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phone: (208) 885-6195
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Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Vandal Science News

March 2012

A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends March 2012

Dean's Message

Dear Alumni and Friends of the College of Science,

The spring semester is in full swing and the college has maintained the record enrollment growth it attained in the fall semester. More and more students are choosing to study science and mathematics at the state's flagship institution. Why? It's in large part because of world-class faculty who participate in and lead research initiatives such as the one recently funded through the NSF BEACON Science and Technology Center on "Evolution in Action".

The Institute for Bioinformatics and Evolutionary STudies (IBEST) was awarded $557,477 to support eleven faculty members, seven graduate students, and two postdocs for the next academic year. The faculty members funded were: Larry Forney, James A. Foster, Luke Harmon, Craig McGowen, Bree Rosenblum (affiliate facility), Paul Hohenlohe, and Eva Top (all in Biological Sciences); Robert Heckendorn and Terence Soule (in Computer Science); Michael O'Rourke (in Philosophy); and David Tank (in Forest Resources).

IBEST is an interdisciplinary research institute focused on understanding the patterns and processes of evolution that occur over comparatively short periods of time. Faculty members from across the university participate in IBEST, but College of Science faculty members play crucial and frequently leadership roles. IBEST research couples empirical and theoretical approaches, through interdisciplinary collaborations that blend the expertise of biologists, biochemists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists.

The BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action is a five-institution consortium that includes the University of Idaho, Michigan State University, University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, and North Carolina Ag and Tech. The University of Idaho's participation in this exciting project is one indication of this institution's excellence and leadership. This issue of the Vandal Science News contains several other examples of leadership in science and higher education by our faculty, students, and alumni. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

– Scott Wood

Sciences Makes Waves at Jazzfest

Student watching a wave of fire during JazzfestThe Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival had a new feature this year: academic-themed workshops for for visiting high school students. Faculty from Physics and Mathematics conducted workshops highlighting connections between music and the fields they teach. read more »

Seeley College of Science Scholarship Endowment

Student working in the labDr. James Seeley's contribution stems from his recognizing the extent that the University of Idaho has played in my life. "I want to give others the same opportunity that I had." read more »

Vandal Science News Puzzler

Suppose a cannon is mounted on a cart, pointed perpendicular to the cart’s bed. Now suppose the cannon shoots a ball upward while the cart is traveling at a constant velocity in a straight line on a horizontal surface, as in the left half of the figure. If we disregard friction, most people would guess (correctly) that the ball will eventually land back in the cart.

But now suppose the cart is actually rolling freely down a hill subject to the influence of gravity. If the cannon is again fired, will be ball land ahead of, behind, or exactly on the cart? This isn’t multiple choice: credit will be given only if the answer is accompanied by an explanation!

Computer drawing of cannon mounted on a cart.


The ball will land in the cart, the same as when the cart was moving on a level surface. Brian Hill (Chemistry, 1965) knew that the key is to look at the problem a bit askew – adopt a new axis system in which the “vertical” axis is perpendicular to the slope the cart is on. In this axis system, gravity now provides a force somewhat off of vertical, but it’s clear that this force will be acting on both the cart and the ball.

AVIATR Project

Jason Barnes AVIATR project
Jason Barnes of the Physics Department is the lead scientist on an exciting proposal for unmanned exploration of Saturn's moon Titan. read more »

2012 Hill Fellowships

Sarah Vukelich, recipient of the hill fellowship
Meet Jessica Osterloch (Geology), and Sarah Vukelich (Chemistry), two recipients of this year's Hill Undergraduate Research Fellowships. read more »

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