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Science Education Newsletter, 2013 banner

Student Awards

Noyce Scholars Program Comes to an End

description immediately follows 2012-2013 Noyce Scholars: Mayra Hernandez, Jessica Mejia, Jennifer Rodriguez, Jennifer Lara, Jessica Young, Sara Neufield

Back in January 2004 California State University, Long Beach was awarded an NSF Noyce Scholars Program. After eight years of supporting STEM majors interested in teaching in high need schools, CSULB sent off its last cohort of Noyce Scholars this past spring. The 2012-2013 cohort of scholars were another outstanding group of talented future teachers. Scholars are supported financially and academically. They received $15,000 per year (in exchange for teaching in high need schools upon graduation) and they received mentoring and additional professional development. They performed field work and tutoring in our partner schools (Long Beach Poly High School and Pioneer High School), participated in a bimonthly professional development seminar series, student taught in our partner schools and participated in additional professional development activities.

California State University, Long Beach's Noyce Scholars programs have been very successful. During Noyce I & II we supported 65 scholars, 28 math and 37 science candidates. Our Noyce I Scholars have been out in schools for a while now and data indicate that they are staying in teaching longer than the national average and staying in high need schools at higher rates that the national average. The retention rate for alumni who graduated five or more years ago is 83% (national average is ~50%). The 37 Noyce I alumni "owed" 83 years of teaching in high need schools. They have already taught >150 years in high need schools and more than 200 years overall. In addition to staying in high need schools longer than average, they are moving towards leadership positions. Many of our alums are department chairs, overseeing STEM initiatives, serving as faculty advisors to student clubs and more.

We are grateful to the National Science Foundation for having supported the Noyce Programs on our campus. The 65 Noyce Scholars who benefited from the program will be impacting thousands of students each year of their career and we anticipate that they will be long, successful teaching careers indeed!

description immediately follows CSULB Noyce Scholars at the 2012 Western Regional Noyce Conference Jennifer Lara, Jessica Young, Jennifer Rodriguez, Anna Brochet (project staff), Laura Henriques (PI), Jessica Mejia, Han Nguyen
Noyce I – NSF DUE 0335772 & Noyce II – NSF DUE 0833349

2013 Robert Rhodes Award

Jennifer Lara

The Robert Rhodes Award is given to a secondary science student teacher who demonstrated outstanding work as a student teacher, was involved in the life of the department and professionally throughout the credential program. Jennifer Lara was selected as this year's winner. Jennifer earned her chemistry credential from us. She completed field work and student teaching at Pioneer High School, working with Julie Bermudez (Noyce Alum and 2006 Rhodes Awardee). Jennifer earned her degree in Chemical Engineering at UCLA. She has been involved with MESA and other programs which encourage girls and under-represented groups to consider STEM careers. Jennifer was a Teaching Associate at Young Scientists Camp, she attended the CSTA and Western Regional Noyce Conferences. Jennifer was hired at Downey High School to teach chemistry. We look forward to watching her teaching career.

Outstanding Initial Credential Candidate

Ashley Contreras was selected as the College of Education's Outstanding Initial Credential Candidate Ashley Contreras had several jobs working in informal education settings since earning her marine biology degree in 2009. She worked at the Ocean Institute, Newfound Harbor Marine Institute and the Long Beach Marine Institute teaching in camps, leading field trips, developing programs and interacting with the public. She also volunteered at other marine science institutions. In addition to her work at informals, she spends time on the weekends teaching migrant children to read. As her Master Teacher says, "She spends her evenings planning interesting activities and searching for high interest readings for these reluctant readers." She has continued to teach math and reading to youngsters throughout her student teaching semester. Ashley did her student teaching at Lakewood High School. Congratulations Ashley!

2013 Future Science Teacher Awardee

Tania Hughes

Tania Hughes was selected by CSTA as the 2013 Future Science Teacher Awardee. Tania Hughes just completed her multiple subject credential program. She was part of the S.D. Becthel, Jr. Foundation funded STEM Rich Clinical Teacher Preparation Program. As part of this program Tania participated in additional professional development in science and STEM, helped plan and implement a family science night and she taught numerous science units during her student teaching experience. Tania is spending a year with the Peace Corps in Mozambique. When she returns to the US she plans to get additional teaching authorizations for middle school science and math. Through the professional development and opportunities within the STEM-Rich Clinical Teacher Prep Program she found that she really likes science. Congratulations to Tania. It's exciting to see elementary teacher candidates so excited about teaching science.

Tania is the ninth CSULB student to earn the CSTA Future Science Teacher Award.

CSULB Teacher Candidates Participate in Paid Summer Research Experience with the STAR Program

Seven CSULB teacher candidates (and recent alums) majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields participated in a nine-week research internship as part of the STEM Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program. The paid research experience is meant to provide science and math teachers with an opportunity to do cutting edge research in a National Laboratory, NASA Research Center, NOAA Laboratory or a private industry research setting, alongside a research mentor. STAR Fellows do research and participate in weekly education workshops focusing on how to transfer the research experience into their teaching practice. This includes focusing on the nature of science as well as figuring out how to bring the excitement of science research into the K-12 setting. STAR Fellows build expertise in inquiry learning activities aligned with Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, ultimately developing an inquiry-based science or math lesson based on their summer research. At the end of the summer the STAR Fellows present their research via a poster or oral presentation. Fellows have the opportunity to return to the lab in subsequent summers.

The weekly education workshop and lesson plans are designed to help the STAR Fellows make the link between what they are doing in their lab and what they will be doing in their K-12 classrooms. The workshops are co-taught by a professor in a science or math education field and an experienced K-12 science or math teacher who help guide the Fellows throughout the nine weeks.

CSULB had seven students participate this summer. Carey Baxter and Aiyana Emigh participated last summer, but the other five Long Beach students were new this year. To date CSULB has had 16 STAR Fellowships awarded to our students. Consider applying next year to join this rich research opportunity. Information about the STAR Program and deadlines for applications are available online at

Read on to see what our students did this summer!

Aiyana Emigh (SSCP Biology)

edward teller education center
  • "Rescuing Acetylcholinesterase from nerve Agent Inhibition: Protein Dynamics Driven Drug Discovery"
  • Lab Site – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Research Mentor – Brian Bennion

Severe morbidity and mortality consequences result from irreversible inhibition of human acetylcholinesterase by organophosphates (OPs). Oxime-based reactivators are currently the only available treatments but lack efficacy in the central nervous system (CNS) where the most damage occurs. Computational docking and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations reveal complex structural barriers that may reduce oxime efficacy. These results may guide future drug designs of more effective countermeasures.

Ashley Contreras (SSCP Biology)

  • "Behavioral Variation Among Two Clades of Leptasterias spp."
  • Lab Site – Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental
  • Studies, San Francisco State University
  • Research Mentor – C. Sarah Cohen

Leptasterias spp. are six-rayed sea stars found along the rocky intertidal of the northeast Pacific Alaska to Santa Catalina Island, southern California. In central California, three clades of Leptasterias are found in separate or mixed populations, in diverse habitats that range from shallow pools of sea grass and algae to bare rock exposed to crashing waves. Two clades of Leptasterias were collected, Y-Clade from Mile Rock, San Francisco and L. aequalis from Pigeon Point, San Mateo to test for behavioral variation that may relate to habitat differences among clades. To measure differences in activity, the righting response was timed at both field sites and in the lab. Behavior related to feeding was additionally compared in the lab between the two populations using response to barnacle prey. It is hypothesized that stars living in sea grass and algae extend their arms and tube feet to move and collect food particles in the water. Stars living on rocks and within crevices may use their tube feet and arms to conform to the irregularities of the rock surface with a tight suction and feed directly on their prey. These experiments will provide measures of behavioral variation among the clades and help determine if behavioral variation may be a related to habitat or genetic differences.

Bree Person (SSCP Biology/Physiology major, Chemistry Minor)

  • "Discovering Ionic Liquid Resistant Genes"
  • Research Mentor – Michael Thelen & Douglas Higgins

Plant biomass is a rich source of sugars that can be converted to biofuels by engineered microbes. However, because the lignocellulose in biomass is insoluble in aqueous conditions and recalcitrant to enzymatic degradation, thermochemical treatment is required to break apart the lignin and cellulose polymers before sugars can be released. One of the most effective chemicals for doing this are known as ionic liquids, which are salts that are molten at temperatures below 100° C. Although these solvents have many unique properties that are ideal for solubilizing lignocellulose, they have been found to inhibit the growth of bacterial strains used to produce biofuels. We therefore searched for molecular mechanisms in bacteria that enable normal growth in the presence of ionic liquids and that can be engineered into our laboratory strains. To approach this, we are screening many environmental isolates as well as complex metagenome DNA samples for ionic liquid resistance genes. Our initial studies have resulted in several genes that hold great promise for increasing the efficiency of microbial biofuel production by constructing ionic liquid tolerant strains of E. coli.

Carey Baxter (SSCP Physics)

students at nasa dryden aircraft operations facility
  • "Characterization of Samples for Optimization of Infrared Stray Light Coatings"
  • Lab Site – NASA Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility
  • Research Mentor – Zaheer Ali

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a converted 747SP that houses a 2.5 m telescope that observes the sky through an opening in the side of the aircraft. Because it flies at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, SOFIA gets 99.99% transmission in the infrared. Multiple science instruments mount one at a time on the telescope to interpret infrared and visible light from target sources. Ball Infrared Black (BIRB) currently coats everything that the optics sees inside the telescope assembly (TA) cavity in order to eliminate noise from the glow of background sky, aircraft exhaust, and other sources. A reflectometer and emissometer were used to measure and characterize the coatings in terms of their ability to absorb stray light. These measurements were then compared to the BIRB currently used. Though Aeroglaze Z306 showed lower better (lower) reflectance values than Desothane, neither of these coatings showed better reflectance values than the current BIRB. These characterizations help us to determine an improved recipe for TA cavity coating.

Jessica Mejia (SSCP Math, Noyce Scholar)

  • Lab Site – NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Research Mentor – Pin Chen

The principle objective of this project is to acquire systematic studies of the atmosphere and surface of the Earth's sister planet, Venus. VIRTIS-M-IR (1-5 µm) on the European Venus Express Mission provides radiation measurements and a valuable database to obtain diligent studies and information regarding Venus's topography. An atmospheric Radiative Transfer Model will be utilized to calculate radiative transfer of electromagnetic radiation through Venus's atmosphere. To implement the use of the Radiative Transfer Model it is necessary to generate physical parameters for the retrieval accuracy of the deep atmosphere and surface features. This project concentrates on generation of the Spectroscopic Input Data (Required for Radiative Transfer Simulations) Exploring the physical and chemical processes in the atmosphere of Venus along with the study of the interactions between deep atmosphere and the planetary surface will close fundamental knowledge gaps about Venus's formation and its climatic evolution. It is critical to conduct a detailed investigation of surface and near surface regions to help determine and understand the onset of a runaway greenhouse effect that led to the radical environmental conditions on present Venus. These studies can help analyze and educate on Earth's current battle against the greenhouse effect.

Lindsey Skelton (SSCP Mathematics and Spanish major)

  • "Smart Sampling of Radon Levels to detect Underground Nuclear Explosions"
  • Lab Site – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
  • Research Mentor – Steve Hunter

One element of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the provision for an on site inspection (OSI). The purpose of an OSI is to monitor for the occurrence an underground nuclear explosion (UNE) in violation of the treaty. Detection of certain rare radioactive noble gases transported to the surface can be an excellent indicator of a UNE. These gases can be very difficult to capture and require specialized sampling methods. This study aims to determine an algorithm that will increase the efficiency of the subsurface gas sampling technique being used to detect UNEs. The original short-term and long-term average ratio algorithm was determined not to be as efficient as the algorithm using a percentage of the maximum radon level. By increasing the concentration levels of the samples we collect, we also increase the accuracy of our UNE detectors.

Shawn Kirby (SSCP Chemistry & Physics)

student at sea
  • "Use of Thermodynamic Models for Optimizing Fuel Treatment Processes"
  • Lab Site – Air Force Research Laboratory
  • Research Mentor – Andrew Guenthner

Dyes are often added to fuels for tax purposes, but they cause degradation of the fuels. Current technologies vary in the efficiency with which they can remove unwanted dyes from fuel sources. It would be advantageous to remove the dyes prior to their use in critical aerospace applications. We have used Hansen Solubility Parameters to develop an "ideal solvent" that can be used to extract these dyes from fuel. This will also be applied to removal of sulfur compounds from fuels. Sulfur compounds in fuels create sulfates during combustion, which in turn react with water to make sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid damages engine components and the environment. Thus, this research could lead to great benefits for both the environment and the aerospace community.

NOTE: Abstracts and photographs taken from STAR 2013 Abstracts & Proceedings.