Wednesday, May 18, 2011

OU IE Student Receives NSF Graduate Fellowship

Industrial Engineering student Kaycee Wilson was selected on April 5th to become one of only seven recipients for the 2011 National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship which supports outstanding graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. This fellowship program was designed to help the vitality of the human resource base of science and engineering in the United States and reinforce its diversity. The ranks of fellows include individuals who have made transformative breakthroughs in science and engineering research and have become leaders in their chosen careers. Each fellow receives three years of support from the NSF as well as international research and professional development opportunities and TeraGrid supercomputer access.

The program will also help fellows to establish collaborations with counterparts at Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Swedish research institutions. The National Science Foundation, the Research Council of Norway, the Academy of Finland and the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, the Danish National Research Foundation and the Swedish Research Council will support research visits between two and twelve months duration. This international research opportunity is intended to enrich the fellows’ experience through cooperative activities with leading Nordic scientists and institutions, thus enabling them to develop early-career collaborations with international research partners. Results of the research collaboration are expected to expand opportunities for innovation and add an international dimension to fellow research projects.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

OU Student Awarded $90,000 to Study Recent Flash Floods

May 16, 2011

A University of Oklahoma civil engineering and environmental science graduate student recently was awarded a 2011 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Fellowship to research flash flood prediction.

Gina Hodges, OU graduate and Atmospheric Radar Research Center student, will receive $30,000 a year for the next three years to investigate her proposed research topic, Prototyping a Flash Flood Prediction System Using Next Generation Radar Observations and Stormscale Rainfall Forecasts.

"It is my goal to improve the current methods used for flash flood prediction to protect lives and property of the public," said Hodges. "In order to accomplish this goal, I will use an interdisciplinary approach combining my background in meteorology, hydrology and social sciences."

This interdisciplinary method will be applied to recent flash floods that occurred during the spring of 2010 - specifically, the Nashville, Tenn., flood that inundated the Grand Ole Opry House, the deadly Arkansas campground event and the urban Oklahoma City event. The three events chosen were recent with significant impacts and can be studied to prevent such costly and deadly results in the future, according to Hodges.

"Gina was awarded the Outstanding Senior in Meteorology award last year, and she is now pursuing a master's degree in water resources engineering," said Yang Hong, Hodges' adviser and OU College of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science associate professor and School of Meteorology adjunct professor. "Her research is part of the end-to-end, high-impact event prediction system development that integrates meteorology, weather radar remote sensing and hydrological modeling approaches. I have been impressed by Gina's ability to understand and solve problems in her innovative flash flood prediction study."

"The goal of her study is to develop and demonstrate a system that will increase the forecast lead time and identify specific locations about to be impacted by flash floods, and I am confident that her research will have broader impacts in the U.S. National Weather Service and beyond," said Jonathan J. Gourley, research hydrometeorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Severe Storms Laboratory and Hodges' co-adviser.

Provided by The University of Oklahoma

OU Graduate Student Developing Solutions for Water Problems in Ethiopia

By Jana Smith, Director,
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma

A University of Oklahoma environmental science graduate student will travel to Ethiopia in June to test materials she has been investigating as possible solutions to fluorosis—a widespread problem in the Rift Valley, where high levels of fluoride in the drinking water result in dental and skeletal disease.

Laura Brunson, graduate student in the OU College of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, works with researchers in the OU Water Center on global water challenges, specifically fluorosis. Left untreated, fluorosis causes darkening of the teeth and bone deformities. In Ethiopia, the side effects of fluorosis are clearly health related, but have a cultural aspect as well. Novel approaches to this problem are needed to produce effective solutions—solutions not readily available in rural, impoverished areas of countries like Ethiopia.

Brunson has been investigating inexpensive, sustainable and locally available solutions, such as adsorption—a useful technology for fluoride removal from drinking water because it does not require energy input outside of gravity and, depending on the material used, can be very effective at removing fluoride to meet the World Health Organization standard. She has been investigating fluoride removal using several novel materials including aluminum coated wood and bone chars.

Bones charred at a high temperature are effective in the removal of fluoride from water, but Brunson is investigating other materials with similar properties of bone char because some communities do not like the idea of treating water with bones. Wood char is one possibility, but it has to have a coating for it to work as well as bone char. Brunson will test these materials in Ethiopia this summer. “It’s important to test the materials in the location where they will actually be used,” she says.

When Brunson can determine the effectiveness of the materials, the next step is building awareness in the region. A sustainable treatment plant will be needed and this will require community support. On this aspect of the project, Brunson is working with a group of students from the OU Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth to develop and implement a business model for the bone char technology. Incorporating the model into Ethiopian communities will help to ensure the project’s success.

Brunson is also working with Paul Spicer, an OU anthropologist, to conduct surveys in the area to understand the values, motivation and interests of the Ethiopian people. “We need to know what the Ethiopian people think about their water and what their treatment preferences are,” says Brunson. Spicer will spend one week in the area on this crucial part of the project. According to Brunson, “A project often fails because no one takes the time to understand the concerns of the people who are affected.”

On this visit, Brunson hopes to gain a better understanding of the materials she has been investigating as part of her graduate research project, but more important, she hopes to find a solution to the water problem in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia.

Brunson is a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow, adjunct instructor in the College of Business and CCEW project inventor. Learn more about the research activities of the OU Water Center at

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Monday, May 16, 2011

McCall Inducted into Distinguished Graduates Society

Robert R. McCall was born in Norman, Oklahoma in 1926. The Great Depression of the 30’s caused great hardship for the family. As a teenager, Bob made the decision to move to Oklahoma City to go to High School, so that he could work the night shift at Tinker Air Force Base. These were the War Years.

Following graduation from Central High, Bob enlisted in the Navy. He spent several months training to be an electronic technician and going to submarine school. He then volunteered for submarine duty. Bob was sent to the Navy base at Midway Island in the Pacific. While there, he was assigned to the USS Hawkbill. The war was nearing the end and Bob was subsequently discharged from the Navy. The year was 1946.

After his discharge, Bob moved to Denver, worked for a large dry cleaning plant for a few months and then opened a small dry cleaning business of his own. Two years later, Bob returned to Norman where his fathr strongly urged him to take advantage of the GI Bill and enroll at OU.

Bob majored in petroleum engineering and earned a BS degree in 1951 and an MS degree in 1952. He then accepted a job with Texaco and from 1952-1960 was given a series of field assignments in Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Texas. He moved to Midland, TX as District Petroleum Engineer for the Midland, TX division. In 1968, Bob was promoted to Chief Petroleum Engineer for Texaco in Houston, TX.

In 1969, Bob was transferred to Texaco’s New York headquarters as a member of the company’s Strategic Planning Group. At this time, Libya was demanding excessive payments for their crude oil. Bob was part of a negotiating team sent to Libya to try to bring about an agreeable settlement. After weeks of work, their efforts were unsuccessful and the oil companies were nationalized.

Following the Libyan event, Bob remained in the New York office and became Assistant General Manager, then General Manager of Texaco’s Eastern Hemisphere Producing Department. In 1977, he was named a Texaco Vice President. During his ten years in New York, he traveled extensively to such countries as Indonesia, China, Norway, the U.K., Libya and Ethiopia to coordinate Texaco’s exploration and producing activities and to meet with government officials.

In 1980, Bob became Senior V.P. in charge of Exploration and Production throughout the U.S. and in 1983, he was named Executive Vice President of Texaco USA. He retired from Texaco in 1987.

Bob and his wife, Byrdine, now live in The Woodlands, TX.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dr. Robert and Amanda Nairn Recognized as Volunteers of the Year

On April 22, the United Way and Junior League of Norman hosted the 2011 Volunteers of the Year luncheon at Journey Church. This event recognizes volunteers in Norman who are committed to giving back to the community. A faculty member and his wife from the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering, were congratulated for making a difference in their community.

It was a special day for Dr. Robert Nairn and his wife Amanda, as the United Way of Norman recognized them as Volunteers of the Year in the Service to Youth/Education category.

Dr. and Mrs. Nairn’s daughter is a student at Jefferson Elementary School. The couple have spent many hours volunteering at the school working on an outdoor classroom for the students.

The Nairns’ expressed their many thanks to everyone involved and noted that it was a team effort to complete the outdoor classroom. “You don’t do anything like this as an individual,” Bob Nairn said. “This certainly has been a team effort. Not only the folks at Jefferson, but much of the work in the outdoor classroom involves other nonprofits in Norman and students at OU through the Big Event, a tremendous team of folks really made a difference here.”

The couple brings attention to the fact that the outdoor classroom at Jefferson brings the open-air experience to children who might not experience it otherwise.

“It’s not for the notoriety or recognition,” Amanda Nairn shared. “It’s to see the children and get to have that interaction with them. But, it’s also to see them have the benefits of an outdoor classroom; having that open-air space. So many children aren’t fortunate enough to have an outdoor space at home.”