Weekly Memo

Oct. 1, 2012

Dear members of the Hajim School community:

What do Finding Nemo and integral calculus have in common? Or subdivision surfaces and the Academy Award won by a short film called Geri’s Game?  You can find out this week by joining me for the free G. Milton Wing lectures that will be given by Tony DeRose, senior scientist and head of the research group at Pixar Animation Studios. On Wednesday, DeRose will address “How mathematics has changed Hollywood,” from 5-6 p.m. in Hoyt Auditorium, drawing on numerous examples from Pixar animated films to illustrate how computational physics and applied math have allowed animated films to achieve such incredible detail, expressive characters, and jaw-dropping special effects. On Thursday, DeRose will tell students about the use of “Wavelets in Computer Graphics” from 10 to 10:50 a.m. and 1 to 1:50 p.m. in the Schlegel Hall rotunda.  Even the entertainment industry is being shaped by applied science and the digital revolution, which is why the University is devoting so much energy to preparing its students to be at the cutting edge of this revolution through new majors like audio and music engineering and digital media studies.

Here's another event to mark on your calendar: Milton Chang, entrepreneur and investor, will be here Oct. 16 to discuss the subject of his recent book,  Toward Entrepreneurship: Establishing a Successful Technology Business.  A discussion, networking reception, and book signing will be from 4-6 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library, courtesy of the Hajim School, Simon School, and Center for Entrepreneurship. Advance registration is requested either by email or phone (5-9887); copies of Chang's book will be available courtesy of the Hajim School. Chang writes a monthly business/management column for the trade publication Laser Focus World, sits on the boards of several startup companies, and advises entrepreneurs. He has received several prestigious awards from professional societies, and is a Fellow of the Optical Society and the Laser Institute of America. This is someone you will want to meet and listen to.

Are there any students out there who would like a shot at a $10,000 grand prize—and a hands-on learning experience that will be loads of fun?  The Cornell Cup, sponsored by Intel, is a national, college-level embedded design competition for teams of three to five undergraduate or master's level students in engineering, science, or computer science. Twenty teams that combine hardware and software in novel ways will be selected as finalists. (Past entries have included a belt that helps the visually impaired detect obstacles, for example, and a game board that is powered by people pedaling the exercise bike it is mounted on.) Those 20 teams will receive $2,500 in development and travel funds, technical support, vouchers for equipment, and an invitation to a two-day final competition at Disney World where grand prizes of $10,000, $5,000, and $2,500 will be awarded. Any Hajim students or faculty members interested in participating as team members or advisers can contact Ted Pawlicki, undergraduate program director in the Department of Computer Science.  The deadline to register is Oct. 17. 

And here's a great example of how Hajim students are making a difference on the world stage as well. Rebecca Berman, Shawn Divitt and Dan Williams, graduate students in The Institute of Optics, along with Chris Favaro and Lenore Kubie, graduate students in chemistry, recently introduced school children in Chirapatre, Ghana, to such concepts as diffraction, reflection, and the energy in sunlight by using one of Prof. Stephen Jacobs' Optics Suitcases. The students were there as part of the University's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. “The most stimulating part of each workshop occurred outside, where all seventy students gathered in a circle,” Berman wrote in an article that I encourage you to read in its entirety by clicking here. “First, a lens was used to concentrate sunlight onto a piece of paper, which excited the children as they saw smoke rising from the paper ... . Students laughed as they watched a mini car race around on the dusty ground stopping whenever it entered a shadow." Afterwards several of the students approached Berman and her colleagues, wanting to learn more and saying they would “return with us to the US if we could be their teachers.”  Hmm......future students for the Hajim School? Good work, Rebecca, Shawn, Dan, Chris, and Lenore! Thanks for being such good ambassadors, not only for the University, but our country.

Finally, a special thanks to Henry Kautz, organizer and director of the Rochester Big Data Initiative; Melissa Singkhamsack, administrator of the Big Data Initiative; and the support they received from the Office of the Dean of Arts, Science and Engineering, the Office of Research Alliances, Trustee Nomi Bergman and Neal Bergman, and the Xerox Corporation in organizing Rochester Big Data Forum 2012 that starts Thursday. Nationally renowned researchers, federal officials, corporate executives, and our own faculty and students will gather for three days of presentations, discussions and networking on a topic that is, to say the least, of utmost importance to the University.

As always, keep me updated and have a great week.


Robert L. Clark
Professor and Dean