Honors Stars, Planets, and Cosmos 7th Annual Symposium

This previous Tuesday, December 5th, Dr. Kenneth LaSota’s GEOL1095 class of 14 students put on the course’s annual assigned Research Symposium.  This year’s topic was on Animals In Space, and the class put on quite an entertaining show!  Playing roles as both Soviet and American test animals, NASA scientists, show hosts and PETA protesters, the classmates presented an engaging and informational skit that had the audience laughing and applauding frequently.

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Dr. Kristjanpoller’s Lecture on the Bitcoin

        On Tuesday, October 31, 2017, Professor Werner Kristjanpoller of Universidad Tecnica Federico Santa Maria (UTFSM) in Chile came to speak to us at RMU. A professor of the Industrial Engineering Department at his school, Mr. Kristjanpoller gave an interesting lecture that demonstrated his vast financial knowledge and impressive linguistic skills, despite English not being his native tongue. Throughout his speech, he explained the history of currency, the concept of cryptocurrency, and the positives and negatives of using Bitcoin as a gold standard in the future.

        Originally, when precious metals such as gold were discovered, they were used to create coins. However, because these coins were quite heavy to carry in large quantities, gold “stores” were established. This gold reserve was instigated to ‘back’ the coins in the market with a value everyone trusted; this method was essential to the survival of currency. During the Great Depression, however, many businesses had to declare bankruptcy and sell their gold reserves. When the Depression ended, trusts and bonds were created to replace the need for literal gold to supply the Gold Standard.

        In 2009, the idea of cryptocurrency was proposed. This concept of virtual money creating an initiative for miners to enhance the currency was a breakthrough that sought decentralization. Passwords and codes specific to individuals cannot be traced to an organization or government. Cryptocurrency only generates a number of previously defined units at a rate that is limited by initially established and publicly known value; consequently, the Bitcoin will reach a maximum potential and cap out at some point. A fixed quantity of currencies could be used to avoid inflation. Since 2009, 800 currencies have been created.


        Professor Kristjanpoller then discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using Bitcoin. Several positive aspects include payments that are easy, convenient, secure, irreversible and unaffiliated with any centralized organization or government control. Additionally, there is less risk of fraud because Bitcoin exchanges do not contain personal information or private data. Bitcoin exchanges are neutral and transparent as well, as all information is available in the block chain to anyone who wishes to access it. Some disadvantages of Bitcoin are that many people are still unaware of the concept of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin is still a developing system composed largely of still incomplete features and the total value of Bitcoins in circulation and number of businesses using Bitcoin is very small compared to the potential.

        Overall, I greatly enjoyed this lecture because I was interested to learn more about what Bitcoin is, and I wanted to be more aware of how technology will change our future financially. Professor Werner Kristjanpoller did an excellent job explaining currency and Bitcoin in basic, logical terms to a group primarily composed of intrigued college students.

– Katie Bryant

Political Science Symposium

        The “100 Years of Russian – U.S. Relations Panel” has been one of my favorite events I have attended on campus thus far. The discussion was not only informative, but incredibly varied concerning perspective. The Russian Revolution was discussed (which is marking its hundred year anniversary soon) as well as how this event dramatically changed Russian – U.S. relations and has guided us as two superpowers to the present day. Beyond that, the speakers went in-depth on current Russian – U.S. affairs, the major roadblocks in our respective ideologies, and key diplomatic flashpoints in each of our histories.

        The main aspect of the panel that I appreciated was the varying views that were brought to the table. From Dan Kovalik’s focus on failed U.S. policy and interventions to Dr. Daniel Kempton’s views on the Soviet Union’s involvement in Africa. Dr. Katja Wetzel provided a unique middle ground since she is German who lived in East Germany and witnessed firsthand life under Communist rule. The variation of views made for an incredibly balanced and deep discussion. In the end, despite opposing opinions, the speakers all shook hands, concluding a wonderful Political Science Symposium.

– Ian Stubbs

Tea with the Rooney Scholar

The Center for Global Engagement hosted an honors tea on October 23, with the visiting Rooney Scholar, Dr. Werner Kristjanpoller. At the tea, Dr. Kristjanpoller discussed his background in business and engineering, and the extensive work he has done in each field. He also detailed the current research he is conducting here at Robert Morris University involving Bitcoin. I found this tea to be an excellent opportunity to learn about research being conducted in the engineering and business fields. One area of research that particularly  interested me was Dr. Kristjanpoller’s work with artificial intelligence to predict future behavior and currency trends. Hearing about his successful endeavors builds excitement for my future hope of researching in the field of prosthetics.

-Xiara Long IMG_5642

        Rick Minnich talked to us about his life story, how he ended up in Germany (by total mistake, as he hadn’t even made the decision of what he wanted to do earning his degree), and why he absolutely loves what he does. He went to Columbia University after being born and raised in California. During his junior year there, he studied abroad in Vienna — which really helped him when he did end up living in Germany. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English, spent a few years traveling and going to graduate school (which he ended up dropping out of because of the cost), and took up a career in TV Production all the way over in Lithuania, starting as an intern. He then moved to Germany, found work and a place to stay through his connections, and ultimately obtained his Master’s diploma from a German University.

        Professionally, he primarily makes documentaries. He told us that he has made a few fictional pieces, however he does not prefer to show them because it’s not what he truly enjoys. On average, it takes him about three years to complete a documentary—meaning he usually has several on-going projects that potentially overlap one another. Rick is currently working on two documentaries: the first is about an elderly New York man who was the personal tailor for five different U.S. presidents (including Obama) after surviving a concentration camp in Germany; the second film concerns Russians and Americans working together to try to build an underwater railway tunnel to connect Russia and Alaska. He has to do a significant amount of writing, so his English degree did certainly come in handy.  He lives in Germany, has a German wife, and speaks fluent German with his children.


        The biggest idea we took away from Rick was to study abroad and experience everything. Life will never take you where you think you’ll go — but that can work out as something quite positive, and the people you will meet and the things you will experience will be very worth it. Along with studying abroad, it was highly recommended to us to travel. Live your best life. Do what you want to do.

– Brittany Burmester


Russian Ambassador for the U.S. Embassy Lynne Tracy Speaks at RMU

This previous Monday, October ninth, former Deputy Chief of Mission for the American Embassy in Moscow, Russia — Lynne Tracy — visited Rogal Family Chapel to speak to students.  Detailing everything from her early life experiences to her objectives and lessons learned in Russia, Tracy presented her career path with eloquence.  She kept students both engaged and intrigued, establishing a tone within her speech that encouraged everyone to easily approach her with inquiries.  Tracy emphasized thought-provoking concepts as well, making it clear that although the Russian people are not the most well-off economically, within this demographic are many who possess a dangerously unstoppable knack for computers.  She speculated on Russian interference with our most recent election, and how even the consideration of technological breaches occurring can deeply trouble the American government and its people.  Overall, she addressed the concepts many are hesitant to uncover and analyze, and made her talk a well-worthwhile event to attend.

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– Selene Cerankosky

Career Exploration Launch

This past Wednesday, October fourth, an array of professionals granted RMU students their expertise and advice on careers in the Criminal Justice, Cyber Forensics, Non-Profit, Psychology, and Law fields.  Special guests on the panels included Pittsburgh Executive Police Chief Eric Holmes, Human Services representative Kelly Dillard, litigating attorney Katie Jacobs, among others.  Short mock interviews were also provided for any student willing. The series of events was a wonderful opportunity for any upperclassman students interested in internships within these fields, or simply freshmen and sophomores that are considering careers in the areas presented.

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– Selene Cerankosky