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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year


Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 16 - January 15, 1998

Sharon D. Robinson, instructor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, presented a paper entitled "Around the World in 80 Ks: Virtual Voyages for Students of Spanish" for the Foreign Language Association of Virginia in Richmond.
Stephen E. Scheckler of the Department of Biology and the Department of Geological Sciences was the guest for five days of the Paleobiology Club for undergraduate and graduate students in Geological Sciences and Anthropology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. While there, Scheckler worked with several students and faculty members on their long-term Arctic paleobiological projects and gave a lecture on "Plant Roots, Emerging Ecosystems, and Impacts on Devonian Global Events" to the Department of Geological Sciences. Sheckler and Brigitte Meyer-Berthaud (Institut des Sciences de l'Evolution, Université Montpellier II, France) were invited to organize and convene a symposium on "Archaeopteris, the World's First Forest Tree: Biology, Ecology, and Systematics of a Late Devonian Progymnosperm" for the International Botanical Congress (IBC) that will meet at St. Louis, Missouri, home of the Missouri Botanical Garden, in August 1999.
The IBC is the largest gathering of the world's botanists, who come together every six years to exchange and debate the latest information on their researches. Scheckler is one of the few botanists ever to be twice-invited to organize symposia for the IBC. He also organized and convened the symposium on "Evolution of Early Seed Plants" for the 1987 IBC that met in Berlin, Germany.
In the second edition of the Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction recently published by Elsevier, six of the 62 chapters were contributed by Virginia Tech researchers: Chapter 17, "Scenario-Based Design," by John M. Carroll, computer science; Chapter 20, "The Role of Metaphors in User Interface Design," by Dennis C. Neale, of industrial and systems engineering, and Carroll; Chapter 41, "Desktop Video Conferencing: A Systems Approach," by Jonathan K. Kies of Lucent Technologies and Robert C. Williges and Beverly H. Williges, both of industrial and systems engineering; Chapter 46, "Expertise and Instruction in Software Development," by Mary Beth Rosson, computer science, and Carroll; Chapter 53, "Human computer interaction applications for intelligent transportation systems," by Thomas A. Dingus and Andrew W. Gellatly, both of industrial and systems engineering, and Stephen J. Reinach of the University of Iowa; Chapter 57, "The Design of the Computer Workstation," by Karl H.E. Kroemer, industrial and systems engineering. Carroll served on the editorial board for the handbook.
Terri Bourdon and Linda Powers of the mathematics department presented "Using a Customized Computer Lab Manual in Calculus Courses at Virginia Tech" at the 10th Annual International Conference on Technology in Collegiate Mathematics in Chicago.
Marc Zaldivar, coordinator of the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Virginia Tech, and Cathee Dennison, director of the Virginia Tech Writing Center, attended the National Writing Centers Association Conference. They co-presented two posters, one on the history of Virginia Tech's writing center and one on OWL. They took 100 copies of a general quiz on the writing center as part of the poster "Just Another `Boomer': A History of the Virginia Tech Writing Center." Approximately 75 people completed the quiz, earning badges designating them as holding various positions in the Department of Writing Center History. The OWL poster, titled "Portrait of an OWL," featured information on all three aspects of the OWL: the Electronic Tutoring Environment (ETE), the self-serve area with electronic handouts, and the on-line grammar hotline. Zaldivar led a demonstration of the ETE called "The Language of OWLS." In it he did a Powerpoint presentation showing how an ETE tutorial differs from a traditional face-to-face tutorial and the changes to which both a client and a tutor must adapt in this situation in which they never even see each other's face.
The Department of Computer Science was well-represented at the 1997 Winter Simulation Conference in Atlanta, Ga. The meeting was attended by CS faculty members James Arthur, Osman Balci, and Richard Nance. Arthur and Nance co-chaired a panel discussion on "Verification, Validation and Accreditation: Disciplines in Dialogue, Or Can We Learn From the Experiences of Others." A paper of the same title will appear in the conference proceedings. Balci authored or co-authored four papers to appear in the conference proceedings, including "Verification, Validation and Accreditation of Simulation Models." He co-authored two papers with Nance, Anders Bertelrud and Charles Esterbrook: "Introduction to the Visual Simulation Environment" and "The Visual Simulation Environment Technology Transfer." The fourth paper, "Simulation of the Queston Physician Network" was co-authored by James Swisher, Jong Jun, and Sheldon Jacobson. Nance also served as track coordinator for modeling methodology, which required him to organize nine sessions within the conference. He also served as session chair for "Simulation Synopsis: Views from a User," and panel member in a session entitled "What is a Simulation Professional?"
In May 1997, Stephen E. Scheckler of the Department of Biology and Department of Geological Sciences and Thomas J. Algeo of the department of geology at the University of Cincinnati made an invited presentation on "Terrestrial-marine Teleconnections in the Devonian: Links Between the Evolution of Land Plants, Weathering Processes, and Marine Anoxic Events" to a discussion meeting of The Royal Society of London that was convened on the theme of "Vegetation-Climate-Atmosphere Interactions: Past, Present, and Future." The meeting featured 14 invited presentations from world scientists who are studying the varied interconnections of geochemistry, biological activities, and global climate change.
Scheckler and Algeo's studies link the anomalous seawater chemistry of the Late Devonian (circa 360-350 million years ago) and simultaneous waves of marine invertebrate extinctions to the evolution of new terrestrial ecosystems dominated by new types of trees. The rapid and world-wide spread of these trees, called Archaeopteris, made the Earth's first woody, forested landscapes with deeply penetrating roots that changed ancient soil chemistry and led to global drawdown of atmospheric CO2 and climatic cooling as well as threshold changes in nutrient drainage from land to sea.
The study will be published in the January 1998 issue of Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences 353, The Royal Society of London.
James I. Robertson has received the 1997 Vandiver Award of Merit from the Houston Civil War Round Table for Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend. The award is presented annually "to an individual or organization who has made a substantial and lasting contribution to Civil War history and its preservation."
In notifying Robertson of the award, the Round Table president said, "There clearly could not have been a more deserving recipient. Your tireless efforts on behalf of preservation and interpretation of Civil War history are well known throughout the nation."
The award was presented at a December banquet in Houston.
In August, Robertson received the 1997 Douglas Southall Freeman Award for Stonewall Jackson. The book is "not a biography of a great general; it is the life of an extraordinary man who became a great general," Robertson said. It covers not only Jackson's military life, but his personal life, including the years in Lexington when he learned social graces and progressed from being the worst teacher Virginia Military Institute had ever had to a teacher who prompted one cadet to say, "There is something inside that man that makes me want to serve under him."
Stonewall Jackson was a main selection by both the Book-of-the-Month Club and the History Book Club. It is in its fourth printing and has sold 42,000 copies thus far.