Monday, September 19, 2011

Nevada State College internship partner featured on The Ellen DeGeneres show

A Nevada state college internship partner has been featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  Whitney Elementary is a placement site for NSC's Psychology 497 field experience course. Whitney Elementary recently received a $100,000 donation from Ellen Degeneres and Target! Please check out the story on the Las Vegas Sun Website:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Brain Teaser #2: Expect the unexpected at NSC!

By Dr. Edwin Price, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

If you wanted to find my kind,
you wouldn't go to the desert.
In fact, I couldn't survive here now
 if you humans didn't "go" so much.
What kind of critter am I?
Photo Courtesy of purpleslog via flickr

Need a recap of the first clue? Check it out below:

Brian Teaser #1:

Under a dark desert highway
a few NSC students see
a stealthy, toothy predator
down prey much bigger than he

What is he?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From High Tech to Highest Tech: The NSC Biology Program keeps students on the leading edge

By Dr. Robin Herlands, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology

Last week we had two representatives from the Amnis Corporation here on campus to give hands-on ImagestreamX training to NSC biology students and faculty participating in summer research. An ImagestreamX is an instrument that combines the high throughput cellular analysis of flow cytometry with the high resolution imagery of fluorescent microscopy. The ImagestreamX is the only instrument capable of this remarkable kind of data acquisition and analysis, and NSC is one of only 30 institutions in the U.S. that has such an instrument (and is certainly the only institution that focuses on undergraduate education). NSC faculty Dr. Robin Herlands and Dr. Andy Kuniyuki co-hosted the event with Ben Alderete and Scott Mordecai from Amnis. NSC students Anam Qadir, Jessica Cargill, Nick Puglia and Jason Koroghli were trained to run cell samples on the instrument and analyze images collected to quantify events like cell division, cell signaling, and cell shape.

In addition, we had two collaborators here from University of Nevada, Reno : Dr. Doug Redelman, an immunologist in charge of cytometry at UNR, and Dr. Jared Townsend, who runs one of the flow cytometers on the UNR campus. These UNR scientists are hoping to collaborate with Dr. Robin Herlands and her students in the use of the ImagestreamX to characterize cells of the mouse gastrointestinal tract that could play a role in regulating normal physiology and the immune system. Other interesting samples were sent via fed-ex down to NSC to run on the instrument, including cells from a potential collaborator at UNR who is studying lipid (and possible fuel) production and storage in algae. Our NSC students were able to run these samples on the ImagestreamX, collecting thousands of digital images of the unique cells. Of course, students ran cells from their own projects in insect immunity that they have ongoing with Dr. Herlands. On the final day of the week, we had two renowned speakers present their data and projects that involve the ImagestreamX:

• Dr. Henri van de Hyde, Ph.D., Staff Scientist, the La Jolla Institute of Allergy and Immunology. Topic: Cellular Microparticle Analysis using Cytometry
• Dr. Jon Weidanz, Ph.D., Chief Scientist/Founder at Receptor Logic, Inc. & Associate Professor & Director, Center for Immunotherapeutic Research Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Topic: Developing Immunotherapeutics for Treating Cancer and Infection

This was an incredible opportunity for some of our NSC students to hear from and interact with some of the top scientists in the field who are using the same instrumentation at their facilities as we have at NSC. The entire week was productive and rewarding, and we would like to particularly thank Amnis for sponsoring this special week of training on our campus!

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Missing White Woman Syndrome" and Fear of Crime

By Dr. Gwen Sharp, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

Recently, National Public Radio ran a story about coverage of what they call “women-in-peril” stories—that is, stories that focus on crimes against young white women, particularly those involving abduction. Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart, both kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and held captive for long periods, were the focus of intense media attention. ABC News appears to be particularly emphasizing this type of coverage; they scored an exclusive interview with Dugard and have hired Smart as a contributor; her first appearance included a discussion of Dugard’s case.

Of course, no one would deny that both Dugard and Smart underwent horrifying ordeals, and it’s not surprising that their stories drew the public’s attention. However, the media frenzy over these cases reflects a focus that has gotten a name among media critics: Missing White Woman Syndrome. That is, media coverage tends to be higher when victims are young, White, conventionally-attractive women. Research indicates that crimes with white female victims do indeed receive disproportionate coverage. For instance, in a study of local newspaper coverage of 640 homicides in Columbus, Ohio, Richard Lundman found that murders involving a white female victim were more likely to be covered and received higher profile coverage, such as front-page stories. This pattern held even when he controlled for other factors that might influence newsworthiness, such as type of weapon used, age of those involved, neighborhood, and even how uncommon the murder is in terms of the gender, race, and social class of the victim and perpetrator.

The disproportionate coverage that crimes such as the abduction of Elizabeth Smart generate can lead to distortions in our perceptions of risk. While they are shocking, the crimes perpetrated against Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard are, in fact, quite rare. And middle-class white women are at very low risk of being the victims of violent crime in general.
But exposure to news coverage of these types of crimes may increase levels of fear among white women. Researchers at Florida State University looked at how TV coverage of the sexual assault and murder of two teenage girls in Houston affected viewers’ fear of crime, gathering their data in the immediate aftermath of the media frenzy about violent crime, gang violence, and related topics. They found that the only group whose fear of crime was influenced by watching TV stories about the murders was middle-aged white women. Non-white women, and all men, despite being objectively more likely to be victimized, did not become more fearful. The researchers suggest that white women substitute media coverage for direct experience of victimization. That is, generally research indicates that a person’s prior experience with crime (whether as a victim or knowledge of someone who was) is a strong predictor of their fear of becoming a victim; if you’ve been victimized once, it makes sense that you’d be more likely to think it could happen again. But white women who watch the news see a disproportionate number of white female victims, leading to a perception that white women are in much more danger than they actually are. The message here is that media coverage has real-world implications; the TV and print media stories we see can influence our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. And insofar as white female victims are deemed most newsworthy, media coverage can skew our perceptions of how risky our lives are and which groups are most in need of increased protection from criminal behavior.
Chiricos, T., S. Eschholz, & M. Gertz. (1997). Crime, news and fear of crime: toward an identification of audience effects. Social Problems 44(3), 342-357.
Lundman, R.J. (2003). The newsworthiness and selection bias in news about murder: comparative and relative effects of novelty and race and gender typifications on newspaper coverage of homicide. Sociological Forum, 18(3), 357-386.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brain Teaser #1: Expect the unexpected at NSC!

By Dr. Edwin Price, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

Under a dark desert highway
a few NSC students see
a stealthy, toothy predator
down prey much bigger than he

What is he?

Photo Courtesy of purpleslog via flickr

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wealth & Happiness: A Rocky Relationship

By Dr.Tony Scinta, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

If we know anything about life, it’s that money can’t buy you love.  Or at least that’s what the Beatles keep telling us.  But what about happiness?  Given that much of our lives are dedicated to the pursuit of money and the fringe benefits that come with it (plasma TVs, nice cars, the occasional yacht), one might assume a positive correlation between wealth and happiness.  That is, as wealth goes up, happiness goes up, too. 

Surprisingly enough, research on the subject suggests a more complicated relationship.  On the one hand, there seems to be a positive correlation between wealth and happiness at very low levels of income – if you’re not making enough money to meet the bare necessities of life (namely food and shelter), your happiness is likely to be affected (Di Tella, MacCulloch, & Oswald, 2001).  On the other hand, once you get beyond basic life needs, the day-to-day happiness experienced by people at even very low levels of income may only be slightly lower than the happiness experienced by people who count themselves among the financially fortunate.

For example, a large-scale 2006 study guided by economist Alan Krueger and psychologist Daniel Kahneman at Princeton University looked at how much of a person’s daily life was spent in a bad mood (Kahneman, Schkade, Schwarz and Stone, 2006).  They found that people who made less than $20,000/year spent only 12% more time in a bad mood than people who exceeded $100,000/year.  A difference, but not much of a difference, and far less than most people suspected.  The majority of respondents incorrectly believed that people who make less than $20k/year would spend far more of their time feeling unhappy.

Some researchers believe the finding can be attributed to the “hedonic treadmill.”  Basically, the more you have, the more you want.  The principle might help explain why some high-profile people who make millions of dollars each year wind up bankrupt, as showcased in a recent article from National Public Radio.  As one’s means increase, so does consumption.  It’s a potential recipe for disaster for someone, like an athlete, whose income may be tied to a relatively small window of superior performance.

Does all of this mean people shouldn’t try to make more money?  Not necessarily – as I mentioned above, this is a complex, multi-faceted issue.  For example, researchers often look at two types of happiness – day-to-day feelings of well-being and overall satisfaction with one’s life, and each one relates differently to personal wealth.  Moreover, relative wealth – how you fare compared to those around you – may be more important than absolute wealth (making $35,000/year seems like a good deal if most of your acquaintances make $20,000/year, or worse).  If there’s a message, it’s that it probably does not hurt to question your assumptions, especially when it comes to major life issues like the pursuit of happiness. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

SHOWING ITS AGE: The universe might be getting a new birth certificate

By Dr. Sandip Thanki, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Physical Sciences

How old is the Universe?  The answer depends on when you ask the question.  If you had asked the question in the early 1900s, you would have been given an age of 2 billion years – an age that even the astronomers who calculated it did not believe.   They had seen stars older than 10 billion years.  How could the universe be younger than the stars in it?  It’s like saying my toe is older than my body!  In the early 1990s, when some of the youngest NSC students were born, the age of the universe was between 10 and 20 billion years – a range too wide.  A teenager would not be satisfied if her parents told her that her true age is between 10 and 20 years!  
Today, the age of the universe is published as 13.7 billion years in most textbooks. According to a May 2011 pre-print (a scientific journal article to be published), the age of the universe is 12.6 billion years.  So why can’t we finalize the age of the universe?  The simple answer is that we can’t tell how far away things are in the universe.  Let me explain. 
The universe is expanding. Based on how fast it is expanding and how much it has expanded, we can figure out how long it has been expanding for  (that is, we can figure out its age).  If you are driving to Los Angeles from Vegas, I can figure out how long you have been travelling (the “age” of your travel) if you tell me how fast you are going (assuming a constant speed) and how far you have traveled.  For example, if you are moving at a steady 60 mph and have traversed 120 miles, I know that you have been driving for two hours.
A supernova explosion being used as a "Standard Candle"
Image courtesy of High-Z Supernova Search Team, HST, NASA
In the case of the universe, “how fast” is not an issue. It is easy to measure speeds of objects in the sky using Doppler instruments.  This is how we get speeding tickets! The tougher task is to know how far away things are in the universe.  Two major ways to measure distances are through “standard candles” and “standard rulers.” In the case of “standard candles,” when we know how bright something should be and how bright it looks, we can tell how far it is.  This is how we realize how far a car coming towards us is at night because we have a sense of how truly bright the car’s headlights are.  Similarly, we know the brightness of some supernovas (exploding stars).  Based on how bright they look, we can learn how far away they are.  This is the technique that has put the age of the universe at 13.7 billon years.  
One issue with using supernovas as “standard candles” is that it is hard to catch these explosions at great distances.  There also are theoretical scenarios where we do not know the brightness of some supernova explosions.  Even worse, if our understanding of the supernovas changes, the age estimates of the universe will change.  With “standard rulers,” we estimate distances based on how big objects with known sizes look.  For example, when we see the Stratosphere Tower, we can estimate how far we are from it because we have a good sense of how tall it is.  In astronomy, we have not had distant objects with well-known sizes that were sufficiently far away for us to use them as “standard rulers” – until now! 

Cosmic Microwave Backgroudn Radiation.
Image courtesy of Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
If you have taken an astronomy class, you might have heard of the cosmic microwave background.  This background is as far as we can see in the universe, and is made of the light that left matter about 400,000 years after the universe was born in the Big Bang.  According to a new theory, Baryon Acoustic Oscillations (BAO), sound waves in the early universe created high-density regions similar to the ones we feel in our ears at the rock concerts, but on a much, much larger scale. When these waves were first created, light and matter were inseparable due to the high temperature and density of the universe. 

Four hundred thousand years after the Big Bang, light separated from matter and the high density regions remained only in form of matter. These regions were the seeds that formed stars and galaxies.  Astronomers have calculated the size of these regions. They are about 490 million light years big and can be our new standard rulers.  One of the most ambitious surveys in astronomy, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), is currently (2008-2014) mapping the universe. The data is public and is released as it becomes available. Stay tuned to find out how old the universe really is.
Scale of large structure pre-determined by Baryon Acoustic Oscillations
Image courtesy of Chris Blake and Sam Moorfield

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hangover: Facing the Job Market after Earning a Graduate Degree

What kind of cover letter catches the eye of a prospective employer?  How do you fashion a resume that stands out from a pack of hundred?  Under what circumstances should you ever wear a Dr. Pepper t-shirt at an academic job interview?  Dr. Tony Scinta, Department Chair of Social Sciences and Associate Professor of Psychology, addressed these and other pressing questions this past Friday as an invited speaker at the 23rd Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science. 

The four-person panel session, titled The Naked Truth: Navigating the Academic Job Market in Tough Economic Times, treated roughly 100 audience members to information, advice, and a handful of cautionary tales about the pursuit of an academic career in psychology. 

Guided by his service on 23 academic job searches, Dr. Scinta provided ample perspective on a host of issues, from the development of an application (“Clearly and succinctly demonstrate why you are right for the job – don’t make the hiring committee work to figure it out”) to the logistics of an in-person interview (“If at all possible, do not check your bag – if the airline loses it, you might wind up giving your job talk dressed like an extra from the movie Old School). 

The job market may not have improved during the course of the 60-minute presentation, but Dr. Scinta hopes that the fortunes of those in attendance got just a little bit brighter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Multi-taxing: The Pitfalls of Task Overload

By Dr. Tony Scinta, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

Photo Courtesy of andy_carter via Flickr
Chances are, someone is reading this blog on an exercise bike with a cell phone in one hand, a baby in the other, and a freshly changed diaper clenched in his teeth. A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but not by much – swap the baby with an iPad, the diaper with a bottle of vitamin water, and add a pair of headphones, and you have an accurate picture of the modern, middle-class American.

Fact is, we live in a multi-tasking society. If you’re not doing four things at once – I’m composing this as I iron my clothes, and I’m driving – you’re not doing it right. Lately researchers have begun to question this assumption. They wonder if the burden of relentless multi-tasking can make it more difficult for us to exert the will power needed to succeed in other areas of life, from the completion of course assignments to the maintenance of a healthy diet.

A recent series of studies attempted to demonstrate exactly that. The studies – five in all – showed that “frequently switching your mind-set or focus uses a lot of self-control.” In a representative study, participants who were forced to “multi-task” in an initial phase of the experiment performed more poorly on a subsequent task than participants who did not multi-task at all. The researchers behind the studies suggest that multi-tasking “can be taxing on the executive function of your brain and reduce your ability to use self-control in other areas of your life.”

Though the studies are recent, the concept being studied is much older than your Grandma’s flip phone. Related research has long examined the notion of “ego depletion,” which views self-control as a limited resource. Accordingly, if you drain your self-control by juggling a number of tasks at the same time, you’ll have left control “left over” when you need it do other things (Hagger, Wood, Stiff, & Chatzisarantis, 2010).

Studies have supported the idea of ego depletion, but, as I always tell my students, it’s important to consider alternative explanations and contrary possibilities. For example, though multi-tasking may lead to a momentary lapse of self-control and an ill-advised bowl of Ben & Jerry’s, might the long-term implications tell a different story? For example, the concept of “self-efficacy” is defined as “the belief in one’s ability to perform a task or to execute a behavior successfully” (Bandura, 1997). High self-efficacy, in turn, has been shown to improve a person’s ability to meet intended objectives (e.g., quit smoking). In that light, the ability to successfully multi-task should improve a person’s sense of self-efficacy and, presumably, his or her ability to manage other tasks.

Is there a clear moral to the story? Not yet. A definitive answer awaits additional research. In the short term, the only advice might be to rein in your multi-tasking tendencies until they reach a manageable level. Life demands multi-tasking, but sometimes it’s important to stop and smell the figurative roses . . . and not update your Facebook status while you do it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

NSC Students Headed to South Korea


Many of us have no idea what that means, nor will it ever likely be significant. But for four very excited Nevada State College students, “안녕하세요!” will become very important, very soon.

Ariella Youdelman, Elan Andruss, and Angelica Favela

Pronounced “ahn-yung-hah-say-yo,” 안녕하세요 is the formal greeting in Korean, the equivalent to the English “Hello!” NSC students, Angelica Favela (English), Ariella Youdelman (Occupational Science/Psychology), Trey Takahashi (Secondary Education - History), and Elan Andruss (Secondary Education - English) will be making use of it and many other conversational Korean phrases this summer, as they have been chosen by the City of Henderson to participate in a Youth Ambassador position in Dubong, South Korea.

Learning Korean, however, won’t be their main focus. They will spend most of their time working in summer camps helping to teach Korean students conversational English. Over the course of five weeks, the chosen NSC students, along with two CSN undergrads also chosen by the City of Henderson, will stay with host families and teach during the day, all the while acting as representatives of their schools, Henderson, Nevada, and even the entire United States.

Trey Takahashi
Not ones to be bogged down by such pressure, the four are ecstatic that they were selected from many other applicants to participate in this rare opportunity. “I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet,” Elan Andruss said, “but the closer it gets the harder it is to focus on anything else!” Being the studious citizen she is, Angelica Favela has taken it upon herself to learn as much about Korean culture as she can before leaving. “I’ve taken to filling my free time with learning Korean phrases and trying to broaden my understanding about Korean society. We haven’t even left yet and already I feel like I’ve learned so much!”

While they admit that they won’t have much free time to devote until the semester is over, they eagerly await what will surely be the trip of a lifetime.

Monday, May 2, 2011

History Professor Publishes in the University of Southern California's Casden Institute Series

Dr. Peter La Chapelle, Associate Professor of History, just published an article in the prestigious USC Casden Institute series, The Jewish Role in American Life entitled ""Dances Partake of the Racial Characteristics of the People Who Dance Them': Nordicism, Antisemitism, and Henry Ford's Old Time Music and Dance Revival. " 

Dr. La Chapelle was awarded a research grant from the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his recent research regarding connections between carmaker Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism and his promotion of “old time” music. 

Publication cover courtesy of Purdue University Press
This volume of the Casden Institute's The Jewish Role in American Life annual series introduces new scholarship on the long-standing relationship between Jewish-Americans and the worlds of American popular music. For more information about the University of Southern California's Casden Institute, visit their website here.

Dr. La Chapelle is also the author of Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California (University of California Press, 2007) which received an honorable mention for the Urban History Association's Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in Urban History.

Monday, April 25, 2011

iPhoneography and the Art of Spontaneity

By Dr. Gregory Robinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of English

Photo courtesy of Gregory Robinson
When I was a graduate student, I played guitar for a punk band called Milk Carton.  I never bothered to learn how to play, and the band’s major gimmick was that people could throw old milk cartons at us while we performed.  We often played for crowds of less than ten people, and sometimes the milk cartons were not cleaned out very well.

Although it hardly changed the face of music, it certainly changed how I felt about creativity and art.  Every once in a while, Milk Carton came up with some songs I really liked.  It was totally by accident and no one ever really noticed.  That did not matter.  Perfection, skill, talent, and attention to minute detail all have a place in the art world, but so do freedom, spontaneity, surprise, and (of-course) complete accidents. 

This is what I love about iPhoneography, a growing movement of people who take and edit pictures on their iPhones.  Admittedly, the idea of a “camera phone” bothers me a bit, in the same way a “television toaster” or a “Wi-Fi enabled electric razor” might.  Why not just have a phone that makes calls and a camera that shoots pictures?

Hold on, my camera is ringing...

Here is why the idea still works.  Art is often about working within a set of limitations.  Sonnets are 14 lines long and have specific meter and rhyme schemes.  The “art” of sonnets is not just the meaning of the words, but the way that those words are structured by a set of rules.  Some photographers still work with pinhole cameras, which are the most basic form of capturing images on film. They could use digital processing, but they choose not to do so.  Part of what makes their art interesting is the restrictions they impose on themselves.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Robinson

iPhones are limited.  The zoom is small and the lens is fixed.  Assorted apps limit them even more.  One app, called the Hipstamatic, provides a tiny viewfinder, random light leaks, and changeable lenses and films.  It mimics a real camera from the 1980s, a plastic “toy” created by Bruce and Winston Dorbowski.  The brothers were about to start mass-producing them, but an accident involving a drunk driver put an end to their dream.    Although the iPhone camera itself is capable of providing a clear, detailed image (5 megapixels was impressive not that long ago), the Hipstamatic app does the exact opposite.  It revels in imperfection. 

Digital photography never looked so analog.

These photos recall a time when you cared about the pictures you took, but did not really know how to take them.  The results are random, haphazard, and often somewhat out of focus.  At times, (like any other camera) Hipstamatic photos are complete junk.  More often than not, they are beautiful and nostalgic.  They give you the feeling of coming across an old photo in your grandmother’s attic, even if they were just taken yesterday. 

The medium is the message.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Robinson

The Hipstamatic helped to start an entire photographic movement, now called iPhoneography.  There are books, blogs, dozens of Flickr groups, and hundreds of specialized apps available, all devoted to it.  The governing aesthetic in the iPhone community is that the photos must be taken and edited on the iPhone, without any help from a PC or Mac. 

In late 2010, New York Times photographer Damon Winter used the Hipstamatic app to shoot a series about the war in Afghanistan War.  It made the front page.  (  Critics went crazy, but not in a good way.

Chip Litherland saw it as another sign of the death of photojournalism, saying that the Hipstamatic shots were “dig[ing] another knife deeper into the back of its decaying corpse.”

It is nice to see that art still makes people a little grumpy.

If you would like to see a little more of iPhoneography, come check out Vegas from the Hip, an exhibit of Las Vegas images taken with the Hipstamatic app. 

The opening runs from 5pm to 8pm, Friday, April 29th at

Nevada State College Library
311 S. Water St. (BW2 building)
Henderson, NV 89015

For more information:

Gregory Robinson

Photo courtesy of Gregory Robinson

Video Games Improve Motor Functions in Stroke Patients

By Dr. Tony Scinta, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

Photo Courtesy of RebeccaPollard via Flickr

From the tenacious pink ghost in Pac-man to that last stubborn pig in Angry Birds, video games have always created teeth-gnashing levels of frustration.  However, when they’re not making us curse a blue streak that could peel the paint off of a Nintendo Wii, video games may have something positive to offer.  According to a recent analysis by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto,  stroke patients who play video games can show up to a five-fold improvement in arm motor function compared to patients who undergo standard physical therapy.

Shockingly, this is not the first time that research has hinted at the potential benefit of playing video games.  To examine this phenomenon, scientists often conduct a “meta-analysis,” which is a super nerdy but incredibly effective technique that combines multiple studies, sometimes conducted over dozens of years, into a single “super analysis.”  One of these meta-analyses, involving seven studies and 384 participants, demonstrated that playing video games is associated with improved visuospatial cognition (Ferguson, 2007), which generally refers to a person’s ability to understand and work within spatial environments.  Parallel parking – or parallel “bumping into fenders,” as some people do it – is an example of a skill that relies on visuospatial abilities.

Game-playing experience also has been tied to other important functions (for example, the ability to attend to a lot of things at once, such as when navigating a busy highway), but those who are rushing to fire up their Xboxes should proceed with a note of caution:  there is no such thing as a free lunch.  Games also have been linked to increased aggression (Anderson et al., 2010), especially in the short term, and few people have ever completed their class assignments with a video game controller in their hands.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Capillary Electrophoresis Workshop Coming in May!

Currently enrolled NSHE students may participate in two intensive 2-day workshops sponsored by Nevada INBRE that will be conducted by Beckman Coulter to certify participants in the use of their PA 800 Capillary Electrophoresis equipment.

The workshop will be held
May 9th thru the 12th
from 8:00am to 5:00pm
at Nevada State College
Liberal Arts & Sciences Building
Biology Laboratories (2nd floor)

Certification opens a pathway to employment opportunities and is a valuable asset to any science-based résumé.  This program is free of charge!

Interested students should contact Dr. Andy Kuniyuki for more information and to sign up.  Please email or call 702-992-2615.

NSC Launches Innovative Math Program in Fall 2011

By Professor Aaron Wong, Ph.D., Mathematics

Nevada State College is committed to student success. Wherever possible, we seize opportunities to provide a better, more fruitful learning experience to students. For example, studies show that students who complete their remedial classes in a timely fashion are more likely to earn their college degrees. In response, multiple national initiatives (such as “Getting Past Go” and “Complete College America”) specifically focus on remediation as a central component of student success. As a result, in fall 2011 NSC will launch an innovative program that is expected to dramatically improve student success in remedial courses.

Professor Aaron Wong has developed and will be leading
the implementation of the new Math Remediation Program

Over the past year, we have been working to create a new foundational mathematics program which will be more efficient and more effective at bringing students to a college level understanding of mathematics. The process is somewhat unorthodox, but we believe that our primary mission is to educate students, and we are willing to create whatever structures are necessary meet this goal. The most dramatic change is that the math remediation classes (known on campus as MATH 093) will be taught in 5-week modules instead of 15-week semesters. This has a number of benefits to students.

Math is one of those subjects where it is very difficult to get caught up after you fall behind, and students who fall behind often spend 5-7 weeks struggling and getting nowhere, only to eventually fail the course. Even worse, when students re-enroll in the course, they waste a good part of the semester covering things they already learned on their first trip through the course.

By breaking the semester into smaller modules, students will not be put in a position to waste precious time fighting with content that they have no chance of understanding. With the 5-week modules, students can immediately go back to fully understand the material that they missed. This allows our students to constantly move forward instead of being stuck spinning their wheels. An immediate consequence of this is that students should be able to complete their remediation faster than before because they are taking full advantage of the time that they have.

There are other changes that will be implemented, including mastery learning, common exams, and several behind-the-scenes changes, all designed to maximize student learning. We are excitedly looking forward to the launch of this new program in the fall semester.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Physical Pain of Heartbreak

By Dr. Tony Scinta, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology

When it comes to breaking bones, “sticks and stones” still have an edge on words, but both may inflict a very similar kind of pain.  At least that’s the conclusion being drawn by social psychologists at the University of Michigan.  They found that social rejection – for example, a nasty break-up – activates the same region of the brain associated with physical pain.

To students who study psychology at NSC, the connection should not come as a surprise.  A host of psychological studies have demonstrated a robust link between physical well-being and social, psychological, and emotional factors.  For example, students in Health Psychology (PSY 470) learn that social support is associated with mortality rates – older individuals who have plenty of available friends and family actually live longer than their less supported peers (e.g., Berkman, 1985). 

Likewise, social psychologists have long known that environmental and psychological factors can exert an influence on physical aspects of a person, but we also know that physical processes can have a meaningful impact on our perceptions and attitudes.  For example, research has shown that being physiologically aroused – sweaty palms, a thumping heart – for any reason, even exercise, can lead a person to be more physically attracted to someone else (Dutton & Aron, 1974). 

The moral of the story, aside from the suggestion to take your next date to a scary movie instead of a romantic one, is that emotional, psychological, and physioloigical factors are intertwined in surprising or important ways.  For experimental psychologists, the fun is in determining how the different pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

NSC Student Headed to Pharmacy School

Nisha Patel, NSC Class of 2011

Even at the age of 15, Nisha Patel recognized her calling in life.  She knew she wanted to become a pharmacist.  The first critical ingredients to a career-defining formula came to light during an open house event at Nevada State College.  NSC promised something special - personalized attention inside and outside of the classroom, and learning opportunities found nowhere else in southern Nevada thanks to state-of-the art laboratories and top-notch tenure track faculty with backgrounds from schools like Berkeley and Yale.  Inspired, Nisha took the plunge and enrolled at NSC.

Early uncertainty yielded to a confident plan of action under the direction of academic advisor Adeste Sipin.  Guided by the kind of advice that embodies NSC’s adacemic advising center, Nisha boldly moved forward with a four-year schedule of courses and a blueprint for post-graduation success.  In her mind, the path was clear:  graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from NSC, then gain admission into a pharmacy program.

Inspired by the teaching excellence of her professors at NSC, Nisha blazed a trail of success through every science course she took.  In the words of fellow student Anam Qadir, "If an instructor was mobbed by a throng of students, everyone would run to Nisha for help.”  As time went on and graduation requirements fell like dominoes, Nisha’s lifelong goal began to shift into a tantalizing reality.

A critical milestone emerged in a phone call on Wednesday, March 23.  Before the voice on phone even finished his introduction (“My name is Dr. DeYoung with the University of Southern Nevada . . .”), Nisha knew that the final piece of the puzzle had fallen into place.  With her feet off the floor and her voice in the sky, Nisha celebrated her admission into the doctorate program in pharmacy at the University of Southern Nevada. 

Before the final leg of her journey can begin, Nisha will first reign triumphant at the NSC commencement ceremony this May.  There, she will graduate with a Cum Laude distinction and a well-earned Bachelor of Science in Biology.  Nisha hopes to follow this achievement with dual degrees in pharmacy and business at USN.  After what she has accomplished so far, only a fool would doubt her.

Monday, March 28, 2011

NASA Grants Create New Learning Opportunities

LAS has two new learning opportunities sponsored by Nevada NASA Space Grant Consortium.

Summer 2011: Research in Astronomy
Students will engage in research projects to rediscover some of the monumental findings in astronomy. For example, the class will confirm the expansion of the universe using cutting-edge data collected by one of the most ambitious, influential and ongoing surveys in the history of astronomy, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In its third phase, this survey, with its 2.5 meter telescope in New Mexico, is diligently capturing and storing deep sky data. After learning the relevant concepts in astronomy, the students will dive into the data from this digital survey to answer some key questions:

How do you find the age of a star cluster?
How do we weigh a galaxy?
How do we know we have dark matter in the universe?

The projects will introduce students to theory, data collection, data processing, programming, data analysis and literature search – aspects which are integral part of conducting research in astronomy. 

This course will be taught by Dr. Sandip Thanki.

Dr. Thanki and astronomy students at NSC.

The 2.5 meter SDSS Telescope
A star cluster

A spiral galaxy

All space photos courtesy of The Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

A Fall 2011 Course: Global Warming
With the first grant in 2009, a new environmental science course was developed to give students experience in natural hazards investigations using satellite imagery and ground-truth surveys.  Students identified hazardous cliff collapse areas along a section of the Las Vegas Wash inside Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

The recent award is for developing and conducting an introductory course in climate change science.  In this course students will investigate climate basics and gain an understanding of why our global climate is changing. This course will include discussions about:

What are the causes of climate change? 
What is the science behind climate change?
What are the impacts of climate change on ecosystems and societal welfare? 
What can or should we do about it?

The course will investigate the major scientific data and projections by NASA and by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports to understand why most scientists believe Earth’s climate is in a state of human-caused crisis.

This new course will be offered fall semester 2011 under the name GEOL 110, Global Warming for three general science credits.  It will be taught by Dr. Edwin Price

Dr. Price and NSC environmental science students out in the field.