Faculty

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Santiago Gonzalez, a graduate student in computer science, started his undergraduate degree at Mines in 2010 at the age of 12. He is currently teaching the Mines course, Operating Systems, and getting ready to defend his thesis in November. Gonzalez is set to finish his master’s degree in December 2015.

We asked Gonzalez about his experience at Mines, what it's like to teach a 400-level course and what he plans to do after he graduates.

Why did you choose Mines?

It’s more that Mines chose me. I got in contact with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Tracy Camp who is my advisor. She invited me to apply and come to Mines. Everything ended up working out really well.

Did anything surprise you about Mines after coming here?

I was super happy to be with a group of people that thought like me, very scientifically-minded and nerdy.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I’m not sure it’s as much a favorite spot as it is where I have to get my work done on campus, but the SINE (Sensing Imaging and Networking) lab in the Brown Building. It’s where I’m doing work for my thesis and getting it ready for my defense Nov. 16.

I spend about 30 hours a week there.

What else are you doing aside from defending your thesis and getting ready to graduate this December?

I’m taking a class this semester called Distributed Computing Systems with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Associate Professor Qi Han.

I’m teaching CSCI-442 Operating Systems (OS), which is one of the computer science undergrad classes. That should keep me pretty busy.

Also, my advisor and I are thinking of publishing a paper from the results from my thesis.

What has been the best thing you’ve experienced at Mines?

I’ve really gotten an understanding of exactly how computers work and why they work the way they do. It’s not really just some magic box that does stuff when you type things in the keyboard. I think that’s one of the really cool things that has happened here.

What was your favorite project at Mines?

For my thesis, I had to develop some new geophysical sensing mote (hardware) for the SmartGeo research group.

Right now for Distributed Computing Systems, my partner and I are building a simulator to validate different computer systems in high radiation environments in space. We’re simulating a spacecraft around some body and all the different subsystems you would have like reaction wheels. We had an idea for how to make the spacecraft computer systems much more resistant to radiation without having to use any super fancy expensive hardware, just using redundancy with commercial systems. Probably a larger project than we should have chosen for that class, but it’s fun.

How did you choose that project?

The class is studying how to get a network of computers to accomplish some goal. So that goal could be storing data across a large number of computers so that it’s more reliable. Or in our case: spreading computation across several systems to make it more resistant to radiation. We were discussing a bunch of ideas and this evolved out of the discussion.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Mines?

Physics I was so difficult. It’s a very demanding class. Conceptually, the material is pretty understandable. Physics I is basically mechanics—how things move given a system of things. If I have this book and I tilt it, how long will it take for something to slide down it? But then you start getting into the math and all of the work—it’s just a lot of work.

There’s definitely been tons of challenges, but nothing so insane that you couldn’t overcome it with tons of work.

How did you get involved in teaching?

Dr. Camp has been the professor who taught OS for the past decade here at Mines. She was busy with other work this semester, so she’s teaching another class this time. She invited me to teach the course, and thought it would be a fun experience for me.

What’s it like standing in front of the class instead of sitting as a student?

It’s really different. It’s interesting how different things are. You notice a bunch of things you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

I remember on the first few days, everything seemed super quiet so you try to talk faster to make it less quiet. It’s really interesting.

It’s really cool seeing how when you explain something, suddenly some students understand the material and they’re like, “Oh, OK!” Just being able to see them understand the material is really cool.

Do you think it makes you a better student having that other perspective?

It definitely makes me appreciate it more.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching here at Mines?

Since I’ve been teaching OS, I’ve changed the curriculum and projects a little bit. It’s fun thinking of new projects that students can do that will both be challenging and fun while still relevant to the class.

How do you balance teaching and schoolwork?

It’s one of the things I thought would be easier. It’s actually kind of challenging. You could devote so much time to the class, but ultimately you have to set a stopping point. Because you could either completely change everything (the entire curriculum) and that would take a really long time and you wouldn’t have time to dedicate to other things. But in general, I think I found a good balance.

If you could offer advice to a new student, what would you say?

Make sure you understand calculus because it will come up everywhere, even when you least expect it.

Persevere through everything. Mines is definitely demanding. Make sure you’re on top of everything instead of putting things off until the end. Just keep a good pace throughout the semester.

What are you up to this summer? Tell us about it.

I’ll be interning in a development position with Apple from January through August. I got the internship through someone that I met at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this past summer. I was planning on applying anyway, but I got offered the internship. So that was cool, not having to worry about that.

What are your plans after Mines?

I will be pursuing a PhD, and am working on applications right now. My top two choices are MIT or Stanford. They are some of the best engineering universities in the world for computer science.

I know I don’t want to become a professor, but I’d like to work in industry. I’m not sure what I’d be doing; I haven’t thought that far ahead. It would be cool to work at SpaceX or something like that.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Chemical and biochemical engineering students Corey Brugh and Mallory Britz are leading 32 freshmen as part of new themed-learning community, Engineering Grand Challenges. Incorporating elements of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges Scholars Programs at universities across the country, Brugh came up with the idea when he was brainstorming a living experience that would encourage students to be more innovative.

“This community gives students the unique opportunity to explore social justice and engineering in a creative way that inspires future engineers to use their expertise to help others,” said Brugh.

Teaching Associate Professor Stephanie Claussen, along with Brugh and Britz, attended the invite-only Global Grand Challenges Summit in Beijing in September. The summit, sponsored by the NAE, the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and the Royal Academy of Engineering, focused on themes from the NAE Grand Challenges, such as sustainability, energy, and infrastructure. There was also a business competition where student teams pitched ideas focused on the grand challenges.

“I think it was beneficial for our students to see the international momentum around these grand challenges,” Claussen said. “They also got to meet a lot of students from other universities who are doing this. That was a huge thing—creating this community and shared conversation around what’s important and what they’re working on.”

Currently, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Kevin Moore, is working with Claussen, Brugh and Britz to draft a proposal for a student-run Grand Challenges Scholar Program at Mines. The program will combine curricular and extra-curricular activities with five components designed to prepare students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century. If students achieve the five requirements to be such a scholar, they will receive a certificate from the NAE upon graduation.

Liberal Arts and International Studies (LAIS) Teaching Assistant Professor Olivia Burgess and Teaching Associate Professor Alina Handorean are co-teaching a pilot course that focuses on one of the Grand Challenges: “Providing Access to Clean Water.” Twenty-eight freshmen are currently enrolled in a LAIS 100-level course that integrates Nature and Human Values with EPICS I. Next spring, these students will advance to an integrated EPICS II with a Human Systems course.

Across Kafadar Commons, LAIS Adjunct Professor Mateo Munoz is teaching 18 upper-level students in a new course, “History of Innovation: Engineering Grand Challenges in Historical Perspective.”

“Throughout the course, we move back and forth between historical case studies and a critical engagement of the challenges and opportunities facing engineers of the future. The innovative process is explored and we learn how to identify opportunities for innovation along intellectual and technical lines,” Munoz said.

These two courses further Mines’ commitment in the spring to advance programs that support the grand challenges concepts. In March, Mines and more than 120 U.S. engineering universities committed to a White House initiative dedicated to educating a new generation of engineers equipped to meet the grand challenges of today and the future. Their commitment was unveiled at the 2015 White House Science Fair.

“Historically, back when I was younger, people became engineers and scientists because they liked math and science in school,” said Moore. “But we see lots of people today picking math and science fields as careers because they altruistically want to make a difference. These programs provide students the opportunity to be impactful and to make a difference in the workplace.”

The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges identified 14 sets of opportunities for engineering in the 21st centuryfrom making solar energy economical to reverse-engineering the brain and more. Many of the challenges overlap with areas of research already active at Mines.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

On Sept. 30, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson visited the Colorado School of Mines campus to speak to a sold-out crowd of students, alums, faculty, staff and community members in Lockridge Arena.

“This has got to be the geekiest audience I've ever seen; I’m not holding back,” Tyson said at the beginning of the night.

Tyson’s talk, part of the President’s Distinguished Lecture series and a kickoff to the 2015 homecoming weekend, was centered on “Astronomy Bizarre”— a grab-bag of unusual objects, phenomena and ideas in the universe. He included recent NASA images indicating evidence of salt water on Mars, and reminded the audience of Pluto’s status as a planet.

“We all thought Pluto was just trying to be a victim of its environment with craters and stuff that happened to it. But if you have mountains that means you’re doing something from within. You’ve got some action of your own,” Tyson said. “But regardless of all this, it’s still a dwarf planet; get over it.”

Tyson dropped “knowledge eggs” on the crowd, including his love of black holes.

“The Earth wants to kill us! So does the universe,” Tyson said. Later he added, “The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

Recently Tyson served as executive editor and on camera host and narrator for “Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey," the 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan's landmark television series. Tyson is the fifth head of the world-renowned Hayden Planetarium in New York City and the first occupant of its Frederick P. Rose Directorship. He is also a research associate of the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History.

 

2015 Neil deGrasse Tyson

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Two Mines researchers have been awarded NASA grants to work on an “out-of-this-world” extraction technique called optical mining. Mechanical Engineering Assistant Research Professor Christopher Dreyer and Director of the Center for Space Resources Angel Abbud-Madrid are developing novel technologies to obtain valuable resources from asteroids, which can be used as rocket propellants.

“The optical mining concept is very exciting because it is a large-scale approach for producing resources in space that can be attempted soon,” Dreyer said. “We are contributing experimental evidence for the conditions under which intense light will disassemble carbonaceous chondrite asteroids.”

Optical mining will use concentrated solar energy to heat and fracture asteroids causing them to release volatile elements. These resources will be extracted and used in space to avoid the high cost of transporting them from Earth.

Mechanical engineering student Alexander Lampe and engineering physics student Travis Canney are helping with this research by preparing vacuum chambers for experiments, designing the test matrix, writing experimental procedures and running tests.

Their research project is funded by a $500,000 grant for “Laboratory Demonstration and Test of Solar Thermal Asteroid ISRU,” by the NASA Early Stage Innovations program and a $125,000 grant for “Demonstration of Optical Mining for Excavation of Asteroids and Production of Mission Consumables,” by the NASA Small Business Innovation Research program.

Mines researchers are working in this multidisciplinary effort with Missouri University of Science and Technology Professor Leslie Gertsch (Mines alumna GE ’82, PhD ‘89) and TransAstra Corporation Founder & Principal Engineer Joel Sercel. Other research participants include the University of Hawaii.

Mines’ research efforts were recently highlighted in Space.com, SpaceDaily, Sputnik International and Missouri S&T.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Digital Media & Communications Manager / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

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