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College of Science

DAN COX Class of 2008

His dream: To become a surgeon

MRI scans of a brain

“Weber State offered so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten at other, larger schools.”

Endoscopic skull base surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that allows surgeons to remove tumors and lesions through the nose versus a large opening in the skull.


The average rate of WSU students accepted to medical school over the last seven years, which is well above the national acceptance rate of 38 percent over the same time period

From Weber to Emory University’s Endoscopic Skull Base Surgery Fellowship

When then-cabinet builder Daniel Cox enrolled at Weber State in 2004, he wasn’t sure he’d enjoy science, so he decided to take his required science classes first, just to get them out of the way.

It was a good decision.

He recalled, “I wasn’t a good student in high school, but during my freshman year at Weber, a microbiology course opened my eyes. 

"I remember going home and reading  my textbook, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The next day I was sanding cabinets — I loved to work with my hands — and all of a sudden I just stopped, looked at a coworker and said, ‘I’m going to go to medical school.’”

Fast forward to June 20, 2017.

Cox and his wife, Tori Edwards Cox, had just welcomed their fourth child into the world at 2 a.m. Daniel was days away from finishing his ENT residency at the University of Utah Hospital. He was weeks away from moving his family to Atlanta, where he would be participating in an endoscopic skull base surgery fellowship at Emory University.

“Weber State offered so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten at other, larger schools,” Cox said. “During my first anatomy class at medical school (at Washington University of St. Louis), the professor asked how many of us had performed dissections on human cadavers. I’m surrounded by students who had attended Harvard and Yale, and only three people raised their hands.

“I was one of them, thanks to Weber State.”

A Bright Star in the WSU Universe

Physics professor Stacy Palen may research the death of sun-like stars, but her teaching and community outreach bring life to the study of astronomy.

As director of the Ott Planetarium, Palen has inspired thousands of school children and other audiences to look up and ask questions. She has written several grants and secured funding, including $1 million from NASA, to upgrade planetarium facilities and resources, such as production of full-dome video for the planetarium environment.

Palen has used many of the world’s great telescopes, including Hubble. On NPR’s popular show, Science Friday, she discussed the telescope that will succeed Hubble, and what it may reveal about the cosmos. At Weber State, she has advised several astronomy projects, one of which is to develop the infrastructure and program for two observatories on top of the new Tracy Hall Science Center.

Palen is the author of two introductory astronomy textbooks and a workbook for hands-on learning activities. Her text, Understanding Our Universe, has been adopted by more than 100 university programs.

Palen says her honor as a 2017 Brady Distinguished Professor is both motivating and validating: “Being recognized for the work I have done with students has made me ‘double-down’ on trying to do it even better.”


‘Atmosniffing’ Out Air Pollution

Instead of seeking shelter in the mountains from Utah’s winter inversions, members of WSU’s High Altitude Reconnaissance Balloon for Outreach and Research (HARBOR) team stayed in the valley to send their tethered balloon 500 feet above Ogden to obtain samples of the smoggy air.

The team’s own patent-pending “AtmoSniffer,” which measures the particulate matter floating in the air, was attached to the balloon. Particulate matter — one aspect of poor air quality — forms after ozone, nitrogen and ammonia mix. During inversions, pollutants become trapped in the valleys until storm systems push them out.

In January 2017, the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, launched a large-scale study, in collaboration with state agencies, Weber State’s HARBOR team and other universities, to collect air-quality data. As John Sohl, the WSU physics professor who oversees HARBOR, told the Standard-Examiner, “It was an effort to make the largest set of measurements of winter inversions ever done.”

The results will eventually be used to help Utah clean the air.

The HARBOR team features WSU undergraduates and alumni from a variety of science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, and even local high school students. The group presented preliminary findings at the Air Quality: Science for Solutions conference in Salt Lake City in March 2017.