STEM Repository

Aug 05, 2020

Scientific Negligence in Government

There has been an undeniable thread of scientific negligence around the globe that made headlines this year. Specifically in terms of high ranking government officials/ branches of the government that are not making decisions based on science or data resulting in detrimental ramifications. 

The lead example is the handling of the global epidemic COVID-19. Countries whose government leaders adhered to science were quick to respond, made drastic yet definitive decisions, and saw successful results in limiting the spread of the virus. 

Taiwan is a great example and ranked among the world’s best responses to COVID-19. Their vice president is an epidemiologist (the study and control of disease or injury patterns in human populations), there were medical officials who controlled public briefings, and aggressive measures were taken like mandatory contact tracing and GPS tracking. Other top ranking countries include South Korea, New Zealand, and Australia for implementing stringent and coordinated responses from science and health officials. 

Countries that have not deferred to science have seen opposite results. High death tolls, financial crisis, economic downturn, loss of trust in leadership, and loss of control of the media. See article in Time for more. 

Another event that happened very recently was the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Ammonium nitrate, the chemical compound that caused the massive explosion is behind some of the largest accidental explosions on record. Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3) is unstable at high temperatures and very dangerous when large amounts are present [due to its explosive properties]. 2,750 tons were stored in the port since 2014 when it was confiscated, and was speculated to be about 40% as powerful as TNT.  

It seems absurd that government officials knowingly had a stockpile of explosives in a metropolis like Beirut. And the results were very tragic indeed, basically flat lining an already war-torn place.

With examples like these, it is clear that preventing the negligence of science in our governments is critical to our survival.

 

Jul 29, 2020

Graphical Analysis and Data Analytics

How we represent data is important. It is critical that we are able to observe, analyze, and make conclusions from our data tables. Often times, the best way to do so is by a graphical representation. Visual reinforcement helps us understand the relationship of two objects in terms of two data sets, trends, patterns, and important data points like anomalies.

Graphical representation gives data more value. The father of visual analytics, Edward Tufte, brought data alive while teaching statistics at Princeton. The foundation of data visualization started simply with the fact that our brains can interpret more information faster when viewing a simple graph. A simple graph to the most complex and refined one, all offer high value both to the analyst, during their data science process, and to the end user, to whom we are communicating a data-based story.

There is a significant amount of data in science and a lot of opportunity to represent it visually. In chem II lab, I was able to create several graphs based on the learning material. While these aren’t anything fancy or complex, simple point representation on cartesian coordinates, the point gets across. Data is better when visualized!

 

In the Determination of a Weak Acid’s Ionization Constant by Titrimetry lab, we needed to determine values from our graph that couldn’t be determined otherwise. Graphical analysis of the titration data for the neutralization of the weak acid, by reaction with a strong base, revealed both Ka and the molar mass, M. We also used the graph to approximate the equivalence point.

 

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Determination of Molar Mass By Freezing Point Depression lab, we used graphical analysis techniques to accurately determine the freezing points of pure water and of the solution containing the organic unknown. We were able to determine the molar mass of the unknown and analyze the cooling curve for a pure liquid solvent.

 

          

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Spectrophotometric Determinationof an Equilibrium Constant lab, I used my Beer’s law plot to relate absorabce and concentration of several FeSCN2+ ion equilibrium mixtures. I then determined the equilibrium concentrations of Fe3+ and SCN– ions by graphical analysis and inference permitting the calculation of the equilibrium constant Kf.

 


 

 

Jul 14, 2020

The magical molecular structure of H2O

I continue to be astounded by the mystical attributes of chemistry.  When studying something this scientific and complex, there are times that I can glaze over at some of the technical parts (the naming, the equations), but there are parts where I am in awe of the engineering of these tiny molecules. From a high level, I know that water has many unique physical and chemical properties due to its molecular structure. However, during the acid-base equilibria chapters, I discovered the very interesting fact that water, the critical-to-life compound, was also intelligent. Water is amphoteric meaning it can be categorized as both an acid or a base, it can donate or accept protons (electron pairs) from each other. Meaning water can react with itself and autoionize into hydronium H3O+ and hydroxide OH-. Water can dissociate into its H+ and OH-  ions but can also be split into its original atoms via electrolysis. 

Water is a spectacular solvent due to its polarity based on its arrangement of atoms Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms.  The solvent properties of water are vital in biology because many biochemical reactions take place only within aqueous solutions. When an ionic or polar compound enters water, it is surrounded by water molecules. The relatively small size of water molecules typically allows many water molecules to surround one molecule of solute. The partially negative dipoles of the water are attracted to positively charged components of the solute, and vice versa for the positive dipoles. 

Water is found almost everywhere on earth and is required by all known life. About 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Water is known to exist, in ice form, on several other bodies in the solar system and beyond, and proof that it exists (or did exist) in liquid form anywhere besides Earth would be strong evidence of extraterrestrial life.

 

Jun 09, 2020

Carbon: An Intro to Organic Chemistry

The third week of Gen Chem II had an interesting jolt: we skipped to Chapter 20 and were introduced to O Chem. Organic Chemistry is similar to a phenomenon one hears about but has never experienced personally. So as I started reading, I realized how little I knew of the subject. 

So what makes organic chemistry “organic?”  Early chemists regarded substances isolated from organisms (plants and animals) as a type of matter that couldn’t be synthesized artificially and thus “organic compounds.” Well, that definition was later debunked, and in the modern-day, there actually isn’t a precise definition outside of the defining character trait: the presence of carbon (and hydrogen and other carbons).  

We’ve all heard of our “carbon footprint” but what does it really mean to live in a carbon-based world? The truth is, we know of no other kind of life. Carbon is the primary component of all known life on Earth and it would be impossible for life to exist without it. Oddly enough, carbon is also the smallest of all the atoms and has the ability to double bond with other atoms. The number of potential organic compounds is astronomical and most have not been synthesized yet. 

What makes organic synthesis so attractive is its massive potential. Altering the molecular structure of a compound can “increase bioactivity and decrease toxicity. Take ivermectin,  for example, a compound discovered by Nobel Prize-winning Japanese biochemist Satoshi Omura. Its discovery made it possible to prevent blindness caused by onchocerciasis, a parasitic disease affecting millions in Africa. Ivermectin was developed by hydrogenating avermectin, a product of microorganisms in soil samples.” Keisuke Suzuki, Tokyo Institute of Technology

The article quoted above features Professor Suzuki, who treats these complex syntheses like a jigsaw puzzle- designing combinations of pieces and rebuilding the structures. He mentions how easily nature creates these molecules, yet the difficulties scientists are faced with.

I would expect that the research on the total synthesis of natural organic compounds will continue to lead scientific breakthroughs of what we think we know about our world. 

 

Mar 22, 2020

Digital Community Data Research: Connection via Opportunity 

Methodology: To closely research the online community Coffee + Creatives/ Albuquerque Facebook Group, I followed a few key steps. This is a group I have been a member of, so from an Observational point of view, I have been exposed to the high-level function of the community for three years. To dive deeper into the facts and figures, I set up a Coffee + Creatives Community Survey to gather data on the members. I also analyzed specific interaction styles of the members, noted trends in posts, and reported the data results from the survey.

I define member interaction and interaction style as likes, comments, posts, attendance, and use of resources.

Data Survey: The data gathered on this form was analyzed for informational and educational purposes not only to provide insight into the founders of the group but for this research paper. The main objective of my research is to examine the usefulness of the group and the specific interaction styles of the members. The questions in the survey also gathered basic demographic data.

After getting permission and support from the founders of C+C (for short), I posted the survey and hoped to get at least 10 responses. To get a sense of the conversational, friendly, and supportive tone between members of this group, here is the transcript of my experience:

I asked, “Hello! I am analyzing some basic data on the members of this group for a research paper. Things like demographics and interaction style.  It is very short and lightweight so if you have a few mins, please fill out this survey. All data will be transparent and my reporting will be accessible to all. There are no names or emails collected. Thanks in advance, see you around!”

My goal was exceeded by over 25 responses and positive interaction on the thread. Responses included,

“Cool! Will be interested to see what insights bubble up from this 😁” and “Cool, I filled out the questionnaire.”

The survey was broken into three parts:

  1. Demographic Data 
  2. Interaction Style
  3. Short answer

Introduction: Coffee + Creatives is a public Facebook group based in Albuquerque, NM. It is a robust and active community with about 3,000 members of musicians, journalists, artists, coders, designers, food & beverage entrepreneurs, and small business owners of all kinds. This group is not just digital! The community meets up IRL (in real life) twice a month. Members attend the meet up with “problems,” which are issues they want to resolve in their business. The description of the meet up is as follows:  “Learn from each other about managing money, finding markets and audiences for their businesses or creative work, and tackling the challenges that a range of creatives face.” A good example of a typical discussion is “how do I market myself to a wider digital audience?” or “what is the best way to track my company’s business expenses?” Members share experiences and offer advice in a think tank-like session. 

From the Coffee + Creatives Community Data Survey I conducted, 44% say they have indeed attended a meetup in-person.  

Logistics: Founded in 2016 by a few local creatives, the group was started to share information, experiences, resources, and funding opportunities for anyone developing a creative career. Thematically aligning members in a trustworthy, supportive network. Admins approve all posted content in the group with 7 moderators total. The community guidelines get updated each year to meet the demands of the group, be effective in problem-solving, and scaling the audience. It contains a brass tacks policy of “…be respectful, don’t be overly-promotional, don’t SHOUT at people, no name-calling (e.g. “you’re an idiot” “why are you so stupid”), no racist/sexist/abusive language, and make every possible effort to be honest about your bias or conflicts of interest.” The specific guidelines can be found on their website. Coffee + Creatives is qualified as a “Community Service” group on Facebook.

From the Coffee + Creatives survey, when I asked members, “What do you find most useful about this group?” The majority of the short answer responses can be categorized into “opportunities” and “community.” Answers like, “Diversity of knowledge in the industry,” “Genuine support,” and “Networking with like-minded people” speak to the social impact and value of the group on its members in positive ways like expertise, sharing, and connection. 

See the below table which lists the most reported words from the short answer responses. 

Word

Frequency

opportunities

5

community

4

creative

3

networking

3

art

2

creatives

2

minded

2

network

2

people

2

posts

2

Observation: There are three main threads in the community, and can be categorized into the following:

1. Weekly Events: Members can add an upcoming show/ event to the weekly calendar. A pinned post from the admins goes up every week and the comments contain links to other events pages and invites.

C+C opens these comments to “art openings to film premieres to meetups, theater to music, craft brewing, food, coding, and more. This is the spot to share events of any kind whether a member is producing, involved, or just excited to attend.”

Every week, you can find posts like, “Come join the party this Friday night, support the finishing of the giant mural, and have fun!” and, “I’m debuting new work at LaCumbre Thursday 6-9 pm!” (Both excerpts from week March 4-10, 2020).

The number of events posted varies each week, but on average, about 15 interactions occur on these threads.  From my survey, 46% of members say they have posted an event to this thread.  And a large majority of members have attended a posted event with 80% answering yes to my question, “Have you attended a weekly event that was posted?”. 

2. Opportunities/ Resources: Admin and members post gigs, jobs, career resources, funding, and grant opportunities. These are career-specific posts that are curated towards creatives of all types. 

Usually, posts consist of one opportunity/ one post ratio that contains a description of the post, and a link to the opportunity/ resource. For example, on March 6, 2020, a member posted a grant for documentary photographers. Admin and members take the lead to tag others (both group members and non-members) in the post comments if there is alignment on industry/interest/need. 

A key contributor to this group is the founder, Joe Cardillo who actively posts in this category. And recently, in January of 2020, Joe posted a “ jobs/gigs/client matchmaking” post that elicited a very high engagement from members with over 220 interactions. 

While this category is the biggest allure to this group, 84% reported that they are indeed employed. Even still, 68% say they have applied to an opportunity that was posted and 60% have posted an opportunity. Opportunities are both local and remote. 

3. Recommendations: Members will ask for various suggestions about all things in the creative industries. 

The requested recommendations vary by a large margin. Anywhere from “a tax professional who specializes in working with musicians/bands?” (15 interactions) or “clean, simple to use project management system?” (40 interactions) and “queer-friendly hairstylist?”  (80 interactions)

The local, community-driven tone is prevalent in this category. Members share their best of the city favorites and interact further by referring/tagging friends/colleagues in alignment with the request. Recommendations can be city-based, with Albuquerque being the most tracked area for local talent and businesses and Santa Fe coming in second. 

While only 36% of members say they have asked for a recommendation, a large majority of 80% say they have given one.

Final Analysis: The Coffee + Creatives Facebook Group is a vibrant community of creatives and those who support creative endeavors. Members are active engagers in the online community as well as the IRL meetups. The overall tone of this group is inclusive, supportive, and optimistic. 

For more demographic data on members not covered in this paper, see the Coffee + Creatives Community Data Survey.

Citation:

“Coffee + Creatives / Albuquerque.” Facebook Group, 2016 facebook.com/groups/coffeepluscreatives/

Minnich, Jennifer. ”Coffee + Creatives Community Data Survey.” Google Forms, 7 March, 2020 docs.google.com/forms/d/1TmhPmf1CcKk33iCaSFZzxE4s_4GZg2EL0RY33wKlAfQ/

Fitz, Gabriela. “Km & Social Change, No Such Thing As Neutral.” Medium, 5 March 2020 medium.com/@gabi_93902/km-social-change-no-such-thing-as-neutral-ccff06582d8d

 
Feb 09, 2020

Digital Literacy: Drowning in Deep Learning

I have been in front of a screen since I was ten years old. In middle school we used the original iMacs, you know… the cool, colorful ones. I remember how much it excited me to be in the computer lab, click-click clicking around the monitor. And typing. I wanted to get really fast with the best form. As a natural progression, in high school, I was in the Academy of Information Technology. The program was launched as an initiative to get students interested in pursuing technology careers. I was a part of the digital world, totally, absolutely. So, in 2017 when I attempted to write code as a grown-up (fast forward 15 years after high school), even with all this IT experience under my belt, I had no idea what I was doing. 

I was in an immersive (and expensive) coding bootcamp. For ten weeks straight I experienced performance anxiety and insecurity due to pressure. During our code reviews, I felt fear. My hands shook when I plugged in the HDMI to the projector. It was hard to breathe when “driving” (which in this context means leading the code review from a computer which is projected onto larger monitors for others to follow along). Sounds thrilling, right? My intimidation grew even more because there was competition. Coupled with criticism. An intense cocktail that made me extremely self-conscious.

There is a popular term called Imposter Syndrome that floats around the industry. Basically, it is a personal reflection of skill level. It is the feeling that a lack of skill or expertise debilitates performance. Essentially, “I won’t perform well” is what I was telling myself. Imposter Syndrome can cause self-doubt surrounding new ideas or insecurity about thought patterns. It can lead people to avoid sharing their work, leading initiatives, or pursuing challenging tasks. 

In the code reviews, I was already feeling insecure about my ability to learn programming and hearing my capstone partners ridicule me for making mistakes was defeating. The smallest error garnered attention. 

“Do you even know what you’re doing?” was the common tone of our meetings. And the reality was that no I didn’t. And neither did they. We bickered nonstop, constantly, incessantly. 

“You couldn’t even write the header correctly, Alex*” (He was only a character or two away from accuracy). 

“David*, don’t push anything live, you’re going to break it.” (He wouldn’t have broken it).

“Git revert those changes!” (Ok, so maybe that revert was necessary).

This went on for hours. Exhausting. 

As I experienced the Imposter Syndrome phenomenon, I felt fear in various ways. The fear of evaluation, the fear of failing, and the fear of not being as capable as others. I interacted with my classmates to gauge their level of duress in the bootcamp as some sort of comparison to my own comprehension. 

“Are you done with your personal website project?” (No, still working on it).

“Why are we using Angular and not Javascript for the front end?” (We should definitely use Javascript instead).

“I can’t override my template stylings no matter what I try!” (I am having the same type of issues).

I was not alone but I still felt ashamed. I felt the need to be special and to be the best but instead, I felt like giving up.  

Sometimes I just sat there in the lab. We were in a lecture. The instructor was rattling on about Trump’s election, his disdain for Trump, Trump memes, etc. I was staring at the projector. Attempting to look as if I was processing the jumbled characters on the projector. These blocks of code were allegedly the web language PHP. Were those dollar signs ($) in front of variables? I stared some more and nodded incoherently. 

The instructor’s anecdotes even confused me. Am I supposed to be typing this? I thought. 

He continued on with his rant: “…syntax…deployment…documentation…” Ugh. How am I ever going to get through the day?

I stared at my computer screen. My notes were open. I had a few lines typed. However, none of it made much sense in the grand scheme of how to build a website. How are these “functions” going to create a page on the browser? Ok, it’s 10:00 am. Coffee break, a relief. Maybe things will get better soon. 

After I graduated, I felt like I never wanted to go back to that computer lab. Too many bad memories! But in reality, I returned not even a year later as an alumni. I talked about my personal experience with new students and I shared my story. I announced my successes following the completion of the bootcamp. How I started my own company, got an internship at a local tech company, and received a job offer, the rest is history really… my awards, my scholarship, my re-enrollment to pursue a computer science degree, etc.  

Do I miss the bootcamp? No way! But all those hard things had made me better at being myself. I was still fearful of my own ideas and overcome with anxiety when asked to deliver my opinions in team meetings. Happily, over time and with some conscious effort, that mostly disappeared.  

In my journey, Imposter Syndrome was the stage right before growth.

*names changed for privacy

 
Aug 10, 2019

Moving Forward, Utilization of Science and Empowering Others

It has happened: the end of summer semester! While completing chem leture, lab, and trig in a condensed timeline brought both stress and excitement I am thankful for the experience overall. One of the many takewaways for me is the great investment of time and effort into learning new material. We are what we do and that is the bottom line. 

That is the reason why moving forward, my goal is to utilize the material I’ve learned. Systematically, education is ironic because we learn all this groundbreaking information and then forget it a quarter later. Of course some things aren’t applicable directly but the integration of science minded thinking is my goal.

As in my last post, what excites me and drives me forward is utilization of the sciences in a modern and educational function. Don’t we all hope that the knowledge we possess can be applied to the greater good and momentum of progress?

Here are some fantastic examples of how we can teach and learn from each other as “citizen scientists.” These projects are global (and funded by the big guys) but are nonetheless amazing and impactful and use science to empower others.

Eterna Empowering citizen scientists to invent medicine

Folding at Home Folding proteins for disease research

 

Aug 5, 2019

Molecular Geometry and Bonding in 2d and 3d space, AR for Education

The last few chapters of material we covered on Lewis Dot Structures, VSEPR theory (molecular shapes), and Valence Bond Theory (hybridization of orbitals) have been tangible. I am making connections to larger concepts either previously discussed or relating the new information to real world applications.  I have enjoyed drawing the molecule structures and figuring out bond angles and shapes. To reinforce my findings in the last post, I definitely appreciate the visualizations of the VSEPR structures in 3d space.

I often think about how I can use the material I am learning this semester and create an immersive experience around it. As a creative technologist, I strive to make the mundane more immersive, visually appealing, efficient, appealing, and effective through the use of advanced technologies like augmented and virtual realities. I have come up with many ideas for innovative experiences in the education landscape since returning as a student. The potential is endless and I have seen the gaps where there is so much space for innovating new and more engaging ways to learn. For this particular application, I like to think in terms of a resposibility to the future, to attempt to bridge the gap between our growing technology addiction and the nationwide underperformance of children in schools. 

A good example of this concept is to take the molecular geometry lecture and make it come to life. When we were introduced to the molecular shapes in VSEPR Theory, we were given a set of plastic balls and sticks and were able to build small models of the molecules with their different number of electron groups and formations around the central atom.  We tried to visualize these shapes in 3d space with a variety of bond angles and multiple geometric configurations. But imagine learning this material in AR.

What exactly is AR?  Augmented Reality is the the illusion that virtual content is part of the real world. Generally, AR experience uses a device’s camera giving the user a new way to see and interact with the world around them.

The electrons spinning on their axis, moving around, in colors, showing the overlapping bonds, displaying the 2d Lewis Dot structure then morphing into 3d VSEPR structures. These visuals would without a doubt make the content more engaging and easier triggers to absorb and recall for students. 

In the same way, I think about the graphing calculator application we use in avanced math, too (desmos an amazing tool for graphing functions).  I was recently graphing circles, limacons, roses, sine waves, inverse cosine waves, etc. I’m sure you could guess where my mind was going as I worked through these 2d graphs. I imagined these coordinates in the 3d space, virtually shifting and manipulating right in front of me. I envision the integration of technlogy into educational institutions in a range of intensity, from having AR markers in a textbook or on a chalkboard to VR pods where students can take in a lesson in virtual reality. 

 

July 20, 2019

Data Viz, 3d Models, and Quantum Mechanics

The material we have covered under the quantum mechanics umbrella has been my favorite topic by far. There are a handful of reasons why I am excited about this chapter but the three standouts I want to discuss are: the Schrodinger’s model, the 3d models of orbitals, and the atomic spectra lab.

The Schrodinger’s Model: I am going to age myself on this one but when I took chem in high school a million years ago, my basic understanding of the atomic model was absolutely from Bohr (the electrons orbit the nucleus like the planets orbit around the sun).  So I was entertained and ashamed to learn I had (for all these years) survived without the correct knowledge of the electron placement within the atom. The Schrodinegr’s model is the modern atomic model. The electrons live in a three dimensional space called orbitals. Orbitals change shape based on the second quantum number,  and there are four diffrent orbital shapes.

Unsure who shares my enthusiasm here, why do I enjoy 3d models of orbitals so much? It is a very relatable concept for me as a designer. There are rotations, manipulations of size, variations of intersecting points, and all the things that make me happy as a visual human.  Data visualization is a heavy hitter in many industries. As designers and scientists, we are finding innovative ways to approach big data and make it seem more digestible. Data viz is an effective way to share statistics and analyze results. But even more exciting than that is when data is modeled in the 3d environment. Imagine these models in virtual reality…next quarter I’ll be working on a VR data viz project and these models just might make an appearance.

Back in the real world: the lab has become my favorite part of chem. I appreciate the combination of working with my hands and applying the concepts that seem arbitrary in lecture.  The atomic spectra lab was my favorite so far. It reinforced the quantum mechanics concepts and formulas all while I got to observe and test color, light, and fire. “Good times” as Sorensen would say. I was intrigued by the first part of the lab where I observed the various gases in tubes through the spectroscope and recorded each element’s “atomic fingerprint” as a colorful spectrum. The second part of the lab was right up my alley! I took wood splints soaked in metal solution (with chloride) and held them over a flame to observe and record the flame color. Orange, blue, red, fuschia, neon flames. These tests were both good applications of measuring the change of energy when an electron moves up and down levels.

 
June 6, 2019

Back to School: Math and Sciencing

#SummerBummer2019

It has been four weeks since I decided to walk back into the doors of an academic institution. By way of an endless stream of fortunate (yes, “fortunate”) events, I landed myself behind the desks and lab chairs of some pretty difficult STEM classes for Summer Session 2019. Or what I term on social media as #summerbummer2019 as a reminder to all my friends that whilst they are exploring some cosmopolitan city or laying out at some exotic beach, I am in the tutoring center for my math and science classes.

It is June 2019 and I am back in school pursuing my computer science degree.

Maybe I just wasn’t expecting it to be this way.

Math. Math and Science. Math that solves scientific problems. I must’ve forgotten all the math that was involved with chemistry, like the unit analysis and all those greek symbols.  Pretty much everything in general chemistry, from the atomic-molecular structure to chemical compounds, bonds, reactions, formulas, mole ratios, and stoichiometry have a math-based formula to solve. I am getting back in the math game slowly. I am in tutoring for everything. Bless Melissa the physics god who holds my hand as I struggle through material week after week. Chapter one was pretty much theory-based, conceptual, easy. Chapter two brought us into the periodic table, where I found myself spending a lot of time reacquainting myself with the elements.  And of course, it got more complex: compounds, metals, ions, mass, and moles. Conversion factors and scientific notation for really tiny atoms (we’re talking Avagadros here), percent compositions, and the copper lab where I experienced the casualty of spilling the powder product :)… I finally make it to chapter three and it brings me to a crawl and after lines and lines of conversions, balancing, and solving reactions I am thinking I need more practice for this exam that is right around the corner!

March, 2019

New Mexico Tech Council: Women in Technology Scholarship

I was the 2019 winner of the NMTC Women in Technology Scholarship.