April 2013


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"Stephen G. Nash" <[log in to unmask]>
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Stephen G. Nash
Mon, 15 Apr 2013 15:47:02 +0000
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List of Announcements (details below):

  *   Big Data Event: Mon 4/22, 10am-noon, Research Hall 163
  *   Volunteers Sought: Teaching Classes for Seniors in Arlington
  *   Air Transportation Center on Team Awarded $20 Million BPA to Support NASA
  *   Supreme Court: Gene-patent Case to be Argued on Apr 15
  *   WSJ: ¡§Great Scientist ¡Ú Good at Math¡¨ by E.O. Wilson

Big Data Event: Mon 4/22, 10am-noon, Research Hall 163

The Information Technology Unit and the Office of Research Computing are hosting a meeting to discuss ¡§big data¡¨ issues.  The goal of the meeting is primarily one of ¡§consciousness raising¡¨ with respect to the many activities related to big data that are already underway at GMU, and highlighting opportunities for coordination and collaboration.

The format of the meeting will include a few short presentations from selected faculty and staff regarding ongoing activities and opportunities, intermixed with round-table discussions involving all attendees.

Examples of topics to be discussed are:

  *   Research-related big data issues:
     *   Management, analysis, curation, ...
     *   Funding opportunities
  *   Education-related big data issues
     *   Courses, certificates, programs, ...
     *   Regional demand
  *   Institutional support issues:
     *   Data movement, access, storage, ...
     *   Role of cloud, grid resources
All interested faculty and staff are invited to attend.  No RSVP is required.  For more information, contact Ken De Jong ([log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>).

Volunteers Sought: Teaching Classes for Seniors in Arlington

Encore Learning, an Arlington organization affiliated with GMU, is seeking volunteers to teach classes.  Encore Learning offers daytime non-credit college-level courses for those 50 and older.  Academic areas include Science and Technology along with several other categories.  They need and want to provide some new courses in Science, Engineering and related areas and are seeking volunteer instructors to arrange and deliver new courses.

Each course would consist of four to ten lectures (90 or 120 minutes each) on a weekly basis on a subject of the volunteer¡¦s choice and expertise.  Other faculty and grad students from GMU already have taught courses in other areas for Encore Learning.  For example, Provost Peter Stearns has taught a history course for them.

For information on this opportunity to teach what you want in your own way to a sophisticated non-technical audience, contact Mr. Earle Young at [log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>.

Air Transportation Center on Team Awarded $20 Million BPA to Support NASA

[From the LMI press release.]

LMI-led Team Awarded $20 Million BPA to Support NASA Systems Analysis

MCLEAN, Va.¡XA team led by LMI is one of the awardees of a five-year, $20 million Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) to support NASA¡¦s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) by providing aeronautical systems analysis. Work done under this contract will augment NASA¡¦s current aeronautical systems analysis capabilities.

As part of the BPA, LMI and its team will compete for tasks to provide ARMD¡¦s Strategy, Architecture, and Analysis (SAA) Office, along with all other ARMD programs and centers, with systems analysis that ARMD can use to help understand and focus its research portfolio.  Systems analyses help develop and document candidate investment strategies for achieving NASA¡¦s strategic objectives. Currently, SAA¡¦s systems analysis is focused on understanding the system-level impacts of NASA¡¦s program elements, the potential for integrated solutions, and the development of high-leverage options for new investments and partnerships. This contract will also be used to accommodate systems analysis demand surge and provide independent validations.

As part of this BPA, LMI assembled a large, diverse and uniquely qualified team, which includes AVID LLC, Futures Strategy Group, GRA, Inc., Hi-Tec Systems, Intelligent Automation, Inc. (IAI), LeighFisher, Metron Aviation, NextGen AeroSciences, and Optimal Synthesis. LMI¡¦s team also includes four university partners: George Mason University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Purdue University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Supreme Court: Gene-patent Case to be Argued on Apr 15

On Monday, April 15, the Supreme Court will hold oral arguments on the following question:  can one get a patent to gain the exclusive right to do research on specific genes that have been taken out of the body?

Myriad Genetics, Inc., has obtained several federal patents on ¡§isolated¡¨ forms of two genes.   On the one hand, Myriad claims that it was entitled to patents on its isolation technology because it did something that no one previously had been able to do, and its legal papers have claimed that this took ¡§an enormous amount of human judgment, including how to define the beginning and end of these genes.¡¨

On the other hand, those who oppose patenting of isolated genes claim that Myriad did not create anything new, since the genes remained the natural material they had inside the human body, unchanged, and patents cannot legally be given to ¡§natural phenomena¡¨ or something that is merely the product of ¡§the laws of nature.¡¨

For a discussion of the legal issues, see
For a discussion of some of the implications of the case, see

WSJ: ¡§Great Scientist ¡Ú Good at Math¡¨ by E.O. Wilson

As a mathematician myself, I¡¦m a little reluctant to link to an article arguing that you might need less mathematical training that you would expect, but E.O. Wilson (the renowned biologist, and professor emeritus at Harvard) is well worth reading.

¡§For many young people who aspire to be scientists, the great bugbear is mathematics. Without advanced math, how can you do serious work in the sciences? Well, I have a professional secret to share: Many of the most successful scientists in the world today are mathematically no more than semiliterate.

¡§During my decades of teaching biology at Harvard, I watched sadly as bright undergraduates turned away from the possibility of a scientific career, fearing that, without strong math skills, they would fail. This mistaken assumption has deprived science of an immeasurable amount of sorely needed talent. It has created a hemorrhage of brain power we need to stanch. ¡K¡¨

URL: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323611604578398943650327184.html


Stephen G. Nash
Senior Associate Dean
Volgenau School of Engineering
George Mason University
Nguyen Engineering Building, Room 2500
Mailstop 5C8
Fairfax, VA 22030

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Phone: (703) 993-1505
Fax: (703) 993-1633