Kirstyn Chun, Counseling and Psychological Services/Division of Student Services, delivered a peer-reviewed presentation, “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Managing Stalking Threats at Institutions of Higher Education” within a symposium titled “Identifying Potential Campus Threats: Multidisciplinary Approaches to Threat Assessment and Management” with colleagues from UCLA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the University of California Student Mental Health Best Practice Conference in Los Angeles in September.
Brent C. Dickerson, Mathematics and Statistics, authored the foreword for Le Livre des Roses by Daniel Lemonnier, published in April by Belin (Paris). This foreword (in French) was published independently, accompanied by an English translation, in the autumn 2014 issue of the periodical Roses Anciennes en France (Lyon, France). Dickerson, who is not only a longtime member of CSULB but who graduated from CSULB in 1977, is known for his research and publications on the history and development of roses from 1790-1920, and most recently published a book on Southern California history in the pre-Yankee era.
Stan Finney, Geological Sciences, in his role as chair of the International Commission on Stratigraphy, was invited by the Servicio Geológico Colombiano to visit Colombia in order to advise Colombian geologists on establishing a Stratigraphic Commission on Stratigraphy. In addition, he gave two lectures titled “The International Commission on Stratigraphy: 50 Years of International Collaboration and Cooperation” and “The ‘Anthropocene’ Epoch: Scientific Decision or Political Statement”. Finney’s Colombian colleagues also guided him on a three-day geological excursion in the northern Andes Mountains.
Shira Tarrant, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, was a radio guest on AirTalk, KPCC 89.3-FM, Los Angeles, on Nov. 10 discussing “How Celebrity Women Going ‘Au Naturel’ Impacts Female Body Image.”
Maria Viera, Theatre Arts, Tom Blomquist and Kevin O’Brien, Film and Electronic Arts, have won an International Cinema In Industry Gold CINDY Award from the Association of Audio Visual Communicators, which honors theatrical, broadcast, non-broadcast and interactive media professionals from 12 regions across the globe. Viera was producer of the corporate communication video, “Missed Communication,” for Skaz Productions. Blomquist served as director and O’Brien was cinematographer. “Missed Communication” previously won a regional Gold CINDY Award and Blomquist was singled out for Special Achievement Honors in Directing.
Judging Judges: Values and the Rule of Law
Jason Whitehead, associate professor, Political Science
The 253-page Judging Judges: Values and the Rule of Law appeared from Baylor University Press in December. The “rule of law” stands at the heart of the American legal system but it does not require judges slavishly to follow the letter of the law, unaffected by political or social influences. In his new book, Whitehead refocuses and elevates the debate over judges and the rule of law by showing that personal and professional values matter. Whitehead demonstrates that the rule of law depends on a socially constructed attitude of legal obligation that spawns objective rules. Intensive interviews with 25 State Supreme Court, intermediate appellate court and Federal Circuit Court judges across three states reveal the value systems that uphold or undermine the attitude of legal obligation. This focus on the social practices undergirding these value systems demonstrates that the rule of law is ultimately a matter of social trust. “I’m trying to revive the ancient ideal of the rule of law,” explained Whitehead. “We’ve become very skeptical about that over the last 50 years of American history. There has been lots of research in law and political science that either tries to debunk the idea of the rule of law or simply assumes that it doesn’t exist. What I’m trying to do in the book is to demonstrate how important it is to define the rule of law properly. The way it has been defined classically has been as a balance between the objective element of the law itself and the subjective element of the judges’ attitude toward the law. The law can seem so ambiguous and open-ended, especially in the big constitutional cases we see in the news. That is when the skepticism about the rule of law begins.” Whitehead argues that there are four types of judicial attitudes toward law: formalist attitudes, good faith attitudes, cynical attitudes, and rogue attitudes. “The formalist follows the technical rules of the law. The ‘good faith’ judge acknowledges ambiguity and that there is room for give and take. They see their duty as doing their best to get through the interpretive questions that need to be dealt with and still find the right answer,” he said. “Cynical judges have the sense of being confined by the law, but only as a tool to reach a result they desire on non-legal grounds. And rogue judges come right out and say the law does not bind them at all.” The issue of the rule of law is one of the most crucial any society can face, Whitehead believes. “When you look at societies that are breaking down, nearly
always, that breakdown is associated with a loss of confidence in the rule of law,” he said. “The title of my dissertation was ‘A Government of Words.’ That doesn’t sound like a good idea, to create a government of words. But this is what we do. We have a Constitution with statutes we create. We expect people to be bound by them. But that only works when you trust the people interpreting those words.” Whitehead urges potential readers to read his book for a window into how judges think. “It is one of the most secretive processes in America or any democracy,” Whitehead said. “One of the contributions this book can make to the average educated person is to explain how judges think about their own roles.” Whitehead received his B.A. in political science from CSULB in 1994 where he was also an award-winning member of the debate team. His J.D. came from Willamette University in Oregon in 1997. He earned his M.A. in 2001 and his Ph.D. in 2007, both from the USC political science department. Whitehead joined the university in 2007.
Ken T. Bartlett, Dec. 22, emeriti faculty, Physical Education
Arnett Hartsfield Jr., Oct. 31, emeriti faculty, Black Studies
Edward B. McLeod, Dec. 20, emeriti faculty, Mathematics/Computer Science
Robert A. Pestolesi, Dec. 4, emeriti faculty, Physical Education
To report the recent passing of a staff or faculty member, current or past, notify Inside CSULB.
Thanks to the U.S. Department of Education’s Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans Program, Hispanics will have more opportunities to attain graduate degrees. It has approved the CSULB project proposal for a grant totaling about $2.8 million over the next five years. The project, Hispanic Opportunities for Graduate Access and Retention (HOGAR), will be used to further post-baccalaureate opportunities for Hispanic and underprivileged students. It will develop the graduate program at CSULB, support student outreach and provide monetary support for recruitment and travel for graduate students. It will also provide funding and mentoring for faculty desiring to engage in grant writing and other scholarly work that includes graduate students.
Babette Benken, director of graduate studies in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is the principal investigator (PI) on the grant. She will collaboratively work with her co-PIs, Eric Marinez, Department of chemistry and Biochemistry; Rigoberto Rodriguez, Department of Chicano and Latino studies; and Nancy Hall Department of Linguistics. Zed Mason, former associate vice president for research and external support, will serve as the evaluator for the grant.
“This project will help to both expand and enhance CSULB’s graduate studies, which is a key component of the university’s strategic plan,” said Benken. “Through the development of the new Graduate Studies Resource Center and programs that support prospective and current students, Project HOGAR aims to increase enrollment and graduate student success at CSULB, particularly for Hispanic and underserved students. We hope that this project will propel a greater focus on graduate studies here at CSULB.”
For the first time in CSULB’s history, a Graduate Studies Resource Center will be established, which will serve as a central location to be used by all CSULB post-baccalaureate students in a dedicated space in the Peterson Hall 2 building. HOGAR will be developed to include comprehensive outreach programs for Hispanic and underserved students. The programs will enhance student engagement relating to graduate education and professional/career goals, facilitate graduate research/scholarship, grow cultural competency and scholarship excellence in faculty mentors, and develop the research infrastructure to support quality post-baccalaureate education.
CSULB is considered a Hispanic Serving Institution. It is ranked 11th nationally in awarding undergraduate degrees to Hispanics and 13th for underrepresented students generally. More than 35 percent of CSULB’s undergraduate student population is Hispanic. However, the graduate enrollment for Hispanics is significantly lower and the graduate program is relatively small (12 percent of total enrollment) compared to other universities, including other CSU campuses. HOGAR is designed to help continue and advance CSULB’s reputation as a research-driven university.
The five-year goals of HOGAR are to strengthen CSULB’s outreach efforts of Hispanic and underserved post-baccalaureate students by developing and implementing a comprehensive recruitment plan; to improve the experience and success of Hispanic and underserved post-baccalaureate students; to enhance the scholarship, research, and mentorship capacity of faculty to support Hispanic and underserved post-baccalaureate student success; and to improve CSULB’s graduate-level infrastructure to support Hispanic and underserved post-baccalaureate student success.
History’s Emily Berquist Soule recently received a grant of $50,400 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to fund her research on the politics of slavery and antislavery in the late Spanish Empire.
“I’m really excited to be able to move forward on my second book,” said Berquist, who joined CSULB in 2007. “I’m ready to write it and it’s great to have the time to do it.”
The NEH grant comes as part of $17.9 million in grants this year for 233 humanities projects. Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.
Berquist hopes her second book, tentatively titled The Politics of Slavery in the Late Spanish Empire, will be a major contribution to the scholarship of the period with its overview of the political stance of the Spanish Empire towards slavery in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
“What make the story really interesting were the paradoxical politics,” Berquist explained. “On one hand, the Spanish Empire was trying to become increasingly involved in the slave trade as the plantation economies developed in the Spanish Caribbean. On the other hand, there was a growing if small abolitionist movement in the Spanish Peninsula and some of the laws allowed by the Spanish government actually promoted anti-slavery sentiment and policies. For instance, the royal government officially allowed manumission or self-purchase by slaves. They also allowed slaves to keep plots of land for their own personal use. This book will explore the tensions between the promotion of slavery and the opposition to it.”
Berquist’s NEH grant will fund a full year’s leave from her teaching responsibilities with the goal of finishing her book’s first four chapters.
“So far, I’ve performed a third of the archival research I need,” she said. “I’ve made several trips to Spain to work in the archives in Madrid’s Naval Museum and Seville’s Archive of the Indies. Some of the most interesting documents I’ve found include a captain’s log that detailed an ill-fated expedition to found a slave depot off the west coast of Africa in what is today Equatorial Guinea. It was a disastrous mission that included everything from sabotage to mutiny.”
Berquist’s prior major research awards include $30,000 from the American Council of Learned Societies and a $50,000 Dibner Research Fellowship in the History of Science to fund a fellowship at the Huntington Library in Pasadena. A former Fulbright scholar, Berquist has also been awarded funding from the American Historical Association, the Atlantic History Seminar at Harvard University, the American Society for 18th Century Studies and the Spanish Ministry of Culture, among others.
Like all historians, Berquist uses a special skill set in her research.
“Academic Spanish is the foundational requirement, which I practiced by reading and studying Spanish Golden Age literature while in college,” she explained. “I’ve traveled and read complex documents but the most important skill is actually finding the documents. That takes time but it is a skill I have practiced for 10 years.”
Berquist received her B.A. cum laude from Vassar College in New York and her Ph.D. in Latin American history from the University of Texas at Austin.
She’s grateful to the History Department and the College of Liberal Arts for their support. “We’re very fortunate to be allowed to accept these research grants,” she said. “I’m grateful to both our outgoing and incoming chairs and to Dean (David) Wallace.”
Her first book, The Bishop’s Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru, which appeared this year from the University of Pennsylvania Press, helped prepare Berquist to write her new book despite some real differences in the subject matter.
“However, the subject of my first book was a contemporary of the events I deal with in the second,” she said. “Bishop Martínez Compañón was a dedicated reformer who spent his entire life in Peru trying to help the indigenous people. He tried to improve their ability to work, their education and their living conditions. But as I continued my work on him, I realized that a third of the population of his bishopric was Afro-Peruvian—but he never mentioned them, much less tried to help them improve their lives. This got me thinking, why spend all this time reforming but never even mention people of African descent? What was the position of 18th-century Spanish reformers toward slaves and people of African descent? I found out that, basically, they had no position, not one they spoke of publicly, at least. The question that began my book was, why is there this void in the historical record that has been reflected in the scholarship? I think it came from tension between the economic interests the crown was trying to promote and a growing antislavery movement.”
She feels one reason the NEH recognized her research was the intriguing nature of her topic.
“In terms of scholarly literature, there is not yet a book that explores this subject for the late colonial period which represents a major hole in colonial Latin American scholarship,” she said. “This is an advantage for scholars working on colonial Latin America—it is not like studying colonial America where there are multiple takes on everything. We still have major holes in our understanding. A book like this fills those gaps and therefore serves both the classroom and other scholars.”
Fundraising from such generous supporters as BP America Corp. has helped to transform how CSULB’s Department of Chemical Engineering trains its students by creating new campus labs and supporting faculty research.
With BP America support, the department has been able to launch research and instructional initiatives such as a start-up fund to help new faculty members establish their own labs, explained chemical engineering’s chair Larry Jang, a member of the university since 1984.
“Our regular state funding may or may not provide this kind of support,” he explained. “Combined with support from the office of the Dean of the College of Engineering, we can offer this start-up fund to new hires. This is a way for our faculty to acquire equipment, set up laboratories and, in some cases, hire students. Without this kind of seed money, these faculty could not be expected to perform any reasonable research here.”
Other targets of support include equipment and technology maintenance with a healthy reserve.
“We have made a great effort to bring to this campus new experimental devices plus the creation of our own automation system,” he said. “This has helped to create one of the best chemical engineering labs in Southern California. We work hard to keep our instructional lab modern.”
The funding helps the department acquire new software as well as the occasional guest instructor from BP America Corp. to provide insights. “Special lecturers like these offer practical experience with chemical design process software,” Jang explained.
Jang believes one reason for corporate support is the high quality of students who graduate from the Chemical Engineering Department. “Many of our graduates get a high level of recognition from their employers,” he said. “Often, our students serve as liaisons between this campus and area corporations. What benefits the students and benefits faculty research benefits the companies.”
Financial support demonstrates a good working relationship with the department’s professional partners, Jang believes.
“Young engineering graduates from CSULB working for area firms increase the visibility of our department,” he said. “Our professional partners are often asked to join the College of Engineering’s advisory council to keep us current with the needs of local firms. We want to know what they need and we want them to know what kind of program we have here. It is a two-way dialogue. We take their advice into our decision-making process. This way, our professional partners see this department has a lot of energy and deserves their support.”
Corporate support validates the department’s approach to the classroom and the lab.
“Our professional partners are not charities. They don’t give away money for colleges to spend any way they want,” Jang said. “And when they offer us support, it pays for such things as free student membership in the American Institute of Chemical Engineering through a program called Scale Up. This membership is free for students as long as they are enrolled in the department. With a free membership, they can get a lot of information and participate in the Chemical Process Safety Certificate program.”
Jang stressed how donations have made CSULB chemical engineering graduates more employable.
“Our students have made it clear to their employers that they have hands-on experience funded in part by their support,” he said. “Our graduates work for more than chemical engineering firms. There are CSULB graduates at the Air Quality Management District and a variety of local industries.”
The Chemical Engineering Department maintains a balance between theory and practice in its classrooms and laboratories.
“How does theory connect to the real world? There are students at other chemical engineering departments who do not know,” said Jang. “Chemical engineering students at CSULB learn a subject from A to Z. And when new software is introduced, faculty members learn it the same way. That level of instruction is why our students excel in job interviews. Today’s corporations review more than resumes. More and more, they ask students to solve sample questions using particular tools. If students learn only theory, they cannot use a modern tool to offer a practical solution to a recruiter. This level of support makes this department more attractive to potential students. What CSULB students learn thanks to this kind of support creates a win-win situation.”
Jang encourages potential donors to help transform the Department of Chemical Engineering.
“We can tell potential donors that chemical engineering is a very versatile discipline,” he said. “Chemical engineering graduates can contribute to the chemical process industry, environmental engineering systems, microfluidics, ‘green’ engineering, energy production, etc. There are many faculty working on green materials. Chemical engineers can work with many other scientific and engineering disciplines to increase the productivity of Southern California.”
Although the local BP Refinery has been sold to another major corporation, Tesoro Corp., the college strives to maintain professional connection with BP Corp. and is establishing dialogue with the new owner Tesoro. The refinery, now under Tesoro management, continues to recruit chemical engineers from campus and CSULB will continue to be a major supplier of high-quality chemical engineers to Tesoro, as well as other regional industries, said Jang.
In general, school is where individuals prepare for real-world careers. Today, that preparation is more important than ever and CSULB is leading the charge to do so.
“For most of the 20th century, federal funds for vocational education were focused on a two-track system,” said Jared Stallones, a professor in CSULB’s College of Education who coordinates the university’s single-subject program. “You had your general secondary education and then had vocationalized classes like auto shop and cosmetology. They were funded separately, the teachers were paid separately.”
Some of the laws, however, prevented students who were in the vocational track from taking more than 25 percent of their high school courses in the academic track, so the system was very limiting.
“As a result, you had this very undemocratic tracking system and that was kind of a problem,” said Stallones.
So, beginning in the 1970s, the federal government began calling on schools to make the academic and vocational tracks relevant to one another. For roughly 30 years, vocational education and general education were moving in the same direction. The problem was, they weren’t really integrating.
“In the early part of the 21st century, California started putting money into a program called the California Partnership Academies and these high schools really did begin to integrate the academics with the vocational track,” said Stallones.
That produced positive results. Students in those partnership academies attended school more regularly, earned more credits while they were in high school and tended to graduate with a greater frequency than others. That translated into students going into higher education at greater rates and, seven years after high school graduation, they were earning more money—all good things.
At that point, the James Irvine Foundation and other private entities, wanted to see if the vocational and academic tracks could be integrated further. They provided support for nine school districts, including Long Beach Unified, to work on a curriculum project and out of that grew what is now called “Linked Learning.”
And though the nine school districts are in California, the program has been tested in Detroit and Houston, as well as other parts of the nation. Still, with 14 percent of the nation’s students and 20 percent of the country’s low-income students in California, the nation’s eyes watch the success—or failure—of such programs.
Collectively, the nine pilot districts serve more than 315,000 of the roughly 2 million high school students in California public schools. More than three-quarters of these students are non-white and over half are disadvantaged.
“Linked Learning is a good term because it connects the traditional high school and a student’s career interests with the local community and the community connection is something the partnership academies had not really done a lot of, so this is kind of a new thing,” said Stallones.
Students in certified Linked Learning pathways take regular general education courses, but teachers in those pathways work together in teams—cross-disciplinary teams—to develop career-based projects as a basis for instruction and assessment for these students.
“One of the things that makes the Linked Learning academy a little bit different is that students are required to take at least three serious technical preparation courses and in some cases they graduate from high school with a professional certificate,” added Stallones. “There’s a work-based learning component which ties the community into the school. Sometimes the students go out and do an internship, sometimes professionals are brought in.”
There are roughly 35 certified Linked Learning pathway schools in the state aligned with California’s 15 major industry areas and, through the legislature’s leadership, California has committed $500 million to expand the program.
“The reason it’s called a pathway is because the career themes that these are built around are the 15 career themes that the California Department of Labor has identified,” said Stallones. “Things like agriculture, transportation, medical and engineering technology.”
The other thing that gets linked in Linked Learning is a connection to 21st century readiness skills for college or career, things like being able to be organized, to learn on your own, to work well with others and to articulate your ideas and your thoughts.
“Those are skills that you’ll need no matter what you do with your life,” said Stallones.
So why is CSULB so involved?
“Cal State Long Beach was chosen by the (CSU) chancellor’s office to spearhead a collaboration of six other CSUs to develop educators for Linked Learning settings,” said Stallones. “What we are finding is that in order for teachers to work well in these settings they must to work together on common curriculum areas and issues.”
For example, a history teacher still teaches the history standards, but with an eye towards what those same students are doing in their biology or algebra or English classes. The teacher can then reference those things and make learning a whole piece rather than just disciplinary silos. Of course, teachers need some special preparation in order to be successful and that’s where CSULB comes in.
In 2011, Cal State Long Beach embarked on redesigning its single-subject credential program to prepare candidates to teach in Long Beach, or anywhere else they would want to go, in those settings. That was so successful that the chancellor’s office tasked CSULB with organizing the six other CSU campuses to work on teacher preparation, administrator preparation and counselor preparation. Many of the CSU campuses had been working in relative isolation up to that point.
Stallones pointed out that while teachers, obviously are in the classroom, the role of administrators and counselors is equally important. In order for administrators to head up Linked Learning schools, they have to understand the additional time needed for faculty to plan together, the additional support they need to be able to deliver to students and they have to be able to go out into the community and make the needed contacts with business and industry.
“The teachers that I have spoken to who have been doing this for a long time now are so happy with the results for the students,” he said, “but it’s also so much more interesting for them and it builds in relevance that they otherwise would kind of have to whip up.”
And how does the popular and successful Long Beach College Promise fit in?
“It fits in quite naturally because were working on high school to two-year to four-year pathways that would stay consistent with the Linked Learning pathways,” said Stallones. “So a student, ideally, graduates from a Linked Learning pathway in, say, engineering, from Long Beach Unified, and goes into a two-year college and takes basic engineering courses and then moves right into the College of Engineering here on campus.
“I’m an education historian and I was a teacher for 20 years before I went into higher education 15 years ago,” he added. “I tend to be cynical about reform movements because they come and go, but I’m excited about this one.”
Biological Sciences’ Christine Whitcraft, an expert in coastal wetland ecosystems, points with pride to her work with the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy.
Beginning in 2012, the conservancy provided funding to support Whitcraft’s work in coastal wetland restoration. Other support came from the California Sea Grant and the Montrose Settlements Restoration Program which provided more than $250,000 for restoration efforts.
Together with fellow biological sciences’ faculty members Bengt Allen and Chris Lowe, Whitcraft works to help the conservancy restore and maintain three coastal marshes—Talbert, Brookhurst and Magnolia—located along Pacific Coast Highway between Newland Avenue and the Santa Ana River.
“Marshes like these perform a number of important natural functions,” explained Whitcraft, a member of the university since 2008. “Their landforms and plants help control tidal flow to inland areas and they’re an ideal environment for a host of creatures. Wetlands often serve as nurseries for commercially important fishes as well as nesting sites for a variety of birds.” However, decades of coastal development cut off normal tidal flow and severely degraded the wetlands which is why the Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy undertook multi-million-dollar restoration efforts.
Whitcraft and her students collected data on plants, invertebrates, sediment properties, fish and sea grass.
“With National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)funding, we began studying how California halibut live in their newly restored wetlands habitats. We had students tracking fish 24 hours a day at one point,” she recalled. “That is when the conservancy realized we had a lot of knowledge about the system and we were asked to stay on as restoration consultants. The American Restoration Recovery Act funds paid for three years of work with the conservancy as their consultants.”
The 2012 Conservancy grant supported CSULB students and their research including seven master’s theses. “These addressed some of the biggest questions in wetlands ecology with a focus on restoration,” she said. “How do we, as humans, impact the wetlands? How can we bring back the wetlands from that impact?”
Whitcraft believes what she has learned can be applied to wetlands all over the world.
“Living in urban Southern California is just a test case for the rest of the world because all coasts someday will be urban,” she said. “We are learning about the pressure and stress placed by humans on wetlands. That is applicable worldwide. How do we apply restoration to fix these impacts?”
In addition to work in Huntington Beach, one of Whitcraft’s special interests is the Colorado Lagoon in Long Beach.
“One of the few remaining wetlands in Southern California has become a 13-acre lagoon thanks to human activity,” she said. “It is in the middle of a neighborhood with Marine Stadium and a golf course next door. The lagoon once collected runoff from 18 storm drains in a time of leaded gasoline and street runoff. All those pollutants settled in the sediment. It was about 20 years ago when citizens organized to restore the lagoon led by the Friends of Colorado Lagoon of which I am now president.” Progress has been made. Non-native species have been removed and a low-flow diversion system installed. When it rains, the runoff flows around the lagoon. A dredging effort removed 75,000 cubic yards of polluted sediment.
One of the capital campaign’s three pillars is “A Greater Community” and Whitcraft feels her restoration projects support that pillar. “I bring what I learn back to my students in the classroom then I bring them out into the field to perform research,” she said. “Cal State Long Beach offers a fantastic connection to the community. Most of our students are local. We introduce them to the fact that they live in a community with wetlands and that being scientifically literate about that community is essential to being a good citizen.”
A second link to the community is the support offered by Whitcraft’s research to area municipalities and agencies such as the NOAA and the Department of Fish and Wildlife through CSULB’s graduates. “I serve on eight scientific advisory boards which represents my support for the community,” she added.
The third tier of community connection is the link between her research and the Long Beach community.
“I live down the street from the Colorado Lagoon and I’ve always looked for ways to give back to my community,” she said. “Before this research, that commitment was less focused with occasional service such as working for a food bank. Now I have the skill set to better serve my neighborhood.”
Whitcraft wants her students to complete their wetlands research with the ability to filter what is valid and what is not. “I want our students to value expertise,” she said. “That means knowing a little about statistics and a little about graph reading but it also means developing a sense of place. I ask my students to perform service learning with CSULB’s Center for Community Engagement. They give back to the community while learning career skills at CSULB.”
Whitcraft sees her wetlands commitment continuing. “At the most basic level, someone pays me to go outside and play in the mud,” she laughed. “It’s what I did as a kid and what I do now.”
Geological Sciences’ Matt Becker, the Conrey Endowed Chair of Hydrology at CSULB since 2008, has received more than $1 million in grant support over the last four years to fund research into geothermal energy that is as deeply rooted in the state as the resources themselves.
From completion in 1955 of the nation’s first modern geothermal well “Magma No. 1” at the Northern California Geysers field, geothermal energy has offered the potential of producing clean, seemingly limitless power. However, geothermal energy has yet to be a major player in U.S. energy resources. Geothermal satisfies only 6 percent of California’s and 0.3 percent of the nation’s electrical energy consumption.
The Department of Energy (DOE) awarded Becker and his colleagues a $579,980 project in 2010 followed by another award of $505,839 this year.
“I think what the Department of Energy recognizes is the relevance of our research,” said Becker.
It was his 10 years of research into fractured rock hydrology at the University at Buffalo that first led Becker into the study of geothermal energy. “I’ve looked at how water flows through bedrock for 25 years,” he recalled. “But when I moved to California, all of a sudden, there was geothermal energy. It turns out both fields share the same problem, “How does water flow through bedrock?”
Becker is interested in connectivity between geothermal wells and how to measure it.
“As usual in science, when you discover something new, you discover that it is hard,” he said. “When water flows through fractures, it doesn’t want to flow evenly. It follows channels and short circuits. You have to understand the rocks and fractures before you start putting in wells. We used ground-penetrating radar to trace how that water flows through fractures at our research site. Our next challenge is to design tests to measure connectivity so that we can work around the natural flow patterns.”
Becker believes that geothermal energy holds great promise.
“Natural gas may be more accessible now but it is not renewable,” he said. “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology issued a report in 2006 on the potential for enhanced geothermal resources that argued it could produce the entire electrical needs of the U.S. for the next 2,000 years. The total available energy is 200 zeta-joules. We’re sitting on a huge hot rock that is the Earth. There is an enormous potential for energy there.”
Enhanced geothermal technology is the process of creating permeable reservoirs in rock that are hot but dry. The technology for creating enhanced geothermal reservoirs is similar to the hydraulic “fracking” technique used by the petroleum industry but it is typically accomplished without chemicals. Well connectivity is the limiting factor in these types of developments, which is the subject of Becker’s research.
Becker urges greater government support for geothermal energy research. Sometimes geothermal wells are “dry holes” and do not pay off.
“Geothermal companies do not have the deep pockets of an Exxon or Chevron to weather poor investments,” he said. “The government needs to step in and assume some of that risk. There has been an increase in geothermal energy research but it has been slow. With all the talk about renewables, why is it that every time you hear the word `renewable,’ people mean solar or wind power but rarely is it geothermal?” The Department of Energy’s 2014 research budget for geothermal is $46 million compared with $257 million for solar power.
Becker looks to new power plant technology to revive interest in geothermal research.
“There is new technology that can use water that is only 50 degrees centigrade instead of 150-180 degrees which is what they use in the old-fashioned plants,” he said. “Today, technology can use water that is only as hot as tap water instead of between 150-180 degrees. Today’s technology can exchange that 50-degree hot water with another fluid and extract the heat which turns steam turbines.”
CSULB graduate students gain an advantage in the job market thanks to Becker’s geothermal research.
“Their research in groundwater flow is sufficient for them to switch to geothermal research. We are training our students to be ready to work as geologists. The first DOE grant funded two master’s students, one of whom now studies geothermal energy at Cornell,” he said. The current grant will fund two more master’s students.
“We have the facilities to do this research,” he added. “The lab space we have here is not far from what is available at the UC level. We are competitive at that level. Geothermal resources are Californian and so should be the research. Geothermal research should be a CSU effort. We should be in on the ground floor. There is nothing like what we do here at the other CSU schools or at the UC.”
Becker earned his B.S. in Geology from Michigan State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.
Becker believes that geothermal research will take off in the next 10 years.
“It will finally get the attention it deserves. Certainly in California, there will be more development. I’m certain of that,” he said. “What I want to make sure of is we prepare students to be able to jump into the industry when the time comes. I think we can fill a niche and train students who are competitive with anyone.”