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Moscow, ID 83844-3025

Vandal Science News


A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends October 2012

Dean's Message

Greetings to all of our College of Science alumni and friends! It's been another very eventful Fall semester, with lots of exciting things happening in the college. I hope you'll take the chance to read about some of what's going on in this newsletter. In September we enjoyed an outstanding Austin Memorial Lecture from Dr. Jill Seaman -- an enlightening program that was very well received. Then in October we initiated a new year of the Women in Math and Science program with two great days at the UI Coeur d'Alene Center. We'll again bring that program to Boise this coming spring.

Our faculty, of course, continue to distinguish themselves nationally and internationally, with Professor Dennis Geist being named as President of the Darwin Foundation as just one example. And our students continue to experience the excitement of research themselves. This week we'll hold our 8th Student Research Exposition, with over 40 students, both graduate and undergraduate, displaying their research projects. You can read profiles of several of the student participants in the links here in this newsletter.

The work that happens here in our labs and classrooms really is exciting, and part of that excitement is the impact the work has on people. The opportunities that our students have here can often quite literally change their lives, while also giving them a chance to change the lives of many others. The university's current campaign, with the theme of "Inspiring Futures", centers on these life-changing experiences - experiences like those of physics graduate student Jency Sundararajan.

Finally, I hope that you'll visit the College of Science on Facebook. There you'll find notes about the life of our college, including photos, videos, and notes from and about our students and alumni. I think that you'll enjoy seeing all that's going on here.

- Paul Joyce

From Moscow to the Galapagos

Dennis Geist, Professor of Geological Sciences and recently named President of the Charles Darwin Foundation, brings Galapagos research home to the classroom in Moscow. read more »

Women in Math & Science

Each year approximately 350 high school girls participate in Women in Math and Science day on the Coeur d'Alene and Boise campus. This fall the College of Science was in Coeur d'Alene with students from area high schools. read more »

Alumni Awards

The Alumni Awards program recognizes outstanding alumni and friends for their professional accomplishments and service to society and the university. This year's Celebration of Alumni Excellence will be held on Thursday, November 1. read more »

Vandal Science News Puzzler

Solution to July 2012 Vandal Science News PuzzlerSuppose we start with a square of side length one. We then create a new larger figure by attaching four squares, each of side length 1/3, to the middle thirds of each of the four sides.  This new figure now has 20 segments making up its boundary. We’ll create our third iteration by attaching small squares (side length 1/9) to the middle thirds of each of those 20 segments. The new figure is rather complicated and has 100 segments in its boundary. We could create an even more complicated figure by attaching tiny (side length 1/27) squares to each of those segments. If we continue this forever, what is the limiting area of the resulting figure? [Warning: there’s both a hard way and an easy way to do this!]


As we said, there is both an easy way and a hard way to do this one – we’ll give both here.

Easy way :Notice that as we add smaller and smaller squares in the various steps to create this shape, it seems to be filling in a new square, rotated 45 degrees from the original square. Also, the new square has a side length equal to the diameter of the original square. Since the original square’s diagonal is the square root of 2, the area of the new square will be 2.

Solution to teh October 2012 puzzler

Hard way :The mathematical purists among us may prefer to show analytically that the area is two. We can do this by writing the total area as an infinite series:

  • The original square has area 1, so at stage 1 the area is 1.
  • We create the stage two figure by adding four small squares, each with area 1/9 – thus: 1 + 4/9.
  • At stage 3 we add 20 small squares, each with area (1/9)2 – thus: 1 + 4/9 + 20/92.
  • At stage 4 we add 100 smaller squares, each with area (1/27)2 = (1/9)3. Thus: 1 + 4/9 + 20/92 + 100/93.
  • There’s an obvious pattern developing that becomes even more apparent with a little rewriting:
    1 + 4/9 + 20/92 + 100/93  + . . .  =  1 + (4/9)[1 + 5/9 + (5/9)2 + (5/9)3 + . . . ]
  • If you remember infinite series from calculus, you might recognize the sum inside those brackets as a geometric series. Then remembering that the sum of 1 + r + r2 + r3 + . . .  is 1/(1-r), we can see that the sum in the brackets is 1/(1-(5/9)) = 1/(4/9) = 9/4.
  • So the area of the limiting figure is 1 + (4/9)[9/4] = 2.

Correct Solvers

  • Tim Householder (Mathematics, 2002)
  • Zephyr Bizeau (Zoology, 2000)
  • Fred Eberle (MS Geography, 1984)
  • Mark Daily (Physics, 1981)
  • Carey Edwards (Forest Products, 2002, GIS Certificate, 2010)
  • Sam Bacharach (Journalism, 1971, MS Geography 1980)

Student Research Expo

student research expo
Another exceptional year of graduate and undergraduate research posters will be on display at the 8th annual College of Science Student Research Exposition Friday November 2 from 2:30 – 5:00 P.M.
read more »

Austin Distinguished Lecture

Moscow native Jill Seaman, named MacArthur Fellow in 2009, spoke about her work in the Sudan treating kala azar and tuberculosis.
read more »


Dean position finalists announced

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