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fall 2017


No Random Variable CPMS Dean Shane Reese


Solving the Case of the Missing Scientist

CPMS Associate Dean Jennifer Nielson


New Associate Dean Brings a Passion for Scholarship CPMS Associate Dean Gus Hart


EVOLVING FAITH Putting Evolution in an LDS Context


BYU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences C. Shane Reese, Dean Gus L. W. Hart, Associate Dean Jennifer B. Nelson, Associate Dean Kurt D. Huntington, Assistant Dean

Department Chairs 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 William F. Christensen, Statistics

Frontiers Production Jennifer B. Nielson, Editorial Director Kimberly Jenkins, Assistant Editorial Director Phyllis Rosen, Managing Editor Alyssa Nielsen, Assistant Editor Jessica Grimaud, Assistant Editor Cassidy Heaton, Graphic Designer Cassie Carlson, Photographer Mitch Rogers, Writer

Contact Information Kimberly Jenkins, Marketing Manager 801.422.4022, Brent C. Hall, LDS Philanthropies 801.422.4501,

BYU’s Center for Animation received its 19th student Emmy nomination since 2004. The animated film, Taijitu, was nominated for a College Television Award. More than forty computer science, animation, illustration, and music students spent over a year working on the film. Watch Taijitu and other BYU animated films at


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CHANGE CAN EVOKE A VARIETY OF EMOTIONS When I first came to BYU as a student, I was overwhelmed with the change in my environment. A large student body, new buildings to navigate, and unknown roommates contributed to the feeling of being blindsided. Gradually I adapted. When I received my mission call, the thought of learning Chinese and actually trying to converse in that language made me nervous. As the change of culture, language, and geography set in, I found myself increasingly impassioned by the people and the work. The minute I married my wife, Wendy, I was eager for all the changes we would face together. Our family grew, and we moved several times. Each move brought sorrow at leaving friends, yet anticipation for the new adventures awaiting us. New job assignments brought both the thrill of discovery and the stress of performance. Now I’m experiencing a new change. I have moved from focusing on research and teaching—which I love— to focusing on leadership as the dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. This assignment has given me opportunity to reflect on how change affects us all. It’s easy to get comfortable where we are in life. Whether it’s our career path, our family traditions, or our volunteer service, we tend to find a niche and set up permanent


residence. When change comes, we are forced to look inward and determine whether we will run and hide, or whether we will reach out and welcome the new. Over the past few months I noticed an important fact: the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences thrives on change. Our college disciplines are characterized by thinking outside the box, working tirelessly despite frustrations, and—hopefully—making scientific breakthroughs. When I focus on these aspects of science, it’s easy to embrace the changes that I encounter. I am able to see change for what it is, a catalyst for improvement and progress. It is my hope that as we change leadership, we embrace the talents and skills that each of us brings to the table and enjoy the progress of CPMS as we watch it unfold.

Wishing you all the best,











FEATURES 12 16 20










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CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY 1996 | Jonathan Hansen (BS Biochemistry ’96, Brigham Young University) earned an MD and PhD in microbiology and immunology from Indiana University in 2003. He has been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine since 2009, where he was recently promoted to the rank of associate professor. He chairs the Gnotobiotic Steering Committee of the UNC National Gnotobiotic Rodent Resource Center, serves as a member of the National Scientific Advisory Council of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), and is a consulting editor for the Journal of Clinical Investigation. His research program, funded by CCFA and the National Institutes of Health, studies how resident intestinal bacteria interact with the host immune system to cause inflammatory bowel diseases. 2000 | Robert Blanch, MD (BS Biochemistry ’00, Brigham Young University) graduated from the University of Utah School of Medicine in 2004 and completed a residency in diagnostic radiology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2010. He went on to complete a fellowship in body imaging and imaging informatics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in 2011 and a fellowship in neuroradiology at UT Southwestern Medical School in 2012. He worked as a teleradiologist for four years, then joined a private practice in Sherman, Texas, where he resides with his wife and five children.

COMPUTER SCIENCE 2007 | Josh Menke (PhD Computer Science ’07, Brigham Young University) has been designing matchmaking and ranking systems for well-known video game franchises for over ten years. As a graduate student he helped create and foster an active worldwide game community from 2004 to 2008. He was a senior designer for Activision Blizzard from 2008 to 2013 and from 2015 to 2017, contributing to World of Warcraft, Starcraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, and several Call of Duty titles. He is currently a lead engagement designer for 343 Industries (343i), the creator of the Halo franchise. 1999 | Neil Aitken (BS Computer Science ’99, Brigham Young University) spent several years as a computer games programmer, then earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of California, Riverside in 2006 and a PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California in 2015. He is the author of three books of poetry: The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga Press, 2008), winner of the 2007 Philip Levine Prize, Babbage’s Dream (Sundress Publications, 2017), a semi-finalist for the Anthony Hecht Prize, and Leviathan (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2016). He is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, an online literary journal. He also created Have Book Will Travel, a web resource which connects authors willing to travel, reading series that are looking for guest writers, and venues which are available for booking events. An accomplished translator of contemporary Chinese poetry and winner of the 2011 DJS Translation Prize, he serves on the editorial board of Poetry East West, an international journal of Chinese-English translation. He works as a freelance creative-writing consultant and editor.


GEOLOGICAL SCIENCES 1986 | Erik K. Webb (BS Geological Engineering ’86, Brigham Young University) manages the Geoscience Research and Applications Group at Sandia National Laboratories. Prior to this assignment, he managed Sandia’s Global Securities Systems and Technologies Department for two years. In that position he worked with the Department of Energy non-proliferation programs and led the Second Line of Defense Program responsible for creating a nuclear detection network at international ports of entry in fifty countries. Webb led Sandia’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Borders and Maritime Security program, working with DHS, Customs and Border Protection, and the US Coast Guard. Previously, he was adjunct faculty in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico. While there Webb worked with the Utton Transboundary Resources Center, a division of the university’s law school which deals with western water planning. 1999 | Lee Bray (BS Geology ’95 and MS Geology ’99, Brigham Young University) worked as an exploration geologist for Barrick Gold Corporation at the Mercur Mine in Utah in 1995 and then as a mine geologist for BHP Ltd. at the Robinson Mine near Ely, Nevada, in 1996 and 1997. From 1999 to the end of 2006 he worked as an environmental geologist for the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS), assessing environmental hazards adjacent to proposed transportation projects. During his last several years at the ISGS, he was responsible for assessment of all large-scale and politically-important road projects in the Chicagoland area. He also received an MBA from the University of Illinois-Chicago in 2002. In 2007, he became a mineral commodity specialist at the National Minerals Information Center of the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Reston, Virginia. Since starting with the USGS, he has been the commodity specialist for aluminum, alumina, and bauxite. In 2013 he was assigned to be the specialist for magnesium and magnesium compounds. In addition to writing regular reports and participating in special projects, he has been an invited speaker at several industry meetings.

MATHEMATICS 2001 | Becky Nesbit (BS Mathematics ’93, Brigham Young University), earned an MPA from Brigham Young University in 2001 and then went on to complete a PhD in public administration at Indiana University in 2008. She is currently a faculty member at the University of Georgia, where she was recently promoted to the rank of associate professor. She teaches nonprofit management courses in the MPA program. Nesbit’s research pertains to volunteerism, volunteer management, and philanthropy. In 2013, Nesbit traveled to Romania at the invitation of the US State Department to give presentations on voluntarism and volunteer management. 1951 | Norman Wright (BS Mathematics ’51, Brigham Young University) enlisted in the army in 1943 and worked as a highspeed radio operator until his discharge in 1946. He served an LDS mission for two years in what was then called the Northwestern States Mission before attending BYU. Wright worked for General Electric and met Dr. Gary Carlson, who eventually started a

computer research center at BYU. Wright joined Carlson’s team and taught computer science classes before there was a BYU Computer Science Department. He taught at BYU until he retired in 1993. He lives in Provo, Utah, at the ripe age of 91.

MATHEMATICS EDUCATION 1985 | Teri (Wineteer) Bingham (BA Mathematics ’85, Brigham Young University) earned an MS in curriculum and instruction from National University San Diego (1986) and an EdD in teacher education from UCLA in 1992. She has been on the faculty at West Texas A&M University since 1993, where she currently holds the rank of associate professor and previously served as interim department head of the Department of Education. She is the program chair of both professional development courses and methods courses in her department. She has received numerous awards and honors for effective teaching.

a book, SAS/IML Companion for Linear Models. He is an active member of the American Statistical Association where he currently serves on a joint committee with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics to improve statistics education in grades K-12. He regularly visits high school AP statistics classes and assists with grading the AP statistics exam. 1999 | Shane Henry (BS Statistics ’99, Brigham Young University) earned an MPH (emphasis in biostatistics) from the University of South Florida in 2003. He was involved in diabetes research at the Moffitt Cancer Center while earning his MPH. Currently he works in the biostatistics department at QuintilesIMS (a pharmaceutical consulting firm) in North Carolina and has been with the company for thirteen years. He serves as Statistical Programming Manager and over the years has been involved with many FDA/NDA drug submissions.

1996 | Aaron Hogge (BS Mathematics Education ’96, Brigham Young University) earned an MEd in educational leadership and policy from the University of Utah in 2000. He has worked in public education as a teacher, as an assistant principal, and for the last eleven years as a principal. He is currently the principal of Centennial Junior High School in Kaysville, Utah.

PHYSICS AND ASTRONOMY 1988 | Max Decker (BS Physics ’86, MS Computer Science ’88, Brigham Young University) is a senior manager at Sandia National Laboratories and is the Sandia program manager for the US Nuclear Detection System (USNDS). He has worked at Sandia National Laboratories for the last twenty-six years in the Remote Sensing and Verification and Space Mission centers, during which he twice received the Lockheed Martin NOVA award for exceptional team accomplishment and individual technical excellence.

SHARE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS WITH US We would like to share the accomplishments of our alumni. Please take a moment right now to send an email to and tell us about your successful career paths.

1988 | Lieutenant Colonel Aaron R. Blum (BS Applied Physics ’88, Brigham Young University) is the Commander of the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Blum joined the Air Force Reserves in 2008 and was deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Africa. On December 31, 2011, he was awarded his Masters of Business Administration summa cum laude from Trident University and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in September 2012. In October 2014 he became the director of operations for the 84th Test and Evaluation Squadron and took command on July 9, 2015. Blum has flown over 1000 combat hours and has been awarded three Meritorious Service Medals and fifteen Air Medals. He is a pilot at Delta Air Lines where he has flown over 2300 hours as a first officer in the MD88/90 and 757/767.

STATISTICS 1999 | Jamis Perrett (BS Statistics ’98, MS Statistics ’99, Brigham Young University) earned a PhD in statistics from Kansas State University in 2004. After eight years in academia (University of Northern Colorado at Greeley ’04-’08 and Texas A&M University at College Station ’08-’12) he now works at Monsanto Company in St. Louis, Missouri, where he was recently promoted to Statistics Lead in the Ag Productivity Innovations organization. He wrote

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BYU ALUM DOES IT ALL by CreelaBelle Howard

Photo courtesy of Salt Creek Oil and Gas


G. Earl Norris helped lower the price of oil and worked on some of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the world, thanks to his education at BYU. Norris graduated from BYU with his master’s in geology in 1979 and started his career working for big companies like Union Oil California and Southwestern Energy. His career went to new depths when he took a job in 1995 as a senior geologist with Amoco, one of the major oil companies at the time. In the 1990s and 2000s, he helped develop three of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the world, all located in his home state of Wyoming. Each reservoir fits three to seven thousand natural gas wells. “At the time, nobody knew how big they were, what the trapping mechanisms were, or how many wells we could drill,” Norris said. “Those were pretty incredible projects because nobody knew how to develop these reservoirs.” He continued to work for Amoco after it merged with BP; then he took an early retirement, moved to Denver, Colorado, and started working for private companies. But he wasn’t done changing the oil and gas industry. In the early 2000s, he helped develop two of the first unconventional horizontal shale gas reservoirs in the Barnett and Fayetteville Shales. Horizontal drilling produced huge amounts of natural gas using cutting-edge technology. “We didn’t think we could have an impact on the price of the US oil market or world market, but once we started drilling these oil reservoirs, we found huge amounts of oil. We found so much, oil went from $130 a barrel to $30 a barrel. It’s pretty incredible technology,” Norris said. “We doubled the amount of oil production in the US, and it flooded the world market also.” Norris and a former Amoco colleague started Tekton Energy in 2011 and sold it in 2014 for $250 million. Tekton produced 10,000 barrels of oil a day with only seven employees, two hundred contractors, and two oil rigs. In 2015, he founded another company—Salt Creek Oil and Gas, LLC.—where he currently works part-time as a

geologic advisor and board member. Even with all his success, Norris still remembers how much the geology faculty members at BYU helped him start on his path towards success. “There were three or four professors who really helped me,” Norris said. “I wasn’t the top student in my class by any means, and they helped me to make it where I am today. Without those professors and without BYU, I don’t know where I’d be.” After he sold Tekton Energy, Norris made a large monetary contribution to the BYU Department of Geological Sciences. He has also financially supported professors and graduate students in the department. “I never thought I’d be able to contribute to the university like that,” he said. “It’s really satisfying to be able to help.” Norris gives time to the department, serving on the BYU Geology Alumni Association board of directors and the College Volunteer Leadership Council for CPMS. The BYU Geology Alumni Association has Norris organize the department’s seminars and invite petroleum geologists and other BYU alumni to discuss their projects with current BYU students. He brings research papers he presented at national geology organizations and gives them to BYU students and faculty. He has spoken at BYU geology seminars multiples times, and his foundation gives donations to the geology department and other charities. One dream he has not yet realized, but plans to, is to fund a research chair for the Department of Geological Sciences. Businesses and individuals can then donate to the chair, which will fund professors and students who research petroleum geology. “I can never repay what the school did for me. I’d like to do more,” said Norris, who grew up in a small town in Wyoming. “I was really blessed to go to BYU and study geology, and there are hundreds of students like me who came from little towns and rural high schools and have been given a chance to succeed because of BYU.”

Assistant Dean Kurt Huntington received the President’s Appreciation Award at the 2017 University Conference. Huntington oversees the financial resources of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences each year as he works with and provides guidance to the seven departments within the college. Huntington has worked at BYU for twenty-five years and with the CPMS for the last five years. He foresees what information might be helpful to college leadership and then creates corresponding reports. His work has been instrumental in helping the college project its needs and manage its resources efficiently.

STILL GROWING Our college continues to use donated endowment funds to support undergraduate and graduate research and to keep our programs competitive. Your donations provide vital research experiences for our students; preparing them for industry or graduate school. The endowment funds we receive are sent directly to hardworking students, such as statistics graduate student Matt Oehler. As an undergraduate, Oehler began researching the effect individual skill sets have on a beach volleyball team. His research involved gathering and processing over 100,000 touches by players at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Oehler collected this information for both men’s and women’s teams. He used a Markov chain framework to simulate team performance. From the data he proposed an ideal beach volleyball team based on the skill sets of individual players. “[Research] has been instrumental in gaining valuable field experience,” Oehler said. “And it has been a great way to connect with and learn from the tremendous faculty that we have here at BYU.” Oehler hopes to extend his research on increasing team effectiveness to other sports. “This project has had a tremendously positive impact on my education. It has given me an opportunity to apply the statistical concepts I am learning, and it has given me experience that has ultimately led to my acceptance into the graduate statistics program,” Oehler said.







Kimberly Jenkins recently joined CPMS as the marketing manager. Jenkins is excited to increase opportunities for CPMS students to participate in experiential learning, such as mentored research, internships, and leadership positions. Jenkins is a native of Utah, growing up in Pleasant Grove. She attended BYU and graduated in communications with an emphasis in public relations. Prior to joining CPMS, Jenkins worked at Edelman Public Relations in Los Angeles and then spent five years in the BYU Computer Science Department as the External Relations and Undergraduate Program Manager. Jenkins’ role included representing the department to companies, students, alumni, and university officials. During her time in the department, Jenkins focused her attention on two departmental goals: increasing the number of women in the program and increasing the number of students graduating with jobs. Jenkins worked to see the number of women in the program increase from eight percent to thirteen percent, even as the number of students in the program doubled. Through her communications efforts, Jenkins was also able to reduce the number of students graduating without jobs by helping them learn of both graduate school and employment opportunities. Besides her work at CPMS, Jenkins is currently a master’s degree candidate in BYU’s School of Communications. Her areas of interest are public relations and internal communications. In her spare time, Jenkins enjoys hiking with her husband, Curtis, and their dog, Ollie. She loves the mountains, particularly American Fork Canyon. We are pleased to have her join CPMS.




HELP FUND THE FUTURE Many students like Matt Oehler can benefit greatly from your contributions. If you or someone you know would like to donate, please visit, or contact Brent Hall by phone at 801.422.4501 or by email at

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CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY award—Daniel Austin received the 2017 Karl G. Maeser Research and Creative Art Award. Austin develops miniaturized mass spectrometers for portable chemical analyzers and for space exploration, studies chemical and biological processes in extremely high-velocity impacts, and develops tools for charge detection mass spectrometry. award—Steven L. Castle received the 2017 Wesley P. Lloyd Award for Distinction in Graduate Education. Castle is the director of the Simmons Center for Cancer Research. Castle targets new ways of synthesizing organic molecules. award—Eric T. Sevy received the Religious Education Transfer Professor Award at the 2017 University Conference. This award recognizes excellence in providing outstanding teaching in Religious Education outside of a faculty member’s discipline. award—Jaron C. Hansen and Lee D. Hansen were awarded the Technology Transfer Award at the 2017 University Conference. This award recognizes faculty members who have made significant research contributions that have led to the development of useful commercial products. award—Daniel E. Ess received the Richard Roskelly Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship at the 2017 University Conference. This fellowship recognizes the sacrifice and efforts by the university’s support services in providing a transfer of positions and budget to enhance teaching and learning.


award—Kenneth W. Rodham received the Karl G. Maeser Excellence in Teaching Award at the 2017 University Conference. Rodham is a master of course design, aligning insightful lectures with engaging learning activities and carefully crafted lab work. He has developed ambitious capstone experiences that build on the rigorous software engineering course sequence he helped design.


research—Greg Carling has recently had one paper published and another paper accepted for publication. Additionally, he has received a grant to support thesis research being completed by Michael Goodman, regarding “Understanding environmental impacts of Great Salt Lake dust: Using isotopic ‘fingerprints’ to determine dust sources and quantifying changes in trace metal concentrations from source to deposition.” research—After completing research in the Green River Formation, Sam Hudson, assisted by alumni and undergraduate students, published “Large-scale mud diapirism as a record of late-stage Laramide tectonism within the Eocene Green River Formation, Wyoming.”


award—The first Zhang Zhifen Mathematics Award Presentation Ceremony was held on June 9, 2017, at the 11th International Conference on the Latest Progress of the 11th Application of Power System. Professor Liu Bin, chairman of the Beijing Mathematical Society, announced that the winner was Professor Kening Lu—of Brigham Young University—for his outstanding contributions to the field of differential equation and dynamic systems.


funding—Michael Dorff received $1.5 million from the National Science Foundation for continuing the PIC (Preparation for Industrial Careers) math program. The PIC prepares undergraduate mathematics and statistics students throughout the United States for nonacademic careers by having students participate in research problems that come directly from business, industry, and government. new faculty—Michael Griffin and Mark Hughes have joined the Mathematics Department. Griffin received his master’s and PhD from Emory University and completed two year-long postdoctoral fellowships: one at Princeton University and one at the University of Cologne in Germany. Griffin specializes in number theory and modular forms. Hughes received his PhD in mathematics from Stony Brook University. His research focuses on knot theory and other aspects of topology. research—Lennard Bakker contributed to the study of n-body problems by incorporating vital techniques to calculate the possibility of collisions. He has also developed a formula to include any number of bodies in the calculation.


research—Steven Jones’s paper, “An Exploratory Study on Student Understandings of Derivatives in Real-World, Non-Kinematics Contexts,” was published in the Journal of Mathematical Behavior in March 2017. award—Todd L. Fisher was named a recipient of the Young Scholar Award at the 2017 University Conference. This award encourages and acknowledges outstanding promise and contributions by faculty members in the early stages of their academic career.


award—Duane Merrell has received the AAPT Homer L. Dodge Citation for Distinguished Service. This award is presented in recognition of exceptional contributions to the association at the national, sectional, or local level. research—Karine Chesnel is investigating the magnetic behavior of nanosystems and their potential uses in technology. Chesnel recently published an article about the orbital and spin moments of specific nanoparticles. award—M. Jeannette Lawler was awarded the President’s Appreciation Award at the 2017 University Conference. This award recognizes staff and administrative personnel for exceptional service, creativity, and competence. Lawler is the Physical Science 100 course coordinator and director of the Derrick Planetarium.


research—Matthew Heaton’s paper “Nonstationary Gaussian Process Models Using Spatial Hierarchical Clustering from Finite Differences” was published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. award— Dennis L. Eggett received the 2017 Karl G. Maeser Professional Faculty Excellence Award. Eggett has directed the Center for Statistical Consultation and Collaborative Research since 1997. He is the coauthor of 180 peer-reviewed articles, with more than 270 of those coauthors being BYU students.




Cole Lyman works with Dr. Mark Clement to study bioinformatics, a field which combines computer science and biology. Lyman focuses his research on constructing phylogenies from molecPhoto courtesy of Cole Lyman ular data using a data structure called de Bruijn graphs. This approach allows the storing and comparing of whole genome sequences from multiple species, which is crucial for phylogeny construction. Lyman and Clement also discovered a way to research genetic variation for human disease using de Bruijn graphs, allowing them to measure the variants across an entire genome. “My mentored experience has been the pinnacle of my undergraduate education,” Lyman said. “Through Dr. Clement’s mentorship I have decided to continue going to school through a PhD. I hope to one day become a professor so that I can mentor students just as Dr. Clement has mentored me.”

Geological Science Michael Goodman is being mentored by geologist Greg Carling as Carling studies the source and impact of dust being deposited along the Wasatch Front and in Utah Lake. Dust can be harmful to human health and can cause toxic algal blooms on Utah Lake. Mentored research helped Goodman recognize the necessity of thorough background research when trying to solve real problems.

Mathematics David Reber works with professor Ben Webb to study the effect of time delays on the long-term stability of dynamical networks. He learned that if one can restrict time delays to a region of the network and the cycles products are less than a certain value, then no combination of delays in that region can destabilize the network.

Ethan Damron, under the direction of Dr. Roger Harrison, is working on creating a compound that could be used to create a new flu drug, one meant to target a different area of the flu virus Photo by courtesy of Ethan Damron than previous drugs. “Unfortunately, due to mutations by the virus, current flu drugs are becoming ineffective in stopping the virus,” Damron says. Damron made three different batches of 1-(methyladamantyl) iminodiethanol, a key intermediate in the formation of 1-(methyladamantyl) iminodiethylamine. With the first two batches, Damron was unable to find an effective way to purify the intermediate— this prevented him from taking the next step in the project. However, on the third batch, Damron isolated a pure product. This research could potentially help save thousands of lives every year.

Mathematics Education Kelly Butler is working with professor Daniel Siebert to describe the components and structure of mathematical explanations. Preliminary results suggest that good mathematical explanations describe and justify the creation of quantities and the relationships between them. Findings from her work can be used by math teachers to improve their explanations.

Statistics Menley Stewart, under James Hill worked the direction of physics with professor Gilbert professor Tracianne Fellingham to help Neilsen, studies highthe men’s volleyball amplitude military craft team. His focus was engine noise, called looking at First Side crackle. Crackle impacts Out percentage by area neighborhoods near a serve lands in. Hill military installations divided the court into and anyone who works six equal areas, then outdoors near flyover performed Bayesian areas. Stewart is working statistical methods to on quantifying how find the probability of physical characteristics First Side Out by area. such as angle, playback The results showed level, playback that areas do differ in order, etc., affect our probability. perception of crackle.

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No Random Variable by Phyllis Rosen

In the world of statistics, random variables numerically describe the outcome of an experiment. They change according to the processes applied to them. Dr. Shane Reese, newly appointed dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, is no random variable. From the first statistics class as a BYU freshman, he knew exactly what career he wanted. “Decision making has always been something I’ve been fascinated with, and when I took that first statistics class, I realized that here was a quantitative tool that helped me evaluate evidence and make decisions,” Reese said. Although Reese enjoyed his statistics class, his initial overall experience at BYU was not without its struggles. Reese grew up in Albuquerque, where he and his mother moved when he was two months old. When he chose to go to BYU, Reese didn’t realize how large the university was nor how different it would feel to be immersed in Mormon culture.


“It felt very overwhelming and big, and I felt like my student ID number—not like Shane Reese,” he said. Reese contemplated leaving, possibly transferring to a school in New Mexico. But his mother asked their LDS bishop for advice on how to encourage Reese to stay at BYU. Their bishop suggested that his brother, Kevin J Worthen, might be able to help. So Reese met with Worthen, a relatively new law professor at BYU, and Worthen offered both encouragement and friendship. Reese credits that visit as the reason he stayed at BYU. Reese ended up having a “phenomenal experience” as a freshman. During that year, Reese made a firm decision to go on a mission and was subsequently called to serve in Taiwan. He loved the country and the people, and he gets excited whenever his research work takes him back to Taiwan.

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Reese’s work in sports gained traction with USA Volleyball through work with BYU Volleyball. photo by Talmage Cromar

“ Interacting with students and watching them have ‘aha’moments turned out to be extremely rewarding. ” 14 FRONTIERS

After his mission, Reese returned to BYU and met Wendy Wood, whom he married in 1993. They have been blessed with three children: Madison, Brittany, and Bryon. Reese finished his BS and MS degrees in statistics at BYU, then pursued a PhD at Texas A&M. After finishing his PhD in Statistics in 1999, Reese accepted a position as a member of the technical staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was living the American dream. The job meshed well with his training. He was close to family. And there was even a new LDS temple in Albuquerque. Then out of the blue, BYU came calling. Reese’s first reaction was to stay in New Mexico. A year later BYU called again. After multiple contacts, Reese agreed to send in an application. “It came down to a very powerful experience with prayer and fasting and trips to the temple where we felt that this was something we needed to do. And although we loved what we were doing in New Mexico, I don’t think we’ve ever regretted the decision to come back in 2002,” Reese said. Reese found that he loves being in the classroom. Interacting with students and watching them have ‘aha’ moments turned out to be extremely rewarding. Reese developed a second-year master’s class on Bayesian statistics—a framework that can incorporate different types of data.

As dean, Reese will continue to teach an introductory statistics class to approximately nine hundred students. Reese loves his work because it allows him to “play in everyone’s backyard.” Over the years, the diversity of his work has been extensive: sports, race cars, whales, solar storms, weapons of mass destruction, and more. The U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team asked Reese and his colleague Gil Fellingham—fellow BYU professor of statistics—to take the statistics they had collected and build a model that would help identify which skills were most important, what players contributed the most, what lineups had the most impact, etc. Because the team had a very limited time to practice together, they wanted a model that would rank the skills so the team could spend time on the skills that mattered most. Reese and Fellingham built a model that did just that, which the coaches fondly referred to as “the white bible.” Helping the US volleyball team led to a request from an NFL team to build a similar model geared to football. The model was so successful that the team offered Reese a position as director of analytics. He declined. However, Reese and Fellingham continue to provide similar models for BYU sports teams. While at Los Alamos, Reese had an office partner whose cousin was a NASCAR driver in the second circuit. Even though Reese hadn’t spent much time at the races (he attended only one race in his lifetime), he built a statistical model that would identify who would be the best driver for various types of tracks. Reese and two colleagues published this research in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, the premier journal in statistics. Besides working with coaches, Reese has worked in many scientific and engineering disciplines, including many of the science fields in CPMS, collaborating with physicists, geologists, and chemists. He has helped figure out the pregnancy patterns of bowhead whales to help the International Whaling Commission establish reliable information for subsistence hunts. The National Center for Atmospheric Research needed answers on solar storms in order to protect the earth’s satellite systems, and Reese and colleagues answered with a highdimensional statistical model. Reese has even helped the National Academy of Sciences monitor the storage and demolition of chemical weapons. In 2013, Reese was named a fellow of the American Statistical Association. This honor signifies his great contributions to the science world. BYU News quoted Dr. Dennis Tolley, former chair of the BYU Statistics Department, as saying, “This gives Dr. Reese superstar status among statisticians.” Despite all these great achievements, when asked about his successes, Reese is most proud of his family. “Nothing compares to the birth of my children,” Reese said. “Those really are the moments that

The Reese family, 2017: Madison, Bryon, Wendy, Shane, and Brittany photo courtesy of Shane Reese

Reese (right) with his trainer— and CPMS Alum!—Eric Hunter

photo courtesy of Shane Reese

brought amazing amounts of joy. I remember those days. The first one was met with a lot of fear and trepidation but still with a feeling of joy and true fulfillment.” Besides a deep love and appreciation for his family, Reese has a love of people and for the gospel of Jesus Christ. “I feel like everyone’s intentions are the best most of the time; that’s my view going in,” Reese said. “I have a burning testimony and would hope that my enthusiasm for things that are in the college or in work that are academic in nature would never overshadow that.”

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Solving the Case of the Missing Scientist by Mitch Rogers

Chemistry professor Dr. Jennifer Nielson, the college’s new associate dean over teaching and curriculum, finds missing students. Nielson’s search isn’t necessarily for the students on her class rolls who play hooky instead of going to class. Rather, Nielson tries to reintegrate the thousands—even millions—of students that abandon chemistry because of misguided curriculum or lack of support. “If poorer countries had as many chemists per capita as richer countries, how many more chemists would there be in the world?” Nielson asked during her TEDxBYU talk last year. “1.7 million. That’s how many more chemists there would be. And these could be the Einsteins of India and the Curies of Africa.” In 2011 Nielson accompanied her husband, BYU political science professor Dr. Daniel Nielson, to Uganda for his research on foreign aid. While Nielson described her main job on that trip as “just making

sure nobody died,” Nielson also sought out local chemistry classrooms. What she found surprised her. “What these students are doing is all listening,” Nielson said. “The model of education there is that learning is filling instead of using, and really, you don’t know you have learned something until you try using it. And they don’t get a chance to try using it very often. It’s a lot of listening and copying down from a board and a teacher. But the teachers themselves are really dedicated, and the kids are super bright.” Since her first trip, Nielson has returned to Uganda every summer to hold workshops to train local high school chemistry teachers in conducting inexpensive, safe experiments. “It’s a two-day course per group of teachers, and we limit it to a very few chemical concepts,” said Nielson. “Then we do a lot of ‘How could you demonstrate it?’ so when they go back, they’ve already practiced it within a class lab setting.”

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The Nielson family, 2015: Rob, Jenn, Dan, Abi, Catie

photo courtesy of Jennifer Nielson

Nielson and her colleagues are currently working with the Ugandan Ministry of Education on proposed changes to the country’s chemistry curriculum and national examinations, putting a new focus on safe, hands-on experiments and experiential learning. Nielson’s mission to reintegrate missing students extends to Provo. As an associate dean, Nielson hopes to discover why so many female students avoid or leave STEM fields. “I’m really interested in finding out how well are we recruiting and retaining female students,” Nielson said. “Are there women not going into our majors because they’re not sure how that is going to work with the rest of their lives, or they’re just not interested, or we’re not doing enough to support them?” As a cofounder of BYU’s Chem Camp, BYU’s chemistry summer camp for kids ages 9-14, Nielson

“ There is not just one model . . .

There is more than one way of fulfilling your potential.”


and her colleagues made it a priority to include equal numbers of girls and boys. According to Nielson, middle school is often the time when girls lose interest in or are discouraged from pursuing chemistry. One of Chem Camp’s goals is to counteract this. “We also start with more women, percentage-wise, in our freshman classes than our sophomore classes,” Nielson continued. “Why are they dropping out? Is it our college? Our departments? Are there not enough role models for some of the women?” To Nielson, it’s a matter of how women in science think about their futures. “My female students come in and say: I want to go to med school, but I want to be a mom,” Nielson said. “I’ll say: Hey, let’s change that sentence. How about: I want to go to medical school and I want to be a mom.” Nielson wants to show students in CPMS that “there is not just one model. . . . There is more than one way of [fulfilling your potential].” She is fully aware that the path she chose worked out great for her but might not work for everyone. A few years after graduating from BYU, she and her husband both entered graduate programs at the University of California, San Diego. However, instead of pursuing a post-doctoral research fellowship after graduate school, Nielson made the decision to stay at home with their children until they had all entered school.

“[I was] teaching a class occasionally, so that I could stay integrated, and I loved all sides of that,” Nielson said. “For me, it was such a great decision.” After her youngest child began school fourteen years ago, Nielson went back to working full-time. Living in a two-professor home has been a unique experience for the family with some sanity-saving adjustments. “We don’t buy our Christmas trees until after finals in December,” Nielson said. Nielson and her husband have also taught their young children to challenge common expectations. If someone tells them they’re nice, the Nielson kids say, “Because I’m just like my dad.” If someone tells them they’re smart, they respond, “Because I’m just like my mom.” Looking forward to her new role as associate dean, Nielson has another goal. “I only know my own department well, so I think I need to familiarize myself with [other departments],” Nielson said. “A lot of our classes dovetail for students. If you’re a chem major, you’re taking physics classes also. We need to ask how we can better prepare students for their next class, across the departments.” Because students often have much more experience across departments than their professors, Nielson would like to help faculty better communicate and make curricula that better prepare students for work in other classes and disciplines. Trying this strategy of curriculum correlation in her native chemistry department convinced Nielson of its effectiveness. “It was great! Total eye-opener,” Nielson said. “I don’t know how that will work out [on a college-wide level], but it would be fun to find out. I know we have amazing teachers throughout our college.” For Nielson, a winner of the Karl G. Maeser Professional Faculty Excellence Award, it all goes back to teaching. “I learned that I loved teaching when I served an LDS mission in Recife, Brazil,” Nielson said. “I still love teaching. That’s what makes this job so fun. BYU students are amazing. They’re really, really good people, and you cannot teach that in a semester.” In a normal semester, Nielson teaches two classes of around 250 students each. This adds up to over 1,000 students per year. Even with her additional duties as associate dean, Nielson intends to keep teaching. “The first year, I am going to teach a class in fall and a class in winter,” Nielson said. “And then we’ll go from there. I think that’s more than deans frequently do. But . . . it’s not that much. It’s only 500 students total. Not like 1,200.”

Lecturing at Mbarra Univeristy of Science and Technology in Uganda photo courtesy of Jennifer Nielson

Working in the lab in Mbarra with undergraduate students majoring in Science Education photo courtesy of Jennifer Nielson

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New Associate Dean Brings a Passion for Scholarship by Alyssa Nielsen

Dr. Gus Hart, newly appointed associate dean, exchanged flashcards of student names and faces for flashcards of the colleges faculty. It was time to start memorizing their names. Hart accepted the offer of associate dean with characteristic enthusiasm for the role he’ll play in forwarding the college’s research and for the chance to work with the other deans. “I have a lot of passion for the scholarship that we do at the university and the college in particular,” Hart said. “Everybody keeps saying condolences, and I don’t feel like that at all. I’m excited.” The new job, however, doesn’t come without costs. Hart said he almost cried when thinking about how much less time he’ll spend in a classroom teaching. “Every time you get to get in there and share your excitement about physics with students—that’s like Christmas every day,” Hart said. Hart said he usually picked courses to teach that would challenge him to learn more and would help

further his own research, but he also loves teaching general education courses as well. This year he’ll teach one general education class of about 250 students, and if it’s manageable, he’ll continue teaching while serving as associate dean. For all but two semesters of his teaching career, Hart said he memorized all of his students’ names. As an undergraduate student, Hart’s professor—Dr. David Allred (who still teaches in the Department of Physics and Astronomy)—memorized students’ names, and Hart decided to try the practice while first teaching at Northern Arizona University. He found the students loved it, so he kept it up. In 2006 Hart came back to BYU where he was given a larger class than he was used to, and the memorization task was more daunting. “But I tried it anyway, and the students ate it up,” Hart said. “I like it because it’s more fun to teach somebody you know than somebody you don’t know.”

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Being a physics professor was not, however, the original plan. Hart wanted to be an artist during high school and into his first year of college. After serving an LDS mission in Japan, he declared a Japanese major. He figured he needed an additional major to make his education more practical, so he tried out engineering. Prerequisites included Physics 122, which he took from Allred. “It was the hardest class that I had ever taken, and it’s the hardest class I’ve ever taken since—bar none,” Hart said. “Graduate classes weren’t as hard as this class.” But it was also interesting, and Hart said he “just fell in love with it.” He asked Allred question after question, and Allred told Hart he needed to switch his major to physics. One day he did. Hart loved studying physics and decided the only way to “really learn” physics was to study it for the rest of his life. Hart graduated with his PhD from the University of California, Davis, in 1999. He then joined the Solid State Theory group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory before becoming a Serving as an LDS missionary in Kyoto, Japan, 1989 photo courtesy of Gus Hart


professor in 2001. “I didn’t think I was going to be good at research, so I decided just to see how far I could get before they kicked me out of the program. I ended up getting a PhD before they kicked me out,” Hart said. “Then I decided I actually liked research too, and I wasn’t lousy at it. So I thought I’d keep doing it until they fired me, and they haven’t fired me yet.” Long before his interest in physics, Hart was fascinated by computers, and he started programming them as a teenager. In one of his undergraduate classes, he had a homework problem that could only be done on a computer. “I thought that was so cool that an unsolvable problem becomes solvable when it goes on the computer,” Hart said. “The idea that the computer could be a virtual universe where you could set it up and let the universe run—that was so fascinating.” This interest led him to specialize in computational physics. He develops algorithms for modeling materials and uses those algorithms in simulations he hopes will lead to the discovery of new materials that will lead to new technologies.

Working on research with BYU students in Capetown, South Africa, 2010 photo courtesy of Gus Hart

Hart family 2016

photo courtesy of Gus Hart

“ The idea that the computer could be a virtual universe where you could set it up and let the universe run— that was so fascinating.”

“If you could reduce corrosion by . . . fifty percent, you’d save $250 million dollars a year in our economy. If you could invent a new transparent conducting glass for smart devices, that would be transformative,” Hart said. “Any technology you can imagine—in almost every case, the thing that’s keeping it from happening is the materials you would make it out of.” Beyond learning and discovering new things, research generated many exciting opportunities for Hart, from receiving “a sizable fraction of a million dollars to go try [an] idea” to collecting frequent flyer miles. “Traveling the world and meeting all kinds of interesting people from different cultures—that’s been a really surprising but really interesting part of the job,” Hart said. Hart is also grateful for the chance to discuss research and collaborate with experts from varying fields, whether they be from a different country, university, college, department, or specialty. “Those times when you get to learn something new and you can apply it in your own line of research— that’s really fun,” he said. In the college Hart has published research with Dr. Rodney Forcade from the Department of Mathematics; Dr. Quin Snell from the Department of Computer Science; Dr. Shane Reese from the Department of Statistics; and Drs. Scott Bergeson, Branton Campbell, Mark Transtrum, Richard Vanfleet, and Harold Stokes from his home department, the Department of Physics and Astronomy. From professors to undergraduate students, Hart hopes to use his time as an associate dean to support everyone in their research efforts. “I want to help people be more productive but not just in a bean-counter way,” Hart said. “I really want them to be excited about their research, and I want to find ways to help them be more productive in a way that is truly satisfying.” Research isn’t easy; it requires great discipline to tune out trivial distractions. “Class is easy; it’s Monday-Wednesday-Friday at nine o’clock. If you walk in unprepared, well, that kind of stinks, but at ten o’clock it’s over and you did it,” Hart said. “You didn’t do it well, but you did it. Research is not like that. If you don’t make time for it, [research] doesn’t happen.” Be it in researching, memorizing names, or playing handball, Hart is disciplined. (For the sixteen years he has been a professor, Hart makes time every day to play handball.) While he could be remembered for his many accomplishments and titles—including associate dean, cited researcher, and handball champion—he wants people to remember a personal quality instead. “I just want people to say I was kind,” Hart said. “I’d like to change the world, but I want to be remembered as kind.”

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LDS CONTEXT speech presented at SUMMERHAYS LECTURE SERIES on Sep. 27, 2016 by STEVEN L. PECK transcription by JESSICA GRIMAUD photography by ALYSSA LYMAN

Steven L. Peck is an evolutionary biologist, blogger, poet, and novelist. He was awarded a PhD in 1997 in Biomathematics and Entomology from North Carolina State University. He currently teaches biology at BYU.

On June 30, 1860, Samuel Wilberforce—a fiery Anglican preacher— and Thomas Huxeley, the person we call “Darwin’s Bulldog,” had a vigorous debate about evolution and Darwin’s new book Origin of Species. At one point, Bishop Wilberforce turned to Thomas Huxeley and famously quipped, “Was it through your mother or your father that you inherited your monkey origins?” and Huxeley quipped back, “Better a monkey than a bishop who squanders his talents in obscuring the truth.” But this wasn’t really as much a debate about religion as it was about science. Wilberforce was not someone fighting religion against science; he was interested in scientific aspects as well. Another event occurred there that I think did set the stage for this conflict between religion and science, one that continues to this day. An old man sitting in the back of this exchange of this debate stood up, held a Bible over his head, and said, “Believe in God rather than man!” He then said the Origin had given him the “acutest


pain.” It turns out this man was, in fact, Robert FitzRoy, the captain of the HMS Beagle, the ship that Darwin sailed on and formulated his early thinking on evolution. FitzRoy had become, since the voyage, a biblical literalist. That is, he took everything the bible said as literal fact. FitzRoy’s comment may be a better mark between the conflict of religion and science than Wilberforce because FitzRoy saw everything in black-and-white literalism. My personal story is one of being in love with science and evolution and then finding myself troubled by the split, eventually siding against evolution, and then siding back to evolution. I think my experience is probably typical, except I was able to come back to evolution. My early history with evolution starts as a five-year-old when I got the prehistorictime-piece set, which had about five hundred plastic dinosaurs. At that age, I had written down that I wanted to be a cave man when I grew up. I wasn’t quite aware of employment opportunities; they’ve since repurposed that job.

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Time went on. I became active in the church, and I went on a mission to Arkansas, and there was a reversal to that five-year-old kid enamored with dinosaurs. I remember very specifically arguing with an investigator, trying to convince him he needed to give up evolution if he was going to be baptized—that’s how firmly I was convinced that evolution and the gospel were completely incompatible. After my mission, one of my first acts at BYU while buying books was to look for a textbook from the evolution class. I believed it would dismantle the horrific idea of evolution, but it didn’t do that; it was just a regular textbook. It was mind-boggling! After I found the book, I even looked around and thought, “Well maybe the refutation was so compelling, everyone had bought it.” But there was nothing on the list. I started taking biology classes because I wanted to find out what was going on. David Attenborough’s Life on Earth and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos became a regular Sunday night activity for me and my friends, and as the story of evolution began to unfold— as I began to sense the great power and beauty of the theory— I began to think, “There is something to this.” My little five-year-old mind began to re-emerge. If I had been anywhere else but BYU when I was presented with the power of the evolutionary story, I might have gotten more lost. That’s happening a lot today: Many people get lost because they are convinced evolution isn’t real. They’ve been taught this through wellmeaning teachers in the church and others who painted a picture that the two ideas of religion and evolution were incompatible. If a person is confronted with the theory of evolution, it’s difficult not to say, “Ah, if I have to choose between one or the other,

maybe I’ll choose the one that’s right here in front of me because the evidence is so compelling.” After graduation, I was a research scientist with the agriculture research service, and I got a job at BYU. We moved here from the big island of Hawaii to BYU in 25-degree weather in a snowstorm, and believe me everyone in my family was asking, “What are we doing here?” We still ask it. Elder Nelson came and gave a talk at our stake conference and said, “To you scientists in the room”—and I look around and I’m convinced I was probably the only scientist in the room, so it felt like Elder Nelson was talking to only me— “To those scientists in the audience, go back to foundations. Find the root and basis of your science.” I took this as a mandate. It took a lot of work to master a new discipline, but after about five years of really studying, I began to publish in the arena of evolution. So what is science? Let me talk about one attribute of science that troubles people and I don’t think it should. Science has a non-negotiable stance of methodological materialism. This means no hidden forces, no aid from God, angels, and demons. No magic. No miracles. Wow. If you’re religious that sounds bad; I don’t think it is. If you are LDS, then you believe in laws and regularities, and it’s in this domain that science does its work. But you’re really familiar with methodological materialists. You probably use one. When you go to the mechanic, you fully expect them to talk in terms of nuts and bolts and carbonators and fan belts. If you went to your mechanic and she came to you and said, “I looked your car over and I am pretty sure you aren’t paying enough

tithing. That’s why this thing’s breaking down, so get on it.” You would probably say, “Oh that might be true, but I think I’m going to find a new mechanic.” And you would find a new mechanic because we all want a methodological materialist as our mechanic. We want them to find the problem and identify some material cause for its failure. Let me give you a definition of science: Science is an ethic that promotes a set of best practices that have been shown to explicate the world using a bunch of tools that have worked so far. This breaks that monolithic idea that science is something sacred and holy. The work of science is in that it continues to make progress. Science has an ethic, and one thing about an ethic is that it implies a set of values that you’re concerned about. Scientists believe there’s some reality we are trying to capture, and we want to find that reality. We scientists want transparency, the ability to have others look at our work. We want claims of a universal; if our science works on earth we expect it to work on Mars. There’s a set of activities that constrain science and make it powerful. And in some ways, these are the things that make science work. A stance of openness to revision and holding results is tentative. Scientists are not supposed to get too married to their ideas, because they want to challenge them and test them and make sure that they are as good as they can be, and so we take a stance of openness. We construct theories, and we test those theories. I believe science is the most powerful method ever invented for finding truth about the material world. When I say that, people go off and say, “Oh yeah, I love science too, but” and in that “but” are all the suspicions they have of science. There’s a hold-back: “Don’t

trust it too much, it will lead you astray.” I’ll be controversial and say I really don’t believe that, because science looks at itself enough. The proper amount of skepticism is had by scientists themselves. Science isn’t something that you hold holy or sacred; it’s something that is always challenged. When we say that “but,” often what we want to bring in is a sense of taint, a sense that there’s something wrong with holding to science too closely. This “holding science too closely” is also known as scientism, a belief that science will eventually lead to all knowledge. The one way I argue scientism is wrong is it assumes all questions can be answered by science. I am suspicious of that. We are limited. If evolution is right, we are a kind of ape that’s very special and has a

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spirit that’s a child of god, but nonetheless, a kind of ape. Apes are limited. Chimpanzees will never learn calculus. Quite simply there are things that we will never learn. Let’s talk about evolution, because evolution is science at work. It’s a crown jewel of science. Evolution is a dynamic and active and thrilling science. DNA has explicated the nature of life itself. We can read the history of life—how things are related, when they diverged—right from DNA. But some people think God had to make every little thing, but which programmer is greater? The one who can program every single game ever created or a programmer who can write a program that creates all the video games. That, for me, is why God is not diminished if he’s created a universe whereby things proceed along from the beginning to the end. I am not bothered by scriptural literalists who read the scriptures and then try to read a scientific story from them; I don’t think that’s what they were made for. John Walton is an evangelical person who argues against literal readings of the Bible. He’s a Hebrew scholar who says, “We must keep in mind that we are presumptuous if we consider our interpretations of scripture to have the same author as scripture itself. Nobody is an infallible interpreter, and we must always stand ready to reconsider our interpretations in light of new information.”—and I would add science— “We must not let our interpretations stand in the place of scripture’s authority and thus risk misrepresenting God’s revelation.” I may not have convinced you that evolution is real; I didn’t present all the evidence. I want to encourage you to go read about it. Get the best books on evolution. Pour over them. Come to understand what the arguments really are. You’ll notice, even if they’re written by atheists, you don’t have to follow them into being an atheist. You can be a believing Mormon. You can be a believer of any kind. In Cromwell’s letter to the Church of Scotland in 1650, he said, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” Too often we take our black-and-white thinking and we do a child’s version of hypothesis testing: we find a simple anomaly and throw out that theory. We don’t do that in science. If we find an anomaly, we check our instruments. We make sure they are working right. We start to check the way we thought about things, because if something should have worked and it doesn’t, we need to understand why. It might not be that the hypothesis needed rejecting. It means we may need to do more refinement and more nuance, and really try to see what’s going on.

“evolution is science at work. it’s a crown jewel of science. evolution is a dynamic and active and thrilling science.”


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photo by Talmage Cromar

Your Contributions Help Students Discover the Universe Physics and astronomy are the workings of the universe; study and research are the workings of BYU physics major Lauren Hindman. Her fascination with physics has led her to engage in important and valuable research opportunities during her undergraduate studies. Hindman actively participates in two different research groups: one with Dr. J. Ward Moody and one with Dr. Karine Chesnel. With Dr. Moody, she researches blazar variability. Blazars are a type of galactic nuclei and are powered by supermassive black holes. With Dr. Chesnel, Hindman studies nanomagnetism in cobalt-platinum thin films and the different morphologies of the magnetic forms. This research could improve data storage. In October 2016, Hindman presented her work at the American Physical Society conference in New Mexico. Through conducting research, Hindman has learned from Dr. Moody and Dr. Chesnel how to use lab tools that Hindman will go on to use in her future education and career in physics. “Dr. Chesnel . . . has taught me how to use the MFM, or the magnetic force microscope, and that’s definitely not an opportunity that a lot of people get as undergraduates,” Hindman said. “With Dr. Moody, we have our own

To discuss helping the college with a special gift, contact Brent Hall at 801-422-4501 or email

telescope, so I get to learn how to run that.” Hindman’s experiences have helped her not only become a strong researcher but also become a strong leader. Along with being an officer in the BYU Society of Physics Students, Hindman is the team leader for Dr. Moody’s research group. “I’m encouraging my teammates to look at things from different perspectives,” Hindman said. “I try to help them with their unique situations. “ Through her hands-on education, Hindman has realized that discovering more about the universe is not as difficult when you have the right tools and skills. “The universe is so complicated, but we have such simple ways to look at all of these complex systems, and everything falls into place,” Hindman said. Donor funds make these educational pursuits possible. Mentored research and learning opportunities outside of the classroom have enabled Hindman and many other students to receive the best possible education. These experiences prepare them for professions in their chosen fields. Many students need financial aid and scholarships to participate in the invaluable experiences BYU offers. We invite you to help these students by contributing to a BYU scholarship fund or mentorship program. Please donate at

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Frontiers Fall 2017  
Frontiers Fall 2017