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Cal Poly Pomona Experts Guide


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California’s deadliest wildfire is now 100% contained. The Camp Fire in Butte County killed 84 people, destroyed 14,000 homes and burned 153,000 acres. The Woolsey Fire in Los Angeles and Ventura County killed 3 people, destroyed 1,600 structures and charred 96,000 acres, including more than 80% of the Santa Monica Mountains federal parkland. Soils in both areas now have greatly reduced ability to absorb rain flows and can lead to runoff problems and debris flows depending on coming storms.


Douglas Kent, an expert on firescaping and an adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona, can discuss steps homeowners can take to protect wildfire-scorched yards from rain and foster growth and the types of plants that can help protect property from fire. A specialist in ecological land management, he is the author of Firescaping: Creating fire-resistant properties, landscapes, and gardens in California’s diverse environments (2005) and the principal of Douglas Kent + Associates. He has been working in California’s landscapes for over 30 years.


“With homeowners in wildfire zones returning to their properties, a new battle begins: protecting their precious topsoil before the winter rains begin. Fires cook the waxes that are natural to our soils. When these waxes cool, they coat the first inch of soil with a repellent layer, stopping water from infiltrating.


“Resist the urge to dump mulch on the property. It won’t stop erosion, but it will stifle the new growth of weeds and other seeds that are crucial to holding the damaged soil in place. We need to hold our ground, so try to shrug off the fire fatigue and do these things as soon as you can:


“Dampen your soil – This first watering should be super light — use a fine spray to dampen only the top quarter-inch of the soil. Once the soil starts absorbing those little showers, begin deeper waterings. Then break out the hoes, clear drainage systems, take steps to divert runoff, tread lightly or not at all on damaged soils.”


Erin Questad is an expert on wildlands restoration post-wildfires and an associate professor of biological sciences at Cal Poly Pomona. Her research combines high-resolution remote sensing data with field-based studies to improve wildland restoration outcomes in dry ecosystems. Following wildfires in the Angeles National Forest, one project involve mapping vegetation change to identify sites that might have the best success with human intervention. A second project is testing how to select which restoration treatments to use in different areas of the Angeles National Forest.


“California ecosystems are adapted to fire and many of them will recover naturally. For ecosystems that were healthiest, they will likely not need human intervention. Climate change, the drought and the presence of invasive species however make it harder for some ecosystems to recover naturally.”


“The fires have presented an opportunity to implement some restoration plans that were already taking shape to repair drought damage, such as replanting native species and removing invasive species.”


“I recently completed a mapping project in the Santa Monica Mountains looking for places where restoration would be most successful. We used terrain modelling to find sweet spots, highly suitable places where plant growth is a bit faster. This might be an area that has a little more water or is a little more protected from the wind. We can find and map those places where the plants will be a little happier, and we can begin there to replant native plants that have been grown in greenhouses. This method is really useful after fires when it is too dangerous to physically visit some places. We can still collect data from above to help with post-fire restoration planning.”


Douglas Kent can be reached at 714-308-3547 or by email at and His university webpage is


Erin Questad can be reached at 785-766-1573, 909-869-4206 or by email at Her lab webpage can be found at


Cal Poly Pomona has earned a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) grant to identify promising research and development projects on campus and help find ways to commercialize them. The university is only one of three CSUs and one of 10 institutions in California to be awarded the grant.


The grant provides opportunities for students to collaborate with faculty and industry to bring their ideas and research to market by forming I-Corps teams. The teams will tap into technical, entrepreneurial and mentorship expertise to generate products the public can use.


The grant also provides Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty and staff with access to NSF’s National Innovation Network. The network’s resources include about $50,000 each year in funding to assist successful I-Corps teams to determine the feasibility of launching successful ventures and participation in a national network of I-Corps teams and mentors to aid their success.


I-Corps has a strong track record in successfully translating research into products and services with commercial appeal. In the past five years, approximately half of the 1,000 I-Corps teams have gone on to start new ventures.


“Cal Poly Pomona’s strategic aspiration, to quote President Coley, is ‘to be the epicenter of creativity, innovation and discovery,’ said Business Professor Olukemi Sawyer, founding director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab). “I believe our participation in the NSF National Innovation Network will contribute to our ability to attain our aspiration as an institution.”


According to Sawyerr, one of the many reasons Cal Poly Pomona earned the grant was due to the existing “infrastructure to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the iLab.”


Sawyerr will serve as principal investigator on the grant and will work with an interdisciplinary team of faculty members. Co-principal investigators are Winny Dong, chemical and materials engineering professor and founding director of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), and Sadiq Shah, associate vice president for Research, Innovation and Economic Development.


Faculty members Yu Sun from the College of Science, Trayan Kushev from the College of Business Administration and Olive Li from the Huntley College of Agriculture join Sawyerr, Dong and Shah on the teaching team. They will be responsible for teaching and training Cal Poly Pomona I-Corps teams.


“NSF is looking for ways to support the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation of our academic experience to better prepare the 21st century workforce for start-ups or corporate career paths, and translating ideas into products or services,” said Shah.

Cal Poly Pomona is launching a Cyber Security Instructional Research Project (CSIRP) that will promote innovative teaching, research and collaboration.


The project, which integrates existing campus IT services, will be a cross-disciplinary hub that offers collaborative lab and office space, equipment and high-performance computing resources to faculty and students for cyber-security research and teaching.


Cyber security is a critical topic worldwide, with daily news reports of data breaches.


“Our faculty and students are working with large technology organizations to explore the essential themes of cyber security — how we design, develop and support IT systems that are reliable, effective and secure,” said John McGuthry, chief information officer and vice president for information technology & institutional planning. “Our new initiative leverages the university’s resources and the expertise of our faculty and students to address pressing challenges in today’s connected world.”


The CSIRP is launching with these initial services:

  • Collaborative research space for faculty and shared spaces for students
  • A cyber security student lab for teaching and research
  • Cloud-based virtual computing, storage and lab infrastructure
  • Access to high-performance computer cluster services for teaching and research


While other universities may offer similar resources, integrating a variety of services into a single hub on campus is unique, according to Peter Deutsch, chief technology officer.


Deutsch envisions CSIRP benefiting faculty and students from numerous disciplines, not just those in engineering, computer science and computer information systems.


“If you think about the wide range of types and volume of data that is out there — patient medical records, credit card info, social media accounts – these are all cross-disciplinary issues,” he said. “The cyber-security work we’re doing is very hands-on and prepares students for work in a high-demand industry.”


The first project housed by CSIRP is a student-run security operations center and malware analysis lab funded by Northrop Grumman and led jointly by computer information systems Professor Ron Pike and computer science Professor Mohammad Husain. The cross-disciplinary project involves students from both disciplines who work together to learn in the hands-on environment, prepare for the workforce, and also give back to the campus as student assistants in the information security office, according to Pike and Husain.


“IT is a service and support partner for faculty and students,” said Carol Gonzales, chief information security officer and associate vice president for IT security and compliance. “This new instructional research project provides an opportunity for our campus staff to work with faculty and students to address current and future security challenges.”


The CSIRP is launching this fall. CSIRP will have dedicated offices in Building 91 and on the fifth floor of the classroom side of the CLA Building.


For more information, contact Carol Gonzales at or Peter Deutsch at or visit

Sometimes it’s money for tuition that slows a student’s path to graduation. Sometimes it’s not being able to get that final class needed for a degree. Cal Poly Pomona tackled both obstacles with an innovative Summer Completion Initiative.


The result: an impressive 93% degree completion rate for participants. 


What’s Unique: Free Tuition and More, as Well as Guaranteed Classes

Last spring, Cal Poly Pomona reached out to more than 1,000 students who were 8 units or fewer from completing their degree and encouraged them to apply for new summer completion grants that would cover tuition, books and supplies, parking and an on-campus food allowance. In one case, it also covered on-campus housing for the five-week summer term. Of the 394 who applied, 327 received grants averaging between $2,450 and $3,200.


Among recipients, 62% were Pell Grant eligible, 61.8% were first-generation college students, and 50% were from historically under-represented groups. The cohort’s 93 % degree completion rate significantly improved the university’s equity gaps for both categories.


“We funded students regardless of financial aid status,” said Terri Gomez, associate vice president for student success. “This was a huge investment and quite a remarkable effort. It required cross-divisional collaboration between many departments across the university. And it resulted in incredible success.”


Ensured the necessary classes were taught

An important element of the program was ensuring that the classes the students needed were going to be taught in the summer session. To that end, the administration worked with each college to ensure that the classes were offered. Faculty who agreed to teach the courses were offered stipends to participate in a workshop to transform the course into a successful five-week format. Faculty also received a low enrollment waiver, which ensured they would receive full pay regardless of the number of students taking the needed classes.


Private/Public Funding

“The initiative speaks to the importance of using public/private funding to support student success and to address equity gaps,” Gomez said. The budget for the student grants was $759,182 and funded by the Kellogg Legacy Foundation. No state money was used for the student-related costs. The university funded the faculty stipends.


The Summer Completion Initiative played a significant role in Cal Poly Pomona’s success in improving graduation rates and lowering equity gaps. For 2017-18, Cal Poly Pomona was one of only two California State University campuses to improve on all six of the measures tracked in the system’s Graduation Initiative 2025 (GI 2025) – freshman four-year graduation rate, freshman six-year graduation rate, transfer two-year graduation rate, transfer four-year graduation rate, reducing the equity gap for under-represented students, and reducing the equity gap for Pell Grant recipients.


At the GI 2025 Symposium in October, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White noted that, “The sooner a student graduates, the sooner she can go on to secure a job. For many new alumni, this opens doors to helping their families, helping them secure a more financially stable future, build savings accounts sooner and jump-start their careers.


“If you, as a student, earn your degree just one term earlier,” said White, “you’ll have an immediate savings of over $13,000 and a longer term gain of about $31,000 — just by graduating one term sooner.”


The summer program at Cal Poly Pomona launched 304 students into their careers and graduate studies at least one term sooner and opened that many more seats for the next group of incoming students.


Cal Poly Pomona, known for its hands-on approach to learning, has approximately 26,000 students. Students work on average 20 hours per week, 76 percent are eligible to receive federal financial aid, and over 50 percent of students are the first in their family to attend college.


A group of 65 Cal Poly Pomona students accepted the NASA eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge and designed and built a functional, innovative prototype that increases functionality for human space exploration missions.


The Mars habitation module (CPP-HAB), created by students in architecture and civil engineering classes, was inspired by a ‘roly poly’ bug and funded by a $30,000 competitive NASA grant.


The CPP-HAB “was selected for demonstration with virtual reality and a physical mockup because it showcased a unique strategy for mobility and transformation of the surface habitat,” according to the NASA X-Hab website.


Cal Poly Pomona was one of only four teams that “conducted studies and developed partial system mockups featuring commonalities among Mars transit and surface habitat designs.”


Since it was completed in May, CPP-HAB has been presented at five professional conferences. Its final stop was the 2018 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Space Forum in Orlando, Fla., in mid-September.


The challenge was to design a strategy for commonality between an interplanetary vehicle (IPV) spaceship and a Mars surface habitat accommodating the planet’s partial gravity. The CPP-HAB has fully adaptable and reconfigurable parts contained within a lander-sized canister. Once the canister is deployed on the Martian surface, four pod-shaped modules are released and can roll themselves to the designated site. The crew arrives in a separate lander as the pods open. Once pressurized, the crew will move from the lander to the pods.


Quarter-scale mock-up in unrolled position.
Quarter-scale mock-up in unrolled position.

Essentially, the transformation via the pods unrolling makes it possible for the habitat used to travel to Mars to be used as living space on the planet, just in a different configuration. In this way, the crewmembers will be familiar with the layout, function and location throughout the expedition.


The design addresses critical aspects such as the structural integrity and a sound propulsion system necessary to withstand space travel; functionality on zero-gravity and in the Martian gravitational environment; mobility on the planet surface; radiation shielding and weightlessness response, said Professor Michael Fox, who taught the Architecture Topic Studio and served as the project lead.


Each pod unrolls to 30.4 meters in length, 4 meters in width and 4.5 meters high. Once connected, the habitat encompasses a greenhouse, laboratory, medical bay, kitchen, gym, hygiene room, two bedrooms, a leisure/conference room, the control room and life support system. The pods can be connected in various ways including end-to-end or perpendicular to each other to make a larger connected habitation system.


Small-scale robotics were used on a miniature scale model to test unrolling and mobility on a “replicated” Martian terrain. Finally, a full-scale prototype was constructed using hollow section tubes, plywood sheathing, and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) fabric – a durable, weather-resistant woven fiberglass membrane coated in Teflon.  The prototype was then developed using an immersive Augmented Reality (AR) and refined with full Virtual Reality (VR) models of the rolled and unrolled habitats.


The CPP-HAB project team included Assistant Professor Marc Schulitz, from the architecture department as co-principal investigator and Lecturer Mikhail Gershfeld from civil engineering department, with mentoring from the firms Astrotecture Gehry Technologies and Design Technology/HNTB Architecture. For more information about CPP-HAB at the AIAA Space Forum, visit

Innovation Orchard is a new open-space environment for student startup teams to discuss ideas, collaborate, and reach their entrepreneurial goals. Founded by the Cal Poly Pomona iLab and located at Ganesha High School, the space gives students the resources to implement their ideas.


The 2,100-square-foot Innovation Orchard has 25 pieces of equipment, multiple maker stations, and tables and seating for collaborating and brainstorming. Some of the equipment includes 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering irons, table saws, belt sanders, and a CNC router and mill. Innovation Orchard also has a large conference room for students to present their prototypes or marketing strategies.


The space can house up to eight to 12 startup teams at one time and around 80 people for larger events. Armando Cordero, an Innovation Orchard lab technician, says he hopes to continue to see an increase of Ganesha high and CPP student partnerships at the lab to utilize its full potential for innovation.


For more information, visit the IO website or watch the video.


A new center at Cal Poly Pomona will offer students an opportunity to take a deeper look at important issues facing Californians.


The California Center of Ethics and Policy (CCEP) was launched with the financial support of a university emeritus faculty member and will be fully operational in spring 2019.


The CCEP held its first event on Oct. 9 – an election fair that included a voter registration drive and representatives for and against propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot.


Philosophy Professor Michael Cholbi, director of the CCEP, said that while many universities have similar centers, Cal Poly Pomona’s is distinct in that it focuses on ethics and political issues in which California has a role to play. The center plans to tether its program to a different theme each year.


For the 2018-19 academic year, the focus will be on healthcare access and healthcare justice. The 2019-20 session will grapple with war and the military in California culture and the economy.


“We want to try to help students and other members of our campus community be more engaged and think more deeply about the ethical issues we face,” Cholbi said. “We feel the center fits well into the university’s Strategic Plan and has the potential to create students who are effective leaders and reflective citizens.”


Components of the program include a semester-long three-unit advanced seminar, in which students must apply to be fellows, and a student conference that will feature original research. Experts also will come to campus to give public lectures related to the seminar’s focus.


“What we’re doing is a strong fit for the direction the university is heading,” he said. “Of course, we need to train people to be engineers and for other professions, but we also need to teach them to be democratic members of society.”


Last year, a donor approached Sharon Hilles, the former dean of the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences, about creating an ethics center that would deal with issues that affect Californians.


Iris Levine, the college’s current dean, was serving as associate dean when she and Hilles discussed the possibility of creating the center after the success of the philosophy department’s Ethics Bowl competition.


The center will offer opportunities to enhance student success, community engagement, social and environmental responsibility, and civic engagement, as well as bolster the university’s academic reputation, Levine said.


“I believe that in a very short period of time, the university will be known for the work happening at the California Center of Ethics and Policy and that we will be looked at as a beacon for discovery and discussion with respect to issues that directly impact the citizens of California,” she said.


Philosophy Professor David Adams, who will teach the first seminar, recalls that his department previously had a less formal and not as well-funded Institute for Ethics and Policy that was disbanded in 2009-10 because of budgetary cuts. The new center will be more robust in what it offers, Adams said.


“This a game-changer because we can do things with the center we weren’t able to do in previous years,” he said.


Adams’ seminar will look at the moral and social issues surrounding healthcare, such as how it should be distributed, who should and should not get access to expensive medication, and whether universal healthcare is a viable option in California.


“The students that we have at Cal Poly Pomona today are going to be the people who will increasingly be faced with these problems,” he said. “The questions addressed in this year’s seminar have to do with the allocation of healthcare and access — questions that cannot be answered without careful deliberation. It is important for our students to start thinking about these problems now because soon they are going to be the ones making the decisions.”


Students are invited to apply to the Ethics and Policy Fellows program. The application for 2019 Fellows is Nov. 1. Visit for more information.

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