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McKay Hyde, BS’97

McKay Hyde (Honors B.A. Mathematics, B.A. Physics ’97) always enjoyed math and science, but it was taking a series of physics classes at the U, between his junior and senior year in high school, that changed his life. “I always enjoyed mathematics,” he said. “But physics showed me how mathematics could be used to solve real-world problems. That was tremendously exciting to me and still is.”

The Hyde Family

Today Hyde is managing director in Equities Engineering for the New York office of Goldman Sachs and is responsible for building systems to manage securities inventory and collateral, working closely with teams across Engineering, as well as the Finance, Operations and Securities divisions. “I like being part of a cross-functional team, building relationships and working together to find solutions that impact the organization and the clients we serve,” he said. “The combination of using mathematics and computer science applied to practical problems is very rewarding.”

He joined Goldman Sachs in 2006 and was named managing director in 2010. At Goldman Sachs, Hyde has had a range of responsibilities. He was head of the global Market Risk Technology team within Finance and Risk Engineering. Before that, Hyde led the Trading Strats team for Interest Rate Products in New York as well as the Core Quant Strats team, which developed models, algorithmic trading methods, and pricing infrastructure used by a number of trading desks. (“Strat” is a term that originated with Goldman Sachs to describe individuals that use tools from mathematics and computer science to build financial models In his Core Quant Strat role, Hyde led the build out of the Strat teams in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, known as “The Silicon Valley of India.”

McKay Hyde, BS'97

Roots in Utah and at the U

Hyde grew up in Salt Lake City and North Salt Lake, graduating from Woods Cross High School. He met his wife, Marie, in an “outstanding” honors class taught by Professor Emeritus Jack Newell (“Education and Identity”), who served as dean and principal architect of the U’s Liberal Education Program. In his first two years at the U Hyde was also active in the U’s music program, playing the trumpet in several university bands—Concert, Marching, Pep, and Jazz.

Hyde gives credit to the education he received at the U with helping prepare him for a career in the financial sector. “I received a tremendous education in physics and mathematics, including research experience working in the Cosmic Ray group and in probability theory. The U provides great value as an institution—a quality education at a reasonable cost,” he said.

He also has great memories of three professors who made a difference for him during his undergraduate years: Davar Khoshnevisan (professor and current chair of the Math Department), Hyde’s undergraduate research advisor in mathematics; Martha Bradley, former dean of the Honors College, and the late Professor Gale Dick, whose “physics lectures were a work of art,” said Hyde.

Using Agile Principles in Undergraduate Research

Hyde believes students should be encouraged to participate in research opportunities early in their undergraduate years, and he applauds the decision of the College of Science to focus on a new program called the Undergraduate Research Initiative. “Research is very different from coursework—it’s really a separate skill,” said Hyde. “Engaging and encouraging undergrads to work together in research opportunities provides a far richer educational experience that really pays off in preparing students for demanding careers.”

To that end, Hyde thinks the same concepts and principles that teams use in Agile software development can effectively be applied to something like the Undergraduate Research Initiative program. “Creating an Agile environment—whether in software development or research—is essentially the same,” said Hyde.

“It involves developing and supporting a culture that encourages a team of people to work toward a common goal. To that end, a large project or research problem can be broken down into smaller tasks. A scrum master or team leader evaluates the special skills and talents of each individual on the team, assigns them to specific tasks, and the team comes together frequently—typically during a daily stand up —over focused sprints—typically 2-3 weeks long—to complete those tasks yielding demonstrable progress at the end of each sprint. By repeating this process, the team improves while building confidence and trust through repeated accomplishment of its goals.”

Previous Academic Career

After earning degrees at the U in 1997 Hyde completed a Ph.D. in Applied and Computational Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology in 2003. Hyde worked as a postdoc in the School of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota and later joined Rice University as an assistant professor of computational and applied mathematics.

When Hyde first left academia to work at Goldman Sachs, he wondered if he would need to dress and act like a “stereotypical banker.” But he discovered it was a much easier transition. “I found smart people from technical fields applying their skills in the area of finance,” he said. “It made me realize the importance of being open to new opportunities—taking the skills and talents you have and using them in different fields or industries to build relationships with others and do meaningful work. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Hyde and his wife, Marie, enjoy living in New Jersey and are the parents of four children: a son studying music at Berklee College of Music; a daughter at Brigham Young University (currently serving a church mission in Peru); and a son and daughter in high school.

 - First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019

Crimson Legacy

Crimson Legacy Society


A planned gift is the easiest way to make a major contribution to help the university advance scientific education and research. Your gift will produce exceptional opportunities for students and faculty.

The Crimson Legacy Society is designed to recognize those who have made a deep commitment to the future of the college. Members will be recognized on the Crimson Legacy donor wall and in the college’s annual Notebook publication. You will also receive special recognition of your support and be inducted into the University’s Park Society.

How do I become a member?
Designate a gift or pledge of $50,000, or more, in your will or estate to either the University of Utah College of Science, the School of Biological Sciences, or one of the departments of Chemistry, Mathematics, or Physics & Astronomy.

What if I already have the college or one of the departments in my will or estate plan?
First of all, thank you! Second, please contact us so we can record the details of the gift.

Please contact Jeff Martin at martin@science.utah.edu or 801-581-4852 for more information.

 

 - First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019

Engaging STEM Students

ENGAGING STEM STUDENTS


How can we meaningfully engage students in STEM courses? How can we make Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields (STEM) more inclusive and accessible?

Claudia De Grandi

The retention rate in STEM fields is low—many students who initially plan to pursue a degree in STEM drop out because they don’t identify with the environment they’re exposed to and they don’t enjoy their STEM courses. How can we keep students excited and interested in staying in STEM?

Claudia De Grandi, assistant professor (lecturer) of educational practice in the Physics and Astronomy Department, spends most of her time thinking about how to make her courses more inclusive and how to encourage every student, independently of their background, abilities and identities, to participate and engage in STEM fields successfully.

“I love teaching because of its challenges,” said De Grandi. “Something that worked well in one place may not work in another setting. It’s the role of the teacher to listen to the students and adapt to be in tune with them. My goals are to be equitable and inclusive, although I don’t always achieve it.

Unfortunately, we’re all biased, and it’s our responsibility to keep trying to understand how it feels to be someone else.” De Grandi tries her best to consider the hurdles and inequities each student has to overcome to succeed in school. She has taught at Yale University, Housatonic Community College (Bridgeport, Conn.), and now at the U.

Her teaching style relies on the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices and is informed by the latest results from Physics Education Research (PER). PER is the field of physics that aims to understand and assess how students learn and make sense of physics concepts and identify successful teaching practices and instructional approaches.

In support of previous PER research, De Grandi has found that using active learning techniques and providing opportunities to promote group work are key to student success. “I started implementing group quizzes a few years ago—now I also do group exams. I prompt student reflections (on exam mistakes, performance, and preparation) and on their mindset (growth or fixed),” said De Grandi. “I do like to surprise my students by asking them to talk about something not related to physics. Learning is not just about content—I work to make sure my students are comfortable sitting in class so they can focus on learning.”

Here is what one student said about De Grandi’s teaching: “Claudia is amazing, and she’s one of the main reasons I enjoy coming to class. Her drawings are cute, and her examples are always fun and silly. She includes everyone and really knows how to make a class fun. I was worried I’d hate physics but she definitely made me love it. “

De Grandi grew up in Milan, Italy, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Milan. In 2011, she obtained a Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics from Boston University.

She was at Yale University first as a research postdoc and continued as a teaching postdoc through the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. She joined the U in July 2018 as an assistant professor (lecturer) in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. De Grandi has been actively involved in faculty training on teaching for the past five years and has served as a facilitator and leader for the Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching (https://www.summerinstitutes.org/) at several U.S. campuses as well as at University College London. She is currently collaborating with the U’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education to bring a Summer Institute to the U next spring. Interested faculty from the College of Science will be invited to participate.

At the U, De Grandi has redesigned and led the Teaching Assistant (TA) Orientation for Physics and Astronomy graduate students. The training focuses on preparing incoming graduate students to teach by promoting group work, being aware of student diversity, and fostering a welcoming environment.

“This spring I’ll be teaching a new course called “Being Human in STEM,” said De Grandi. “Although I’ve taught this course before at Yale, this will be my first time teaching it here, along with a team of colleagues in math, chemistry, and astronomy.”

The course combines academic inquiry and community engagement to investigate diversity and climate within STEM. Students will examine how diverse personal backgrounds shape the STEM experience both at the U and nationally. “The goal is to start a dialogue among STEM faculty and students to identify issues with the STEM environment and develop interventions to help ameliorate these problems,” said De Grandi. “I look forward to teaching the course, and learning, from and with the students.”

 - by Michele Swaner
  First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019

Science Internships

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A.A.U. Membership

 

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH INVITED TO JOIN THE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES.

 
The University of Utah is one of the newest members of the prestigious Association of American Universities, which for more than 100 years has recognized the most outstanding academic institutions in the nation.

 

"It is difficult to overstate the importance of AAU Membership. This elevates the U to an exceptional category of peer institutions."
- Dean Peter Trapa

 

Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Universities (AAU), announced Wednesday that University of Utah President Ruth V. Watkins has accepted an invitation to join the association, along with the University of California, Santa Cruz and Dartmouth College. The three new members bring the number of AAU institutions to 65.

AAU invitations are infrequent; this year’s invitations are the first since 2012.

 

 

“AAU’s membership is limited to institutions at the forefront of scientific inquiry and educational excellence,” said Coleman. “These world-class institutions are a welcome addition, and we look forward to working with them as we continue to shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation.” - Mary Sue Coleman

 

About the AAU
The AAU formed in 1900 to promote and raise standards for university research and education. Today its mission is to “provide a forum for the development and implementation of institutional and national policies promoting strong programs of academic research and scholarship and undergraduate, graduate and professional education.”

A current list of member institutions can be found here. The membership criteria are based on a university’s research funding (the U reached a milestone of $547 million in research funding in FY2019); the proportion of faculty elected to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine; the impact of research and scholarship; and student outcomes. The U has 21 National Academies members, with some elected to more than one academy.

An AAU committee periodically reviews universities and recommends them to the full association for membership, where a three-fourths vote is required to confirm the invitation.

Leaders of AAU member universities meet to discuss common challenges and future directions in higher education. The U’s leaders will now join those meetings, which include the leaders of all the top 10 and 56 of the top 100 universities in the United States.

 

“We already knew that the U was one of the jewels of Utah and of the Intermountain West. This invitation shows that we are one of the jewels of the entire nation.” - H. David Burton

 

U on the rise
In FY2019 the U celebrated a historic high of $547 million in sponsored project funding, covering a wide range of research activities. These prestigious awards from organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy, National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are supporting work in geothermal energy, cross-cutting, interdisciplinary approaches to research that challenge existing paradigms and effects of cannabinoids on pain management.

They also are funding educational research programs with significant community engagement, such as the U’s STEM Ambassador Program and the Genetic Science Learning Center’s participation in the All of Us Research Program.

“AAU is a confirmation of the quality and caliber of our faculty and the innovative work they are doing to advance knowledge and address grand societal challenges. Our students and our community will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these endeavors. " - President Ruth Watkins

 

On Nov. 4, 2019, the U announced a $150 million gift, the largest single-project donation in its history, to establish the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. These gifts and awards are in addition to the ongoing support of the U from the Utah State Legislature.

This fall the university welcomed its most academically prepared class of first-year students. The freshman cohort includes 4,249 students boasting an impressive 3.66 average high school GPA and an average ACT composite score of 25.8. The incoming class also brings more diversity to campus with both a 54% increase in international students and more bilingual students than the previous year’s freshman class. Among our freshmen who are U.S. citizens, 30% are students of color.

The U’s focus on student success has led to an increased six-year graduation rate, which now sits at 70%—well above the national average for four-year schools. The rate has jumped 19 percentage points over the past decade, making it one of only two public higher education research institutions to achieve this success.


Prospective Students

Why Science?


Science Research Initiative

The College of Science is committed to placing freshman students in science research.

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Scholarships & Aid

Scholarships for freshmen, undergraduate and graduate students.

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College Rankings

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ACCESS Program

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Opportunity

We connect students with the vast opportunities that science and mathematics unlock.

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Faculty Profiles

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Why Utah?


Utah Recreation

Hiking, biking, running, paddling, skiing, flying, climbing, exploring, and relaxing.

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Explore Salt Lake City

A modern metropolis nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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Prospective Faculty

Why Utah?


 


Utah Recreation

Hiking, biking, running, paddling, skiing, flying, climbing, exploring, and relaxing.

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Explore Salt Lake City

A modern metropolis nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

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University Benefits

Medical, dental, retirement, tuition , wellness, and Employee Assistance Program.

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Faculty Stories


Tino Nyawelo

I see myself in those kids who are brought here as refugees.

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Running with Scissors

In gene-targeting, CRISPR makes a really good pair of "scissors".

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Electrochemistry

Henry S. White - A positive force in Electrochemistry.

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Commutative Algebra

Can commutative algebra help us solve real-world problems?

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Engaging STEM Students

How can we make STEM education more inclusive and effective?

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TreeTop Barbie

Nalini Nadkarni has created a "Canopy Researcher" version of the popular Barbie doll.

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Fellow of the A.M.S.

Davar Khoshnevisan, named Fellow of American Mathematical Society.

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Going with the Flow

John Sperry studies how plant hydraulics and xylem tissue influence regional weather.

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Royal Fellow

Christopher Hacon adds another honor of a lifetime to his already stellar resume.

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New Physics

Pearl Sandick discusses Dark Matter and challenging the Standard Model.

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TreeTop Barbie

When Nalini Nadkarni was a young scientist in the 1980s, she wanted to study the canopy – the part of the trees just above the forest floor to the very top branches.

But back then, people hadn't figured out a good way to easily reach the canopy so it was difficult to conduct research in the tree tops. And Nadkarni's graduate school advisors didn't really think studying the canopy was worthwhile. "That's just Tarzan and Jane stuff. You know that's just glamour stuff," Nadkarni remembers advisors telling her. "There's no science up there that you need to do."

They couldn't have been more wrong. Over the course of her career, Nadkarni's work has illuminated the unique and complex world of the forest canopy.

She helped shape our understanding of canopy soils — a type of soil that forms on the tree trunks and branches. The soil is made up of dead canopy plants and animals that decompose in place. The rich soil supports canopy-dwelling plants, insects and microorganisms that live their entire life cycles in the treetops. If the canopy soil falls to the forest floor, the soil joins the nutrient cycles of the whole forest.

She also discovered that some trees are able to grow above-ground roots from their branches and trunks. Much like below ground roots, the aerial roots can transport water and nutrients into the tree.

During Nadkarni's early work as an ecologist she began to realize something else: There weren't many women conducting canopy research.

Nadkarni was determined to change this. In the early 2000s, she and her lab colleagues came up with the idea of TreeTop Barbie, a canopy researcher version of the popular Barbie doll that could be marketed to young girls.

She pitched the idea to Mattel, the company that makes Barbie. "When I proposed this idea they said, 'We're not interested. That has no meaning to us," says Nadkarni. "We make our own Barbies."

Nadkarni decided to make them herself anyway. She thrifted old Barbies; commissioned a tailor to make the clothes for TreeTop Barbie; and she created a TreeTop Barbie field guide to canopy plants. Nadkarni sold the dolls at cost and brought TreeTop Barbie to conferences and lectures.

Her efforts landed her in the pages of The New York Times, and word eventually got back to Mattel. The owners of Barbie wanted her to shut down TreeTop Barbie due to brand infringement.

Nadkarni pushed back.

"Well you know, I know a number of journalists who would be really interested in knowing that Mattel is trying to shut down a small, brown woman who's trying to inspire young girls to go into science," she recalls telling Mattel.

Mattel relented. The company allowed her to continue her small-scale operation. By Nadkarni's count, she sold about 400 dolls over the years.

Then in 2018, more than a decade after Nadkarni started TreeTop Barbie, she got an unbelievable phone call. National Geographic had partnered with Mattel to make a series of Barbies focused on exploration and science. And they wanted Nadkarni to be an advisor.

"I thought, this is incredible. This is like full circle coming around. This is a dream come true," says Nadkarni.

For its part, Mattel is "thrilled to partner with National Geographic and Nalini," a spokesperson told NPR.

Nadkarni knows that everyone might not approve of her working with Barbie. Barbie's role in creating an unrealistic standard of beauty for young women has been debated. Nadkarni has also wrestled with how she feels about it.

"My sense is yes she's a plastic doll. Yes she's configured in all the ways that we should not be thinking of how women should be shaped," says Nadkarni. "But the fact that now there are these explorer Barbies that are being role models for little girls so that they can literally see themselves as a nature photographer, or an astrophysicist, or an entomologist or you know a tree climber... It's never perfect. But I think it's a step forward."

Nadkarni is an Emeritus Professor at The Evergreen State College, and currently is a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah.

 

Nalini Nadkarni's story has appeared in The Washington Post, Time Magazine, Taiwan News, News India Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, National Geographic, The Guardian, Science Friday, San Francisco Chronicle, India Today, India Times, KSL News, Salt Lake Tribune, USA Today, BBC, The Morning Journal, CNN, UNEWS, Star Tribune, National Science Foundation, Continuum, TreeHugger, and many others.

 

 

- First Published by NPR News, Fall 2019

 

Research Funding

Research Funding Tops $540 Million


Total Research Funding

Through the accumulated efforts of University faculty, students and staff, the U achieved its most successful research funding year ever in 2019, passing a $540 million milestone. The final total is $547 million, composed of grants large and small, from donors in all 50 states.

Recognized as a Top-Tier 1 research university—The University’s research vision is to cultivate national and international research community through excellence, innovation, and interdisciplinary research at the University of Utah.

In addition to the U’s diverse research portfolio, the institution is also a catalyst for economic growth and innovation, creating over 302 spin-out companies—and 16,000 jobs—from the university’s inventions and technologies.

With the determination and support of our research community, the University of Utah will continue to develop cutting-edge research to enhance the lives of current and future generations to come.

Funding Growth

Growth

Thanks to the extraordinary efforts and quality of faculty, trainees and staff, University of Utah research funding reached $547 million in FY 2019, the highest in the U’s history.

Funding grew at around 4 percent per year since 2003, and 7 percent per yer during the past five years. Since 2013, funding has consistently increased every year.

Funding Sources

Sources

Extramural funding comes mostly from federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health.

The U’s increase in federal funding builds on the remarkable achievement of Max Wintrobe in 1945 who received the very first grant from NIH to study muscular dystrophy.

USHE Degrees

Degrees

The University of Utah produces 49% of total STEM degrees from Utah System of Higher Education schools and 72% of STEM graduate degrees.

 - First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019

 

 

Winter Update

Crimson Laureate Society - December 2019


In January, Cameron Owen of Boise, Idaho, a senior Honers student in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, received the U’s fourth consecutive Churchill Scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

On May 15, Owen joined 657 of his fellow science students as they received their degrees. Some of these students may have fallen short of this achievement without the support of the Crimson Laureate Society.

In July, Dean Peter Trapa assumed the helm of the College amidst a whirlwind of activity—quickly moving forward with former Dean Henry White’s plans for undergraduate research, safety improvements, and a new Physical Sciences building.

On November 6, the University of Utah was invited to join the Association of American Universities, an exclusive group of 65 universities that University President Ruth V. Watkins calls, “the most prestigious association in higher education.” AAU member universities earn the majority of federal research funding and collectively help shape policy for higher education, science, and innovation. Inclusion in AAU is recognition of our unwavering support for science and technology and a major achievement for the College of Science.

In January 2020 the College will launch the initial streams of the Science Research Initiative (SRI). At most institutions, students have to wait until their junior or senior year to get a taste of research, if at all. The SRI provides every incoming undergraduate the opportunity to participate in discovery-based scientific research programs. Innovative programs like the SRI would not be possible without support from Crimson Laureate Society members.

While we are overjoyed by our recent accomplishments, we will not be resting on our laurels. There are many new discoveries to be made, and new generations of scientists to be mentored and inspired. Help us continue this journey by joining the Crimson Laureate Society, or renewing your membership, today. Your contributions make a positive impact on our faculty and students. Thank you!

For more information on Crimson Laureate Society membership and College of Science alumni events, contact Jeff Martin at martin@science.utah.edu.

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