Page 1

n e w s l e t t e r o f B o y e r S c h o o l o f N at u r a l S c i e n c e s , M at h e m at i c s , a n d C o m p u t i n g


• march 2011

The Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion glimmers against the winter sky.

a p u b l i c at i o n o f s a i n t v i n c e n t c o l l e g e

INSIDE Dean’s Message Stevens Family Enjoys Three Generations of Success at SVC

Math Major Studies High Performance Computing Mathematics Professor Dr. Michael Botsko to be Honored

dean’s MESSAGE

The Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing Advisory Council Members Mr. James F. Will, L.H.D., C’60, D’94 Chair President Emeritus Saint Vincent College Dr. William E. Amatucci, C’86 Section Head, Space Experiments Section/Plasma Physics Naval Research Laboratory Mr. Thomas Anderson Chief Technology Officer Tower Systems, Inc. Dr. Herbert W. Boyer, Sc.D., C’58, D’81 Co-Founder Genentech, Inc. Dr. Umberto A. DeRienzo, C’88 Physician Dr. William A. DiCuccio, C’70 Physician Dr. David A. Dzombak, C’79 Walter J. Blenko, Sr. Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University Dr. Thomas P. Gessner, C’64 Physician Mr. Donald A. Haile, C’63 Venture Partner/Site General Manager Fidelity Investments Ms. Cheryl A. Harper, C’88 Physics and Mathematics Teacher Greensburg Salem High School Mr. Michael L. Keslar, C’80 Executive Vice President The Bank of New York Mellon Mr. Francis A. Marasco, C’64 Former President Eckerd Pharmacy Services Mr. Mark J. Pincus, C’96 Scientist/Biochemistry/Cell Biology Internal Medicine Therapeutic Dept. sanofi-aventis Pharmaceuticals Dr. Fred L. Soisson, Jr., L.H.D., P’47, C’51, D’82 Former Physician Dr. Philip E. Stukus, C’64 Former Chair of Biology Denison University Ms. Shelley D. Sturdevant, C’88 Manager, Color Services PPG Industries, Inc. Mr. Stephen P. Yanek, C’68 Program Manager Applied Physics Laboratory The Johns Hopkins University Dr. Daniel J. Yaniro, C’79 Senior Technical Director VolP and TDM Operations Planning AT&T


Dear Friends,


s I write this letter to you, snow covers the grounds around the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion and students are studying in the atrium, enjoying the sunlight, pleasant surroundings and wireless internet access. The new laboratories, offices and classrooms, built in phase I, are being fully utilized. Phase II, the renovation of the Biology building and Life Science annex, is underway and on schedule. Like the coming spring, we optimistically look forward to completing phases III and IV which will ultimately locate all of the departments of the Boyer School within the Pavilion. This edition of the Boyer Bulletin brings you articles on the plans for naming a classroom for Dr. Michael Botsko, Professor of Mathematics, an alumni spotlight on the Stevens family whose connection with Saint Vincent spans three generations, and a story on senior mathematics major, Ms. Teresa Lebair. The common connections between all three articles are mathematics and the leadership and inspiration that Dr. Botsko continues to provide. Dr. Botsko works tirelessly to help students understand and appreciate mathematics. Indeed, the relationship between mathematics and our ability to understand the world around us inspires wonder. Physicist Eugene Wigner wrote an article in 1960 titled “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” He concludes his paper saying: The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. Pope Benedict XVI goes even further when he wrote in December 2009 to the International Congress “From Galileo’s Telescope to Evolutionary Cosmology, Science, Philosophy and Theology” hosted by the Vatican: . . . if nature is really structured with a mathematical language and mathematics invented by man can manage to understand it, this demonstrates something extraordinary. The objective structure of the universe and the intellectual structure of the human being coincide; the subjective reason and the objectified reason in nature are identical. In the end it is “one” reason that links both and invites us to look to a unique creative Intelligence. Saint Vincent College provides an opportunity for our students to learn the necessity, usefulness, and beauty of mathematics from outstanding, caring professors. We also give our students the tools to contemplate mathematics like Wigner and Pope Benedict XVI related—as a miraculous gift that can help describe the universe, and with faith, to illuminate the Creator. Sincerely,

Dr. John J. Smetanka

Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Acting Dean, Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing


Stevens Family Enjoys Three Generations of Success at SVC by D O N O R L A N D O


or three generations, members of the Stevens family have enjoyed success at Saint Vincent College. Reflecting on the role that Saint Vincent played in his father’s life and in his children’s, John Stevens, C’73, recalled the stories that his father—John Stevens, Sr., C’37—told about his college experience. “We lived in Altoona and my grandfather was a benefactor of Saint Francis College, but my father went against the grain and chose to attend Saint Vincent, then a bitter rival to St. Francis,” John said. “He enrolled and became president of his class and president of the Student Tribunal. He remained active after his graduation and he and my mother always went to homecoming and other alumni activities.” Years later, when it came time for John to make his own college selection, his first choice was Penn State but he did not want to spend two years at the branch campus in Altoona where all of his friends were enrolling. So he visited Saint Vincent and liked what he saw. “Despite my father’s involvement, I had only been on campus one time – at the dedication of Bonaventure Hall.” His father’s class had donated funds for a portrait of Fr. Bonaventure Reithmeier, O.S.B., that would hang in the lobby. “In the fall of 1969, I became the second generation to have a very positive experience at SVC. I learned a lot about life during the turbulent times of the early 1970s when war protests and a general social upheaval were occurring all over the country. Saint Vincent provided forums for those raising their voices but the issues were never divisive within the community.“ “My fondest memory as a student was living on the sixth floor of Aurelius Hall,” Mr. Stevens said. “I think that some students did not enroll at Saint Vincent because the freshman residence didn’t offer much space or modern conveniences. But, living there was a unique experience and we bonded in the close quarters where we studied, socialized and competed as a floor in intramural sports. The friends I made on the sixth floor are still some of my best friends today.”

The Stevens family together: Leslie, seated left, and Kimberly, C’07; John C’73, standing left, and Michael, C’11.

As a mathematics major, Mr. Stevens had two professors who were just starting their careers—Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., who was pursuing a Ph.D. at Northwestern University and is now President of the College, and Dr. Michael Botsko, who had joined the faculty after graduating from Duquesne. “I couldn’t have had two better educators,” he said. “I was in Br. Norman’s first class for Abstract Algebra,” Mr. Stevens related. “It was the beginning of a great relationship that has lasted all these years. Br. Norman was a very good educator and has been a good friend to all of us.” continued 3

“Dr. Botsko taught us Advanced Calculus, Complex and he and his family have been active members of the Variables, Topology and Real Analysis,” Mr. Stevens said. Kentucky Project at their parish, St. Barbara R.C. Church, “Despite his brilliance, he was an outstanding teacher Harrison City. . . . the two do not always go hand-in-hand. His academic A member of the Pittsburgh Stock and Bond Club, Mr. achievements are well-documented through his research Stevens also enjoys running and has completed a number publications. However, Dr. Botsko could walk into class of marathons and half marathons. John, Kim and Mike and teach with passion and clarity. He could teach will be raising funds for MS awareness by running in the anyone—even if you asked him to teach algebra to a group Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May. of third graders.” Mr. Stevens, 59, attended Sacred Heart Grade School Years later, John’s own children, Kimberly, C’07, and and Bishop Guilfoyle High School where he was active as Michael, C’11, had Dr. Botsko for some of the same president of the Student Council, president of National courses. “They told me how he brought a high level of Honor Society and a trumpeter in the band. At Saint energy—and chalk dust—into the classroom—the same Vincent John directed the Club Football program and is things I experienced 40 years ago.” most proud of having brought the games from Latrobe Mr. Stevens said that studying mathematics at what Memorial Stadium to campus where the Bearcats played is now the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, on the Steelers field from 1972 to 1977. Mathematics, and Computing at Saint Vincent contributed Kimberly Stevens graduated in 2007 after having to his own success as well as his classmates. served in a host of campus clubs and “When you completed the mathematics organizations including the president curriculum with such a high caliber of of the Student Government Association educators, you felt a tremendous sense of Executive Board. She was recognized with accomplishment,” he said. “When you sense the conferral of the President’s Award in that you have the respect of people like Br. 2007 for her outstanding service. She is a Norman and Dr. Botsko it does a lot for your CPA and works as a senior financial analyst confidence and self-esteem. It is not so at Philips Respironics in Murrysville. much how we were prepared academically— Michael is a senior mathematics major many of us are not in mathematics-related and captained the Cross Country team to fields—but the sense of professionalism Saint Vincent College’s first-ever NCAA John Stevens, Sr., C’37 and commitment we experienced were conference championship. He was also invaluable.” President of the Student Athlete Club, After graduation, Mr. Stevens worked for a member of the Student Government the former Equibank in securities trading Association, the track team and Campus and investments, where he also met his Ministry. Leslie completed her studies at wife of 30 years, Leslie. He subsequently Seton Hill University and was awarded a worked at Mellon Bank for six years in capital bachelor of arts degree in business and markets trading and sales, and seven years psychology in December 2010. with the Bank of America in investment It is no surprise that Br. Norman has banking. He has worked for the past 14 years asked Mr. Stevens to chair a special John Stevens, C’73 with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey in their project to gather support from other Pittsburgh office. “I have always enjoyed mathematics alumni to fund a classroom working in the financial markets, primarily in in the new Sis and Herman Dupré Science sales,” Mr. Stevens said. “My career has been a lot of fun Pavilion that will honor the career service of Dr. Botsko. and I have no plans to retire anytime soon.” “It’s a no-brainer,” Mr. Stevens commented. “I think that He is involved in a number of public service activities it is something that former students will want to do. I including five years on the board of directors of the am planning to ask math majors from each graduating Bethlehem Project, an outreach of the Cathedral class to assist me in contacting their classmates.” parish that works with Catholic Charities to prevent The classroom is part of a future phase of the homelessness. He is also a member of the board of $39 million construction and renovation of the former trustees of the Diocese of Greensburg’s Catholic Institute Science Center which will be completed in 2012. 4

student spotlight

Senior Math Major Teresa Lebair Studies High Performance Computing by D O N O R L A N D O


eresa M. Lebair, a senior mathematics major from Glenwood, Maryland, studied high performance computing at the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) summer program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Ms. Lebair applied for the eight-week program because it offered access to a state-of-the-art parallel computer cluster with high performance interconnect in the UMBC High Performance Computing Facility (HPCF). One of three REU programs to which she was accepted, she chose the UMBC program primarily because it was closest to her home. She said the program was worthwhile because it introduced her to the growing world of parallel computing. “Basically, I learned how to split a computing task onto different processors so that it runs faster,” she explained. The program provided a combination of formal introduction to high performance computing in the mathematical sciences covering aspects of scientific, statistical, and parallel computing with team work on an interdisciplinary application project. This combination gave participants a powerful and exciting experience of how to combine learning and applying material to project work, all in an atmosphere of mutual support by all members of the project. Ms. Lebair was one of just nine students selected to participate Teresa Lebair, C’11 in the fully-funded program. She was assigned to a fourperson team that also included Sidafa Conde of the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Christopher Raastad of the University of Washington, and Virginia Smith of the University of Virginia. Their project, titled, “Enabling Physiologically Representative Models of Pancreatic Beta Cells,” was proposed by Dr. Bradford Peercy of UMBC and Dr. Arthur Sherman of the National Institutes of Health and mentored by Dr. Matthias Gobbert of UMBC. In addition to a fully transferable three-credit course on parallel computing using C with MPI, the program featured an introduction to tools of scientific and statistical computing such as C, Linux, MATLAB, R and LaTeX. All activities of the program were conducted in teams, closely supported in all phases by graduate teaching and research assistants, and UMBC faculty. The structured learning of scientific, parallel and statistical computing consisted of classes, each of which was immediately followed by work in a computer lab, during which the teams worked on assignments with the support of a graduate teaching assistant. She and her team completed a technical report on their project that was posted on the preprint server of the UMBCHPCF that serves as the citable result of the work as well as the basis for the product delivered to the client. The work was presented in both a research poster and in an oral presentation at the Summer Undergraduate Research Fest (SURF) hosted by the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences (CNMS) during the final week of the program. continued 5

The program included additional material presented to help support the project activities, such as an overview of LaTeX, tools for presentations and report writing, a discussion of academic integrity in scientific work, and a GRE preparation course. The program did not require any background in parallel computing but introduced the students to the subject during the first three weeks. This program provided information on applying to graduate school and served as an excellent preparation for graduate studies in mathematics or statistics. Ms. Lebair praised Saint Vincent for providing her with an excellent preparation for the challenging program and said that the summer experience will help her at Saint Vincent because it has given her a broader view of mathematics, especially in applied math. She is indefinite about her post-graduation plans and is still considering both graduate school and employment options. In addition to the intense technical studies, she said she “had an opportunity to enjoy some of the attractions of Baltimore including the Inner Harbor and some great crab cakes.” The program participants toured the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Ms. Lebair is a 2007 graduate of Glenelg High School in Glenelg, Maryland, where she was active in cross country, track, band, and the math team. At Saint Vincent she has participated in the Respect Life Club, Campus Ministry activities, cross country (sophomore year) and has been named to the Dean’s List. The daughter of Robert and Deborah Lebair of Glenwood, she is a member of St. Louis R.C. Church in Clarksville, Maryland (Archdiocese of Baltimore). Her sister, Amy, is a sophomore elementary instruction major at Saint Vincent. 6


Longtime Mathematics Professor Dr. Michael Botsko to be Honored with Named Classroom in Dupré Pavilion by D O N O R L A N D O


am just grateful that I have been able to do work that I love and still spend a great amount of time with my family,” Dr. Michael W. Botsko, professor and chairperson of mathematics at Saint Vincent College’s Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing, said when he learned that one of the new classrooms being completed in the upcoming phases of construction of the new Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion would be named in his honor. The ever-smiling Dr. Botsko, who says that he has treasured memories from nearly a half century of service as a teacher and mentor, hints that he is flattered but somewhat embarrassed by the attention. “This is a very generous gesture that Br. Norman has proposed but the only place I really want my name to appear is in the Lord’s book of life,” Dr. Botsko commented. Dr. Botsko has taught advanced mathematics to hundreds of undergraduates since 1967. “While I have greatly enjoyed teaching, I also delight in doing some research,” he said. “Sometimes when I am down and I solve a challenging problem, it takes me back up again. It is proof that I can still keep doing mathematics and that pleases me highly.” He added that he is more excited about teaching and studying mathematics today than he was 20 years ago. Dr. Botsko said that he was attracted to mathematics at a young age. “When I was a youngster, I was always good at math so when I went to college I just thought I should major in it,” he said about his undergraduate and graduate study at Duquesne University. “It was then that I realized that I really loved it. I was a dual major in math and physics. Physics is nice because it has so many applications but mathematics just totally captivated me. I could never stop doing math.” After earning his master’s degree in 1967, he received offers of teaching positions from several colleges and universities but decided to accept a position at Saint Vincent since it was nearest to his home in Donora where a young woman who would later become his wife had caught his eye. He completed a Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of Pittsburgh during the following three years while teaching full time. The longest-serving lay member of the faculty, Dr. Botsko says that he is happy to have spent his entire career at Saint Vincent, the only place he has ever taught. His courses have included Calculus I and II, Linear Algebra, Complex Variables, Topology, and Real Analysis I and II.

When asked to recall some of the students to whom he became closest, he ticks off the names of graduates young and not-so-young. “Jim Novak, Vince Smith, John Stevens, Ed Chango, Don DeYoung, Richard Gosser, the Churilla triplets – Steve, Corey and Andrew, Nicole Franczyk, Annette Barnhart, Mike Shreck, the late Chris Morgan and Sam Marin, his daughter, Tanya, of course, Katie Beer, and many more,” he said. “Steve LoCascio, who is now principal at Greater Latrobe High School, stopped by one day and told me that I had made a big impression on his life. He said that I was important simply because I spent time and encouraged him. It reminded me of what was important.” Many of his former students have gone on to great success in the worlds of business, teaching, banking, telecommunications, health care and other fields. Mr. Stevens has accepted the chairmanship of the project to fund the classroom and plans to enlist the support of other former students to communicate with all of those who have benefited from the outstanding education they received from

Dr. Michael W. Botsko

Dr. Botsko. As a tribute to his legendary style of presenting extensive mathematical formulations on the blackboard, plans for the Dr. Michael W. Botsko Classroom include chalkboards on all four walls. Dr. Botsko was advised that, according to Saint Vincent tradition, his name will not be attached to the classroom door until after he has retired. And, when asked how he would like to be remembered when that day comes, he is quick to reply:

“I always put my family first,” he said, “because of the support I received from my wife, Donna, my daughter, Tanya Mills, C’95, and her husband, Douglas, and their eight-year-old daughter, Kaiya, my little angel. I have had former students tell me that they appreciated me as a role model and want their own professional life to be similarly balanced between work and family.” He is greatly enjoying his role as a grandfather and visits often to encourage Kaiya’s budding interest in mathematics and watch her cheerleading, gymnastics and other school activities. The author or co-author of numerous professional journal articles in The American Mathematical Monthly, and the frequent publisher of problems and solutions in Mathematics magazine, his work has been cited in numerous mathematical journals and also in at least six textbooks. He is the author of a textbook on Real Analysis which he uses in his classes. He was named an All-Star Journal Author in November 2010 after an article he wrote in 2003 was identified as the tenth most frequently accessed article in The American Mathematical Monthly in more than 100 years. The recognition was announced by JSTOR, a not-for-profit database archive of important scholarly articles that offers researchers online access to articles from more than a thousand different scholarly journals. Dr. Botsko’s article is one of the 37,645 articles archived from issues published during the period from 1894 to 2006. He has previously been honored for his teaching with the presentation of the Saint Vincent College Student Government Association Faculty Award, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Teacher of the Year nomination, Teacher of the Year Award presented by the Allegheny Mountain Section of the Mathematics Association of America, Saint Vincent College Boniface Wimmer Faculty Award, Thoburn Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award, and Who’s Who in America. The only son of the late Michael and Amelia Botsko, Dr. Botsko says they wanted him to become a priest and instilled in him the importance of family and Christian values. He grew up in the Catholic Byzantine tradition but he and his wife now attend the First Baptist Church in Greensburg. He is proud of his twin cousins, Fr. Jerome Botsko and Sr. Mary Ann Botsko, who serve the Catholic church in Fayette County. 7

Mailed from Zip Code 15650 Non-Profit Organization U.S. Postage Paid Permit No. 110

The Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing 300 Fraser Purchase Road Latrobe, PA 15650-2690 www.stvincent.edu

Printed on recycled paper using vegetable-based inks.

Building Funds Secured through January 2011 $40,000,000 $35,000,000

Funds Needed $5.8 million

$30,000,000 $25,000,000 $20,000,000 $15,000,000 $10,000,000 $5,000,000

Funds Committed $33.2 million

Thanks to the generous support of our alumni, friends, foundations and other agencies, the total dollars committed to the Sis and Herman DuprĂŠ Science Pavilion continues to climb. With new class and tribute initiatives underway, we are counting on the generous support of our alumni and friends to take us over the top!

Profile for Saint Vincent College

Boyer Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 2  

Newsletter of the Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing

Boyer Bulletin Vol. 2, No. 2  

Newsletter of the Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing