Todd Shimoda Likes the Variety

(Note: The following article is the first of many we will write with the goal of introducing you to members of Information Technology Services and work that is being done with members of our community.)

Todd Shimoda, Academic Applications Manager, is a member of the Instructional and Research Services group of Pomona College Information Technology Services. In his role, he works with faculty of various departments to assist them in building technology into research projects. Instructional and Research Services in Pomona College ITS provides resources and services to promote the use of technology in both the teaching and learning and the research environment.

Among Todd’s accomplishments, his work with Professor Jessica Borelli of the Psychology Department stands out, working as he had with facilitation and the utilization of multiple technologies to assist her in accruing data for her research. According to Professor Borelli, “Todd Shimoda’s assistance has been invaluable in supporting [her] research in the Pomona CARE (Child Attachment, Relationships and Emotion) Lab.” This lab studies parent-child relationships and emotion, and Professor Borelli is often in search of ways to simulate and standardize experiences one has in the parenting role so that they can be studied in a controlled, systematic way. Thus far, Todd has created two simulated parenting computer programs – the “Crybaby task”, which presents participants with a digital crying baby and they are asked to soothe the baby using a variety of tools (diaper change, blanket, bottle, rocking).

In fact, the baby is “unsoothable,” and the actual point of the task is to measure parents’ distress tolerance, or their ability to persist in trying new combinations of soothing techniques. Professor Borelli is interested in how this parenting distress tolerance relates to other factors, such as parents’ own history of being parented. Todd has also designed a second task measuring parental sensitivity – we call this the “Lunch-making Task” – participants are shown an image of a refrigerator and cupboard and are asked to make 3 lunches (ostensibly for 3 different children).

Participants are told the children’s dietary preferences and have to look inside of the fridge and cupboard to assemble the lunches. In the background, children’s voices make several statements to the parent, and at the end of the task, the parent is asked to recall what the children said. Borelli considers this a measure of parenting multitasking, which may be a component of parenting sensitivity, and used it in a project measuring parents’ ADHD symptoms and their association with parenting multitasking. In sum, Todd’s technical expertise and creativity have enabled Professor Borelli and her students to create novel experimental contexts in which to examine their research questions.

Another place where Todd has spent his time and expertise is over in Physics where he has been assisting David Tanenbaum, Professor of Physics and current Chair of Physics and Astronomy, in different techniques for management and sharing of files accrued by the department’s scanning electron microscope.

This microscope is attached to a PC and is used by researchers both in Pomona College and among our consortial partners. Images are stored from it to the PC hard drive but Professor Tanenbaum wanted to make them accessible outside of the lab.

The images are synced up from the local drive to a network drive and from there they are synced to Box, a cloud storage and collaboration service ITS has arranged for the College (more information about Box). Each researcher has his/her own folder and this eliminates a need for them to have or use their own account and also removes the temptation to use a thumbdrive (with its potential as a vector for infection).

Meanwhile in Biology, Professor Daniel Martinez, obtained an NIH grant supporting his research of hydra. Hydra are apparently small fresh-water animals that appear not to age or die of old age. In Todd’s words, hydra are “bags of stem cells that live forever.” Professor Martinez runs DNA and RNA analyses of hydra under stress conditions and this creates huge data sets and requires specialized software.

According to Professor Martinez, “Todd Shimoda provided essential support for the installation of two high-performance servers that are currently being used for the assembly and analyses of genomes and transcriptomes by the Martinez Lab in the Biology Department. The servers made possible the development of a new, exciting course in Genomics & Transcriptomics; a course which has opened the door for Pomona College students to the “omics revolution” that is currently transforming many fields of biology.”

Part of this project was funded through Hahn and Wig grants from ITS.

Ironically, Todd’s background is originally in civil engineering but he has a PhD in Science and Mathematics Education. His dissertation research was in educational technology. “I would not call myself a programmer but I can get things done, make them work,” says Todd. “I like solving complex problems that have no pre-defined solutions.”

For more information about the resources that Instructional and Research Technologies can provide you for teaching and research, please contact Mary McMahon in ITS at