BYU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences Scott D. Sommerfeldt, Dean Thomas W. Sederberg, Associate Dean Bart J. Kowallis, Associate Dean Kurt D. Huntington, Assistant Dean
David V. Dearden, Chemistry & Biochemistry Michael A. Goodrich, Computer Science John H. McBride, Geological Sciences Michael J. Dorff, Mathematics Blake E. Peterson, Mathematics Education Richard R. Vanfleet, Physics & Astronomy H. Dennis Tolley, Statistics
Bart J. Kowallis, Editorial Director D. Lynn Patten, Assistant Editorial Director Ashley Lee, Managing Editor Tiana Moe, Assistant Editor Maureen Elinzano, Assistant Editor Hank Hansen, Graphic Designer Camden Argyle, Photographer Scott Daly, Photographer Rob Johnson, Photographer BYU Photography James Collard, Writer Jessilyn Gale, Writer Savannah Hawkins, Writer Jessica Olsen, Writer Jeremy Stanford, Writer
Cover photo courtesy of BYU Photo; right, Camden Argyle
D. Lynn Patten, Marketing Manager 801.422.4022, firstname.lastname@example.org Brent C. Hall, LDS Philanthropies 801.422.4501, email@example.com
This year, the Mathematics Education Association hosted the second annual Discover STEM at BYU Fair. The event exposes local middle school students to science and math through interactive booths. Students enjoyed booths with activities that included Google virtual reality, static electricity, Lego race cars, liquid nitrogen, and drone flying.
FALL 2016 3
I hope that as you look back at what you’ve achieved, you’re proud—but more than that, I hope it inspires you to move forward. welcome to our latest edition Some alumni even go on to become educators themselves — of Frontiers magazine. Since the last Edward Allen (p. 6) is a professor and chair of the Department of Frontiers, the College of Physical and Mathematics at Wake Forest University, Ivan Clarke (p. 6) is a Mathematical Sciences has seen great mathematics teacher at Salem Hills High School, and Karen Taylor success: We achieved an all-time high (p. 6) recently retired from her position as a dean at Utah Valley in terms of external grant funding University. and we educated over 2,500 Our faculty exemplify BYU’s motto, “Enter to learn; go forth to Photo courtesy of BYU Photo wonderful students. While we are serve,” through their dedication to their students, their work, and celebrating our accomplishments, we don’t want to lose sight of all the projects they pursue. Jani Radebaugh (p. 10) was recently featured that we can continue to achieve, both individually and as a by NASA for discovering a 10,948 foot peak on Saturn’s largest moon, community. Titan. Steven Castle’s (p. 10) research group is trying to find a way to C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to more effectively use peptides in drugs, which could lead to more dream a new dream,” and BYU’s students, alumni, faculty, and staff effective medicines for illnesses such as HIV. Jeanette Lawler (p. 10) are no exception to that sentiment. was honored by the University Accessibility Center for her Our students are accepted to BYU because they set themselves involvement in a research group studying “signglasses,” which is apart from their peers in high school, and they continue to aim high striving to make planetarium presentations more accessible to deaf throughout their education here. Kyle Gashler (p. 11) has been patrons. working with chemistry professor Joshua Anderson to study the As a college, we are incredibly proud of all that has been achieved protein superoxide dismutase (SOD1). This protein has been linked in the college. I hope that as you look back at what you’ve achieved, to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Their research could potentially you’re proud, too — but more than that, I hope it inspires you to lead to new forms of cancer treatment. And Rachel Messick (p. 11), move forward. I hope that our accomplishments only push us to a graduate student in spatial statistics, tied for first place in the strive toward greater pursuits. university Three Minute Thesis competition for her research on precision irrigation — research that could reduce water waste in the farming industry. Our alumni accomplished great things at BYU, but they didn’t Wishing you all the best, let their legacies end there. Michael Muir (p. 6) has been using his computer science degree to create the computer graphics for blockbusters such as “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” and “Hotel Transylvania II.” Meanwhile, Derek Hullinger (p. 7) went from BYU to NASA, helping with their Swift Burst Alert Telescope project, which NASA uses to study star explosions in distant galaxies.
TABLE OF CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS 6
FRIENDS OF THE COLLEGE
FEATURES 12 14 20 22 24
THE CREATION OF CHEM CAMP
TEACHING KIDS TO LOVE SCIENCE
EMERITUS PROFESSOR AWARDED GRAMMY
REAL PROBLEMS, REAL SOLUTIONS
THE GOLDEN AGE OF TECH
THE FUTURE OF COMPUTER SCIENCE
ENCOUNTERING GOD'S PERSONALITY IN CREATION
20 FALL 2016 5
CURRENT HAPPENINGS CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY 2013 | Angela Andersen (BS Biology, Chemistry ’06, Cumberland College; PhD Chemistry ’13, Brigham Young University) is a process engineer at Intel Corporation. There, she maintains a set of plasma etchers and improves the production process of new products. While at BYU, her research focused on plasma treatment on polymer materials and dynamic molecular orientation of adhesives under controlled loads. 2015 | Bhupinder Singh (BA Pharmacy ’10, Delhi University; PhD Analytical Chemistry ’15, Brigham Young University) works for Intel Corporation as a process engineer. Singh’s article “Multi-instrument characterization of five nanodiamond samples: a thorough example of nanomaterial characterization” was recently featured on the cover of Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. Singh’s study is the most comprehensive characterization of nanodiamonds to date. While at BYU, Singh became a Roland K. Robins Graduate Research Fellow, an honor awarded to outstanding graduating students. Singh also worked for four years as a graduate research assistant.
COMPUTER SCIENCE 1999 | Michael Muir (AAS Gen. Studies—Natural Science ‘95, Brigham Young University—Idaho; BS Computer Science ’99, Brigham Young University) supervised the computer graphics for the movie “Hotel Transylvania II.” He led a team of artists and oversaw about one fifth of the actual film shots, ensuring that the animation, effects, and various simulations were ready and available for artists to put together. Muir has worked on the computer graphics of various well-known films, including the battle scene at the beginning of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” and the Quidditch scenes in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” 2013 | Kesler Tanner (BS Computer Science ’13, Brigham Young University) is acquiring a PhD in computer science at Stanford. At Stanford, he works with electromyography, which deals with the signals the brain sends to muscles. He developed a cutting-edge device that tracks the length of someone’s run based on the runner’s movements and then communicates this information to the runner based on a series of vibrations. He also designed a tool for anonymous storytellers to work with Mechanical Turk and co-founded Freelanceinbox.com. Before his time at Stanford, Tanner spent a year as a web developer for Lucidchart. While studying at BYU, Tanner was president of the BYU chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) for two years.
GEOLOGICAL SCIENCES 2006 | Brent Greenhalgh (BS Geology ’04, Brigham Young University; MS Geology ’06, Brigham Young University) is a staff exploration geologist
at Wexpro company. Greenhalgh has established a career in the oil and gas industry, working with companies including XTO Energy and Anadarko Petroleum. He explores and develops Rocky Mountain gas and oil reservoirs in the Sand Wash, Greater Green River, Piceance, and San Juan Basins. 2010 | L. J. Krumenacker (BS Biology and Geology ’06, Idaho State University; MS Geology ’10, Brigham Young University) is a doctoral candidate and paleontologist in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University. Krumenacker, along with a team of MSU paleontologists, recently identified several new types of dinosaurs from fossil evidence discovered in eastern Idaho. Before his time at Montana State, Krumenacker was a field supervisor for Intermountain Paleo Consulting, salvaging sensitive paleontological resources from active construction sites and preparing, stabilizing, and identifying fossils.
MATHEMATICS 1985 | Edward E. Allen (BS Mathematics ’85, Brigham Young University; PhD Mathematics ’91, University of California at San Diego) is a professor and department chair in the Department of Mathematics at Wake Forest University. His research interests are in combinatorics and discrete mathematics. He has published 16 distinguished papers in the past 20 years. 2006 | Erika Littlewood (BS Mathematics ’06, Brigham Young University) is a compensation analyst for Apache Corporation, an oil and gas company based in Texas. After graduating from BYU, Littlewood worked as an actuarial analyst for Mercer in the retirement consulting department, focusing on advising various companies on their retirement plans. After leaving Mercer, she worked for Towers Watson, another retirement consulting firm, and expanded her role to include project management in addition to client consulting.
MATHEMATICS EDUCATION 1991 | Ivan Clarke (BA Mathematics Education ’88, MA Mathematics Education ’91, Brigham Young University) is a mathematics teacher at Salem Hills High School. He has been teaching in the Nebo School District for 27 years, since graduating from BYU in 1988. In 2007, Clarke was recognized for his leadership of the Boy Scouts of America program in the Spanish Fork Area at the LIFE scout recognition banquet. 1991 | Karen Taylor (Crawford) (BA English ’72, MA Mathematics Education ’91, Brigham Young University) is a professor emeritus, retired in 2014 and is now spending time with grandchildren, serving in the LDS church, and working on home projects. Before her retirement, she was a dean at Utah Valley University. She taught for ten years at Farrer Middle School before her time at Utah Valley University.
PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY 2000 | Derek Hullinger (BS Physics ’97, MS Physics ’00, Brigham Young University; PhD ’05 Physics, University of Maryland) is a systems engineer at IMSAR. IMSAR develops and manufactures Synthetic Aperture Radars (SAR), a radar system that can produce detailed images of large areas. He primarily develops new radar systems and improves those that have already been developed. After his time at BYU, Hullinger worked with NASA on the Swift Burst Alert Telescope project, a telescope created to study gamma ray bursts. 2003 | Jacob Fugal (Gen. Studies—Natural Science ’95, Brigham Young University—Idaho; BS Physics ’03, Brigham Young University; PhD Engineering Physics ’07, Michigan Technological University) is a postdoctoral professional research candidate in Germany at the University of Mainz. There, he currently researches aerosol and cloud physics. He graduated from BYU with university honors and was awarded a BYU ORCA scholarship as an undergraduate to fund his honors thesis: “The Feasibility of Astronomical Society of a Galaxy Infrared Slitless Prism Survey,” published in Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
STATISTICS 2002 | Rich P. Amon Jr. (BS Statistics ’02, MPA ’05, Brigham Young University) is an assistant commissioner of business operations at the Utah System of Higher Education. Before his time there, he worked as the deputy executive director for two years at the Utah Department of Administrative Services, implementing an enterprise risk management program and reorganizing the State Building Board to make more informed capital development and improvement policies for the state of Utah. Amon has also worked as a legislative fiscal analyst and budget and policy analyst. 2015 | Keturah (Small) Bartlett (BS, MS Statistics ’15, Brigham Young University) worked as a statistics course assistant and graduate research assistant during her time at BYU. She also participated in the Phi Eta Sigma National Honor Society and the Mus Sigma Rho National Honorary Society for statistics. Bartlett is now a statistician at Merrick Bank.
This is what previous students are saying about our professors: Some answers taken from www.ratemyprofessors.com
Ross Spencer, Physics and Astronomy “His classes are a little more rigorous, but it's because he is deeply invested in helping his students actually learn the material rather than just memorize for a grade.” Steven R. Goates, Chemistry and Biochemistry “He makes chemistry interesting and fun and he makes sure that he gets to know each student one-on-one. He is awesome.” Robert Wadley, Mathematics Education “I actually am not in his class; I go to his class every lecture day because his lectures are way better than any of the other math classes! Let me put it this way: ever since I attended his lectures, my test scores went up by a ton.” Lennard Bakker, Mathematics “Hands down the best math professor at BYU. His lectures are interesting and engaging. He gives great answers to difficult on the spot questions in class. He is extremely helpful outside of class, too. You can tell he has a passion for teaching math.” Ken Rodham, Computer Science “Dr. Rodham goes far and beyond the duties of a typical professor. He really cares about his students learning the material, and makes it as easy as possible for students to excel. It's obvious from the start that if you're willing to work, he's willing to help you ace the class.” Shane Reese, Statistics “He is extremely entertaining, teaches clearly, and does his best to make sure that the students understand the concepts. He genuinely cares that the students understand the material, and he will go over concepts as many times as you need.” Randy Skinner, Geological Sciences “Professor Skinner is an amazing instructor who is extremely funny as well as very interesting. He teaches in a fun manner and if he taught every class for a certain degree, I would get that degree.”
Have a Memory Byte to Share? Who was your favorite professor? What was it that he or she did that made the class special? Send your responses to cpms@ byu.edu with “Memory Bytes” in the subject line. Submissions may be edited for length, grammar, appropriateness, and clarity.
FALL 2016 7
FRIENDS OF THE COLLEGE
FROM GRADUATION TO GREATNESS Text by Tiana Moe Photo courtesy of Hugh Redd
hugh redd has a professional track record that awes and inspires people who know him. Redd worked his way up from a regular undergrad to Vice President and CFO of a major company. His résumé is certainly an impressive one, and underneath all of Redd’s successes lies a very important message: This kind of success is fully attainable by any BYU student who is willing to work hard and aspire to greatness. Redd started out as an average undergraduate at BYU, working on and receiving his bachelors degree in accounting. With a hunger for additional knowledge, Redd went on to receive a master's degree in professional accountancy from the University of Texas. Redd had already accomplished a truly great feat in his life, but he didn’t stop there—his path to greatness had only just begun. Not long after graduation, Redd found himself working in the tax department of Arthur Andersen, a prestigious Chicago accounting firm. In 1986 and with a few years of experience under his belt, he then moved on to work at General Dynamics Corporation, an aerospace and defense company specializing in Gulfstream business jets, submarines, and everything in between. Redd started off as a financial analyst at General Dynamics Land Systems in Sterling Heights, Michigan, where he quickly moved through the ranks and became the Vice President of the subsidiary company. Redd climbed the corporate ladder until in 2006 he became the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for General Dynamics Corporation. He served in those positions until retiring in 2013. Upon announcing his retirement, Chairman and CEO Phebe Novakovic said, “Hugh Redd has had a
distinguished career of service at General Dynamics. . . . He is also a leader in the industry and in the community. Hugh has been a valued and trusted advisor, and we wish him well in his retirement.” Retirement wasn’t the end for Redd, however. He serves on the board of directors for Apple Hospitality REIT, Inc., a publicly traded real estate investment trust. He is also on the board of trustees at Southern Virginia University and the board of advisors for the Washington, D.C., chapter of the BYU Management Society. We are honored to have Redd as a member of the College Volunteer Leadership Council. Redd and his wife, Cindy, have raised six children—four are BYU graduates and two are current BYU students. But service on the Council and the minds of six intelligent children aren’t Redd’s only contributions to BYU. Redd and his wife have funded an endowed scholarship in the name of Redd’s father, Lloyd H. Redd. The couple recognized how much BYU has blessed their family and decided to give back. The scholarship is for the Department of Mathematics, helping the department to recruit some of the brightest high school students in the country. The scholarship makes the BYU Department of Mathematics more competitive for prospective students, benefiting both the department and the university as a whole. “[Redd] is a terribly brilliant individual,” said Brent Hall, the college’s Director of LDS Philanthropies. “Beyond his organizational and financial skills . . . he is also a very engaging and generous person.” Redd is an ideal role model for all BYU students looking to become the best they can be. Having accomplished incredible feats professionally and domestically, Redd’s life is one that most students would love to fashion their own lives after. BYU will be forever grateful to Hugh Redd for his giving attitude and his unwavering support.
david dearden has accepted an appointment to replace Greg Burton as the chair of the BYU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dearden has named Barry Willardson Photo courtesy of BYU Photo and Roger Harrison as his associate chairs, replacing Adam Woolley and Steven Wood. “It’s humbling to be here because there have been so many people that I respect so much [that have] been in this office before,” Dearden said. “From the days when I was a student, I’ve known all the department chairs.” Dearden has watched the department grow since his days as a student and has seen what previous department chairs have accomplished. “They were really great people, and worked hard to build the department to what it is now,” Dearden said. Dearden wants to continue to improve the department as previous chairs did. “It’s really humbling to be here and to realize they’ve built all this. I don’t want to lose what they built, and I want to build on it,” Dearden said. “I feel a sense of gratitude and obligation to the university and the department that just mean you can’t turn a job like this down.” Dearden received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Brigham Young University in 1983. He completed his doctorate in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology in 1989, then received a Nuclear Regulatory Commission Postdoctoral Fellowship at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Dearden began teaching at the University of Texas at Arlington in 1990 and has been a faculty member at BYU since 1994. Dearden’s research is focused on the development of extremely sensitive chemical analysis tools. Dearden has received several awards including a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award. His research was most recently published in the Journal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, in an article titled “Isotopic compositions and accurate masses of single isotopic peaks.” He has twice been honored for his excellence in teaching by receiving an Alcuin Fellowship from Brigham Young University.
UNDERGRADUATE MENTORING E
NEW DEPARTMENT CHAIR
Our college continues to use donated endowment funds to support undergraduate and graduate research and to keep our programs competitive. Your donations help us to further the high-quality research taking place at BYU and to continue providing vital research experiences to our outstanding students. The endowment funds we receive are sent directly to hardworking students, like computer science undergraduate Derek Hancock. Hancock is working on teaching autonomous robots to walk and perceive the world using neural networks. “By building robots that can better overcome real world environments, we’ll be able to help in many important areas, such as search and rescue, firefighting, business, and even assisted living,” Hancock said. Although Hancock struggled at first to understand the systems he was working with in the lab, he was able to catch up with the help of his mentor, David Wingate. “By working closely with Dr. Wingate and experimenting on my own time over winter break, I was able to quickly make progress, and I now more fully understand this engine so important to our research,” Hancock said. Hancock has benefitted greatly from the opportunity to do mentored research. “Working in research has helped me take more responsibility for my education and realize the endless possibilities that can be achieved through computer science,” Hancock said. “I have higher aspirations for my future and my career because of my experiences in the lab with Dr. Wingate.”
HELP FUND THE FUTURE There are many students like Hancock who could benefit greatly from your contributions. If you or someone you know would like to donate, please visit giving.byu.edu/cpms, or contact Brent Hall by phone at (801) 422-4501 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FALL 2016 9
CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY research—Professor Steven Castle’s research group is studying the use of peptide drugs. Peptides are found in drugs such as enfuvirtide, a drug that blocks HIV viral membrane fusion. However, enzymes in the body break down peptides, which limits their use in drugs. Castle is trying to find a way to more effectively utilize peptides in drugs through a process called solid-phase peptide synthesis so the body does not break them down as quickly. Castle’s research, titled “Solid-Phase Synthesis of Peptides Containing Bulky Deydroamino Acids,” was published in the Tetrahedron Letters. award—Professor emeritus Douglas Henderson received the Outstanding Referee award for 2016, as chosen by the editors of the APS Physical Review journals. Henderson is one of 146 Outstanding Referees this year. The basis for selection includes the quality, number, and timeliness of the candidates’ reports. Henderson taught at BYU for 13 years and is a member of both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the American Chemical Society.
COMPUTER SCIENCE research—Professor Michael Goodrich is researching ways to program robots to collaborate with each other. Humans would remotely control the robots, and give certain robots more information than others – making these robots leaders. Ideally, these robots would work together in a group, like a flock of birds or a school of fish. Goodrich’s research was published in the Journal of Human-Robot Interaction, titled “Two Invariants of Human-Swarm Interaction.” research: David Wingate is focusing his research on machine learning, or programming computers to find patterns and learn on their own. Wingate wants to make machine learning more accessible to the average person. His research, “A Bayesian Sampling Approach to Exploration in Reinforcement Learning,” was most recently published by the Association for Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence. Wingate has worked as an assistant professor at BYU since August 2015.
MATHEMATICS research—Denise Halverson and her students are researching origami crease patterns. Specifically, they are studying when certain crease patterns will fold into polygonal cylinders. Halverson has discovered a necessary and sufficient condition that must occur for a particular crease pattern to close exactly into a polygonal cylinder.
MATHEMATICS EDUCATION research—Professors Keith Leatham and Blake Peterson are researching how students think during class discussions. They identify and categorize moments in which teachers can build upon students’ learning. When students say something during class discussions that show they understand the concept, it is important for teachers to take advantage of these moments and build upon the students’ learning. These moments of thinking are called Mathematically Significant Pedagogical Opportunities to Build on Student Thinking (MOSTs).
PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY award—Jeannette Lawler was honored by the University Accessibility Center for her research on “signglasses,” making the planetarium more accessible to deaf patrons. Lawler worked with Professor Mike Jones to develop a sign language system that helps deaf students follow along during planetarium presentations. The signglasses are an adaptation of Google Glass. The team is also working with researchers at Georgia Tech to explore the possibility of using signglasses as a literacy tool. in remembrance—Henry Kimball Hansen passed away on April 19, 2016. He was a professor at BYU from the early 1960s to his retirement in 1993. He also served as the Associate Editor of the Journal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. He was renowned for his teaching ability and influenced many students with his passion and insight.
research —Professor Jani Radebaugh was featured by NASA for discovering a 10,948 foot peak on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Radebaugh is part of a research team that discovered features on Titan such as oceans, rain, wind, dunes, lava flows, and mountains.
research—Professor Gil Fellingham recently published research on the interaction between offensive and defensive players in Spain’s professional basketball league. His research, “Modeling the OffensiveDefensive Interaction and Resulting Outcomes in Basketball,” was published in PLOS ONE. This is the first study to successfully model the interactions between offense and defense during game play, rather than relying on end-of-game statistics.
research—Professor Ron Harris has been studying active tectonics in developing countries for years. Most recently, Harris implemented disaster prevention programs in Indonesia, including digging trenches to collect tsunami deposits, creating tsunami flood maps to guide evacuation drills, and studying historical records of past natural disasters. Harris and his team have been able to use their skills to help the people of Indonesia avoid catastrophe.
recognition—Jared Ward is an adjunct professor in BYU’s Department of Statistics and an American long distance runner. He qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and is a 3-time USA Champion (20k, 25k, and Marathon) and 6-time NCAA All-American for Brigham Young University. During his time at BYU, Ward ran cross country and trained for his first marathon. Ward’s interests are in sports statistics, optimal race strategy, and performance curves.
OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM
kyle gashler is working with chemistry professor Joshua Andersen on a research team that is studying the protein superoxide dismutase (SOD1). This protein has been linked to ALS, or Lou Photo courtesy of Kyle Gashler Gehrig’s disease. Gashler and his team have data showing a new role of SOD1 as a suppressor of respiration. So far, Gashler’s team has identified a particular lysine residue that seems to control SOD1’s ability to suppress respiration. They are continuing to elucidate this mechanism. “This may explain one of the hallmark signs of cancer metabolism known as the Warburg effect,” Gashler said. “If we can identify the mechanism behind how SOD1 suppresses respiration, this could lead to new forms of cancer treatment that target cancer metabolism."
Computer Science Paul Bodily is working with Mark Clement, heading up a research team that recently discovered a new way to identify elusive markers for several common genetic disorders. They also developed a new method for human genome assembly. The research has been published in Bioinformatics.
Geological Sciences Kaleb Markert, working with Michael Durais, helped solve an international dispute between Canada and Northern New England on the age of the Frontenac formation. Markert and his team used U-Pb dating of zircon to conclude that the formation began 443 million years ago, in the Silurian Period.
stephanie thomas is working with physics professors Steve Turley and David Allred to observe the effects of multilayer thin film mirrors and their ability to reflect far-away ultraviolet light. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Thomas “Our goal is to find the most reflective multilayer combinations for the mirrors,” Thomas said. Thomas is currently studying the reflectivity of pure aluminum. Aluminum tends to immediately oxidize when introduced to air, so Thomas and her team have placed the aluminum in an ultra-high vacuum system to test its reflectivity there. “If we can show experimentally that aluminum is good for reflection in our desired wavelength range, the mirrors would be used in telescopes that will aid in the discovery of earth-like planets that orbit sun-like stars, otherwise undetected by current telescopes,” she said.
Mathematics C. J. Bott, working with Tyler Jarvis, discovered a new and extremely rare class of polynomials, which he has named C-Singularities. After extensive research, Bott has also found necessary and sufficient conditions for this new class, as well as other combinatorial information concerning them.
Dana Steinhorst received the Outstanding Mathematics Education Student Award for Winter 2016. Steinhorst will continue on to be a mathematics educator. The award recipient is chosen with a combination of the student’s GPA and recommendations from faculty members.
Rachel Messick received a $5,000 award for her research and presentation on reducing water overuse in the farming industry at BYU’s 2016 Three-Minute Thesis competition in March. Messick’s data may help farmers give their crops a specific amount of water without excess.
FALL 2016 11
Text by Savannah Hawkins Photography by Camden Argyle
in the fall of 2015, byu chemistry professor daniel ess started looking
for a summer science camp for his 10-year-old daughter. With no rigorous science camp offered for this age in Utah Valley, professors Ess, Jennifer Nielson, Rebecca Sansom, and Kara Stowers teamed up to fill the need by creating the BYU CHEM CAMP. The first BYU CHEM CAMP featured two three-day sessions for children ages 9-12 that participated in hands-on chemistry experiments and chemistry activities in the Benson Building laboratories. Experiments ranged from vitamin C titration to synthesis of a magnetic ferrofluid. The children attending were primarily from the local Provo elementary schools, but also from as far away as Alaska. The CHEM CAMP organizers seek to have as many girls participate as boys, which is not the case with most STEM camps for junior-high age youth. “Many girls seem to be less eager to participate in science after the age of twelve,” Nielson said. “We want to catch them while they still see science as one of their interests and talents.” Stowers said they received an overwhelming response when registration opened in February 2016 and all the slots were filled by March. “I think we did so well because so many students haven’t seen this type of camp at BYU,” Stowers said. “We did a good job of getting the word out through social media, and working with teachers in the area.” During the two weeks of camp, 52 girls and boys were divided into groups and learned different science and chemistry principles as they conducted experiments and made observations. With a 2:1 child-to-counselor ratio, there were ample opportunities for the children to learn and ask questions—especially while the children were conducting experiments. “I love studying the elements and how they react to each other,” said Hyrum Thomas, age 12. “The Foam Fountain experiment was my favorite because it was the most exciting.” One of the experiments the children conducted was to combine a glue polymer with a borax crosslinking reagent to make their own bouncy balls to take home. Rachel Greenwood, age 12, was thrilled about the experiment—and more thrilled about the bouncy ball. “I liked making the bouncy balls and I like that we got to keep them,” Greenwood said. Among other experiments, the children learned how acids and bases affect cooking
“It was a pleasant surprise that the camp was a positive learning experience for both campers and counselors.”
food and how to extract DNA from strawberries. “I liked doing all the experiments," said Ammon Zaugg, age 9. "I liked the DNA because it was pretty cool.” All the professors were impressed by how much the children already knew and the insightful questions the children asked. “We quickly realized that we can probably push the boundaries and do more sophisticated experiments with the children,” Ess said. “The experiments this year were good, but I think we can do even better in the future.” Ess noted that while the CHEM CAMP creators expected the participants to learn, he was impressed by the college-student counselors, too. “I didn’t realize how much they [the counselors] would mature and step up during the camp,” Ess said. “It was a pleasant surprise that that the camp was a positive learning experience for both campers and counselors.” BYU chemistry major and camp counselor Claudia Loayza said she enjoyed teaching the children and even learned more about chemistry herself. “It was good to connect with kids and help them see that science is understandable and approachable,” Loayza said. Sansom agreed that the camp was beneficial to both campers and counselors. “This is really a win-win,” Sansom said. “We are able to offer a great enrichment program to children in our community, and at the same time give BYU students, some of whom are science education majors, an opportunity to hone their teaching skills.” The children presented some of their experiments to their families at the final CHEM CAMP event. Nielson followed the presentations with a “chemistry magic show” complete with explosions. The creators of CHEM CAMP hope to expand the camp in coming years. “We’d love to double our participation next year, but we want to make sure it’s done carefully,” Stowers said. “What we don’t want to see is expansion at the cost of watering down the science or losing the ability to have really good conversations about chemistry with the children.” Thanks to the way the professors organized the camp this year, the children left CHEM CAMP with considerably more knowledge about science than most of their peers. CHEM CAMP was sponsored by the BYU Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.
FALL 2016 13
those who knew harvey fletcher generally agree
on at least one thing: His life’s work was far ahead of its time. At this year’s Grammy Awards, former BYU physics professor Dr. Harvey Fletcher received a posthumous Technical Grammy for his valuable work in the field of acoustics. Given his many contributions and scientific discoveries, many of which are still relevant today, the award is well-deserved and perhaps overdue. Most people who work in the field of acoustical science know Dr. Fletcher as the man who first discovered and quantified the “Fletcher-Munson Curves.” At BYU, he is perhaps best known as the namesake of the Fletcher Building. Others simply know him as the “father of stereophonic sound.” But Harvey Fletcher was much more than any of those things. In fact, many of those who knew him most intimately never thought of him as the famous scientist, but rather as a teacher, a family man, and a friend. Regardless of how he is best remembered today, the Grammy Award has brought renewed attention to the life and work of Harvey Fletcher.
t h e P HYS I C I ST Fletcher graduated in physics from Brigham Young Academy, now Brigham Young University, in 1907. He took a little convincing before coming to BYU, and failed his first physics class upon arrival. As time passed, however, Fletcher began to show great aptitude for the physical sciences. Fletcher’s journey to fame in physics research began in 1908 when he became a PhD student at the University of Chicago. He worked alongside Robert Millikan on the now-famous “oil drop experiment,” a test designed to measure the charge of an electron. The test successfully measured the electron’s charge within one percent of its currently accepted value. Both Fletcher and Millikan received a large amount of pub-
Photo courtesy of BYU Photo
FALL 2016 15
licity for this work. Millikan went on to receive a Nobel Prize for this discovery. At the time of the experiment, many prominent physicists did not even believe in the existence of subatomic particles like electrons. Thomas Edison, for example, was convinced of the existence of electrons only after observing the oil drop experiment. In 1911, Dr. Fletcher became the first student ever to graduate summa cum laude in physics from the University of Chicago. After his time at the University of Chicago, Fletcher returned to BYU as the chair of the physics department and remained until 1916. He then joined Western Electric as a researcher, and later became the director of physical research at Bell Labs. “He was a genius of unmasked ability in our field,” said Jont Allen in the documentary “The Caroling of Atoms.” “His [research] put him ten years ahead of the rest of his field.”
within two years, between 1932 and 1933. It is no wonder, therefore, that Fletcher is now known as the “father of stereophonic sound.” “His research in electrical sound recording moved the science of high fidelity recording forward by decades. Dr. Fletcher needs to be much more widely recognized . . . as a massively important contributor to the modern world which we live,” said three-time Grammy Award winner and Recording Academy Trustee Peter Asher in the Grammy Awards program.
Aside from his work with the orchestra, Fletcher’s other accomplishments in acoustics include the creation of the world’s first functional hearing aid, artificial larynx, and 2-A audiometer—a device still used today to diagnose and assess hearing loss. Fletcher became well known for his ability to help those who suffered from hearing loss or speech impediments. According During his time at Western Electric and Bell Laboratories, to Fletcher’s personal journals, his inventions gave him the Fletcher began to develop a desire to study the physics of sound. opportunity to meet many interesting—and some famous— Many of his friends and colleagues warned him not to leave the individuals. Fletcher even created a personalized hearing aid promising field of particle physics, saying that all there was to for Thomas Edison, who had suffered from severe hearing loss know about acoustics had already been discovered. since his childhood. But despite the skepticism of his peers, Fletcher knew that “He was a problem solver of the highest order,” Bill Fletchthere was more to be learned in the field of acoustical science. er said. “In a traffic jam, Grandpa would have to get out, walk “I don’t think he ever lost his frontier spirit,” said Bill ahead, see what the problem was, and see if he could help fix it.” Fletcher, Harvey’s grandson. “There was no resting on the laurels of what he had discovered. He knew how much more there was to know.” Fletcher’s discoveries in the field of acoustical science became some of his most famous accomplishments. After all, it was Fletcher’s acoustical research with the Philadelphia Orchestra Harvey Fletcher found many ways to share his love of science that earned him a posthumous Grammy Award. with the world. One of those ways was through teaching. Fletcher had a passion for music. In 1931, he partnered Following his retirement from Bell Labs, Fletcher taught engiwith the famous musical conductor Leopold Stokowski and neering at Columbia University from 1949 to 1952. During those the Philadelphia Orchestra to produce more than 100 of the three short years, he organized an acoustical engineering departworld’s first stereophonic recordings. ment and conducted valuable acoustics research. Much of Fletcher’s With Stokowski’s help, Fletcher was the first to successful- early scientific apparatus is now found at Columbia University. ly record stereo sound, perform a public demonstration of Fletcher’s love for acoustics has also left a significant impact at stereophonic sound, and transmit stereo sound live. He also BYU. He spent many years teaching physics at his alma mater, and produced the world’s first vinyl recording, at 60 dB dynamic became the first Dean of the College of Physical and Engineering range and 10 kHz bandwidth. Sciences in 1954. All of these scientific breakthroughs were accomplished He was instrumental in the founding of BYU’s Acoustics
FALL 2016 17 Photo by Camden Argyle
Research Group and helped construct the facilities they now use, such as the anechoic chambers. He also worked with students to enhance the technical aspects of BYU’s musical and theatrical productions. Today, BYU offers a scholarship named after Fletcher in his honor.
Although Dr. Fletcher is best known for his scientific contributions, he always made his family and his love for the gospel his highest priorities. According to Fletcher’s family and close friends, his lessons in church became almost as famous as his accomplishments in science. People passing through New York on a Sunday would deliberately visit his ward to hear him teach the gospel. “He always had a fresh approach to explaining the gospel,” Bill Fletcher said. “He had an uncanny ability to make sense of everything. Anyone could understand it.” With his profound and simple understanding of the gospel, Fletcher wrote a Sunday School manual in 1961 called “The Good Life.” “He never felt any insolvable conflict between science and his religious beliefs,” said Harvey's son Stephen Fletcher in his biography, “Harvey Fletcher 1884 - 1991.” Fletcher never missed an opportunity to share his love of science and the gospel with his family. Of his seven children, five followed in his footsteps and received degrees in physics or mathematics. Some of them even went on to teach at BYU.
Dr. Harvey Fletcher continued working well after his retirement, even into his nineties. But he did not do it for fame. His personal belief was always that being good was more important than being great. He used his talents to make the world a better place. “It’s a great honor for the family, and for Harvey, posthumous as it is. But Harvey Fletcher received the real rewards in his own lifetime.” Bill Fletcher said of Harvey’s Grammy Award. His closest coworkers, such as Jont Allen, also remember him as a man whose character matched his genius. “This man could have gone off and done some other things . . . and he would have become a much more famous man than he is,” Allen said. “He didn’t do it for fame. He did it because he knew this was something that would help mankind. He did it because he cared.”
by Jeremy Stanford
Photo courtesy of BYU Photo
FALL 2016 19
from assessing the meteorological impacts of heat on
text by Maureen Elinzano photography by Rob Johnson 20 FRONTIERS
health to tracking the start of flu season in specific areas to building safer roads, spatial statistics is more than just charts and graphs. “Spatial statistics is the analysis of data that’s collected over space,” said statistics professor Dr. Matthew Heaton. “It’s a way to solve problems by using spatial information to our advantage.” Heaton leads a team of undergraduate and graduate statistics students who comprise the Spatial Statistics Research Group at BYU. The team collaborates on an assortment of problems that have the potential to be solved using spatial statistics. “We work together to give the students experience analyzing data outside of the traditional classroom setting,” Heaton said. “My goal with this is to give them experience analyzing real data that's messy, hard, and challenging.” That “real data” consists of projects that have a significant impact on the world outside of BYU. For example, second-year graduate student Rachel Messick is helping farmers figure out the right amount and location of water in order to grow crops. With an ever-diminishing water supply, Messick’s research will help farmers use water more efficiently. Messick presented her research at the Three Minute Thesis
competition last February and tied for first place at the university-level event. Jacob Mortensen, another secondyear graduate student, is assessing the meteorological impacts of heat on health. “My research is building maps that show which areas in certain cities are at the most risk for extreme heat and the different health outcomes that you get,” Mortensen said. First-year graduate student Spencer Galbraith is analyzing census information for his project. Galbraith is realigning census data so that it can be used at whichever level researchers want. “Census information is used in a lot of different types of research, from sociology to geography. It’s all over the place,” Heaton said. “However, when census information is released, it’s in terms of, say, a county-level summary. Maybe I'm not trying to study counties; maybe I'm trying to study cities, but I only have county level data. Spencer is working to rearrange the data to make the use of census information more practical.” First-year graduate student Kate Gibson is working on a project related to traffic safety and funded by the Federal Highway Administration. Gibson is researching factors that make a road more likely to be the site of car accidents, such as the condition of the road during a particular accident. This project will help fix roads that have problems, as well as suggest new guidelines for the building of future roads. “We’re trying to figure out how to use spatial statistics on roadways, rather than just latitude and longitude locations,” Gibson said. Sierra Pugh, one of the undergraduate students in the group, is studying the incidence of flu, and whether flu season starts at different times in different areas of the United States. Her hope is that this project will lead to a more efficient approach to providing flu vaccine. “We want to find when peak seasons start and end,” Pugh said. “Then, we want to map that across the U.S., so we’re using spatial correlations to estimate it.” Finally, Dalton Bagley, the other undergraduate student in the group, is working on a project, like fellow group member Mortensen, that deals with extreme temperatures. The purpose is to better understand where extreme heat can occur in a city. “I’m modeling data for temperatures for the Houston area and building out models based on a few locations that can be applied to the rest of Houston,” Bagley said.
The students’ projects are sponsored by the one of three institutions: the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Federal Highway Administration. All three agencies also help pay for scholarships and student salaries. Finding solutions to these real-world problems, however, requires tools beyond those learned in the classroom. “It's not a classroom setting, and because I don't have classroom materials that I can just hand them, they have to learn how to solve these problems on their own,” Heaton said. “So I teach them the real basics of the methods, but then they hash out the details and figure it out.” For the students, the hands-on experience of applying spatial statistics to real-world problems is invaluable. “It's not something that we can learn in a class here.” Pugh said. “You can only learn it through research, so it's really interesting.” The students credit the research they do in the group in helping them plan out their futures, including their education and career paths. “It's a great way to get some exposure to research and find out if it's something that I want to do for the rest of my life,” Galbraith said. And while the students are learning spatial statistics by solving real-world problems, they are also learning from the knowledge and experiences of Heaton and other professors in the statistics department. “The mentoring experience is really valuable because you not only explore a research topic a lot more in-depth than you can on your own, but you have access to a lot more resources that way,” Mortensen said. Heaton said the research his students conduct prepares them for future academic pursuits. “If they do a Master’s or a Ph.D., they're very well prepared because they have this research experience already,” Heaton said. “They're also extremely well prepared for whatever job they decide to go into because they have these skills of tackling a data set, analyzing it, answering questions, etc.” Spatial statistics is challenging, but it’s something that the students love learning. “The math and the coding is hard, but a lot of the ideas are really intuitive because it makes sense to think about things being correlated spatially, so you have that to motivate you,” Gibson said. “You understand where the problem is going.” Heaton hopes his research group will have a positive impact on the world and alleviate important problems in various industries. “Spatial statistics is applied, it’s hands-on, and it’s very problemdriven,” Dr. Heaton said. “That's what we're trying to do— solve problems.”
FALL 2016 21
22 FRONTIERS 22 FRONTIERS
magine a world with self-driving cars traveling at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour, robot tennis referees, murder trials with juries made up entirely of machines, and humans with infrared eyes capable of seeing 1,000 times better than we currently can. This world may seem like the stuff of science fiction now, but computer science professor Tony Martinez sees all of these technologies as likely possibilities in the future. In fact, he is working to make that type of future possible now. When Martinez began his graduate studies at UCLA over thirty years ago, he noticed a course on machine learning where students were trying to develop a computer that thinks like a human brain. “To me, that seemed pretty exciting, and I took [the class],” Martinez said. “Indeed, it was exciting, and I pushed on with that ever since.” Simply put, machine learning is training a computer to think on its own. Instead of explicitly programming a computer, machine learning specialists provide the computer with millions of examples of a problem, as well as what the solutions to those problems should be. The computer can then use those examples to learn to predict the outcomes of future problems when provided with more data. “In a sense, it learns to program itself,” Martinez said. For example, in order to train a computer to recognize a heart attack, a programmer would provide the computer with many examples of a patient’s symptoms: heart rate, blood pressure, pain level, etc. After reviewing thousands or even millions of examples, the computer is able to diagnose patients on its own based on the symptoms the patients show. “I always felt like it was going to become a big area in computer science,” Martinez said. “There is so much data out there and so much to pore through, it’s almost beyond the capacity of any group of humans to get through it.” Many tasks, such as diagnosing patients, determining whether to give someone a loan, or hiring an employee, can now be aided by machine learning. “Machines are so much faster. They can crunch data and outperform us in the most basic, simple tasks and most complex tasks, frankly,” Martinez said. “We’re at the tip of the iceberg of what computing will be able to do, and sometimes people forget that.” Martinez has been involved in numerous projects with his students, each contributing to the progression of today’s computing technology. “We like to do lots of different things in machine learning,” Martinez said. Recently, Martinez and PhD student Mike Smith studied what makes one machine learning task more difficult to accomplish than another.
“We were trying to understand what are the kinds of examples that are very difficult to classify, and then what could we do to improve our machine learning algorithms so that it could both detect and better deal with those examples,” Martinez said. One of the best ways to accomplish a task using machine learning is to develop an ensemble. An ensemble is made up of many different machine learning models designed to solve the same problem. Each of the models uses a slightly different learning process to come to a conclusion and then “votes” on what the solution should be. Martinez researched how to select data and develop algorithms for each machine learning model in order to obtain the highest level of accuracy possible when solving a problem. “We could go through our training set of instances and actually [ask], ‘Which instances are better for learning? Which instances should we consider less, or even ignore?’” Martinez said. By understanding how to improve algorithms to deal with more complex data, scientists will be able to train computers to resolve more difficult issues in the future. Martinez and his students have also been working with Ancestry.com to develop an automatic indexing program. By training computers to identify and read the handwriting in old documents and records, many of the names and information of ancestors can be recorded automatically instead of being examined individually by humans. “That means the indexers get the harder ones, for now. But that’s all right, because if we can do a high percentage of the indexing automatically, that saves a lot of time and work,” Martinez said. Technology is advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, which could lead to some difficult decisions in the future, according to Martinez. “It’s easy to go ahead and say, ‘I’ll let a machine do human labor, like welding a car together,’” Martinez said. “Once the machine starts being [able] to outperform the human in terms of decisions, then the interesting, hard question comes up: If the machine is better at it, should we let the machine do it rather than the human?” But as the gap between the capabilities of humans and computers closes, Martinez sees at least one big difference between the two. “We have agency; an ability to choose. That ability to choose leads to lots of powerful things in us, like emotions, accountability, and things . . . a computer doesn’t have,” Martinez said. “[A computer] is still, at its fundamental base, programmed.” It’s hard to know exactly what the next breakthrough in machine learning and computers will be, but Professor Martinez knows it’s coming. “For better or for worse, they are having a huge impact as of right now,” Martinez said. “That impact will increase tremendously."
“WE'RE AT THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG OF WHAT COMPUTING WILL BE ABLE TO DO."
FALL 2016 23 FALL 2016 23
10, 2 016
FALL 2016 25
Photo courtesy of NASA
besides being a roman catholic jesuit brother, i'm also a scientist. With a background like that, both as a Jesuit and as a scientist, it's probably no surprise to hear me say, "I have no problem with faith and science.” I do it all the time. I live it all the time. My collar and my MIT ring prove that it's possible to be, at the same time, a fanatic and a nerd. People think that my religious status as a scientist means that I can say that as a scientist I endorse religion, as if God is thrilled that finally an MIT graduate believes in him. It doesn't work that way. Some people think that I'll be able to use science to prove my faith, but that really is a false hope. Science changes; God doesn't. Any god that's proved by science (as if science proves things) would be a poor imitation of the real God. Any religion based on science would be subservient to that science and prone to be thrown away when that science is superseded by the next version of science. A supernatural god must be bigger than any natural, logical system. The supernatural is, by definition, above, outside of, bigger than the natural, so trying to pin down or limit or prove or disprove the supernatural in terms of the natural is a pointless exercise. But that's not to say that my science and religion don't talk to each other; not to say that they don't have interesting things to say to each other. They must. I believe in God. I believe in science. The question isn't, “Why do I believe in God?” but, “Why do I believe in science?” My life of faith is essential to my life of science. My science depends on God. Even more than that, I'm going to insist that everybody's science depends on God, even those scientists who claim they don't believe in God. In fact, I can come up with several axioms that you must accept on faith before you do any kind of meaningful science, and these axioms are religious. They depend on your religion, since not all religions have room for such axioms. For example, you have to believe that nature follows physical, regular laws. You have to believe in the existence of these laws before you can even consider to look for them. Not every religion has room for such a belief. If you think that volcanoes erupt because there's a god-monster in the mountain and that lightning strikes the monster because
there's another god in the air throwing the bolts, you've already got an explanation for what's going on in this picture. You don't need science, because the nature gods make it happen. If you believe in nature gods, it would never occur to you to look for another explanation. On the other hand, if you deny the existence of nature gods, then you have to come up with another explanation for volcanoes and lightning. The latter religion allows for science, the former has no room for it. And our religion plays another role in allowing science to occur. I gave a talk a while back at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, and one of the students came up to me after the talk with all this enthusiasm, saying, "I want to be a geologist." “Sounds great,” I said. "Yeah, but what do I tell my mom?" This was South Carolina. This was in the Bible Belt. In the culture where he grew up, studying geology, with our ideas of billions of years old rock formations, directly contradicted the way that he'd been taught about the Bible. To be a geologist, for him, would be declaring war against his religion, his home, his family. Scientists are people; we have families, we have desires. Like every human being, we're a mixture of reason and hurt. And like that student, we have to answer those desires inside us and the desires in the people who are closest to us. Real people aren't just Kirk or just Spock. Even Kirk and Spock were not just Kirk and Spock. And we have to live with others who are more than just Kirk or just Spock. It's on the basis of both reason and gut feeling that we make all the decisions in our life. In the case of the student from South Carolina, it meant choosing his science or his religion. But to me, as someone who has lived both with science and religion all my life, that kind of choice is utterly puzzling. Why would anyone think that you have to make that choice? Anne Lamott said, "The opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty." Think about that. If you're sure, you don't need faith. It's when you're not sure, when you can't be sure, that you have to say, “Okay, I'm going to go ahead anyway. I have faith that this is the direction to go.”
FALL 2016 27
Photo by Rob Johnson
Faith is not blinding yourself to the truth— it's proceeding after you've done everything that you can to find the truth, and you’re still not certain. Even when we're blind, we can't see, we don't have the knowledge of the truth, we still have to step forward and proceed. If we knew the answer, we wouldn't need faith. And so, faith is how we deal with the fact that we have to proceed anyway; that we don't know. It's with faith that we make choices about where we're going to school, what career we're going to pursue, where we're going to live, who we're going to marry. My student in Charleston would choose geology or not choose geology as an act of faith—not because he found the answer by looking in the Bible, but precisely because he couldn’t find that answer there and he had to follow the tugs of both his head and his heart. All of life is making crucial decisions on the basis on inadequate information. It's a leap of faith to start a family. It's a leap of faith to join a religious community. It's a leap of faith to move to a new home, a new city, a new country. So these decisions that change our lives are made
If the society that you live in doesn't think that doing science is what will make a mother proud, you're not going to find many kids studying science. And you won't find anybody who will teach it to you, and you won't find anybody who will want to learn what you can teach to them. And so there's another clue about the personality of this God who creates: we see that community is essential for doing science; it's also essential for finding and worshipping God. The people of the Book, the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, we also have a belief that this physical universe was created by our God who looked at it at every stage; said it was good. God reveals himself in the things that he has created, and I believe as a Catholic that God so loved the world—not good people, not ethical behavior, but the world—so much that he sent his son—not to carry us out of this world, but to redeem the world. St. Athanasius says that by the resurrection, this physical universe has been cleansed and made sacred. And thus if the universe is sacred,
my life of faith is essential to my life of science. my science depends on God. not only on the basis of inadequate and often incorrect information—they're made by ignorant, stubborn, and inexperienced teenagers: you and me, back when we were students. At the very least, we hope we make these decisions with the help of some other people to advise us. We don't want to make them on our own; we don't want to make them without any input from a community of family and friends. Our faith is what we learned in the conversations that we've had with our elders, with our advisors, with our parents and our teachers, concerning these very questions. It's a rare moment that any of us know we’ve experienced God, and so it's important that we pool those experiences together to compare and to learn from the similarities and the differences; just as important as to sort out the real experiences from the spurious experiences. That's why we have communities that we call religion. Science, like faith, is done as part of a big community, and if you don't have the support of your community, it's not going to happen; it can't happen. And without a community, it couldn't possibly be passed on to the next generation. And that's why it makes a difference what your community, what your society thinks about the things that you choose to want to do.
studying the physical universe is an act of worship; it's an essential part of being able to do theology or philosophy. But even if your community and your society encourages science, there is still the personal question: Why does any particular person choose to become a scientist? What does becoming a scientist get you? What is it that we're trying to do when we do science? What constitutes success in science? Back when I was in the Peace Corps, I trained with about 80 teachers, most of them right out of college, full of idealism. During the breaks between training, we would go out and play this game called hacky sack. The idea is that somebody tosses this bean bag in the air, and everybody takes turns kicking it up in the air— you kick it, you bop it with you head, you use anything but your hands and arms. And that's it. It's a kind of cooperative, feel-good activity. So, we're stateside during training. The boyfriend of one of our group comes by to visit. He's watching us play hacky sack. He's from New York City. And this New Yorker couldn't figure out what the heck we were doing. “What, you just kick it up in the air? No goals? No contact? No trying to stop the other guy from getting it? How do you win this game?”
Well, science is like hacky sack: it's a cooperative activity. You gain status by how much you give, what you can add to the field, how much your work helps the others in the field. You try to keep lots of ideas up in the air to keep them alive and pass them on the next player. There's never a moment when you need to say, “I won; you lost.” So what drives you to do it? What is your personal goal? How do you win this game? What do you consider winning? Now, there are plenty of obvious criteria for what university might consider signs of success—the kind of things that give you tenure. Grant money, prizes, honors, awards, the Macarthur Fellowship, the Nobel Prize. And then of course, there's that all-time favorite metric of tenure committees: Have you written papers that other people use? The more papers, the more citations, the more successful you are. Clearly, that's not the whole picture. There's another carrot out there: academic freedom. In other words, you’re successful if you've reached a state where you can set the criteria of what you want to study. You're free to choose your own topics. You're not just working for someone else—you're not just an employee, you're not just a student, you're not just limited by what NASA or NIH will pay for. But notice what that means: You win at science by being able to do science. It's kind of circular. Why is it that we want to do science? What do we get out of doing science itself? Indeed, are any of these things ends in themselves? Would you give up the approval of others to satisfy your own curiosity? Would you give up tenure to satisfy love? Would you give up academic freedom, the freedom to pursue your own research, to satisfy the pleasure in solving problems? Which do you choose? Do you give up fame to satisfy the pleasure in finding patterns? Do you give up grant money to satisfy truth? Where is your heart? Where is your God, and what does that say about the personality of the God you worship? Before you jump to one conclusion or another, remember that if you're not getting paid to do the work, and I assume you're not independently wealthy, then you can't do the work. You can't afford to feed yourself; you can't do any work at all. And if you're not doing work that the culture respects and supports, then you're not going to have very many other people to share the work with, and science is this conversation with other people. Internal satisfaction isn't enough. Something else is the ultimate criterion. If you lose sight of that criterion, then the work is meaningless or poorly done. I say we don't do the science for “truth;” that’s too intangible. But we don’t do it for money, either—there are a lot of easier ways to make
FALL 2016 29
money. There's no power in being a scientist. You don't do science to get girls—at least, it didn't work for me. We do science for joy. The fact that God has created the universe is fascinating in and of itself. The fact that the universe is rational and reasonable and able to be understood by the creatures he creates tells you something deeper about God's personality. As people of the Book, we believe in a God who is the way, the truth, and the life. But most immediately, science is about a satisfaction and joy. Indeed, the spirituality of St. Ignatius, the founder of my order, the Jesuits, talks about God as the source of consolation without cause—joy that surprises. The very thing that makes science worth doing and desirable to do are the places where we see God, the places where we get a clue to what God is. There is a bridge that crosses the Charles River, from Boston to Cambridge. When I was a researcher at MIT, I'd walk across this bridge every day. By the time I turned 30, I'd be walking across this bridge and I'd be wondering, “Why am I going to work?” And I'd lie in bed at night, and have those three-o'clock-in-the-morning questions: “Why am I wasting my time doing astronomy when people are starving in the world? Isn't this an almighty waste of my time in my effort in my life?” And I could not come up with an answer. So I quit. I quit my position at MIT and joined the Peace Corps. I told them, “I'll go anywhere you want me to go. I'll do anything that you ask me to do.” So they asked me to go to Kenya and they asked me to teach in the high school. I'd set up a little telescope, and the people in the village would come out and look at the telescope, and they'd look at the craters in the moon and go, "Wow!" Have any of you seen the rings of Saturn through a telescope and said, "Eh, who cares?" No. You go, “Wow!” My friends back in Michigan would go, “Wow!” And my friends in Africa would be just as excited. That's what people do when you see Saturn through a telescope. Looking at the stars, wondering, “What are those stars? Who are we? How does it all fit together?” — that's one of those things that make us human beings and not just clever cats. And to deny somebody that because they were born in the wrong continent, or gender, or or social or economic group, or whatever, is to deny them their humanity. But to provide that to people enriches them and makes them more human, because it's not only your body that has to be fed, but your soul, as well. To make this available to people is to remind them that we are the species that went to the moon. The whole human race—not just the astronauts, but the engineers who built the spaceship, and the people who trained the engineers, and the people who worked in the cafeteria where they learned, and the people who grew the food—it was all of us as a human race. It's human to look at the stars and realize there's more to life than what's for lunch. That's what theologians say is the image and likeness of God. Science needs that. Science needs, "Wow!" Science needs the sense of awe. And so science reminds me of one last and most important trait of God — God is awesome.
Photo courtesy FALL 2016of NASA 31
Photo by Rob Johnson
Your Contributions Help Students Dig Deeper ever since her first semester at byu, geology major
Mariah Chambers has engaged in hands-on learning opportunities. Chambers enrolled in the geology major as soon as she was accepted to BYU. While many incoming freshmen were searching for a major or tackling their GE classes, Chambers was conducting mentored research with Dr. Brooks Britt. Now in her senior year, Chambers has participated in myriad learning experiences outside of the classroom. Her research with Dr. Britt involved mapping several dinosaur digs, including one near Dinosaur National Monument. This research endeavor provided the first discoveries of vertebrate fossils located in the Nugget Sandstone, a rock unit common throughout northeastern Utah. As a result of Chambers’ research with Dr. Britt, she began taking classes in geographic information systems. “I found a fascination for maps and spatially-related data,” Chambers said. “I’ve mapped over 10,000 bones and fragments from that quarry, and I’ve been responsible for keeping track of various data on those bones.” Chambers’ experiences with Dr. Britt have allowed her many more opportunities to learn by doing. Chambers has spent summers
To discuss helping the college with a special gift, contact Brent Hall at 801-422-4501 or email email@example.com
on dinosaur digs; traveled to Florida, Hawaii, and the Bahamas to study geological phenomena; and presented at three professional conferences. She even traveled to Europe as the only geologist on a team of engineering students to research a construction project in the Netherlands. Chambers is still working as a research assistant with Dr. Britt and in the Harold B. Lee Library geospatial lab. She is currently serving as president of the Geology Club. All of these experiences have given Chambers confidence. “In all that I’ve done, I have a confidence and a drive . . . that I didn’t have when I very first started at BYU.” Chambers said. “I feel much more capable . . . in terms of what I’m willing to tackle and try.” Donor funds are what make these educational pursuits possible. Mentored research and field studies have enabled Chambers and many other students to receive the best possible education. These experiences prepare them for professions in their chosen fields. There are many students who need financial aid and scholarships in order to participate in the invaluable experiences that BYU offers. We invite you to help these students by contributing to a BYU scholarship fund or mentorship program. Please donate at give.byu.edu/cpms.
1450 n. university avenue, provo, ut 84604