Weekly Memo

Oct. 21, 2013

Dear members of the Hajim School community:

       Friday was an important day for Hajim School faculty, staff and students, and for our alumni and friends. President Joel Seligman’s announcement that the University will create an Institute for Data Science entails exciting changes for our school. Construction of a new Data Science building behind the Hopeman Building will provide not only a new home for the Department of Computer Science, but set in motion a reallocation of space that will unite ECE in the Computer Studies Building, and put ChemE in Hutchison Hall with access to better labs and close proximity to Chemistry and related disciplines. Gavett Hall will be renovated for teaching labs and classrooms. We’re going to end up with a true science and engineering “quad.” I see this as a validation of all the progress we’ve made in the last few years -- and a vote of confidence that our school will continue to excel. We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us to pull this off. But for now, I hope all of you will savor this moment. And give yourselves a collective pat on the back for all of your successes, large and small, that have made this possible.

     I've talked a lot about what we hope to achieve in the newly completed Ronald Rettner Hall for Media Arts and Innovation, which celebrated a ribbon-cutting and open house during Meliora Weekend. But leave it to one of our students to really say it best. Morgan Sinko, a sophomore who hopes to obtain an interdepartmental degree in MechE, ECE and Computer Science, worked with Christina Kayastha, an ECE and Computer Science senior; Samantha Piccone, a Computer Science senior; and Randal Nelson, Associate Professor of Computer Science, to repair and upgrade a laser harp that had been in storage. That's right; a laser harp, using lasers and photovoltaic resistors to produce sound. It caught the eye of a Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter who covered the Rettner Hall open house, and included this quote from Morgan: "Rettner Hall is the true blend of liberal arts and engineering and (this project) is an excellent example of what that is -- music meets engineering in its most true sense. Rettner Hall is going to open up a whole lot of opportunities." Thanks, Morgan. I couldn't have said it any better!
     The students, by the way, are hoping to build interest in UR Robotics, an interdepartmental student organization that works on projects like the laser harp, and participates in intercollegiate competitions such as the Cornell Cup. Interested students can contact Christina at ckayasth@u.rochester.edu.

    There has been a close and fruitful relationship between the Optical Society of America and our Institute of Optics ever since the Institute was created in 1929 with the help of many of OSA's founders. So it is rewarding to see how Institute faculty, students and alumni continue to play key leadership roles at OSA and to be recognized with OSA awards. For example,  Xi-Cheng Zhang and Govind Agrawal are assuming important OSA leadership roles. Zhang, the Institute's director, will serve as Editor in Chief of Optics Letters, and also will serve as a Director at Large. Agrawal, who will be installed as our inaugural Dr. James C. Wyant Professor in Optics next Monday, will serve as Editor in Chief for OSA's Advances in Optics and Photonics. Stephen Fantone, who earned a PhD from the Institute in 1979 -- and serves on our Dean's Advisory Committee -- has served OSA in many key roles over the years, including treasurer and member of the board of directors. Earlier this month, OSA announced it is renaming its distinguished service award in Fantone's honor. And Mohammad Mirhosseini, a PhD student in Prof. Bob Boyd’s group, recently received the OSA Emil Wolf Prize for outstanding student paper at the recent FiO 2013 conference. His paper was titled "Near-perfect sorting of orbital angular momentum: A step towards high-dimensional quantum communications."

     Thanks to Henry Kautz, chair of Computer Science, and Melissa Singkhamsack, secretary to the department chair, for organizing another successful Big Data Forum on Friday. The daylong event featured an outstanding lineup of speakers, both local and national, with expertise in machine learning, network science, cognitive science, and data science applications in the health, social, and physical sciences.  I very much appreciate all the effort that goes into organizing something like this -- and I especially appreciate the visibility this forum brings to our University as a key player in this all-important field.

      Kudos to Mitchell Anthamatten, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering, and graduate student Ran Tao, for developing a process to grow highly customizable coatings of foam-like polymers directly from gases. This will make it easier to put foam polymers in hard-to-get-at places. Given all the uses of these polymers -- in the delivery of drugs in the body, as a framework for body tissues and implants, and even as layers in laser targets for fusion research -- there are lots of potential applications for this. Nice work!

      Three Hajim School graduate students have received scholarhips from Iberdrola, the energy services and delivery company, as part of its efforts to identify and develop the next generation of renewable energy leaders. They are Samuel Sowden Garcia and Jose Alberto Medina Jimena, both from Spain, who are pursuing master's degrees in alternative energy in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and Samuel Steven of Rochester, who is studying for a master's in optics and in technical entrepreneurship and management with a concentration in energy and the environment. The fellowships, provided through the Iberdrola USA Foundation, in conjunction with Fundacion Iberdrola of Spain and Scottish Power, cover the full coast of enrollment plus a stipend.

   Here are a couple of study abroad opportunities for Hajim School students:

    Chemical Engineering is launching a new 6-credit summer course at the University of Cape Town starting next July. You find out more at an information session at 11 a.m. tomorrow in 2-110C Dewey.

    The International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) is accepting applications from students in engineering, computer science and other technical fields for paid internships in approximately 15-20 different countries, in industry, research institutes and universities, consulting firms, labs, and other work environments. Most placements are for 8-12 weeks during the summer, but some fall semester and longer-term placements are also available. Deadline to apply is Dec. 1.

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


Robert L. Clark
Professor and Dean