2020 Churchill Scholar
Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.Read More
Science has been part of the University of Utah since the very beginning.Read More
Michael Xiao brings home the U's fifth straight Churchill Scholarship.Read More
Science has been part of the University of Utah since the very beginning.Read More
"Civic engagement is a core value of our nation and, as we host the 2020 Vice Presidential debate, Utah students will be able to learn about the political process and experience firsthand how being involved matters." —Ruth V. Watkins, President of the University of Utah
Voting may not seem important to science majors and faculty, but participation is incredibly important. A voice for science in federal, state, and local politics provides a crucial point of view for our world. Much of the funding decisions that support scientific research and discovery occurs on the federal level, so what happens in Washington, D.C. impacts our College of Science community.
A Tufts University survey of university students across the US reports that STEM students are the least likely of any subject group to vote. In 2016, the humanities turnout was 53%. The STEM turnout was 43%. The Union of Concerned Scientists provides students with voter registration information and trains scientists for involvement in policy and advocacy.
Looking for a scientific perspective on our electoral process? Learn how mathematical analysis makes a difference in the political process through this video of Professor Tom Alberts explaining the Condorcet Paradox.
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 email@example.com or 801-581-4852 for more information.
- First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019
"Always be open to unforeseen possibilities and opportunities; never be afraid to fail, and learn from your failures," says George Elliott (PhD'81). "Don’t get bogged down in a very narrow line of pursuit—the broader your knowledge is the more creative and successful a problem-solver you will be." That's great advice to U Biology students today. And it seems to have been the advice Elliott himself followed back in the day when he was at the U, following his sojourn at University of California, San Diego where he earned his bachelor's.
“My graduate career began in 1973,” says Elliott who with his wife Lissa resides in Virginia. “I was one of only two students accepted into the molecular/cellular/genetics part of the Biology Department that had been newly constructed by K. Gordon Lark. Gordon had hired a dozen or more new professors, mostly young and engaged in a potpourri of cutting edge, exciting research.”
Elliott retired from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2016 following an auspicious career as, first, a patent examiner, manager and Group Director of the Tech Center responsible for biotechnology and pharmaceutical patent examination, and finally as Deputy Chief Policy Officer for Operations in the Office of Policy and International Affairs.
Stationed in Virginia, Elliott coordinated operations of approximately 45 attorneys and 55 admin and program staff responsible for advising U.S. Government on Intellectual Property matters and representing the U.S. government in IP-related international organizations and negotiations around the world. The Office of the Administrator for Policy and International Affairs at USPTO assists the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in advising the President, through the Secretary of Commerce, and Federal agencies on domestic and international IP issues as well as on United States treaty obligations.
Elliott’s experience at the University of Utah was formative across the board. While at the U, he chose to work with Marty Rechsteiner, now Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Biochemistry, who was continually coming up with new ways to look at intracellular small and large molecule metabolism. “The lessons I learned working with Marty and in my interactions with [SBS faculty] Toto Olivera, Mario Capecchi, Dana Carroll, Bill Gray and others, stayed with me for the rest of my career, whether in research or at the Patent and Trademark Office.”
With respect to COVID-19, Elliott is reassuring to students who are faced with what seems an unprecedented time during their academic careers. "It will pass, eventually, but everybody should take it seriously," he remarks. "The idea that younger people are somehow in less danger is being proven less and less true all the time. And nobody should think it is only about protecting themselves—it’s all about creating situations where the virus is spread. But students should know that—they just need to act on their knowledge."
George Elliott is more than grateful for his own experience at the U. He is also one of several alumni who have established a mechanism of estate giving to benefit the School of Biological Sciences. When asked why he has made a gift of this kind, he says, “The education I received while getting my PhD from U Biology was instrumental in providing us with a very enjoyable life together, and we feel it is very important to ensure that the programs that we benefited from can continue to the benefit of those who follow.”
by David Pace
About Planned Giving:
Some planned gifts may yield certain federal tax advantages and can even give you an income throughout your lifetime. The College of Science’s Crimson Legacy Society is designed to recognize those who have made a deep commitment to the future of the School of Biological Sciences through cash or planned gifts at the $50,000 level or above.
Members will be recognized on the Crimson Legacy donor wall and in the College's annual Discover publication. They will also receive special tokens of appreciation in recognition of their support.
SCIENCE NOW brings high school physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics curriculum to life by connecting students to research scientists
Students get an insider’s look at research at the University of Utah College of Science and an opportunity to indulge their curiosity about the natural world, innovation, and the future of science by engaging with elite researchers and scholars.
SCIENCE NOW, established 2020, is a College of Science program that is delivered online, using asynchronous and synchronous tools.
Audience: We recommend SCIENCE NOW for students in grades 9-12 who are enrolled in physics, mathematics, biology, and/or chemistry (Honors, Advance Placement, and IB students preferred). Parents, faculty, administrators, and advisors are also invited. A SCIENCE NOW event is intended for groups of at least 20 students, up to 100.
Our scientists: 4 research scholars representing each department in the College of Science: 3 scientists (a biologist, chemist, and physicist or astronomer) and a mathematician. Scholars selected for your event are exceptional communicators and educators, highly relatable, and engaged in research that is newsworthy and accessible to a general audience.
SCIENCE NOW is delivered virtually, using event pages customized to the needs of your school. Click on the tabs below to learn more about the synchronous and asynchronous event tools used to connect high school classes to our research scientists.
On the SCIENCE NOW webpages, your students will be introduced to our researchers through research scholar profiles, which will include:
Here are a few ideas for assessing your student’s engagement with our elite research scientists:
(Note: SCIENCE NOW will create and provide additional assessment tools if needed)
Upon scheduling a SCIENCE NOW event, you will be able to customize several elements, such as:
There are still many challenges to be solved.
Tour the College of Science Tour the stunning science campus at the […]Read More
Individuals from all dimensions of diversity who embody excellence, leadership and equity.Read More
Armed with optimism and a degree in physics, Jim Kaschmitter BS’72, showed up for his first day on the job at Anaconda Copper’s Research Facility in Salt Lake City only to be told by his supervisor to go home because Chile had just nationalized its copper mines. Undeterred, Kaschmitter found a job with OmniLift Corporation, a Salt Lake City startup that was developing a new type of conveyor system in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the U. While working at the U, Kaschmitter bought one of the first Hewlett Packard HP25 calculators and became fascinated by computers. This fascination has led to a long and successful career in Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley Beckons
In 1976, Kaschmitter earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University while working for Professor Robert Byer (the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Applied Physics at Stanford’s Applied Physics Department), helping to build laser spectroscopy equipment. He began a Ph.D. program in Applied Physics but dropped out to take a job at Stanford Telecommunications. Inc. (STI) in Mountain View, Calif. STI was founded by the late James Spilker, Jr., who hired Kaschmitter as an early employee. Spilker was one of the inventors of GPS. While at STI, Kaschmitter designed and built a Viterbi convolutional codec (with an encoder and decoder) for satellite communications.
From there Kaschmitter turned his attention to microprocessors, which were then rapidly advancing in Silicon Valley. He co-developed an automated wafer dicing saw using an Imsai 8080 he and his partner purchased from the first Byte Shop in Mountain View, Calif. Interestingly, this shop had the first Apple computer for sale at the time—an unpackaged PCB with a keyboard. After several interim electronics design jobs, Kaschmitter was recruited to Elxsi Corporation, a San Jose startup founded by ex-Digital Equipment Corporation engineers, where he designed the disk subsystem and worked on the IEEE floating point processor and high-speed bus. He became interested in integrated circuit packaging, which led him to apply for a position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
At LLNL, Kaschmitter undertook several projects, including laser pantography for integrated circuit packaging, image processing, and redundant computing for orbital satellites, solar electric aircraft, and energy storage. In 1987, he co-founded nChip Corporation to commercialize hybrid wafer-scale integration; this technology was later sold to Flextronics. In 1989, Kaschmitter assumed responsibility for developing a low-cost power system for President Reagan’s Star Wars satellite system, but he was frustrated by the expensive, heavy batteries then used in satellites, so he began to investigate lithium-ion, or Li-ion batteries, which were still in the research and development phase. He co-founded PolyStor Corporation in 1993, with a grant from President Clinton’s Technology Reinvestment Project program, and his company subsequently established the first commercial Li-ion manufacturing facility in the U.S. In 1997, he spun off PowerStor Corporation from PolyStor to commercialize a carbon aerogel supercapacitor he’d co-invented at LLNL. PowerStor was subsequently acquired by Cooper Bussmann, Inc., which manufactures 1-2 million supercapacitors per month.
Today, Kaschmitter is CEO of SpectraPower (which he founded in 2002) in Livermore, Calif in order to apply PolyStor’s high-energy Nickel-Cobalt technology for high-altitude electric drones. Initially, the market wasn’t yet ready for the technology, so Kaschmitter subsequently founded UltraCell Corporation to work on reformed methanol micro-fuel cell technology. UltraCell’s fuel cells are deployed today with the U.S. military. In the meantime, Kaschmitter has continued with SpectraPower and now focuses his efforts there on supporting users and developers of Li-based battery technologies.
Memories of the U
“The U is a great school with strong technical departments and academics, especially in the area of physics. The department always had an international outlook but with a supportive small-school atmosphere,” said Kaschmitter. “The students and professors were friendly, approachable, and focused on science. Physics has truly provided the foundation for my career.” He also appreciated the advice provided by Professor Orest Symko, whose insights helped Kaschmitter set personal goals and priorities.
During his undergraduate years, one of his favorite jobs was running the undergraduate Physics Lab, where he maintained and explained basic physics experiments to students. “There have been some stressful times later in my career when I’ve wished I could have that job back!” quipped Kaschmitter.
His advice for undergraduate students is twofold: set career goals and be prepared to work hard to achieve them. As Edison famously said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”
“I’d also encourage students to stay “fact-based” in whatever profession they choose,” said Kaschmitter. “Don’t let the zeitgeist or trendy popular ideas control your technical thinking. Weigh different opinions, but trust in facts and data. Learn to separate hype from reality.”
Like many of us, Kaschmitter is facing uncertainties during the pandemic but believes the quarantine can provide us with opportunities for independent work. For example, Sir Isaac Newton invented calculus, optics, etc., while he was quarantined in the English countryside during the Great Plague. “We probably can’t all do that, but I’ve found the quarantine allows me to get a lot of work done without the usual day-to-day distractions,” said Kaschmitter.
When he isn’t working, he makes time for his other love—flying. He has a long-time interest in aviation and first did a solo flight at age 16 at the Salt Lake International Airport. “My instructor was Bill Edde, and I sometimes flew with his older brother, who was a former WWI Spad fighter pilot. Later in my career, while at LLNL, I developed lightweight wing-mounted solar panels for the Pathfinder and Helios solar electric aircraft, which AeroVironment subsequently used to set altitude records,” said Kaschmitter. He currently owns, maintains, and flies an experimental Velocity XL-RG: N568Y.
In summing up his career, Kaschmitter notes his favorite adage: “If you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life,” and that’s certainly how I feel about my career." He admits physics is not the easiest path academically, but studying it gives students a fundamental understanding of science and technology that will give them an edge over the competition. “I’ve dealt with many venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and worldwide throughout my career,” he said. “Having a technical background is a real asset—the ones without it are at a disadvantage in today’s technology-reliant world.”
Below are some services that are intended to empower students to succeed in their course content and develop transferable skills to help them in their academic careers.
1. Go to class – and participate.
Class attendance actually does affect your grade. Exams are sometimes based on lectures and not chapters of the book, so it is important to be present in class. Also, instructors will sometimes make important announcements during class pertaining to assignments and exams.
2. Learn how to take notes.
The Learning Center can help you improve on note-taking strategies. Develop good study habits by reviewing your notes often, and writing down questions you have to address with the instructor.
3. Utilize a planner or electronic calendar.
Time management is critical to becoming a successful student. Write down deadlines for items that involve classes, study time, campus activities, and work obligations. Here is the University of Utah’s Academic Calendar for important dates for registration, finals, etc.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – and don’t wait until it’s too late.
Reach out to instructors, TAs, and LAs during their office hours to get help with assignments and other issues relating to the class. Make an appointment with an advisor, and utilize the tutoring resources below!
5. Don’t give up!
We know college can be hard, and life often throws additional challenges your way. You can do this, and we are here to help.
OUR DNA, the School of Biological Sciences magazine, is published twice a year. If you do not currently receive our newsletter, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to our mailing list.
Biology, Chemistry, Math, and Physics Research, SRI Update, New Construction.Read More
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Science Research Initiative, College Rankings, Commutative Algebra, and more.Read More
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Few encounter a fer-de-lance snake and walk away unscathed. While working in Costa Rica recent School of Biological Sciences (SBS) graduate Jordan Herman (PhD’20) moved closer to observe a toucan dismembering the green iguana it was having for lunch. When the bird took off and dropped half of it, Herman picked up the iguana’s tail and realized she had nearly stepped on the coiled and camouflaged pit viper at her feet. As the bird returned to finish its meal, Herman stood still, suddenly stuck between an intimidating toucan and the venomous snake. She escaped the dangerous situation by offering up the tail and backing away slowly.
For Herman, this moment earned her “a new appreciation for how cool and terrifying nature can be.”
Herman originally came to the SBS graduate program in 2014 from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Her research has been focused on the fitness consequences that mockingbirds experience when they are co-exploited, how the co-occurring parasites interact with each other, and the roles that host defenses play in these species interactions.
Now a post doctoral fellow in the Clayton-Bush lab, Herman thrives in the outdoors and has always been captivated by birds. While working as a field assistant in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, she became hooked on parasitic nest flies and their endemic bird hosts. This interest, in turn, brought her to Argentina, where she worked on the effects of parasitic nest flies and brood-parasitic cowbirds on their shared host, the chalk-browed mockingbird.
Her passion for the outdoors extends to her adopted home of Utah. When she isn’t backpacking all over the Intermountain West, you can find her spending time in her Salt Lake City garden with her four chickens–Dotty, Penguin, Mungo, and Jerry. Currently, she and her partner Joey have also been treating themselves to sushi takeout from Sapa, a local Asian fusion restaurant where, she says, “you can still order mussel shooters!”
Outside of her research, Herman has also made a lasting impact in SBS where she is grounded in a close-knit community of biologists with wide-ranging research interests. As a mentor, she has soared by offering strong support and advice to those around her. “Jordan’s unwavering sense of self allows her to be a generous mentor,” explains fellow graduate student, Maggie Doolin (Dearing lab), “and one of the most consistent sources of truth and support I’ve encountered anywhere throughout my life. She is one-of-a-kind,” continues Doolin, “and I’m lucky to have had her welcome me to the SBS grad program for all things life and science.” When asked what the best advice Herman herself has received in graduate school, she replies, “Publish early!” You can find Herman’s publications in journals like Ecology and the Journal of Avian Biology.
Clearly an expert in field research, Herman uses her knowledge to give back to her community. “Given the amount of field research, field courses, and outdoor recreation that happens in SBS, our community has a major need for wilderness preparedness,” she says. This need gave rise to Herman’s involvement in developing the biennial subsidized Wilderness First Aid course which is available to students, faculty, and staff in the SBS. A future goal is to expand this program to more personnel across the College of Science.
Jordan Herman, PhD, is truly a force of nature. Next time you’re stuck between an intimidating toucan and a camouflaged pit viper, remember to ask yourself, WWJHD?: What would Jordan Herman do? The School of Biological Sciences is indebted to Jordan Herman. She will always have a place here among the wide variety of birds and lifelong friends nestled at the base of the Wasatch Mountains.
by Andy Sposato
Andy is a graduate student in the Gagnon lab and co-founder of the LGBTQ+ STEM Interest Group in the College of Science.