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.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thor and the 21st Century

By Joanna Shearer, Assistant Professor of English

Movie Poster Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
According to many in the comic book world, Hollywood has once again made an egregious casting error in an effort to promote diversity in films.  In the upcoming summer comic-book blockbuster, Thor, Hollywood cast Idris Elba, a black actor, into the role of Heimdall, a character who has been drawn white since the beginnings of the comic in the 1960s.  The question becomes: why is everybody so upset? 

For many, the answer to this question would be obvious, for “obviously” modern films, in an effort to promote color-/gender-blind casting, consistently seek to make changes based on race, ethnicity, and gender to make films more diverse, but in doing so, the Hollywood “machine” often makes significant changes to the original source material that the narrative’s purists simply cannot stomach. 

For this devout group, the film version of the comic should remain as true to the original source material as possible, regardless of modern concerns about racial tensions and equality.  Indeed, if one considers the travesty that was the G.I. Joe film, with the Baroness becoming a bubbly, blond, brainwashed, and American cipher of her former self, one can see that the comic book purists may have a point.  As a medievalist, where I constantly see Hollywood making horrific errors in plot (Beowulf and Troy), historical inaccuracies (Robin Hood, King Arthur, Kingdom of Heaven, etc.), and characterization (see all of the above and many, many more) supposedly for the sake of capturing the interest of a modern audience, I cannot entirely discount those who are feeling righteously indignant. 

On the other hand, I must recall the unfair treatment of Katee Sackhoff when she took on the role of Starbuck in the remake of Battlestar Galactica.  Many fans of the original show were down right incensed that a woman had been cased in this pivotal role.  And yet, when the show began, those doubters became some of her biggest fans, which is a testament to both Sackhoff’s abilities as an actor as well as her courage and grit in the face of wide-scale public vitriol. Consequently, my advice for this situation is the same as I said to many about Sackhoff: give Elba a chance.  He is a fantastic actor, and he just might do a good job.

Ultimately, the consumer has the power here. Marvel has warned its audience ahead of time of its change to the mythology, and so they have taken the risk of lower box office returns months before the movie will be released.  By contrast, Those Who Shall Not Be Named in charge of G.I. Joe produced an exciting trailer with no warning of the major revisions to the original mythology that led many of us old fans to pay good money to see a travesty of a film. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

NSC Seismograph and the Japan Earthquake

The 8.9 magnitude Japan quake recorded by the NSC seismograph
by Dr. Edwin Price, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor of Environmental Science

The 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan on Friday, March 11, was detected by the NSC seismograph, located deep underground at the Liberal Arts and Sciences building.  It was still Thursday evening when the seismic waves passed through the Las Vegas area at 9:46 pm., March 10.  It took only 12 minutes for the seismic waves to travel through the Earth’s crust from Japan to Las Vegas.  That is a travel speed of approximately 26,700 miles per hour.
Why was the Japan quake so large?
Northern Japan sits literally on top of the tectonic plate boundary between the Eurasian Plate, which includes most of the Asian continent, and the Pacific Plate, which consists of most of the Pacific Ocean.  Here these two plates are moving toward each other at a rate of about 3.5 inches per year.  Typically, the Pacific Plate crushes and slides underneath the Eurasian Plate, right beneath northern Japan.  This sliding is along a large inclined fault called a subduction zone. The high amount of compression between the two plates is normally taken up by earthquake-generating fault slippage along the subduction zone.
The subduction zone fault, which comes to the surface on the ocean floor just east of northern Japan, had not slipped in many decades.  A consistent 3.5 inches of compression per year had been building up in the rock over this time.  It finally snapped along the fault on March 11, sending seismic shock waves in all directions. 
What caused the tsunami and why was it so large?
Tsunamis are caused by a sudden shift of the sea floor either up or down.  In the case of the devastating Indonesian tsunami of 2004 and as is thought to have happened in the Japanese tsunami, the sea floor popped up several feet along one side of fault zone exposed in the ocean floor.  If a part of the sea floor suddenly moves up, the ocean surface directly above also is suddenly pushed up creating a mound of water in the ocean.  As the mound of water settles down, water flows out in all directions across the ocean in the form of low, but very long-wavelength waves.  As the waves encounter shallow water they build in height, and if the land is flat, can flow up onto the land.  Once on land the waves then return as backwash toward the ocean, carrying debris out to sea.

Image courtesy of Jim O'Donnell at BC-Geophysics, Geophysical Consultant/Contractor.
World mapping of the distance between Japan and the seismograph at NSC.

Image courtesy of Jim O'Donnell at BC-Geophysics, Geophysical Consultant/Contractor.
Actualy activity captured by the NSC seismograph.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Counseling Couch

The Media, Charlie Sheen, and Operant Conditioning 
by Dr. Richard Yao, Ph.D., Counseling Lecturer

We have been bombarded with up to the minute media coverage of the Charlie Sheen saga for the last 2-3 weeks.  This coverage has gone beyond entertainment news programs, and has expanded to include “legitimate” network and cable news stations.  One of the most interesting aspects of this ongoing drama is how the media is very quick to skewer Sheen for his “outrageous” speech, behavior, and questionable moral character, while failing to acknowledge their role in perpetuating the type of behavior they find so deplorable. 

Thorndike’s Law of Effect posits that behaviors followed by positive consequences are more likely to occur in the future.  That is, behaviors continue to persist only if they are maintained through reinforcement.  On the surface, it might be difficult to find any positive consequences as a result Sheen’s substance abuse and verbal assaults on his producers and fellow actors.  However, maladaptive behaviors are also maintained through reinforcement, and the media’s constant attention only reinforces and strengthens Sheen’s behavior.  Our seemingly insatiable appetite for the Sheen coverage also contributes to this reinforcement.  So, if you find Sheen’s behavior reprehensible, but continue to watch his TV interviews, listen to his radio interviews, and spend your valuable time reading the coverage on the Internet, you are inadvertently reinforcing his behavior by proving him with the attention that he craves.

Aspen Police Department mugshot courtesy of the NYDailyNews.com