Monthly Archives: July 2012

Multicultural/pop culture note: ‘Doc McStuffins’ wins praise for its little STEM-focused role model

Collage of female African American physicians

Collage of female African American physicians and future doctor ‘Doc McStuffins’ from the parenting blog Coily Embrace.

If the class of 2028 includes a higher number of African American women interested in med school, don’t be surprised.  The reason might be a new Disney cartoon that is generating considerable praise. The New York Times reports today:

“Aimed at preschoolers, ‘Doc McStuffins’ centers on its title character, a 6-year-old African-American girl. Her mother is a doctor (Dad stays home and tends the garden), and the girl emulates her by opening a clinic for dolls and stuffed animals. …

“The series, which made its debut in March on the Disney Channel and a new cable network called Disney Junior, is a ratings hit, attracting an average of 918,000 children age 2 to 5, according to Nielsen data. But ‘Doc McStuffins’ also seems to have struck a cultural nerve, generating loud applause on parent blogs, Facebook and even in academia for its positive vocational message for African-American girls.”

One of the parenting bloggers who is enthusiastic about the show created the image above: “What started out as a simple collage of a few African American women physicians expressing thanks to Disney and Brown Bag Films has now taken on a life of its own.  When we first started the collage we never thought we would get anywhere close to the current number of physicians who have agreed to lend their image to this project.” That number is 131.  Add that little cartoon character, and you have a nicely composed collection of 132 positive, STEM-focused role models for African American youngsters who’ll be graduating from college in 16 years or so.

Lab safety: UCLA researcher’s case continues

Chemical & Engineering News logoFrom Chemical and Engineering News, dated Friday July 27:

“The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office today dropped felony charges against the University of California Regents as part of an agreement involving labor code violations relating to the 2008 death of a chemistry staff research assistant.

“Similar charges against UC Los Angeles chemistry professor Patrick Harran were not dropped. The case against Harran has been postponed until Sept. 5 while the judge reviews a motion filed by his attorney challenging the credibility of a state investigator.”

‘Zombie nouns’: You love them, don’t you?

Whether it’s a peer-reviewed article, a funding proposal, or a syllabus, no one reads academic writing for the fun of it. Researchers and other faculty members tend to write for each other, which is to say, for people who get paid to read each other’s stuff. And for students, who, sadly, pay dearly for the privilege.

But just because most or all of your audience is under some degree of obligation to read what you write, that doesn’t give you license to be obscure, muddy and uninspiring. If there’s anything that can beat the life out of academic writing, it’s the overuse of nominalizations.  If that’s a new word to you, don’t feel bad.  Great numbers of people probably came across it for the first time when reading The New York Times website this morning:

“Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them ‘zombie nouns’ because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings. …

“At their best, nominalizations help us express complex ideas: perception, intelligence, epistemology. At their worst, they impede clear communication. I have seen academic colleagues become so enchanted by zombie nouns like heteronormativity and interpellation that they forget how ordinary people speak. Their students, in turn, absorb the dangerous message that people who use big words are smarter – or at least appear to be – than those who don’t.

Isn’t it great to be lumped together with lawyers, bureaucrats and zombies? By the way, I added the emphasis at the end, partly because it’s a good point and partly because some of us probably picked up the same idea the same way when we were students.

Writing is hard, and not just for you — it’s hard for everyone who cares about doing it well.  We can all use as much good advice as we can get. And this Times column qualifies.

NC-LSAMP annual research conference on minorities in STEM to be held Sept. 20-21

The North Carolina Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (NC-LSAMP) will hold its annual research conference September 20-21 at N.C. A&T. This year’s conference theme is “Research that Informs and Transforms.”

The LSAMP seeks to increase the quality and quantity of students successfully completing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) baccalaureate degree programs, and successfully matriculating into STEM graduate programs.

NC-LSAMP is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the eight participating universities: N.C. A&T (lead campus), Fayetteville State University, N.C. Central University, UNC Pembroke, Winston-Salem State University, N.C. State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and UNC Charlotte.

 

Advances on biofuels, shelf life of produce featured in video on N.C. A&T research

Two top Aggie researchers are featured in a video produced by North Carolina Farm Bureau Magazine. Dr. Ipek Goktepe of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences talks about her research to extend the shelf life of fresh produce, particularly lettuce and spinach, and Dr. Abolghasem Shahbazi of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design discusses his work using agricultural waste to produce biofuel.

N.C. A&T grant of the month: Monitoring strucutral integrity of armor, weapons

U.S. Army logoThe Sponsored Funding Report for June:

N.C. A&T received 23 grants totaling $17.19 million in June.

The complete list of grants received in June.

One highlight was a grant worth $616,956 from the Army Research Office to Dr. Mannur Sundaresan of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.  Dr. Albert Esterline of the Department of Computer Science also will work on the project.

The project: Prognostic Health Management of DoD Assets

The issue: Acoustic emission-based structural health monitoring techniques have great potential for determining the current state of health of critical structures, such as Army vehicles and weapons systems, and predicting their future performance.  However, current technology relies mostly on empirical approaches for interpreting AE signals, a technique that has been plagued by ambiguity and false positives.

With a better understanding of the physics of acoustic emission (AE) signal propagation and the development of signal processing techniques, AE-based techniques can play a larger role in developing highly efficient, adaptive, and survivable vehicles, armor, and machinery and the assurance of their safety and integrity.

Abstract:  This research will develop numerical models, experiments, algorithms, web architectures, and other tools applicable to prognostic health management. The research will address identification of critical damage states in composite structural elements and strategies for sensing such states with multiple sensors.

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Reminder: Summer conferences include ethics workshop, nanomanufacturing

North Carolina A&T will be involved with two significant events for researchers in August. If you’re interested in either one, now is the time to register.

  • Ethical Dimensions of Coupled Natural and Human Systems Research: Monday August 13-Tuesday August 14, all day each day, Fort IRC, Room 410.  N.C. A&T and Penn State faculty will conduct a this workshop for A&T faculty, post-docs, and doctoral students in the sciences and engineering who are interested in integrating the ethical dimensions of coupled natural and human systems into their classes. Registration continues through July 15.
  • Nanomanufacturing conference: Wednesday, August 15, all day, at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. Nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing are creating jobs in clean energy, aerospace, medicine and biotech, materials and other areas. The Nanomanufacturing Conference is one of the nation’s premier Advanced Manufacturing conferences, featuring national and international nanotech innovators, leading researchers, government leaders and visionaries.