K Student Among First AmeriFirst Interns

Kalamazoo College student Peter Rossi ’18 is among the first students to take advantage of a new internship program that teaches students about the mortgage industry.

Rossi, a computer science major and music minor from Kalamazoo, is one of nine college juniors and seniors learning career skills this summer through AmeriFirst, a mortgage banker in Kalamazoo. The students, who were chosen from more than 50 applicants, work in marketing, information technology, appraisals, human resources and legal/compliance. The program began in May and continues through August.

Peter Rossi Pictured at AmeriFirst
Peter Rossi, a computer science major and music minor from Kalamazoo, is one of nine college juniors and seniors learning career skills this summer through AmeriFirst, a mortgage banker in Kalamazoo.

“The work environment at AmeriFirst is extremely unique because my work is directly applicable to the company,” Rossi said. “They’re willing to value my opinions even at the highest level, which pushes me to work hard.”

Rossi’s job in information technology includes communicating with various departments around AmeriFirst to help the company build an intranet platform that suits employees’ needs. He also has duties involving business process modeling, which is a method of mapping processes to help make an organization’s workflow more effective and efficient.

Rossi said there are three divisions within IT at AmeriFirst including:

  • a technical-support division;
  • a network administration division, ensuring that servers are protected and company information is properly encrypted; and
  • Rossi’s division, which offers a mix of continuous improvement and project management.

“There are a lot of departments that have interns, but the IT department has a way of making every day interesting and fun,” Rossi said. “We really go out of our way to interact and have a good time.”

A weekly lunch-and-learn program encourages community and builds cohesiveness among the interns across departments. During these 60-minute sessions, members of senior management provide industry and life-skills education along with overviews of their respective areas of expertise. A recent highlight included a session with Chief Executive Officer Mark Jones, who shared his passion and business philosophy with the students, who appreciated his time.

“AmeriFirst is going out of its way to see that young talent stays here, which I think is amazing,” said Rossi, a Loy Norrix High School graduate, Heyl Scholar and a member of K’s swimming and diving team. He added he hopes he can take the experiences he has gained so far and continue to be successful moving forward.

Before launching the internship program, AmeriFirst Staff Recruiter Kelly McConnell and coworker Nicole Waterbury connected with local college career departments, including K’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), and reached out to other corporations running successful internship programs. Although Rossi first heard of the internship opportunity through a friend’s dad, he said CCPD was integral in helping him prepare his résumé and learn how to network.

Rossi said he would encourage other students thinking about the AmeriFirst program in the future to “absolutely apply. If you can get in, they really take care of you. It’s a diverse workforce, and a majority of employees are women at the home office, even among the senior leadership team. For me that creates an amazing community atmosphere that also has a young, energetic vibe.”

For more information on internships at AmeriFirst, contact McConnell at 269-324-4240, ext. 12020, or recruiter@amerifirst.com.


7 K Students Attend Experimental Biology, 2 Honored

Seven Kalamazoo College students attended the annual Experimental Biology meeting in Chicago in May including two honored in the event’s undergraduate research posters competition.

Experimental Biology Posters Competition
K students Raoul Wadhwa (second from left) and Sarah Glass (second from right) received honors in the Experimental Biology undergraduate research posters competition. They are joined by professors Regina Stevens-Truss and Laura Furge.

About 225 undergraduates from across the country participated in Experimental Biology’s poster competition in the categories of:

  • proteins and enzymes;
  • metabolism, bioenergetics, lipids and signal transduction;
  • DNA, RNA, chromosomes and gene regulation; and
  • cell and developmental biology.

Sarah Glass ’17, of Shelbyville, Mich., was awarded first place in the “proteins and enzymes” posters category and received an award of $500. Raoul Wadhwa ’17 – originally from Portage, Mich., and now of Chicago – earned honorable mention recognition in “proteins and enzymes.”

The event is a joint meeting of six different societies including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) as well as societies for physiology, nutrition, pharmacology, pathology and anatomy.

Glass said the meeting was a great opportunity to find out what’s going on in science and to practice presenting research. She is a chemistry major who will pursue a Ph.D. starting this fall at Vanderbilt University.

Glass presented research associated with her Senior Individualized Project (SIP). She investigated enzymes in the human liver that help process medicines, work that may become relevant in predicting how individuals will respond to their medications.

In contrast to Glass, it might seem strange that Wadhwa, a math major, not only participated but earned honors in an event largely attended by chemistry and biology majors. However, this project – which also was his SIP – united his interdisciplinary interests in computer science, math, biology and chemistry.

Experimental Biology Meeting in Chicago
K students Christi Cho, Sarah Glass, Raoul Wadhwa, Cydney Martell, Jacqueline Mills, Sharat Kamath and Susmitha Narisetty joined professors Laura Furge and Regina Stevens-Truss at the annual Experimental Biology meeting in Chicago.

“Something like this could only happen at K,” he said, adding he owes a “thank you” to chemistry professors Regina Stevens-Truss and Laura Furge. Their guidance helped him inside and outside the lab, especially as they coached him in professionally presenting scientific research. “This would never have happened at a big university.”

Wadhwa described his research as still being a ways off from clinical application, although he was looking at a new class of potential drug therapies that in some ways are similar to antibiotics. He helped develop software used to predict the antibacterial potential of peptides being studied in Truss’s lab, work that could one day prove vital in this age of antibiotic resistance. Wadhwa will attend the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western University starting this fall.

Other K representatives included chemistry majors Christi Cho ’17, Jacqueline Mills ’18 and Cydney Martell ’19; along with biology majors Sharat Kamath ’18 and Susmitha Narisetty ’19. Cho also presented her SIP research and Narisetty presented results from her summer internship at South Dakota State University.

K Attends the MICWIC

Kalamazoo College Computer Science Students and Professor Alyce BradySeven Kalamazoo College computer science students traveled with professors Alyce Brady and Pam Cutter to the 6th Biennial Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing (MICWIC), held at Michigan State University in late March.  Seniors Marlisa Pennington and Colleen Orwin presented posters on their Senior Individualized Projects–“JAVA Simulation Software for Handbell Change Ringing: Generating Permutations of Tones” and “Swim for Success Mobile Application,” respectively. Sivhaun Sera ’18 presented a poster on the benefits of having a Computer Science Leadership Team at Kalamazoo College. The Leadership Team is a new initiative the computer science department started this year.

At the celebration, the K students attended presentations, panel discussions and the poster session. They explored careers in computing fields by networking with computing professionals throughout Michigan and participating in a career fair featuring both regional and national companies. More than 200 participants from around the state attended the event.

The group also united with two computer science alumni. Pictured are (l-r): Courtland VanDam ’08; Azra Ahmad ’18; Marlisa Pennington ’17; Sivhaun Sera ’18; Associate Professor of Computer Science Pam Cutter; Colleen Orwin ’17; Serita Evelyn ’19; Nora Wichmann ’18; Alyce Brady, the Rosemary K. Brown Professor in Mathematics and Computer Science; Joo Young Lee ’19; and Hayley Smith ’15

Two ‘Zoo Teams Enjoy the Google Games

K Students Participate in Google Games
Team “Graph Isomorphism Problem” included (l-r) Jennifer Cho ’19, Abhay Goel ’18, Jacob Naranjo ’18 and Dahwi Kim ’19.

Whoo hoo! The long /oo/ sound came through when a Kalamazoo College team won first place in the Google Games. Two K teams participated–“The Metros” included Timothy Rutledge ’19, David Gurrola ’19, Fabien Debies ’20 and Daniel Michelin ’18; “Graph Isomorphism Problem” (which happened to win the friendly competition involving some 20 teams from K, the Illinois Institute of Technology, DePaul University, Western Michigan University, the University of Illinois-Chicago, the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of Notre Dame) featured the line-up of Jennifer Cho ’19, Abhay Goel ’18, Jacob Naranjo ’18 and Dahwi Kim ’19. The emphasis was definitely on fun, not finish, and all teams enjoyed in a day-long event of coding, puzzles and word association games with a theme of “Top Secret Mission.” Teams could solve puzzles by hand or by writing code. Congratulations to all!

K Professor Co-Edits ‘Computational Neurology and Psychiatry’

Péter Érdi, the Henry R. Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies, is the co-editor of a new book titled “Computational Neurology and Psychiatry.” He also is the co-author — along with two K alumni, Takumi Matsuzawa ’16 and Tibin John ’15 — of a paper included in that book. The paper is titled “Connecting Epilepsy and Alzheimer’s Disease: Modeling of Normal and Pathological Rhythmicity and Synaptic Plasticity Related to Amyloidβ (Aβ) Effects.”

Computational Neurology and Psychiatry
Péter Érdi is the co-editor of a new book titled “Computational Neurology and Psychiatry.”

Sometimes seeing more is a matter of new ways of looking. Such “new ways of looking” include the emerging scientific fields of computational neurology and computational psychiatry. The key word is “computational.” Researchers apply math and computer science to create computer models that simulate brain structures and brain activities associated with specific disorders (epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease, for example). Such simulations and new techniques of analyzing the copious amount of data that emerges from such simulations have the potential to reveal elements of brain structure and function associated with disease and disorders, elements that have heretofore been a mystery. In other words, these “new ways of looking” may result in seeing what’s never been seen before.

Computer modeling also offers advantages of cost and convenience compared to older ways (animal experimentation and laboratory set-up) of trying to model and see brain structure and (mal)function.

A book that pioneers these new scientific fields is exciting and important, says Péter:  “Adopting advanced computational methods such as modeling and data processing raises hopes that one day we will more effectively treat neurological and psychiatric disorders.”

In other news, Péter has been appointed vice president for membership of the International Neural Network Societies.

A Distinguished Dozen

Kalamazoo College 2017 Class Agents
Class agents (and their majors) for the class of 2017 are (l-r) front row–Kamal Kamalaldin (computer science), Bianca Delgado (political science), Kriti Singh (economics), Emma Franzel (theatre arts), Brooke Travis (anthropology and sociology); middle row–Emerson Brown (economics), Emily Levy (anthropology and sociology), Emily Finch (English and history), Chris Francis (economics); back row–Alivia DuQuet (political science and women, gender and sexuality studies) and Eric DeWitt (economics). Not pictured is Amanda Johnson (economics).

The class of 2017 has its agents, a dozen as distinguished as they are diverse. Alivia DuQuet, Amanda Johnson, Bianca Delgado, Brooke Travis, Chris Francis, Emerson Brown, Emily Finch, Emily Levy, Emma Franzel, Eric DeWitt, Kamal Kamalaldin and Kriti Singh come from four states and three countries and represent eight different majors, five different study abroad programs on four continents, one study away program and a K-Trek (K to the Big Apple). Seven will enter the work force after graduation (several with jobs already lined up), two will go to graduate school, two will take a gap year then proceed with their graduate educations, and one will do Teach for America before beginning grad school. Senior Individualized Projects ranged widely, and topics included, among others, state sexual education policies, climate adaption strategies, cultural institutions in Palestine, corporate venture capital investments, the Dodd-Frank Act, parental attitudes regarding corporal punishment, feminism performance theory and the U.S. primary care industry.

All of the class agents were asked why they wanted to take on this lifetime role. Their answers, understandably, varied and yet shared some common themes: an appreciation of the K learning experience, a desire to remain connected to classmates and the College and to pay forward the benefits of a K education. “Throughout my time at K,” said Singh, “I have realized the importance of financial support and support from alumni. I would love to be actively involved because a lot of students (unknowingly) benefit from the support from the people who have been giving back.” Kamalaldin agrees: “I want to be able to improve Kalamazoo College and stay connected to its mission. I want to give back the tremendous support and educational opportunity that Kalamazoo College gave me.”

Photo courtesy of Tony Dugal

Undergraduates Present Research

Undergrad Present ResearchFifteen Kalamazoo College students joined three of their teachers (professors Dwight Williams, Santiago Salinas and Ellen Robertson)  to present research at the 2016 West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference (WMRUGS) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The annual conference provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to present their own research to a large and supportive group of professional scientists. K was well represented with sophomores, juniors, and seniors in attendance from both the Departments of Biology and Chemistry: Suma Alzouhayli ’17 (Chemistry and Biology), John Bailey ’17 (Chemistry), Christi Cho ’17 (Chemistry), Quinton Colwell ’17 (Chemistry), Rachel Fadler ’17 (Chemistry), Sarah Glass ’17 (Chemistry), Sharat S. Kamath ’19, Christina Keramidas ’18 (Chemistry and Biology), Cydney Martell ’19 (Chemistry), Garret Miller ’16 (Chemistry), Susmitha Narisetty ’19 (Biology), Darren Peel ’17 (Biology), Collin Steen ’17 (Chemistry), Myles Truss ’17 (Chemistry), Raoul Wadhwa ’17 (Chemistry and Computer Science). In addition to presenting their research, students heard a keynote address and research talks by undergraduate and graduate students from regional colleges and universities. This free event also provided undergraduate researchers the opportunity to interact face-to-face with graduate school recruiters and to learn more about future career opportunities.

There were 169 undergraduate posters presented at WMRUGS from students representing 17 different college and universities. Ten students from the Kalamazoo College Department of Chemistry, presented results of their research conducted under the mentorship of Kalamazoo College faculty that included Laura Furge, Regina Stevens-Truss, and Dwight Williams. Other students presented the results of their summer research projects conducted in laboratories at Indiana University and the University of Oregon. Students from the Department of Biology presented their findings from research conducted this past summer in laboratories at South Dakota State University and Michigan State University.

Physics Professor Honored with Teaching Award

Statistical physicists Jan Tobochnik
Statistical physicists like Jan Tobochnik rely heavily on computers to explore anything and everything that has lots of parts.

Jan Tobochnik, the Dow Distinguished Professor in Natural Sciences,  has been named as the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Oersted Medal, presented by the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). The Oersted Medal recognizes outstanding, widespread, and lasting impact on the teaching of physics. In connection with the award, Tobochnik will deliver a talk on “The Changing Face of Physics and the Students Who Take Physics” at the 2017 AAPT winter meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Past winners include Carl E. Sagan, Edward Purcell and Richard Feynman, among others.

Jan’s research interest fall in the area of statistical physics, the  development of computer models that predict behaviors, not only of physical phenomena (like earthquakes and nucleation) but also social situations, such as wealth distribution patterns and traffic jams. Because Jan incorporates his research into his teaching, students get a better sense of what science is all about. “Without my research,” he says, “my examples would be stodgy.” In fact, the award specifically cites Jan’s “lasting impact on the teaching of physics through his contributions to the use of computer simulations to motivate active learning.”

Jan is well known for his series of texts (six) written with Harvey Gould. They cover computer simulation methods at the introductory level and statistical and thermal physics at the intermediate level. In the early 1990’s he was a practitioner of active learning methods, long before it became fashionable, and was busy developing software to assist student learning. Jan’s fluency in computational methods especially in the service of advanced thermal and statistical physics research has informed dozens of publications in refereed journals. He served as the editor for the American Journal of Physics from 2001 to 2011.

Jan was born and reared in Philadelphia, and he remains an only occasionally wavering Phillies fan. He graduated summa cum laude from Amherst College in 1975 with a major in physics. He then went to Cornell University and earned a Ph.D. in physics (1980).

Jan came to K in 1985. In addition to teaching in the physics department he has served as acting provost and interim provost. And every year, in the spirit of the liberal arts advocate that he is, Jan leads discussions on the year’s Summer Common Reading selection, none of which, as yet, have been about physics.

The Rosemary K. Brown Professor Chosen

Kalamazoo College Professor Alyce BradyKalamazoo College today named Alyce Brady, Ph.D., the Rosemary K. Brown Professor in Mathematics and Computer Science. Alyce has taught in those departments at Kalamazoo College for 22 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and her master’s degree and Ph.D. from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She teaches a variety of courses in computer science from introductory classes to advanced courses on programming languages, data structure, dynamic Internet apps and software development in a global context. Her research interests include the application of computer science to social justice (Alyce served as the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Faculty Fellow from 2013-2015), the development of more effective computer science education exercises and opportunities for students, software design, academic computing applications and human-computer interfaces. In 2007 she co-authored a seminal article in computer science education, “A 2007 model curriculum for a liberal arts degree in computer science,” and in 2010 she co-wrote the article “Case studies of liberal arts computer science programs.”

The professorship was established with an endowed gift by Rosemary Kopel Brown and John Wilford Brown in 2001 as part of the College’s campaign, Enlightened Leadership in the 21st Century. The endowment was strengthened by another gift from the Browns during the recently completed Campaign for Kalamazoo College. Endowed professorships help ensure the presence of great faculty at K, and the faculty-student relationship is the cornerstone of the excellence of the K learning experience. The Rosemary K. Brown professorship funds “the position of an established teacher/scholar with demonstrated achievement and the promise of continued exceptional performance.” Rosemary and John have a deep and enduring connection with Kalamazoo College and Kalamazoo. Both served as trustees of the College. Rosemary is a lifelong mathematics educator who worked in several Kalamazoo Schools. John is the retired president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Stryker Corporation in Kalamazoo.

Endowed professorships do great and indispensable things for K. They confer a prestige that helps attract and retain the best faculty. The gifts that are their financial foundation free operational funds that an institution can use for other educational opportunities. And they provide the wherewithal for a great teacher to extend the power of his or her pedagogy and scholarly work. Case in point is the former Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, John Fink, who retired in 2015. John used the endowed fund in many ways, to the benefit of students in the United States and abroad. He attended critical workshops and served in the Michigan Section of the Mathematical Association of America; he attended and accompanied students to meetings that allowed students to experience the culture of professional mathematics, he helped develop a middle school math outreach program in Kalamazoo and, with student involvement, sowed the seeds for a similar program in Ecuador. All these efforts, and more, were made possible the endowed professorship. Of K’s work in Ecuador John said, “It’s remarkable! The fewest crumbs of possibility inspire a feast of dreams.” The Rosemary K. Brown professorship allows great teachers to conceive and implement such possibilities and dreams.

Like John, Alyce is committed to projects that foster computer science and social justice together. As the ACSJL faculty fellow she helped launch and maintain a collaborative, social justice project to computerize academic

Kalamazoo College Professor Alyce Brady with colleagues and students
© Chris McGuire Photography.

records for two partner higher educational institutions in Sierra Leone. And she found ways to involve her students in that project. See photo, picturing (l-r): front row–Justin Leatherwood ’13; Jonas Redwood-Sawyerr, vice chancellor and principal, University of Sierra Leone; Alyce Brady;Abu Sesay, vice chancellor and principal Njala University; Ashton Galloway ’13; back row–Chris Clerville ’13; Tendai Mudyiwa ’14; Kayan Hales ’’14; Chirs Cain ’13; and Keaton Adams ’14.

The appointment, announced today, becomes effective September. The College congratulates Alyce Brady, its second Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, and the College is honored to have Rosemary’s name associated with Kalamazoo College in perpetuity.