Noyce Visiting Professorship

The Robert N. Noyce ’49 Visiting Professorship in the Physical Sciences, Math, and Computer Science

In June of 1998, Grinnell College received a generous gift from the Noyce family, whose purpose was to bring outstanding scholars and leaders to campus from the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, and chemistry to enhance and enrich the knowledge of students and faculty in subject areas new or not well represented by regular faculty.

It was specified that the Noyce Professorship is to be awarded at least once annually. The Noyce Professor will work with introductory and advanced students in classes, seminars and research projects and with faculty in teaching and in research. It is anticipated that the Noyce Professor will have a broad campus impact. The period of residence can range from several weeks to an entire semester or academic year.

A faculty committee manages the program under the direction of the Dean. 

Robert Norton Noyce ’49

The name of Robert Noyce is written large in the history of modern electronics and in the industry that evolved from his pioneering work on the integrated circuit. Guided by his mentor, Professor Grant O. Gale, Noyce's inquiries began at Grinnell College, from which he graduated in 1949 with degrees in physics and mathematics. He studied the first transistors, developed at Bell Laboratories, in a Grinnell College classroom. Twelve years later, he was awarded the first patent for his principal discovery of the integrated circuit. For this discovery and its world-transforming impact, three presidents of the United States honored him. In 1979, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. In 1990, the National Academy of Engineering awarded Robert Noyce its Draper Prize.

Noyce’s inventiveness was as much a matter of entrepreneurship as it was of science and technology. As co-founder in 1968 of Intel Corporation, he was a tireless partisan in the cause of American enterprise at large, in its capacity to serve the everyday needs of people around the world, and in its power to fulfill the imperatives of a genuine economic democracy.

Noyce was a loyal alumnus of Grinnell College. He served as a Trustee of the College for many years. The Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center is named in his honor.

Noyce Professors

Computer Science 105 — The Digital Age

Core topics and great ideas in the field of computer science were studied in this course, focusing on underlying algorithmic principles and social implications. Embroidery machines and crochet patterns were used to teach some of these introductory computer science principles. Enrolled students contributed unique solutions to a collaborative assignment, producing quilts derived from algorithms.

Computer Science — Special Topic: Multidisciplinary Game Development

Video game development requires a team of creative people with a variety of skills and talents. This course introduced the range of necessary skills, inviting students with a background in art, computer science, fiction writing, music, and performance to experience the collaborative process and sample techniques from these contributing fields and learn essential project management skills. Everyone contributed to a game prototype built using the Unity game development environment.

Computer Science 301 — Analysis of Algorithms

Study of structures used to organize data and of the algorithms used to manipulate these structures.

The short course Metals and Life: Nature’s Coordination Chemistry addressed various aspects of biological inorganic chemistry, such as basic coordination chemistry of transition metals, physical techniques to investigate metals in biology, activation and transformation of oxygen by iron and copper enzymes, global cycles of nitrogen and sulfur and their metal enzymes, life without oxygen and early life catalysts, as well as metals in medicine and their application in diagnosis and therapy. In addition, students worked in the laboratory and applied UV/Vis spectroscopy to study the properties of the iron centers of cytochrome c and myoglobin. Furthermore, they investigated the interaction of a manganese biomimetic complex with the xanthine/xanthine oxidase superoxide generating system.

Lawrence F. Dahl, professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with Ilia Guzei, director of the x-ray lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, joined us to teach a class in the fall 2009 semester.

The short course Modern Crystallography and Molecular Symmetry developed the fundamental ideas of modern crystallography and molecular symmetry. The class began by describing the symmetry of molecules leading up to the development of the Schoenflies and Hermann-Maguin notations of molecular symmetry. Students discussed the use of crystallographic structural methods to determine molecular structure. Hands-on work with computer-based software to solve structures was the lab component of the course. These concepts were applied to the crystal structures of large clusters of palladium and platinum with metal carbonyl ligands. 

George Cobb

Mathematics 444.01 – Senior Seminar

Many of the greatest mathematicians have been interested in both applied problems and mathematics for its own sake. This course followed their example, developing the mathematical theory of Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) in the context of several applied problems: competition among species of finches in the Galapagos, statistical evidence in the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic, and locating common binding sites on large molecules. MCMC is a method that has brought far-reaching changes to the practice of statistics and computer simulation. At the same time its mathematical theory reveals surprise connections that link graph theory, probability, linear algebra, abstract algebra, and the study of convergence. 

Luis Fermín Capitán Vallvey

Chemistry 295.01 – Special Topic: Analytical Methods for use in the Environment

This course provided an overview of the need for chemical analysis in the environment. Although not all the topics of significance to environmental analysis could be covered, students were exposed to some selected issues coming from the real world such as accidents (Seveso and Bhopal; the Exxon Valdez oil spill) or common pollution sources (trihalomethanes in drinking water, lead in wine, pesticides at work). These cases were used as examples to introduce problems, some analytical tools and a selection of analytical methodology.

This semester we are pleased to have David Billington and Steve Cunningham as Noyce visiting professors, and Judith Brown as a Noyce distinguished visitor.

David Billington

Physics 180.01 — Bridges, Towers, and Skyscrapers Spiced up with a Visit by Noyce Professor David Billington

David Billington, the author of the two main texts for the course, was on the Grinnell College campus for a couple of weeks during the semester. The Feb. 10–April 16, 2006, exhibition The Art of Structural Design: A Swiss Legacy at the Faulconer Gallery was developed by Billington and was presented in conjunction with the course. This was a rare opportunity to take a popular course enriched with lectures by Billington and a major exhibition.

An investigation of large man-made structures (e.g., Brooklyn Bridge, Eiffel Tower, and Hancock Tower/Chicago), considering structural, social, and aesthetic aspects. The relationship between a structure‘s form and its function was examined. Concepts from physics necessary for the quantitative analysis were presented. 

Judith Brown

Judy Brown was on the Grinnell campus as a distinguished Noyce visitor Tuesday mornings through Thursday afternoons each week this semester to consult with Grinnell faculty and staff on visualization of data and concepts for education and research. 

Steve Cunningham

Computer Science 295.01 — Special Topic: Computer Graphics for Science

This course was an introduction to computer graphics, emphasizing graphics programming using OpenGL, graphical problem solving, and effective visual communication. Projects in the course focused on the use of computer graphics in the sciences and mathematics, with an opportunity for students to determine the areas for their projects. The course covered the primary components of image synthesis, including geometry and modeling, viewing, lighting, shading, animation, and texture mapping, as well as fundamentals of interaction such as events, callbacks, and object selection. 

Physics 340.01 – Astrophysics

Modern astrophysics has come of age with the advent of space exploration and technology which has given rise to a proliferation of new observational techniques, spanning the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to high-energy gamma rays. We have come to a much deeper understanding of the workings of the planetary system, stars, galaxies, and other cosmic structures, as well as neutron stars, quasars, black holes, etc. This course was intended to give students a practical understanding of contemporary astrophysics. Using gravity as the unifying theme, topics were introduced descriptively. The course included formal lectures, workshop problem-solving, and some computational exercises.

Corinne Manogue and Tevian Dray team-taught two special topics courses that met during the entire semester. In addition, they gave a Scholars’ Convocation talk, participated in the math and physics departmental seminars, and met with interested students and faculty.

Physics/Mathematics 295.01: Octonions in Mathematics and Physics

This cross-listed course dealt with octonions and their application to physics. The octonions are a generalization of the familiar real and complex number systems, but their algebra is both non-commutative and non-associative, so the linear algebra of the octonions is both fun and interesting. This algebra appears to be closely related to deep physics, such as the existence of supersymmetry (string theory). Although the formal prerequisites of this course were light, and the course started at the beginning, it was challenging and fast-paced. It was aimed at intermediate to advanced students in mathematics or a physical science. 

Mathematics 295.02: Vector Calculus for Mathematicians and Other Scientists

This course was highly interactive and emphasized the underlying geometry. It was designed to bridge the gap between the different ways that mathematicians and other scientists use vector calculus. The course also developed the calculus of line and surface integrals and covered the fundamental theorems of Gauss and Stokes, as well as introduced differential forms as time permitted.

Rachelle Heller is the creator of a nationally recognized projects-based course on electronic commerce, a course she taught at Grinnell in the spring of 2002. The course was open to all students interested in the business and social aspects of e-commerce systems and to students with a background in computer science who were interested in technology aspects of e-commerce. Heller also gave a Scholars’ Convocation lecture entitled “Distance Learning.”

John Roberts taught a course aimed at chemistry students, NMR Fundamentals and Applications to Organic Structures. Roberts’ visit coincided with the installation of a 400 MHz Bruker NMR Spectrometer in the chemistry department at Grinnell College. This instrument quickly became an essential component of advanced courses and research in the department.

Roberts gave a Scholars’ Convocation lecture entitled “Some Useful Information about Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).”

During the first half of the semester, Willard Talbert taught a short course on Technology and Social Policy. This course, which was aimed at general students, considered such topics as arms control, nuclear waste management, and environmental policy. During the second half of the semester, Talbert taught another short course, The Role of Technology in Nuclear Research. The course was primarily aimed at science students. Talbert gave a Scholars’ Convocation lecture entitled “Radioactive Ion Beams and the Origin of the Elements.”

During his seven week stay at Grinnell, Guy taught two short courses. The first, intended for students with modest mathematical backgrounds, was in Combinatorial Games (he is the co-author of the text Winning Ways). The second, intended for students with a more substantial background, was on Advanced Topics in Number Theory.

Guy also gave a Scholars’ Convocation presentation on “Mathematics 4000 Years Ago,” as well as a more technical lecture on the “Unity of Combinatorics.” He attended student presentations and had several conversations with students and faculty about summer research.

The Morrisons jointly taught a course entitled Shadows and Beyond. The course, which ran for about a month, was intended primarily for non-science students and had an intentionally diverse audience. During the early, empirical phase of the course, the Morrisons were assisted by Bob Miller, an artist who has been closely associated with the San Francisco Exploratorium.

Philip Morrison gave a Scholars’ Convocation presentation on the likelihood of extra-terrestrial life. He also visited several physics classes and gave talks about his experience with the Manhattan Project.

The first Noyce visiting professor was computer scientist Nathaniel Borenstein, co-founder of First Virtual, one of the early leaders in e-commerce. Borenstein is a Grinnell alumnus, graduating in 1980 with majors in mathematics and religious studies. He was one of the principal authors of the MIME protocol, which is ubiquitous in electronic information transfer. Borenstein taught two courses while at Grinnell College. The first, intended for a general audience, was entitled The Internet and Society. The second was targeted at computer science students. It was entitled Human-Computer Interface Design.

Borenstein was on campus for several periods, for a total of about seven weeks. While on campus, Borenstein delivered a Scholars’ Convocation lecture, “The Future of the Internet and the Internet of the Future.” He met with several groups about the educational uses of the Internet and shared his expertise about computer security and other computer-related issues.

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