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Campus News in Brief

NASA astronaut to speak to students about education

NASA astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman will present her professional experiences to Carnegie Mellon’s new student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Coleman will focus her discussion on the importance of her engineering and science education.

Coleman received a bachelor of science in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1983 and a doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts in 1991. Coleman was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in March 1992.

In her first space flight, Coleman orbited the Earth 256 times, traveled more than six million miles, and logged a total of 15 days, 21 hours, 52 minutes, and 21 seconds in space. Coleman has logged more than 4,330 hours in space aboard the the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Columbia.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to see and meet such a distinguished leader in her field,” said Nadine Aubry, head of Carnegie Mellon’s Mechanical Engineering Department and a fellow of the AIAA, in a university press release.

AIAA student leaders Jayon Wang, a junior mechanical engineering major, and Emerson Silva, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, will introduce the astronaut to more than 30 members of the new AIAA student chapter.

“We are very honored to meet such a prestigious aerospace leader who has traversed the world and beyond as a pioneer for engineers and scientists alike,” Wang said in the press release. “Her accomplishments are something we all wish to emulate.”

New research reveals social lives of prehistoric elephants

Two members of the Fine Outreach for Science Fellows, part of the Robotics Institute’s CREATE Lab, have successfully used photomosaic technologies to study tracks left behind by a herd of prehistoric elephants. The resulting images offer previously unavailable insights into the social behavior of these prehistoric beasts.

Faysal Bibi, a paleontologist at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, and co-author Nathan Craig, assistant professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, worked together on developing an analysis of these footsteps.

The tracks were made over seven million years ago by at least 13 individual elephants that cover an area of more than 12 acres. By using a camera mounted on a kite to take aerial photos, Bibi and Craig were able to digitally stitch together each individual image to form a highly accurate photomosaic of the site.

“Once we saw it aerially, it became a much different and clearer story. Seeing the whole site in one shot meant we could finally understand what was happening,” said another co-author, Brian Kraatz, in a university press release. Krantz works at Western University of Health Sciences.

The authors of the paper are both Fine Fellows. The Fine Fellowship is sponsored by the Fine Foundation. The Fine Fellowship encourages leading scientists to use perform new and innovative tasks with gigapixel imagery. GigaPan, a service which was developed by Carnegie Mellon and NASA, is one example of gigapixel imagery technologies.