December 13, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Melat M. Hagos was born in Ethiopia, grew up in Kenya, and moved to the U.S. when she was 11 years old.

After arriving in the U.S., her family did not own a computer, but her mother took her to the local library every day so she could read and find information for homework. “This led me to love reading and kept me interested in school,” Melat says. “I was also lucky to go to a middle school and a high school where I was challenged and uplifted. I became involved in service and science organizations that helped me see the bigger picture of what I was learning and kept me engaged.”

While in high school – at Chamblee Charter High School, in Chamblee, Georgia – Melat visited Georgia Tech several times to participate in mentorship programs. During those visits, she realized how much she liked Tech. “I also wanted to stay close to home,” Melat says, “so Tech was top of my list.”

At Tech, Melat developed resilience. She has come a long way from the time she felt despair because of a bad grade. She is graduating with a B.S. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and is headed for a job in wildlife conservation.

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?
The importance of having a support system and asking for help.

When I first started struggling in my classes, I thought I should isolate myself so I can be more focused on the work. I learned the hard way that whatever the problem – whether academics or mental health –  what helped me most was reaching out even when I was embarrassed or felt vulnerable.

Georgia Tech met my expectations not only in its rigor but also in the expertise and prestige of its professors. 

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?
How involved alumni are and how willing they are to help – they have been a great resource for me.

When I first enrolled, I was also surprised by how apathetic some students were about social and political issues. I’m glad to see more students using their voices to speak up.

I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?
Bill Winders, an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, started me off on the right foot with his emphasis on remaining critical and inquisitive about accepted norms.

Kelly Comfort, also an associate professor in Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and faculty director of the Georgia Tech International House (I-House), made me feel at home with her warm spirit and personal stories.

Kim Cobb, one of my favorite professors in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the head of the research lab I worked in, has been an inspiration and a great example of how to be a kick-ass woman in academia and the public sphere.

Dana Hartley, my major advisor, has always been so kind and understanding with me and fellow friends. I’m thankful that students have her as a resource and liaison.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?
Crying at the campanile after finding out I was going to fail a class.

I’m so proud of how far I’ve come. Now, I look back on moments like that with a laugh, because as sad as they were, they ultimately made me a better student and person.

What was the most valuable outcome of your participation in experiential learning activities?
One of the best decisions I made was to apply to live in I-House. As a ThinkBig community, I-House brings together Tech students and exchange students studying abroad at Tech.

Living in I-House helped me see Atlanta, Georgia Tech, and myself in a new light and expanded my perspective of other cultures. I made some amazing friends and now have people to visit all around the world.

I also did undergraduate research in Dr. Kim Cobb’s paleoclimate lab, using coral to reconstruct climate change. The undergraduate research experience made academia and research much less intimidating and helped me build relationships with graduate students in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen at Georgia Tech?
Be patient with, and kind to, yourself. You’re going to grow a lot during your time here, so don’t let setbacks define your self-worth.

What would improve the Georgia Tech experience for future students?
I hope Tech continues to invest in collaborative opportunities that bring together different majors and in community engagement, such as the Serve-Learn-Sustain initiatives. These programs are rewarding. They show how we can use what we learn to have an impact even as students.

Where are you headed after graduation?
I will be working at WildArk, a wildlife conservation organization in Atlanta. Then I hope to attend graduate school to study environmental policy.

My time at Georgia Tech taught me to stay resilient, be a process-oriented problem solver, and seek out unlikely opportunities. 

December 15, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Yufei Zou worked as an environmental engineer in Shanghai before coming to Georgia Tech in 2012. In that role, he provided environmental-modeling and air-quality-forecasting services to the 24 million residents of Shanghai every day. Being an air-quality forecaster in China is challenging, Yufei says. “It requires dealing with lots of information and uncertainties in meteorology and atmospheric chemistry.” To advance his career, he went abroad for a Ph.D.

Yufei learned about Georgia Tech while he was an undergraduate student at Peking University, in Beijing. The founding dean of the College of Environmental Sciences there was C. S. Kiang, formerly a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

Kiang was dean from 2002 to 2006, “when China started to transform its economic development mode from extensive growth – with high energy consumption and pollution – to a more sustainable way,” Yufei says. “As a pioneer and advocate for a green economy in China, Professor Kiang built a bridge for environmental studies between Peking University and Georgia Tech. That’s how Georgia Tech became my first choice for graduate study abroad.”

In addition to a B.S. degree from Peking University, Yufei came to Georgia Tech with an M.S. degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He leaves with a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

What is the most important thing you learned at Georgia Tech?

From the ordinary to the extraordinary. I learned from many faculty members and students that to be a Yellow Jacket means commitment and pursuit of excellence.

As a renowned research center, the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has many professors and students conducting cutting-edge research in multiple fields – atmospheric chemistry and dynamics, air quality and health, aerosol and clouds, and climate change. Their novel findings inspire and encourage other researchers to discover new knowledge.

What surprised you most at Georgia Tech?

The lights in the library. They are always on to illuminate the diligent students of Georgia Tech.

Which professor(s) or class(es) made a big impact on you?

My advisor, Professor Yuhang Wang, changed my life by offering me the opportunity to come to Georgia Tech. I benefited from his insights and passion for state-of-the-art atmospheric science research. He encouraged me to explore the boundaries of atmospheric sciences, as well as my own potential. These explorations helped make me who I am today.

What is your most vivid memory of Georgia Tech?

The football match of Georgia Tech against Virginia Tech on Sept. 20, 2014, was my first time to watch a live football game. We were at a disadvantage in the first three quarters. But the Yellow Jackets showed great courage and resilience in fighting back from a losing position and won the game.

Besides the game itself, the joyful atmosphere – like a holiday in the campus – left a deep impression on me of the football culture and tradition in the U.S.

What unique learning activities (research abroad, field work) did you undertake?

I participated in the 2014 CESM Tutorial in the Mesa Lab of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). CESM, or the Community Earth System Model, is the major modeling tool I used for my Ph.D. research. During the week I spent in the NCAR Mesa Lab, I learned the skills of Earth system model development and application. This experience benefited my graduate research, which was focused on developing fire models and climate simulation.

What advice would you give to incoming graduate students at Georgia Tech?

Be prepared for setbacks and failures; they are inevitable for your forward path toward success. It is those frustrations and vulnerabilities that make you invincible and indomitable.

Where are you headed after graduation?

I am going to be a joint postdoctoral research associate at the University of Washington and the U.S. Forest Service in Seattle, Washington. My work will focus on simulating wildfire smoke and modeling air quality, perfectly matching my personal interests and research experience.

I anticipate future collaboration between my postdoctoral research group and my friends and colleagues at Georgia Tech because we have shared research interests. The potential to work together is high.

December 18, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

When she was growing up, Rena Ingram was fascinated by TV detective dramas, especially “CSI.” Yet she didn’t want to be a cop. For Ingram, it was the science behind the sleuthing – the gathering of evidence, the lab work that helped nail the bad guys – that got her attention.

“I had a keen interest in those types of shows,” she says, “especially when I took chemistry in high school.”

Ingram and chemistry proved to be a successful mixture, one that she thought would include a résumé-boosting Ph.D. at Georgia Tech. Once at Tech, however, she faced a mystery of her own: Why was she so unhappy? Is this level of stress normal? If she gave up, what would her family and friends think?

Counselors in the Office of Graduate Studies say what Ingram experienced is common among graduate students. “They may feel they are failing even though they are simply taking a different path,” says career development advisor Robbie Ouzts.

With the help of Tech services and programs, including counseling from mentors, Ingram refocused her goals. Instead of staying for a Ph.D., she opted to graduate from Tech last May with a Master of Science in Chemistry and embark on a different career path.

Ingram is now at Marietta High School, taking part in a collaborative teaching program made possible by a $30,000 Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship. She’s still in graduate school – at Kennesaw State University, where she’s pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching, Secondary Chemistry. She’s getting a chance to try her own methods of engaging students, such as using sports-themed games to teach them about the periodic table.

Those students have helped her smile again. “It’s been great. Those kids are my babies,” she says with a laugh.

A Change of Scenery – and Heart

Ingram believes the seed for wanting to be a teacher was planted by her chemistry instructors at her Augusta, Georgia, high school and at Fort Valley State University, where she received her B.S. in Chemistry in 2014.

“My teachers made it fun and interesting, and that’s what made me want to pursue chemistry,” she says. After college, however, she set aside any plans of teaching. Instead, she moved to Atlanta and applied to Georgia Tech’s doctoral program, mostly because of Tech’s reputation. Naysayers also provided motivation.

“People were saying, ‘Georgia Tech’s too hard. You’re not going to get in,’” she recalls. “But when people hear that someone went to Georgia Tech, they say, ‘Wow, you graduated from Tech?’ The name alone holds so much weight.”

When she started at Tech, she believed that five years of work toward a Ph.D. would allow her to apply for a good crime-solving job with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Soon her doubts started. She knew that teaching was an option after getting a Ph.D., but was it something she should pursue immediately?

Her advisor, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry Professor and Chair M.G. Finn, knew something was wrong.

“He sat me in his office one day and said, ‘You’re not happy here,’” Ingram recalls. “I thought, are you another person telling me I can’t do this? I was not receiving the message he was trying to send. I basically told him that I’d get it done; don’t worry about it.”

Tears, acceptance, and a different destination

“Second thoughts are the product of an active mind,” Finn says. “It’s often difficult to balance the desire to change with the need to persevere, but that’s where mentors can help. Ultimately, of course, it’s the student’s decision.”

Ingram made that difficult decision after her first qualifying examination. The panel members could tell that she didn’t want to be there, Ingram recalls. “They said I presented really well, but the work I put into my project could have been better. Their focus was in telling me that I wasn’t happy.

“Of course that put a damper on my parade,” she says. “So we talked, they left the room, I cried for a minute, and then I walked into M.G.’s office and said I want to be a teacher.”

Finn was delighted. A career in chemistry, he says, “doesn’t have to be research. We need great high-school teachers too.”

Finn believes it’s his job to give students the benefit of his experience and perspective when they decide what they want to do. “I try never to talk about finding what students are naturally good at,” Finn says, “because this implies that everyone has something they’re preordained to do, if only we can discover it. Instead, I try to help students find what they want to work hard at.”

A Ph.D. is not for everyone, just as an academic career is not the only option for someone with a Ph.D. “Students can decide they do not like research, or find that the Ph.D. path is not what they thought it would be,” Ouzts says. “Students may find that the industry job market is much better than the academic job market.”

Ouzts says graduate students can experience a range of emotions when second thoughts happen. “I assure the student they are just choosing a different path – not a wrong path, just a different one,” she says.

She encourages students to write down their reasons for deciding to leave a program. She also recommends creating an “elevator pitch,” a 30-second summary, for their new direction.

Comfortable in the classroom

Ingram may still try for a Ph.D., but in education, not chemistry. In the meantime, she wants to have the same impact on her students that her chemistry teachers had on her. She’ll have plenty of chances to do that; as part of her $30,000 Wilson Foundation Fellowship, Ingram has committed to teaching science classes in underserved Georgia schools for three years.

Any worries about what friends and family might think about her change in Ph.D. plans dissolved with her mother’s encouraging words, Ingram recalls. “She said, ‘You just have to do what you makes you happy. I’m proud of you regardless.’”

The same attitude informs Ingram’s advice to graduate students who find themselves reconsidering their career goals: “Follow your heart. Listen to the voice in the back of your head. If something is telling you to go for it, then go for it, even if it’s not the same plan that you had.”

Robbie Ouzts, a licensed counselor and career coach, encourages students having second thoughts about graduate studies to speak with their advisor or principal investigator. They can also seek counseling and other information through these Georgia Tech units:

Office of Graduate Studies

The Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development (VPGEFD)

Center for Career Discovery and Development (C2D2)


December 19, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Zhigang Peng wants you to hear Earth’s rumblings. Kenji Bomar wants to capture the exquisite beauty of the air around objects. Jennifer Leavey would like to spice up science instruction with sprinklings of punk rock science lyrics.

These projects are among 16 that recently won funding from the Creative Curricular Initiatives (CCI) of the Georgia Tech Office of the Arts and the Georgia Tech Council of the Arts. CCI aims to support members of the Tech community who are interested in exploring the connection between the arts and sciences. On top of funding, awardees will also receive mentoring in designing, evaluating, and sustaining their projects.

A professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Zhigang Peng studies earthquakes and collects seismic data from all over the world.

One of the things Peng does with seismic data is to “sonify” them – that is, make them audible to human ears. His “earthquake music” collection includes sonifications of not only earthquakes but also of meteor impacts and nuclear tests. His sonification of the 2011 Japanese earthquake based on seismic data recorded in California has made it to the top 10 videos in Georgia Tech’s YouTube channel. By sonifying seismic data, Peng enables us to hear Earth’s vibrations that are otherwise inaudible and enables researchers to elucidate the physics of earthquakes and the processes that trigger them.  

For the CCI project, Peng will extend sonification to other fields of Earth and planetary sciences, with help from School of Music Professor Jason Freeman. “I would like to convert scientific data into sound tracks and videos that people can enjoy and easily understand,” Peng says.” He is excited about using sound, because “previously art and science have been connected mostly through images or visual products. Converting scientific data into audible ranges provides a new domain of communication.” 

An avid photographer, second-year physics major Kenji Bomar will focus his camera on air that is usually invisible, for example, the air currents around a burning candle tip or a warm hand. To capture these images, he will use a technique called Schlieren imaging.

“Schlieren imaging is used in laboratory settings to observe density and temperature gradients in fluids,” Bomar says. “The images produced by Schlieren imaging are very organic, adding a layer of sincerity to the art, which will largely focus on themes of creativity, passion, and bonds with loved ones.”

Although Schlieren imaging is primarily used in research, “the images created are so uniquely beautiful,” Bomar says. “Beauty isn’t limited by discipline. All it takes is a little ingenuity to find something truly enchanting.” 

Bomar plans to assemble the Schlieren apparatus in January 2018, complete photography by February, and exhibit photographs in April. The project will be an individual effort. However, Bomer says, “advice on the Schlieren apparatus will come from various Georgia Tech faculty, and inspiration for the photos will come from a variety of sources, including other Georgia Tech students.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Leavey will use CCI funding to extend the reach of nontraditional means to communicate science through irreverent stories and punk rock lyrics. Leavey is a senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences and is the College of Sciences’ coordinator of the integrated science curriculum. She also directs Georgia Tech’s Urban Honeybee Project.

As the genetically modified clone Leucine Zipper, Leavey does lead vocals for the punk rock science band she and others created in 2013 – Leucine Zipper and Zinc Fingers, named after biologically important protein motifs – for the Atlanta Science Festival.

“We’ve written an album’s worth of original songs,” Leavey says. “The lyrics align with fundamental concepts in chemistry, biology, and physics.”

For example, the song "Entropy," which the band performed in the 2017 Atlanta Science Festival, begins with these lyrics:

          Why are you always trying to organize things?
          Can’t you understand simple entropy?
          Why put order, where it’s not meant to be?
          You can’t control atoms, and you can’t control me
          Entropy: atomic anarchy (x 4)

Leavey would like to incorporate the band’s music in science instruction. She will use CCI funding to create audio and video recordings for class use.

In a separate CCI project, Leavey will create print copies of Charged, a science magazine she founded in 2012 and is now available only online. Contributors include students enrolled in Leavey’s STEM communications class.  

The magazine encourages contributors to write personal accounts of how science or the study of science affects them or to explain complicated topics “in an edgy, irreverent, creative way.” Stories should be fun and easy to read, like those in an entertainment or fashion magazine, but should not insult the reader’s intelligence.

“I am investigating the impact of creative science writing on attitudes toward science and persistence in STEM careers,” Leavey says. Through a print edition, students will not only write but also design layout and illustrations.

Photo Caption

Zhigang Peng and Earthquake Music 
When seismic data, recorded in California, from the 2002, magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Alaska are played 200 times faster than normal, humans can hear what they sound. The primary P wave becomes audible, sounding like distant thunder, while the tremor signals triggered by the earthquake’s surface wave sound like a rattlesnake.

December 21, 2017 | Atlanta, GA

Twelve Georgia Tech scientists have made the 2017 Highly Cited Researchers list. Seven of them, listed below with the subject fields in which they are highly cited, are affiliated with the College of Sciences:

  • Claire Berger, Physics
  • Walter de Heer, Physics
  • Mostafa El-Sayed, Chemistry
  • Randall Engle, Psychiatry/Psychology
  • Nga Lee (Sally) Ng, Geosciences
  • Rodney Weber, Geosciences
  • Younan Xia, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics

Clarivate Analytics Web of Science compiled the list, which is based on citations of papers published from 2005 to 2015. It features more than 3,300 unique authors who amassed sufficient citations to place them among the top 1% most cited in at least one of 21 subject fields.

Claire Berger is a professor of the practice in the School of Physics. Her scientific interests center on nanoscience and electronic properties of graphene-based systems.

Walter de Heer is Regents Professor in the School of Physics. He is renowned for research on nano-patterned epitaxial graphene and nanoclusters in beams.

Mostafa El-Sayed is Regents Professor in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Currently his research focuses on the use of nanoparticles in treating cancer.

Randall Engle is a professor in the School of Psychology. His research aims to elucidate the associations between working memory, cognitive control, and intelligence.

Nga Lee “Sally” Ng is an associate professor with joint appointments in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She studies aerosols, including their formation, life cycle, and health effects of aerosols.

Rodney Weber is a professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. He is an expert on the sources, formation, and health effects of aerosols.

Both Ng and Weber also develop instruments for field study of aerosols.

Younan Xia is a professor with joint appointments in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Xia is widely known for seminal contributions to shape-controlled synthesis of metal nanocrystals with major impact on catalysis, plasmonics, and biomedicine. Xia is one of 20 authors cited in three subject fields.

Following are the other Georgia Tech faculty on the 2017 list of highly cited researchers:

  • Ian Akyildiz, Computer Science
  • Geoffrey Ye Li, Computer Science
  • Frank Rothaermel, Economics & Business
  • Zhong Lin Wang, Materials Science, Chemistry, Physics
  • Gleb Yushin, Materials Science

January 8, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

For the sixth year in a row, the Georgia Tech community will partake of a community meal to discuss the life and legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. The meal is called Sunday Supper, even though it takes place during the workweek. The gathering evokes Sunday dinners of yore, when two or more generations of family and friends shared a comforting meal. It was a time to exchange stories, learn family histories, and discuss current events or concerns. 

Conceived by the volunteer organization Points of Light, the Sunday Suppers take place around MLK Day each year. They bring together people from diverse backgrounds to a meal so that they can interact on a personal level and discuss matters that affect their communities.

Sirocus Barnes first attended a Sunday Supper in 2012 in Chicago. “I was so impressed with how the members of various communities came together and had meaningful conversations over a meal,” he recalls. “This is a national program in communities hosted throughout the U.S., and I wanted to bring it to our campus community.”

Through the AmeriCorps program at CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing), where he is a program director, Barnes organized the first MLK Sunday Supper at Georgia Tech, on January 2013. Since 2014, the event has become a part of Georgia Tech’s MLK celebration events.

Barnes continues to secure funding and facilitators for the event. Sponsors include CEISMC and the College of Sciences. Barnes works with the Georgia Tech MLK Celebration Planning Committee to connect the supper to the annual theme, which is “Actualizing the Dream: The Future of Nonviolent Political Protest” for 2018. 

The gathering evokes Sunday dinners of yore, when two or more generations of family and friends shared a comforting meal. It was a time to exchange stories, learn family histories, and discuss current events or concerns. 

College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul M. Goldbart has served as a facilitator in these suppers and looks forward participating in this year’s event. “I suspect that everyone who gathers for these suppers comes away feeling as I do: reenergized to fulfill our community’s commitment to the full embrace and celebration of diversity,” Goldbart says. “I imagine that these feelings will be even more pronounced this year, as we move toward the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination.”  

MLK Sunday Supper is a unique event that brings staff, faculty, and students together toward Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a society where skin color is not a factor in how people are treated.  “Meaningful conversations about serious issues facing our world, country, and community are important,” Barnes says. “I am thankful that the MLK Sunday Supper allows our campus community and opportunity to have those conversations.”

This year’s MLK Sunday Supper will take place on Thursday, Jan. 18, 6-8 PM, at the Bill Moore Student Success Center. To participate, register here.

January 17, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Big data and data mining have provided several breakthroughs in fields such as health informatics, smart cities and marketing. The same techniques, however, have not delivered consistent key findings for climate change.

There are a few reasons why. The main one is that previous data mining work in climate science, and in particular in the analysis of climate teleconnections, has relied on methods that offer rather simplistic “yes or no” answers. 

“It’s not that simple in climate,” said Annalisa Bracco, a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. “Even weak connections between very different regions on the globe may result from an underlying physical phenomenon. Imposing thresholds and throwing out weak connections would halt everything. Instead, a climate scientist’s expertise is the key step to finding commonalities across very different data sets or fields to explore how robust they are.”

And with millions of data points spread out around the globe, Bracco said current models rely too much on human expertise to make sense of the output. She and her colleagues wanted to develop a methodology that depends more on actual data rather than a researcher’s interpretation.

That’s why the Georgia Tech team has developed a new way of mining data from climate data sets that is more self-contained than traditional tools. The methodology brings out commonalities of data sets without as much expertise from the user, allowing scientists to trust the data and get more robust — and transparent — results.

The methodology is open source and currently available to scientists around the world. The Georgia Tech researchers are already using it to explore sea surface temperature and cloud field data, two aspects that profoundly affect the planet’s climate.

“There are so many factors — cloud data, aerosols and wind fields, for example — that interact to generate climate and drive climate change,” said Athanasios Nenes, another College of Sciences climate professor on the project. “Depending on the model aspect you focus on, they can reproduce climate features effectively — or not at all. Sometimes it is very hard to tell if one model is really better than another or if it predicts climate for the right reasons.”

Nenes says the Georgia Tech methodology looks at everything in a more robust way, breaking the bottleneck that is typical of other model evaluation and analysis algorithms. The methodology, he says, can be used for observations, and scientists don’t need to know anything about computer code and models.

“The methodology reduces the complexity of millions of data points to the bare essentials —sometimes as few as 10 regions that interact with each other,” said Nenes. “We need to have tools that reduce the complexity of model output to understand them better and evaluate if they are providing the correct results for the right reasons.”

To develop the methodology, the climate scientists partnered with Constantine Dovrolis and other data scientists in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing. Dovrolis said it’s exciting to apply algorithmic and computational thinking in problems that affect everyone in major ways, such as global warming.”

“Climate science is a ‘data-heavy’ discipline with many intellectually interesting questions that can benefit from computational modeling and prediction,” said Dovrolis, a professor in the School of Computer Science, “Cross-disciplinary collaborations are challenging at first — every discipline has its own language, preferred approach and research culture — but they can be quite rewarding at the end.”

The paper, “Advancing climate science with knowledge-discovery through data mining,” is published in Climate and Atmospheric Science, a Nature journal.

The development of the methodology was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (grant DE-SC0007143) and the National Science Foundation (grant DMS-1049095). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.

February 14, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Jenny McGuire is one of several scientists featured in a documentary that WyomingPBS will air twice in February. The documentary is part of a series called “Main Street, Wyoming.” The episode, “Natural Trap Cave,” is about a pitfall cave in the Bighorn Mountains of northern Wyoming. The cave harbors fossils from 150,000 years ago, which scientists have been collecting for research.

“Inside the cave is like a refrigerator,” McGuire says. “The temperature is 40 degrees all year round, so everything preserves beautifully.” In the cave are layers of fossils dating back from 150,000 years to recent times, giving McGuire the opportunity to study how a community changes over long periods.

McGuire is an assistant professor with joint appointment in the Schools of Biological Sciences and of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. She is using the fossils to understand what types of species fill ecological niches after extinction events and how long it takes populations to normalize after a major transition. Similar extinctions of large mammals are occurring today in Africa and South Asia, according to McGuire. She is using the data to determine what to expect not only from specific extinctions, but also from major ecological disruptions occurring worldwide.

In between field visits to Natural Trap Cave, McGuire outsources the fossil work through Fossil Wednesdays. On Wednesday afternoons, 3-5 PM, during the semester, McGuire’s lab is open to all who are interested in hunting for fossils in the rock samples she brought back from Natural Trap Cave.

“Folks come to Fossil Wednesdays to experience the excitement of making new discoveries, accompanied by dramatic soundtracks playing in the background,” McGuire says. “At the same time, it is a relaxed atmosphere for chatting and really getting your mind off the stresses of the week.”

Through Fossil Wednesdays, McGuire has brought the thrill of discovery-based biology to engineers, business majors, and staff members from across campus and beyond. She has also trained K-12 school teachers to bring the excitement of hypothesis-driven discovery to their students.

The WyomingPBS crew visited the cave in July 2017, according to McGuire. “They filmed us inside the cave and did individual interviews with several of us outside the cave.” In the preview provided by WyomingPBS, McGuire is on camera at the end, holding a fossil.  In the documentary itself, McGuire first appears at around 5:15.  

WyomingPBS will air the episode on Sunday, Feb. 18, at 9 PM and on Friday, Feb. 23, at 10 PM. It is at and on WyomingPBS’s YouTube Channel after the broadcasts.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This item was revised on Feb. 20, 2018. The documentary was added from YouTube. 

February 16, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

Spring in Atlanta is just a few weeks away, and with it arrives science festival time. The 2018 Atlanta Science Festival (2018ASF) shifts the annual festivities to fifth gear with two major innovations: two weeks of science fun – March 9-24, 2018 – instead of one and the designation of an honorary chair.

“The festival has grown tremendously and has become a mainstay in the city,” says Meisa Salaita, cofounder and codirector of the Atlanta Science Festival. “It was time to expand it and to showcase the important people who have helped make this dream a reality. With a high-profile event to launch the festival, we have a highly visible platform for an honorary chair to speak and be recognized for their association with the festival.”

The festival’s board of directors selected College of Sciences Dean and Sutherland Chair Paul M. Goldbart to serve as inaugural honorary chair.

“Dean Goldbart exemplifies the spirit of curiosity that we hope to kindle among all festival-goers,” Salaita says. “He has championed the festival since its inception; he is a strong advocate for science education, public engagement with science, and scientists’ engagement with the public.”

“I’m delighted and honored to participate in this year’s festival in this novel capacity,” Goldbart says.  “With astronomer Carl Sagan, I see science as one of humanity’s candles in the dark, furnishing us with bright light that helps guide us to a better tomorrow, through the improvements in medicine, computing, architecture, and other technologies that greater scientific understanding brings.

“I admire and applaud the Atlanta Science Festival for bringing science to the Atlanta community in engaging, enthralling, and empowering ways that say to the not-yet-scientists, ‘Come on in. This is for you. What do you think?’ And for showing that science is fun, that there is joy and fulfillment in uncovering the workings of the natural world.”

By doing these things, Goldbart says, the Atlanta Science Festival is “helping ensure a bright future for science, drawing in future scientific talent from all quarters, as we must, as well as building support from our fellow citizens, who benefit from science and also decide how much stock society places in science and the rational, data-driven approach to problem solving.”

As Goldbart waits in excited anticipation for the 2018ASF to commence, he thanks the companies, organizations, institutions, and especially the people driving the festival’s success. “Your contributions, whether measured in days, calories, or dollars – all are important, all are treasured.”

[T]he Atlanta Science Festival is “helping ensure a bright future for science, drawing in future scientific talent from all well as building support from our fellow citizens, who benefit from science...."

Georgia Tech participation in 2018ASF is stronger than ever, with two new events from the College of Sciences.

Following are events taking place in the Georgia Tech campus, sponsored or presented by Georgia Tech units, or featuring Georgia Tech faculty, students, and staff:

  • Friday, March 9, 7-8:30 PM Rise Up Robots, featuring introductory remarks by College of Sciences Dean Paul Goldbart as the festival’s honorary chair, a robotic jokester, a robotic marimba player, and a bionic arm; Ferst Center for the Performing Arts at Georgia Tech, 349 Ferst Dr NW, Atlanta, 30332; admission $15; purchase tickets
  • Saturday, March 10, 10-11:30 AM Stem Gems: Giving Girls Role Models In Stem Careers, featuring Georgia Tech alumnae Becky Yao and Marissa Connor; Goizueta Business School at Emory University, 1300 Clifton Rd, Room 234, Atlanta, 30322; admission $5 (free for parents attending with children); purchase tickets
  • NEW! Saturday, March 10, 12-4 PM Taste of Science, featuring live demonstrations, food samples, and fascinating facts that tie science, culture, and food together; hosted by College of Sciences’ Ed Greco, Michael Evans, Jennifer Leavey, Enid Steinbart, and their students in the STEMcomm VIP class; Kessler Campanile at Georgia Tech, 350 Ferst Dr NW, Atlanta, 30332; admission $5 (free for students with ID); purchase tickets on site
  • Sunday, March 11, 3-4:30 PM, The Golden Record, featuring aerial arts, modern dance, and live music exploring the themes in Carl Sagan’s time capsule called The Golden Record – two phonograph records of sounds and images – which Sagan intended for future life forms so they can one day look back upon our existence; sponsored by Georgia Tech Astrobiology; The Space, 4620-A S Atlanta Rd SE, Atlanta, 30339; admission $18 ($12 for students); purchase tickets
  • Tuesday, March 13, 7-8:30 PM, The Power of Connected, a Honeywell Sponsored Panel & Customer Experience Tours, featuring CEISMC Executive Director Lizanne DeStefano and Georgia Tech Research Scientist Bill Eason; Honeywell Atlanta Software Center, The Event Center, Suite 600, 715 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, 30308; free admission with advance registration; register in advance
  • Saturday, March 17, 9 AM-12 PM, K.I.D.S. Club, a CEISMC event where kids can explore hands-on STEM activities, work with LEGO Mindstorms EV3 in LEGO Robotics, or create their own mobile app or game; Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons at Georgia Tech, 266 Fourth St, NW, Atlanta, 30332; admission $45-$65 per child depending on age; purchase tickets
  • Saturday, March 17, 9 AM-2:30 PM, Latino College & STEM Fair, a CEISMC event featuring bilingual workshops, hands-on activities for the entire family, a college fair, a majors fair, and an inspirational panel with Latino college students, parents, professors, and other professionals; Georgia Tech Student Center, 350 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, 30332; free admission
  • Saturday, March 17, 11 AM-2 PM, Nerdy Derby, a CEISMC event where participants kids build their own cars and race them down a 30-foot track; M. R. Hollis Innovation Academy, 225 Griffin St NW Atlanta GA 30314, Atlanta, 30314; free admission
  • Saturday, March 17, 11 AM-3 PM, G4C Game Jam, a CEISMC event where participants create digital games about issues affecting their communities; Historic Academy of Medicine, 875 W. Peachtree St, NW, Atlanta, 30309; free admission with advance registration; register in advance
  • NEW! Saturday, March 17 12:30-3:30 PM; Sunday, March 18 12-2 AM, Silver Scream Science Spookshow, featuring a screening of “It Came from Outer Space” with live theater and music by Leucine Zipper (aka Jennifer Leavey) and the Zinc Fingers; Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306; admission $10 adults, $7 children 12 years and under; purchase tickets on site
  • Sunday, March 18, 1-2:30 PM, 3:30-5 PM, Science of the Circus, hosted by the Georgia Tech Graduate Association of Physicists; participants can immerse themselves in circus arts while learning basic scientific principles that make amazing feats of strength and balance possible; Circus School of Atlanta, 575 Boulevard SE, Atlanta, 30312; admission $10 early bird, $15 regular; purchase tickets
  • Wednesday, March 21, 7-10 PMEvolution Animated, featuring Jon Perry, creator of the hugely popular Stated Clearly animations; presented by the Georgia Tech-based NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution; Monday Night Garage, 933 Lee St NW, Atlanta, 30310; free admission
  • Wednesday, March 21, 7:30-9:30 PM, Science Improv, featuring Georgia Tech mathematician Lew Lefton; Whole World Improv Theater, 1216 Spring Street, Atlanta, 30309; admission $10 regular, $5 students; purchase tickets
  • Thursday, March 22, 7-10 PM, Science Trivia, featuring rousing rounds testing your knowledge of science trivia; presented by the Georgia-Tech based NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution; Manuel's Tavern, 602 North Highland Ave. NE, Atlanta, 30307
  • Thursday & Friday, March 22-23, 8 AM-3 PM, STEAM Leadership Conference, a CEISMC event for STEAM decision makers, featuring two days of interactive, educational sessions, STEAM-focused work groups, inspiring TED talks, and panel discussions with experts; Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons at Georgia Tech, 266 Fourth St, NW, Atlanta, 30332; admission $200; purchase tickets

Festivities culminate at the Exploration Expo on March 24, 11 AM- 4 PM in Piedmont Park. 

Complete information about 2018ASF is available at

February 28, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

“Supporting women, especially the brilliant and courageous colleagues I met in this program, is one way to help Georgia Tech realize authentic inclusive excellence in its leadership ranks,” said Maureen Rouhi, director of communications for the College of Sciences.

The second cohort of 23 women leaders were recently honored at the Leading Women@Tech closing ceremony for completing the program. Honorees included Joeleen Akin, Donna Ashley, Marisa Atencio, Lori Brown, Dian Chung, Carla Gilson, Amy Herron, Jennifer Hirsch, Tiffiny Hughes-Troutman, Maria Hunter, Cynthia Jennings, Keona Lewis, Connie Masters, Patrice Miles, Cynthia Moore, Susan Morrell, Pamela Rary, Mia Reini, Maureen Rouhi, Jana Stone, Kimberly Toatley, Michelle Tullier, and Kate Wasch.

With support from the Office of the President, Institute Diversity launched the Leading Women@Tech program to facilitate women’s professional development and academic and administrative leadership, and to build a community of leaders across the Institute that will advance a culture of inclusive excellence.

“Two of the major program goals include facilitating participants’ professional development and creating a larger community of women colleagues,” remarked Julie Ancis, associate vice president for Institute Diversity and co-director of the program. “Continuing to invest in programs like Leading Women@Tech is imperative to fostering equity and inclusion, and we are grateful for the Instititute’s commitment. It was gratifying to witness the two cohorts come together at different points last year and build stronger relationships with each other.”

Institute Diversity Vice President Archie Ervin concurred. “We have many opportunities to improve the gender balances among the leadership ranks at Georgia Tech, but the question is, ‘Do we have the courage and will to do that?’ Through this program, we’re saying that we can do better, and we’re committed to doing better.”

Over 10 months, 10 program faculty, comprised of national and international thought leaders and expert coaches, facilitated sessions or provided individual leadership coaching in the areas of efficacy, emotional intelligence, strengths-based leadership, intercultural communication, mindful leadership, multiple role management, career vision, and other aspects of navigating the complexities of work-life integration.

According to survey responses, 100 percent of participants thought the program was relevant, informative, and engaging. Ancis added, “We have taken under advisement the two years of data that we now have from women completing the program, and continue to refine Leading Women@Tech. We anticipate an even more powerful experience being delivered for our next cohort.”

“We appreciate the institutional support from the Office of the President and Institute Diversity, supervisors of the participants across the Institute, the excellence of our partners, and the stellar guidance of our advisory board members to proactively define the next generation of leaders at Georgia Tech,” said Pearl Alexander, executive director of diversity, inclusion, and engagement and co-director of the program.

Advisory board members included Maryam Alavi, dean and Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair, Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business; Terry Blum, faculty director, Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship; Errika Moore, executive director, Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative; and John Stein, dean of students and vice president, Student Life. In addition to Alexander, Cheryl Cofield, director of inclusion and engagement, served as an executive coach.

The nomination period for the third cohort of the Leading Women@Tech program will open in April. More information will be available in the coming weeks.

“The privilege to actively work with the caliber of women in this program has been personally rewarding,” said Alexander. “We encourage women leaders to participate in this unique experience. Leading Women@Tech provides an opportunity for participants to reflect on who they are and who they want to be, and to network among like-minded women committed to positive culture change at Georgia Tech.”

To view the Leading Women@Tech video about the second cohort’s experience, visit For more information on Leading Women@Tech, visit

Editor's Note: This item was adapted from the article published on Feb. 22, 2018, by Institute Diversity.


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