement, and fulfillment of day-to-day research and, most importantly, a sense of their own intellectual power to pose questions and to pursue the answers,” Fenton says.

Fenton feels “much honored’ to receive the two awards. “However, the credit for the undergraduate research goes to my postdocs and graduate students who have helped mentor and guide the undergrads, as well as the undergrads themselves for their hard work,” he says.  

“Teaching the introductory courses has been a lot of fun,” Fenton adds,  “thanks to the tireless help of Ed Greco and the amazing Tech students. It’s crazy to get an award for having fun in class.”

Photo caption

In the CHAOS lab, Flavio Fenton (from right) looks on as Tim Farmer and Conner Herndon perform simultaneous optical mapping of voltage and calcium signals from a zebra fish heart.

Media Contact: 

A. Maureen Rouhi, Ph.D.
Director of Communications
College of Sciences

Summary: 

Flavio H. Fenton has two good reasons to be flashing a wide smile these days. He’s a double winner in Georgia Tech’s 2017 award season, taking home the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award and a Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award. That Fenton excels in both categories is not surprising. That he receives the two awards in the same year is icing on the cake.   

Intro: 

Flavio H. Fenton has two good reasons to be flashing a wide smile these days. He’s a double winner in Georgia Tech’s 2017 award season, taking home the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Mentor Award and a Geoffrey G. Eichholz Faculty Teaching Award. That Fenton excels in both categories is not surprising. That he receives the two awards in the same year is icing on the cake.   

Alumni: 

Diffusion, correlated motions and periodic boundary conditions in lipid membranes

The diffusion of lipids and proteins within membranes are crucial to a variety of biological processes. With proper physical understanding, the diffusion coefficient gives information about the size, oligomerization, and local environment. It also serves as a standard test of simulation parameters.

A "Gut Reaction" to Georgia Tech Biology Research

Monday, April 3, 2017

The story of warring bacterial armies started as a Georgia Tech research published in February. Now it's a nationally distributed podcast produced by the National Science Foundation (NSF), and you can thank the researchers' unique mix of biology and math for inspiring NSF to tell the story widely in this format.

"The Discovery Files" recently highlighted the work of Brian Hammer, Will Ratcliff, Samuel Brown, and Peter Yunker in a 90-second radio feature titled "A Gut Reaction." The podcast is based on a paper published on Feb. 6, 2017, in the journal Nature Communications. 

The researchers used math and physics equations to find patterns and consistency in how two competing armies of cholera bacteria attack each other. The work could someday help scientists develop targeted therapies using engineered microbes that could kill infectious, harmful bacteria while sparing helpful ones.

NSF, which helped fund the research, creates a weekly audio report on the latest scientific research. "The Discovery Files" airs on radio stations throughout the U.S. 

You can listen to "A Gut Reaction" here.

Hammer and Brown are associate professors in the School of Biological Sciences. Ratcliff and Yunker are assistant professors, respectively, in the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Physics. 

Media Contact: 

Renay San Miguel
Communications Officer/Science Writer
College of Sciences
404-894-5209

 

Summary: 

The National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files" radio feature has highlighted the work of Brian Hammer, Will Ratcliff, Samuel Brown, and Peter Yunker in a 90-second audio feature titled "A Gut Reaction." The feature was based on a paper published on Feb. 6, 2017 in the journal Nature Communications. 

Intro: 

The National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files" radio feature has highlighted the work of Brian Hammer, Will Ratcliff, Samuel Brown, and Peter Yunker in a 90-second audio feature titled "A Gut Reaction." The feature was based on a paper published on Feb. 6, 2017 in the journal Nature Communications. 

Alumni: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Eric Sembrat's Test Bonanza