Recent Entries in Spotlight

Drake's Bay Oyster CompanyWhen Polaroid decided to stop making its trademark instant-developing film in 2008, the company destroyed nearly all of its factories. Sonoma State University environmental history professor Laura A. Watt has latched on to the iconic Polaroid style to express another side of her art. Her work is featured in a solo exhibition, "The Evolving Landscape of Point Reyes," at Prince Gallery in Petaluma Oct. 7-Nov. 8.

alexander kahnThe world-class music halls at Sonoma State University will soon be filled by the sound of a student symphony orchestra. Sonoma State has hired a tenure-track music professor to direct the Sonoma State Symphony Orchestra, which performs in Weill Hall at the Green Music Center.

Alexander Kahn joined the music faculty this semester, and students are already enrolled in the university's first official symphony orchestra. Kahn holds a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley and a Graduate Performance Diploma in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Institute at John's Hopkins University. He was most recently a tenured professor at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.

lamp students in thailandHow was your summer? Well, for two Sonoma State University math students and math professor Martha Shott, it was international. They spent the summer, or six weeks of it, at least, in Thailand with the the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program.

Shott worked with eight students, including SSU math majors Travis Hayes and Ericka Chavez, in a faculty mentor capacity while students studied with faculty at Chiang Mai University, situated in Northern Thailand in Chiang Mai, a city of 150,000.

nathan rankSonoma State biology professor Nathan Rank visits Bishop so often, "it's almost like a second home," he says, speaking on a spotty cell phone connection from the eastern California mountain town of Bishop. He's been spending summers surrounded by breathtaking scenery of the Sierra Nevada since 1984 studying the montane leaf beetle, and will continue to do so for the next three years thanks to a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

"We are looking at how genetic differentiations within populations might help survive a really wet or dry year." He adds, "Since this year is extremely dry year, we are making sure to document the populations very carefully."

young Hispanic boy with tutorFor students across the nation, graduating from high school is a celebratory achievement. This task is made much more difficult for children of migrant farm workers and low-income families with no knowledge in guiding their kids to obtain higher education. To counteract the disadvantages facing migrant students, Sonoma State University has created a program modeled after the California Mini-Corps program called the Migrant Education Advisor Program (MEAP).

seawolfscholars.jpg"My mom passed away a week before my freshman year of high school, and I knew that education would be my fallback," says Chris Villedo, a freshman sociology major at Sonoma State University. "So the next four years I really focused on my education." He says Seawolf Scholars, a foster youth assistance program started last semester, has already helped guide him through financial aid, register for classes and navigate complex paperwork and registration requirements. "Having programs like this on campus helps students be more confident about what they want to do in college," says Villedo.

May is National Foster Care Month, and Sonoma State University's new Seawolf Scholars program is helping former foster youth navigate the new and turbulent world of college life.

More than four decades may have passed since man has set foot on the moon, but last year Sonoma State University equipment technician Steve Anderson shot a giant laser at it.

Working in conjunction with a local Sonoma County laser light show studio, Anderson created a 100-Watt laser projector, over 20,000 times more powerful than a typical handheld laser. Anderson demonstrated the laser as part of a visual display the night before the launch of the Orion Spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on December 5, and participated in the Holidays in Space events later that month.

wearable tech antennaThe Apple Watch is the latest gadget in the wearable technology game, but it's not the first, or certainly the last, wireless communication device that will live on our bodies. Sonoma State University engineering science professor Haider Khaleel says the revenue of the wearable technology field is estimated to be $28 billion over the next five years.

"I have been amazed by these wearable electronics since they emerged about 14 years ago," says Khaleel, who specializes in wearable technology and published a textbook on the subject last year.

cannesoutside.jpgSonoma State University senior Alex Bretow was working on the set of a new Steve Jobs biography film when he got the email on March 16: "Congratulations, you've been officially accepted into the Cannes CMF program!" Says Bretow, "I literally ran outside and was jumping up and down."

When the producer/director called his filmmaking partner and fellow SSU student, writer/producer Mary-Madison Baldo, she had a similar reaction "I literally screamed," she says. "I was home for spring break, so I tripped up the stairs yelling, 'Mom!' She came out of her bedroom in a panic because she thought that I had hurt myself or something."

Both are appropriate reactions to finding out you've had not one, but two films selected for the most prestigious film festival in the world this May.

SSU Society of Women Engineers logoWomen represent 24 percent of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce in the United States, a figure that's risen only 3 percent since 1993 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. But a new club at Sonoma State University is working to close the gender gap.

"We already have an electrical engineering club, which is geared toward the boys," says Alyssa Afa'ese, electrical engineering major and president of SSU's new Society For Women Engineers club. "Women are underrepresented in our major, so we wanted to start and organization where women can work together."

The club began in fall 2014 and is working to inspire young women at Sonoma State to pursue their interest in engineering science. Afa'ese believes many women are apprehensive about joining the engineering department because of its low percentage of female students.


At 70, Sonoma State University graduate biology student Nicole Karres doesn't need another career. But in 1996 her natural curiosity got the best of her, and after careers in the medical corps in the Army and as a graphic designer at a fortune 500 company, she started what would be a 20-year journey to both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in a field of study that was brand new to her.

Particularly grateful are the jarred fish, amphibian and reptile specimens she has taken to cleaning and re-preserving for future researchers like herself.

geologyvertical.jpgTwelve hearty souls from the SSU geology department took a six-day field trip in early September to the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia and Alberta to explore the world-renown Burgess Shale, a UNESCO world heritage site widely lauded as the most important fossil locality in the world.

This field trip ran in conjunction with the upper level Geology elective course, GEL321: Burgess Shale Paleontology, a class taught since 2003 by paleontologist Matt James.

The fossils of Burgess Shale were discovered in 1909 during construction of the Trans-Canadian Railway. These 505-million-year-old fossils, remnants of creatures that once lived in a shallow sea, are the best record of the period of time after the appearance of modern hard-shelled multicellular animals and have proved pivotal to the study of paleontology. They are located in the majestic Canadian Rockies on the eastern border of British Columbia, surrounded by stunningly beautiful mountains shaped by numerous glaciers--in short, a geologist's heaven!

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