Sabbatical Travelogue

Volos 002Fantasy realized: sitting on a train, heading for a Greek port with a funky hotel waiting, working on my laptop. James beside me, searching a hotel for the next night on his phone. My fingers are still tender from starting to build calluses on the baglama we bought a few days ago in Athens. Rain showers pass by outside, wetting the green fields as we ride.

Yesterday I met with a couple of professors at the University of Athens. George Tombras is the chair of the Physics department, with a huge plate of challenge in front of him. 1500 students, 85 faculty (all “strong personalities”). 35 courses, 7 labs, and all students do a thesis. In the past four years an 80% cut in funding. Yes, 30% was not hard to absorb, but the other 50% has been painful. Couple that with the reality that only a few percent of their graduates can expect to find employment in physics. Over at the Technical University, the engineering graduates have an employment rate of maybe 15%. Think we have trouble with student motivation in the US? Yikes!

George and his assistant professor colleague Hector Nistazakis are exploring student conceptions of electricity and ways to increase the relevance of their courses. Our interests overlap in the area of how visualizations can be used. Hector also described his research on the use of wireless networks at optical wavelengths; dedicated building to building links for the ‘last mile’, the impact of atmospheric turbulence on signal attenuation, and how diffuse LEDs might be used for secure wireless transmitters in a room.

Our visit was on the Monday of their Easter break. Despite their difficulties, profs and grad students were working away, focused on what they do best.

Graduate students interested in research with me?

As you can see, I have a small but active program, with lots of opportunities. However, I don’t spend a lot of time hunting for money, so I don’t have a lot of funding. No open funded positions at the moment, but when I do get an opening there often isn’t a lot of time to find somebody, so please check back here now and then. I’m always happy to help students apply for the NSF Graduate Fellowship, and explore overlapping interests with self-funded students.

I prefer to work collaboratively with my graduate students on topics of mutual interest.  I expect my students to be self-motivated and own their research. I love to provide resources in the form of basics like equipment, space and funding (when possible). I also believe it’s important to provide introduction to the academic research community; how to proceed through the iterative research process, how to mentor others, and how to communicate with peers and the public. In return I want to make contributions to fun and useful research, and to learn from my students.

Since my program is small I can provide individual attention. My current students are spread across my interests, with not a lot of overlap, so we have separate weekly project meetings (most projects have undergrads assisting us) instead of a big group meeting.

If you like the sound of this, please contact me directly!

NNMC seminar

December 9 2014 I gave an invited seminar at Northern New Mexico College. They are in the process of evolving from a community college with 2 year degrees to a four year college, and are starting a Mechanical Engineering Technology program. Their students are very different from the students here at CU: 75% Latino/hispanic, 18% Native American, mostly Northern Pueblos, with a wide range of values, interests and preparation levels. We are exploring whether something like Flow Vis offered to incoming students will help with recruitment and retention of this population.

Jean R Hertzberg, Katherine Goodman, Tim Curran, and Noah Finkelstein. “Flow Vis and Beyond: ⬚The Power of Aesthetics in Engineering Education.” Invited, Northern New Mexico College, December 9, 2014. Powerpoint PDF: Jean R Hertzberg et al_2014_Flow Vis and Beyond
And I got a very nice gift box.