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The Blog of:
Dr. John Smetanka
Academic Affairs

Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January, 2008. Dr. Smetanka, a Latrobe native and Derry Area High School graduate, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1989 from Carnegie Mellon, and a Master of Science degree in 1991 and a Ph.D. in 1997 in astronomy and astrophysics from the University of Chicago. In addition to teaching a wide variety of courses in physics, astronomy, geology, and chemistry Dr. Smetanka has been involved in numerous projects and committees during the past decade at Saint Vincent. He held leadership positions in many of these initiatives, including service as chair of the Educational Policy Committee, Science and Theology Forum, the Lancy Scholars Program, and remains director of the Honors Program. As part of the Math and Science Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Dr. Smetanka has taken part in a number of workshops both locally within the partnership and also at the National Academy of Sciences on the evaluation and implementation of best practices for undergraduate science and mathematics education. Dr. Smetanka has been honored at Saint Vincent with the presentation of the Quentin Schaut Faculty Award in 1999, the Distinguished Faculty Award by Pathways to Success in 2002, and the Student Government Association Award in 2004. He is the author or co-author of numerous publications and presentations including his most recent peer-reviewed journal article with Dr. Anis Maize (Saint Vincent College, Department of Physics) “The Electric Polarizability of a Particle Bound by a Double-Delta Potential” published in the May 2008 European Journal of Physics.

Prior to joining the faculty at Saint Vincent, Dr. Smetanka served as Vice President for Research and Development for On Target Mapping, a Pittsburgh-based software company specializing in the development of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). Dr. Smetanka lives in Latrobe with his wife Sharon, daughter Lindsay, and two sons, Logan and Brent.

Dr. Smetanka's CV  

  • First Light at the Saint Vincent College Observatory, the Perseid Meteor Shower 2014, and a Close Encounter with a Comet

    Posted Mon., August 11, 2014

     This has been an exciting summer at Saint Vincent. In addition to the 49th Steelers training camp and a number of other large groups visiting campus, the College’s observatory housing our 14 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope saw its first light.

  • Amazing Discoveries and an Eclipse during Holy Week

    Posted Wed., April 9, 2014

    The past three months have seen a number of amazing discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics.  During holy week we will be treated to a lunar eclipse - you are invited to join the Astronomy class for viewing.

  • December Commencement - Remembering the Wisdom of Fred Rogers and Carrying his Legacy Forward

    Posted Tue., December 31, 2013

    The fall semester came to an end last week with final exams and December commencement. The last lesson of the semester was a wonderful commencement address by Hedda Sharapan. 

  • Fall Break, Midterm, and Columbus Day

    Posted Tue., October 15, 2013
    Fall break comes at midterm and affords an important opportunity to reflect on the first seven weeks of the semester, review early progress grades, and assess what steps can be taken in the next nine weeks to ensure a successful finish.  Columbus day also occurs over fall break and is perhaps the most contentious of all federal holidays.  Columbus provides a good example of the complex nature of  history and the necessity to view the past from several different perspectives to see the complete picture.
  • The Importance of Fundamental Questions

    Posted Thu., June 13, 2013

    Woody Allan once joked that he was thrown out of N.Y.U. his freshman year for cheating on his metaphysics final. He looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to him. I fear that we do not pay enough

  • A Planetary Conjunction for Sky Gazers over the Memorial Day Weekend

    Posted Wed., May 22, 2013
    This Memorial Day weekend offers some great sky gazing opportunities including a three planet conjunction and the possibility of aurora.
  • Honors Convocation, the Tenth Annual Saint Vincent Academic Conference, and the Largest Science Experiment in History

    Posted Mon., April 22, 2013

    Saint Vincent’s Honors Convocation and Academic Conference are Wednesday, April 24. This year Dr. Michael Williams C'01 will be the speaker.  Dr. Williams is an MIT Physics Professor and works on the experiments that discovered the Higgs Boson.  He will be giving a public lecture on Thursday, April 25th at 7pm in the Luparello Lecture Hall.

  • Spring Break in Beijing with the Honors Program

    Posted Thu., March 14, 2013

    The Honors Program's Spring Break trip to China included many of the most famous tourist sites along with some educational stops off the path most traveled.  We met old friends including SVC alums teaching in Beijing and made new friends.

  • A Near Miss Reminds Us of the Solar System's Formation and Continued Evolution

    Posted Mon., February 11, 2013
    On Friday an asteroid will pass within 17,000 miles of Earth's service.  While presenting no danger, this flyby presents an opportunity to reflect on the processes that formed and continue to shape the solar system.
  • Groundhogs Day and February Nights

    Posted Fri., February 1, 2013

    Groundhogs Day may be a western Pennsylvania0-created holiday to break the monotony of winter but it is also provides the setting and title for a pretty good movie that provokes philosophical thought with an uplifting theme. The February night sky can also be uplifting with brilliant stars and the planet Jupiter shining directly overhead. 

  • Cheating and the Importance of Integrity

    Posted Mon., January 21, 2013
    Last week, sports again provided examples of the importance of integrity. Unfortunately, cheating is not limited to sports. A number of reports paint a disturbing picture of academic dishonesty across the United States. While the saga of Mr. Armstrong may make entertaining theatre, like the Greek tragedies, important lessons should be learned from his story.
  • Please, No Mayan Apocalypse Prediction for 2013 and other Musings on Resolutions

    Posted Fri., December 28, 2012

    New Years affords a natural opportunity for reflection and planning a chance to look back over the past year and forward to the next. Resolutions help us set the goals we need to keep improving ourselves.  

  • God Bless Newtown, and Help Us All

    Posted Tue., December 18, 2012
    Mr. Rogers' wisdom for helping children deal with tragic events.
  • A Warm Spot on Cool Mornings and a Smaller than Typical Full Moon

    Posted Mon., December 3, 2012

    Look for a pleasant warm spot on the plaza in front of the Dupre Pavilion caused by multiple reflections of the Sun.  Also, if you were impressed by the brilliance of the full moon last week you might be surprised to know that it was actually the smallest full moon of 2012. 

  • A Busy Week at the College including a Conversation about Faith and Reason – Science and Religion

    Posted Sat., November 17, 2012

    A few events from a typical week on the campus of Saint Vincent College are highlighted in this blog post.  Every week brings a number of events to campus worthy of attendance. Most are free and open to the public. Keep an eye on the home page for upcoming events.

  • The Presidential Election Debate

    Posted Fri., October 26, 2012

    Last night we had a fabulous opportunity to hear two very distinguished public servants debate the issues central to this year’s Presidential election. Dr. Brad Watson, Professor and Chairperson of the Politics department was the moderator asking

  • Homecoming, the Fall Sky, and Two Exciting Discoveries

    Posted Fri., October 5, 2012
    Homecoming weekend harkens the fall sky gazing season.  In addition, two very interesting discoveries were announced in the past week - one may bring an exciting, unexpected addition to the fall sky next year.
  • Spinning Tops and the Precession of the Equinoxes

    Posted Mon., September 24, 2012
    The spinning of a top can be fascinating.  This motion can explain a great deal about the gradual change in the seasons and the positions of stars on the celestial sphere.
  • Football Must Evolve

    Posted Mon., September 10, 2012

    Full disclosure, I love football. As I type this on Sunday morning, I am watching the college football highlights on ESPN. Simultaneously, I am looking forward to the opening Steelers game tonight.

  • Rest in Peace Neil Armstrong

    Posted Mon., August 27, 2012

    The sentence he spoke on July 20, 1969 from 250,000 miles away on the powdery regolith of the Sea of Tranquility is one of the most memorable quotes in the English language.