News @ the Beach

More Smart Technology Classrooms Part of Liberal Arts Building Renovations

The university now has 26 more smart technology classrooms, along with other renovations that were announced at a College of Liberal Arts’ (CLA) ribbon-cutting ceremony. The program included President Jane Close Conoley, Provost David Dowell and CLA Dean David Wallace.


Classrooms are equipped as “smart classrooms.”  These classrooms are designed to promote interactive learning.  The walls are finished with idea-paint and a state-of-the-art audio visual system was installed in every classroom to provide a comprehensive technological experience.

“The technology-rich classrooms in the remodeled LA 2, 3 and 4 buildings will allow CLA’s talented faculty to further enrich the learning opportunities that they provide to CSULB students,” said Wallace.

The Liberal Arts 2, 3 and 4 renovation project consisted of a seismic retrofit, extensive building upgrades, major exterior site improvements and the addition of approximately 26 smart technology classrooms to the campus.  The three buildings consist of approximately 36,000 interior square feet.  This is the first comprehensive renovation since these buildings were built back in the early 1950’s.

Architecturally, the buildings have received new finishes inside and out.  Interior renovations include the addition of a heating and air conditioning system, upgraded power and telecommunication systems, new lighting and lighting controls.  The buildings have new ceilings, doors, hardware, fresh paint and new carpet at all areas.

The existing landscape between buildings was removed and replaced with new hardscape, planting, water efficient irrigation systems, trees, ground cover and various seating and gathering areas.  The exterior areas as well as the interior spaces are all equipped with Wi-Fi service. New LED lighting in the courtyards, along with power and data ports at various seating locations, were added to promote an exterior interactive learning environment.  Hydration stations and new bike racks have also been included for added convenience.

All of the buildings were designed in a highly sustainable manner, which lead to a LEED Silver Certification green building standard, an impressive building certification. Major construction activities began in February 2014 and were completed in this month.

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$1 Million in Support for Geothermal Energy Research

Matt Becker, a member of the faculty in geological sciences and 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.

Matt Becker

Matt Becker

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 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,” said Becker. “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’s 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 is 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 University of California 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 California State University 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. “I want to make sure 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.”

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NEH Grant Funds Research on Slavery in Late Spanish Empire

Emily Berquist Soule, a faculty member in the history department, 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, a former Fulbright Scholar. “I’m ready to write it and it’s great to have the time to do it.”

Berquist, Emily

Emily Berquist Soule

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 said. “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. She has also been awarded funding from the American Historical Association, the Atlantic History Seminar at Harvard University, and the American Society for 18th Century Studies and the Spanish Ministry of Culture, among others.

“Academic Spanish is the foundational requirement, which I practiced by reading and studying Spanish Golden Age literature while in college,” she said. “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.”

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.”

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.

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.

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Textile Waste Not a Waste at All

Some look at textile waste and think of disposal. Yu-Fu Ko, a member of the faculty in the civil engineering and construction engineering management department, looks at textile waste and thinks of opportunities.

Ko’s recent research focuses on seismic retrofitting of existing structures with an eye to using textile waste to support civil infrastructures.

“I’m looking at how they might be used to reinforce concrete structures such as buildings and bridges,” said Ko. “If the preliminary research results were successful, it could be applied to retrofit earthquake-damaged structures in the future. In current practice, carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites (CFRPs) are used to retrofit buildings and bridges. But making these reinforcing fibers can be hazardous. Workers who make carbon fibers breathe in the materials. That’s not good. Plus, carbon fibers are expensive. I hope, by mixing textile waste with bio-derived resin matrix, they will deliver the equal strength of CFRPs at a reduced environmental impact.”

Based on Ko’s recent research, it will be doable and practically feasible in the future. Not only would textile waste patch up an aging infrastructure, it would offer a substitute for diminishing global resources.

“The material diminishing the fastest is timber,” he said. ”I see less every year. The same is true for reinforced concrete and steel. Typical buildings and bridges today still use all these materials. That won’t be the case in the future.”

When he teaches undergraduate and graduate students, Ko stresses the potential for the use of new materials.

“If you inject carbon nanotubes into a structure, it can multiply the strength of the original structure,” he said. “Look at the process of filling concrete with rebar. The carbon nanotubes play the same role as the rebar. It offers additional reinforcement. In decades, there will be limited resources to make rebar. In addition, the carbon nanotubes offer many times the strength offered by rebar reinforcement. We are talking about superstructures in the future.”

Developing new computational modeling is also Ko’s research focus. He uses computational algorithms to perform the numerical tests, which will be calibrated by performing the mechanical tests that could characterize the materials used in the analysis and design of buildings, bridges, and other infrastructures.

“I work to develop new computational programs so an engineer or a student could input numbers and parameters and immediately estimate the mechanical properties of the materials used in their daily design,” he said.

Ko believes that it is very important to understand the materials used in modern construction at both microscopic and nanoscopic scale. Also an applied mechanics researcher, he studies the material’s behaviors both mechanically and numerically.

“It is important to come up with the right equations and computer programs so that engineers or students could understand the material’s fundamental parameters,” he said. “With these kinds of studies, we can make predictions about the material’s behaviors and we can use these data to analyze and design for buildings, bridges, infrastructures, cars, airplanes, etc.”

Prior to joining CSULB, Ko was a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at UCLA as well as a senior structural design engineer at Englekirk and Sabol Consulting Structural Engineers, Inc. Ko is a registered Professional Civil Engineer in California and received his B.S. degree in structural engineering from National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in 1997 as well as his M.S. and Ph.D. both at UCLA in 2001 and 2005, respectively.

“New materials are always under development,” said Ko. “New materials would change current analysis and design philosophy of structures. If you understand the material behaviors at the microscopic and nanoscopic scale, you can understand the macroscopic behaviors of the materials and easily utilize these materials. The engineering students need to know both microscopic and nanoscopic and macroscopic behaviors of materials. It is important to provide engineering students with that knowledge in their education.”

Ko feels his theoretical and practical experiences help him in the classroom. “CSULB offered me many opportunities in teaching and research to guide engineering students to learn both theories and practical experiences,” he said. “CSULB engineering students will be very well prepared for the competitive job markets.”

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