University of Vermont

Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering
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Below please find descriptions of our meetings.

Fall 2013 | Spring 2013 | Fall 2012 | Spring 2012 | Fall 2011 | Spring 2011 | Fall 2010 | Fall 2009 | Spring 2009

VASE Fall Meeting 2013

The 2013 VASE fall meeting was held on Friday, October 4 at the University of Vermont's Davis Auditorium in UVM's Medical Education Building. VASE president Chris Allen opened the meeting at 4:40 PM, having delayed 10 minutes from the scheduled start time due to excessive traffic in the Burlington area. Attendance was good, with the auditorium about one-third to one-half full. Chris gave a brief introduction of new members Dr. Nicholas Gotelli (who was not able to make the meeting), and Dr. Sylvie Doublié. He then introduced Grace Spatafora, VASE Outreach Coordinator, and briefly described her work before turning the meeting over to Grace for presentation of the VASE Science Teacher of the Year awards. The K-8 award went to Roger Bisson from the Albert D. Laughton Middle School in Essex Junction, who read a brief statement. The high school award recipient was Erica Wallstrom from Rutland High School, whose innovative teaching involves a field approach to Earth science; developing integrative approaches to her subject, and getting special education students involved in science.

Chris then introduced the keynote speaker and incoming VASE president, Dr. Frank Winkler, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Middlebury College, who was substituting for U.S. Representative (and PhD physicist) Rush Holt, who had to withdraw at the last minute because of the budget crisis in Washington. Prof. Winkler gave an insightful, humorous, and informative talk entitled "Science, Politics, and Intrigue in the 1600s: Galileo, the Telescope, and the Church." There were many questions following the talk, until this portion of the meeting was ended at 6:15 PM.

Following Professor Winkler's public lecture, VASE members and their guests, along with the Teacher of the Year awardees and their guests, made their way to the Sheraton Hotel for the annual VASE dinner. Following the social hour and dinner, Chris Allen began the more formal introduction of the two new VASE members, first describing Dr. Gotelli's wok in evolutionary ecology. He then turned to floor over to Dr. Susan Wallace, a founding member of VASE, who introduced Dr. Sylvie Doublié and described her work on DNA and its repair mechanisms. Dr. Doublié made some brief remarks, and indicated that she looked forward to working with VASE on science education.

Dr. Grace Spatafora then elaborated on her earlier introduction of the Teacher of the Year awards, and each awardee made brief remarks describing their teaching careers, teaching philosophies, and innovative educational practices.

Grace then thanked Chris for his four years of service as VASE president. Chris acknowledged the work of the VASE outreach team as well as the logistical support from Debbie Stern at UVM. He then introduced incoming president Frank Winkler, who spoke briefly and indicated his interest in continuing and expanding VASE's efforts in STEM outreach.

The meeting ended at about 9 PM.

Richard Wolfson
VASE Secretary

VASE Spring Meeting 2013

The 2013 VASE spring meeting was held on Thursday, May 30, from 4 to 6 PM at UVM's Waterman Manor. Approximately 20 members, guests, and educators attended. In addition to socializing and refreshments, the meeting included two talks by VASE members as well as informal presentations by K-12 educators who had been awarded VASE Small Equipment Grants. Several VASE members commented that having the K-12 awardees present made for a livelier meeting and provided rich opportunities for interactions.

The K-12 and VASE member presentations included the following:

  • Rutland Regional High School's maple syrup project, centered on a small evaporator purchased with the VASE grant. The project involved multidisciplinary study of maple syrup, including not only the science behind its production but also economic, historical, artistic, and other studies related to maple syrup and the maple industry.
  • Northeast Primary School in Rutland's work on pollination by K-2 students, including real flowers grown with the help of a "grow-lab" purchased with VASE funds as well as artificial "flowers" designed for different pollination strategies. Students devised artificial pollinators and determined their effectiveness in extracting pollen from both real and artificial flowers.
  • Salisbury Community School's project involving kits purchased from the Boston Museum of Science. Work included grades 5-6 studying the replication of artifacts including cave paintings; grades 3-4 working on environmental engineering for filtering pollutants; grades 1-2 developing and studying the strength of mortars for building model stone walls; and kindergarten building "sail boards" and using them to develop optimal shapes for wind turbine blades.
  • Swanton Elementary School, represented by a laptop computer showing their work with a 3-D printer purchased with VASE funds. Students designed and then produced model bridges to span a model river. The project was touted as making the students "visionaries for life."
  • The more formal part of the program began with a talk by new VASE member Dr. Louis Larosiliere, Director of Aero/Hydrodynamics Engineering and Concepts NREC. Dr. Larosiliere described his educational history; his work with NASA on improving rocket engine efficiency; and finally his work at Concepts NREC on projects ranging from turbopumps for rocket fuel delivery to automotive turbochargers to pediatric heart assist pumps. "If it spins and has fluid," said Dr. Larosiliere, "we do it." Dr. Larosiliere ended with a comparison of the mountainous similarities between his native land of Haiti—"land of the high mountains" and his current home among the Green Mountains.
  • Following Dr. Larosiliere, VASE member Alan Betts gave a brief talk on a recent serendipitous research experience. Dr. Betts was contacted by Canadian authorities for help understanding the climate dynamics of the Canadian prairies. Through this Dr. Betts learned of a 60-year database of nearly continuous hourly records of cloud cover, and he described how this data is helping him to unravel one of the most significant uncertainties in climate science, namely the role of clouds.

Submitted by Rich Wolfson, VASE Secretary

Fall 2012 Meeting

The 2012 VASE fall meeting was held on Monday, October 8 at the University of Vermont. The meeting began at 5 PM at the Davis Auditorium in UVM's Medical Education Building. Attendance was excellent, with the auditorium nearly full. VASE President Chris Allen opened the meeting. He then called on Dr. Robert Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Orthopedics at UVM, to introduce new VASE member Dr. Bruce Beynnon, McClure Professor of Musculoskeletal Research at UVM, who was unable to attend the later part of the meeting. Chris then introduced Professor Grace Spatafora of Middlebury College, VASE's Outreach Director, who presented the Science Teacher of the Year awards. The K-8 award went to Bianca McKeen, from the Rutland Middle School, while the high school award recipient was Peter Goff of the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington. Some one-third of the Vermont Commons School students and faculty were in the audience. Chris briefly described VASE's other K-12 outreach activities, and announced that the popular small equipment grants would be continuing.

Chris then introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Woodie Flowers, Emeritus Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, whose title was "Post Stem Education: Education Versus Training." Professor Flowers gave a delightful, dynamic, creative, forward-looking talk on his views of how education needs changing, particularly in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Among his wisdoms were a vision for including science among the twenty-first century liberal arts: "Know nature too," and his warning to science and engineering educators that "equations are explanations only to those who already understand." There were many questions following the talk, until this portion of the meeting was ended at 6:30 PM.

After Professor Flowers' public lecture, VASE members and their guests, along with Professor Flowers and the Teacher of the Year awardees and guests, made their way to UVM's Waterman Hall for the annual VASE dinner. Following social hour and dinner, David Japikse introduced new VASE member Dr. Louis Larosiliere of Concepts NERC. Dr. Larosiliere described his fascinating educational journey from Haiti to the United States, where he earned his PhD and became an expert in turbomachinery. Both Teacher of the Year awardees then gave inspiring talks on their work. Bianca McKeen described how she modifies "STEM" to "STEAM" with the inclusion of the arts, and Peter Hoff described how contact with engineering, through his engineer wife, helped inspire his teaching. The meeting ended at about 8:45 PM.

VASE Board Meeting November 14, 2011 by telephone conference

Present: Chris Allen, David Japikse, Jeffrey Finkelstein, Susan Wallace, Alan Betts, Richard Wolfson

The board discussed six items:

  • Nonprofit status: After a brief discussion, there was a consensus that VASE should pursue nonprofit status. There will be some paperwork involved, but it should be nominal. The Board gave its tentative approval, pending a look at final details of the process and its implications.
  • VASE and social scientists: The Board was somewhat divided on whether VASE should admit social scientists. Some felt individual nominations could be made regardless of field, and that the Board would scrutinize for appropriateness. Others felt that VASE should remain strictly for the hard sciences and engineering. A majority of the Board voiced support for maintaining the hard/soft science distinction and supporting only nominees from the hard sciences and engineering.
  • Small equipment fund for high schools: There was consensus that this is a good idea, and that VASE's contribution should be used to match (probably larger) contributions from elsewhere. Discussion on this matter also stressed that the fund should be used for truly innovative uses, designed to excite students about science and engineering—not simply to purchase equipment needed for regular laboratories or other curricular needs.
  • President: VASE needs a president to replace Chris Allen after he steps down. Three possible nominees were suggested, and Chris agreed to contact them and get back to the Board.
  • Speaker for next year: Rich Wolfson proposed a speaker who is a member of the U.S. Congress and a scientist. The Board was enthusiastic about the idea. Rich will explore the possibility, but he pointed out that fall of a major election year is probably not a good time for a member of Congress.
  • Nominating procedure for new VASE members: This has become somewhat haphazard in recent years. VASE bylaws require that nominations come from the Board. Some Board members felt that having Board members choose the nominees might be too incestuous, especially as VASE seeks to broaden its membership. A consensus was reached that the President will solicit suggestion for nominees from the membership, but that the Board will formally make those nominations that it chooses to put forward.

Richard Wolfson
VASE Secretary

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Spring 2012 Meeting

The Spring 2012 VASE meeting was held on Friday, April 20, at the University of Vermont.

  • Robert Johnson discussed myths concerning skiing injuries.
  • John Abele talked about his current focus on generating excitement about science and engineering, particularly with K-12 students, with programs such as Maker Fair.

We also announced an exciting new VASE initiative in the STEM education area. Based on John's talk and our increased VASE interest this area, we hope to generate formal and informal discussions about our potential contribution to statewide efforts directed towards improvement in STEM education.

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Fall 2011 Meeting

The 2011 VASE fall meeting was held on Monday, October 24, at the University of Vermont.

The meeting began at 5 PM at the Davis Auditorium in UVM's Medical Education Building. Attendance was excellent, with the auditorium some three-quarters full. VASE President Chris Allen opened the meeting, and thanked VASE's new corporate sponsors, Downs Rachlin Martin and Merchants Bank. Professor Grace Spatafora of Middlebury College, VASE's Outreach Director, and then presented the Science Teacher of the Year awards. The elementary school award went to Sarah Popowicz, from the Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury; Sarah's principal, Tom Drake, spoke briefly in praise of Sarah as she received the award. The high school award went to Joseph Chase from Essex High School.

Following the presentations, Chris Allen introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Nancy Jackson, president of the American Chemical Society. From her perspectives both as ACS president and manager of the International Chemical Threat Reduction Department in the Global Security Center of Sandia National Laboratories, Dr. Jackson gave a wide-ranging talk exploring the role of globalization in changing patterns of scientific research, publication, and funding-and on new scientific opportunities and challenges resulting from these emerging trends.

After Dr. Jackson's public lecture VASE members and their guests, Teacher of the Year awardees and guests, and representatives from VASE sponsors Downs Rachlin Martin and Merchants Bank convened at UVM's Waterman Hall for the annual VASE dinner. Following social hour and dinner, both Teacher of the Year awardees spoke, and Essex Principal Richard Reardon spoke on behalf of high school award winner Joseph Chase.

Last came the introduction of this year's two new VASE members:

  • Dr. Robert Johnson
  • John Abele, Boston Scientific Corporation

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Spring 2011 Meeting

The 2011 VASE spring meeting was held on Tuesday, April 19, at the University of Vermont. Approximately 30 members and guests attended. After socializing and refreshments, attendees were treated to presentations by the four new VASE members who had been inducted at the fall 2010 VASE meeting.

Ernie Blood, co-founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer at Milton-based Ascension Technology Corporation, was introduced by Emmett Hughlett. Ernie gave a fascinating presentation about his company's miniaturized magnetic-fie'd sensors for three-dimensional motion tracking. He stressed the diverse applications of Ascension's tracking sensors, including biomechanics, flight simulation, virtual reality, and, especially, medicine. One of his props was a real colonoscope, whose twistings and kinkings Ascension trackers can help untangle. Ernie ended with an in vitro demonstration of how the technology can help physicians guiding biopsy needles to a tumor site.

Next was Professor Alain Brizard of St. Michaels College, introduced by Rich Wolfson. Alain described the potential of nuclear fusion as a future energy source, and gave a brief history of progress toward controlled fusion. He then focused on his work on the gyrokinetics of fusion plasmas-which he described by analogy with "the hummingbird problem." Just as a hummingbird's wings beat on a timescale much more rapid than that of the bird's flight, so, Alain explained, do particles in a fusion plasma spiral much more rapidly around magnetic field lines than they execute their overall trajectories. Hummingbird or plasma, that makes computation exceedingly difficult. Alain showed how his "reduced plasma equations" eliminate the rapid motion and greatly speed numerical modeling of fusion plasmas.

Dale Critchlow then introduced John Cohn, Chief Scientist of Design Automation at IBM, where he is also a prestigious IBM Fellow. John described his goal of making science, technology, engineering, and math "fun and real for as many people as possible." He stressed the role of eccentric scientists, inventors, and tinkerers as inspirations for a new generation of creative and technologically literate people. Stressing "hands-on" approaches, "real-world" applications, and "gee-whiz" demonstrations, John caused massive sparks to fly from a large Tesla coil. He went on to recount his participation in Discovery Channel's "The Colony." Here, John and nine others were locked for two months in an abandoned Los Angeles warehouse. They had to develop filters for safe drinking water, technologies for welding and fabricating, energy sources, and other necessities of daily life using only what they could find in and around the warehouse. Out of that experience came John's prolific activity as a public speaker on innovation and sustainability.

Last but not least, VASE president Chris Allen introduced A. Paul Krapcho, whose eponymous Krapcho Reaction is the basis of a wide range of chemical syntheses. Paul gave examples of how his reaction performs dealkoxycarbonylation, a process that replaces an ester group with a hydrogen atom and is synthetically useful for monodecarboxylation of malonic esters among others.. After a brief foray into the Krapcho reaction in the context of the synthesis of the active components in dart-poison frogs, Paul described his use of the reaction to produce anticancer agents. He displayed impressive results for 's rejection of pixantrone and call for additional follow-up studies. Paul then introduced telomerase inhibitors, which could deprive cancer cells of the "immortality" that allows them to divide indefinitely. He described the mechanisms for telomerase inhibition, and ended with an international theme: his collaboration between UVM and the University of Padua in Italy on telomerase inhibition.

New members for 2010-2011 include:

  • Ernie Blood, Ascension Technologies
  • Alain Brizard, St Michael's College
  • John Cohn, IBM Fellow
  • A.Paul Krapcho, UVM

Submitted by Rich Wolfson, VASE Secretary

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Fall 2010 Meeting

The Fall 2010 annual Vase meeting was held on September 15 at the University of Vermont.

The public lecture was present by VASE member Professor George Pinder of the UVM department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The selection of professor Pinder as this year's speaker was in honor of his being elected to the National Academy of Engineering. His topic was "Computer Aided Solutions to Environmental Problems: The Case for Ground Water". Professor Pinder is a pioneer in the computer aided simulation of contaminant transport in ground water and its applications to remediation strategies. Professor Pinder discussed how, starting in the 1960s with the advent of digital computers, numerical methods allowed simulation of contaminant transport, which was emerging in the mid 1970s as a critical environmental concern, due in large part to the Love Canal crisis. He went on to show how contaminant transport models are now used widely to design remediation strategies for groundwater contamination problems. Some are exceedingly complex involving several phases and many species. Current interest is focused on the use of such models in combination with other mathematical tools such as optimization methods, stochastic simulation methods and microbiological models devised to develop cost-effective and robust solutions to groundwater contamination problems. This interesting and timely presentation was well received by the VASE membership and guests.

The lecture was followed by the annual dinner at which the newly elected members were introduced. This year's impressive group included:

  • Alain Brizard, Associate Professor of Physics, St. Michael's College
  • Ernie Blood, President and Chief Technology Officer, Ascension Technology
  • Dr. John Cohn, IBM Fellow and A. Paul Krapcho, Professor of Chemistry UVM

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Fall 2009 Meeting

The Fall 2009 VASE meeting was held on September 22 at Middlebury College.

The speaker, Hugh Herr from the MIT media lab, gave a spectacular presentation which was enjoyed by the members and affiliates present along their guests and others from the Middlebury community. The focus of his presentation was supplementation and /or enhancement of human performance using technology. The potential for prosthetic devices of previously unimagined complexity and performance was of particular relevance given the unfortunate need for same for combat-related losses. These discussions lead to a broader consideration of the future of the human/machine interface.

We inducted three new members:

  • Professor Bill Geiger, UVM
  • Professor Gary Ward, UVM
  • Professor Dan Scharstein, Middlebury

We owe a vote of thanks to our immediate past President, Jeff Finkelstein in particular for getting Professor Herr up to Vermont for the event and in general for his hard work on behalf of the Academy for the past two years. We would also like to thank Rich Wolfson for organizing the meeting at Middlebury.

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Spring 2009 Meeting

The Spring 2009 meeting was held on Thursday, April 29, at the University of Vermont.

The main business activity was presentation by our new members giving an overview of the nature of their work. Professor Dan Scharstein of the department of Computer Science at Middlebury College was introduced by VASE member Professor Rich Wolfson also of Middlebury College. Dan described his work in the area of stereovision and optical flow algorithms and more specifically development of a website where data sets are available for people to benchmark new work. This provides worldwide leadership by Middlebury in this dynamic and rapidly developing area.

Professor Gary Ward of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at UVM was introduced by VASE member Professor Susan Wallace, chair of the Department. Gary described his fascinating work in the area of parasitology focusing on toxoplasmosis. His presentation covered everything from movies of the parasite invading a cell to movies of robotic high throughput screening to probe for agents which have anti parasitic activity.

Professor William Geiger of the Chemistry Department at UVM was introduced by VASE member Professor Dwight Matthews, chair of the Department. Bill discussed his work in the area of electron transfer chemistry (one can consider the electron as the most fundamental chemical reagent). He focused on the relationship between electron transfer and molecular structural change. He also discussed many of the application of electron transfer processes.

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Last modified January 09 2014 10:17 AM

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