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The winter weather and snow make the University of Minnesota campus more and more beautiful each day this holiday season! In a winter tradition that began last year, students in the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) celebrate the winter season with a dazzling light show: "Illumination." The students cover the entire Civil Engineering Building Plaza with lights, which are accompanied by music that is composed and performed by U of M students. This year, the show uses more than 100,000 LED lights! I visited the Premiere Party for this event, and I can say from experience that the lights were absolutely spectacular!

The Premiere Party took place on December 7 and included performances by student organizations at the U of M such as MinnesoTap and Serenade the City, as well as CSE's "Freezin' for a Reason" 5K runAll proceeds from the 5K Run were donated to the Amplatz Children's Hospital. After the Premeire Party, the light show ran every weekend in December. What a great way to bring the U of M campus community together during the holiday season!

Check out the video clips below to see some of the CSE students' excellent work! Happy Holidays!


From web-spinning adventures to gravity-defying rescues and explosive action, the stories of larger-than-life comic book characters have thrilled and inspired us for years. But have you ever wondered how fast Superman must have flown to save Lois Lane as she plummeted off a skyscraper? How much force did Spiderman use to stop the train from derailing into disaster? Well, you'll no longer have to wonder about Wolverine or be suspicious of Superman. Never fear! Professor Kakalios is here to save the day! Pow!

Not only is Jim Kakalios a physics professor at the University of Minnesota teaching classes such as "Everything I know about Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books," he is also a tried and true superhero consultant so-to-speak. He has served as a scientific consultant on Warner Brothers' 2009 film Watchmen as well as the upcoming summer flick The Amazing Spider-Man. Through the National Academy of Science's Science and Entertainment Exchange program, Kakalios consulted behind two of the superhero's most important traits: webbing and wall crawling.

His most important contribution to the film is the "Decay Rate Algorithm," a mathematical expression relating to cell regeneration and human mortality. The equation needed to be so memorable that audience members would be able to recognize it during several scenes throughout the movie.

The algorithm provides a mathematical explanation for how defective cells multiply against the weekend immune system of an aging body and become fatal: combining the real science found in the Gompertz Equation and the Reliability Theory of Aging and Longevity.

Aside from transforming fictional situations into realistic scenarios, he also wrote the book The Physics of Superheroes as well as The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics. "At the end of the day, I'm not looking for a movie to be 100 percent scientifically accurate. But if they can do something right, it's like catching a little inside joke... And who knows? Maybe the audience will learn a little something about science," says Kakalios on his website. See his work come to life on screen in The Amazing Spider-Man in theaters July 3rd. 

Check out "Everything I know About Physics I Learned By Reading Comic Books" along with other freshman seminars offered here.


Grant Remmen is a National Merit Scholar who has been heavily involved in undergraduate research since he was a freshman attending the University of Minnesota. Grant has recently been awarded a prestigious Hertz Fellowship to support his future graduate studies. Considered to be the nation's most prestigious and generous support for graduate education in applied sciences and engineering, the Hertz Fellowship is valued at more than $250,000 per student, with support lasting up to five years.

Remmen will graduate summa cum laude from the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering this spring and will begin graduate school this fall in pursuit of his Ph.D. Read on to get an inside look at Grant's experience at the University of Minnesota:

grant remmen.jpg

Name: Grant Remmen
Hometown: Detroit Lakes, MN
Majors:
Astrophysics, physics, and mathematics
Year of graduation: 2012

- Which U of M experiences have prepared you the most for your future?

"The U of M offers a plethora of undergraduate research opportunities. The ability to delve into research starting in my freshman year and continuing throughout my undergraduate studies at the U of M has well prepared me for success in graduate school and a career in science."

-  What have been the highlights of your time at the U of M? 

"There have been many academic highlights to my time at the U of M. Because of my undergraduate research at the U of M, I was presented with many awards. A few of the awards I have received include:

  • Goldwater Scholarship
  • American Astronomical Society Chambliss Medal for exemplary research
  • University College London Dean's International Student Scholarship
  • Hertz Fellowship for graduate school
  • National Science Foundation Fellowship for graduate school

"A major highlight from my time at the U of M was a May Session study abroad experience in Italy, studying the work of Galileo and Leonardo daVinci. Spending a month in Florence and Rome allowed me to gain unforgettable experiences in getting to know a new culture and become globally engaged.

"My research experiences at the U of M have also been major highlights of my undergraduate education. Working with the University of Minnesota's world-class faculty, I have been able to conduct research on the Milky Way's dark matter, black holes, and even engage in Hubble Space Telescope research on Eta Carinae, a massive star system. These experiences have prepared me to excel in my graduate studies and my future career as a physicist."

- Can you comment on your interactions with your U of M professors? 

"Undergraduate research has allowed me the opportunity of working closely with remarkable faculty members at the University of Minnesota. By delving into current research problems with the University's leading investigators, students are able to develop connections with faculty outside of classes; the mentorship of University of Minnesota faculty has been a key component in preparing me for success."

- Would you recommend the U of M to high school students, and why?

"I would enthusiastically recommend the University of Minnesota to prospective students. At the U of M, you will find challenging academics, engaging professors, and cutting-edge research opportunities, which will well prepare you to excel in a career or in graduate school."

This fall, University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering (CSE) students worked for six weeks in their Introduction to Engineering class to create nearly 250 robots, which will be on display at the largest robot show in the Twin Cities on December 12.

William Durfee, University of Minnesota mechanical engineering professor and director of engineering design education, encouraged his students to get creative with their designs. The CSE students were given only a kit of parts, a computer, and the option to use no more than $40 of their own spending money for materials. The only limitations he placed on the robot project were that it must have at least one moving part, "do something interesting," and operate for no more than 60 seconds. Some examples of the robots include a crawling ladybug, a head massager, and a cheese slicer!

You can see all of the robots that were created at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus on Monday, December 12 from 2:40 to 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and is suitable for all ages. I encourage you to check out this event and see the fantastic work of the University of Minnesota's CSE students!

For more information on this event and photos from previous years, visit www.me.umn.edu/robotshow.

robots.jpg

University of Minnesota researchers, famous for their work in mapping Antarctica, have begun to literally expand their work to the ends of the Earth. Paul Morin, a staff member in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, along with a team of undergraduate and graduate students from the U of M, have recently begun include the Arctic in their research and mapping. Paul Morin leads the Polar Geospatial Center, which provides information and project opportunites for other geology and geophysics researchers. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding this project with $4 million throughout five years of creating imagery of the Arctic terrain.

Certain parts of the Arctic being mapped have never even been visited before. The collected information will allow scientists to study the polar animals, glacier movement, and even find remote loctions for landing military aircrafts. The team has also created a partnership with Google to keep Google Earth and Google Maps up-to-date.

The ten University of Minnesota students who are participating in this project are experiencing an opportunity of a lifetime. They are able to view the breathtaking land of the Arctic, which is unseen and undervalued by most people. Pictured below is one of the teams' researchers on the rugged terrain. Examples of the maps that they produce can be viewed at the Polar Geospacial Center's website. Click here to check one out!

The University of Minnesota's Formula SAE  (Society of Automotive Engineers) Team is composed of 25 U of M students, primarily majoring in mechanical engineering, who design and build a race car each year. The team will be competing against other Formula SAE teams in Michigan this May under the sponsorship of Honeywell.

The 2011 car averages 75 miles per hour, and can theoretically reach 135 mph. The team has the goal of placing in the top 15. After learning from previous years and incorporating new strategies in design and building, these U of M students have high expectations for the future of our Formula SAE chapter. For more information on this project, visit the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Formula SAE team website.

Many members of the team find jobs have been hired by major engineering corporations as a result of their involvement in the Formula SAE Team. It's a great way to get involved on campus and network with future employers!

Pictured below is the racecar on its first drive of the year on Saturday, April 9th:

SAE racecar.jpg

My first day of class at the University I was very excited and very nervous all at the same. I had toured campus, attended summer orientation, but that day it became real that I was in college. I had an amazing experience as an undergraduate at the U of M. There is no doubt in my mind that I chose the best school for me.

I have had a blast during the past year working with students and families who are considering the University of Minnesota and the College of Science and Engineering. So, it is with sadness that I announce I am leaving the Office of Admissions to begin a new position. However, I am thrilled that this new position is still within the University! I am so happy that I will remain on campus, working in a different capacity for the College of Science and Engineering.

Seniors, I wish you the best of luck as you make your final college decisions this spring. I hope to see you on campus next fall (and in our CSE Ambassadors meetings!).

I've been asked many times this year why I chose the University of Minnesota. I find it hard to give a succinct answer, because I chose the U of M for so many reasons. This video does a great job of summing up all my answers to that question: Why the University of Minnesota?

So for now...Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu!


Forbes.com recently ranked Minneapolis as the Best City for Finding Employment. The unemployment rate in Minneapolis dropped by 0.7% from 2009 to 2010, which shows that an alread strong job market is improving. However, there are many more factors that contributed to Minneapolis's ranking.

Ajilon Professional Staffing, the recruiting firm which conducted the study, also considered the diversity of industries in the city, the cost of living, the range in size of companies offering employment, and the high level education of residents. These were equally weighed in the rankings.

Jodie Chavez, senior vice president of Ajilon says, "The quality of life in Minneapolis overall also tends to be high. The city has low crime rates and poverty rates and relatively low cost of living while being one of the major metropolitan centers of the Midwest. The Minneapolis-St. Paul market is in somewhat of a sweet spot of offering jobs with relatively high pay while having a low cost of living."

To help CSE students find amazing job opportunities, the College of Science and Engineering has a Career Center for Science and Engineering. The Career Center works specifically with companies hiring in the technical fields. Last fall, recruiters ranked the University of Minnesota within the top 10 best engineering schools, according to rankings in the Wall Street Journal.

University of Minnesota students are truly in a great place to begin their careers!

Last week I was so excited to find a copy of Schoolhouse Rock: Science Rock when cleaning out a room in Lind Hall. I learned so much from Rocky and his pals when I was in elementary and middle school. Watching that old VHS tape, I was reminded of some really neat research being conducted at the Solar Energy Laboratory on campus.

At the Solar Energy Lab, researchers are using seven-mirrored, 6,500 watt lamps which have the irradiance of 3,000 suns to generate temperatures of more than 3,600 degrees F to split carbon dioxide and water to form carbon monoxide and hydrogen.

Carbon monoxide and hydrogen are the two main components of "syngas," a synthetic gas created from carbon dioxide using solar power. Syngas can be converted to "synfuels," which can take the form of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, methane (natural gas), or other products.

The best thing about this process: it requires no input of fossil fuels. U of M researchers are working on a way to take carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, and turn it back into fuel. An analysis indicates that the sunlight-to-synfuel process can run with nine percent efficiency.

Jane Davidson, mechanical engineering professor in the College of Science and Engineering said about the project, "With 9 percent efficiency--which would be many times more efficient than using biofuels--we could replace all the petroleum in the United States with solar collectors covering 15 million acres.That's the size of West Virginia, and half of what we use for highways."

Already, Davidson and her colleagues have produced syngas in their lab and are beginning to work on prototype reactors. As they develop reactors, another team of researchers is studying materials which could make the process easier and even more efficient. 

I'll leave you with a lesson I learned from Schoolhouse Rock, "If everyone tries a bit harder, our fuel will go farther and farther."


 

Meet the College of Science and Engineering (CSE) Ambassadors:


cse ambassadors.jpgThis newly formed CSE student group participates in a lot of amazing activities in our college.  If you've visited campus, you have probably already spoken with one of our CSE Ambassadors! These outstanding students share their experiences with students in grades K-12 by meeting individually with students on campus, visiting local schools, attending science and engineering events (such as FIRST Robotics conferences, Science Olympiad competitions, and more), and giving campus tours.

CSE Ambassadors recently started a pilot mentorship program for current CSE freshmen.  The official mentor program will kick-off in fall 2011. Check out the mentorship website this summer to sign up for a mentor! You can meet some of the officers and mentors who are members of CSE Ambassadors on their website.

In addition to the outreach and mentoring programs, CSE Ambassadors also get an inside look at many of the departments within the College of Science and Engineering.  Last semester, CSE Ambassadors got to learn about the huge telescope on the roof of Tate Lab of Physics. Check out some photos of recent events.

If this sounds like fun to you, I encourage you to watch the CSE Ambassadors recruitment video, which won second place at the February CSE Student Organization Fair hosted by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

I am lucky to be an adviser for this group. I get to work with truly incredible students in the College of Science and Engineering. I hope to see you at our meetings next fall!


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