The Science of Sea Ice

The Science of Sea Ice

A sheet of floating Arctic or Antarctic ice probably isn’t the setting in which you’d expect to find a mathematician. But that’s exactly where distinguished professor Ken Golden trains students and carries out experiments, as explained in a video introduction to Golden’s Frontiers of Science lecture, hosted by the College of Science and held on Feb. 18.

“It’s one thing to sort of sit in your office and develop theorems and theories and models about as complex a system as sea ice,” Golden says. “It exhibits all kinds of fascinating phenomena and behavior that you wouldn’t necessarily expect or think is important until you actually get down there and see it in action.”

Watch the full video introduction, produced by University Marketing & Communications, below or find the video here. Golden talks about his experiences in the Arctic and Antarctica and about what he and his students have learned from bringing the principles of mathematics into some of Earth’s most remote and most vulnerable environments.

Golden studies how sea ice forms and melts using mathematical models. He’s logged 18 trips to the Arctic and Antarctic, and is a Fellow of the Explorers Club. He is also a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

The Frontiers of Science lecture series was established in 1967 by University of Utah alumnus and Physics Professor Peter Gibbs. Today, Frontiers of Science is the longest continuously running lecture series at the University of Utah. The 2020-2021 Frontiers of Science lectures, featuring University of Utah faculty, are online only.

In Golden’s lecture, he discusses his research, his Arctic and Antarctic adventures and how mathematics is currently playing an important role in addressing these fundamental issues and will likely play an even greater role in the future. Watch the full video of the presentation below, or find the video here.

Ken Golden’s Recent Research


by Paul Gabrielsen - first published in @THEU


Josh Carroll


Josh Carroll

Veteran To Janitor To Physicist, Via YouTube.

Josh Carroll volunteered for the U.S. Army before he finished high school. He did three tours of duty in Afghanistan. He worked as a janitor, among other jobs, between those tours. And in the library of the school he was cleaning, he found one book that rekindled his love of science and set his career on a new path.

The book?

Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

“I began reading that every night just piece by piece, and it just slowly started to re-sink in, like just, oh my goodness, I’ve really missed this,” Carroll told me in a recent episode of the TechFirst podcast. “This is like, I love learning about it.”

That book re-opened his eyes.

And that love of learning was essential to Carroll’s path to achieving his dream.

Because Carroll had a problem. While as a kid he had always loved space and learning about the stars, he did not have the math and physics background to pursue a career studying them. Thanks to volunteering for three tours of duty, he had a 10th-grade math education and none of the prerequisites for advanced college courses in physics or astronomy. So after starting a general studies degree at New River Community College in Virginia he decided to do something radical about his passion: teach it to himself.

And, as featured by YouTube recently where I heard his story for the first time, Carroll’s teacher became videos. In a subsequent job as a security guard, online lectures in calculus and trigonometry filled the long hours between patrol rounds. Khan Academy helped, of course, and online lessons from college-prof-turned-internet-academic PatrickJMT (read Patrick: Just Math Tutorials) filled his nights.

Typically, however, as can be the case with many self-taught people, one critical thing slipped through the cracks. And it was only after he learned enough to apply for advanced studies at another university that Carroll discovered it.

“I went and applied to go to Radford University to get into their physics program and found out that I was missing the entire field, the entire course of trigonometry, which I didn’t even know … I didn’t know about it,” Carroll told me. “And so when I went to apply, they were like, ‘Oh, you didn’t take trig, you won’t be able to do our physics program.’”

That was three or four weeks before the semester started.

Carroll begged for an exception and promised to learn trigonometry in those three weeks, which the university granted. Then he crammed those weeks full of trig courses and videos, and ended up near the top of his class.

But it wasn’t without some adrenaline-pumping experiences.

“It was terrifying and exhilarating ... there were still some gaps,” Carroll says. “There was still some stuff at that time that I just didn’t know the rules, because I never had to apply them before. So it was also a lot of on-the-job training sort of a thing, where I would answer the question and then I’d ask one of my classmates, ‘Did I do this right?’ And they’d be like, ‘No, you need to do this with the sine function’ or something.’”

The result was a Bachelor of Science in physics and graduation from Radford University, and now Carroll divides his time between being a research and development engineer at Booz Allen and a master’s program in science and technology at the University of Utah that focuses on computational science and applied mathematics.

Not bad for someone working in post-school life as a janitor and security guard, and picking up a copy of A Brief History of Time by of the most famous physicists in history.

The most impressive part, of course, is the way that Carroll took control of his education and learned the knowledge that he needed on his own ... with the help of innumerable people who have shared their expertise online.

“I’m a big proponent of what I call the ‘democratization of learning,’ the decentralization of certain skill sets that you can learn, especially with computer science and coding, there’s so many things out there,” he says. “It’s a culture in computer science and coding. There’s GitHub and there’s online resources you can go to and absolutely pick skills up without the degree stamp.”

 - by John Koetsier first published by the

Gameil Fouad, BS’93

Gameil Fouad


As an undergraduate student at the U, Gameil Fouad, BS’93, had some big decisions to make.

Having grown up in Layton, Utah, Fouad spent much of his time exploring the foothills and canyons of northern Utah.

“I honestly wanted to pursue a career in ecology or environmental science. I’d envisioned a life of working outdoors, perhaps for the Forest Service or as a field scientist somewhere in the tropics,” says Fouad. “I figured the pursuit of a degree in Biology was the right place to start.”

During his first quarter at the U, Fouad took a class from Dr. William “Bill” Gray where he got his first taste of the fascinating world of molecular biology. Being at the U also provided him the opportunity to work on campus in the University Hospital during his undergraduate years.

While working on campus, Fouad learned practical laboratory bench work, including cell cultures and using antibodies to visualize structures in frozen tissue samples. He also utilized ultracentrifugation with glucose gradients to separate cell types.

“All of a sudden, the lab became more interesting than I could have imagined. I’ve not lost my love of being outside, but now I enjoy thinking about those parts of the natural world we can’t as easily see and touch,” says Fouad.

Later in his student career, Fouad enrolled in a biochemistry class taught by Distinguished Biology Professor Toto Olivera. “It was a bit of a revelation to go check out the venomous sea snails!” remembers Fouad.

“It was also the first time I got a chance to see a professor as a fun-loving, approachable and generous person and not merely a serious ‘pillar of knowledge’ at the front of an auditorium,” says Fouad. “Over time, I came to understand that the scientific community is filled with all these interesting and decent people with whom I shared much in common and loved spending time.”

Fouad’s best advice to current students is to take advantage of all U Biology, and the entire University, has to offer.

For example, he remembers going to the Student Services Building in the early 1990s (pre-Internet) and looking at the available student jobs, which at the time were typed on handwritten 3x5 note cards posted all over bulletin boards.

“I applied for anything I could find that was even remotely STEM related. It wasn’t by any grand plan – I just knew I wanted to work in the sciences and felt the sooner I got started, the better,” says Fouad.

“Any one of these big decisions can change the trajectory of one’s life. In my case, getting that first job in a lab and pivoting from ecology to molecular biology no doubt changed my path dramatically.”

“I’ve heard it said that it’s really only a handful of big decisions – maybe a couple dozen or so – that matter,” says Fouad.

After graduating in 1993, Fouad spent several years working at the Eccles Institute of Human Genetics in the lab of Dr. Louis Ptacek (now at University of California, San Francisco), studying disease causing mutations in ion channels. Later, he attended graduate school at Oregon Health and Sciences University in Portland where he worked in the lab of Dr. Cheryl Maslen studying matrix proteins involved in heart development. He received his doctorate degree in 2002.

“I think people generally regard science as an exclusively ‘left brain’ exercise, focused on protocols and methods with precision and certainty. In reality, I think it’s much more of a ‘right brain’ undertaking, using a body of knowledge and fundamental principles to form new ideas, then testing them, modifying them and expanding upon them. This is truly a creative process,” says Fouad.

Today, Fouad is president of Biotron Laboratories, Inc., a local company his parents founded in 1979. (His father, Dr. M. Taher Fouad, was a highly trained scientist and researcher.) In his job, Fouad researches mineral nutrition from a unique industry perspective, bringing new ideas to bear on minerals. Along with a team of experts, Fouad develops mineral products that are highly compatible with human physiology on a molecular level. The “Biotron Process” has achieved widespread recognition as a unique and scientifically valid technique that utilizes the complete amino acid profile derived from enzymatic treatment of isolated vegetable proteins.

Fouad is married to Gina Barberi, who is a well-known radio personality on X96. They met on campus, when they both were students and were married in 2005. They have three children: Aiden, who is in Navy training to become a medical corpsman, and Sofia, and Ramzi.

“If I hadn’t been eager to take advantage of what was available at the U, things might have gone very differently!” says Fouad. “I’m simply glad it’s gone the way it has.”

by James DeGooyer

Frontiers of Science

Frontiers of Science

The 2020-2021 Frontiers of Science series has concluded. Please watch this year's lectures using the links below. 

The Frontiers of Science lecture series was established in 1967 by University of Utah alumnus and Physics Professor Peter Gibbs. By 1970, the University had hosted 10 Nobel laureates for public Frontiers lectures. By 1993, when Gibbs retired, the Frontiers organizers had hosted another 20 laureates. Today, Frontiers of Science is the longest continuously-running lecture series at the University of Utah.

A schedule for 2021-2022 lectures will be available in the summer of 2021. 

2020-2021 Lectures

Thursday, October 22, 2020
Nature is the Future of Chemistry.

Shelley Minteer - Associate Chair of Chemistry Dept, University of Utah
Henry White - Distinguished Professor, Chemistry Dept, University of Utah
Scott Anderson - Distinguished Professor, Chemistry Dept, University of Utah

>> Watch the video <<

The Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry (CSOE) was recently awarded $20 million to advance its work to make synthetic organic electrochemistry mainstream. Join Peter Trapa, Dean of the College of Science, as he speaks with Dr. Shelley Minteer and her team on demystifying this process, and how its use will enable new green, safe, and economically beneficial new discoveries.

Dr. Shelley Minteer, professor of Analytical, biological & materials chemistry at the University of Utah, uses nature as an inspiration and solution to chemistry problems. Her group focuses on improving the abiotic-biotic interface between biocatalysts and electrode surfaces for enhanced bioelectrocatalysis and designs electrode structures for enhanced flux at electrode surfaces for biosensor and biofuel cell applications. In addition to holding the Dale and Susan Poulter Chair in Biological Chemistry, Dr. Minteer is the Director of the U’s Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry which was just awarded a $20 Million NSF grant for the center’s Phase II development.

Thursday, November 19, 2020
The Future of Western Forests in a Changing Climate.

Bill Anderegg - Assistant Professor, School of Biological Sciences

>> Watch the video <<

Climate change may dramatically reshape western landscapes and forests through heat, drought, fires, and beetles. What can science tell us about what the future looks like for western US forests and what we can do about it?

Assistant Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the U, Dr. William “Bill” Anderegg’s research centers on the intersection of ecosystems and climate change. In particular, he strives to understand the future of the Earth’s forests in a changing climate. Massive mortality events of many tree species in the last decade prompt concerns that drought, insects, and wildfire may devastate forests in the coming decades. Widely published, most recently in Science and PNAS, Anderegg studies how drought and climate change affect forest ecosystems, including tree physiology, species interactions, carbon cycling, and biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks. His work spans a broad array of spatial scales from xylem cells to ecosystems and seeks to gain a better mechanistic understanding of how climate change will affect forests around the world. Dr. Anderegg received his bachelor's and Ph.D. from Stanford University and did an NOAA Climate & Global change post-doctoral fellowship at Princeton.

Thursday, February 18, 12-1 pm
On Thinning Ice - Modeling sea ice in a warming climate.

Ken Golden - Department of Mathematics

>> Watch the video <<

Precipitous declines of sea ice are writing a new narrative for the polar marine environment. Earth’s sea ice covers can tell us a lot about climate change—they are canaries in the coal mine. Predicting what may happen to sea ice and the ecosystems it supports over the next ten, fifty, or one hundred years requires extensive mathematical modeling of key physical and biological processes, and the role that sea ice plays in global climate. Ken Golden, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, will discuss his research, his Arctic and Antarctic adventures, and how mathematics is currently playing an important role in addressing these fundamental issues and will likely play an even greater role in the future.

Ken Golden is a Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and an Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Utah. His research is focused on developing mathematical models of sea ice which are inspired by theories of composite materials and statistical physics. He has traveled 18 times to the Arctic and Antarctic, and his work has been published in a wide range of scientific journals. Golden is a Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, an Inaugural Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and a Fellow of the Explorers Club, whose members have included Neil Armstrong, Sir Edmund Hillary, Robert Peary, and Jane Goodall.

Thursday, March 18, 12-1 pm
Not too big, Not too small: The hunt for intermediate-mass black holes

Anil Seth - Department of Physics & Astronomy

>>Watch the video<<

Astronomers have found lots of black holes with masses a few times that of the sun and hundreds of supermassive black holes with masses more than a million times the mass of the sun. But where are the ones in the middle—the intermediate mass black holes? Dr. Seth will talk about different ways we are hunting for intermediate mass black holes and why so many of us are interested in finding them.

Dr. Anil Seth, associate professor of Physics & Astronomy at the U, studies the formation and evolution of nearby galaxies by detecting individual stars and clusters of stars whose ages, composition, and motions can be measured. His research focuses on understanding the centers of galaxies and the black holes and massive star clusters found there. He also studies the large surveys of our nearest spiral neighbors, Andromeda and Triangulum, and is involved with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s APOGEE project. He was named a Presidential Scholar by the U and has been awarded several National Science Foundation grants.

All lectures are subject to change. Contact for questions or more information.



A Lecture Series Spanning Five Decades

The Frontiers of Science lecture series was established in 1967 by University of Utah alumnus and Physics Professor Peter Gibbs. Gibbs and his fellow physics faculty at the U sought to bring notable researchers from around the country to the University to discuss the current “frontiers” in physics research. The larger goal was to present public lectures that would attract attention to important developments in scientific research.

By 1970, the University had hosted 10 Nobel laureates for public Frontiers lectures. By 1993, when Gibbs retired, the Frontiers organizers had hosted another 20 laureates. Today, Frontiers of Science is the longest continuously-running lecture series at the University of Utah.

The first Frontiers event was presented by Peter Gibbs himself, who discussed “Einstein the Sociologist,” on April 1, 1967. Physics Professors David C. Evans, Grant R. Fowles and Jack W. Keuffel presented the remaining three lectures that year. In the meantime, the group worked on scheduling outstanding speakers for the following year.

Gibbs and colleagues made good on their promise to bring exceptional scientists to campus. During the 1968-69 academic year, eight lectures were held, including ones by C.N. Yang from the University of New York at Stony Brook (“Symmetry Principles in Physics”) and Murray Gell-Mann from the California Institute of Technology (“Elementary Particles”). Nobel laureates gave three of the eight presentations that academic year, and during 1969 as a whole, six of thirteen lectures were given by Nobel laureates. Topics included astronomy, mathematics, anthropology, politics and social issues.

Gibbs and the early FOS organizers were extremely adept at recruiting famous and soon-to-be-famous scientists. They also were keenly aware of the state of scientific research and the social climate of the time. President Nixon was in office, the Vietnam War was escalating and student protests were common on university campuses including the U of U. The United States had just put a man on the moon. Personal computers did not exist.

Through the 1970s as many as ten lectures were presented each academic year, but by 1980 the pace had slowed to a more manageable five or six per year. The FOS series had become immensely popular and the topics were broadened to include biology, chemistry, mathematics and the earth sciences.

In the early 1980s, FOS audiences were treated to firsthand accounts of the discovery of the structure of DNA by James D. Watson (“The Double Helix and Destiny,” 1981) and Francis H.C. Crick (“The Two DNA Revolutions,” 1984), the achievement for which they had received a Nobel Prize in 1962.

Many FOS speakers were not so famous or honored when they spoke here, but became so later in their career. For example, F. Sherwood Rowland spoke on “Man’s Threat to Stratospheric Ozone” in the 1978 academic year, and was a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering studies on the destruction of ozone by chlorofluro- carbons which was his topic in 1978!

From 1994 to 1997, the Frontiers of Science series was complemented by the Davern/Gardner Laureateship. Dean T. Benny Rushing, Biology Professor K. Gordon Lark, and Emeritus Professor Boyer Jarvis wished to honor the memory of two former College of Science faculty members who made extraordinary administrative contributions to the University of Utah: Cedric “Ric” Davern and Pete D. Gardner.

Rushing, Lark and Jarvis secured a generous grant from the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation to fund the Davern/Gardner Laureateship. The Laureateship allowed the College to bring a notable scientist to campus to deliver a public lecture and to interact with research teams and faculty that shared the invitee’s scientific interests. Dr. John Cairns gave the first lecture in November 1994. A total of six Davern/Gardner Laureateship lectures were presented until the grant was exhausted.

The history of venues for Frontiers of Science presentations is quite colorful. From 1967 to 1970, various rooms were used, including 103 North Physics, 200 Music Hall and Mark Greene Hall in the College of Business. By 1974, FOS events were often held in the Waldemer P. Read auditorium in Orson Spencer Hall. The Read auditorium featured stadium seating for about 400 people and was primarily used through the 1980s.

By 1990, the Fine Arts auditorium became the venue of choice because it was newer, larger, and had a better sound system. However, the lighting and sound controls were problematic and scheduling conflicts forced organizers to utilize the nearby Social Work auditorium on occasion.

In the meantime, the College of Science was constructing the Aline Wilmot Skaggs Biology Research Building (ASB) that included a beautiful 325-seat lecture auditorium and an adjoining 125-seat room complete with modern sound systems, digital video projectors and lighting. When ASB opened in 1997, the Frontiers series finally had a home within the College.

In 2003, the College of Mines and Earth Sciences joined with the College of Science to co-host FOS and increase the number of lectures devoted to aspects of geology, geophysics and meteorology. The effort was successful and a total of five presentations were scheduled, including Paul F. Hoffman, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Harvard University (“Snowball Earth: Testing the Limits of Global Climate Change,” 2003) and Peter B. deMenocal, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University (“Climate Shifts and the Collapse of Ancient Cultures,” 2004).

In March 2007, Professor Kerry A. Emanuel of MIT discussed the history and science of hurricanes, including how climate change may be influencing storm cycles around the world. He used stunning photos and graphics to explain how hurricanes work, what determines their energy and destructiveness, and the economic and social implications of our policies for dealing with the risks they pose.

In 2008, The 14th Astronomer Royal of Great Britain, Sir Arnold Wolfendale, graced Utah audiences with a superb presentation on “Time: From Harrison’s Clocks to the Possibility of New Physics.” Other international guests were Dr. Jennifer Graves, Distinguished Professor at La Trobe University, Australia, and Dr. Stefan Hell, Nobel laureate and Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany.

Peter Gibbs: The Father of “Frontiers”

Physics Professor Pete Gibbs and his colleagues established the Frontiers of Science lecture series as a method to bring notable researchers from around the world to Utah to discuss the current “frontiers” in scientific research. The first Frontiers event was presented by Pete Gibbs himself, on April 1, 1967. During the following two years, nine of the twenty-one FoS lectures were given by current or future Nobel laureates.

The early success of Frontiers was largely due to Pete’s personal invitations, and also his family’s skill at hosting prominent scientists in their home near the University campus. The Gibbs family offered lodging, food, and world-class skiing, to sweeten the deal.

Pete Gibbs passed away on July 13, 2019 surrounded by family and friends. He was 94.

Frontiers of Science, now in its 52nd year, continues to be sponsored by the College of Science and the College of Mines and Earth Sciences. The list of speakers now includes some 280 distinguished scientists.





Vignesh Iyer

Vignesh Iyer

How did you become interested in math?
I’ve always gravitated toward STEM subjects even in elementary school. In college, I was exposed to various subjects but a common language each subject used was math. I’m a curious student and hungry to consume as much knowledge as possible. Math is a universal language that allows me to communicate with those in different fields and tells me how things work. Math has allowed me to explore other subjects and influences the way I interact with problems—from social sciences to applied sciences and engineering.

What kind of internship did you have while at the U? How did you get it?  What did you like about it?
At the beginning of 2020, I started interning for the Pharmacotherapy Outcomes Research Center (PORC) at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy. I applied using the College of Science internship page. I loved interning with the PORC because it allowed me to engage in computational mathematics, work in pharmacology, and interact with different data science and statistical analysis techniques. The team I worked with was performing a correlational study between medication types and bile-duct cancers. I was able to work on the entire computing and mathematics aspect of the study and learn some cool chemistry along the way. My favorite part of the internship was learning how to access databases and interpret the information using data analysis.

You finished your bachelor’s degree and are now in graduate school at the University of California, Irvine. What are you studying?
I entered UC Irvine last fall to begin my graduate studies in mathematics. Graduate school is a whole new challenge but it’s such an enjoyable challenge! My coursework has really taught me to think in new ways, and I’m able to explore new areas of mathematics. At the moment, my favorite class is abstract algebra because it’s a whole new area of math I’ve never been exposed to. I think the online learning part of graduate school has presented learning curves but they’re interesting learning curves.

I’d like to continue my graduate studies in mathematics and get a Ph.D., whether that’s returning to the U. or staying here at home in Southern California.

Is there an area of research that interests you in math? What do you like about it?
I’m interested in applied and computational mathematics. More specifically, I’m interested in applying computational mathematics to data science and machine learning. Applied and computational mathematics explores modeling and/or simulating systems using computers and various mathematical subjects, such as numerical methods, inverse problems, etc. What I like about applied and computational mathematics is that it allows me to be an all-around researcher and engage and contribute to different fields.

Long-term career plans?
After my graduate studies are completed, I’d like to pursue a career in robotics, focusing primarily on research and development in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

 - first published by the Department of Mathematics