spotlights

Surviving Hurricane Harvey: Students on co-op in Houston witness storm firsthand

Aug. 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey - Aug. 27Over the weekend, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, which suffered torrential downpours of rain for five days, and totaling 52 inches as of Tuesday evening. The flooding is so severe that many areas have had to be evacuated, and supply chains have been upset, leaving many in need of supplies. The Speed School has a variety of businesses in the region, ranging from ORTEC, a consulting group, to NASA, with several of our students currently on co-op, including Alison Davis and Jacob Cassady.

Riding the storm out
Davis, a former Houston resident, found herself in Louisville at a young age, attending Manual High School prior to her tenure at the Speed School, where she is currently a Junior in the Department of Industrial Engineering. Returning to Houston recently for another co-op round with ORTEC, Davis’ experience has been comparatively manageable.

“I have been very lucky and didn’t get any flooding where I live. I would describe the last few days as living on an island though. I could walk about a mile to the nearest flooded bayou (Brays Bayou), but I haven’t driven my car since Friday," said Davis. "With the flash flooding, I didn’t want to risk getting stuck. I’m now planning on volunteering to help with the recovery in Houston in the coming months.”

A Computer Engineering and Computer Science major, Jacob Cassady is in his senior year at the Speed School and working his second co-op with NASA at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. There he’s working on as an engineering directorate under the spacecraft software engineering division on a project related to the testing of the Orion capsule.

Cassady and Davis both prepared for this scenario, stocking up on food and other supplied in advance of the storm to stay a step ahead. While Davis has remained outside of the path of the flooding, Cassady has been less lucky trapped by rising water without an avenue of escape, at least by conventional methods making any resupply trip unlikely in the short term.

“We are completely flooded in, but luckily we have had power for at least a portion of every day and have power right now. We haven’t seen any flooding in the house, but it has come close," Cassady said. "There was a mandatory evacuation yesterday, but we worried we would be worse off leaving. We are safe here. We have plenty of food, water, and optimism. Given our circumstances, I think we are in pretty good shape.”

Working it out
Hurricane Harvey - Aug. 30For both Cassady and Davis, their respective co-op employers have been understanding of the difficulties brought on by a natural disaster of this magnitude. Davis notes that ORTEC has been flexible, and she has had opportunities to work from home during the event. She explains though that, “they are less concerned about the work and more concerned about our safety during the storm and the ongoing flooding.”

Likewise, NASA is operating on a day-by-day basis, with both Monday and Tuesday off. As with Davis, Cassady has had the opportunity to work from home, which affords him both an opportunity to contribute and a means to stay busy.

“There is no way we or many families around here could get to JSC plus there has been flooding and damages in the Clear Lake area around and inside of the space center. The man I’m living with said it could be a while until things are back to normal at work as many people will have to take time to repair their houses,” says Cassady.

Processing Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey is a sobering reminder of nature’s impact, and one that leaves much to consider, both in terms of the immediate response to the event and how to stay prepared for the next.

For Davis, remaining engaged with her work and her family is imperative to stay focused during her difficult tenure in Houston.

“Over the last few days I’ve heard from family, friends, and people I haven’t talked to in ages asking if I am safe. Even though I’m not at school currently I have the support of my Speed School family asking what they can do for me a thousand miles away," Davis said. "And from a few discussions with my co-workers here, we have already talked about what we can do as a group to volunteer in the coming months.”

She added that work and studying are very important to her. But when a storm like Harvey devastates so many so close by, the importance of family, friends and community becomes much clearer.

"I'm sure I will have quite a bit more to take away from this experience once I am able to start volunteering to help out the people who have really been affected,” Davis said.

In Cassady’s case, Hurricane Harvey has given him a newfound perspective on the destructive force of the environment.

“I never thought I’d see several feet of water cover an entire city or a palm tree bend to the will of the wind. It’s important to be educated on what to do when visiting places that experience tropical storms," said Davis. "It has also helped me understand the power of good spirits in times of peril. Most days since the storm hit there have been kids swimming in the streets and enjoying their day off. The laughter in the lulls of the storm have made all of the difference.”

Speed alum develops app for Amazon Alexa

Last month, Speed School alum and Data Scientist at Workday Inc., Amine Ben Khalifa, made the world just a little more convenient for academics. A graduate of the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Khalifa developed an application for the Amazon Alexa AI to seek and find research relative to his field of study. Rather than spending time filtering through the multitude of papers submitted to Arxiv.org, an open access archive that features over a million submissions in the fields of Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics, Khalifa has engineered a method by which Alexa can filter through the results of his daily inquiring, reading aloud any new data that may be pertinent to his interest.

Khalifa hopes his work may contribute to accelerating research in the computer vision and machine learning fields. He admits that in his free time he works to, “research and develop light-weight tools to accelerate and facilitate routine research tasks commonly encountered in the field of machine learning and computer vision.”

“As a forward-looking researcher, who’s always looking to stay up to date on latest research papers, I got the idea of extending the capabilities of Echo device and make it even more useful by developing a skill that enables the AI-powered Alexa bot to find me the latest AI (Artificial Intelligence) research papers for the day, read the titles and give a summary of specific projects, all via voice control,” says Khalifa.

As it stands, he has no ambition to patent his idea, leaving it open for future users to employ as necessary. He admits, “I don't think it's patentable. Even if it was, I'll not pursue a patent for this. I open sourced the code and hope that anyone who's interested can use it and adapted to their field/applications.”

Humans of Speed School: Andrew Marsh on Art as Therapy

Phoenix House Courtyard designed by Andrew Marsh

May 1, 2017

The assistant director at the Conn Center for Renewable Research since 2010, Andrew Marsh is for all intents and purposes a translator. An artist, for the last 25 years Marsh has translated his own emotions into sculpted works that serve as an embodiment of his mood.

A musician himself, Marsh performed and roadied for musicians ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bob Dylan, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Killing Joke, working on lighting and sound in the 90’s. But art was his passion and he sought a way to incorporate music into his artwork and vice versa, which led to performances that included metal work with live musical accompaniment.

“The performances kind of grew out of that, sort of frenetic urgency that runs through my personality. Basically, it started out, I built an iron foundry and was performing with that. How do you collaborate with people as a visual artist? It’s not that common. My grad thesis was Devil’s Night Iron Works and then sited it at Sculpture Trails outside of Bloomington. Some of the other parts of my work had to kind of involve so that I could figure out how to do with that,” says Marsh.

He got his start in the art world working with metal and welding, a grueling and physical art form that took its toll on him in 2003 while working at the City Museum constructing the monstrosity, a playground pastiche of welded areas that spans several stories on the exterior of the museum.

“I got hurt while I was there. Injured my back pretty badly. I was in a wheelchair for a year. I rehabilitated out of that, and moved to Louisville to work as a technical writer at the Brown Center. Writing was something I was always interested in and good at doing. Just coming at things in a different way than physicians and researchers,” says Marsh.

Working at the Brown Center for 5 years allowed Marsh an opportunity to slow down to give his body the time to heal. It was during that time that Marsh recontextualized his art, refocusing from metal to other forms, which ultimately came to include wood. Featuring elements of brutalism and futurism, there is a performative quality to his works of art that serve as a visual therapy.

He explains, “I was at the cancer center for 5 years, but that gave me the chance to slow down the impact on my body. I was still making work, but at a much slower, much smaller scale. Continued to work on cast iron things. Making really strange pain trophy sculptures. I still have chronic injuries. I kept making these little effigies. Kind of the same idea as what punk rock does. They were all paper and plastic patterns. They were these beautiful explosive kinds of displays. Those were the first performance molds that I was doing.”

Around 2010, Marsh’s recovery was such that he began to feel some comfort again. In winter of 2009, Louisville experienced an ice storm that damaged a variety of trees in the area, including in Marsh’s yard. Here he saw opportunity to work with a new form. Working with a tree service, Marsh cleaned up the damage and proceeded to request new wood to work with. They accepted.

Artist Andrew Marsh. (C) 2017 lucky 7 artsphoto by Ira“I taught myself to carve. I didn’t really care for it; I was into welding. But I was like, here is a bunch of wood, and I’ve got a chainsaw. So, I could torture a piece of wood in a couple of hours and then take a week to recover from it. I burnt the first like 20.”

Now in the Conn Center, Marsh finds fortune in balancing his art with his professional life. He says, “One of the things that I appreciate about Dr. Sunkara and Dean Usher is that they appreciate that strangeness. These concerns as an artist have grown in parallel to the work that I do at the Conn Center. It just so happens that as an artist, that I’m really concerned with some of the efficiency aspects of our culture. It gets to be a little bit more of a position.”

He continues, “It comes from a DIY aesthetic and mentality. My dad was a house builder and pioneer himself. They made it okay to find ways to express that were different than the status quo. To find ways to field the outrage. That’s still very much a part of me. A lot of that comes through in the sculpture that I do. They’re tortured. They rot. They seethe. That’s entirely the point.”

You can view his art in front of the Phoenix House directly adjacent to Ernst Hall.

Going Green: Chemical Engineering Junior Jamila Bland on her Study Abroad

May 15, 2017

For many students, any break from school is an opportunity to relax, decompress, and catch up with anything that you might have missed. This last Spring Break, Jamila Bland, a junior in the Chemical Engineering department, took her leave as an opportunity to give back to the community, as part of the Green Program, which gives students unique learning opportunities around the world.

Both of Bland’s parents are engineers, which piqued her interest early on in her education. Through her diligence attending Manuel High School, Bland was awarded a scholarship that covered her tuition at the Speed School, which came with a high expectation. Inspired by her time volunteering with Louisville Grows, an urban agricultural project, Bland was reticent to commit to any study abroad in fear of falling behind in her course work, until a speech by a peer that had participated in the Green Program prior.

“During the seminar class that we have to take before we went on co-op, a previous student that had been in the Green Program before came and talked to the class. They talked about their experience and let us know further information if we wanted to be a part of it. I chose Peru, because water, my interest, was in there. I thought it’d be cool to have that study abroad experience,” says Bland.

Once there, Bland stayed in Cusco, a city in southeastern Peru near the Andes Mountains. While there, Bland learned about Peruvian bio-diversity and culture in an effort to acclimate to the variety of problems that face the area. The city is plagued with myriad of infrastructural issues including access to clean water, waste management, and an overpopulation of animals, specifically dogs.

Bland explains that in addition, “One of the biggest industries in Cusco is illegal mining and it has a lot of negative impact on the environment. Pollution is an issue with dumping and local trash facilities not picking up trash like they’re supposed to.”

The program works to build on 17 UN sustainable development goals, with the aim to complete or make significant progress in those goals by 2030. Bland explains, “They focus on issues like world hunger, poverty, social justice issues, clean water, just making each and every nation self-sufficient. So, while we were there we were supposed to focus on Capstone projects, and my partner and I made an after-school program, and we tried to focus on food literacy, poverty, and education.”

She adds, “The goal I think of the program is to spark interest. These goals you can put in your own small community initiative. The capstone project I was working on was teaching kids about food literacy and making them more interested in the food industry. You can initiate your own practice.”

For Bland is was an incredible, if difficult experience, and one that she learned a lot from. Encouraged now to continue with her efforts to help the community, Bland was equally touched by the humanity in the residents that she worked with. She says, “We had a service day and the students prepared potatoes for us to eat. And we were like we’re here to help you all.”

Professor Brian Robinson Teaching Teamwork and Inclusivity in the Classroom

Headshot of Brian RobinsonWith the conclusion of the Spring 2016 semester, Engineering 110 and 111 has proven a successful synthesis of a variety of educational goals. Existing at the intersection of a number of disciplines, the two course Engineering Fundamentals courses were designed to engender multi-disciplinary teamwork and the real-world application of studies that had previously remained largely theoretical to incoming freshman.

“One of the big driving factors behind that was to make a more common introductory core, so that someone that changes majors doesn’t get set back. It’s to provide exposure to incoming students to set them up to improve their odds of a professional and academic career. To expose them to feedback. To help them realize products, to realize all the products that UofL has to offer. Those are all how it started. We expose them to stuff that they weren’t getting exposed to. We introduced them to technical writing,” says Professor Brian Robinson, the course instructor for both EF 110 and 111.

The concept was initiated by then Dean Neville Pinto, to provide students a hands-on experience that can prepare them for the more advanced coursework that comes thereafter.

According to Robinson, it was an incredible success. “This first run, for our first time around, it was a grand slam. We need to teach programming better in 110. Student feedback is always crucial. We want to make an effort to Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering students, they felt neglected, so to make more of an effort there,” he says while assessing possible changes for future implementation.

He adds of his own experience in the classroom, “You’re going to be hard pressed to find a class that I don’t like teaching. That’s my favorite part is teaching the students that what I love.”

No phishing at UofL: Speed IT on how to avoid email scams

Taylor SmithPart and parcel to the digital landscape is the existence of fake accounts created for the express purpose of perpetrating fraud. Phishing is a tool used to extract information that can be used to compromise your identity, but fortunately as scammers become more and more sophisticated, IT personnel and spam filters evolve to combat their growing threat.

Taylor Smith, interim director of the Speed IT group, explains fishing as any email, “requesting information that you didn’t prompt. Trying to get information from you, whether it be like your credit card information has changed. Unsolicited information,” adding that the central premise is to “Collect information from you, passwords, usernames, social security numbers. Any kind of identifying information that people can use to steal your identity.”

Recently, the University has been subject to more attacks than usual, the result of may factors.

“Lately, I’ve seen quite a few. It seems like it’s picked up. Central IT, they have their email filters, but you can’t only be proactive with virus stuff. It’s very hard to be proactive. Virus protection is always a step behind, because people are writing new stuff to get around the virus protection,” says T. Smith.

While University IT has a robust spam filter, phishing emails can and do get through from time to time. According to Luke Smith, another member of the Speed IT group, it may relate to any spike in our public visibility. He offers two means to catch potential phishing scams.

“One of which is to stop if from getting to your inbox. The Outlook client itself has some more spam filtering. And UofL also uses URL defense. Any URL that’s embedded in an email, it will change the URL in the email, it will check that site for its legitimacy. From any point in time, someone may blacklist that particular site,” says L. Smith.

The most important factor in staying secure from phishing scams to remain wary of suspicious emails, and to watch for anything that may seem out of place.

“You have to be aware of the context of what you do and what you get on a daily basis. It wouldn’t hurt,” says T. Smith.

Humans of Speed: Dr. Martin O’Toole on Imagining and Designing New Sounds

May 26, 2017

Humans of Speed: Martin O'ToolePrior to joining the Bioengineering Department in the JB Speed School of Engineering, Dr. Martin O’Toole performed with the band Draft Riots. A musician, O’Toole played bass for the group, which was a learning experience. Since then, O’Toole has divided his time between education, parenting, and building effects pedals for guitar and bass, a challenge that blends his engineering acumen with his musical background.

O’Toole has a long history with music, from early Van Halen to local luminaries like Rodan to hip-hop and beyond. Despite his keen interest in the music scene, Draft Riots marks the only time that O’Toole performed with any group. Fortunately, it was a good experience.

“They needed a bass player. You know the guitar player that plays bass and tries not to sound like they play guitar. It was the Draft Riots. I got to do that thing where I was excited to hear my own song on the radio,” explains O’Toole of his tenure in the band.

Now he channels his energy into making gear. By and large that manifests itself into effects pedals, devices put into a signal channel between the amplifier and instrument that alter the sound in unique ways.

“I think I made my first one in 2011. That took like 6 months. I had to learn how to solder and stuff. Those websites are crazy, Digikey and Resistor. They have like 10,000 parts, so it’s hard to sort through. I probably built one a year for the first few, but then started building a lot of them,” says O’Toole of his process.

What started out as a slow learning process, has developed into an obsession. O’Toole currently has around 25 of his own boutique pedals, all emulated after popular effects and handcrafted. As such, the aesthetic quality of the device is of equal concern as the function of the pedal. Fortunately, his background in engineering has helped him with the practicality of the design work.

“You find out pretty quickly what’s broken and what’s not. You take what’s called an audio probe, and you take it to the cables and see where the sound dies. I had to learn layout design for the faceplates. Learning chemical etching, and faceplates,” says O’Toole.

O’Toole primarily makes pedals for his own interest, although he has worked with others. Recently, he built an amplifier out of a reverb tank, a project that involved careful time management to see to fruition.

“It’s taken like a year. It’s me and the wood working guys. We meet for like two hours every month and a half. We bought the lumber and planed it down. It was all rough cut,” says O’Toole.

In terms of his pedals, he has effects that delay the note, an echo quality that can be manipulated, stacked, and twisted, all making for an otherworldly sound. He has distortion or overdrive pedals, which alter the tone of an instrument, often adding a crunch or fuzz tone. He has various chorus or oscillator style pedals, which bend the tone by manipulating the wave form. His creations are limited only by his imagination and available time.

“My music space is right underneath both of my kids’ bedrooms. If I want to do anything, I kind of have to build things. I just build these things and test them on crappy headphone amps,” says O’Toole adding of his desire to stay productive, “I’m at that age where if I turn on the television, I’ll fall asleep.”

Dr. Ki-Hwan Bae on the logistics of Flight Planning

Headshot of Dr. Ki Hwan Bae

June 5, 2017

Consumer expectations for the return on their hard-earned dollars can prove a logistical challenge, especially for industries like supply chain, delivery, or transportation. Dr. Ki-Hwan Bae, an industrial engineer in the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School, is one of many professionals who work to make sure that the needs of both consumers and businesses are balanced and met. Bae specializes in operations research, a field of study that looks at mathematical algorithms for improving systems by working with simulations. His dissertation was on airline scheduling problems, an issue that remains elusive and difficult to manage.

Looking at the physical logistics alone, most airlines operate out of a hub and spoke system, where specific airlines have hubs of activity relative to a particular city. The spokes connect the hub flights, which serves as a central processing system. Airlines have to balance passenger demand and flight size, service issues for the vehicle, the needs of the crew, and any potential weather hazards that may pop up sporadically, all in the context of organizing around centralized locales.

“Sometimes airlines need to dispatch crews to provide continuous flight service,” says Bae of a further complication to scheduling, “We call that dead heading crews. The crews are dispatched, maybe as a substitute for available pilots, maybe they’re sick, and then brings that plane back to provide continuous service.”

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 ushered in practice like deadheading, in a bid to make the open the industry up to the free market. The act offered up leniency to airlines, which previously suffered stiff restrictions on when and how passengers could travel. The result was an increased number of flights and lower fare.

“The devil is in the details. The class code, within the economic class, business class, etc., it comes with different restrictions. For example, if you and I buy a ticket from Louisville to Chicago on United, but you may have paid $300 and I paid $500, it dictates what you can do. Airlines do that, because they want to maximize revenue. It’s called revenue management,” says Bae.

It’s all about balancing the many obstacles put to airlines with their bottom line. Airlines have system that is easily upset with weather and circumstance, but which they’ve evolved to try and work around.

Bae explains, “They have a sophisticated system. If the demand is really growing, say they come up with a seat, for a certain class, for a certain seat, if the demand is good, then they will increase that (cost) dynamically. If the demand is high, they will decrease that (cost) for that seat class. If the demand is low, then they will relocate that seat to someone who’s lower. Depending on when they booked the flight and when you book.”

Jalyn Shontee on embracing new challenges

2017 Commencement Speaker: Jalyn Shontee

May 3, 2017

 A recipient of the Woodford R. Porter and Brown Fellows scholarships, Jalyn Shontee graduated last year from UofL in the top 1 percent of her class with a bachelor of mechanical engineering degree. This year, she will receive her master's degree. The 2012 duPont Manual grad has served on numerous student organizations, including the UofL chapter of NSBE, Speed School's Women in Engineering Leadership Conference and the Miss Black UofL Scholarship Pageant. As a Brown Fellows scholar, she created a summer camp for minority girls to help get them involved in STEM fields.

During her tenure in the Speed School, Shontee balanced her time as a student as a member of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a Brown Fellow, Library Student Advisory Board, and Engineering Fundamentals teaching assistant, and her regular co-op rotations, which has fortunately yielded a position at Gulfstream Aerospace as a Service Engineer.

"My education and academics in general are very important to me, and that's one thing I've always been very driven about. As far as activities and organizations I'm involved with, academics is important there too because I like to see other people succeed academically. So, I try to tailor my extra-curriculars and things I'm involved with to helping other people succeed."

During the Speed School Honors & Awards program held in April, Jalyn Shontee received the Bennett M. Brigman, an award which recognizes the Speed School student who most nearly attains the objectives of the school. Because of her high achievement while at UofL, Shontee was asked to speak at commencement this year, a task that she did not anticipate.

“I think Speed School and the University as a whole has done a good job in preparing me for the next step in my life. It’s kind of pushed and stretched me a lot. For example, the whole commencement speech, I would’ve never thought that I would’ve done that. It’s a good opportunity to challenge yourself and push yourself. Ultimately, it will make the next part of my life better.”

Raised in Louisville, Shontee gravitated towards math and science at a young age. Initially, she thought to pursue a career in medicine, before finding inspiration to go into engineering.

“My strong suit is analysis. Calculus was one of my favorite classes. I like to pick out numerical patterns and things like that. In high school, I had a friend with a private pilot’s license, and I was interested in that.”

Shontee has a positive perspective on her time at UofL, viewing her obstacles as an opportunity for growth.

“One of the faculty members involved with the Brown Fellow called me and asked me if I would give the address. He asked if it would make me nervous. I said yes,” says Shontee adding, “I was trying to think about topics, but everything that came to mind seemed cliché for college. I kind of want to talk about how the things you learn in college you can take away into your life.”

In her free time, Shontee volunteers at the West End School as a tutor and mentor and grades calculus homework for professors in the Engineering Fundamentals department. She has received numerous recognitions for her outstanding work, including the ASME Pi Tau Sigma Award, the NSBE Louisville Chapter Award, the KSPE Service Award and Speed School's Alfred T. Chen Award.

Mahsa Badami wins The Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies

May 12, 2017

2017 Guy Stevenson Award for Excellence in Graduate Studies, Mahsa BadamiMahsa Badami graduated from Shiraz University in Iran in 2008 in the Computer Engineering, Artificial Intelligence Masters program. Mahsa's interest in artificial intelligence and computer engineering stemmed from an early fascination with the thin line she saw between robotics and human life, which ultimately led her to pursue her doctoral degree in Computer Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Louisville's J.B. Speed School of Engineering.

Under the direction of Dr. Olfa Nasraoui, Mahsa joined the Knowledge Discover and Web Mining Lab where Mahsa says she has learned about herself as a researcher, gained confidence in her abilities, and honed skills like communication and positivity. Mahsa has specifically appreciated Dr. Nasraoui's guidance in helping her become a strong female scholar in a male-dominated field and hopes to use the guidance in her future career. Quoting from  her first interview with Dr. Nasraoui, Mahsa writes, "My dream job involves research, innovation and an environment which includes a lot of communication among trainers and trainees."

Mahsa has published in several peer-reviewed journals, including the European Journal of Artificial Intelligence and International Journal of Applied Soft Computing. She has also shown her commitment to her department and to the campus community by serving as chair of the Speed School of Engineering in the Student Government Association, the director of finance for the Graduate Student Council, and the president of the Iranian Student Organization at the University of Louisville. Additionally, Mahsa has sought to inspire young middle-school and high-school girls to pursue careers in computer science and engineering through her presentations for the 2015 Digital Media Academy, Girl Career Day, and Engineering Expo Day.

Mahsa interned for the innovation team at Nationwide Insurance, where she had a chance to contribut to one of their top innovation areas — Smart Homes and Internet Things (IoT) — through collaborating with several business partners on commerical claims by extracting insights from data in various forms. Mahsa has accepted a position as a data scientist at Apple where she hopes to continue learning and sharing knowledge with her colleagues, solving real-world problems, creating a sense of community, and meeting community needs through her work in technology.

Alumni Council hosts 5th Annual Golf Scramble

Winners of the 2017 Speed School Alumni Council Golf Classic Fore Outreach was lead by Gary Rivoli.May 24, 2017

The 5th annual Speed School Alumni Council Golf Classic Fore Outreach was held May 22. The event, which is organized and supported by the The Speed Alumni Council, was meet with a wonderful reception at the UofL Golf Club in Simpsonville, KY, for a day of golfing and networking in perfect weather.

Alumni Council President Jeff Oeswein, a graduate of the department of Civil Engineering who employs his degree at LG&E, is eager in his efforts to help give back to the Speed School. In particular, the golf scramble is an opportunity to help raise funds for the STEM outreach program in exposing primary school aged children to engineering.

“We as a council wanted to figure out a way to help further that along and allow them to get into additional schools, and they need more kits. To help fundraise -we have really no fundraising mechanism- we decided to start a scramble five years ago. We started one at Wildwood Country Club and then we went to Neville Meade, and then eventually we ended up here three years ago,” explains Oeswein.

For years, the event was lead by Norb Paulin, a Civil Engineering graduate class of 1970. Paulin who retired from Yum Brands in 2010, has enjoyed his tenure working with the Alumni Council, although he is happy to have a break to enjoy the golf.

“It was good to come back and play and really enjoy the game and see what it’s like from participants. Even though I participated in playing golf, I was really wrapped up in the work that’s going on,” says Paulin adding, “This was just me coming out and enjoying the event. You’re responsible for it. This year was the first time that I’ve actually been able to eat lunch. Every other year, I’ve come out here and missed lunch because I was trying to make sure everything run smoothly.”

It’s grown incrementally both in terms of participants and in terms of the location. The idea for the scramble was initially floated by Josh Hillman, who joined the council at the same time as Paulin.

Hillman explains, “The first year I think we barely had 16 teams. I want to say the last two years were up 28 or 30 teams. When we moved it to the Cardinal Golf Club, it really grew.”

Oeswein adds, “This is kind of a natural fit and its really grown. We’ve been able to fundraise somewhere around 10K to 11K a year to give to the STEM outreach program. One of the missions of the council is to support the dean and the efforts of the school to attract and retain students. We kind of hit all the marks with that at this event.”

Click here to view photo gallery from the 2017 golf outing.

Speed Spectrum Receives Two Awards

April 18, 2017

2017 RSO of the Year2017 RSO Advisor of the YearThe Speed Spectrum recently received two awards, one for Outstanding New Student Organization 2016-17 with less than 500 Members, and another recognizing Academic Counselor Natalie Oliner as 2016-2017 Advisor of the Year Award for an RSO.

The burgeoning organization was only recently started, thanks in parts to the duel efforts of Oliner and Speed Spectrum President Celeste Atchison. Starting in 2014, Oliner recognized the lack of an LGBT Center on the Speed Campus and alongside Director of Student Success Heidi Neal, former Speed School Dean Dr. Neville Pinto, and the existing university wide LGBT Center.

“We wanted to create a safe space, and also to get students to step in if they hear that sort of thing, to stop that kind of harassment. We opened the safe space, which is the Speed Spectrum office. We opened that. That official opening was in the fall of 2016,” says Oliner.

A Georgia native of Jewish heritage, Oliner developed a correlation between religion and sexuality, characteristics that engender an otherness between individuals. “I’ve always been interested in Diversity initiatives. I double majored with sociology and focused on sexual diversity and different identities and practices. I identify as part of the community as well,” says Oliner adding, “Coming out of grad school, I was focused on disability and LGBT groups. I acknowledge that not every group is still being heard. Also, because we already have the LGBT center. We’re not reinventing the wheel, just extending it.”

Atchison is proud of her work with the Speed Spectrum and encouraged by the positive recognition they’ve received. “I was really excited that we won the award, because I want Speed Spectrum to stay around. It’s tough to get involved with organizations here. Why would you put in the time and effort if you’re not getting anything back? We’ve had a lot of trouble getting students to want to be associated with us, because they’re still really scared to be out on Speed Campus. I think that what this award does is puts us positively in the public light,” says Atchison.

Ultimately, creating a safe space mindful of the privacy of others is central to the Speed Spectrum’s mission. Atchison explains, “We’ve had issues with folks that really wanted to be involved, but they didn’t want to be addressed outside of the spectrum space. There are people on the campus that we have to ignore. If someone wants to be involved with us in that way, we’re happy to foster that.”

Amrit Regmi on leadership & team building

April 20, 2017

For twenty years, Amrit Regmi lived in a Nepalese refugee camp, an immigrant from the country of Bhutan. There he lived often without the amenities that we may take for granted like access to electricity and proper sanitation. Once he received his refuge status, Regmi moved to the United States without his parents, who stayed behind in hopes that their home in Bhutan would evolve beyond their current conflict.

A junior in the Department of Bioengineering is a non-traditional student with a seasoned perspective on engineering education. Transferring in from Jefferson County Technical College, Regmi realized a little after the fact that he didn’t need to take Engineering Fundamentals 111, but felt inspired to stick with it after becoming familiar with the course work and syllabus.

“I made up my mind that I wanted to stick with this class, even though I don’t need too. We started off working on one of these bringing together electrical, mechanical, critical thinking, and team building. Everything packed into one project. We have been doing wonderful with what we’ve been provided with. I’m loving it. I can’t wait for the final project,” says Regmi.

For Regmi, the new Engineering Fundamentals course is a chance to develop practical skills with real world applications.

He says, “It has especially helped me in terms of kind of a leadership, kind of team building skills, not that I haven’t worked in the past as a team, but this is a different setting. We are provided with the time and opportunities. We have to work as a team to do not only what the deliverables says, but writing reports, and helping each other to grow within the class.”

It’s a new experience, not only in the Speed School, but for Regmi as well. He explains, “I have not been in a project like this. I have never thought it would take that many steps to design something. Even though we were provided all the materials and everything provided in that way. Design process is something that I really have taken from this.”

Syrian immigrant sees the bigger picture

April 17, 2017

At only twenty-two years old, Junior Noor Eddin Almoutem has quite a story to tell. A Syrian immigrant, Almoutem attend college in Jordan before moving to the United States three years ago with his family. Initially attending Jefferson County Technical School, Almouten recently became a student at the JB Speed School, where he was recently accepted into the Department of Computer Engineering Computer Science. He plans to double major in CECS and the dental program here, emphasizing additive manufacturing to combine the two fields of study.

As a non-traditional student currently enrolled in Engineering Fundamentals 111, Almoutem has an outside perspective on the course and the experience that it cultivates.

“If this was offered to me when I first started engineering, it would have influenced me in many areas. You really learn something from each field of engineering. Even using calculus here, other than on a test. Since I’m a junior, looking at this class now offered for Freshman, this would be the best class I’d ever take if I was a freshman. The three years of being a junior, it took me all those years to figure out what I wanted to do,” says Almoutem.

On top of his course work as a double major, Almoutem works in a pharmacy, giving him little in terms of free time. Still, he admits, “This is class is really my relief for the day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s awesome.”

He sees EF 111 as an opportunity to implement the skills that you’ve learned into a cohesive whole, a valuable experience for incoming freshmen to see engineering in action, rather than in a theoretical space.

“You’re not learning to get good grades, you’re learning to implement something. Pick where you’re learning to implement it. I wish it was offered when I was younger. I know it’s going to be helping those freshmen who is now seeing what real life could be like. If they take that opportunity to see for their learning, but to see how they could use it in their real life, that would be awesome,” says Almoutem.

The customer is always right

Dr. Jason Saleem on Teaching Usability and Human Factors in Engineering

Headshot of Jason SaleemYou may not immediately recognize it, but the field of usability engineering works quietly in the background to make life easier for all front-end users. Companies like Amazon or Google are models for that success, offering up a platform in both examples easy for the user to maneuver. Put another way, usability engineering is where the rubber hits the road between engineering and user satisfaction, and Dr. Jason Saleem is leading the charge as the Director for the Center for Ergonomics.

A member of the Industrial Engineering department, Dr. Saleem is a relatively recent addition to the University. Going into college at the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Saleem was split between astronomy and engineering. He ultimately went with a little of both, which led him to his love of Industrial Engineering.

“If I didn’t discover Industrial Engineering, I would have dropped out. Luckily, they had Industrial Engineering there, otherwise I would not be an engineer. Industrial Engineering is just fun. I did my Master’s and PhD at Virginia Tech. Their IE department is known for ergonomics. At Virginia Tech, they had ten faculty that focused on human factors and ergonomics,” says Dr. Saleem.

After his graduation, he went to work for the VA hospital in Indianapolis, where he was given the opportunity to provide his insight as he saw fit. During his tenure, President Obama legislated that medical records were required to transition from paper to digital storage methods, which presented a new set of challenges for the medical field. Part of his research work involved the continued use of paper after the implemented changes, which created a redundancy in work, but which also spoke to usability features that generated a less streamlined office.

That interest ultimately led to his focus on usability engineering and human factors, studies that look at how an engineered product interfaces with a user. This semester, Dr. Saleem is teaching a newly designed course, IE 590, Usability Engineering, that gives students the opportunity to work with industry to develop a program with the frontend user in mind. The students are broken into groups and given the task to work with their respective companies, which entails interviewing users and determining what design features would best benefit their situation.

Dr. Saleem believes that for, “Designers and engineers, it’s so important to go out into the field to study the product or system that they’re designing without understanding how people really do their work. They work 50% of their grade is a semester long project. They choose a client and a real application that they’re going to develop, and they have to go into that company or wherever the end users are, and observe them for long periods of time and interview them, so that they can really understand their work.”

He adds, “The next thing that they’re going to be working on is contextual inquiry. They’re going to go into a company… it’s about understanding the work domain, instead of engineers in a conference room with no context. It could be a redesign of a current product or application, or it could be that the client says that our employees could benefit from having a product like this. They have to go in and observe. They have to have a deep understanding of the work practices of the end users. They take a lot of observational notes, interviews.”

Ultimately, there is a real world financial component to his work that takes a look at the long-term cost of usability; if a platform isn’t user friendly, it threatens to waste time and money.

But Dr. Saleem remains optimistic that the cultural has evolved to understand that long-term cost. He explains, “I would say that 10, 15 years ago, when I was first getting starting in this area, we had to cost justify why companies should include usability testing the development of their products. Trying to justify why would you pay for a usability specialist. Actually, today it’s usability has been institutionalized in a lot of organizations. It’s shifted. There is less cost justification.”

Dr. Tamer Inanc on UAV Technology and Biometrics and Biomedical Solutions

Headshot of Dr. Tamer Inanc

Drone technology has a host of potential commercial applications, from package delivery to environmental monitoring and conservation. It’s thanks to the work of people like Dr. Tamer Inanc, a professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, that these technologies have become increasingly viable. Dr. Inanc’s research involves autonomous robotics, nonlinear trajectory generation for UAVs, robust active vision systems, robust control and identification, biometrics and biomedical problems.

He has a cool calm about him that puts you at ease. Dr. Inanc earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in Turkey. From there he immigrated to the United States to obtain both a Master’s degree and PhD at Penn State University, completing his terminal degree in 2002. His post-doctoral work took him to Cal Tech, which affectionately identified as “the MIT of the West Coast,” working with the control and dynamical systems department. After a two-year stint in California, Dr. Inanc and his wife settled in Louisville, where he has worked with the University ever since.

“It’s good. It’s a good place to raise a family. The people I’ve met so far are very friendly. I’ve got several friends in different departments,” says Dr. Inanc.

His work focuses on control systems and identification, which he applies not only to UAV technology, but to diagnostic medical applications including biometrics. He has worked with the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab for opportunistic trajectory on UAVs meant to operate on Mars. That work specifically attends to optimal power use by means of navigation: the idea is that a drone takes the path of least resistance so that every move counts.

That attention to fine details manifests itself equally in his work with optimal control system design. Where his research with UAV technology centers around navigation systems meant to converse energy, his work in the field of biometrics is aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of dosage to patients. In particular, he has worked with the kidney disease center at the University on a project called Personalized Drug Dosing for Anemia Patients.

He explains, “These are the medicines that have narrow therapeutic range. You would like to give a minimal dosage to the patients, so that you can have the desired effect. For anemia patients, you check the blood for the hemoglobin. You want that to be between 10 and 12. If it goes above 12 or below 10, that’s bad news for the patient. This is called an EPO drug. If you give less to the patience… we are trying to find some sort of optimal drug dosage for the patients.”

Continuing he adds, “When these drug companies come up with this dosage strategy, they look at population data to create an average patient. But the average patient doesn’t exist. We look at the limited number of patient drug dose response. First I find mathematical models, and this tells me the behavior of the patient. This is specific to A patient. Using that model, I can design optimal control algorithms which optimized the drug dose regimen for that patient.”

As an educator, Dr. Inanc pours as much attention into his students as he does his research. Recently, his Fundamentals of Autonomous Robots class, an upper level ECE course, culminated in a competitive match that pit teams of engineers against one another, with their respective robot as the player.

“This is a part of the class that I’m teaching. This is part of their labs. During the semester, they first take six structured labs. They learn to use different sensors: Infrared sensors, cameras, etc. I give them the final competition. They design the robots. I’m the designer of the competition and organizer,” says Dr. Inanc.

You can watch that competition here, as covered by Cards News to get a feel for the excitement and crowd generated by the event.

Dr. Maria Garcia-Zapirain: Engineering Better Diagnostic Aids & Information & Communications Technology Tools

For the next eight months, the department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science welcomes Dr. Maria Garcia-Zapirain, a term professor visiting on loan from University of Duesto in Spain. Dr. Garcia-Zapirain brings her twenty years of research to the university as an opportunity to work with longtime collaborator Dr. Adel Elmaghraby, as well as to teach students in the United States. Specifically, Dr. Garcia-Zapirain splits her focus between health oriented research used to diagnostic aid and treatment for monitoring patients, and the field of information and communications technology, which seeks practical application for anyone with a disability.

Her background is in telecommunications, a field that she found lacking in terms of helping people around the world. She refocused her energies on engineering, pursuing a PhD in in biomedical signal processing, particular to oesophageal speech processing. Her work aided in the speech of patients suffering from larynx cancer who had their vocal folds removed.

But that only scratched her itch to make the world a little better from her work. She explains of the split in her efforts, “Health is more research oriented. There are mathematical algorithms to automatically give to doctors to optimize diagnostics, to personalize the treatment with quantitative data.”

She continues adding, “My expertise is in two main fields: diagnostic aid and treatment for monitoring patients. The second field is ICT, information and communications technology, technological tools to help people with special needs. For example, handicapped people or children with learning problems and more autonomy.”

With the majority of her family still in Spain, she is happy to remain here temporarily, but no less excited for her opportunities. For now, she is simultaneously free to elaborate on her collaborations with Dr. Elmaghraby, while gaining perspective on the cultural differences between her constituent student bodies here and at home.

She explains, “I wanted to have the experience of teaching students in the US. The profile is different. It’s a great experience to teach here. After 20 years, you know how to react when you teach. Not only teaching, but supervising projects. Here, they always think about business. In Spain, they never think about those things. Here, students are like little entrepreneurs. I really enjoy that. I come here every morning very happy.”

Alison Seward is funding resource behind Women's Leadership Conference

Headshot of Alison SewardTomorrow sees the return of the Women’s Leadership Conference, a day-long celebration of women in engineering dedicated to giving them the tools. Now in its second year, the conference is designed to provide female engineering students with the confidence, tools, and leadership skills to step boldly into their future. It’s thanks to the generosity of Alison Seward, an alumnus of the Mechanical Engineering Department, that the conference has found the backing necessary to get started.

During her tenure at the Speed School, Seward worked as a co-op at General Electric, which helped launch her post-graduate career. Now a Technology Design Quality Leader still at GE, she is responsible for ensuring Technology’s alignment, support and execution of business quality goals. In 2015, Seward was made the recipient of the Edison Pioneer Award, which she donated to the University with the express desire to start the conference.

“With an estimated 80 current and 30 prospective students set to attend in 2017 it is clear that there is value in the conference supporting female engineering students,” says Seward.

She continues, “Women make up 20% of engineering school graduates but only 12% of practicing engineers. Statistics such as these make it clear that it is not enough for us to just focus on STEM education and female enrollment in engineering programs but that we must do a better job in preparing them for the workplace. Women in engineering face unique challenges in a typically male-dominated field. The Conference focuses on soft skills, networking and success in the workplace.”

Seward believes that her education was critical in helping her to be a creative problem solver, a skill set that she has employed in her professional work, from her position positions including New Product Introduction Supplier Quality, Program Manager, Design Manager, Cost-Out Execution Leader, up to her current role.

As such, Seward looks to her contemporaries and beyond, female engineers who have made an impact in some way. She explains, “I tend to look for characteristics or attributes in many different people and see how I can learn from them. For example, we have a leader at GE Appliances that is fantastic about engaging and supporting her team so I look for ways to emulate that in my own team.”

She adds, “I have had several professional mentors over the years, both formal and informal, that have been very helpful in my personal development. I have also been fortunate enough to have a couple of keys sponsors throughout my career.”

The conference runs Saturday, Feb. 4th from 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m in the SAC Multipurpose Room. Click here to learn more about the 2017 Women's Leadership Conference.

Dr. Mehmed Kantardzic on the past, the present and the future of Computer Science

Mehmed KantardzicAt the twilight of the 20th century, the Bosnian city of Sarajevo came under siege. It was during those years that Dr. Mehmed Kantardzic, Bosnian native with a background in the sciences and engineering and current member of the department of Computer Science and Computer Engineering, organized classes and met with students in a bid to keep some sense of normalcy. Such is his dedication, not only to educating a new generation of students, but in his own research, that he would brave a literal battleground to teach.

After the war, he immigrated to the United States, landing a job at the University soon thereafter, where he has worked for the interim 21 years. He admits, “They were refugees here in Louisville. I was lucky that at the UofL they accepted me almost immediately.”

For Dr. Kantardzic, it wasn’t the dangers of war or the immigration that cut the deepest, but something much more sublime. He recalls, “What’s interesting is that maybe at that time, after four or five years in the war… can you imagine the worst part of that time is that I was blocked. Computer science was booming and we didn’t even have access to that information.”

He adds, “So, I tried to jump into a new field, that was called the data mining field. It was established in 1996, and it was something new. I had the background for it for statistics and machine learning, these are the fields that are the infrastructure for data mining. That was the time that these data mining courses started all over the world. I published the first textbook in the field in 2002. It was one of the first data mining world. Hundreds of universities still use that book.”

Now Dr. Kantardzic applies his experience and expertise towards data mining and knowledge discovery, fields of study dedicated to parsing an ever-increasing pool of data in a sensible and digestible manner.

He explains, “Essentially, what we are talking is a huge amount of data is produced with our current technology. For a long time, people were thinking how can I collect the data? In today’s world, data collection is very cheap. You have these sensors all over the world. What’s happening is that at once, you have a huge amount of data that nobody is using. If you are thinking about Google and all the data. What is stored in Google, what is stored on Facebook, it looks like everybody is using everything now? The question is, how to make good use of the data to improve decision making processes in all the fields.”

Despite the flood of available information, from GPS to social media sources and beyond, Dr. Kantardzic remains optimistic for the future of the workforce.

“Will robots overcome the normal intelligence of a human? Still, that is the direction that we’re going. There is a lot of changes in the field. At least it is a field that is not boring for anybody. You can find yourself, and really what you want. Yes, you have a job. My feeling is that everybody could find the job that he or she likes,” says Dr. Kantardzic.

Not only does Dr. Kantardzic have a number of publications backing his research, but a robust philosophy that he applies to teaching. He believes, “I’m always telling my students that you think of computer science as a technical discipline. You couldn’t believe how different field makes a difference in computer sciences. Now maybe people understand more. You have Facebook, Twitter, which are analyzing data. I think the field of computer engineering the good thing is that people from different disciplines are making this field much richer.”

He continues adding of his belief in a multi-disciplinary model for research that, “Always I’m telling young people, especially female, they are afraid of this geek image. That is the typical. It will be much more communication for any other field. Tomorrow you will design for the medical field, the legal field… it is critical that you communicate with these fields.”

McNamara teaches favorite course which includes work in the Clean Room

Dr. Shamus McNamara“I always wanted to be an electrical engineer,” says Dr. Shamus McNamara, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Director of the Clean Room. “When I was in elementary school, I did a research project on how to make a computer and my life has followed that path since then. First, I did some software. Then I wanted to know how to do that. I kept going smaller and smaller. How do you build it? How do you build that part? That got me to where I am now."

A native of Tucson, Arizona, Dr. McNamara’s education took him around the country, from the cooler climate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, where he obtained his undergrad and master’s degrees, to the sharp seasonal swings that included bitter cold at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he earned his PhD. He arrived in Louisville with his family in 2005, where he has taught since, including his work in the Clean Room.

Primarily, Dr. McNamara’s research centers around MEMS, or micro electro mechanical systems, which drive both his teaching and his research. In particular, he is working with gas microfluidics, which is the gas flow through micro channels. His work correlates to the concept of a lab on a chip, a miniaturized biological or medical lab that uses minute amounts of sample materials to conduct tests.

“In the United States, it’s the cost and times that are driving things. If you can go into your doctor and get a test done in ten minutes, it’s much faster than sending your blood off to a lab, it speeds up things and you can get things faster. If you look at other countries without the infrastructure that we have, you can have minimally trained personal do the work. It has a lot of potential,” says Dr. McNamara.

Not only does Dr. McNamara run the Clean Room, part of the Micro-Nano Technology Center, but he is also a client. As the director, his primary task is to make sure the room is available. The space is a resource that benefits not only faculty and students, but companies of all shapes and sizes. The room features equipment that is too expensive to purchase otherwise, making it a unique location to conduct work in the region.

“The faculty get to use it, which enables them to bring in a lot of grant money. We’ve estimated that somewhere between one-third to one-half of grants that come into UofL come from work in the MNTC, used in some way,” says Dr. McNamara.

He adds, “It becomes a very good resource for a lot of big companies, small companies, faculty members. We have classes that use the Clean Room. They (the students) eventually graduate go out, work for a company, or start their own business or whatever.”

As such, he is teaching what he admits is one of his favorite courses, MEMS Design and Fabrication, this semester, which ties into his work in the Clean Room.

“They section off into teams and each team has to design some device. They design it, we simulate it, and we go into the Clean Room and make it,” he says continuing, “I’m always changing courses. There is always something you’re improving. That’s just what professors do.”

Q&A with Speed Alumnus Alan Kleier

Alan KleierMarch 2, 2017

An alum of the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Alan Kleier has dedicated his life to engineering. Graduating from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Kleier was ever traveling the world in pursuit of the next job culminating in his long career at Chevron. Now retired, Kleier spends his time between his home in Florida and Louisville, where he serves on the Speed School Industrial Board of Advisors.

How is retirement? What do you do with your time?
It’s been a challenge. I'm actually on a board of a publicly held corporation (Energen corporation). I play some golf. I have five grandchildren. I spend time with them. I’m a season football ticket holder. I come up here in the Fall more than the rest of the year. I’m here a lot in the Fall.
What is your educational background? Where did you go to high school? What is your engineering specialty?

I was second generation Speed School. My father was a 1934 graduate of Speed School. He sort of told me from the day I was born that I was going to go to engineering school. I just felt like it was predestined. Because that’s all he ever said. My job was to follow the family where dad went. Speed School had a good reputation and always put out good engineers.

The harder decision was to move away. I had eight or ten job offers. I had an offer where I co-oped (CNI Girdler), a consulting company. I had a job offer at Colgate. Then I had several job offers with Firestone in Indiana, Alcoa Aluminum in Evansville, the NRC in Oakridge. I had done my thesis on aerodynamics, actually wind energy.

I ended up going into oil and gas, because I took a plan trip with Texaco. It intrigued me. I thought I was interviewing for a refinery job, but an upstream. In that industry, the upstream is the drilling and production, the mid-stream is the marketing and transportation, and the downstream is the refineries. What I learned is that the downstream rarely makes money. All most people see is the price of gasoline, but there are just pennies of profit in a gallon of gas.

The oil companies make their money on equity crude. If they have money on properties in the United States. The profits that come from the oil and gas and liquids is there’s. Overseas, you have various kinds of contracts with different governments. Generally, you have a production share contract. For instance, in Angola, I had 650 barrels of production a day. 250 went to the government, 200 to partners, and 200 to Chevron’s account, and we paid all the expenses. You basically produced the 650 for the 200. When you sell it by the barrel, that’s where your income is made.

What inspired you to become an engineer? Was it your father? What was his field?

I didn’t. I know when they gave me my first plant trip, that I wanted to do that. I was not that kind of engineer that would do well at a drawing board. I found it great. I love doing it. I like to explain to people how much we did to protect the environment. The first time I had to report was the environmental health and safety. We made sure we didn’t have accidents, we didn’t get people hurt, we didn’t have spills, reducing those incidents. But you want to minimize the impact, because we live in the environment.

How has moving around as much as you have shaped your life? Where do you live at the moment?

It made me realize that my roots never got too deep. A place to live was nice and I lived in a lot of nice places, and some I liked more than others, but I never got that ingrained in a place. One of the things that I always tried to do, was that there were things I liked and things I didn’t like about every place. When I lived in Wyoming, I could go to Yellowstone (National Park) and (Mt.) Rushmore, I saw things because I was close by. California is a beautiful state. West Texas is desolate, but really wonderful. Angola, the Angolans are lovely people. I didn’t really have a favorite place. I saw how things were relative to stuff. You just put it in a moving truck and away you go.

How do you balance work and life?

I never did a very good job at that, and I’ll be the first to admit that. In my mind I was doing what I had to do to take care of the family. I saw that as my primary role. While I sacrificed a lot, I was able to provide for them in the way that I wanted to. Both my kids got through college debt free.

What have you learned working on the Industrial Board of Advisors? What does that position entail?

It has reconnected me back to the university. Daddy was a graduate as well. This has always been our school. UofL has always been our school and Speed School in specific, and it allowed me to reconnect. It gave me the opportunity to give back. If I can help them in their development or with their career, it’s been a success for me.

What do you look for in a great employee? How important is the balance between technical acumen and an ability to communicate?

In today’s environment, interpersonal skills are important. Every company works in teams now. Those that are unable to communicate and work with others. They’re going to find themselves at a real disadvantage. What I was looking for in an interview was anyone who would look me in the eye, and who could articulate the value they created and the work that they did for their employer. I can’t tell you how many times I would get questions like “when do I get my first vacation?” In many cases, it’s such a competitive environment, that they’re using vacation as a hook.

I always looked for those that wanted to learn and asked questions to the company, instead of those questions you talk to the HR manager about. I actually liked it when the kids asked me how long it would take to get my job. They didn’t like the answer that you’d have to work 25 years. But at least they were ambitious enough to say they wanted that.

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow

NSBE Profile: Chris BellSenior Chris Bell has been working since he was six years old. His step-father, a construction worker, put him to work at a young age, which lead Bell to want bigger and better. Now turning his attention to Industrial Engineering, the program what he will graduate from this May, as a young adult, Bell has interested in the business side of engineering, in management and logistics.

He grew up in an all-white family. As one of eight children, Bell admits that he never realized that never noticed the difference.

“I’m literally the black sheep of the family. NSBE helped me find the other side. That’s a thing about Speed School, when I was in high school, I was kicking ass. When I got in, I lost my scholarship. Grades got worse,” says Bell.

He adds, “That’s when NSBE helped. We all started connecting and forming study groups. By the end of sophomore or junior year, the older members starting graduating. I remember when I first came in, the Calculus class had like 150 students and only ten black kids. I was talking to a friend, and I only know one other person like me. It is crazy how few people there are in the STEM major.”

Bell recalls starting out with 10 or 15 students in NSBE, which has now grown to include approximately 75 members. The program has grown to work with organizations like the West End School, an academically rigorous, free boarding school for at-risk young men that NSBE works to tutor a few hours a week over the last year.

While his experiences are positively shaped by his work helping tutor high school students and by the growing number of fellow NSBE members, it wasn’t always so easy.

“You come in and you are the only one. It’s that feeling of you don’t want to reach out for help, because you feel inferior. Even the lunch room at UofL is segregated. It’s literally split. That’s the way the classrooms are too, except that they aren’t split evenly.”

Ultimately though, he admits, “That’s one thing I guess that helped me. Staying involved is big. I wish I would’ve come up in NPHC (National Pan-Hellenic Council) Greek life. It helps so much in how you identify, even if it’s not that, even if it’s a sorority of fraternity.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:
NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community
NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past
NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family
NSBE Profile: The Value



NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community

NSBE Profile: Nurein AhmedSomalian born Nurein Ahmed was raised in Louisville. Attending Central High School, he was always a fan of math and science. Initially, he wanted to be a computer engineering, working in the IT program in high school, before switching to mechanical engineering upon his arrival at the University. Still, it was always engineering.

“I almost caught the house on fire a few times; we had a bunch of different papers and wrapper material, and I wanted to see how they burned differently. It wasn’t an act of pyromania; I was curious how the materials were different,” says Ahmed.

A first-generation college student, he had to work to gain admittance to the School. Starting off in the pre-Speed program, Ahmed endured an extra year to gain admittance, but admits that it was ultimately worth it to ensure his preparation.

“I would have been lost. There were things that I didn’t learn in high school that showed up a lot in pre-cal. Growing up in the city, you’re probably not going to use a lot of heavy tools or anything of that nature,” says Ahmed.

His goal is to become a design engineer, which he has had some experience with at GE during one of his co-op rotations. He explains, “To offer you something that’s never been done before, I think that’s really cool.”

Ahmed admits that it hasn’t always been easy. “There were times in class where I was hesitant to speak out. Being the only black kid in the class, I don’t want to be the stupid black boy. You’re more hesitant to say something, but when someone in the class says something, then you think it’s not stupid.”

Enter National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), which has helped inform those choices, providing him a group of peers that he can collaborate with to succeed.

“I can say confidently that without NSBE I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now. NSBE got me in touch with a community that I didn’t even know of.”

For Ahmed, NSBE is more than just a platform to find study partners or aids, serving as a social network as well. Through the organization, Ahmed has not only met and established lifelong friends, but he has had the chance to network with industry professionals, African Americans with comparable experiences who offer advice. In turn, through NSBE’s work at the West End School, he has had the opportunity to give back to the community as a mentor to students growing up in a comparable situation to his own.

He says, “It’s really cool, because you go down there and you tell them that you are an engineer, and they don’t know what that is. I didn’t know what an engineer was until I got to college, which is crazy. Especially see someone that looks like them to help them, just to show them that it’s possible.”

Continuing he adds, “That’s one thing that NSBE taught me, that I can do it. You see other people that look like you, definitely helps. That’s one of the biggest things: representation matters. When you have that representation, it shows you that you can do anything.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow
NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past
NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family
NSBE Profile: The Value

NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past

NSBE Profile: Zita Ackah“I didn’t start off as chemical engineering (major)," explains senior Zita Ackah, “I started with the intent of going to med school with a bioengineering degree. Chemical engineering came into the picture, because I didn’t want to go that long. I wanted a backup plan that if I didn’t go to med school, would keep me hot on the market.”

Like many that come to the Speed School, it hasn’t been the easiest path. A recipient of the Woodford R. Porter scholarship, Ackah has forged her path through a confluence of her heritage, her experiences in co-op, and her engagement with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE).

Growing up in Boone County, home to Florence, Kentucky, daughter to Ghanaian immigrants, Ackah appreciates her suburban upbringing.

“I really appreciate my time at Boone County High School, because I think it made me a very level-headed person. It was like very predominantly white, and the few black students we did have, there was a group of us that was high achieving, and the others were low performing,” says Ackah.

Once enrolling in the Speed School, Ackah joined NSBE soon thereafter, and opportunity that has had a profound impact on her academic career.

“For me, just connecting with people that are usually at my same learning capabilities. I have a ton of friends that are 3.5 (grade point average), 4.0 friends. NSBE was a place where I could study with people that learn like I do,” says Ackah.

She already has a post-graduation plan to work as an entry-level engineer at Sabic Innovative Plastics in Mount Vernon, Indiana, where she co-oped during her three rotations. She anticipates that she will work in, “More process control and more of optimizing operations to where you are minimizing your waste, staying on spec, and making sure that your operators are doing what they need to do.”

As to incoming students, she offers simple advice: get connected. It’s no small task to advance to become an engineer, and Ackah has an interesting perspective on the stresses unique to the African American student community.

She explains, “A huge problem is that a number of students come in on Woodford R. Porter. Because they’re more worried about keeping their scholarship they can’t afford to stay in Speed School, which requires a higher GPA than the scholarship demands to continue. On top of whatever it is that they’re facing, being a minority here, classroom sizes, or being who you are, either they lose their scholarship or leave to keep it.”

For Ackah, NSBE has not only help her to navigate those obstacles, but to form a relationship with a community of people that she may otherwise not have known. She says, “We are more than just a group of people that meet up in a room and host an event. We’re actual friends. We party. We have embarrassing pictures of each other. We’re really good friends.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow
NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community
NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family
NSBE Profile: The Value

NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family

National Black Engineers (NSBE) President Jordan Potts, is right at home at the Speed School. Growing up in a small town in Eastern Kentucky, Potts gravitated towards Louisville not only by virtue of his education and Woodford R. Porter scholarship, but because of the diversity that Louisville offers. Potts is a charismatic senior, the reigning UofL Homecoming King and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, part of the Divine Nine. This May, he will graduate with a degree in Civil Engineering, which he plans to use as the basis for his graduate work at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law to become a patent attorney. Ideally, he hopes to start his own firm.

Initially overwhelmed by the requirements of his major, Potts stands by the NSBE mission statement “to increase the number of culturally responsible Black Engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community."

"It’s important to me because everything the mission statement says is true. You can become a close-knit family as is before. It’s more than an organization it’s a family. It’s important to me, because of the networking thing. You can get opportunities that you might not have if you were not NSBE. People are going through the same struggle you are, because you are a black engineer,” says Potts.

His advice to current and incoming African American students? Potts says, “Never give up. Find a mentor, especially who’s already in the engineering program, the undergraduate engineering program. They can guide you with how to study or how to get a co-op. Also, nothing ever comes easy. You have to go get it. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow
NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community
NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past
NSBE Profile: The Value



NSBE Profile: The Value

NSBE Advisor, Erica GrayAn advisor in the Speed School Cooperative Education and Career Development Office  working with chemical and electrical engineering majors, if you’ve worked your rotation lately, then you likely recognize Erica Gray. An alumna of the University of Louisville with a Bachelor’s in Arts in English and a Master’s from Spalding University, Gray is currently finishing off her doctoral PhD in Educational Leadership. For the last five years or so, Gray has been an employee at UofL, working first with the Signature Partnership Schools program before transferring to the Speed School a year and a half ago.

Since joining the Speed School, she was invited as an advisor to the National Society of Black Engineers. Gray believes, “The value of NSBE on campus is to show that there are professional organizations for black engineers. It’s good across campus, because if I’m a student across campus, I know that there is an organization of students that will help me through a pretty rigorous program.”

She adds, “I think the other value is that it’s just not common, still, for there to be a lot of black engineers. Regionally, it’s good that this campus is represented, at bigger institutions in bigger cities, to know that there are black students that are interested in engineering, that are being successful in pursing their degree is fantastic.”

Gray admits that the Speed School can be difficult to navigate, but is optimistic that with the right support and staying connected with students like yourself, that you can succeed.

She advises, “We have students here who came from a very small school where they were a genius and they aren’t used to how competitive to everyone. Even if you have professors that are hard to talk to, make them know you. Knowing that you care about yourself enough. Get over this whole mindset that engineers are introverts. If you talk to NSBE, just come in.”

Read more NSBE Profiles:

NSBE Profile: Building a Better Tomorrow
NSBE Profile: Speaking Out on Engineering and Community
NSBE Profile: Balancing the Future and the Past
NSBE Profile: Perseverance and Family


 

Mark French seeks practical applications for his interests and teaching

Headshot of Dr. Mark FrenchBefore Dr. Mark French became a member of the faculty in May of 1987, he was a student. Dr. French has called Louisville home many times in his life, attending high school in town, and receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of Louisville, before attending MIT for his Master’s Degree and the University of Iowa for his PhD. A member of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department, Dr. French specializes in all things water, including water resources, hydraulics, hydrology, and water treatment.

Since his childhood, Dr. French has had a keen fascination for science and math, and during his education sought a practical application for his interests, which ultimately led to Civil Engineering.

“Almost everything civil engineers do is visible out in the world. You can see roads. You can see drinking water. You can see bridges and dams. We’ve got the soils, we’ve got the structures, the roadways, and the water. Those are the four traditional areas of CE. I always wanted to do something I could see,” says Dr. French.

He has taken that commitment to effecting to tangible change into the classroom. His efforts in the classroom were recently realized as he was honored as a Faculty Favorite, which recognizes faculty by vote for how they have impacted their respective constituencies. Dr. French works with his students to realize their projects, which includes a water filtration system completed just last year that utilized clean energy sources to chemically free filter water in Bear Grass Creek.

“Nowadays we have a lot of what’s called the flipped classroom, where students do a lot of the work outside of class. I feel like mine should be called the tilted classroom. I think today’s generation of young people; they came from a different view than old timers like most of the faculty. I always try and remind myself as freshmen, they were born when? You’ve got to think about that. When you refer to things, when you try to put things in a context, that it makes sense to your students.”

He continues adding, “In the classroom, some faculty say I don’t want students on a computer, I don’t want them on a cellphone. I take the inverse approach: how can we use a computer or cellphone in the classroom.”

Dr. French is practical about his responsibility as both an educator and engineer. He believes, “There are still so many challenges in what we’re trying to do, which is to understand natural variation. For example, take rain fall. That’s a very familiar thing to the public. How it changes from month to month, how it changes day to day. Now as an engineer, I need you to put an equation on that, so that if you’re designing a drainage pond, irrigation for your crops, tell me what I need to do. That’s impossible. I can tell you how much it might rain in a year, but I can’t tell you what it will do this week.”

He has a pragmatic and measured response to environmental change and how he can engage that. He says, “civil engineers have to account for is the environment that we live in. There is climate change and there is climate variation. One you might say is a natural variation of climate on the earth. Climate change is induced by something. Regardless of that, we don’t have to care about why it’s happening, or rather we do, but we have to account for how it’s happening.”

Looking to the future, Dr. French offers a few simple solutions to the big problems facing water conservation. He explains, “A neat area is water re-use. By water re-use, I mean recycling of water rather than waste water treatment being dumped back out into a stream or river. This is already done in parts of Southern California. Once the water is treated, it’s put back into the water supply. This could really reduce water shortages. You take all the toilets that are being flushed, all the other industries putting all that water into the water supply, you introduce it into the water supply. Then it goes into the water treatment plant, mixed with raw water, and treated; that could really reduce water shortages.”

Celebrating Black History Month

Founded in 1975, the National Society of Black Engineers is an organization that seeks to provide a community for African American engineers. As one of our Recognized Student Organizations, NSBE offers an environment for students in the Speed School to study and learn together. In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve reached out to four of our graduating students, all members of the organization, as well as Erica Gray, the advisor. You can find an interview with each at one of the links below.

Structural crack in Oroville Dam cause for concern

Photo Credit: Oroville Dam Public DomainRecently, the area around the Oroville Dam in northern California was evacuated due to safety concerns relative to a crack in the infrastructure. Those fears were eventually allayed only as flood waters receded. Two Speed School professors, Drs. Thomas Rockaway and Omid Ghasemi-Fare, both of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, offer insight into the desired functionality of dams, the potential risks in long-term maintenance, and the existence of comparable concerns in our own back yard.

How Dams Work
Large dams are complex structures and understanding their intended purpose and basic components is critical in understanding the risks associated with these systems. A dam may serve a combination of functions including flood control, power generation, agricultural supply, drinking water, and recreation.

When dams are built for flood control, the intent is for them to temporarily hold back the flood waters and then gradually release the impounded water over time, preventing downstream flooding.  If too much water is received behind the dam, then to prevent overtopping, the water is diverted around the structure through primary and auxiliary spillways.

Determining the amount of water to retain behind the dam is a challenging issue.  When dams are used for flood control, the storage volume should be as large as possible.  However, when dams are also used for drinking water or other purposes, then there is a balancing act between how much water you retain as compared to available storage volume.  And while we may be able to identify wet and dry seasons, there is still much uncertainty associated with individual rain events.

The Oroville Damage
Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the Oroville Dam was completed in 1967 to help with flood control, power generation, and to maintain the water supply. In 2013, a crack required crews to repair the spillway, a problem that Kevin Dossey, a Senior Civil Engineer with the Department of Water Resources, reported to the Sacramento CBS affiliate as routine. He explains that “it’s common for spillways to develop a void because of the drainage systems under them.”

After heavy flooding in the area, additional damage to the main spillway resulted in the evacuation of approximately 180,000 residents in February of 2017.

Ghasemi-Fare explains that the purpose of the spillways is to regulate the level of water behind the dam “and are designed to transport huge amounts of water downstream during flooding events.  If the spillways cannot pass the flood waters, the dam may be overtopped and fail.”  In the case of Oroville, the main spillway was out of service, but the flood waters were able to bypass the dam using the auxiliary spillway.  

The challenge, according to Rockaway, is that “overflow structures do not get used frequently.  And when they are used, we generally have little warning and expect them to work perfectly.  It is thus very important to be proactive with respect to maintenance.” 

The failure of a dam is a catastrophic event, not only in terms of possibly lives lost, but in the environmental destruction to the surrounding area. For the Oroville Dam, the situation is still a cause for concern due to the anticipated rainfall.

Prevention is Key
For both Rockaway and Ghasemi-Fare, it’s about diligence in adhering to routine maintenance to prevent future incidents, not only in places like Oroville, but in our own back yard.

Dams, bridges and other structures are very complex. Each structure has its unique challenges and probable failure modes.

“We have to routinely perform inspections and provide maintenance in a timely manner so we can find the small problems before they become big problems," says Ghasemi-Fare. "Even if the structures are working properly, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do the maintenance.” 

Rockaway shares an optimistic appraisal of our regional vigilance to maintenance needs.

“When we build this infrastructure, it’s not a one-time investment. We have to be diligent and willing to meet the long-term maintenance obligations," he said. "As an example, when an inspection identified structural issues associated with the Sherman Minton Bridge, the response was immediate. With appropriate inspection and maintenance, these structures can have a long and useful service life.”

Engineered for love: two Speed students get married this Spring Break

March 30, 2017

This spring break, Mechanical Engineering student Joel Deddens married his sweetheart Corine (Cori) Finney, a graduate from the Chemical Engineering Department. Married on Saturday, March 11th, Deddens and Finney retreated to Jamaica for their honeymoon, an economic decision that worked out well given the cool local temperatures.

“We were on a cruise to Mexico when I proposed last spring so it kind of made sense to go back to the Caribbean, and Jamaica was just the best place we could find everything we wanted without having to take out an extra student loan,” says Deddens.

Meeting through mutual friends, the two hit it off once they were able to spend any time together. For Deddens, Finney is an inspiration.

“When we met, she was working on her master’s degree in chemical engineering at speed, which she was awarded in May 2015. I was working full-time while she was in school and she is really the one who motivated me to enroll and there was almost a polar switch where she started working and I started going to class in 2015,” says Deddens.

Now, he looks forward to getting into his higher-level courses, where he believes he will become a better engineer. A gearhead, Deddens has an interest in how various forms of transportation function, an enthusiasm for mechanics that informs his educational pursuits, which he balances with his professional activities.

Deddens says, “I've toyed with the idea of getting into robotics but my programming experience is extremely limited, I hope to have the chance to work on that while I am still in school.”

Juggling school, work, and a wedding is no small feat, but one that Deddens and Finney have been fortunate in, which he admits hasn’t been that bad. He explains, “It has been tricky some days trying to balance getting things ready for this weekend and trying not to forget about my responsibilities in my classes. I have to force myself to make sure I've taken care of my school work before I start doing any wedding work, because once I'm on that train of thought it's hard to switch back.”

A talk with Dr. Jacek Zurada on achieving 10K Citations

A conversation with Dr. Jacek Zurada on achieving 10K Citations

 President Pinto, Provost Billingsley and Dean Usher have congratulated you on this special recognition of 10,000 citations to your work. Could you tell us more about you and your research?

Thanks, and I am very pleased to be recognized for my career of research at the Speed School and for publishing over 380 papers and books. This recognition is also a tribute to my co-author colleagues, PhD and MS students, most of them from UofL. I started at this university as an untenured Assistant Professor after my postdoc training at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich. I am an electrical engineer in the Electrical & Computer Engineering Department, where I have taught since 1989.
 
What is the focus of your research?
 
My specialty is machine learning and artificial intelligence. Both deal with theory and development of computer systems that are able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. These are emerging technologies that have an amazing range of applications and serve humanity by making our lives easier and more connected, and also promote social good. I’m sure you own a smartphone, the flagship achievement of AI of our generation.

What does it mean to have such a high citation score? To what do you attribute this distinction?
 
Traditionally, researchers had difficulties with quantifying their research contributions. The number of publications that people author or co-author is not a good metric, because publications can both be in quality journals and conferences, but also can be submitted to outlets that require no reviews prior to publication and would accept papers with little to no vetting by peers. While the former approach requires a lot of effort, the latter is a more opportunistic and less risky path that I’d compare to posting on blogs, usually done without the rigors of peer review. To sum it up - having published 50 papers in your career doesn’t tell the full story. It’s because the research impact of a paper is initially reflected by the journal title where it has been published, but it’s ultimately and accurately evidenced only several years later by how many times other researchers have cited your work. And they tend to reference papers that have been reviewed and appeared in high impact journals.

There is a general consensus in the research community that the number of citations to your body of work is the ultimate metric to evaluate the impact of your research. It’s a first-hand measure of how many times people read, notice and refer to your work in order to extend or improve it. To help answer these questions from researchers Google Scholar has equipped us with a fantastic public tool for searching through scientific literature. It also helps authors to keep track of citations to their articles and thus monitor the impact of their work.
 
Was this gradual? Did your research evolve to fit more into the zeitgeist, so to speak, or vice versa?
 
My first cited publications related to my PhD work. More recent citations have been to a very well received 2009 paper that collected over 400 citations and was published while I was on sabbatical. In the meantime, citations by other authors to some 380 papers of mine keep growing at a rate exceeding 600/year for the last 6 years. 

How does this influence your work? Do you think that you may focus subconsciously with citation in mind? For example, maybe you might focus on trends in your field?

The citations can be compared to the number of records sold by a band, and perhaps less so to the number of ‘likes’ on social media. But a citation is much more than a ‘like’, because someone must have read your article and built on it. You can click 20 “likes” per minute, but can only cite several papers per your day’s work when writing a paper. Reading a paper that you want to reference requires considerably more effort than clicking on your favorite picture.

Obviously, citations offer an author a great deal of encouragement, if not a public approval for the idea. They also validate the work that your team is doing. When you publish something, you initially don’t know its future impact. So, when people carry on what you have started, that’s a big deal. It indicates that you’ve done something seminal or inspiring, or of high impact that others want to continue or expand. However, when writing a research article, I pay no attention to its future citations. Frankly, I know of no ways to engineer your citations. I focus, however, on how to contribute an original method, outline a new theory, describe a new application, or offer insights into data that I and my students have studied. Novelty, usefulness, and a lucid presentation in ahigh impact journal are all “must have” of a good, citable publication and are true gatekeepers for your future citations. 

How do citations fit into the overall research landscape? 

When you reflect on research, it turns out that it is a continuum in time, space and focus. It never stops, it never dies. Within this context, we don’t write papers for ourselves, so when they resonate with research community, that’s the goal they have achieved. These communities have no borders, and at any given time we know of hundreds of thousands of researchers busy with new cancer cures, thousands of researchers working on new humanoid robots or speech recognition, and perhaps only hundreds of researchers who look at how the human eye differentiates a cat from a dog. We need to keep in mind that any research serves humanity and should benefit others rather than ourselves.

How do you balance your research and other (teaching, administrative, professional) responsibilities?
 
University teaching, especially graduate teaching, reinforces our research and all academics agree on this. While administrative duties on campus can be viewed by some as distraction from research, we also need to realize that a collective effort is needed for the university to smoothly function as an institution of higher learning. Therefore, input from faculty with considerable research experience to the university governance is necessary. I therefore had to find the time to serve in such roles as a Speed School Senator and as a Parliamentarian for the Faculty Senate, member of the SpeedFaculty Activity Committee, Graduate Council member and as a Chair of the ECE Curriculum Committee.

This still leaves me the time to be actively engaged in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which, with over 400,000 members, is the world’s largest professional organization. It happens to be an organization created for and by electrical and electronic engineers. It is well known and highly regarded for advancing technology for humanity and for its vast and prestigious intellectual property. It publishes 180 top periodicals of the field and sponsors over 1800 conferences per year. I have served as IEEE Vice President in 2013-15, and was Chair of its Periodicals Committee and Periodicals Review Committees in 2010-13. I am also an IEEE Life Fellow.

What advice do you have for burgeoning researchers?
 
My first and lofty message for aspiring researchers-authors is that you don’t write a paper for yourself, neither for your chair or dean or a promotion committee, but for the readers and in a broader sense you target the humanity. The wider is your target audience, the more success can be scored. My other message is of more practical nature: authors need to pay careful attention to the reproducibility of results presented in their papers so that other researchers with a similar specialized knowledge could replicate the papers’ outcomes. Dead-ended publications with no follow up aren’t useful because when our published disclosures can’t be applied, improved on or otherwise continued, our efforts have been wasted.

Profile: Mara Broering on teaching and the student experience

Headshot of Dr. Mara BroeringProfessor Mara Broering bridges the gap between student and faculty. Moving here from Northern Kentucky to attend the JB Speed School, Broering graduated with a master’s in Mechanical Engineering before accepting a job in the department of Engineering Fundamentals. She gravitated towards Mechanical Engineering as an area that she sees as having broad applications.

“What I kind of liked about Mechanical is that it sort of touched on everything. I imagined mechanical as kind of the backbone of engineering. You usually are learning a little bit about each of those areas,” says Broering.

Prior to teaching, Broering’s research focused on computational fluid dynamics, a simulation dedicated to the changing nature of fluid. Since taking on her position with Engineering Fundamentals, she has refocused her energies to pedagogical studies.

She explains, “I’m not currently researching. I study the science of learning. I’ve been taking some seminars into the science of education. I’m happy with that. I’m perfectly happy to just teach.”

Broering applies her experiences in the classroom, working to educate incoming students while remaining sensitive to the rigors of the course work.

“That’s one reason that I like teaching math is trying to break down those concepts in ways that students would understand them. I had professors that forgot how to introduce a topic at that level,” she says adding, “That’s why I like doing collaborative work. Because they’re just learning the material, they have a little bit more a fresh perspective on it.”

She remembers what it was like to walk into the class for the first time, and the balance between work and life that students, often fresh into adulthood, are learning to maneuver.

“I try to keep in mind what it was like when I was a student. They have other things vying for their time and attention. While I can’t necessarily empathize with the struggle, because I didn’t have the same difficulty, I empathize with the workload. And I remember what it was like for my classmates. This stuff isn’t easy. I try to remind students that it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean you’re dumb. It doesn’t mean that you couldn’t,” she says.

In her free time, Broering splitting her time between two primary interests. She explains that she, “plays video games. My other big hobby is photography. If I go on trips, I take my camera with me. That means that I like going to places with good views. I like going to the zoo. I like going to the park. That kind of thing. I’ve gone to the Thunder Show. I’ve done some of the fireworks too. Go to events. Something that I think that would be fun.”

Dr. Kevin Murphy on Growth in Mechanical Engineering

Headshot of Dr. Kevin MurphyOver the last decade, the department of Mechanical Engineering has experienced a robust growth, manifested yearly as a steady uptick in undergraduate students. As of the 2016 Fall semester, the department has approximately 650 students enrolled, an increase of almost two hundred in the interim decade. Between the continued expansion in students and the recent loss of two professors, Dr. Bill Hnat and Dr. Matt Bohm last year, the ME department is currently hosting three concurrent job searches, two intended to refill vacant positions, and an additional hire to keep pace with an advancing constituency.

Dr. Kevin Murphy, the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, believes there are a number of reasons to their continued growth.

“I would attribute our growth to the undergraduate enrollment. The undergraduate growth is driven both by a recognition that great stuff is going on. There has been great growth in the Commonwealth. People recognize that they can get jobs. That kind of growth has been happening nationwide. There has been incredible growth in the Speed School and I think that reputation has been growing. We provide an excellent education for the dollar. We really do have outstanding faculty who teach really well,” says Dr. Murphy.

In light of the recent hiring frost at the university, Interim Dean Usher understands the balance between budget and growth. He explains, “In order to meet student demand, the ME faculty (as well as other faculty at Speed) are teaching more sections and seeing larger class sizes than ever before. Unfortunately, this growth in demand is hitting at the same time as the overall budget cutbacks at UofL. This has caused us to take a more conservative approach toward adding faculty in any of our eight departments, including ME, until we know more about our future budgets and our ability to grow the faculty.”

Usher adds optimistically, “However, I remain extremely confident that Speed School will be able to fund ME sufficiently to ensure a well-staffed faculty base that can deliver a high-quality experience for their Speed School students. We are working closely with the department leadership to look at how we can best add faculty in strategic ways to meet the increased demand while staying within budget constraints.”

So far, the hiring process has been robust, with a number of promising candidates visiting the university. Ultimately, the goal is not only to refill existing positions, but to build on the success of the Department. Part of that process is finding someone who is not only capable in their respective niche studies, but in locating a potential colleague who wants to grow the ME culture going forward.

“We’ve had some outstanding candidates come through. We’ve got a number of additional people coming in that are also, outstanding candidates. I think they’re well positioned to make some outstanding hires. These people are positioned to contribute meaningful to the growth and development. When we look at people, we’re really looking at the person. At the end of the day, we’re about generating ideas and generating students. Getting good people to do that is really important.”

Freshman Kaylee Norvell on team building in Engineering Methods Tools & Practice

Growing up in London, KY, freshman Kaylee Norvell has always enjoyed building stuff. During her junior year of high school, she was accepted to the Governor’s Scholars program and exposed to the wider world of possibility that engineering offers. After weighing her post-graduate options, she gravitated towards the JB Speed School where she is now enrolled and moving towards the end of her first year.

Norvell, who believes she might go into Mechanical, is a student in Professor Robinson’s Engineering Fundamentals 111 course, and thoroughly engaged in the process. The class, which sees students pairing off to build a windmill, is geared towards applying engineering principles to a functional project.

“This is the first time I’ve ever played around with stuff. It’s even gotten me more interested in other classes, and even how the world works. It’s helped in that aspect. I know that this is what I want to do now. It’s also good being a Freshman and if you know that you hate it, you haven’t gotten too far. I’ve heard a lot of my classmates say that it’s stupid. That’s the thing with education: you can’t please everyone,” says Norvell.

Ultimately, Norvell hopes to apply the lessons learned in class to her future academic and professional endeavors. According to Norvell, her biggest take away is, “People skills. They split us up in groups. I have Mechanical, a Bio-Medical, and a Computer Engineering Computer Science majors on my team. It has helped me communicate within your discipline and know that you’re good at something and they’re good at something and connect with them. That’s what engineering is about.”

Alumni Spotlight: Cynthia Smith explores her world

April 21, 2017

Cynthia SmithCynthia Smith likes to tinker. The Meade County, Kentucky native began taking things apart at a young age, further inspired by her father, a Civil Engineer. She pursued those interests to the JB Speed School of Engineering, graduating in the Spring semester of 2015 with a Master’s Degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, which she now employs at Hewlett Packard. During her time here, Smith remained involved in the Student Council, serving as the President during her last year in school.

It was a long road, but one that Smith looks back on fondly. The youngest of four, Smith is the only member of her family to attend the University of Louisville, the start in her journey away from home. Her three co-op rotations took her to Garyville Louisiana, where she worked in a refinery for Marathon. She parlayed her experience with Marathon into a position at Top Works in Louisville, where she worked with board design and testing, before ending up at HP, who were so impressed with her skills that they held the job for her pending graduation.

She worked to find her way though, taking one summer off between co-op rotations to explore a complimentary interest interning at a recording studio.

“I took a summer off and worked at a Recording Studio at Dark Horse Recording. I am really into music and was always kind of interested in it. I had a hard semester and needed a semester where I was doing something I love. Realized that to work in that industry you have to intern for years. I figured having a degree in engineering and going to work for free was not the greatest,” says Smith.

Upon graduation, Smith relocated to Vancouver, Washington to her new position at HP in July of 2015, where she remains challenged and engaged.

“I work on the ASIC design team. We design the chip that runs all the printers. I specifically work on testing the chip before it’s actually physically fabricated. It’s basically a programmable chip, we download our design into that, and to give our firmware some kind of idea what they’re going to be working with,” says Smith.

She continues adding, “I like that it’s not always the nitty gritty design ideas. I like also just working with the boards and platforms that we’re using for the testing. I like to be able to see what I’m working with. Piecing together the different parts is very modular. The modularity and going about the problem-solving method is very applicable to any kind of job you’re going to have.”

Smith took a lot of lessons from her co-op work, including the value of team building and project management. It was during her various rotations that she learned what did and didn’t work with her interests, which helped guide her path towards her career. Her advice to future students is simple: engage in the engineering community and build relationships.

“Try to focus on some of the practical projects that you are given. Like the Baja team if you’re interested in that kind of thing, or the Student Council, which I was part of. It’s the practical tools and that group work and team work that translate into the work environment. What people lack is what does this look like in the work place? How can I make my voice heard? And I learned a lot of that in my extracurricular activities here and from Speed School Student Council,” says Smith.

Visionary: Ricky Aguiar and Carlos Gonzalez on building a better hotel room

June 21, 2017

 A collaboration between 21C Hotels and FirstBuild, the hotel room for the future challenge was developed to inspire innovation in lodging. That’s no small task to come up with an idea that’s both practical in application, affordable, and aesthetically appealing, but one that Ricky Aguiar and Carlos Gonzalez, current GE employees and graduate students set as their task.

While they did not win the competition, even placing was an accomplishment in a contest that pitted established businesses against evenly with students. Aguiar and Gonzalez focused on a technologically savvy hotel suite, which included a self-drying shower, voice activated accoutrements, heated floors, and a refrigerator designed to come stocked with your choice of beverage.

“I like doing projects, and there is no better person to do it with than Carlos. We started brainstorming from around the world. We started adding our own technology to it, like the heated floors, a self-drying shower, and voice activated everything. They wanted to raise ceilings and have atomic power. People had some crazy ideas,” says Aguiar.

That zeal for engineering started at a young age, and continues to serve as their inspiration to innovate.

“I was always interested in how things worked. I played with Legos and liked building stuff. Found out what engineering was and it was basically what I liked already. It was a clear choice,” says Gonzalez.

Aguiar adds, “When I was a kid, my cousin was into a lot of games that were only available in Japan. So, we had to open them up and mod them.”

Both Aguiar and Gonzalez have experience in the departments of Mechanical and Electrical and Computer Engineering, which informed their choices. So, they looked at near future gadgetry as their angle, devices that might not currently exist, but could easily be developed.

“We tried to stay as feasible possible. We tried to stay in that realm. Both of us have an electrical engineering background, so we understand how you can use it in your appliances,” says Aguiar.

The competition was stiff. Many of their rivals were established businesses with resources that far exceeded their own, including a full staff. But the duo was undeterred, using their limited options as encouragement to think outside the box.

 “They used technology that was already existing. We used technology that doesn’t exist right now, but it could in the next few years. We used stuff that we knew could work,” says Aguiar. “They added a lot more detail. We focused more on the technology. We didn’t spend a lot of time on the color of the bedspread. Now we know. We didn’t know a lot. We knew how to use CAD.”

Gonzalez adds, “I took a class at UofL. ME380, intro to Cad design. That class is really what taught me solid works. That’s how I was able to get the room laid out. The hard part was learning how to the rendering. That’s what I took away from it.”

Commitment: Dr. John Usher on his return to Industrial Engineering

Acting Dean, John S. UsherEffective July 1st, 2017, Dr. John Usher will step down from his tenure as the interim dean of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Starting immediately thereafter, Usher will take a long overdue sabbatical, the first in his decades long career at the university. The plan is to take that time to recalibrate and get resituated to work in the classroom.

“I miss being in the classroom a lot. I feel like I’m a good teacher and I have a lot of experiences that I can share with the students. I’m also looking to get away from the stress. The administrative life contains a lot of budgets and a lot of that, that I did it, I enjoyed it, but I’m looking to get away from that and get back in the classroom. It just feels like good timing,” says Usher.

He gravitated towards the field during his education, with an eye towards the big picture.

“I thought it had matched my personality and skill set. The general population doesn’t really understand engineering. Industrial engineers build the systems that produce those items. They help to build the factory that builds the car. They have to know about scheduling and inventory and ergonomics. It’s a higher-level systems design that’s equally as challenging,” says Usher.

The department of Industrial Engineering has provided a few administrators to the Dean’s Office over the last several years, so Usher’s return is warming received.

“The Industrial Engineering Department is thrilled to have Dr. John Usher return to the IE department after serving as Acting Dean of the Speed School. John is a distinguished teacher, and an accomplished researcher, a revered colleague. We welcome him back,” says Dr. Suraj Alexander, chair of the Industrial Engineering department.

Usher remains a team player with one eye towards the future. Given his absence while serving as an administrator for the last five years, he is cautious to make sure he has his footing before stepping back in.

“I’ve got to find out what classes I’m going to be teaching. I’m not going to walk in and say I used to teach that course. I’ll do whatever they need. They’re still figuring it out. Part of my time on sabbatical is to figure out what they need or resurrect some old courses. I’m also going to get my research going again. I may travel a little. I’m still figuring some of that,” says Usher.

Culture: Dr. Ellen Brehob's International Service Learning Program trip to Croatia

Ellen BrehobEvery year, the University offers students the opportunity to participate in the International Service Learning Program, an interdisciplinary exercise in experiential education. Students are afforded the chance to travel to a number of countries, including Botswana and the Phillipines, experiences which allow for intercultural exchange and a chance to work with outside disciplines.

Mechanical Engineering Dr. Ellen Brehob serves as the academic representative of the Speed School for Croatia, a country situated in Eastern Europe near the Adriatic Sea. With two decades of service under her belt, Brehob sees the program first and foremost as immersion in to new experiences.

“I think that Croatia is different because it’s not a third world country. They have good food, good teeth. The program is a little different. I think you go because you want to do something good. But it’s not like we’re going to give them good drinking water, it’s more a cultural exchange,” says Brehob.

The Croatian program is relatively new, having developed over approximately the last six years. A former Communist state, Croatia endured a grueling civil war in the early-90s, which they have since recovered. That was part of the discussion as the Croatia program developed.

Brehob explains, “What they wanted was conflict resolution and how to keep peace, and we haven’t really met that.”

A multi-disciplinary program, engineering students work along with communications and nursing students to help assemble a program that they can take to Croatian high school students.

“Our students see they get to talk with High School students, detailed conversations. What it’s like to live in Croatia, what are their lives like. The Croatian students are really intrigued by Americans. They like talking to UofL students. The Croatian teachers are into it. We go in May,” says Brehob.

She continues adding, “We visit two high schools. One would be like our US high schools. They’re being trained to go to college. They’re learning math, English. The other is technical school. They are not being trained to go to college. That’s vocational. The tie to engineering, we go there and teach them hands on projects.”

Brehob hopes that the students walk away with a fresh perspective on the chances that they are afforded in the United States. Croatian students are often short on career options, and Brehob reports that a majority seek to move out of the country to find employment. Still, she has had a great experience in Croatia and believes that her students have benefitted as well.

“I love that in Croatia, they have a real sense of family. They don’t have as much money, but they have a happy comfortable life. It bothers me to see these kids who, I don’t think they have great job opportunities,” says Brehob.

IE Spring Capstone Recap: 10 projects that went to work

Headshot of Dr. Suraj AlexanderJuly 18th

Last May saw a new batch of Industrial Engineers finish off their studies with their capstone project. Each project was coordinated with Dr. Suraj Alexander, the chair of the department, to actually work with existing industry to provide a product to be employed in the field.

“We have about ten capstone projects. We have them with UPS and a lot of logistics companies. Wolverine. Some manufacturing companies. We did a project with the Jefferson County Office of the Circuit court,” says Alexander.

Graduate students worked on a wide array of projects including space optimization with American Printing House for the Blind, a major grocery chain, and the process improvement at Taco Bell, Dynacraft, Wolverine Worldwide, Radial Inc., UPS, as well as the aforementioned Jefferson County Office of the Circuit court.

“All of them did something useful. The most technical one was the UPS one, because they did a complex simulation. The other UPS capstone was assessing where they could use robots. They did find some use for robots,” says Alexander.

He adds of their group work, “They’re used to selecting their friends in teams, but I pick it for them. They don’t like that. You don’t get to choose who you work with in life. I look at their skillset and try to match them with a project. As the enrollment gets larger, it gets more difficult. If it were two semester projects, I could charge the companies.”

Drive: Dr. Richard Li makes your commute faster and safer

 Dr. Richard Li wants your commute to be smoother, safer, and quicker. A junior member of the faculty in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Li’s research involves self-driving and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, systems which allow the vehicle to respond to outside data to allow for an optimized driving outcome.

Studying at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guanjzhou, China, which is located near Hong Kong, Li earned his undergraduate in Electrical Engineering. After college, he worked in a software company developing intelligent transportation software. There he developed a keen interest in transportation, and so enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, where he received his PhD in Civil Engineering.

“I grew up in Shanghai, which is one of the most congested cities in the world. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to work in this field, is to improve the traffic, reduce the delay,” says Li.

Now, Li works to ensure that near-future technology and innovations can properly integrate with drivers to help mitigate traffic pinch points and potential safety hazards. Using smart technology, vehicles can communicate directly with the road, providing information about how to most effectively navigate busy intersections.

“For civil engineering, the transportation research is for how the roads can interact with the roads. How to maximize the through points on the road. How to reduce the omissions, says Li. “We use the flow dynamics to model the traffic, but it’s very difficult to do that, so it’ can’t be modeled as pure as traffic. The human factors are a very big factor. Autonomous vehicles, you don’t need the human to drive the vehicles. That will give us an opportunity to create a more harmonized flow.”

Working out of Cubic S, his lab which stands for Smart, Sustainable and Safer, Li has a number of projects related to his research that involve new legislation from the Department of Transportation that requires that all new light vehicles manufactured be equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle modules. These sensors allow vehicles to gather data on stop lights, traffic patterns, and turns, which Li hopes to visualize with on screen displays.

“In two or three years, passenger cars, vans, SUVs, they will transmit through the wireless transmission their speed. They can talk to other cars. They can receive other vehicles location and speed,” says Li. “The US DoT has done a lot of research on the safety applications of those. For example, if you know the vehicles that are near you, if you are in a lane turning left, you have to yield to oncoming traffic. The computer -we call it an agent- will estimate if you can take the gap or not. It will tell you if you can make it. There are a hundred applications like that, like rear end correction, they’re based on radar.”

Encouraged by the possibilities, Li set up a simulator in Cubic S, which he hopes to use for a variety of impending studies.

“I’d like to study with young drivers and older drivers. My other idea, is to study drunk drivers with an MRI scanner. It gets your brain scan when you’re driving. It would test how much the drug and alcohol level will cause safety issues when driving in the simulation,” says Li.

Engineering Fundamentals 111 Overview

Dr. Patricia RalstonBeginning in the Fall of 2016, the Department of Engineering Fundamentals offered the first courses in their bid to get introductory level students engaged in hands on activities. ENGR110 was updated as a precursor to the ENGR111, which offered the hands on component, with the two working in tandem to show, not tell engineering principles, by giving students the opportunity to work on them in a group setting with a visible outcome at the end. The result of two years of planning, ENGR 111 was taught by Professor Brian Robinson, who designed the course to culminate in the creation of a functioning wind turbine. 

According to Dr. Patricia Ralston, chair of the EF department, the time was right for a change in direction. 

"What is really unique about this course is the fact that it is taught in the EG, which is close to FirstBuild. We were actually long overdue in offering more 'hands-on' opportunities for students, because many engineering colleges had done so for years. Why now was an opportune time for us to accomplish this was the creation of the EG," says Ralston.

Continuing she adds, "From all the feedback I have gotten from students and instructors, and from my direct observation of the student final projects and a drop-in visit, I think it was a success! We already have plans to make this first project more "real-world" by incorporating PLCs (programmable logic controllers). Eventually, we want students to have a variety of projects from which to choose."

Courses are already under way for the Fall of 2017, which features ENGR110. To learn more, read feedback from Professor Robinson and a few students below. 

Engineering the World: ISLP students go to Botswana

Dr. J.P. Mohsen, Chair of Civil & Environmental EngineeringPart of the International Service Learning Project, the Botswana trip is about building and nurture relationships across cultural border. One of three destinations, including Sebu in the Philippines, and Croatia, the Botswana trip is partially overseen by Civil Engineering Professor and Interim Associate Dean of Administration and Faculty Affairs Dr. JP Mohsen.

Setting the Scene

A relatively advanced country by comparison to surrounding African nations, Botswana’s economy benefits from diamond mining. That financial windfall manifests itself in a booming culture, which boasts remarkable utilities and framework to make it easier for commerce and travel.

“The Botswana government has been very fair about the distribution of wealth. They invest in infrastructure. The infrastructure roads, cities, they are in much better shape than in the rest of Africa. The government covers the expenses for education for everyone. As far as they want to go and want to do (students). There is a campaign to increase STEM education,” says Mohsen.

“I went in expecting Africa to be this desolate place, but the advancement of the Botswana was pretty amazing. The children are really connected to American politics. The kids we were with were all well off, but the kids we drove by were dirt poor. They were living in shacks right outside the city,” says Kyle McMahon, a student in the Department of Civil Engineering. “They thought that was America was perfection. They thought everyone was well off in America.”

Getting to Work

For Meredith Cooksey, a recent graduate from the Department of Chemical Engineering with an MA in Engineering Management, the ISLP trip to Botswanna offered her the opportunity to apply her engineering skills to a real-world setting. Not only that, but engaging in the local community afforded her an opportunity for cultural immersion, to get a different perspective on how her education can literally touch lives.

“I have a passion for teaching. I found another part of me that opened up my horizons. In four years of college, I did a lot, but in one week of traveling to Africa, I feel like I got so much more,” says Cooksey.

She adds, “In school sometimes, you get so involved in the math and science that you forget the world around you. To see how engineers, effect the world so far away, especially having just graduated. It was so far away, but it felt so similar. The students were incredibly brilliant and dedicated students. They loved the science experiences. They really enjoyed the science experience and math.”

As soon as Cooksey and the rest of the group landed in Botswanna, they got to work. The first day, the students and faculty met with an after-school program for boys, donating clothes, and surveying the culture. The next three days were spent at a secondary school in Maoka.

“We taught them engineering, launching a rocket, a calorie counter by burning Cheetos. We taught them anti-bullying stuff, mental health, self-confidence, exercise, dental health, geography. They asked us about America and we told them about Botswana. On the third day, we played soccer. We would have done that on the first two days, but they didn’t have enough fire wood; they can only eat lunch if they have fire wood. They just go home,” says McMahon.
For Mohsen, who has visited Botswana a number of time over the years, “It’s them that affect us in a bigger way than we actually affect them. The students after the visit, our students always say they are very amazed at how well behaved the students were there, how knowledgeable they are, how good their English is.”

The Experience

Every year is a little different, which Mohsen is fortunate enough to observe. Over time, he has developed relationships with the other faculty and staff, both here and abroad, that has continued to evolve over the years alongside the structure of their study abroad.

“The first couple of trips, my purpose was to work in an orphanage, which since it has closed, to my knowledge it is not operating right now. My idea was with my students to develop a sustainable village. It was only for boys. They were very interested in creating an environment that would produce their own vegetables for example. We did not build anything, but we educated in terms of solar energy. Rain water catchment. We showed them different ways that they could do that. Using solar energy for cooking," says Mohsen.

Still, for the students involved it presents an opportunity not just to employ their work in a practical application, but to engage in a broader community.

“The ISLP class was really enriching for me. I’m really interested in solar energy, water filtration. We have well developed water systems. That’s what I spent some time doing on co-op. When I saw it in Africa, it spurred the thought again," says Cooksey. “I was really grateful for the opportunity. You don’t have a lot of time to study abroad, but experiencing another country was fulfilling as a globalized student.”

Mohsen adds, “it’s truly interdisciplinary in the sense that the engineering students work closely with other fields. For example, in the orphanage they had to learn how to deal with the social aspects. They were interested in bullying, counseling, and hygiene. Engineering students benefited from the school of public health or the Kent School, for example, which helped us communicate with and provide answers to those questions.”

Ready Player One: Gaming with Dr. Dar-Jen Chang

DarJen ChangSince 1983, Dr. Dar-Jen Chang has worked to engage his students in the world of video game programming. A member of the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Chang received his undergraduate in his home country of Taiwan, before moving to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor where he received an MA in Engineering, and a PhD in Mathematics.

“I enjoyed applying math to solving problems. Usually you need a computer to get to that. A lot of things you can’t have a formula for solving problems. You need a computer for some sort of simulation or approximation,” says Chang.

Now, Chang focuses his research on graphics processing and compiling, which he applies to courses on 3D modeling and computer games. Chang, who grew up with Atari and Intellivision, was inspired to apply his education to gaming, a pursuit he’s followed in the Department of CECS since his arrival.

“When I came here, I taught a computer graphic class, kind of related to computer gaming. Initially, many years ago, now like a painting program was novelty. So, we created one years ago,” says Chang.

Chang believe that the gaming industry has a direct impact on driving the technology. That innovation is on display in Duthie Hall in the virtual reality lab courtesy of an Occulus machine, which represents a milestone in gaming design. One of Chang’s objectives is to encourage the next generation of game builders then, by showing them both ends of the spectrum from the complex to the simple.

“For people that want to create a game, it’s relatively easy. One of the most powerful gaming industry is free, powerful, and so-called indie. They don’t have to invest a lot of money, not like the old days,” says Chang. “You cannot publish games unless a big publisher published your game.”

Despite the limitation of available classes, Chang has pushed his students to engage in gaming and building their own games. Given that, he’s made his own furtive push in the past too, a simple platform that he built out after a class project.

“I made one, but didn’t publish. We made one for class. A really simple first person shooting game. I just enhanced it. When the student takes the game class, then they graduate, and there is no continuity. We always stay in the first stage. We cannot go beyond the first stage. Over time, there has come along some good students,” says Chang.

Streamlining Hospitals to Work Smarter Not Harder

Headshot of Elizabeth GentryAn alumnus of the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering Department of Industrial Engineering, Dr. Elizabeth Gentry splits her time between her career as a consultant and her work as a long-distance educator. Working under Interim Dean Dr. Gail Depuy, Gentry completed her coursework with a PhD in 2013. From there, Gentry moved to Dallas to work for Christus Health, where she remains employed, complimentary professions to one another both in terms of research and application of her knowledge.

Health & Efficiency

Her interest in Industrial Engineering came honestly, by virtue of her interest in statistical data.

She explains, “I am a big sports nerd, my grandpa would always take me to the Redbirds games and he taught me how to take statistics. When I got into engineering, I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare. I started figuring out what I wanted to do with it. IE seemed great, because they need a lot of process improve. Healthcare hires a lot of Industrial Engineers. I love that we use statistics to analyze.”

For Gentry, Industrial Engineering represents an opportunity to streamline operations in an effort for increased efficiency. Where a baseball coach looks at their players’ stats to determine an optimal lineup, Gentry studies ways to enhance a system by making sure that all advantages are considered and deficiencies discarded.

“I like to look at Process Improvement in ERs. You used to go to ERs and ORs and get scrubbed up and go in and actually observe the surgery to be able to do time studies to determine what were the holdups. Just watching different things like that. Sometimes, it’s just simple things like a patient wasn’t supposed to eat past midnight, but then they ate something because it wasn’t on their chart. Just logistical things. That’ll hold up all the surgeries,” says Gentry.

Staying Connected

As an adherent to Six Sigma, a formal technique meant to aid with time management, Gentry keeps a tight schedule. As such, her coursework is online only, a challenge that yields reward by way of new experiences and unique student interactions.

“There is a huge difference in online versus in class. I always teach the first class that most people take. It’s setting a lot of boundaries. I have them do discussion boards every week. It’s an engineering management class, so it can be from any engineering or hard science degree. We have a lot of military people who are working overseas. The discussion board is great, because people are coming from all different backgrounds,” says Gentry.

In addition to an already stacked schedule, Gentry is a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers Young Professionals, and chair of the Society for Health Systems Young Professionals and Marketing Leadership for the Institute of Industrial Engineers Young Professionals. Both feature Industrial Engineering professionals, aged 25-35.

“It’s cool to talk to people in all different fields. When we have monthly meetings, it’s cool to get their insights into what’s going on,” says Gentry.

Engineering on a budget: Dr. Jill Steinbach-Rankins Bioengineering 101 Build a Better Crutch

Headshot of Jill SteinbachStudents in Bioengineering 101 were tasked this past Spring with developing a low cost, practical crutch/scooter hybrid. The course is designed to engage the students by employing their burgeoning engineering talents to a real-world problem with direct applications in the field of bioengineering. For Dr. Jill Steinbach-Rankins, the challenge is in finding a good fit for her students that balances a usable product with a limited budget, the kind of real world constraints that engineers encounter on a regular basis.

“What we’re looking to do is improve their critical thinking capability. Each team has a total of $40 to $50 dollars. The end product can’t be expensive. All of the products are under $40 to $50 dollars,” says Steinbach-Rankins.

Part of Steinbach-Rankins’ project looks at where the technology will be involved. As such, students are encouraged to engineer their product using only material indigenous to the area that it will be employed. The idea is to create something reproducible to whatever community is targeted for assistance.

“We did anti-microbial shoes in developing countries. Foot infections are more common. That year it was really interesting, because I asked the students to pick their country and use materials unique to that country. It prepares them for when they have to work within a budget,” says Steinbach-Rankins.

The more she researched, the more she wanted to embrace a project that may have an impact. With so many opportunities to help people around the global community, she was able to narrow her efforts down to specific ideas, regionally unique.

Steinbach-Rankins says, “In developing countries, there are so many students with these disabilities. There are statistics that say that 20% don’t have those opportunities. It seems like a pretty common problem that inevitably we might all experience in our lifetime. Can we design something that don’t have those things?”

Developing her project idea has proven daunting in the past, but it’s a challenge that Steinbach-Rankins is up for.

“I spend a little time thinking about these projects. If it’s going to be a tangible product, that puts another challenge to the product. I had a couple different product design ideas,” she says.

She continues adding, “One of my colleagues was on crutches, and looking at how their life was impacted. It made me think why aren’t there more options. There are scooters and other options, but not so easily transportable options.”

As an introductory course, Steinbach-Rankins is inspired to help students build keep an eye toward their future, while providing tangible objectives.

She admits, “I like getting students when they’re excited. Introducing students to what Bioengineering is or could be about. Being introduced to professors, to what is research, and what they do every day. Introducing them to industry, to helping them develop their resume.”

Mehdi Sabraoui takes part in the French-American Doctoral Exchange

A PhD candidate and graduate from the Department of Computer Engineering and Computer Science, Mehdi Sabraoui recently returned from a visit to France as part of the French-American Doctoral Exchange. Sabroui’s work is in the field of cryptographic protocols, which involves ways for industrial controls, including power plants or banking systems, to communicate securely.

“In France, there is a lot of good theoretical research and a lot of applied research and they are separate, but in the United States they are very combined and mixed,” says Sabraoui.

Stateside, Sabraoui is an outsider looking in in terms of his research. While there are plenty of researchers investigating comparable topics, Sabraoui has few peers on his specific niche topic, which made his visit to France that much more important.

“France is a hotbed of cryptography; half of their research goes to cryptography,” he explains. “Why France does cryptography specifically, I think is that they have a long academic history of math. There is a heavy history, a heavy base of mathematics there in France.”

Given the emphasis on cryptographic research, France was an enlightening experience for Sabroui, who returned inspired to push harder.

“They were all friendly. Some were intimidating, but that’s probably in my own head. Not the students, but the researchers in their labs. It was easy to feel incompetent. It’s certainly humbling. I came back and was overwhelmed –in a good way- with what to do next. So many paths to go down, so many papers to read, being able to bring home all these ideas. My researchers here, they’re great at security, but my area is a little outsider of theirs, so going to France was super special.”