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13 posts from May 2009


Happy 80th Birthday Peter Higgs

Peter Higgs, the eminent British physicist who co-proposed a mechanism for how particles in the universe acquired mass, turns 80 today. The Higgs mechanism supposes that the very early cosmos went through a phase transition, similar to the freezing of water into ice. Just as ice freezes into particular patterns, Higgs posited that the universe "froze" into special values of mass. Consequently, the stuff of matter is weighty rather than ethereal.

If Higgs's theory is correct, a remnant of the agent that caused the transition should be around today, at an energy that may be detectable in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Thus, one of the LHC's goals is the quest for the long-sought Higgs particle (nicknamed the "God Particle").

Wishing Prof. Higgs many happy returns! Let's hope he will soon be able to unwrap a wonderful present -- news of the discovery of the particle that bears his name.

More information about the Higgs particle and the Large Hadron Collider can be found at:
Large Hadron Collider Blog


Investing in Academic Technology

The administration of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia has recently committed to investing in e-learning by creating a new Department of Academic Technology. I am honored to serve as the department's new executive director. Besides pulling together a new department, one of my first goals is to help consolidate support services for desktop PCs, academic applications, classroom technology and the learning management system (Angel). We plan to have a new help website established in time for the fall semester featuring live 24/7 help via phone and chat, a new frequently asked questions (FAQ) database and other self-help resources.

Other goals include building a more robust e-learning platform offering more online options that will allow students to learn, study and interact with fellow students and faculty, at any time and any place. Significant new training opportunities will also be made available to help faculty and staff take advantage of new web-based collaboration and teaching tools.

Stay tuned to this space for academic technology news and tips about making the most of the University's online teaching and learning resources.

Rodney B. Murray, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Academic Technology

Dr. Rodney B. Murray, Executive Director of Academic Technology at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, earned his PhD in pharmacology from Temple University School of Medicine. Prior to joining the University, Dr. Murray served as director of application and web services at Thomas Jefferson University, where he was recruited in 1987 to create the Office of Academic Computing and to teach pharmacology in Jefferson Medical College. His leadership brought significant achievements in the areas of instructional technology, knowledge management, application development, and the University’s Internet presence. Dr. Murray is promoting the latest e-learning technologies, including Web 2.0 applications, social media, blogs, wiki's, e-portfolios and podcasts. He has become a recognized expert in this area, producing his own educational podcasts at www.rodspulsepodcast.com.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Finally, something good about E. coli

Tom Avril writes in the May 28, 2009, Philadelphia Inquirer: Escherichia coli gets a bad rap for making people violently ill, even though most strains are perfectly harmless. You could say it's a bug in need of a good press agent. Or a biologist such as Jennifer R. Anthony, at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Read Story



Promotional giveaways may influence doctors decisions

Dr. Robert Field is quoted in the following WHYY story: Promotional giveaways may influence doctors decisions (May 27, 2009)


Graduation 2009

Congratulations to USP's 2009 Graduates!  We wish you much success in all that you do.

The Humanities Department held a breakfast at the end of April honoring the graduates who earned a major in Humanities and Science, as well as the students who completed a minor in one area of Humanities.


Top Row (left to right):

Alice Tran (Music Minor), Courtney Cavalieri (Humanities Minor), Michael Maiden (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Andrew Gangemi (2009 Humanities Minor), Rob Niescier (2009 Writing Minor), Carson Adams (2009 2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major)

Bottom Row (left to right):

Tam Nguyen (Writing Minor), Danielle Smetts (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Kellie Hegarty (2009 B.S. Humanities and Science Major), Pia Leone(Spanish Minor)


They are a very serious group of scholars...


...dedicated to the highest intellectual activities...   We're so proud of you.



Physics in Philadelphia

[This is an advanced excerpt from an article I will be publishing in June, called Philadelphia: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Physics (to appear in Physics in Perspective).]

Philadelphia's downtown district, called Center City, is laid out in a grid pattern with four squares (and a central square).  Interestingly, three of these squares, Logan, Franklin and Rittenhouse, have some association with physics.

James Logan was secretary to William Penn when Pennsylvania was founded.  He was a lover of books and interested in all manner of scholarly topics, including physics.  In 1709 Logan purchased a copy of the first edition of Newton’s Principia, and later he also acquired copies of the second and third editions, thus playing a pivotal role in introducing Newton’s work to the colonies.  During a trip to London in 1710, Logan witnessed Newton performing an experiment before an audience at St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Benjamin Franklin made monumental contributions to the physics of electricity.  In 1746, the London merchant and Fellow of the Royal Society Peter Collinson sent Franklin a package containing a glass tube used in electrostatic experiments and an article by the Swiss naturalist Albrecht von Haller describing current knowledge in the field, which sparked Franklin’s interest and led him to embark upon an intensive investigation of electricity.  Franklin went on to define the concept of positive and negative charge, to establish that electrical attraction and repulsion of materials can act over a distance and not only by contact, and to enunciate the idea of conservation of charge. The most famous of Franklin’s experiments, however, was his lightning-kite experiment in 1752 in which he proved that lightning consists of an electrical discharge.

David Rittenhouse, as a child, demonstrated great mathematical and scientific aptitude, studying Newton’s Principia in English translation,  building mechanical devices, and establishing his reputation as a maker of clocks and instruments on the family farm in Norriton, about twenty miles north of Philadelphia.  His primary scientific field of study was astronomy, and in 1767 he built an orrery (solar system model) using Kepler’s laws as a guide.  In 1769 he gained recognition as a leading member of the American Philosophical Society by using a refracting telescope he had made to measure the exact time of the transit of Venus.  He also constructed the first diffraction grating.

So we see that three of Philadelphia's squares have a connection with physics.  The next time you are passing Logan's Square's fountain, watching Franklin Square's carousel, or enjoying the sculpture in Rittenhouse Square you may wish to think about the accomplishments of their namesakes.


Evidence-Based Practices to Get Boost in $2 Trillion Healthcare Savings

The most significant aspect of this proposal from the perspective of consumers is the provision for encouraging use of evidence-based practices. This is similar to President Obama’s proposal for using comparative effectiveness analysis to determine which medical interventions work and which do not. 

Therefore, it seems likely that some form of evaluation of medical practices will become part of health reform. The question is whether it will be led by the government or by the private sector. In the end, a public-private partnership is most likely to result

This will influence what insurers do and do not pay for. It should be noted that this not rationing of healthcare. Treatments that are found to be effective will continue to be available. Ineffective treatments not only run up costs but also result in less than optimal care, so overall, consumers are likely to benefit.


Dr. Jim Pierce Talks Electronic Medical Records with KYW Radio

There is more and more discussion about the prospect of electronic medical records becoming reality here in the US. Dr. James Pierce, chair of the bioinformatics and computer science department at the University of the Sciences, talks about some of the challenges of making this a reality. Read the full story by KYW’s Matt Leon at KYW Newsradio.

Listne to a full podcast of the interview: http://www.kyw1060.com/topic/play_window.php?audioType=Episode&audioId=3700747

The Department of Health Policy and Public Health at the University’s Mayes College of Healthcare Business and Policy is proud to present a unique forum for policy dialogue on the Future of Health Information Technology.

Thursday, May 14, 2009, from 5-7 p.m.
Reception to follow in the McNeil STC Atrium

Learn more: http://www.usp.edu/symposium/

Healthy Lessons All Moms Should Tell Their Kids

Happy Belated Mother's Day!  As a mom to a three year old little girl, I try to encourage her to be healthy in all aspects of her life. Of couse, some ideas are more successful than others.  Recently, I submitted a few of these tips to Prevention magazine, so I thought I'd share them here too. 

  • Breakfast doesn't have to be typical "breakfast" food: think thin crust veggie pizza, a grilled chicken or a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. The protein, dairy, vegetables and carbohydrates in these foods are covering four of the major food groups without sugar laden additives that would leave us feeling sluggish. The combination of protein and carbohydrates is the fuel that our bodies need and will leave us feeling satisfied and not hungry in an hour.

  • Moving your body a little each day makes us feel good mentally, physically & emotionally and wakes us up! Jumping jacks, see who can get dressed the fastest. Let's skip to school rather than just walking!

  • Exercise doesn't have to be in a gym -- Dance, bike, play basketball, hopscotch, hula hoop. Have fun!

  • There are no BAD foods. Everything in moderation in food, exercise & life in general.

  • Sometimes we all just need a little piece of chocolate (only 1.6 ounces). Dark chocolate contains flavonoids (antioxidant) which can reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol; blood clots, & high BP.

  • Drink more water!  Dehydration makes us grumpy & lethargic.


Inside Out 2 - The Closing

This is the time of year to which both faculty and students look forward - wrapping up the semester and making summer plans.  To mark this period are closings, graduations, and commencements.

I have already described a class I taught this semester, called "Inside Out", in a previous post.  To recap, it is a course where I took 12 USP students into one of the Philadelphia jails where an equal number of incarcerated students joined us for a course on criminal justice.  All of the students learned a lot, not only about CJ but also about each other.  As students put it, "This class is about getting to meet others from different walks of life and realizing that we aren’t that different" and "It had given me insight into people’s lives whom otherwise I probably would have never gotten to know."

The final class together was held a week ago Monday.  We celebrated what we accomplished over the semester with various guests from the Philadelphia Prison System, including Commissioner Louis Giorla and Warden Arthur Blackmon, and from USP, including Vice President Elizabeth Bressi-Stoppe and Mayes College Dean Bill Ashton.  Speeches were made, certificates were given out, and then we all said good-bye and left with
the challenge of building upon what was learned over this semester.

To get a taste for what went on, Fox News gave the closing ceremony brief coverage that you can see here, and USP's Director of News and Public Relations Brian Kirschner put together a three minute video capturing highlights of the ceremony that can be seen here

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