Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives



Spring 2017

  • Twenty-two Southwestern students traveled to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to attend the 120th meeting of the Texas Academy of Science (TAS), March 4–5. Collectively, Southwestern students gave four oral presentations and presented 12 posters in numerous sections of the Academy including Conservation Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Physics, Systematics and Evolution, Freshwater Science, and Science Education. Much of the work presented at TAS took place in past summer SCOPE programs. Several students and alumni received awards:

    • Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Environmental Science Section for her work, “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895-2015 in Central Texas.”  Gore worked on this project during SCOPE with her mentor Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards.

    • Bella Ferranti, Class of  2017, received the Best Oral Presentation Award in the Physics Section for her talk, “Laser Frequency Combs and the Search for Exoplanets.”  This is the second presentation that Ferranti has given at the Texas Academy of Sciences.

    • Lauren Gillespie, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster Presentation Award in Mathematics and Computer Science for her work entitled “Evolving Tetris Players Using Raw Screen Inputs,” which she worked on with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jacob Schrum.

    • Sofia Campos ’16 took the Best Poster prize in the Systematics and Evolution Section and also won 2nd place overall for her presentation, “Cryptic yet curiously common: Population genetic structure and diversity of a cryptic Pomacea sp. and its better known congeneric P. canaliculata,”  which summarized her work in Uruguay with Professor of Biology Romi Burks.

    • Madison Granier, Class of 2019, received the Best Poster prize in the Conservation Biology section and also received a $1500 grant from the Academy to support her undergraduate research titled “Snail Slime in Real Time: qPCR Detection of Environmental DNA using Apple Snails.”  This work involves a collaboration between Granier, Burks and alumni Matthew Barnes ’06, now an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University.

    • Carissa Bishop, Class of 2017, won two presentation awards: Best Oral Presentation in Freshwater Science, for her talk entitled “Applying Band-Aids: Challenges associated with molecular detection of Angiostronglyus cantonensis infection within Uruguayan and Brazilian apple snails,” and a Poster Award in Science Education for a collaborative project titled “Innovating molecular art: Communicating the true cost of science through repurposed materials.” Campos ’16, Shannon Walsh and Hugo Cepeda, both Class of 2018, all made contributions to the molecular art piece based on research that they have done with Burks. All of the molecular work has been made possible through a grant awarded to the Natural Sciences by the Keck Foundation.

    Other TAS presenters included Alex Taylor, Renee Walker, Morgan O’Neal, Jillian Bradley, Daniel Gonzalez, Eris Tock, Alex Rollins, and Jiawen Zhang, all Class of 2017, Ramesh Nadeem, Dakota Butler, Diana Beltran, Susan Beltran, and Madelyn Akers, all Class of 2018. Additional faculty mentors included Professor of Chemistry Kerry Bruns, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Michael Gesinski, Professor of Biology Ben Pierce,  and Part-Time Assistant Professor of Biology Airon Wills.

  • Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards attended the 97th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society Jan. 22–26 in Seattle, Wash. At the meeting, physics student Oliver Sale, Class of 2017, presented a poster titled “Investigation of Central Texas Surface Ozone Concentrations 1980–2015,” which resulted from work he did with Edwards and Dr. Gary Morris of St. Edward’s University as part of the SCOPE program (Summer 2016) and as part of his capstone research with Associate Professor of Mathematics Therese Shelton.

  • Southwestern had a great showing at the Joint Mathematics Meeting, the largest meeting of mathematicians in the world, held Jan. 4–7 in Atlanta, Ga. Six faculty, eight students, and an alumna participated in multiple ways.

    • Associate Professor of Mathematics Alison Marr was very active at this meeting.  As the Secretary/Treasurer of the IBL SIGMAA (Inquiry-Based Learning Special Interest Group of the Mathematical Association of America), she helped organize the MAA Session on Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning; this topic needed five sessions because of its importance, relevance, and national attention. She also co-organized the MAA Panel “Perspectives on Inquiry-Based Learning: Novice, Experienced, and Master,” and helped run the first IBL SIGMAA business meeting. She also presented “Broadening the Net: Promoting Success in the Sciences for All Students” at the MAA Poster Session on Projects Supported by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education. Poster co-authors include  Professor of Chemistry Emily D. Niemeyer, Associate Professor of Physics Mark Bottorff, Associate Professor of Computer Science Barbara Anthony, and Director of General Chemistry Labs Willis A. Weigand. She was also a co-author on a paper, “Coprime and prime labelings of ladder graphs and complete bipartite graphs,” presented in the AMS Special Session on RE(UF)search on Graphs and Matrices.
    • Visiting Assistant Professor John Ross and Associate Professor of Mathematics Therese Shelton co-presented “Supermarkets, Highways, and Oil Production: Statistics and Social Justice.” This work began with participation in an ACS workshop, “Mathematics and Social Justice,” May 21–22, 2016 at Rollins College.
    • Ross and Visiting Assistant Professor Linda DiLullo participated in the workshop “Preparing Students for Success in Calculus: Aligning Placement, Curriculum, and Assessment” offered through the MAA under an NSF grant.
    • Shelton co-presented the MAA Minicourse on Teaching Modeling-First Differential Equations—Technology and Complete End Game Effort, attended the MAA Section Officers’ Meeting as Past Chair of the Texas Section, and organized funding and logistics for Southwestern’s student and alum presenters and attendees.
    • Professor of Mathematics Kendall Richards co-organized the AMS Special Session on Complex Analysis and Special Functions.
    • Alumna Julia R. Sykora ’16 presented “3D Mathematical Models For the Blind” in the MAA Session on Methods of Engaging Math Learners with Physical Impairments. This was based on her 2015–16 King Creativity Project with Allison K. Young ’16 supervised by Shelton.
    • Southwestern students also presented at the AMS Contributed Paper Session on Undergraduate Research:
      • William Soller, Class of 2017, and Kristen McCrary, Class of 2018, presented “Existence, Uniqueness, and Cost-Optimizing Results of Mathematical Trusses” based on their 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Ross.
      • Morgan Engle and Penny Phan, both Class of 2018, presented “Green Math: Models of Greenhouse Gasses” from the 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Shelton.
      • Oliver Sale, Class of 2017, presented “Investigation of Central Texas Surface Ozone Concentrations 1980–2015” on work that began in 2016 SCOPE supervised by Part-Time Assistant Professor of Physics Rebecca Edwards. In Fall 2016, Sale continued the work in his mathematics capstone; Edwards continued to primarily oversee the project, and Shelton oversaw the math capstone and prepared Sale for the presentation.
      • Victoria Gore, Class of 2017, presented “Extreme Precipitation: Changes in Rain Frequency from 1895–2015 in Central Texas” from the 2016 SCOPE work supervised by Edwards.
      • Beulah Agyemang-Barimah, Class of 2017, received funding from Southwestern’s Keck Foundation grant to attend sessions on mathematical and computational biology.
      • Emma Kathryn Groves, Class of 2017, also attended the meetings.

Fall 2016

  • Seven Southwestern faculty members were awarded a prestigious Sam Taylor Fellowship Grant. The 2016 recipients include:

    • Professor of Physics Steven Alexander, “Creating a Wave-Powered Robot,” $1,200
    • Associate Professor of Music David Asbury, “Research at the Library of Congress and the University of South Carolina Related to the Correspondence of Andrés Segovia and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco,” $1,100
    • Associate Professor of German Erika Berroth, “Learning Arabic to Teach the Syrian Refugee Crisis: Inclusiveness and Diversity in the German Classroom,” $1,750
    • Associate Professor of Art History Patrick Hajovsky, “Examining Excavated Aztec Sculptures and Offerings in the Templo Mayor Museum and Museo Nacional de Antropología,” $1,220
    • Associate Professor of French Aaron Prevots, “Gestures Toward the Sacred: Guillevic, Vargaftig, Tellerman, Michel,” $1,500
    • Associate Professor of Communication Studies Valerie Renegar, “Beyond the “Wicked Stepmother”: Representations of Stepmothers in Popular Culture,” $1,830
    • Professor of Spanish Katy Ross, “Immigration in Spain: The Cultural Effects of Otherness,” $1,500

Spring 2015

  • Associate Professor of Physics Mark Bottorff has had published the observation work he did three years ago on a large international ground and space satellite monitoring project in the “Astrophysical Journal.” Vince Estrada-Carpenter ’13 and Botorff are listed as co-authors on the paper.

  • Professor of Physics Steve Alexander and Curran Johnston ’14 had their article “Naturally Occuring Heavy Radioactive Elements in the Geothermal Microcosm of the Los Azufres (Mexico) Volcanic Complex” published in the “Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.”

  • At the March meeting of the American Physical Society in San Antonio, Professor of Physics Steven Alexander gave a talk titled “Calculating Properties of Finite Mass Atoms.”

Spring 2014

  • Junior physics major Garth Ornelas has been selected to participate in a unique research and mentoring program sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The program is called Research Experiences in Solid Earth Science for Students, or RESESS, and it is designed to increase the number of historically underrepresented students entering the geosciences. Ornelas was one of 11 students selected to participate in the program in summer 2013 and will be participating again in summer 2014. His mentor for summer 2014 will be Matthew Pritchard, an associate professor of geophysics at Cornell University. Read more here.

  • Junior computer science major Rebecca Wilson presented a poster titled “An Open Source Voting Machine” that resulted from her King Creativity project with political science major Elizabeth Bell and physics major Eric Oden. The project was supervised by Steve Alexander, professor of physics.

  • Lois Ferrari, professor of music, conducted the Austin Civic Orchestra in a sold-out performance of “The Planets” in the Alma Thomas Theater Feb. 1. Mark Bottorf, associate professor of physics, gave a pre-concert lecture on the planets in our solar system. Dana Zenobi, part-time assistant professor of applied music, and Nicholas Simpson, part-time instructor of applied music, sang operatic arias with the orchestra. Ferrari also supports an ongoing collaboration with music majors Mattie Kotzur and Lai Na Wang, who are both members of the ACO.

Fall 2013

  • Steven Alexander, professor of physics and holder of the Robert Sherman Lazenby Chair in Physics, presented a paper at the 2013 Fall Meeting of the Texas Section of the American Physical Society at The University of Texas Brownsville Oct. 11. The paper was titled “Calculating Relativistic Atomic and Molecular Properties Using Monte Carlo Methods.” At the same meeting, senior physics major Vicente Estrada-Carpenter presented a poster titled “Examining XMM Observations in the Galactic Bulge Survey Region.” This poster won the award for best undergraduate poster at the conference.

Spring 2013

  • A design to build a low-cost dome structure has earned three Southwestern students a $2,500 prize. Kelsey Abel, Nathan Balke and Chandler Johnson were awarded the Walt Potter Prize for the project they did with the support of the King Creativity Fund in 2012-2013. The prize is awarded to the best King Creativity Fund student or project in a given year. Balke, a sophomore who is majoring in physics and German, said he came up with the idea for the project after talking to physics professor Steve Alexander last summer.“I wanted to do something to broaden my experience outside the classroom,” he said. “Professor Alexander mentioned a dome project and it seemed like a good fit.” While people have been building dome structures for many years, Alexander said he presented Balke with the challenge of making something that would be more efficient and less expensive than what is currently on the market. Read more here.

Fall 2012

  • Becca Edwards, part-time assistant professor of physics, presented a paper at the Applied Technology Council-Structural Engineering Institute Advances in Hurricane Engineering Conference held in Miami in October. The paper was titled “Effect of averaging duration on differences observed between gust factors from tropical and extratropical winds.”

  • Junior physics major Curran Johnson and senior physics major Ryan Staten presented posters at the Joint Fall 2012 Meeting of the Texas Sections of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers which was held Oct. 25-27 in Lubbock. Johnson presented a poster titled “Search for Z’ Bosons: A Summer Research Experience in Particle Physics Using Skype” and Staten presented a poster titled “A Computer Program to Search for Gravity Waves.” Johnson’s poster was based on work he did at Southwestern last summer in collaboration with Ballarmine University in Kentucky. Staten’s poster was based on work he did at UT Brownsville last summer as part of an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Steve Alexander, professor of physics, gave a talk on “Calculating Properties of Finite Mass Atoms” at the same meeting.

Spring 2012

  • Two Southwestern students have been selected to participate in summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Senior physics major Ryan Staten was selected to participate in a program sponsored by the Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Texas at Brownville. Senior physics major Caroline Weston was selected to participate in a materials science research program at the University of Florida.

Spring 2011

  • Although electric cellos are available commercially, senior music major Natalie Phillips-Perkoff and senior physics major Will Hardy wanted to try making one of their own. So they teamed up to make one with the help of a 2010-2011 King Creativity Fund grant. Their work ended up winning them the 2011 Walt Potter Prize, which comes with $2,500. The prize is awarded to the best King Creativity Fund student or project in a given year. Read the full story here.

  • Steve Alexander, professor of physics, gave an invited talk titled “Nonadiabatic Calculations Using Monte Carlo Methods” on Dec. 16 at the Pacifichem 2010 Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Spring 2010

  • Two Southwestern physics students have been selected to participate in summer research programs sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The programs are all part of the NSF’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Students selected for the program receive travel expenses, room and board, and a stipend of up to $4,500.

    Will Hardy, a junior physics major, was selected to work at the Rice Quantum Institute, which conducts research in molecular physics. Although his specific project is still to be determined, he will be investigating properties of metallic carbon nanotubes.

    Amanda Jefferies, a junior physics major, will be participating in a physics and astronomy REU program at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. She will spend 10 week working with Peter Frinchaboy, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, on a study of reddened star clusters, which can provide important information about the chemical and dynamical evolution of the galaxy.  

  • Four years of participating in the King Creativity Fund program has paid off for senior physics major Pelham Keahey. Keahey received the program’s first Walt Potter Prize, which comes with $2,500. The prize is awarded to the best student or project in a given year. Keahey received the award at a dinner marking the 10th anniversary of the King Creativity Fund. The program was established in 2000 with an endowment provided by Southwestern alumnus W. Joseph “Joey” King. It is designed to support “innovative and visionary projects” proposed by Southwestern students. King named the new award after Walt Potter, a computer science professor who was his mentor when he was a student at Southwestern. Read more about Keahey and his award here.

  • Students Mason Cradit, Will Hardy, Andrea Holland, Pelham Keahey and Steven Solis and advisor Gerald Wade have had a paper titled “Selecting Abandoned Industrial Innovations for Senior Student Science Projects” accepted as a virtual presentation at the International Technology, Education and Development Conference in Valencia, Spain, March 8-10. Their paper will be published in the conference journal along with the other papers. The paper stems from the team’s work on a 2009-2010 King Creativity Project.

  • Bill O’Brien, associate professor of physics, and senior physics major Connor Hanrahan, presented a poster titled “Increased Energy Return from Solar Panel with MPPT Charge Controller” at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco last month. The presentation was based on their research undertaken in June 2009 in Juneau, Alaska, with support of a faculty/student research grant. It examined the applicability of a new class of charge controllers to govern circuits in solar-powered research equipment. The new MPPT charge controllers will soon be tested on glaciers in the Juneau Icefield in scientific instrument stations maintained by the Environmental Science Program at the University of Alaska Southeast under the direction of 1994 Southwestern graduate Matt Heavner.