A New Era Is Upon Us: Gravitational Waves and the Physics Minor

Gravitational Waves:  Last week, the detection of gravitational waves was announced.  The detection was of the merger of a 36 solar mass black hole with a 29 solar mass black hole that occurred 1.3 billion light years away (or 1.3 billion years ago).  This was the most powerful astrophysical event ever detected and it was done with the most sensitive detector ever built.  Just prior to the merger, the black holes were moving at about half the speed of light relative to each other.  Upon their merger they made a 62 solar mass black hole, which tells us (36 + 29 = 65) that 3 solar masses are were given off in the form of energy as gravitational waves.  That is equivalent to completely annihilating 3 suns and having them converted to pure energy in a fraction of a second.  Power is the rate at which energy is given off, and this event was momentarily 50 times more powerful than the light output of all the stars in the universe.

This is just the beginning of an entirely new way of doing astronomy.  To date, almost all astronomy has consisted of measuring light.  Predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, gravitational waves travel at the speed of light but are fundamentally different than electromagnetic waves (light).  When a gravitational wave passes through you, it will stretch you in one direction while squeezing you in the other.  It is that stretching-squeezing effect that was measured by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO).  The detector makes precise enough measurements to measure an effect that is one thousandth the width of a proton.  Up until now, when violent explosions occur, we can only see the bright light on the outside and are left to infer what may have happened on the interior.  Gravitational waves instead allow us a way of probing directly into the heart of the most energetic events in the universe.

The Physics Minor:  It is also an exciting time regarding the physics curriculum at St. Edward’s.  Starting in the fall we will be offering a physics minor.

Course Listings for the Physics Minor (* denotes a required course):
PHYS 2425 University Physics I* (4 hrs) [or PHYS 2325 + PHYS 2125]
PHYS 2426 University Physics II* (4 hrs) [or PHYS 2326 + PHYS 2126]
PHYS 2126 Electricity, Magnetism, and Optics Lab* (1 hr)
PHYS 3336 Quantum Mechanics and Spectroscopy (3 hrs) [or CHEM 3336]
PHYS 3337 Thermodynamics (3 hrs) [or CHEM 3337]
PHYS 3338 Numerical and Scientific Methods (3 hrs) [or COSC/BINF/MATH 3338]
PHYS 3345, 3445 Special Topics in Physics (3 hrs, 4 hrs)
PHYS 4146, 4246, 4346, 4446 Independent Study (1 hr, 2 hrs, 3 hrs, 4 hrs)
PHYS 4157 Research (1 hr)

Students must take at least 18 credit hours of the above to satisfy the minor.  Note that some of the courses are cross-listed.  For those students that are interested in the physics minor, please let your adviser know as soon as possible since it may require careful planning.  For instance, PHYS 3338 and PHYS 3345 will only be offered upon sufficient demand.  Also, come speak with Paul Walter and he can explain why getting a minor in physics is a great idea.

If you are interested in either of these topics (or in becoming a physics teacher at the secondary level), feel welcome to discuss them with Paul Walter (JBWS 274 — pauljw@stedwards.edu).

2016 Ecological Integration Symposium @ Texas A&M


Link to more information on symposium speakers.

The 2016 Ecological Integration Symposium Committee invites you to attend the 17th Annual Texas A&M University Ecological Integration Symposium on March 31-April 1 at Rudder Tower and Theater at Texas A&M University – College Station.  The Ecological Integration Symposium is an interdisciplinary, graduate student led and organized event that unites students with world renowned researchers in the themes of ecology, conservation, evolutionary biology, geography, and more.

During this free, two day event we will explore the ecological and social challenges we face towards achieving sustainability in a human dominated landscape through the theme of Ecological Perspectives in Sustainability. This year, we will be hosting a day of speaker presentations at Rudder Theater on March 31, and student presentations on the 4th floor of Rudder Hall on April 1, 2016.

The 2016 plenary speakers include Dr. Jayne Belnap, research ecologist with the USGS; Dr. Ruth DeFries, professor at Columbia University; Dr. Lisa Naughton-Treves, professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Stuart Pimm, professor at Duke University; and Dr. Peter Vitousek, professor at Stanford University.

We are now accepting abstracts for student presentations in talk and poster formats.  Both graduate and undergraduate students are encouraged to present original research during the student research symposium on Friday, April 1.  Please visit our presentation registration page for more information on submission requirements and procedures:


The deadline for abstract submissions is February 26, 2016

We are accepting volunteer sign-ups to help assist with the event on March 31 and April 1.  Please visit http://eeb.tamu.edu/eis/2016-eis/2016-eis-volunteer-registration/ for more information and to register as a volunteer.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the 2016 EIS Committee at theeis.tamu@gmail.com.  Please visit our website http://eeb.tamu.edu/eis/2016-eis/ and Facebook page for more information and updates

We are looking forward to seeing you all this year during the 2016 Ecological Integration Symposium!


2016 Ecological Integration Symposium Committee

Presentation Registration:
Judge Registration:
Volunteer Registration:

We thank all of our sponsors from Texas A&M University for making this event possible,  including the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Association of Former Students, the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Department of Geography, , the Department of Entomology, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, the Department of Animal Sciences, the Department of Agricultural Economics, the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, and the Department of Oceanography

Nominate NSCI Faculty for Teaching and Research Awards

Dear NSCI Community Members,

It is the time of year when we identify and award faculty in the School of Natural Sciences for their outstanding contributions in Teaching and in Research.  Thanks to the generosity of two donors, we are able to present $1000 awards to two faculty members this year, one for Excellence in Teaching and the other for Excellence in Research.  Their names will be added to the plaques that are housed in the awards cabinet in the halls of JBWN.

All members of the community are eligible to submit nominations of their colleagues, faculty members whom they have had in class, or faculty members with whom they’ve worked on a research project.  Here are the guidelines for nominees:

• Demonstrated exceptional commitment to the Holy Cross mission by fostering the courage to take risks, offering students an international perspective of subject matter and serving students of diverse cultural, economic, educational and religious backgrounds;

• Evidence of outstanding achievement in research for their field of study or;

• Displayed an innovation and commitment to educating students and igniting their passion for science;

• Non active member of selection committee for either award.

The teaching award committee consists of the last two winners:  Dr. Patricia Baynham (2015) and Dr. Jason Callahan (2014)

The research award committee consists of the last two winners:  Dr. Jason Callahan (2015) and Dr. Raelynn Deaton Haynes (2014)

One page letters of nomination may be submitted by any current or former member of the faculty and staff as well as by any current students or alumni of St. Edward’s University.  Letters of nomination are due by 5 pm on the Friday before Spring Break each year (this year, that is Friday, March 11).  It is helpful to describe in your letter how you became aware of the excellent work of your nominee and your reasons for the nomination.

Please send your nominations or any questions you have about the process to NSCIDean@stedwards.edu.

Thanks for your consideration and participation in recognizing our outstanding faculty members.

Welcome Raychelle Burks to SEU Chemistry!

We’re delighted to welcome Raychelle Burks to the Chemistry faculty at St. Edward’s starting this summer.  Raychelle is coming to us from Doane College in Nebraska and brings with her impressive credentials in forensic chemistry in addition to a creative and enthusiastic approach to academic life.  Check out her YouTube video announcing her decision to come to St. Ed’s.  Also, you can find her on twitter:  @DrRubidium.  Welcome, Dr. Burks!

NSF Report Shows SEU on the Rise in Research Funding

From Gloria White, in the Office of Sponsored Programs at SEU:

The National Science Foundation has published a report on payments to Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) by state for the prior year 2015 (please see the link below). St. Ed’s had a good year in 2015 for payments from NSF on 3 of our active grants:

Of the 57 Texas colleges and universities that got payments from NSF on their grants last year, SEU ranked in the top half of the group. In fact, we ranked 22nd, receiving $1,820,000—-and this was ahead of Texas State University-San Marcos which ranked 23rd with $1,749,000. (This is NSF’s data, not ours, not self-reported data from the IHEs).

Of the 14 Independent College and Universities of Texas (ICUT) that received NSF payments in 2015, St. Ed’s ranked 4th after Rice ($33,767,000), Baylor ( a total of $5,164,000), and SMU ($2,717,000).

Way to go, SEU faculty!

The Water Project – a fundraiser – NEW INFO

Post from Maria Zamora (B.S. student in Biology):

Academy of Science (the official student organization for NSCI majors) is starting a fundraiser to raise money for a program called the Water Project (https://thewaterproject.org/). Specifically, our big fundraising event will be an event called The Water Challenge (https://thewaterproject.org/thewaterchallenge), in which people are encouraged to sign a promise card, give up other drinks other than water for two weeks, then donate the money they would have spent on other drinks to the organization.

We feel that this project coordinates well with St. Edward’s mission, and because the Water Project creates many opportunities for people in places without any clean water.

An information session about the project will be held Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 pm in Carter Auditorium. (NEW DATE AND LOCATION!)  The tabling days are the 24th and 25th.

Contact Maria Zamora for more information.

Love Blue – Give Gold



Love Blue, Give Gold… and give back!

St. Edward’s University’s social media-driven fundraising campaign, Love Blue Give Gold, is here! From February 8-10, #LoveBlueGiveGold will take over social media channels across the Hilltop and beyond to promote participation gifts to St. Edward’s from undergraduate alumni. No matter what amount you give, you will help St. Edward’s provide the best possible experience for students. Watch University President George E. Martin, Ph.D. speak on the importance of #LoveBlueGiveGold, and read more.

Let’s see if the NSCI community can yield the highest number of new donors.  Give here!

Washington University REU: Big Data Analytics

This summer REU Program on Big Data Analytics at our 3+2 partner institution, Washington University in St. Louis, includes 14 different projects.

Application deadline is Feb. 12!

Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowships

Interested in teaching math and/or science?

Check out the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship program, an accelerated graduate school program that moves you from your disciplinary background into teaching positions in middle or high school math or science.  Applications are being accepted through 24 February.

A webinar with more info is scheduled for 11 Feb. @ 5 pm CST.  Contact Jessica Santos for more information.

American Councils Energy in Central Asia Program

Application Deadline: March 1, 2016
American Councils for International Education has announced a summer study abroad program that examines Central Asia’s energy industry, the politics of oil and gas, and the potential environmental impact of the industry’s rapid growth. Based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the four-week program also offers Russian and Kazakh language lessons and concludes with a series of meetings and seminars with industry experts. Participants can earn U.S. undergraduate academic credits from Bryn Mawr College. All applicants are eligible to receive an Air Astana travel scholarship.