For the Record: April 5, 2013

National Science Foundation

For the Record: April 5, 2013

Anthony Cortese, Sociology, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, presented a paper, “Ethical Approaches to Ethnoviolence: An Interdisciplinary Team-Taught Course,” at the 2013 annual meetings of the Pacific Sociological Association in Reno, Nevada in March.

Matthew Rispoli, a Master of Science candidate in electrical engineering in Lyle School of Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for study in condensed-matter physics. His graduate fellowship will provide a stipend of $30,000 per year for three years.

Jewel Lipps, a sophomore environmental science and chemistry major in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, has received a grant through the NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites Program. She will participate in environmental research during Summer 2013 at the Forest Lakes site in New Jersey.

Han Na Kim, a senior political science and marketing major in Dedman College and Cox School of Business, has been awarded a 2013 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Korea.

April 5, 2013|For the Record|

‘Unconventional geothermal’ a game changer for U.S. energy policy?

SMU-Google geothermal map of North AmericaSMU geothermal energy expert David Blackwell gave a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday, March 27, 2012, on the growing opportunities for geothermal energy production in the United States, calling “unconventional” geothermal techniques a potential game changer for U.S. energy policy.

Blackwell’s presentation outlined the variety of techniques available for geothermal production of electricity, the accessibility of unconventional geothermal resources across vast portions of the United States and the opportunities for synergy with the oil and gas industry. Also speaking at the briefing were Karl Gawell, executive director of the geothermal energy association, and James Faulds, professor at the University of Nevada-Reno and director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.

“This is a crucial time to do this briefing,” said Blackwell, W. B. Hamilton Professor of Geophysics in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and one of the nation’s foremost experts in geothermal mapping. “Everybody is worrying about energy right now.”

The session was one in a series of continuing Congressional briefings on the science and technology needed to achieve the nation’s energy goals, titled collectively, “The Road to the New Energy Economy.” The briefing was organized by the National Science Foundation, DISCOVER Magazine, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada was honorary host for the March 27 briefing at the Senate Visitor’s Center, which included congressional staffers, members of science and engineering associations, government, private and industry representatives.

SMU’s geothermal energy research is at the forefront of the movement to expand geothermal energy production in the United States. Blackwell and Maria Richards, the SMU Geothermal Lab coordinator, released research in October that documents significant geothermal resources across the United States capable of producing more than three million megawatts of green power — 10 times the installed capacity of coal power plants today. Sophisticated mapping produced from the research, viewable via Google Earth, demonstrates that vast reserves of this green, renewable source of power generated from the Earth’s heat are realistically accessible using current technology.

Blackwell began his presentation by debunking the common misperception that geothermal energy is always dependent on hot fluids near the surface – as in the Geysers Field in California. New techniques are now available to produce electricity at much lower temperatures than occur in a geyser field, he said, and in areas without naturally occurring fluids. For example, enhanced geothermal energy systems (EGS) rely on injecting fluids to be heated by the earth into subsurface formations, sometimes created by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Blackwell noted the potential for synergy between geothermal energy production and the oil and gas industry, explaining that an area previously “fracked” for oil and gas production (creating an underground reservoir) is primed for the heating of fluids for geothermal energy production once the oil and gas plays out.

The SMU geothermal energy expert called these “unconventional” geothermal techniques a potential game changer for U.S. Energy policy. Geothermal energy is a constant (baseload) source of power that does not change with weather conditions, as do solar and wind-powered energy sources. Blackwell noted that SMU’s mapping shows that unconventional geothermal resources “are almost everywhere.”

Blackwell closed his presentation with acknowledgment that site-specific studies and more demonstration projects are needed to make geothermal energy a strong partner in the new energy economy.

The briefing was taped and will be posted to the Science 360 website hosted by the National Science Foundation at a later date.

Written by Kimberly Cobb

> More news from the SMU Research blog at smuresearch.com

April 11, 2012|News, Research|

Physics professor Jodi Cooley wins 2012 NSF career award

Jodi Cooley, SMU physics professor and NSF CAREER Award winnerJodi Cooley of SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences has earned a National Science Foundation CAREER Award of more than $1 million for her research toward detecting the particles that are believed to make up dark matter.

NSF Early Career Development Awards are given to junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research in American colleges and universities.

Cooley, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics, is an experimental particle physicist working with the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (SuperCDMS), a collaboration of 14 institutions from the United States and Canada. Cooley is SMU’s principal investigator for the group.

Scientists theorize that more than 80 percent of all matter in the universe is dark matter, which consists of material that cannot be seen or detected by conventional means. Cooley’s research in the SuperCDMS project is conducted in the Soudan Iron Mine in Soudan, Minnesota, where researchers are shielded from cosmic-ray radiation as they use detector technology to “listen” for the passage of dark matter through the earth. Cooley’s research uses sophisticated equipment to optimize the chances of detecting “weakly interacting massive particles,” also known as WIMPS, which are the particles hypothesized to make up dark matter.

“Her CAREER Award will enable Professor Cooley to extend this research with additional measurements at higher levels of sensitivity and simulations, placing SMU in a leadership role in this cutting-edge field of physics,” said James Quick, associate vice president for research and dean of graduate studies.

Cooley joined SMU in 2009. She was a postdoctoral scholar in the Physics Department at Stanford University from 2004-09 and a postdoctoral associate in the Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT from 2003-04. She received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2003, a Master of Arts in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2000, and a Bachelor of Science in applied math and physics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1997.

The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In the past few decades, NSF-funded researchers have won more than 180 Nobel Prizes.

Cooley is SMU’s second NSF CAREER award winner this year. Joe Camp, J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, received a Faculty Early Career Development Award for his research into improved wireless network design incorporating low frequencies.

> Read more from SMU News
> Visit the Department of Physics homepage

March 7, 2012|For the Record, News|

Engineering professor Joe Camp wins 2012 NSF career award

Joseph CampJoseph Camp of SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering has earned a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, given to junior faculty members who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding researchexcellent education and the integration of education and research in American colleges and universities.

Camp, assistant professor and J. Lindsay Embrey Trustee Professor of Electrical Engineering, will receive $450,000 over the next 5 years to fund research toward improved wireless network design incorporating low frequencies previously occupied by analog TV signals.

“The FCC has recently reassigned the frequency bands that were previously used by analog TV – that’s why viewers were forced to switch to an analog-to-digital converter,” Camp said. “It opened up a large portion of bandwidth for data communications, creating opportunities for innovative wireless network design.”

Transmission range improves at lower frequencies, as does as the ability of the signal to cut through obstacles, which makes these newly available frequency bands highly desirable for internet transmission. Being able to establish wireless networks with fewer transmission towers could result in lowering the cost of service delivery in some cases.

“Alongside these policy changes, wireless hardware is becoming increasingly complex and capable of supporting more bands,” Camp said. “As a result, the simple question becomes, ‘How do we use the simultaneous access to many different types of frequency bands to improve wireless network performance?’”

The NSF is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In the past few decades, NSF-funded researchers have won more than 180 Nobel Prizes.

“Joe’s highly competitive NSF award recognizes the extraordinary value of his work and his commitment to share his discoveries and knowledge with students,” said Lyle Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “We are fortunate to have him at the Lyle School and very proud that Joe represents the sixth NSF CAREER awardee on our faculty. Given the small size of our faculty, this is a remarkably strong showing.”

> Read more from SMU News
> Visit SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering homepage

February 24, 2012|For the Record, News|

Research Spotlight: Trial by fire, and how humans respond to it

The 2011 Wallow Fire in ArizonaAn interdisciplinary team of researchers will examine how humans in the Southwest have responded to changes in the surrounding forests over multiple centuries. The research is funded by a four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The project is about forest fire history, fuels and forests, how human activities have changed them, and the influence of drought and dry conditions, said Thomas W. Swetnam, principal investigator on the grant and director of the University of Arizona Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.

Christopher Roos, archaeologist and assistant professor of anthropology in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, is co-principal investigator for the study, which will use tree-ring and archaeological methods to reveal the fire history of the forest and of the forest close to the human settlement sites.

In addition to Roos and Swetnam, co-principal investigators are T.J. Ferguson, a professor of practice in UA’s School of Anthropology; Sara Chavarria, director of outreach for UA’s College of Education; Robert Keane and Rachel Loehman of the USDA Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory in Montana; and Matthew J. Liebmann of Harvard University’s department of anthropology.

The scientists are focusing on New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains, where native peoples lived within the ponderosa pine forest in significant numbers for centuries before Europeans came to North America.

While fire is a natural part of the Southwest’s forests and grasslands, the region’s massive forest fires this year were exacerbated by decade-long drought. In addition, more people are living in or near fire-adapted ecosystems, increasing the likelihood that human activities will affect and be affected by forest fires.

The team will study the interplay among human activities at the wildland-urban interface, climate change and fire-adapted pine forests.

“Humans and fire are interconnected all the way back to our beginnings,” Swetnam said. “Drought and dry conditions are going to keep going on, so there’s an urgency in understanding what’s happening. We’re seeking to know how we can live in these forests and these landscapes so they are more resilient in the face of climate change.”

Courtesy of the University of Arizona

Left, Arizona’s Wallow fire, the largest in the state’s history, burned from May 29 to July 8, 2011, scorching more than 538,000 acres in northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico. The fire was named for the Bear Wallow Wilderness area, in which it originated. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.)

> Get the full story from the SMU Research blog

October 5, 2011|Research|
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