Norwich University’s Todd Lecture Panel Culminates Yearlong Focus on Innovation

NORWICH UNIVERSITY OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS

April 13, 2017

Norwich University presents three nationally and internationally known innovators from the fields of creative design, technological design, and design for social good, for a Todd Lecture panel discussion on Thursday, April 27, in Plumley Armory, which follows a showcase of innovation. The “Making Innovation Symposium” is free and open to the public.

Please join us at 6 p.m. for the “Making Innovation Showcase,” a curated exhibition of student academic and creative research that is the culmination of a yearlong focus on innovation.

The showcase will be followed by a 7 p.m. Todd Lecture panel discussion, “To Act As Well As To Think: Leadership, Innovation, and the Creative Impulse,” an evening with Michael Jager, Natalie Jeremijenko, and William Kamkwamba. The panel will be moderated by entrepreneur Jonathan Speed, a 2014 graduate of Norwich’s Master of Arts in Military History. Two awards will be presented to students at the conclusion of the evening in recognition of work that exemplifies leadership through innovative thought as well as practice.

The Making Innovation Symposium is the culminating event of a series of experiential learning exercises focused on the themes of leadership and innovation. Throughout the year, six co-curricular NU IDEA Design Challenges engaged nearly 100 students to creatively solve real world problems with their peers. The innovation challenges further Norwich’s goal of creating a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and creative thinking on campus. The final challenge of the term will be facilitated by Jonathan Speed on Wednesday, April 26, at 4 p.m. in the Kreitzberg Library Todd Multipurpose Room.

While panelists are on campus, Norwich will seek their input regarding emerging fields, critical path skills for near-future leaders, as well as recommendations about curriculum to strengthen entrepreneurship-related courses. Panelists will visit with students enrolled in a range of courses across campus, including biology, engineering, nursing, English, writing, and architecture. They will additionally interact with students affiliated with the Center for Global Resilience & Security and the Entrepreneurship Club.

The panelists are:

MICHAEL JAGER

Michael Jager is founding Partner/CCO of Solidarity of Unbridled Labour (formerly Jager DiPaola Kemp (JDK) Design). For more than 25 years, Jager has been creating and collaborating with international brands, driven by the idea that design distinction matters most. Guided by Ezra Pound’s simply but elegantly stated principle, “Make it new,” his work for brands such as Burton Snowboards, Seventh Generation, Xbox, Nike, Levis, DontPayFull, and Patagonia is recognized worldwide.

NATALIE JEREMIJENKO (pictured above)

In 2014, Natalie Jeremijenko was awarded the VIDA Art and Artificial Life International Awards Pioneer Prize, “for her consistently brilliant portfolio of work over the past two decades.” Named one of 2013’s Most Innovative People, one of the most influential women in technology in 2011, and one of the inaugural top young innovators by MIT Technology Review, Jeremijenko directs the Environmental Health Clinic and is an Associate Professor in the Visual Art Department at New York University. She holds degrees in biochemistry, engineering, neuroscience, and history and philosophy of science.

WILLIAM KAMKWAMBA

William Kamkwamba is the co-author with Bryan Mealer of the New York Times best-selling book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope.” A remarkable success story about the power of human ingenuity in the face of crippling odds, Kamkwamba’s story shares his vision for “a new kind of Africa, a place of leaders instead of victims, a home of innovation rather than charity.”

JONATHAN SPEED (Moderator)

An alumnus of Brown University—where he is an emeritus trustee and board member of the Brown Entrepreneurship Program—and Norwich University, Jonathan Speed has 30+ years of business development, finance, and start-up experience with companies in the finance/private equity, life sciences, and technology sectors. He is currently the CFO at Versal Group, a San Francisco-based eLearning company. During his twenty years in the Bay Area, Jonathan has advised non-profits, entrepreneurial organizations, and serves on the boards of four start-up companies. In fall 2017, Jonathan will launch 1790 Media—a student-oriented media platform created to expand entrepreneurial and innovation education, knowledge, and mentorship to today’s diverse student population.

The Making Innovation Symposium is hosted by the Colleges of Professional Schools, Science and Mathematics, and Liberal Arts. It is a capstone event in Norwich’s Year of Leadership, the third of a five-year $100M campaign to transform academics at Norwich University in celebration of Norwich’s upcoming bicentennial.

About Norwich University

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).www.norwich.edu 

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Norwich University will celebrate its bicentennial in 2019. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Transformation” here: bicentennial.norwich.edu.    

Media Contact:
Daphne Larkin
Assistant Director of Communications
Office Tel: (802) 485-2886
dlarkin@norwich.edu

What I Do: NASA Manager Dennis Davidson ’82

Photo: Formal head and shoulders studio portrait of Norwich alum and NASA manager Dennis Davidson
WHAT I DO:

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Dennis Davidson ’82
Manager, Program Control and Integration Office

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NASA Commercial Crew Program
Johnson Space Center

Mention NASA and most people think of astronauts and engineers. But any space program “starts with the budget,” says Norwich alum Dennis Davidson. “Without money, nothing’s gonna happen.” During the Shuttle era, Davidson was the no. 2 in charge of business operations for the $4 billion-a-year program. Today he manages 35 staffers and an annual budget of $1.2 billion for NASA’s crewed space flight program. The program’s main thrust is vehicle development contracts with commercial aerospace companies Space X and Boeing to send astronauts to the International Space Station and on other low-Earth orbit missions. He started his de facto NASA career shortly after his NU graduation, working for five years at Johnson Space Center while wearing an Air Force uniform. Thirty years on, he helps navigate Congress’s stopgap continuing budget resolutions to keep agency missions aiming for the heavens.

What’s your job at NASA?
In government lingo, program control is all the business functions. It’s procurement and contracting. It’s the finances. It’s IT. It’s security. Public relations. Legislative affairs. Interfacing with the center legal offices. We have a lot of oversight committees, seven or eight, including an aerospace safety advisory panel. It’s also about keeping the money flowing from fiscal year to fiscal year, so that the astronauts and engineers can go do their jobs and the contracts can perform.

Are you the top guy?
I am.

What’s it like to work at NASA? Any highlights?
There was a point in my career where I had an office in the same building as Mission Control. So being there every day, walking past Mission Control Center, being aware of that history. “Houston, we’ve got a problem” from Apollo 13. Or “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That all those words came to Houston first. Being a part of that going forward was just huge.

The second piece is just the quality of the workforce down here. I mean you come in every day and work with just awesome people, who are fun to be around, smart, [and] solving hard, hard problems every day. Being in a position to participate and at times just observe and see that take place has just been fascinating.

I’ve moved around to several different jobs. But I was in the Shuttle Program for the last few years that we were flying. Being a part of those last few missions, when you knew STS-133, STS-134, STS-135 were almost at the end. We finished assembling the Space Station. We were not going to fly these vehicles anymore. These were the last flights. Just knowing the importance of what was going on at that point in time and being a part of it.

What do you see when you look at the space exploration landscape today?
NASA on the whole is still doing in-house development for deep space exploration. Whether it’s the robotic spacecraft that are currently operating on Mars or the Orion crewed vehicle that’s being developed here that will be capable of going to the moon or to Mars. There’s also a new NASA rocket, called the SLS, the space launch system, that’s going to take the Orion into space.

What we’re starting to do commercially is operating in what we refer to as low-Earth orbit, so up to 250 to 300 miles. Primarily that’s the International Space Station. We’ve got three vehicles that they’re working on for cargo. Two of them are operational already. Then we’re working on the two vehicles with Boeing and Space X for crewed transportation, getting us away from reliance on the Russians. The big focus outside of NASA, a lot of it is what they call the tourist industry. Those folks would take passengers up to space, but not for long.

What’s driving advances in your field and what are the big hurdles?
The big hurdle is the cost of getting things launched. A couple of companies are working on reusable launch vehicles. It’s the single use vehicle—you got to build a new one every time—that drives the cost. With Shuttle, it was a multiuse vehicle. But because of the nature of it’s design, it was almost as expensive. So finding a reusable way [to launch]. Both Blue Origin and Space X have working concepts to land their first stage rocket. They do the launch. They bring it back. They can actually fly it back and land it on landing legs, where you then refuel it and use it again. That will be the biggest single thing that will open up the market.

Why does exploring space matter?
The simple answer is, what if Columbus never had a desire to set sail for India? What if Lewis and Clark had never set out to see all the country of the Louisiana Purchase? What if those people had never done that? What would we have missed out on? We’re taking the human race into that next unknown. Will we ever colonize another planet? Maybe. [We’re taking] that next step. Asking, is it possible? Could we colonize another body—the moon, Mars, or anywhere else—if we needed to?

Dennis Davidson serves on the Board of Fellows advisory panel for the Norwich University College of Science and Mathematics.

Norwich University Office of Communications

September 14, 2016

5 Questions for … Norwich Neuroscience Professor Megan Doczi

Norwich University Office of Communications

September 9, 2015

Assistant Professor of Biology Megan Doczi, PhD, arrived at Norwich in 2011, shortly after receiving her PhD from the University of Vermont. She directs the neuroscience program at NU and teaches neuroscience and anatomy and physiology classes in the Department of Biology. Her research into the developmental regulation of potassium ion channels in avian hypothalamus neurons is funded by the Vermont Genetics Network. Outgoing, energetic and very busy, Doczi spent the summer writing research papers, supervising lab work, planning courses, and mentoring two undergraduate research fellows. We spoke to her recently in her second-floor office in Bartoletto Hall, amid the odd piece of lab equipment and quirky science art.

What sparked your interest in neuroscience?

The easiest and most heart-felt answer is high school psychology, I took this psych course with a few friends of mine as an elective. The instructor was a practicing psychologist and really, really interested in her discipline. Chapter two of our textbook was the neuron, and I just got stuck on that second chapter. I was like, “Wow, these neurons are amazing. I didn’t even realize how complicated these cells were. They’re so different than any other cells in the human body and I want to learn all I can about them.” So that was it. High school. I’ve been on the neuroscience track ever since.

What excites you about the field today?

The speed at which the technology is developing. We now have technology that we didn’t have ten or even five years ago, which is so much better at attacking the questions: How is consciousness even a phenomenon? How can neural networks communicate with each other? How are individual neurons able to metabolize different nutrient sources like glucose as a readout of their activity? We now have the capability of asking a patient a question and seeing what part of their brain lights up. The technology is just phenomenal and beyond what we could have imagined in the field decades before.

What questions do you explore in your research?

Personally I’m interested in ion channels, the small little proteins in the membranes of neurons that allow ions to flow through at different rates. They control the way neurons communicate with each other. So you can imagine if you have more or less of these channels, it will affect the function of the neuron itself.

The set of neurons that we’re interested in looking at are part of feeding behaviors and the circuitry for food intake and energy expenditure in animals. So the main question of the lab is, If the expression and function of these individual ion channels changes in that population of neurons, will it actually change the behavior downstream of the animal? We’re looking at developmental time points. The model system we use in the lab is the embryonic chicken, which is really nice. Because what we can do is study early, mid and late gestational time points and see if the channels are changing. There’s a lot of evidence in the literature today that what happens during development impacts what happens as an adult. So if these organisms are exposed to high levels of hormones or metabolic factors, they might actually develop the neuronal circuitry in a different way that could even result in disease in adulthood.

What’s your pitch to students? Why study neuroscience?

There’s a lot known about most systems in the human body. We’re pretty comfortable explaining how the cardiovascular system works and developing pharmaceuticals to change blood pressure, etc. You can use that analogy for other similar systems. But we still don’t understand what actually happens in the nervous system to create things like consciousness or to instill survival skills in today’s society, for example. What makes someone more resilient than someone else? Or personality characteristics? All those things are still unknown. You can’t just give a pill and fix the nervous system like you might be able to with other systems of the human body.

I think that unknown component of the nervous system and the brain, in particular, is kind of what draws me to the discipline. And I hope I communicate that enthusiasm to my students as well. I just love when they ask questions that I can’t answer. Because nobody can answer some of the questions that they’re asking, and those are the questions that need to be asked.

Any parting thoughts?

It’s important for students to be scholars and lifelong learners. It’s important to our society to have curious thinkers, free thinkers who don’t take information at face value but know how to critically analyze that information, fact-check that information. And that goes beyond neuroscience. That’s just making an informed citizen. There are so many hot topics today. Climate change is one of them. Vaccination is another. If we can just basically graduate students who know how to think about information, challenge information, and even create new information based off of researching topics, then we’ve done our job, regardless of discipline.

So when you graduate from Norwich, I don’t care if you’re a neuroscientist, a chemist, a literary scholar, or a historian, as long as you know how to really analyze information, ask the right question and move society in a positive direction, I think that’s really what I’m interested in as a professor and what a lot of other faculty members are interested in here.