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Headlines at a Glance:

Dr. Michael Botsko Shared His Love of Mathematics for 50 Years
SVC Math Professor Named Project NExT Fellow
Math Department Introduces 3/2 Actuarial Science Program with Robert Morris
SVC Cybersecurity Program Evolves to Meet Ever-Changing Needs
Foundation Representatives Meet with Saint Vincent Palumbo Scholars
Boyer School’s Dr. Bettie Davis Gets National Recognition for Model Forensic Course 
Welcome Dr. Peter Smyntek


Fall 2016

Dr. Gary M. Quinlivan, Dean
Dr. Stephen M. Jodis, Dean


The Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing offers undergraduate and graduate students a rigorous, integrated curriculum grounded in the founding principles of the Catholic and Benedictine tradition. These principles create an environment for study characterized by mutual respect, personal attention and open dialogue. The School emphasizes creative and logical problem solving, active learning, opportunities for research and co-curricular activities that stimulate personal growth and intellectual development which enable graduates to pursue careers in their chosen disciplines and contribute to the advancement of these fields of study.

From the Dean:

Dear Friends,

It is final exam week here on campus and even though the students and faculty are working hard they are also looking forward to Christmas day and the coming year. Each day this week students have completed their exams and left campus and our buildings have become quieter and quieter. In this Christmas season, with this quiet, I have time to reflect on all the events and memories of this fall. In September, meeting again with so many of our alumni at homecoming; in October and November, watching presentations of our wonderful faculty in their classrooms and in other forums; and, more recently, witnessing the work of our students in their junior research or senior research presentations or a final class project presentation. It has been another busy fall season here in the Boyer School and I am happy to share with you many other stories, in this issue, about the people and the projects that we have been involved with in recent months.
We begin this issue of the Boyer Bulletin with articles about our most senior faculty member in the Boyer School and also one of our newer faculty members; both are faculty in the Department of Mathematics. The first article is about Dr. Michael Botsko, who is retiring at the end of the fall semester from full-time teaching. That is followed by an article describing the work of second year mathematics faculty Dr. Jennifer Diemunsch who has been named a Fellow of the Mathematical Association of America’s Project NExT program. We then feature a new cooperative program that allows students to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics from Saint Vincent and a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science from Robert Morris University. This new offering is overseen by our mathematics department in conjunction with the actuarial science department of Robert Morris.

Our next feature provides an update on the evolving cybersecurity offerings that we have available here at Saint Vincent. These offerings include individual and team competitions at the regional and national level as well as a concentration within our computer and information science major as well as a forensic studies:  cybersecurity minor offered in collaboration with our criminology, law and society department.

We next spotlight three of our talented students who recently received A.J. Palumbo Scholarships. Our next article focuses on the work done by Dr. Bettie Davis of our chemistry department who had a curriculum module accepted and published by the SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities) project. We close with an introduction to our newest faculty member, Dr. Peter Smyntek of our interdisciplinary sciences department. I look forward to sharing reports of his research interests and projects in future issues of the Boyer Bulletin.

May God bless you and your families in this Christmas season and in the coming year,


Dr. Michael Botsko Shared His Love of Mathematics for 50 Years

A stellar teaching career spanning nearly 50 years is being celebrated at the end of the fall semester with the retirement of Professor of Mathematics Dr. Michael W. Botsko, who has been a member of the Saint Vincent College faculty since 1967 and served as chair of the mathematics department for four decades.

As professor emeritus, he plans to continue teaching one course each semester with a commitment for a Calculus I class in the spring and a Complex Variables class in the fall. “I am officially retiring from full-time teaching,” Botsko explained, “but I want to continue the classroom interaction with students which I have enjoyed so immensely.”

When Botsko was honored with the Bonifice Wimmer Faculty Award, he was described by his former students as  “a distinguished teacher and scholar whose enthusiasm for mathematics has been contagious” and “the best mathematics teacher ever.”

He takes pride in the fact that an extraordinary number of Saint Vincent College alumni have gone on to doctoral study in mathematics and become mathematics teachers themselves or used their mathematics education in a related career.

And, while teaching was his first priority, he is most proud of his 58 professional publications on various topics in real analysis, particularly “An Elementary Proof of Lebesgue’s Differentiation Theorem” which was published in The American Mathematical Monthly and subsequently translated and published in a Chinese journal of mathematics. He also wrote a textbook, An Invitation to Real Analysis, which is the two-semester course that he has taught at SVC for the past 10 years. He has also served as a referee numerous times for The American Mathematical Monthly, The Real Analysis Exchange and once for The Journal of Applied Analysis. Many international publications have cited his research.

When Botsko was awarded his Ph.D. in mathematics by the University of Pittsburgh in 1972, he had already been teaching at Saint Vincent for five years. He previously earned a bachelor of arts degree with honors and a master of science degree from Duquesne University.

Over the years he has taught numerous classes such as Calculus I, II and III, Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra, Combinatorial Analysis, Theoretical Physics, Complex Variables, Topology, Real Analysis I and II and Seminar in Functional Analysis. In addition, he taught a freshman seminar in Calculus I during the past 14 years.

He has witnessed change in terms of what technology has made possible. His classroom lectures now are enriched by the resources of the Web, where he posts study guides and test answers. What used to be static textbook images are now Web page graphics that are animated to illustrate concepts such as limits, integrals and derivatives. He is an active user of Blackboard and the Computer Algebra System of Mathematica. But he still loves the traditional blackboards which are mounted on all four walls of a classroom named in his honor in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion where he shares his knowledge step-by-step and makes sure that every student in the room understands.

As a faculty member, he was active on numerous committees including the Rank and Tenure Committee, College Teacher Committee, Ad Hoc Committee for Faculty Evaluation, the College Web Page Committee and others.

In addition to the Boniface Wimmer Faculty Award, he has been previously honored with a Student Government Award, C.A.S.E. nominee for teacher of the year, Allegheny Mountain Section of the Mathmatical Association of America Teacher of the Year Award, Who’s Who in America and the Thoburn Excellence in Teaching Award. He is a member of the Mathematical Association of America.

He looks forward to spending more time with his wife, Donna, a former lecturer on the Saint Vincent faculty who retired in 2013, their daughter, Tanya Mooney, C’95, and her husband, Sheldon, and their granddaughters, Kaiya, 14, and Lyla, 5 months. He also hopes to enjoy leisure interests including ballroom dancing and target shooting.

SVC Math Professor Named
Project NExT Fellow

Dr. Jennifer Diemunsch, assistant professor of mathematics at Saint Vincent College, has been named a Fellow of the Mathematical Association of America’s Project NExT program.

Project NExT was created in 1994 and serves as a developmental program for those who have recently earned a Ph.D. in the mathematical sciences.
The program focuses on teaching, research and service, and how to help individuals learn to balance all three. There are many workshops throughout the year that aim to show teachers how to involve students with research. Others include building courses that amplify an active learning environment instead of the passive environment found in many mathematics classes. Many of these techniques create a new approach to classes for non-mathematics majors in the classes.
As a Fellow, Diemunsch has access to a community of teachers who are eager to share their experiences in the classroom and with research. She also has a mentor at Juniata College.
Diemunsch believes that the most beneficial part of the program is the conferences that show different teaching styles and practices that she can take back and adapt to her courses at Saint Vincent.
One active learning idea she has implemented is having students create graphs using wax craft sticks. Both she and her students enjoy using them because they allow graph lines to be recreated in the case of a mistake.
Diemunsch earned a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a bachelor of science degree in education with a French minor from the University of Dayton and a master of science degree in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado at Denver. She completed a Ph.D. in applied mathematics from UCD in May 2015. A former undergraduate teaching assistant at UD, she was a teaching assistant, NSF Fellow, instructor, teaching assistant and Bateman Fellow at UCD. She also taught at the International College Beijing in the fall of 2013. She was honored with a presidential scholarship at UD and was named outstanding master’s student at UCD. Diemunsch is the author or co-author of numerous academic papers, publications, talks and poster presentations.

Math Department Introduces
3/2 Actuarial Science Program
with Robert Morris

The mathematics department has introduced a new 3/2 joint math/actuarial science program with Robert Morris University that will provide an opportunity for students to study three years at Saint Vincent and two years at Robert Morris and receive two degrees – a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from Saint Vincent and a bachelor of science degree in actuarial science from Robert Morris.

“Actuarial science is a discipline that deals with risks from a mathematical and statistical point of view,” explained Dr. Daniele Arcara, professor and chair of the mathematics department. “An actuary can use mathematical and statistical models to evaluate the likelihood of a future negative event, and to study its impact.” 

“Actuaries can work in many different fields, including insurance, finance and pensions,” he added.

“Actuarial science is a growing field that has attracted more and more interest every year,” he said. “It leads to some of the highest-paid jobs.”

In order to be an actuary, a student must pass a series of actuarial exams given by a professional organization, the Society of Actuaries. Passing the first exam would be required before transferring to Robert Morris.

Robert Morris was one of the original 10 universities that were awarded a Center of Actuarial Excellence designation by the Society of Actuaries. Currently, only 17 colleges and universities have that certification. Further details are available from Arcara who is the director of the new 3/2 program.

SVC Cybersecurity Program Evolves to Meet Ever-Changing Needs

Opportunities for careers in the growing field of cybersecurity led Saint Vincent College several years ago to offer a cybersecurity concentration within its bachelor of science degree program in Computing and Information Science (CIS). As the cybersecurity landscape has changed in industry, so has the curriculum and focus of the program at SVC. The current program is a comprehensive multifaceted approach featuring expanded course offerings, student academic teams participating in national competitions and a collaboration with the Criminology, Law and Society (CLS) program to offer a minor in Forensic Studies: Cybersecurity.

Over the past four years, the Saint Vincent CIS Department has been evolving the cybersecurity concentration to bring the program in line with several of the model curriculum initiatives that have been identified as leaders in both academics and industry. The current curriculum has a foundation formed with courses from existing course offerings with the CIS Department covering the fundamentals of programming, data structures, networking, databases, project management and organizational technology integration.

Focused cybersecurity courses introduce specific security-related topics and techniques. The first-level course, CS 225 Cybersecurity, introduces students to the width and breadth of the discipline by utilizing the industry leading Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) – Common Body of Knowledge defined by the industry-leading International Information System Security Certification Consortium. Fundamentals of access control, network security, risk management, cryptography, business continuity/ disaster planning, environmental security, software development security and security architecture and design are introduced.

The second cybersecurity course, CS 325 Advanced Topics in Cybersecurity, has a focus on practical skills and techniques related to cybersecurity pulling from programs formed by the International Council of Electronic Commerce (EC-Council) such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) standards and the SANS Institute for Information Security training for Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC). Topics covered include computer forensics, malware analysis, secure coding and penetration testing of Web applications and wireless networks. Building upon the theoretical foundations of CS225, students will participate in multiple lab and practical exercises to gain experience with current field techniques.

This past October, the CIS and CLS departments held the first Saint Vincent Cybersecurity Day for more than 100 area high school students and educators from Bishop McCort, Derry Area, Franklin Regional, Greater Latrobe, Mount Pleasant Area, Norwin and Penn-Trafford High Schools. Sessions were held to address the multifaceted areas of cybersecurity from the technical, legal and ethical perspectives with presentations by Saint Vincent faculty, the district attorney’s office and the FBI. The event was coordinated by Dr. Anthony Serapiglia, Dr. Eric Kocian, Dr. Stephen Jodis and Dr. Bruce Antkowiak.

A Saint Vincent Collegiate Cyber Defense Team, coached by Dr. Anthony Serapiglia, has competed in the spring regional competition for two years and is looking forward to future competitions. This activity provides an opportunity for students to gain experience working in cybersecurity. It also enables students to gain exposure to many security contractors and businesses working in the discipline. Through their performance in high-intensity simulations, students have an opportunity to provide evidence of their skills and give employers confidence in their capabilities.

Currently, our students are participating in two national-level cybersecurity competitions, one in the fall and one in the spring. The fall competition is through the National Cyber League (NCL) and is an individual-based challenge. Running for 10 weeks, the program allows for entrants of any experience level to get started. The NCL provides a virtual sandbox gymnasium with exercises from previous competitions for students to train and practice on. A preliminary round is held to place students into competition brackets. Two “regular-season” games then take place. Finally a post-season team event is conducted, available to everyone. Evaluation of performance is provided through “scouting reports” that break down student success in up to 12 different skill-set categories.

The Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition is a team-based competition held during the spring semester. It is a capture the flag-based activity where students have to protect an existing system for which they serve as administrators while it is under attack. During a three-hour time window students are asked not only to protect their system, but to also periodically perform tasks of everyday operations.

Saint Vincent is also a member of the National CyberWatch Center, a consortium of higher education institutions, public and private schools, businesses and government agencies focused on collaborative efforts to advance cybersecurity education and strengthen the national cybersecurity workforce. Serapiglia is currently serving on the National CyberWatch Center's Curriculum Standards Panel.

The field of cybersecurity is a kaleidoscope with countless points of focus. With the backing of an exceptional liberal arts foundation combined with a cutting edge focus on the current best practices of industry, Saint Vincent College students are uniquely prepared and qualified to meet the needs of this high demand discipline.

Foundation Representatives Meet with Saint Vincent Palumbo Scholars

Saint Vincent College Palumbo Scholars Zachary Fox of Kersey (third from left), Jess Jaynes of St. Marys, (fourth from left) and Nathan Porter of Ridgway (fifth from left) had an opportunity to meet with Mary Rae and John W. Kowach, executive director of the A. J. and Sigismunda Palumbo Charitable Trust, on Dec. 6 for a luncheon hosted by Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B., chancellor (second from left), and Fr. Paul Taylor, O.S.B., executive vice president (right). Welcoming the guests was David Hollenbaugh, left, associate vice president of institutional advancement.

The students were each awarded $25,000 scholarships as part of the A. J. Palumbo, P.C.M. (Poor Coal Miner) Scholars Program designed to pay tribute to Palumbo’s extraordinary life and career by honoring students with exemplary academic and leadership potential.

Fox is a sophomore engineering science major who graduated from St. Marys Area High School. Jaynes is a junior computing and information science major who graduated from Elk County Catholic High School. Porter is a freshman physics education major who graduated from Ridgway Area High School. Missing from photo is Palumbo Scholar Caitlin Johnson of Ridgway, a junior majoring in biochemistry who graduated from Ridgway Area High School. These Palumbo Scholars will have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of A. J. Palumbo and provide ethical leadership for the next generation of scientific discovery and economic development in southwestern Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. 

Boyer School’s Dr. Bettie Davis
Gets National Recognition for
Model Forensics Course

What started with the TV program CSI and a desire to help students understand how forensic science really works has resulted in national recognition for Dr. Bettie Davis, assistant professor of chemistry.

That possibility wasn’t on her mind in the spring 2011 semester, when her course Chemistry and Crime was offered for the first time.  From her past experience with forensic analysis, Davis knew that what was shown on television wasn’t real. Results from DNA analysis didn’t come back while the body was still on the autopsy table. Many of the people who watched CSI did not realize how long some of the tests took to complete. So she designed the course to help students realize this.

She also incorporated some examples from The Innocence Project, the non-profit legal corporation that works to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals. During the course of that semester, students started to express concerns about how juries functioned -- “how could a jury have done this?” -- and how jurors understood their responsibilities. As Davis puts it, “That got me thinking more about several different ideas – the often-subjective nature of current forensic analysis, the limitations within the criminal justice system, the often-problematic ways that evidence from forensic analysis can be presented. My perspective on the course changed. When a person registered to vote, their name was placed in a pool of potential jurors.  At some point during that person’s life, he/she may be called to serve on a jury.  In today’s world of novels, movies and television, how was a juror from the general population to decide between fact and fiction when it came to scientific evidence presented in a trial where the jury’s decision could have profound consequences for a person’s life?”

The result was that Davis kept modifying the course, gradually incorporating several “real-world” assignments that she had students complete. One of them was a case study on Earl Washington, who was sentenced to death in the early 1980s for a violent crime that he did not commit. After spending 17 years in prison, Washington was released in 2001 after DNA analysis demonstrated his innocence. The last exam during the semester became an online exam where students followed the death of a graduate student and subsequent investigation including suspect interviews and evidence collection. Using the analysis of the evidence carried out by a “virtual” forensic laboratory as well as the interviews, the students completed a form that identified who they thought the murderer was, what evidence they used to identify this person, how the crime was committed, and what further studies needed to be done. The final presentation, which required that students examine and present a case from the current news or from The Innocence Project, came to focus more on the critical  examination by students of the evidence presented in the trial, which scientific principles were involved, and which scientific principles were overlooked or omitted. The laboratory component was revised so that the final lab period engaged students in an activity where they assumed the role of crime scene investigators and used their observational skills and deductive reasoning to solve a realistic crime scenario.

Through her spouse, Dr. Matthew Fisher – an associate professor of chemistry at Saint Vincent -- Davis was becoming more aware of the National Science Foundation supported SENCER Project. SENCER, an acronym for Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities, was a national effort to reform undergraduate science education by using complex civic issues as the starting point to teach through to the underlying scientific concepts. SENCER courses aimed to connect scientific knowledge to public decision-making, policy development, and the effective “work” of citizenship. Fisher had been involved with the SENCER community since 2002 and had become one of the leaders in the community, developing several SENCER model courses and serving on the faculty of the annual summer institute. Davis attended several of the SENCER summer institutes to help facilitate a workshop on the scholarship of teaching and learning, and it was during the 2015 summer institute that the two began to think of submitting Chemistry and Crime to be recognized as a SENCER model course.

Described on the SENCER website, model courses are presented as an aid to understanding the SENCER approach and as examples of what a successful SENCER course can look like. Model courses also show potential for broader implementation and adaptation. The process of being selected as a model course involves submission of a variety of materials for review by the SENCER office – a description of the science concepts or principles most important in the course and the public (civic) challenge or issue that provides the learning context, the syllabus, student learning objectives, information about assessment and evaluation strategies used in the course. These materials were submitted by Davis in the summer of 2016 for review, and at the 2016 SENCER summer institute Chemistry and Crime was announced as one of several new model courses. The recognition also meant that Saint Vincent College joined only two other schools, Southern Connecticut State University and Rutgers University, as the only institutions to have contributed three SENCER model courses. But Saint Vincent is the only institution where a single department, Chemistry, has provided three model courses; Chemistry of Crime now joins Chemistry of Daily Life and the two semester biochemistry sequence (both developed by Fisher) as SENCER model courses. Davis and Fisher are also the first married couple to have contributed model courses to the SENCER community.

How does Davis feel about how all of this turned out? “Students who have taken the course let me know afterwards that what they learned changed how they view what they read in books, see in movies or even hear in a news story. Some of the students who have gone on to law school have told me that the experience of taking the class changed their understanding of the legal system, both how it works … and how it should work but often doesn’t.”

Welcome Dr. Peter Smyntek

The newest member of the faculty of the Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing is Dr. Peter M. Smyntek, who joins the Department of Interdisciplinary Science which offers the recently-established integrated science major as well as the majors in bioinformatics and environmental science.

Smyntek previously taught in England at the University of Manchester, Lancaster University, Queen Mary University of London and University College London. A graduate of Grove City College, where he earned a bachelor of science in biochemistry, and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, where he earned a Ph.D. in environmental chemistry, he recently was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Watershed Research and Service at Saint Francis University. His research interests are mitigation of air and water pollution including mine drainage.

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