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81-Year Old Emeritus Professor Helps Students Succeed & Wins Highest Caltech Teaching Honor81-Year Old Emeritus Professor Helps Students Succeed & Wins Highest Caltech Teaching Honor

first_img Name (required)  Mail (required) (not be published)  Website  3 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it Herbeauty6 Strong Female TV Characters Who Deserve To Have A SpinoffHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyPretty Or Not: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About BeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty6 Strong Female TV Characters Who Deserve To Have A SpinoffHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyNutritional Strategies To Ease AnxietyHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyWant To Seriously Cut On Sugar? You Need To Know A Few TricksHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty7 Reasons Why The Lost Kilos Are Regained AgainHerbeautyHerbeauty Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. Community News Community News People 81-Year Old Emeritus Professor Helps Students Succeed & Wins Highest Caltech Teaching Honor Steven C. Frautschi, professor of theoretical physics, emeritus, at Caltech, has been awarded the Richard P. Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching—Caltech’s most prestigious teaching honor. By CYNTHIA ELLER Published on Monday, March 3, 2014 | 1:48 pm Business News EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS More Cool Stuff Top of the News center_img Make a comment faithfernandez More » ShareTweetShare on Google+Pin on PinterestSend with WhatsApp,Virtual Schools PasadenaHomes Solve Community/Gov/Pub SafetyCitizen Service CenterPASADENA EVENTS & ACTIVITIES CALENDARClick here for Movie Showtimes Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Professor Steven Frautschi with Caltech students. Credit: Courtesy of the Archives, California Institute of TechnologyNamed after Caltech physicist Richard P. Feynman, the prize is awarded annually to a Caltech professor “who demonstrates, in the broadest sense, unusual ability, creativity, and innovation in undergraduate and graduate classroom or laboratory teaching.”This is the first time the Feynman Prize has been awarded to an emeritus faculty member and also the first time it has been awarded to a teaching assistant.Frautschi has won three ASCIT (Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology) teaching awards during his time at Caltech. Since his retirement from full-time teaching in 2006, Frautschi has continued on at Caltech as a teaching assistant for the freshman Physics 1 class in classical mechanics and electromagnetism. As Frautschi explains, “There is a long tradition of having at least some of the sections in freshman physics taught by Caltech professors. I’ve just stepped into that tradition. I love the material in basic physics and how it affects so many things in the world around us, and I like the continued contact with young people very much.”Caltech students are as enthusiastic about Professor Frautschi as he is about teaching. Frautschi is credited by several students with pulling them through physics when they thought they would fail. Students describe Frautschi as “amazing,” “awesome,” and “beyond helpful.” They enjoy his “use of uncommon real-world examples” along with his “awesome Converse shoes,” and they say “learning from him is a blast.” Others go even further. A biology major confesses, “I used to absolutely hate physics because I thought it was too difficult and useless, but Frautschi really clarified my understanding and sparked my interest in physics.” Now, says this student, “I wouldn’t be opposed to being a physics major solely because of him.” Another student says simply, “I want to be like Professor Frautschi when I grow up.”Those are big shoes to fill. Frautschi, raised in Wisconsin, matriculated at Harvard when he was only 16 years old. “I had a wonderful time at Harvard,” says Frautschi. “To me it was like a large cookie jar full of wonderful goodies to dip into.” He studied physics and math there but has fond memories of auditing classes in art history and geology as well. After college, Frautschi won a Harvard fellowship to spend a year traveling through the Near East and Europe, where he enjoyed “a great many operas among other things.” Graduate school followed at Stanford University, where Frautschi concluded that theory, rather than experiment, would be his forte in physics. After Stanford, Frautschi pursued postdoctoral fellowships at the Hideki Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto and at UC Berkeley.Frautschi’s eventual move to Caltech was initiated when Murray Gell-Mann (later a Nobel Prize winner and now the Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Theoretical Physics, Emeritus) visited Berkeley in 1961, just as Frautschi’s postdoctoral work on strongly interacting particles was concluding. As Frautschi remembers it, “One evening at home, I got a phone call from one of the other postdocs. He said, ‘You must come to the radiation laboratory tomorrow, because Gell-Mann is asking questions, and we can’t answer them.’” Fortunately, Frautschi had been considering the problems Gell-Mann asked about, and the two ended up collaborating while Frautschi began an assistant professorship at Cornell University. Within the year, Frautschi was invited to join the faculty at Caltech.“At that time, Feynman and Gell-Mann were active, and there were wonderful students also, so coming to Caltech was a very attractive opportunity,” says Frautschi. Frautschi actually knew the prize’s namesake personally and had the opportunity to watch him teach. Frautschi remembers attending a graduate course Feynman taught on the quantum theory of gravity during the 1960s; he also remembers Feynman’s “famous sessions with the undergrads, where he would entertain any question whatsoever. This was utterly remarkable to me. I’ve never heard of another professor who did this. The students regarded Feynman as their patron saint at Caltech, and the reputation is quite deserved.”Frautschi’s reputation as a teacher is equally well deserved. In addition to his current work as a teaching assistant and his regular teaching commitments over the years, Frautschi participated in Caltech’s 52-episode television course The Mechanical Universe, prepared in the 1980s by David Goodstein, the Frank J. Gilloon Distinguished Teaching and Service Professor, Emeritus. Frautschi is lead author of the textbook of the same title that is still in use today for freshman physics courses at Caltech.Frautschi’s love of opera, discovered while traveling in Europe in his early 20s, was another experience he shared with his students at Caltech, especially during his tenure as Master of Student Houses from 1997 to 2002. “With a boost from Beverly Sills in New York, it had become standard to put supertitles above the stage during the opera so that you could actually follow what’s going on, line by line. I thought we’d get just a few students the first time I set up a trip to the opera,” says Frautschi, “but we’ve had up to 40 at times.” Since the construction of Walt Disney Concert Hall, Frautschi takes it upon himself to regularly escort Caltech students to concerts there.Frautschi and his wife, Mie, are both music lovers, and they raised two daughters who became professional violinists. They purchased a condo in Aspen, Colorado, at first to be near the Aspen Center for Physics, and later for their daughters to be near the Aspen Music Festival. They have since donated their condo to Caltech to fund rehearsal space for Caltech’s band and orchestra on the second floor of the Winnett Center as part of the larger renovation project for this building.As the official citation for the Feynman Prize states, “anyone familiar with Steven knows his recent work in Physics 1 is just the latest stage” in what has been a long history of “passion for teaching and service to student life. He set these priorities long ago and has maintained a level of focus and energy that is astonishing.”The Feynman Prize has been endowed through the generosity of Ione and Robert E. Paradise and an anonymous local couple. Some of the most recent winners of the Feynman Prize include Paul Asimow, professor of geology and geochemistry; Morgan Kousser, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of History and Social Science; and Dennis Dougherty, the George Grant Hoag Professor of Chemistry.Nominations for next year’s Feynman Prize for Excellence in Teaching will be solicited in the fall. Further information about the prize can be found on the Provost’s Office website. Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday Home of the Week: Unique Pasadena Home Located on Madeline Drive, Pasadena First Heatwave Expected Next Week Subscribe Pasadena’s ‘626 Day’ Aims to Celebrate City, Boost Local Economy last_img read more

Crowdsourcing nutrition in a snapCrowdsourcing nutrition in a snap

first_imgAmericans spend upwards of $40 billion a year on dieting advice and self-help books, but the first step in any healthy eating strategy is basic awareness — what’s on the plate.If keeping a food diary seems like too much effort, despair not: Computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have devised a tool that lets you snap a photo of your meal and let the crowd do the rest.PlateMate’s calorie estimates have proved, in tests, to be just as accurate as those of trained nutritionists, and more accurate than the user’s own logs. The research was presented at the 24th ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, a leading conference on human-computer interaction.“We can take things that used to require experts and do them with crowds,” says Jon Noronha ’11, who co-developed PlateMate as an undergraduate at Harvard and now works at Microsoft. “Estimating the nutritional value of a meal is a fairly complex task, from a computational standpoint, but with a structured workflow and some cultural awareness, we’ve expanded what crowdsourcing can achieve.”When Noronha and his classmate Eric Hysen ’11 were looking for a real-world challenge to explore, healthy eating was an obvious choice.“Nutrition is such a pervasive issue in our society, from counting calories at the dinner table to burning them on the treadmill,” says Hysen, who now works at Google. “People worry about whether they’re doing the right thing. It seemed like a really good opportunity for crowdsourcing to make a difference.”Often, individuals who claim they are trying to lose weight will underestimate their caloric intake, so PlateMate’s advantage is that it allows the user to quickly consult impartial observers, without having to pay for the advice and supervision of an expert nutritionist.Reproducing the accuracy of an expert in a crowd of untrained strangers, however, was not straightforward.“Computer scientists normally focus on the computational aspects of a problem, but the HR [human resources] issues of working with crowds can be just as challenging,” says Krzysztof Gajos, assistant professor of computer science at SEAS and the students’ adviser.PlateMate works in coordination with Amazon Mechanical Turk, a system originally intended to help improve product listings on Amazon.com. Turkers, as the crowd workers call themselves, receive a few cents for each puzzlelike task they complete.PlateMate divides nutrition analysis into several iterative tasks, asking groups of Turkers to distinguish between foods in the photo, identify what they are, and estimate quantities. The nutrition totals for the meal are then automatically calculated.The researchers did encounter some commonsense problems with sending photographs to strangers without any context. A latte made with whole milk looks no different than one made with skim milk, a fast-food burger might pack in more calories than one cooked at home, and a close-up photo of a bag of chips could indicate either a sample-sized snack or a late-night binge on a bag designed for 12.Early tests also identified some cultural limitations. Overseas Turkers routinely identified a burger bun with ketchup as a muffin with jam.Even after restricting the tests to American workers, Noronha and Hysen discovered that portions of chicken were being characterized as “chicken feet,” again and again. The puzzling result drew their attention to another significant and common problem in crowdsourcing: worker laziness. “Chicken feet” was simply the first option in a list of chicken-related foods, so lazy Turkers were just clicking it and moving on to a new task.Noronha and Hysen solved these problems by designing simple, clearly defined tasks, and algorithms that compare several answers, selecting the best one. They provided warnings about common errors, and vetted their Turkers to weed out those with a history of poor work.The resulting tool is easier and more accurate than keeping a food diary and cheaper than consulting a nutritionist.“Just taking pictures won’t make you healthier,” warns Gajos. “You have to actually reflect on this information. You have to be motivated to change. But if you have this motivation, then PlateMate will make it easier for you to follow through.”In the future, he suggests, some of the contextual problems could be avoided by pairing the photos with location data.Intended primarily as a foray into the capabilities of human-computer systems, PlateMate may not solve, once and for all, the challenge of eating well. It is, however, one of the first attempts to use multiple human-computational approaches to solve a very complex, real-world problem.“A lot of prior crowdsourcing research has been about making crowds do things that we wish computers could do, like shorten an 800-word essay to 500 words and have it still make sense,” explains Noronha. “That’s something computers can almost do, but it’s just beyond their reach.“What makes the nutrition application so interesting as a problem in crowdsourcing is that computers are so very far away from doing it on their own—because food is such a human thing.”Computations and algorithms cannot yet evaluate a meal, but it turns out that they can build an effective workforce. The PlateMate project proves that a well-managed crowd can play the role of an expert, and that opens the door to a wealth of new opportunities.“Any problem that can be broken down into logical steps is a great candidate for crowdsourcing,” says Haoqi Zhang ’07, a doctoral candidate at SEAS who brought crowdsourcing expertise to the PlateMate project. “The only question is, what would you like the crowd to do for you?”“Take, for example, comparing travel packages or making slides for a presentation — most people spend a lot of time on that kind of thing, but if you can effectively organize a crowd to help, it’s like having an expert as a trusty assistant, ready to help at all times.”last_img read more