Thursday, October 31, 2013

Google’s Hummingbird takes flight

By Vicky Ludas Orlofsky

  In late September, Google announced that it had completely updated its search algorithm for the first time since the early 2000s. Code-named Hummingbird and set to coincide with Google’s 15th anniversary, the new algorithm brings the ability to recognize conversational queries, which had already existed in Google’s Knowledge Graph, to the whole search engine.

  Unlike the article databases here at Samuel C. Williams Library, which require very specific search terminology, Google’s conversational approach to search can be useful when you are looking for something straightforward: “how old is halloween,” for example (answer: the term itself dates to the 18th century). This is especially true if you’re speaking the search query through your phone, a major reason Google adopted the Hummingbird algorithm. But it works less well when you need something more specific to an assignment: “(green OR sustainable) energy AND financing” brings back companies that produce green products, not scholarly articles that discuss it. Google Scholar (which does not, as far as I know, use Hummingbird) helps in this case, and can link you to what we have available through Samuel C. Williams Library -- especially if you choose Stevens through the “Library links” option in Settings -- but if a document is not available online, then Google Scholar’s usefulness is limited. As Boeker et al. put it, “Google Scholar is dependent on the fundamental accessibility of scientific texts over the internet or the will of the publishers and libraries to cooperate and open their repositories for indexing” (2013 pre-print). Of course, whatever we do not have you can get via Interlibrary Loan/Document Delivery Service, which is handy.

  For more on Hummingbird and other recent changes in Google’s search tools, see the articles below. When you read these, remember to evaluate them using the C.R.A.P. test (Currency, Reliability, Authority, Purpose/Point-of-View), especially if it’s from a source with which you’re not familiar. Who is the author, and who is the intended audience? What are the author’s sources? How objective (or not) is the article?

Boeker, M.; Vach, W.; and Motschall, E. (2013). Google Scholar as replacement for systematic literature searches: good relative recall and precision are not enough. BMC Medical Research Methodology 13(131) [pre-print]. DOI:10.1186/1471-2288-13-131

Halloween. (2013, October 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 31, 2013, from

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

1st Decade of Women at Stevens -An Interview with Alum Eleni Coyle

Pictures of Eleni Coyle, her husband Jim Coyle, her roommate, and friends.

Part 2 of Ada's Legacy Series. This Friday the College of Arts and Letters will be hosting a conference, "An interdisciplinary Conference Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace". The Library wants to celebrate the legacy of Ada Lovelace by posting blogs by Stevens Students written during Professor Lee Vinsel's, History of Stevens course last semester about the history of women at Stevens. The students researched the library's special collections to discover pictures and information about this important time.

By Dana Lyons & Devin Corson, Class of '13
 As women at Stevens in the new millennium, it would be really interesting to find out what life at Stevens was like in the very first decade women entered.  Eleni Coyle entered the Stevens community in 1979 and graduated in 1983 with her Bachelors and Masters in Chemical Engineering.  She was able to give us some perspective on the end of this first decade of women at Stevens.

The journey of being a woman at Stevens begins before freshman year—the women must be brought up strong and confident.  In Eleni’s case, her father was the role model in her life that made it possible to earn her degree.  Reflecting upon her fond memories Eleni notes, “When I was a teenager he had instilled in me that I could have the same career goals as my brothers, if I wanted to, and that a good career is fundamental to a secure future.  He had instilled a love of math to me and he had also brought me with him to various factories where I became curious as to the operation of machinery etc., leading me to study engineering.”

The professors at Stevens welcomed the idea of women attending with open arms, as far as Eleni could tell.  With a bit of a smirk she stated, “My professors were fair minded people.  Having said that, I will never forget the rare exception to my previous statement, where even though I was sitting in the front row, a certain professor insisted in greeting the class as "Hello gentlemen".  I heard that he later transferred to NJIT :)” Eleni was offered the position of Head Physics proctor, and later when she was studying for her masters at Stevens she received a Fellowship from the Plastics Institute of America.

The class sizes were smaller then, and the women in each were definitely in short supply.  She mentioned that there were only 5 women who graduated with her in the Chemical Engineering department in ’83.  However, she and the women around her did not feel hindered in any way due to their gender.  They felt like they could do anything.  Even as few as they were they made their presence known and made a huge splash both in and out of the classroom by joining extracurricular activates.  Eleni even cofounded the Philosophy Club. Eleni went on to work at various companies doing chemical engineering, but eventually found her passion teaching high school seniors Chemistry and Physics.

To wrap up her feelings about her stay at Stevens she said, “My overall experience at Stevens was outstanding and that is why I was very happy when three of my four sons decided to attend Stevens.  Academically it prepared me with a rigorous curriculum. It empowered me to know that I could handle any job.  Personally, I met my husband there so that was an added perk :)” Side note: she and her husband were freshman chemistry lab partners.  We will leave you to enjoy how ironic and the endearing that fact is.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ada's Legacy: Women at Stevens

This Friday the College of Arts and Letters will be hosting a conference, "An interdisciplinary Conference Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace". The Library wants to celebrate the legacy of Ada Lovelace by posting blogs by Stevens Students written during Professor Lee Vinsel's, History of Stevens course last semester about the history of women at Stevens.

By Dana Lyons & Devin Corson, Class of '13

Overview of Women at Stevens
This series of entries is intended to tell the reader a story about what it was like to be a woman at Stevens over the last four decades.  It will showcase the experiences of four incredible women, one from each decade, intermingled with key implementations focused on women at Stevens. 
Stevens was one of the last engineering schools to begin accepting women into the student body.  All female applicants would receive what was called a “no tomato” letter from the Stevens admissions office, sarcastically declining their admission.   The 1971 the Stevens Indicator released the results of a poll taken before the co-ed change that showed a high majority of students favored having female undergraduates on campus.  Out of 861 responses, 651 said yes, 179 said no, and 31 had no opinion.  Sure enough in 1971, 19 females were admitted into the incoming class of 387 members.  Lenore Schupack (below) entered Stevens with this first female class, earned her degree in just three years, and became the first female to graduate in 1974. 

The women were housed on the third floor of the “relatively luxurious” dormitories called the Married Student Apartments (now the Castle Point Apartments).  When asked by administrators if they wanted to be segregated or randomly mixed among the men, the women opted to be equals and were scattered into the same classes, overwhelmingly outnumbered by men.  By 1974, the women’s fencing team was in full swing, being the first women’s Varsity team at Stevens that was also coached by the Duck’s first female coach, Linda Uallhammer. 

In 1977, the Office of Special Programs for Women was implemented, which worked to increase the numbers of young women in pursuing careers in engineering and science.  This office presented several major programs to the women in the Stevens community, including the Society of Women Engineers chapter; residential Women in Engineering Summer Program for high school women; Women in Engineering Symposia for students, teachers, and administrators; and the Women in Engineering Network for young women considering careers in engineering.  The first national sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, came to Stevens in 1982, followed by the second national sorority at Stevens, Delta Phi Epsilon, in 1985. Soon afterwards a local sorority, Omicron Pi, was formed and eventually become the third and final national sorority at Stevens, Theta Phi Alpha.   Read along with us as we trace the journey of a few strong and influential women at Stevens throughout the decades.