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Sciences granted $250k from Fletcher Jones

Jason D. Cox
Staff Writer

What once appeared as inexplicable phenomena – such as how snowflakes are formed or why stars form certain patterns in the sky – will be explained through math and physics now that the University of La Verne has been awarded a $250,000 grant to fund a Complex Dynamical Systems Laboratory.

“Any system that evolves with time is a dynamical system,” said Yousef Daneshbod, assistant professor of mathematics. “They are not just physical. They could be chemical, political, or biological.”

“Complex Dynamical Systems are about looking at patterns going on and finding mathematical rules that describe those patterns,” David Chappell, associate professor of physics, said.

Chappell, with Daneshbod and Professor of Math Michael Frantz worked on the grant from the Fletcher Jones Foundation, after Interim Provost Gregory Dewey suggested the project to Chappell. Dewey, formerly dean at Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Sciences, has had past experience with the Foundation.

Mathematicians, biologists, physicists, chemists, economists and many other professionals use CDS, all looking for commonalities of all complex systems.

The grant will be effective in December and will remain for two years. It will cover the equipment for the CDS laboratory, which will include a number of high-performance computer workstations and high-speed cameras, which will be used to compute massive amounts of data and to physically observe numerous phenomena that will be the subject of student and faculty research projects.

“With this grant and the equipment it will provide, we hope to be able to steer students toward math, physics and computer science,” Frantz said.

Capitalizing on this newly generated interest, the departments hope to promote student-involved research.

Having a functional CDS is a great opportunity for students to research and experiment using equipment that few members of even the professional scientific community would have readily available to them today.

It will be possible for students to access this new equipment as early as their first year at ULV.

Students will be able to study natural phenomena such as fluid dynamics, fractals and in-body galaxy dynamics, as well as man-made incidents such as economic fluctuation, social networks and the nature of political systems.

Because the CDS is so versatile, Chappell said that any students with ideas for experiment or research will be able to contribute their ideas.

The equipment will be housed in two rooms of the Mainiero building, which will be renovated by spring semester in preparation.

“This was (Chappell’s) brainchild,” Frantz said. With support from his colleagues, Chappell handled the bulk of the work that brought this grant to ULV.

“CDS allows us to look at complex phenomena through the lens of mathematics and physics,” Chappell said.

ULV has already been able to use a high-speed camera for a science camp hosted on campus over the summer.

Interns from local high schools participated in studying the flight of insects by comparing the dynamics of a wasp’s flight with that of a bee. This same camera is being used for a few student research projects as well.

The three professors responsible for acquiring the grant have plans of their own as to how they will use the equipment. Daneshbod will continue his research in fluid dynamics, the natural science of fluids in motion. Frantz will continue his research in image processing, using complex algorithms to develop digital images. And Chappell will continue his research in granular physics, a discipline that observes materials that sometimes behave like solids, sometimes like liquids, sometimes like dense gases.

Jason D. Cox can be reached at jason.cox@laverne.edu.

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