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
BOYERBULLETIN Vol. 1, No. 3
• june 2010
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 Architectural concept of the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit
Dean’s Message Science Pavilion to Feature Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit Student Research Studies How Galaxies Have Changed
Science Pavilion Project Update Noted Astronomer to Speak Oct. 7
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.
Dear Fellow Alumni and Friends,
am so pleased that this third issue of the Boyer Bulletin highlights the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit of the Dupré Science Pavilion. For the past couple of years Mr. Taiani has been regularly sending me copies of NASA press kits, filled with details including astronauts’ biographies and specifics on repairs being made to the space station. Dr. Vanden Berk has shared those press kits with our students. Dr. John Smetanka and Dr. Daniel Vanden Berk, professors in our Physics Department, are excited to begin utilizing the state-of-the-art digital technology planetarium with our students and the local community. When Dr. Smetanka was appointed Vice President of Academic Affairs, I was rather anxious that we would be able to “fill his shoes” with a qualified professor. I was delighted when Dr. Vanden Berk accepted our offer to join the Boyer School faculty. He has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from the University of Chicago (like John) and was Senior Research Associate in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State before coming to Saint Vincent. His NASA-funded research project utilizes data transmitted from the Hubble Space Telescope to study the composition of the Andromeda Galaxy, which is similar to the Milky Way, in order to answer questions about its origins and development that will enhance understanding of our galaxy. He is now working with our Student Spotlight in this issue, Sarah Wesolowski, to produce a catalog of quasars with x-ray and ultraviolet data. This is my last message as Boyer School Dean, and I am happy to report that Dr. Smetanka will serve as the Interim Dean when I begin my tenure as President. I have delayed the position search until the fall in order to attract the strongest pool of candidates. It is exciting to see the new building take shape. We had a great “topping off” ceremony in the middle of March. We have sufficient funds to move forward with the biology building renovation, which will begin immediately after the fall semester. Biology operations will be conducted in the new facility and portions of the chemistry building for the spring semester. Since the last Boyer Bulletin, we have secured $3.8 million and are making good progress toward our goal. The completion of this project will be my number one priority as President. Please do come back and visit. It would be great to see you at the October 7 Threshold Lecture when we will welcome Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.
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
Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B.
Dean, Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing President-elect, Saint Vincent College
Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit Centerpiece of Dupré Science Pavilion by D O N O R L A N D O
Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., with Angelo J. Taiani, C’48
hen the first phase of the $39 million Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion opens at Saint Vincent College this fall, the centerpiece of the glass-walled atrium will be a state-of-the-art planetarium—the Angelo J. Taiani Planetarium and Astronaut Exhibit—made possible by a gift from the 1948 graduate, who enjoyed a successful career as an aerospace engineer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. “I think this new planetarium and exhibit will bring recognition to the nation’s space program and serve
Saint Vincent students as well as the western Pennsylvania area and beyond,” Mr. Taiani said. “Space exploration will dominate our nation’s future, since we can’t be satisfied with a lunar landing. The goal is to go to Mars as soon as a new launch vehicle can be developed, perhaps as early as 2020. I hope this new facility will help students get excited about the importance of interplanetary space exploration and the career opportunities available in this field.” Mr. Taiani believes that one of the objectives of space exploration is the search for extraterrestrial life and that exploration will eventually discover planets like the Earth light years away where life exists. “I think it’s very interesting.” Mr. Taiani, 85, a native of Latrobe and a graduate of Latrobe High School, served three years in the Navy during World War II and retired as a Navy Commander with 41 years of reserve service. He first became interested in aerospace when he was assigned to work with early guided missiles and space ordinance as a project officer for the first ten Jupiter launches. He returned to Saint Vincent and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in chemistry from SVC in 1948. Some of his fondest memories include discussing baseball with chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Nolan; his work as a student with the late Fr. Aiden Pfiester, O.S.B., in the Registrar’s Office; and Bearcat football games in the stadium, which occupied the site of the current science center. He also did graduate study at George Washington University. He worked on numerous projects at NASA as a general space engineer, in test support at Cape
areas where the Sun’s influence ends in interstellar Canaveral and later the Kennedy Space Center on space, and Oasis in Space, that highlights the unique the Juno project. He also worked in support of the characteristics of Earth. Another show, Two Small Space Shuttle program. He retired in 1984 after a Pieces of Glass, will feature highlights of the history of 34-year career with the space agency. He still lives space exploration.” in Cocoa Beach, Florida, and enjoys volunteering to The projector that Saint Vincent will install is called give tours of NASA facilities to journalists. He has SciDome and is powered by Starry Night software. known many of the astronauts, from Buzz Aldrin to The new high resolution system displays 1.5 million Alan Poindexter, and has been an avid collector of pixels with a 1400 x 1050 digital projector with fisheye photographs of the astronauts and launchings. Many lens. Over 16 million stars and one million galaxies of these have been given to Saint Vincent for display can be displayed along with the Earth, moon and the in the planetarium. He also collects space memorabilia planets. The 24-foot dome of the planetarium will and commemorative postal covers that honor manned accommodate 22 students in classroom configuration space missions. with high back desks and recliner chairs so viewers The planetarium projector system was purchased can comfortably look up and around without neck from the Spitz Corporation, based in Chadds Ford, strain. A flexible plan will seat 25 to 35 for public Pennsylvania. “They are a leader in planetarium shows or, for larger groups of younger children, the technology,” noted Dr. John Smetanka, vice president carpeted floor will invite them to literally lie down for academic affairs and academic dean. “The under the stars. The construction and equipment capabilities of the facility will be stunning.” costs were nearly a quarter million dollars. The planetarium will feature the latest digital Installation is expected to be completed for the fall technology that can not only project the nighttime sky semester. “We’re really but can also take viewers looking forward to having on a tour of the solar the planetarium open for system. “We will be able business,” Dr. Smetanka to move—at a moment’s said, “as well as a new notice—to any place that observatory nearby that we can imagine and see will feature a 14” glass what the sky would look telescope with multicolor like from any vantage CCD capability.” point—from the Earth as While other colleges well as the moon and the and universities have planets.” Dr. Smetanka planetariums, Saint Vinexplained. “We will be cent will be among the able to show spectacular first to install this cuttingviews that would be edge digital full dome impossible with a classic technology. “Because we projector.” have the benefit of new In addition to the A space shuttle departs on a mission. construction, we can take classroom use of the advantage of the latest in planetarium, the Boyer dome manufacturing and projector technology,” Dr. School will present public shows with full dome (360 Smetanka remarked. “My hope is that this popularizes degree vision) and surround sound. “Viewers will be the study of space exploration and science in general immersed in the experience,” Dr. Smetanka said. “A and lights a spark of interest in young minds, whether couple of the shows we are planning are Voyage to they are college students or high school or elementary the Edge of the Solar System, which will track some students who come for a field trip.” of the most recent NASA missions that travel to
Student’s Research Studies How Galaxies Have Changed by D O N O R L A N D O
arah Wesolowski, a junior physics major in the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing, is doing student research under the direction of assistant professor of physics Dr. Daniel Vanden Berk that is utilizing data from NASA’s Swift Satellite to produce the largest catalog of quasars with X-ray and ultraviolet data ever assembled. “We are part of a larger project that is helping researchers at Penn State identify and catalog quasars,” Ms. Wesolowski explained. “The Swift Satellite has an X-ray telescope, a gamma ray telescope and an ultraviolet/optical telescope. We’re using combined data to construct our catalog.” “We want to see how the universe has evolved over time,” she continued. “Since the quasars are so far away, we are actually looking back in time and can see how the galaxies have developed. When the catalog is completed at the end of this year, we are going to analyze data we have been receiving and should be able to draw some conclusions from it.” Why catalog quasars? “Mainly, I am doing this to learn how to do research, to study how the process works,” she said, “so that I can start doing my own research later. We can use this to help us begin other projects this summer and in the next couple of years. The Boyer School has given me the opportunity as a sophomore to begin forming ideas for my own senior research project.” “The project involves developing an understanding of Sarah Wesolowski, a junior physics major, is conducting student how active galaxies have evolved over the history of the research under the direction of Dr. Daniel Vanden Berk. universe,” Dr. Vanden Berk noted. “The particular type of galaxy we are interested in studying is called quasars. We think they are powered by supermassive black holes that are drawing in enormous amounts of material and shining very, very brightly. And, because they are so bright, we can see them at great distances away from Earth. As we look further out in space, we are really looking further back in time because light takes time to travel. We compare distant quasars with nearby galaxies to see how things have changed in the history of the universe – that’s one of the main goals of the project.” “Sarah started this project during the spring semester and so far has done very well,” Dr. Vanden Berk commented. “It is a learning process at this stage. We try to find projects that a bright student can do even with the knowledge they come to us with. Sarah is helping with a complex project and no matter what comes out of it we will learn more about the evolution of the universe and about these things called quasars. Sarah’s work has been very helpful so far and as she learns and does the project we will find a new project for her to do. When she becomes a senior, she will have her own project and write a publication as an undergraduate.” “The computer labs in the new Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion will certainly help in our research,” Dr. Vanden Berk predicted. “It will allow undergraduates to do research much more easily than they can now.” “One of the things we can do with the new planetarium is to display data in ways we haven’t before,” he concluded.
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Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium Threshold Speaker at SVC October 7
r. Neil deGrasse Tyson, director
of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, will speak at Saint Vincent College at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 7, 2010 in the Performing Arts Center of the Robert S. Carey Student Center in celebration of the completion of the first phase of the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion and the inauguration of Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B. as the 17th President of Saint Vincent College. His talk is entitled, “The Sky Is Not the Limit.” Admission is free of charge for Dr. Tyson’s presentation at Saint Vincent College. However, all seats in the Robert S. Carey Student Center’s Performing Arts Center are reserved and admission will be by ticket only. Requests for reservations may be made by email to email@example.com beginning September 13.
Newsletter of the Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computing