Sea Ice Science

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

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

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

Kyle Kazemini

Kyle Kazemini

How did you become interested in math?
I had an exceptional math teacher in high school. He had a great sense of humor and genuinely cared about all of his students. He also loved math and it was apparent in his teaching. His lessons were both fun and interesting. My enjoyment prompted me to take calculus and decide to study math further. My interest in math has only continued to grow.

How did you get your internship?
My math advisor, Angie Gardiner, told me about the College of Science Internship Program, and I applied for some positions. I was hired as a sports science intern for University of Utah Athletics. The people I worked with were great, and they all made me feel like part of the team.

My first project was to transform ForceDecks data. ForceDecks is a system for analyzing an athlete’s performance and to make assessments. The data from ForceDecks has a unique format that’s difficult to use in statistical programming languages like R and Python. My job was to develop a tool to fix this issue. I used Excel and VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to create an automated tool for transforming the data into a user-friendly format.

My second project was to analyze the ForceDecks data. Now that it had a better format, I used R to analyze the data. The purpose of the analysis was to detect athlete asymmetries and possible injury risks. I generated statistics, tables, and plots. These projects made use of both my statistical and programming skills. I enjoyed this internship because I love applying math and computer science in interesting and impactful ways. Because of this internship, I have since become interested in quantitative medicine.

You’re involved in the Directed Reading Program. What is it? 
The Directed Reading Program is a mentoring program between graduate and undergraduate students, who work together on a reading project in mathematics. Any student can sign up for the program, regardless of their level in math. I heard about it through Math Department announcements, and I’m so happy I did. My graduate student mentor is awesome! We’ve read about differential equations and basic mathematical biology. Currently, we’re reading about partial differential equations.

What year are you?  
I’m a junior and plan on graduating in the spring of 2023. I’m taking an extra year since I’m doing a double major with computer science. My interest in computer science started when I took some CS courses as part of my math major. After learning some of the basics of CS, I began to wonder what was out there. Since then, I’ve become excited about theoretical computer science, as well as image processing and computer vision. Studying computer science has made me better at math and vice versa. Although math is the subject I love most, I think studying CS gives me a different perspective on mathematical problems. I also love learning about computing for its own sake.

What about career plans? 
I’m planning on doing a Ph.D. in math, but I’m still narrowing down my research interests. I’m deciding between pure and applied math because I enjoy things like applied mathematical biology, but I also just love math problems on their own. In addition to math bio, I’m interested in partial differential equations. I’m excited to learn about the theory behind PDEs, including real analysis, functional analysis, and Sobolev spaces.

Hobbies or interests outside of math?
I started studying Muay Thai (Thai boxing) when I was 13. Muay Thai is like kickboxing, except with elbows and knees. I was taking classes at a gym for about three years, but now I do it just for fun/exercise at home on a punching bag. I think martial arts are awesome for learning things like discipline and self-confidence.

I also love film—my favorite film is Good Will Hunting, which is pretty typical for a math nerd! I love it because it has a math genius, a great love story, and it’s about triumphing over difficult challenges. I enjoy most film genres—anything from romance to horror to documentaries.

I’m new to snowboarding, and I really like it. My favorite resort (for now) is Brighton. Currently, my favorite video game is CSGO(Counter-Strike: Global Offensive). I don’t play a lot of games because school keeps me busy, but in the past I’ve loved playing Skyrim, Call of Duty, and Halo.

I’ve wanted to build my own computer for years, and I finally did it for the first time a few months ago. I use it for school, work, and for intensive tasks that my laptop just can’t handle. Building it made me really happy!

 - first published by the Department of Mathematics

Brennan Mahoney

Brennan Mahoney

“As a child I always seemed to have an interest in animals,” says Brennan Mahoney, HBS’20, “and  originally  I wanted  to  be  a   veterinarian!”     Fate, however, would intervene for this Sandy, Utah native.

When he was ten years old Mahoney’s father had a massive heart attack in the left anterior descending artery (LAD), what’s colloquially called the “widow-maker” because when it is blocked it often results in the patient’s death. His father survived thanks to the “herculean efforts,” of the medical team.

“The work of the doctors and how they treated my family throughout the period of his recovery,” he says, “… turned my interests in biology towards its applications in the field of medicine.” Mahoney’s father would eventually receive a heart transplant nearly two years to the date of the attack, and Mahoney would later enroll in pre-med at the University of Utah where, when he’s not studying, he enjoys playing the guitar and piano, cooking, hiking, (“This is Utah, of course,” he says) … and following Ute football.

The summer after his freshman year, Mahoney worked toward his certification as a nursing assistant (CNA) so that he could start gaining clinical experience. “I worked as a home health aide in many different contexts,” he explains, “but mostly dealt with people who had neurological disorders or injuries.” It was during this time that he met a client who, prior to his injury, had worked as a researcher, and the experience pushed Mahoney to look for opportunities in a neuroscience lab. At the same time, Mahoney also worked as a tutor at West High School in Salt Lake City.

Enter Sophie Caron, professor in the School of Biological Sciences who at the time held the endowed Mario Capecchi Chair, named after Utah’s Nobel laureate who holds joint appointments in SBS and Human Genetics at the U. Caron’s lab studies multisensory integration (MI), a process by which brains integrate sensory information into a comprehensive picture of their environment.

The Caron lab, 2020

“For the study of this,” reports Mahoney who graduated with honors last summer but continues working in the Caron lab as a technician, we “used a brain area known as the mushroom body of [the fruit fly] D. melanogaster as a model.” The Caron team characterized the connection of neurons from multiple sensory modalities using a technique known as GFP reconstitution across synaptic partners or GRASP for short. “With knowledge of the patterns underlining MI, this logic could be applied to more complex brains,” says Mahoney, including, potentially, the human brain.

The research culminated in a first publication for Mahoney and his undergraduate colleague Miles Jacob, also credited as a co-author. The article, which made the cover of the journal Cell Reports highlights fundamental differences in the way associate brain centers, notably the mushroom body, integrate sensory information and converge in higher order brain centers. The findings are built  on previous work from the Caron lab that described a pathway conveying visual information from the medulla to the ventral accessary calyx of the mushroom body. “[O]ur study,” reads the article abstract, “defines a second, parallel pathway that is anatomically poised to convey information from the visual system to the dorsal accessary calyx.”

It is these kinds of scientific findings that inspire a young researcher like Brennan Mahoney to keep going. His ambition, in fact, is to apply to an MD/PhD program where he can continue in research that can help health professionals practice the good work that he witnessed first-hand when his father was singularly under their care.

"The efforts of my father's medical team allowed him to live so that he could continue to raise me and my two brothers and continue to live a happy and full life to this day. I hope to be able to help people in that same capacity, be it through direct patient care or through the findings of my future research."

The School of Biological Sciences regularly grants the Research Scholar Award to deserving undergraduate researchers like Brennan Mahoney. You can support these scholarships through a donation here.

by David Pace

COVID-19 Vaccine Panel

Understanding the Science

U of U panel of experts will answer COVID-19 vaccine questions at free event.

Depending who you ask, the COVID-19 vaccine could be the miraculous answer to worldwide prayers. Others may think it's an ill-tested, reckless way to control increasingly desperate people. Suffice to say, there's no shortage of opinions on whether the vaccine is safe, effective or even ethical—all while the list of myths surrounding it continues to grow.

Fortunately, University of Utah's College of Science is clearing up much of the confusion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines in its quarterly virtual lecture series, "Understanding the Science". This quarter's installment, currently scheduled for Feb. 17, tackles one of the hottest topics not only in the community but in the entire world: COVID-19 vaccines.

Moderated by Tom Thatcher of Intuitive Funding, which is sponsoring the event, this free, virtual panel includes experts from both the University of Utah campus and across the state, including Dr. Fred Adler of the university's Department of Mathematics, Jennifer Dailey-Provost, Utah State Representative, and Dr. Ryan Looper of the University of Utah's Department of Chemistry.

Together, panelists will address the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine, information on community spread, policy insight on vaccine rollout schedules and how the vaccine will impact the economy and the future—right here in Utah and around the world.

Additionally, attendees will have the opportunity to pose questions regarding the vaccine when they register for the event, which may be discussed during the webinar. So, whether you're worried about any of the myths circulating around the vaccine—like the claim that it impacts fertility or that its speedy development undermines its safety and effectiveness—you can pose these topics for discussion by the panel.

Discussing the COVID-19 vaccine is a natural topic for the Understanding the Science lecture series, which brings scientific experts, government leaders and community advocates together to discuss major issues facing Utahans today. And since the Utah Health Department reports more than 337,000 Utahans have contracted COVID-19 so far—with more than 1,600 dying from the disease and an entire state living under regulations to slow the spread—this is one issue affecting every Utah resident.

"Understanding the Science: COVID-19 Vaccine" will be held virtually Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 7-9 p.m. If you plan to attend, please register. While the College of Science's Lecture Series has historically been an in-person event, COVID-19's social distancing practices have necessitated the shift to virtual webinars.

That said, with a vaccine now available to at-risk populations and wider availability on the horizon, the University of Utah College of Science hopes to return to in-person events later in 2021.

COVID-19 has dramatically shifted Utahan's way of life. With vaccines becoming available for more and more Utahans, it's important to understand its risks, the myths surrounding them and the possible impact on the future. Find out more about the free webinar, register and submit your questions for discussion at the University of Utah.


Originally published @