Professor invited to Nobel Prize ceremony

first_imgFor Notre Dame Astrophysics Professor Peter Garnavich, a telephone call at 5:00 a.m. was a dream come true. Over the line, his wife informed him that his scientific teammates had just won the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics. Garnavich’s colleagues Brian Schmidt, Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter will receive the prize for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through observations of distant supernovae. Garnavich will support his fellow researchers at the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony on Dec. 10 in Stockholm, Sweden. Garnavich is one of 20 members of the High-Z Supernova Search Team led by Schmidt. Garnavich said he has always felt that he and his team were capable of winning the prize, but he was surprised at just how quickly this was accomplished. “It was really a pleasant surprise because it has only been 13 years since we made our findings,” Garnavich said.  “Some people wait 30 or more years before their work is rewarded … I think this really reflects the importance of our discovery.” According to a ND Newswire article, Garnavich and the rest of his team will receive the prize based on their 1994 study that proves the universe’s expansion is accelerating.   “Using supernovae, we were able to get a pretty good number on how fast the universe was changing its rate of expansion,” Garnavich said.  “To everybody’s surprise, the rate of expansion was increasing.” Although Garnavich is being honored, he will not directly receive the prize due to a long-standing Nobel Prize tradition. “By tradition, the Nobel Prize is given to only three people at a time,” Garnavich said.  “This tradition stems from a time when science was done primarily by individuals alone in their labs.  Science nowadays is done more and more in groups, but the Nobel Prize committee really hasn’t kept up with this change.” Garnavich’s teammates, Australian National professor Brian Schmidt; Johns Hopkins professor Adam Riess and Universtiy of California, Berkeley, professor Saul Perlmutter, will receive the award directly. Nonetheless, Garnavich said he is excited to represent Notre Dame at the ceremony, and he hopes the publicity the event attracts will benefit the science program at the University. “Professors and grad students are doing excellent scientific research here at Notre Dame, but this is often not recognized as much as it should be,” Garnavich said.  “I hope that by attending the Nobel Prize award ceremony, I’ll be able to really enhance the view of scientific research here at ND.”last_img read more

Feast day honors St. Francis

first_imgThe Notre Dame community will celebrate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi today with a special mass, a movie showing, a blessing in the chapel of Breen-Phillips Hall and treats in the dining halls. Duncan Hall rector Terry Fitzgibbons helped plan the days event to honor St. Francis, who is the patron saint of animals and the environment. Fitzgibbons said Heather Rakoczy Russell, associate vice-president for residential life, knew of his interest in the environment and social justice, and asked him to be the representative for the Office of Student Affairs on the University’s Energy and Environmental Issues committee. “The environment’s something that’s always been important to me, and at the same time my faith has been important to me,” he said. “I don’t view them as separate, the two go hand in hand. … This is God’s earth, and we’re supposed to take care of it.” The daily 5:15 p.m. Mass in the Basilica will honor the feast day. Fr. Paul Coleman, director of the Center of Social Concerns, will preside at the Mass. Following the mass, the movie “Sun Come Up” will screen in the Jordan Hall of Science, Fitzgibbons said. “It’s a story about … climate refugees,” Fitzgibbons said. “[The people in the film] basically have no place to live anymore, due to rising sea levels, and this [film] follows their story.” Fitzgibbons then said moviegoers can attend a forum after the film to talk about the Catholic standpoint on the environment. “We’re going to have a discussion, prayer [and] reflection afterwards,” Fitzgibbons said. “With sustainability, ecology, environment, climate stuff … sometimes it can tend to be statistic-oriented, number-oriented. The idea is to spiritualize the environment and ecology because stewardship of the earth is part of our Catholic teaching. It’s not just a hobby we tree-huggers are into, but a part of our Catholic faith.” Fitzgibbons said he hopes the Mass, film and discussion lead to a deeper sense of awareness on environmental issues and how they can be integrated into faith. “Once you make it part of our faith, it’s something we have to take seriously. … We hope students, faculty and staff will join us for this and also be part of the conversation,” he said. “We want to not just end with the film, but moving forward, what are ways we can make the issues of ecology, environment, sustainability [and] climate … more personal, more spiritual?” Other meaningful questions can be addressed in the context of these events, Fitzgibbons said. “What can we do practically for people, like the people in the film who are affected by climate change?” he said. “But also, what can we do on campus, what can we do in our faith lives, to make this more meaningful?” The feast of St. Francis is the perfect time to bring these concerns to light, Fitzgibbons said. “I think the feast of St. Francis is the natural way to tie [faith and the environment] in, with Mass, with the discussion of the film, to tie it in and make it very personal and spiritual,” he said. Breen-Phillips Hall will also hold a prayer service Thursday in the dorm’s St. Francis of Assisi Chapel to celebrate the feast day of its namesake. Breen-Phillips Hall’s liturgical commissioner Kate Lang said the prayer service will also focus on faith and the environment. “One of the Masters of Divinity students [Collen Mayer] is going to give a small reflection on St. Francis and the environment,” Lang said. “One of the students who graduated in 2009 made a marble plaque of St. Francis, and during the prayer service we are going to bless it.” The plaque will then be hung in Breen-Phillips Hall’s chapel. The prayer service will continue the theme of St. Francis of Assisi, she said, with the opening song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” which is based on the Prayer of St. Francis. “The Canticle of the Sun,” written by St. Francis, will also be read, Lang said. In addition to the religious events commemorating the feast of St. Francis on campus, the dining halls will serve special nature-themed desserts at dinner.last_img read more

ND research team retains grant despite shutdown

first_imgThe United States Department of Agriculture awarded a $500,000 grant to a Notre Dame research team headed by Scott Egan, research associate professor in biological sciences, to create new technology to track genetically engineered organisms.  Egan said the grant will fund two different methods of detecting genetically engineered organisms, one of which is called environmental DNA, or e-DNA. Egan said e-DNA refers to tissue and cells that organisms naturally lose or shed into the environment, which can be used to detect the presence of certain species. He said an example of this is genetically modified salmon produced by a private company to breed year-round rather than only during the spring or summer.  “When you take water samples, you can filter those tissues and cells and do a DNA extraction, and then use standard genetic tools to detect species present in given environment,” Egan said. “Instead, we’re going to focus on genetically modified organisms rather than invasive species.” The second technology funded by the grant centers around environmental proteins, Egan said. “We have a collaborator in our grant, professor Jennifer Tank in the [Notre Dame] biology department, as well as co-collaborator Emma Rosi-Marshall at the Cary Institute in New York, and they have used other technology to find that some genetically engineered corn releases different proteins into the environment that we could also detect,” Egan said.  Egan said they will also collaborate with physicists to develop a device that performs “light-transmission spectroscopy” (LTS) on the proteins to learn more about their nature. Carol Tanner, Notre Dame physics professor and developer of the LTS device, said in a press release the information provided by the LTS technology could provide much more thorough information about the proteins.  “The LTS technology exhibits the potential to be a field-ready device that can generate rapid and highly accurate detection results, even when a target is at low densities,” Tanner said in the release.  In light of the recent government shutdown, Egan said luckily, their project still would remain funded. “We were very lucky in that our grant was funded this summer and the paperwork was just recently delivered and finalized with Notre Dame literally weeks before the shutdown,” Egan said. “Two weeks later, we would have been affected. We would have had graduate students who didn’t have any money.”  Egan said though changes to their approach may have to be confirmed with government officials, his research and his collaborators’ research will go on. Contact Alex Cao at                      [email protected]last_img read more

Author urges social justice for restaurant workers

first_imgSaru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and author of the book “Behind the Kitchen Door”, presented the lecture “Behind the Kitchen Door: Restaurant Workers and their Struggle for Justice”, at the Carey Auditorium in the Hesburgh Library on Monday.The lecture, sponsored by the Higgins Labor Institute, centered on the struggle of restaurant workers living off the minimum wage, which is currently $2.13 for tipped workers.“We tend to celebrate the most important life moments in restaurants: birthdays, parties, anniversaries [and] important business meetings,” Jayaraman said. “Most of us cannot even remember the people who touch our food. And I would argue that is very, very purposeful.”Jayaraman said although the restaurant industry is one of the fastest growing in the United States, restaurant worker wages have been among the top-10 lowest-paid jobs for over two decades.“How is it that you have got one of the largest and fastest growing sectors in the U.S. economy proliferating the absolute lowest paying jobs in America? What does that mean for any new entrance in the workforce?” she said.Jayaraman said her interest in the restaurant sector began after the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, in which hundreds of restaurant workers lost their lives in a small restaurant in one of the towers and more than 13,000 workers lost their jobs in the aftermath. ROC-United currently campaigns for legislation to raise the minimum wage, enforce better working conditions and encourage greater diversity in the workplace.“The most spectacular part of the last 12 years since 9/11 was getting to know the stories of thousands and thousands of workers across the country and having a completely different dining experience [afterwards],” she said.According to Jayaraman, the $2.13 wage restaurant workers currently earn is due to legislation from the National Restaurant Association during 1996 that advocated freezing wages for tipped workers.“As customers, [when we tip], we are paying for the wages for the workers that serve us every time we eat out,” she said.Jayaraman also showed a video on gender and diversity in the workplace.“For the vast majority of restaurant workers in the United States, getting a decent, livable wage job is a matter of your skin color or your gender,” she said.Jayaraman said while federal law requires restaurants to make up the difference in wages if tips do not suffice, many of the restaurant workers said their employers have failed to make up the full difference.“The U.S. Department of Labor reports an 80 percent violation rate with regards to employers not making sure that tips make up the difference, or stealing tips or requiring workers to pay something out of their tips,” Jayaraman said.She said states like California and Minnesota have been able to pay both tipped and non-tipped workers the same wage while reporting an increase in profit for restaurants.“We’ve actually put out data that demonstrates that [the restaurant] industry works better when your workers are paid the same wage as non-tipped workers,” Jayaraman said.Tags: minimum wage, restaurant industrylast_img read more

Chemistry and biochemistry professor receives award for diabetic wound research

first_imgAccording to a University of Notre Dame press release, the Accelerator Award is a $1.6 million research grant that will fund Chang’s project, “A Strategy to Accelerate Diabetic Wound Repair,” over the course of five years.Chang’s project investigates the causes and molecular inhibitors of chronic wounds in diabetic patients. Chang said traditional treatments such as debridement remain ineffective for many diabetic patients.“There are 73,000 amputations of lower limbs in diabetic patients in the U.S every year,” Chang said. “We’ve been trying to understand why the chronic wounds in diabetic patients do not heal.”Chang said a key focus of the project is identifying and isolating MMP8 and MMP9 enzymes, also known as matrix metalloproteinase enzymes. She said one of these biological agents is critical to the healing process of diabetic wounds. Chang said a challenge the team will face is detecting and differentiating the three enzymes.“It turns out that these enzymes are involved in the pathology and the effort of the body to heal the wounds … The challenge is how to distinguish between the three enzymes. Current methods cannot differentiate between the three, and only one is involved in the pathology of the disease. ”The team will also focus on activating and deactivating specific MMP8 and MMP9 enzymes, Chang said, since deactivating the MMP9 enzymes while leaving the MMP8 enzyme intact ensures faster recovery for chronic wounds. Chang said the project has primarily used mouse models (diabetic mice) to analyze the MMP8 and MMP9 proteins, but she hopes the project can take further steps to determine whether or not these proteins are found in human patients.“Right now we have identified that an enzyme called MMP9 is involved in the pathology of the disease,” Chang said. “We have identified that MMP8 is what the body uses to heal. Our strategy would be to inhibit the bad enzyme [MMP9] and leave the good enzyme [MMP8] untouched.”Chang said activating and deactivating the enzymes would be facilitated by a set of inhibitors her team has been able to identify. Chang said these inhibitors are “small molecular compounds that selectively inhibit the bad enzyme and do not inhibit MMP8.”There is a lack of research and pharmaceutical interest in diabetic wounds, Chang said, despite the chronic health problems these present. She said she hopes her research will be able to translate to human trials.“We do want to see our work translated into a therapeutic tool that will help patients with diabetic wounds,” Chang said. “We want to analyze the [diabetic] tissue to see if we see the enzymes that are present in animals are present in humans. If we find them, this will give us more confidence that whatever will cure the wounds in mice will translate to humans.”Tags: Acelerator Award, American Diabetes Assocaition, diabetes, diabetic wound, Mayland Changlast_img read more

Speaker explores relationship between buccaneers and the slave trade

first_imgJohn Donoghue, associate professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, spoke Monday evening about buccaneers and their role in the slave trade during his talk, “Slave Revolts and Piratical Capitalism in the Age of Captain Morgan.” Donoghue said in the 17th century, buccaneers started out as poor French, Dutch and British citizens who had been “delivered into bondage across the Atlantic” without their consent, often tricked or manipulated into signing contracts.“These buccaneers who become pirates and make their living ultimately by stealing, are themselves stolen,” Donoghue said.He said these indentured servants ultimately escaped from their brutal work, and formed communities of their own, where they lived off looting.“Whatever loot that they got, whatever provisions they were traded, the spoils would be divided equally among the brethren,” Donoghue said. “They organized themselves along decidedly anti-Capitalist lines.”Nevertheless, Donoghue said soon the buccaneers teamed up with the British colonial settlement in Jamaica in order to stifle Spain’s thriving trade.“The buccaneers saw an opportunity to increase their wealth, and the English saw an opportunity to acquire the labor they needed to begin robbing the Spanish,” Donoghue said. “This produces an innovation in the colonial economy called privateering. This is essentially state-sponsored piracy.”Donoghue said the buccaneers, led by Capt. Henry Morgan of Wales, pillaged many Spanish settlements, most famously Porto Bello and Panama.“These were massive forces attacking cities, destroying them and relieving them of their wealth,” Donoghue said. “So the buccaneers provided the key military labor for extracting capital from the Spanish empire that [would] be brought back to Jamaica, and invested for the purposes of sugar planting.”Through these attacks, Donoghue said the buccaneers brought back thousands of African slaves from Spanish settlements to Jamaica.“By turning mercenary for the colonial regime in Jamaica, we see people fleeing from unfree labor becoming instruments of enslavement themselves,” Donoghue said. “I call this conflicted resistance.”The intense influx of African slaves made each slave increasingly expendable, to the point that Donoghue said it was “more profitable to work a slave to death” than keep him healthy.“This is a holocaust of the early-modern period, a holocaust driven by profit maximization,” Donoghue said. “This is a murder machine.”However, by 1693 slaves outnumbered their white slavers by a ratio of around 5-to-1 in Jamaica, Donoghue said. Consequently, slaves began to revolt and form their own settlements on the island called Maroons.“These rebels were so powerful that the British were forced to come to terms with them in the Treaty of 1739, recognizing the sovereignty of these Jamaican Maroon communities,” Donoghue said.What makes this so fascinating, he said, is despite how buccaneers are in part responsible for the prevalence of African slaves in Jamaica, the buccaneers and Maroons were very similar in their quest for sovereignty after escaping enslavement.“Buccaneering parallels the development of the Maroon societies of the Caribbean,” Donoghue said. “In some ways, buccaneering is a floating Maroon community. But we see that this history gets very complicated and conflicted.”Tags: buccaneer, John Donoghue, pirates, slaverylast_img read more

College announces change to commencement attire policy

first_imgPresident Jan Cervelli announced a change to the Commencement stole policy Tuesday. The revised policy will begin with the 2018 Commencement, according to a press release. Previously, the College allowed graduates to wear honors cords and medals at Commencement but did not allow stoles to be worn at the ceremony. Stoles, honors cords and medals were all allowed at the Baccalaureate Mass and Honors Convocation, however. The previous policy only allowed exceptions recommended by an academic department with approval from the President. This revision to the permitted attire for the commencement ceremony will allow for approved stoles to be worn at graduation, according to the release. Several members of the class of 2018 presented letters to President Cervelli requesting a change to the policy. “I was moved by thoughtful letters from members of the class of 2018 saying that stoles represent the community they’ve found during their years at Saint Mary’s,” President Jan Cervelli said in the release. “They have shown themselves to be Women of Action in this effort, as well as in their involvement with the groups that have meant so much to them as students. Symbols of those experiences deserve to be worn during Commencement.”The Office of Student Affairs will be responsible for approving graduation stoles if a student desires to wear a stole that is not on the list of approved stoles.According to the release, organizations with approved stoles are the education department, multiethnic clubs and organizations, Notre Dame band and STEM programs. Tags: Attire, Honor Cords, Saint Mary’s Commencement, Stoleslast_img read more

ND researchers mobilize as Hurricane Florence paves stormy path

first_imgHurricane Florence struck the east coast Friday, ransacking North and South Carolina with record flooding and region-wide catastrophe.The storm was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical depression, but the damage being left in its wake persists: thousands are trapped by rising floodwaters, hundreds of thousands of homes are without power and the death toll reached 18 Sunday.For a group of professors, that damage is a siren call. Photo Courtesy of Tracy Kijewski-Correa Andrew Kennedy surveys a demolished beach in the Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria hit in 2017. Kennedy is part of a group of professors that conducts research on natural disasters to evaluate infrastructure and building codes.Andrew Kennedy, a coastal science and engineering professor, is one of a group of faculty members in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences (CEEES) who collect data about natural disasters. Often, this involves deploying to the affected area or partnering with teams already in the region to conduct research.“With our partners in North Carolina, we have put out 10 water level gauges on the North Carolina barrier Islands on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week,” Kennedy said in an email. “[With the gauges], we will have good records of water levels and some wave information near buildings, which is needed for helping designs. However, we will not have this information until we pick up the gauges and download the data.”This isn’t the first time professors deployed to an area struck by natural disaster to gather on-the-ground data. It’s been done for “a bunch of storms” in the past, Kennedy said.“We used to have a program where we would have a helicopter fly along the coast before the storm and lower gauges that we found afterwards using divers,” he said. “But that program ended a while ago, and since then we have only been placing gauges on land to investigate conditions around built-up areas.”As of Sunday, rain accumulation reached 40 inches in southern North Carolina and 20 inches in northern South Carolina and western North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center, and is also affecting parts of Virginia and other New England states.Given the severity of the storm, research can’t be conducted until before or after the disaster hits, Kennedy said, which means deployment teams must wait before collecting much of the research.“It is not certain what will happen after Florence clears up,” Kennedy said. “We will likely send a team down in concert with other people and assess the damage and how that related to the conditions during Florence.”The team will likely be led by Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Kennedy said, who is the director of the Structural Extreme Events Reconnaissance (StEER) Network, a National Science Foundation initiative created this year.Kijewski-Correa said StEER is a new network involving a “volunteer corps” composed entirely of members from in or around the community affected by the storm. The team will travel to the afflicted region in a coordinated manner to gather on-the-ground research, she said.“Our job is to get on the ground fast, as fast as safely possible, and use mobile apps to collect as much data as we can using a team that’s in the field as well as a larger team that remains at their universities processing the data that they’re feeding in on off their phones,” Kijewski-Correa said.Using wind simulations, storm surge measurements, aerial data and social media, Kijewski-Correa said the StEER team has been working already to identify key neighborhoods particularly struck by Florence for on-the-ground teams. The aim is to create a “sheet map” of a concentration of damage across the affected area — one that can help other research teams or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). “I’m literally corresponding with professionals in South Carolina and North Carolina who are locked up in their homes right now,” Kijewski-Correa said. “But we can get on the ground with our mobile app almost instantly once the rain subsides, and they can start feeding data into the second wave that will probably fly in from universities that are further away from the zone.”Virtual assessment teams work on the “backside” of the operation, Kijewski-Correa said, which involves processing the data from on-the-ground researchers and adding additional information to assist in the process.“Most of the information that you need you have to be up-close front to observe,” Kijewski-Correa said. “The reality is you cannot forensically kind of understand what happened unless someone gets close enough, either with a drone, a set of laser scanners or physically with a mobile camera to be able to take those images. You can’t really see them unless you have someone get there.”Notre Dame’s performance during the hurricane season last year warranted a contract distinguishing the University as the “coordinating node” for the network, Kijewski-Correa said. This new role will change the manner by which the storm’s damage is assessed. “If we do a really good job as the leaders, we’re empowering other researchers to get out there and collect the data rather than us having to chase every disaster, which is really hard,” she said. “We deployed people for I think all three hurricanes last year, and that’s a lot of missing class, a lot of physical and emotional burden on those people.”While about three Notre Dame professors regularly deployed for natural disasters, the goal now is to take everything learned over the last 10 years and build it into a system encouraging others closer to the target zone to engage in research, Kijewski-Correa said.“We are virtually leading [others] and orchestrating their movements and staying kind of like what we call a ‘war-room’ above the battlefield so that you can see what all your people on the ground are doing and position them well rather than being so deep in it without cell communication that you can’t really beat,” she said.The data gathered often helps researchers learn what needs to be changed in infrastructure and building designs, Kijewski-Correa said, which can be a decade-long cycle to implement after a major disaster. She said this is known as the “major learning loop,” an element of structural engineering that is essential to keep people safe.“The only way that all of the construction practices and building codes that keep all of your families safe are ever validated is for people to do exactly what we do because we cannot build your house and then subject it to all that nature can do at full-scale,” Kijewski-Correa said. “We can’t simulate the kinds of things that the hurricane does in a lab, you actually have to see what it really does because it’s so complex and so large-scale you have to see that on the ground.”Tags: Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Florence, Hurricane, Hurricane Florence, stormlast_img read more

‘It’s kind of like candy to me’: Professor assists wardrobe department for ‘The Lion King’

first_imgMelissa Bialko will be assisting the costume department of the Broadway production of “The Lion King,” which will run at South Bend’s Morris Performing Arts Center from March 4 to March 22.Bialko, Saint Mary’s theatre professor and professional specialist in costume design, said she got the position working on the show through a stagehand union called International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE. Genevieve Coleman | The Observer The Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend is hosting a traveling Broadway production of “The Lion King.” Saint Mary’s professor Melissa Bialko is among the crew working on wardrobe for the show.“My first gig with our local stagehands union, Local 187, was in September 2005, so I’ve been working with this local for quite some time,’’ she said. “Being a member of the union, there is a call order for each position. I was called in ranking order to fulfill that position, which is a wardrobe member.’’Bialko said she is humbled to take on the role for the show.“I feel great pride in any work that I can get to do in theatre, and it’s kind of like candy to me to get to work on something renowned like ‘The Lion King’ as a wardrobe person,” she said.Managing the costumes for “The Lion King” is a large undertaking, Bialko said, due to the show’s minimalistic set.“It’s a huge wardrobe call,” she said. “There’s truly very little scenery, but there’s a lot of glorious lighting and a lot of costumes. So, there’s quite a lot of us who are needed to be wardrobe [members] as well as puppet workers.”The wardrobe managers are divided into specific crews, each of which have certain jobs to perform during the shows.“There’s actually a specific laundry crew, which is typical on every show,” Bialko said. “Then during the shows themselves, we help people with changing their clothes. It’s a lot more complicated and intense than what that sounds initially. There’s actually quite a lot of running around backstage.”Bialko said she thoroughly enjoys being a part of theatre productions because of the fast-paced nature of the job.“It’s a lot of quick problem solving on your feet,” she said. “It’s really enjoyable because you get to help the performers be ready to do their job.”Originally, Bialko said she wanted to use her passion for design to become a civil engineer.“I started out in civil engineering and environmental science, wanting to go into preservation of historical structures and eventually into law for environmental and preservation reasons,’’ she said. “I found out as an engineer, you spend a lot of time not physically interacting with the old stuff I love. With scenic design, you get to interact with the old stuff everyday — you get to research it, you get to replicate it, you get to tweak it in the design sense to make it tell part of the story of the play.”Bialko said she has found a love for teaching students lessons that are applicable both inside and outside the classroom.“The appeal to me is to get to work with students that closely every day and to not only teach them, ‘This is how you draft this kind of pattern,’ but also life skills,” she said.Working in theatre enriches and complements the human experience in many ways, Bialko said.“What I really love about theatre is how collaborative it is,” she said. “You are part of a team every single day. You are working toward a common goal every single day. … I think [the arts] serve a very important enrichment for [mental health] in our world, and the joy and pride of being a part of that is very, very special to me.”Tags: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Morris Performing Arts Center, The Lion Kinglast_img read more

Notre Dame faculty, students discuss challenges, adjustments to remote learning

first_imgDue to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tri-campus community will be engaging in distance learning for the rest of the semester.Online classes for Notre Dame officially began Monday. While all disciplines face challenges in adjusting to remote learning, courses with hands-on components face great difficulties in adjusting to online classes.Dean of the School of Architecture Michael Lykoudis said that while professors are choosing whether to record lectures for or hold Zoom classes, the design classes prove more of a challenge.Architecture students will receive a full suite of design materials so they can complete their projects from home, which third-year architecture student Leighton Douglass said in an email was “the best thing” the school has provided and will be extremely helpful for staying on track with the curriculum.In terms of architecture studio classes, students hand-drawing their projects will be able to send their projects to professors by scanning or photographing the work and sending it to the faculty member. Digital projects will also be sent to professors for remote feedback. “In both cases, students will be able to show this to faculty virtually and what they’re working on, the faculty, as they usually do, simply comment on the projects and tell them how to modify it and how to change it,” Lykoudis said.The College of Engineering is also adjusting courses, specifically lab classes, so they can be completed online, assistant dean for advising and academic affairs in the College of Engineering Michael Ryan said in an email. While lecture classes will be administered using a mix of pre-recorded lectures and live Zoom sessions, lab classes will be altered as well.“Most lab courses will be completed by the instructors recording the experiment and collecting the data which will be distributed to the class,” Ryan said. “The students will be required to watch the lab experiment, analyze the data, conduct analysis and then submit lab reports on their analysis and conclusions.”Studio art courses have also had to adjust to remote classes. Chairperson for the studio art department Richard Gray said professors have modified their courses to be compatible with online learning.“All studio art and design faculty have recently developed solutions to translate their courses to online learning. They have modified their projects, and in some cases come up with completely new projects.”These solutions include completing projects with do-it-yourself materials for sculpture and ceramics classes available at home and submitting drawings and photographs remotely, as well as both synchronous and recorded lectures, Gray said. Critiques may be completed over Sakai forums in some cases.Senior thesesMany seniors have been working on theses or capstone projects which require an in-person component. Ryan, Gray and Lykoudis said remote learning will not affect the completion of senior theses.“Every instructor has identified a path forward for each senior design course/theses to be completed — thereby completing degree requirements and [allowing] graduation in May,” Ryan said.While studio art theses would usually be displayed in the Snite Museum of Art, faculty are working on an online solution to honor the work of senior art majors.“With the museum closed, we are developing an online gallery website to feature all senior thesis work,” Gray said. “That website build is underway and being coordinated by faculty and office staff. We hope [to] launch the site in late April to celebrate their projects and their graduation.”Because most of the research for senior architecture theses has been completed, Lykoudis said seniors should be able to finish their projects using online critiques similar to other studio classes.“I imagine there’s a condensing of efforts that has to happen, and I’m not saying the two would never be affected, but they should be able to finish this like everyone else,” he said.Materials for hands-on classesJunior chemical engineering major Bev Watson said she was able to return to Notre Dame prior to campus closing down, but she has also received materials from some professors that she was not able to get in person. “[For] one of our classes, the professor is also sending us a small device that we use for some of our different coding stuff,” she said. “And since I was able to pack everything up, I have all of my materials, but I know that’s been a struggle for some people.”Sophomore Samantha Monahan said though one of her art classes can be completed through Adobe, the other requires many materials — including paints, paper and other tools. “I was lucky enough to bring a limited amount of these materials home with me prior to campus closing, but nothing could replicate the availability that one has to these required materials while working in a studio,” she said in an email.Gray said art professors have come up with solutions for the lack of physical materials.“Some faculty are getting very creative by specifying [DIY] materials found at home,” Gray said. “Others have created materials lists for the students to purchase those art supplies online. The department is reimbursing students for the cost of materials they purchase to complete the course.”Douglass, who was in Rome last semester and the first part of spring semester, said she left many of her supplies for architecture in Italy as the students only 36 hours to pack and leave the country.“The School was great about scanning our projects that they found and sending them to us for our reference when it comes to continuing the projects,” she said. “What we really need are our large drafting boards, something most of us do not have access to because they are a couple hundred dollars each. Instead of using these, our studio professors came up with a different set of required drawings for us to complete our projects since we can no longer hand-draft our projects.”‘Detracting from Notre Dame education:’ Challenges of distance learningThough he expects to complete his classes successfully, junior computer engineering student Jake Huber said remote learning was not what he originally envisioned from his time at Notre Dame. “I certainly think it’s sort of detracting from the Notre Dame education because I’m not quite sure I’m getting much of the Notre Dame education online since there are recordings for lectures and stuff like that,” he said. “I think in terms of classes, … I’ll finish the classes and still move on. In terms of how much I’ve learned and how effectively I’ve learned, I think it’ll be a little bit detracted from [that].”Huber said he usually attends office hours for help with homework several times a week, but online classes have changed this routine.“I think one of the things that’s kind of affected me a little bit is there’s less undergraduate TAs available now since we’re all online,” he said. “A lot of the questions and help is all with the professor, which is just a little bit different, I guess. But for the most part, it seemed like they have tried to do a pretty good job of being available.”Watson said in-person collaboration with peers and colleagues is important to the college experience, and she will miss that during this time of online classes.“I definitely think it’ll be harder to master the material,” she said. “Part of the reason you go to university is that you’re also surrounded by a lot of people driven towards the same goal as you at that time. It’s kind of hard to be motivated in that same way when you’re at home. I think it’s going to be difficult to master this material that is crucial to some of the culminating classes that we’ll take senior year. But I think all the professors are putting in a lot of effort to try to help it be as seamless as possible. So hopefully, that pays off in the long run, and there’s not a huge discrepancy.”Douglass said in-person studio classes are important for architecture students because of the hand-drawn projects they work on, which proves difficult when trying to communicate remotely.“We don’t talk to them for the entire four hours, of course, but it is extremely beneficial to always have a professor around to ask any questions that may pop up,” she said. “A lot of the questions we have, too, are on paper and require us to point and draw things to explain, which is extremely difficult to do with a computer. The School of Architecture has come up with different ways to deal with this.”Monahan said in-person critique is a crucial part of any studio art class or project.“While there are a plethora of options for ways in which students can send projects into a faculty member remotely, it is impossible to replicate the view the faculty member would get if they were face-to-face with a student’s work,” she said. “Each faculty member that I’ve come into contact with so far has made themselves more than available to provide feedback to students; nonetheless, the feedback that students could receive from faculty if their work was being viewed in person is in an entirely different stratosphere.” Faculty members said they have been impressed by the work of their colleagues as they adjust to remote learning during this time.“We face an unprecedented time and have been asked to do unprecedented work,” Gray said. “That said, I have been incredibly impressed with the innovative solutions and speed with which our faculty have adapted their studio-based maker courses to online instruction. It’s clearly not [ideal], but it does present some interesting possibilities.”Lykoudis said that though the situation has presented a challenge for the School of Architecture, faculty have risen to the occasion.“We’re trying to make it as smooth as possible for our students and for our faculty to teach,” he said. “Everyone is trying to catch the many balls in the air, and I’m very proud of our IT department for creating this suite for our students to work remotely and also get our faculty to teach virtually, remotely as well.”Tags: College of Engineering, COVID-19, Online classes, remote learning, School of Architecture, studio artlast_img read more