Science Workshop: Ryan Johnson (Bennington ’06)

Catalyzing CO Oxidation; from Surfaces to Single Atoms

CO ox

Model for CO Oxidation, from Peterson et al, Nat. Commun. 5:4885 (2014)

Please join us Friday, September 26th for a special Science Workshop with Bennington alum Ryan Johnson (’06). Ryan received his Ph. D. in Chemistry from the University of New Mexico earlier this year, culminating an exceptionally productive graduate career; he co-authored seven research articles in 2014 alone (so far) in journals such as The Journal of Physical ChemistryThe Chemistry of Materials, and Theoretical Chemistry Accounts.

ryan johnson

Ryan Johnson on the Bennington College campus, December 2013.

His thesis work on computational studies of catalytic processes will be the main focus of his talk. For those wanting to read about some of his research, Ryan just published (on Sept. 15) a paper in Nature Communications entitled, “Low-temperature carbon monoxide oxidation catalysed by regenerable atomically dispersed palladium on alumina”, available here . He will discuss the research and its larger significance, and promises to add some personal insights concerning his choice of pursuing science as an adventure.

Don’t miss it.


Science Workshop Friday September 12 – Olivine carbonation and climate change

On Friday September 12 Tim Schroeder will present a part of the research that he did while on sabbatical at the University of Bremen, Germany.

Olivine is the most abundant mineral in Earth’s upper mantle. When it is exposed at Earth’s surface by faulting, it tends to be oxidized to form a number of different possible mineral species that are more stable near Earth’s surface. One possible chain of reactions consumes carbon-dioxide to form solid carbonate minerals. It may be possible to harness this reaction path to absorb much of Earth’s excess atmospheric carbon. Tim studied carbonate minerals formed during hydrothermal circulation through olivine-bearing oceanic crust in order to understand this process.


This image was taken through a polarizing light microscope. It shows small cores of olivine (Ol) grains that have mostly been replaced by talc (Tlc) and calcite (Cal). Other minerals are present in the rock, including clinopyroxene (cpx) veins of celadonite (Cel)


Old-growth Fieldwork


Part of the study area at the Dukes Natural Area in the Hiawatha National Forest

Two 2014 grads — Joe Kendrick and Ellen Hanson — and two current students — Charlotte Uden and Roi Karlinsky — are spending four weeks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula working with faculty member Kerry Woods in his on-going research on old-growth forests.  They join about 40 other student researchers who have worked on this project since 1989.


It’s good to find a log for lunch; the mosquitoes are worse near the ground. (Roi Karlinsky, Joseph Kendrick, Ellen Hanson, Charlotte Uden)

The project revolves around monitoring of permanent study plots established as early as 1935 — one of the longest-term records for any old-growth forest.  The work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, The Huron Mt. Wildlife Foundation, and Bennington College faculty grants. A series of resulting publications can be downloaded from this site.

The 2014 season features a late season — trees are still leafing out along the Lake Superior shoreline, where ice-floes were still present three weeks ago — and unusually numerous and hungry mosquitoes.  A large supply of deet (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is proving essential.

Congratulations Graduates!

This year was another productive year for Computer Science at Bennington. Students successfully implemented a distributed file system; spent Field Work Term at Nebula in Seattle (under the supervision of Ben Broderick-Phillips ’13), and CRA in Cambridge (where Erick Daniszewski ’14 will be working after graduation); and built a (nearly functional) operating system using C and ARMv6 assembly from the ground up for the Raspberry Pi.

Introductory students built an alternative source code repository to GitHub (codenamed Reposaurus), while students in Computing in the Developing World designed physical enclosures for wireless mesh network nodes and built prototype mobile apps for the developing world.  In collaboration with astronomer Hugh Crowl, we assisted in building a small radio telescope; while we also collaborated with technologist Guy Snover to use Python and Rhino 3D to create robotically-generated wall drawings and sculpture installed on campus.  It was a busy year.

But perhaps the most significant accomplishment of the year was our re-creation of some old-timey computer science photos on the last day of classes.  I’ve never grown a mustache before, and may never do so again – however, I think we nailed it overall.


Computer Scientists Gilbert-Espada, Cencini and Daniszewski with their new portable microcomputer, a Kaypro II running CP/M.


Some members of the Bennington Computer Science Laboratory, clockwise from left: Logan Traynor, Klemente Gilbert-Espada, Torrent Glenn, Andrew Cencini, Brendon Walter, Erick Daniszewski.

Congratulations and good luck to all of the graduating seniors this year!  Have a great summer!  Great things to come in the coming year!


Signs of Spring

bets ball

Forsythias are finally beginning to flower. Geese are on the pond and will soon be keeping watch over the foot bridge and jealously guarding their precious goslings. And students are feverishly completing research projects and planning how to communicate their results in the form of informative and artistic posters. Yes, it’s Sciencepalooza time again and we wanted to make sure to get the word out early. This year’s event will feature, as always, many posters from students doing original research in a range of courses. It will be on the final Friday of the term, May 23rd, from 12:30 to 1:30. There will be lots of food, drinks and, of course, some terrific science to enjoy.

Until then, we wanted to let you know about a few other events we’ll be hosting. This Friday, May 9, there will be two student presentations at Science Workshop: Joe Kendrick and Elsa Costa will give talks on their advanced work (click here to read the abstracts). And next week, to celebrate Spring and to get some sunshine and fresh air, we’ll be taking a break from normal Science Workshop goings on to have student/staff/faculty SOFTBALL GAME. So bring your mitt, if you have one, and a good sense of humor over to the soccer field at 1:00, Friday May 16th for what promises to be a great time.

Alum News: Celeste Schepp ’13


Celeste Schepp ’13 will begin genetic counseling training at Johns Hopkins University and the National Human Genome Research Institute in the fall of 2014. Genetic counseling is a versatile profession that involves providing patient, professional, and community genomics education. While most traditionally it has been involved in working directly with patients as they face reproductive decisions, the field has exploded to include disease susceptibility counseling and research opportunities. The JHU/NHGRI program will enable Celeste to gain a graduate level mastery of human genetics and the skills necessary to provide non-directional and supportive counseling to individuals facing a health or reproductive crisis. She plans to complete her ScM in genetic counseling in 2016.

Science Workshop: Discovering the Higgs Boson


The ATLAS detector at CERN in Switzerland.

In the summer of 2013 two experimental collaborations independently reported on the discovery of a new particle at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.  In this talk, Dr. Emlyn Hughes (Columbia University) will review the field of particle physics and discuss the discovery of the Higgs Boson.