FLCC to Ph.D. Part 2: This thing called math

About two years into his career teaching mathematics at FLCC, Charles Hoffman ’01 set in motion a chain of events that has advanced the development of cloaking technology.

All he did was answer a student’s question. That student, Ryan Vogt, had signed up for Charles’ class to fulfill a requirement for computer science. Ryan had hated math in high school.

Male student in front of NC State sign
Ryan Vogt ’13 is on track to earn his doctorate in mathematics from North Carolina State University this spring./Photo by Ken Martin

“He took the time to tell me a story about why math was important,” Ryan explained. “He spent a great amount of time with me.”

Ryan is now finishing up his Ph.D. in mathematics at North Carolina State University and has spent the last two summers working at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. His research has included solving problems in the development of binary electromagnetic cloaking, the science of manipulating the paths of light to make an object optically invisible.

Ryan is among the alumni who credit FLCC as the springboard for careers in research. In each case a person or program at the college was just what they needed at just the right moment.

Cover of The Laker magazine
Ryan’s story is one of several in the Winter/Spring edition of The Laker magazine. Click this image to read the electronic version.

Nationally, community colleges get attention for their agility in developing applied programs to meet local needs. Think of courses for wind turbine technicians at two-year schools in the Midwest and FLCC’s viticulture and wine technology degree.

It is not uncommon, however, for students who got their start at community college to pursue doctoral degrees. The National Student Clearinghouse reports that 11 percent of those who earned doctoral degrees in 2016-17 entered higher education at a community college. The proportion was highest in the health and clinical sciences in which 21.5 percent of all those who earned doctoral research degrees started at a two-year school.

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IC Tech alumni get nod in new book

Two alumni from the instrumentation and control technologies (IC Tech) program are featured in a new book that tells the story of Construction Robotics.

Book cover showing robot arm, hard hat
The cover of a new book about Construction Robotics.

“SAM: One Robot, a Dozen Engineers and the Race to Revolutionize the Way We Build” by Jonathan Waldman explains how Nate Podkaminer and his son-in-law, Scott Peters, developed a brick-laying robot. They call it a semi-automated mason, or SAM, for short.

Construction Robotics was the first company to work with FLCC to get status under the Start-Up New York business development program. Under the partnership, the company agreed to give FLCC’s IC Tech students internships, and if all went well, jobs.

IC Tech was launched in 2010 as an interdisciplinary technology program, coordinated by Sam Samanta, professor of physics. Sam assists each student in finding a co-op, or paid internship, with a local company that often turns into a full-time job.

Kerry Lipp ’13 enrolled in IC Tech after injuries ended his construction career. In the book he is credited with helping develop some of the custom equipment necessary for this first-of-its-kind machine. “Essentially, he put together all the crazy things Scott dreamed up,” the author writes.

Mike Oklevitch, a former Eastman Kodak chemical engineer, also enrolled in IC Tech for a career change and landed a co-op at Construction Robotics. The title of chapter 10 bears his nickname, Mortar Mike, for his work in developing a way to keep the mortar the robot uses at the right consistency to stick to the bricks.

To read a New York Times review of the book, click here.

 

FLCC secures $1.14M to expand undergrad biotech research

Finger Lakes Community College will receive $1.14 million in National Science Foundation funding to take part in a national effort to strengthen biotechnology education and encourage more youth to pursue careers in the field.

FLCC is the home base for the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative (CCURI), which promotes the teaching of science through research. The National Science Foundation has previously awarded FLCC $5.8 million to develop and share its approach with community colleges across the country.

Faculty member in lab coat
James Hewlett, professor of biology, is the founder of the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative

In this recent award, the National Science Foundation has granted $7.5 million to Austin Community College in Texas to lead the project. ACC will create the InnovATEBIO National Biotechnology Education Center to consolidate several biotech education projects into a national network. This network will share best practices and expand undergraduate research in biotechnology.

As a collaborator in the project, FLCC will provide training in the use of research to teach biotechnology concepts and skills.

“This latest grant is a testament to FLCC’s role as a national leader in the expansion of research opportunities for undergraduate students,” said FLCC President Robert Nye. “I congratulate our faculty and staff, led by Professor James Hewlett.”

CCURI supports Objective 4 by providing opportunities for applied learning in scientific research.

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FLCC pilots holography as a learning tool

Finger Lakes Community College is part of a small group of institutions working with Case Western Reserve University to pilot an emerging technology called mixed reality and evaluate its ability to help students learn human anatomy.

Student wearing visor
Finger Lakes Community College student Jacob Vivlamore of Canandaigua uses the HoloLens visor and HoloAnatomy software to view a hologram in his anatomy and physiology class. (Photo illustration by William Pealer)

Last fall, students in FLCC anatomy and physiology classes began using Microsoft HoloLens with the HoloAnatomy program that Case Western Reserve developed to view three-dimensional images of human organs individually or as part of body systems.

The university’s software allows the HoloLens to project a holographic image that everyone wearing the visors – students and their instructor – can see. The instructor can rotate the image, zoom in on a particular section or zoom out to show the entire class how systems function and interconnect.

FLCC joined the project after Christine Parker, associate professor of biology, learned about the HoloLens technology and the program for teaching anatomy, which Case Western Reserve was working to develop as part of the university’s Health Education Campus project with Cleveland Clinic.

The FLCC Forward strategic plan calls on the college to explore new ideas in technology, leadership, learning and professional development to foster greater student engagement.

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