Wednesday, December 12, 2012

African Sanitation Activist Honored With OU International Water Prize

NORMAN, Okla. – The University of Oklahoma Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center has named development activist Ada Oko-Williams as the recipient of the 2013 University of Oklahoma International Water Prize. Oko-Williams, associate director at Water and Sanitation for Africa. was nominated and selected for her advocacy and collaborative community approach for clean water, sanitation and hygiene in Africa.

From poor, rural, disease-stricken communities in Nigeria to communities of the deep forests of war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia to desert communities in Niger Republic, Oko-Williams is engaged with issues affecting access to water and sanitation.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Oko-Williams understands firsthand the problems a lack of access to water and sanitation can mean to a country’s development. She believes Africa’s development problems can be solved with the support and collaboration of the developed world and achieved with African citizens in the driver’s seat.  

Water expert Idrissa Doucouré, CEO  of Water and Sanitation for Africa , a Panafrican Intergovernental Agency, nominated Oko-Williams at the OU WaTER Symposium in September.

“Ada Oko-Williams rebuilds lives as well as infrastructure,” Doucouré said. “She inspires communities to take action toward their own development through participatory processes and critical analyses of situations while offering solutions and actions designed to address undesirable situations.”

In the past five years, Oko-Williams has trained more than 350 sanitation practitioners in West Africa. She has directly worked with more than 1,000 communities, indirectly providing  more than  600,000 people access to sanitation and hygiene in communities in West Africa. At the policy level, she has influenced the development of sanitation programs through direct engagements with governments and duty bearers.

Oko-Williams currently is exploring economic and business models in sanitation that better livelihood, support environmental sustainability and spur economic development and growth at micro levels in Africa.

The OU International Water Prize recognizes and honors an individual or group that has made significant contributions in the field of water supply and sanitation, particularly for small villages and communities in rural or remote regions. It is one of the first and largest prizes dedicated to the field of water supply and sanitation in remote areas of emerging regions. Oko-Williams will formally receive the OU International Water Prize and give the plenary lecture at the OU International WaTER Conference, scheduled for Sept. 23 through 25, 2013. For more information about Oko-Williams and the conference, visit


About the University of Oklahoma WaTER Center

The WaTER Center is part of the OU College of Engineering. The center started in 2006 as an organization focused on bringing water and sanitation to remote villages. The vision of the WaTER Center is a world in which all humankind has safe, reliable drinking water. The center’s mission is to help solve drinking water challenges for impoverished regions, both internationally and locally, through innovative teaching and research initiatives.

For more information on the WaTER Center, visit

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ken Starling Inducted Into Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame

From left: Roger Harrison, Lance Lobban, Ken Starling, Barbara Starling, Musharraf Zaman and Sridhar Radhakrishnan
Ken Starling, emeritus George Lynn Cross Research Professor and emeritus Cedomir Sliepcevich Professor of Chemical Engineering was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame Oct. 9, 2012 at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame Museum.

Starling received a bachelor of science degree in Chemical Engineering from Texas A&I University, a master of science degree in Gas Engineering and a doctoral degree in Gas Technology from Illinois Institute of Technology.

Starling’s experience includes service for Conroe Drilling Company, Republic Pipeline Company, research engineer for the Institute of Gas Technology, senior research engineer for Esso Production Research Company, planning group of Electric Power Research Institute, and professional consulting.
Starling taught training courses for many years with the John M. Campbell Company, which included gas conditioning and processing, pipeline design and natural gas measurement. In the academic arena, Starling was a Welch Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University; assistant professor, associate professor, director or the School of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, George Lynn Cross Research Professor, interim vice provost for Research Administration at the University of Oklahoma; visiting professor, University of Leuven in Belgium; and visiting researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Starling currently is chairman of Starling Associates, Inc.

Starling was named a fellow of AIChE in 1996, and in 2003 was awarded the Gas Processors Association’s Don Katz Award for outstanding accomplishments in gas processing research and technology, and for excellence in engineering education.

Starling retired in January 1995 from CBME following nearly three decades at the University of Oklahoma. Starling's most outstanding contributions to the chemical engineering profession have included two well-know equations of state that bear his name: the Carnahan-Starling equation of state, a closed form solution of the hard sphere fluid compressibility that is the basis for several extended van der Waals equations; and the BWRS (Benedict-Webb-Rubin-Starling) equation of state, resulting from his work to develop more accurate equations of state for systems of interest to chemical engineering.

His hard sphere equation of state has been of prime importance even beyond his profession, to physicists and chemical physicists as a theoretical tool to separate hard sphere molecular interactions from other short-range molecular interactions.

Prior to joining the CBME faculty, Starling gained considerable industrial and research experience at Republic Pipeline Company, the Institute of Gas Technology in Chicago, Esso Production Research Company in Houston, and at the Electric Power Research Institute in Calif.

Starling joined what was then known as the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science faculty at OU as an assistant professor in 1966. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and served as school director 1974-75. He was promoted to George Lynn Cross Research Professor in 1978 and served as vice provost for Research Administration from 1978-79.

Starling's many honors include the Mid-America State Universities Association Honor Lectureship in 1977 and 1978 and the OU College of Engineering Award for Outstanding Faculty Achievement in Research in 1981. Starling served on the editorial review board of Energy Progress, and as director of the AIChE Fuels and Petrochemicals Division. He has chaired numerous technical sessions at national meetings of AIChE and was a member of the national program committee from 1971 through 1977.

Starling has long been active in continuing education for engineers in the oil and gas industry through affiliation with the John Campbell Company, as chairman of the executive committee of the International School of Hydrocarbon Measurement from 1981 to 1992, and through his own company, Starling Associates, Inc., which applies expertise to implementing software into the oil and gas industry's real-time measurement and rapid accounting systems to meet the 1992 industry standards set out in the American Gas Association Reports numbers 3 and 8. Starling published more than 100 papers and a book, Fluid Thermodynamic Properties for Light Petroleum Systems.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New discovery shows promise in future speed of synthesizing high-demand nanomaterials

 (Left) Moien Farmahini, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, runs experiments with mechanical engineering professor Wilson Merchán-Merchán in the lab on the University of Oklahoma Norman campus.
NORMAN, Okla. – A new discovery by University of Oklahoma and North Carolina State University researchers shows a breakthrough in speeding up the process for synthesizing transition metal oxide nanostructures. What had once taken days can now be accomplished instantaneously.

After previous success using an oxygen-enriched flame to synthesize common nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes, nanofibers and fullerenes, OU College of Engineering professor Wilson Merchán-Merchán and his team conducted experiments using the same method to create a new form of nanostructures. Instead of synthesizing the carbon nanomaterials, they discovered a method of creating 1-D and 3-D TMOs that have distinctive electronic and mechanical properties.

With a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Merchán-Merchán and his research affiliates are exposing bulk transition metals to the hottest parts of an oxygen-enriched flame. From that reaction, high-demand transition metal-oxide nanostructures are instantaneously synthesized, including nanorods, hollow channels and hybrid nanowires and platelets. 

Inexpensive and quick growth of TMOs means a better chance for large-scale synthesis and eventual common use in the marketplace. The potential for increased supply has led to increased experimentation on the capacity of TMOs, and the results show their effectiveness in a diverse range of applications.

“Recently, one-dimensional TMO naonostructures have attracted tremendous attention due to their applications in optics, medicine and electronics,” Merchán-Merchán said. “For instance, the micron-sized channel structures with nanometer wall thickness contain slender, prismatic and completely hollow cavities that can be used in medical applications for drug delivery.”

Most recently, this research team coated the surface of solar panels with one of their flame-formed tungsten oxide nanorods. The result was a 5 percent increase in the solar panel’s efficiency, a large gain considering solar panels’ notoriously low efficiency rating of 15 to 20 percent.

With endless applications and a new horizon of possibilities, Merchán-Merchán’s research into TMOs is still in its infancy. 

“The distinct shape and chemical composition of the flame-formed nanostructures may change the way many products are designed,” Merchán-Merchán said.

“Our next steps are to expand the application of TMOs using flames, in a variety of markets ranging from solar panels to electrodes for penetrating biological tissues for drug delivery and electrodes in lithium-ion batteries.”

Merchán-Merchán said in order to scale-up the process, which is necessary for commercialization, an industrial partnership is essential.

In addition to Merchán-Merchán, the OU research team includes doctoral student Moien Farmahini as well as North Carolina State University researcher and professor Alexei Saveliev and doctoral student Shubham Srivastava. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

OU research team developing robotic devices to aid infants with cerebral palsy as part of National Science Foundation Initiative

For immediate release

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

Norman, OK—Learning to crawl comes naturally for most infants, but those with cerebral palsy lack the muscle strength and coordination to perform the 25 individual movements required for crawling. With a $1.135 million, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation’s National Robotics Initiative, University of Oklahoma researchers from the Norman and Health Sciences Center campuses are combining robotics, machine learning and brain imaging to assist infants with CP with the challenging, life-altering skill.

“Because infants with CP are unable to reliably perform the individual movements that make up crawling behavior, they learn to stop trying instead of continuing to practice these movements,” said Project Leader Andrew Fagg, associate professor in the OU departments of Computer Science and Bioengineering and project leader.  “This substantially delays their development of skilled crawling.  In turn, cognitive development and other areas of development are delayed because they both rely on the infants being able to explore their surrounding world.” 

“In our previous study, we were able to capture many of the infant’s actions and had a robot that could assist some of the infant’s attempts at crawling.  These assists serve as rewards that encourage continued practice of specific limb movements.  This grant will allow us, among other things, to develop new robot platforms that can allow a greater range of infant mobility” said David Miller, professor in the OU departments of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering.  “In the latter part of this grant, we will also start working with the transition from crawling to walking.”    

“This grant is also important because it builds on and expands our previous work that maximizes the interaction of robotics with what an infant can do,” said Thubi Kolobe, professor of rehabilitative sciences at the OU Health Sciences Center College of Allied Health.  “Infant learning is integral, and when infants stop trying, parts of the brain responsible for the skill are negatively affected.  The next step of this research is to increase the level of help that infants with or at risk for CP are getting.  We are looking for combinations of assists that result in the best incentives for these infants.  We also want to see if there is a connection between what the infants are learning and what is happening in the brain.”

Lei Ding, assistant professor in the OU departments of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, will then perform brain scans using electroencephalograph to determine how the infants’ brains respond when they are assisted by the robotic device.  The EEG technology will assess brain activity of infants during crawling and provide information about changes that occur because of robotics assists and infant efforts.

“Beginning in spring 2013, we will conduct clinical trials to test six infants without CP on the new crawling robot,” says Kolobe.  “Then, one year later, we will conduct clinical trials to test 24 CP infants on the crawling robot.  Initial tests on standing and walking with infants without CP will be conducted by the end of the project.  No CP infants will be tested on standing and walking in this grant, only healthy infants.”

“This is groundbreaking research, and no one else in the world is doing it,” says Kolobe.  “We want to invite anyone with an infant who is at risk for CP or severe developmental delays, between four and eight months old, who is interested in participating in these clinical trials to contact Dr. Thubi H.A. Kolobe, at 405-271-2131 ext. 47121 or”

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OU Researchers Implement a Multi-photon Approach in Quantum Cryptography

NORMAN, Okla.- Move over money, there is a new currency to make the world go round. As increasing volumes of data become accessible, transferable and, therefore, actionable, information is the treasure companies want to amass. To protect this wealth, organizations use cryptography, or coded messages, to secure information from “technology robbers.” This group of hackers and malware creators is increasingly becoming more sophisticated at breaking encrypted information leaving everyone and everything, including national security and global commerce, at risk.

But the threat to information breach may be drastically reduced due to a technology breakthrough that combines quantum mechanics and cryptography.  University of Oklahoma electrical and computer engineering professor Pramode Verma and his colleagues Professor Subhash Kak from Oklahoma State University and Professor Yuhua Chen from the University of Houston have, at the College of Engineering labs, OU-Tulsa, demonstrated a novel technique for cryptography that offers the potential of unconditional security.

 “Unfortunately, all commercial cryptography techniques used today are based on what is known as computational security,” Verma said. “This means that as computing power increases, they are increasingly susceptible to brute force and other attacks based on mathematical principles that can recover information without knowing the key to decode the information.” Cryptography techniques based on quantum mechanics are not susceptible to such attacks under any imaginable condition.
 Professor Subhash Kak postulated in 2006 a theory known as the three-stage protocol. The technique relies on the unpredictability of photons to ensure hackers can’t locate or replicate the information used to transmit information. The first laboratory demonstration of Kak’s concept took place at the College of Engineering labs on the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Campus.  This is an important step toward the wide-spread adoption of Kak’s discovery.  It can lead to a future in which “Basically, no matter how long or how hard they try,” said Verma, “technology robbers can no longer decrypt or hack transmitted information.”

This breakthrough has wide-spread economic and global applications. Quantum cryptography has been used in rare instances, primarily Swiss banks, but is limited by its short transmission distance and slow speed. Verma and his research team’s technology demonstration suggests the potential for breaking those barriers.

 “As we continue to test this promising method of quantum cryptology, we can demonstrate its value and accelerate the adoption in the business world,” Verma said.

The wide spread application of quantum cryptology could someday assure that technology robbers won’t be able to break into the information bank. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

University of Oklahoma engineering students bring eco-latrines to Ugandan school

Cate Lynn, a senior at the University of Oklahoma, and Chris Breazile, a civil engineering graduate student, spent most of June in Uganda, where they did development work. While there, the two worked on the construction of an eco-latrine, which turns human waste into compost.

Monday, August 6, 2012

OU School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering researchers grow blood vessels for use in heart bypass surgery

Fat stem cells from liposuction used to form functioning blood vessels
By Loren Grush Published July 26, 2012

Liposuction may yield more than just a leaner figure – it can potentially produce stem cells for tissue reconstruction.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma, in Norman, Okla., have successfully extracted adult stem cells during liposuction and used them to generate healthy blood vessels.

These newly formed blood vessels can be used in heart bypass surgery and other complicated procedures requiring healthy vessels, according to the researchers, who presented their findings at the American Heart Association’s Basic Cardiovascular Sciences 2012 Scientific Sessions.

Read more:

You're Invited to Spend an Evening with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe

An Evening with
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe
(including the debut of a new film about her life)

Thursday, August 23
6:00 p.m. reception
7:00 p.m. film / talk / Q&A

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History
University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla.

Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe is a CNN Hero,
recognized for her humanitarian efforts to countless Ugandan girls 
whom she has protected,
a nemesis to the Lord’s Resistance Army (of Joseph Kony),
a builder of schools for orphans,
a teacher, tailor, and nurse,
a Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 
and a speaker of great joy and compassion!

Sponsored by:
 Pros for Africa, WaTER Center, OU School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, Sooners without Borders, OU College of Law and the OU College of Medicine

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OU engineering college to add new classes, faculty for radar lab

OU Daily
By   |  July 26, 2012 

The OU College of Engineering is adding new faculty members courses this fall to supplement the Atmospheric Radar Research Center’s new Radar Innovations Laboratory, slated for completion next fall.

The college is adding four courses to its existing radar program. The courses will deal with synthetic processing with a synthetic aperture radar, advanced electromagnetic design, radio frequency circuit design and microwave circuits, research center director Robert Palmer said.

The classes will be held in the electrical engineering department of the Devon Energy Center and the meteorology department of the National Weather Center, and the courses’ hands-on components will take place in the new lab once it's completed.

New faculty members also will also be joining the college.

Radar engineers Caleb Fulton, Nathan Goodman, Jessica Ruyle and Hjalti Sigmarsson all arrived in Norman with doctorates in electrical engineering, according to the college's engineering blog.

“The four new faculty ... were hired specifically to advance OU in the defense radar arena, hence, expanding the scope of radar research at OU beyond weather radar, an already proven area of expertise,” said Melany Dickens, assistant vice president for research and director of planning and operations.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

University of Oklahoma students work with state Department of Transportation to repair, replace bridges

Oklahoman reporter Silas Allen recently reported on students in the University of Oklahoma Bridge Squad working alongside ODOT engineers to improve bridges in the state.

A group of University of Oklahoma engineering students is playing a role in efforts to address one of the state’s most pressing concerns.

He interviewed Katie Brown, an intern at ODOT and engineering student at OU.

Read more:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Engineering college camp gives high school students hands-on experience

by   |  June 18, 2012
OU Daily
OU engineering students and faculty collaborated with British Petroleum to host more than 50 high school students from across the state in summer engineering camps last week on campus.

The two camps, BP Discovering Engineering Via Adventure in Science for girls and BP Engineering Academy for boys, were exposed to several different programs.

Adam Mitchell, an electrical engineering senior who helped with the electrical engineering presentation, said the camps expose high school students to the engineering programs OU offers.

“It’s about showing people engineering has a bunch of shapes and forms,” Mitchell said.

Research shows simply exposing teens to engineering doubles career interest in the field, Mitchell said. BP camps strive to expose students to diverse areas of the field and excite them for their future, he said.

“They’re building an entire laser-tag system based on schematics we gave them,” Mitchell said.
The 23 girls and 29 boys on campus last week are getting a lot of information and experience from the university, but these young students have had impact on the faculty and students working with them, said Robin Birch, an aerospace engineer junior who assisted with event programming. She said 
she was impressed by the drive of these students.

“They have a lot of aspirations, very optimistic,” Birch said. “They want to change the world.”
Birch said she is optimistic of the impact of this program.

“It’s the fifth year of the program,” Birch said. “It’s supposed to make high school students aware of how diverse engineering is — there are a lot of stereotypes, but really, engineering is problem-solving.”

The students who attend these camps are focused but are learning many engineering concepts for the first time, including Southmoore High School senior Kalawna Bowman.

When asked how the laser tag system worked, Bowman said, "I’m about to learn, actually — we’re being taught that right now.”

Potential future Sooners are learning valuable engineering lessons years ahead of the curb. Bailey Thornburge, a Bethel High School sophomore who heard about the camps through OU’s website, said she is already learning vital information.

“Everything has a function,” Thornburge said.

This lesson was reinforced to Thornburge by a seminar that involved taking apart a toaster, one of many hands-on activities. Other activities included Lego robots and a peculiar “Three Little Pigs” scenario that created a unique avenue for testing student-built structures.

Organizers plan to continue hosting the camps next year.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gender gap persists in Oklahoma’s engineering schools

Oklahoman reporter Silas Allen recently reported bridging the gender gap in engineering enrollment. He interviewed OU College of Engineering student Morgan Weatherspoon.

When Morgan Weatherspoon sits in class, it’s obvious she’s in the minority.

Weatherspoon, a chemical engineering major at the University of Oklahoma, is enrolled in a summer course at OU. Out of a class of about 30 people, Weatherspoon can count on one hand the number of other women in the class.

Read More:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Two Outstanding Individuals Inducted into Distinguished Graduates Society

From left: Barney L. Capehart and David R. Bert
NORMAN, Okla. – Two exceptional University of Oklahoma alumni were inducted into the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Graduates Society at the college’s Convocation Ceremony, May 12, at the Lloyd Noble Center, 2900 S. Jenkins Ave.

In 1990, the College of Engineering Distinguished Graduates Society was established to honor accomplished alumni. Selection is based upon prominent and distinguished professional or technical achievement, notable public service and significant contributions to the engineering profession.

David R. Bert, P.E., is vice president of Drilling-Eastern Division for Chesapeake Energy Corp. in Oklahoma City. Prior to joining Chesapeake in early 2008, Bert served in various drilling, completion, production and midstream operations leadership capacities at BP, including wells team leader for Arkoma and Thunder Horse projects. 

Bert has more than 26 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, working both domestic and international (North Sea, Vietnam, Canada). He started his career with Mobil Corp. in western Oklahoma, California and the Gulf of Mexico before moving to Amoco/BP and has had a wide variety of technical and leadership assignments with increasing responsibilities. Bert has responsibility for all Marcellus and Utica Shale drilling operations (35 rigs), drilling engineering and construction support activities within Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC. 

Bert graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from OU in 1985, a master of science degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Southern California in 1993 and is a licensed professional engineer. He serves as chair of the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering’s Board of Advisors at OU. He is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, has authored numerous SPE technical papers, and has been awarded several patents for oil and gas well technology.  Bert currently serves as the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s Technical Committee vice chair. He is an Eagle Scout.  Bert and his wife, Susan, have two teenage daughters and reside in Edmond, Okla.

Barney L. Capehart, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Florida, Gainesville, where he taught for 32 years. His research and publication focus for the past thirty30 years has been energy systems analysis. He is the co-author of 11 books on energy topics and has authored more than 50 energy research articles in scholarly journals. He worked with the Florida Legislature to write and pass the Florida Appliance Efficiency Act of 1987. He is given credit as the person most responsible for creating these appliance standards, which have saved Florida electric and water utility customers over $3 billion.

Capehart graduated with his bachelor and master of science degrees in 1961 and 1962, respectively, in electrical engineering and doctoral degree in engineering 1967, all from OU.  

Capehart currently teaches energy management seminars around the country and around the world for the Association of Energy Engineers. He is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Association of Energy Engineers, is listed in Who’s Who in the World and in 1988 was awarded the Palladium Medal by the American Association of Engineering Societies for his work on energy systems analysis and appliance efficiency standards. He also is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He was the editor of the Encyclopedia of Energy Engineering and Technology (three volumes, 190 articles, July 2007). He served as lead author of the Guide to Energy Management, 7th Edition, 2011, which is the most widely used textbook in the United States for university, college and professional education courses in the field of energy management.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

University of Oklahoma students learn skills needed to work in developing regions

A new University of Oklahoma summer intersession course seeks to prepare students to work in developing regions. The class starts essentially from square one — most of the students haven't handled power tools. Many haven't even hammered nails.

photo - William Mwangi cuts a board in OU’s WaTER Center field methods course Monday.
William Mwangi cuts a board in OU’s WaTER Center field methods course Monday.
— As Anna Humphrey lifted a circular saw, lined it up against a pencil mark on a piece of lumber and began to cut, something crossed her mind.

 I could really hurt somebody with this thing, she thought.

Humphrey, 22, is a part of a new course at the University of Oklahoma designed to teach students like Humphrey how to work in developing countries.

Humphrey, a fifth-year undergraduate, hails from Fort Worth, Texas.

After Humphrey graduates, she'd like to do water resources work in a developing country, either through a corporation or a nongovernmental organization. But there's a problem, she said.

“I've never built my own stuff before,” said Humphrey, an environmental engineering major. She said she had used smaller hand tools like hammers and nails, but she hadn't handled power tools before.

Her classes are lectures or lab-based, she said, and they typically don't delve far into manual labor.
Even outside of school, she hasn't had many experiences that would call for power tools.

“I'm a city girl,” she said.

Practical experience
Jim Chamberlain, the course instructor, said students like Humphrey are the reason the course exists.
Most of them have limited, or no experience working with materials like concrete block and PVC pipe — exactly the materials they'd be using in those regions.

The course is offered through OU's Water Technologies for Emerging Regions Center, or WaTER Center, a part of the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. It runs six hours a day through OU's summer intersession, which began Monday.

The class starts essentially from square one, Chamberlain said. Most of the students haven't handled power tools. Many haven't even hammered nails. But nearly all of them want to work in developing regions in one capacity or another.
Ideally, Chamberlain said, the course will help those students get comfortable working with those materials.

It won't turn them into experts overnight, he said — they won't be able to leave the course and go to work building houses, for example — but it puts them in a better position to do meaningful development work.

Monday, the class built concrete pavers.

They cut and nailed two-by-fours to make forms and mixed and poured concrete.

Later in the class, students will be designing a compost latrine and learning to dig wells both with diesel drills and by hand.

They'll also learn to build bio-sand filters, a kind of water filtration system that uses a layer of bacteria to remove contaminants from water, and conduct baseline health surveys that will help them figure out how to address the needs of a community and, eventually, how effective their solutions are.

Although the course is offered through the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, it's open to anyone on campus.

Only about half the students in this session are engineering majors, Chamberlain said.
The other come from a range of disciplines — business, international studies, microbiology and pre-med.

Helping others
They also have different plans for the kind of work they want to do, he said. Some, like Humphrey, hope to make a career out of development work.

Others want to be doctors in the U.S. and go on occasional medical mission trips to developing regions. But the one thing the students all have in common, he said, is an interest in trying to better the lives of people in developing communities.

“We have a lot of students who have a desire to do development work,” he said.

Monday, April 30, 2012

University of Oklahoma Chemical Engineering Student Receives NIH Medical Scientist Training Program Grant

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma chemical engineering senior is the recipient of the prestigious NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Scientist Training Program grant.

Brandon Smith, a fifth-year senior from Houston, will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering, pre-med option. Smith has accepted the stipend and tuition allowance for up to eight years, at which time he will have completed a combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree.

“In receiving this prestigious NIH Training grant, Brandon Smith has demonstrated his great personal talent and hard work and the excellence of OU’s undergraduate program in the medical sciences,” said OU President David L. Boren.

Smith will attend the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. After two years in Houston, he will attend Rice University for three to four years in pursuit of a doctorate in bioengineering, then transfer back to Baylor to complete his medical degree.

“We’re pleased, but not surprised, that Brandon has been accepted into this prestigious program,” said Lance Lobban, director of the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering. “Brandon has done much more than earn top grades in his coursework. He’s also been an exemplary citizen and leader, serving as a mentor and tutor for sophomore chemical engineering students in our Chevron Phillips Mentor program and giving his time in numerous volunteer activities at OU and in the community.”

Smith cites his family history as playing a role in his success at OU. In May, he will become the third generation of his family with diplomas bearing the University of Oklahoma seal. His grandfather, father, mother, sister and cousin have degrees from OU. Smith prides himself on having taken his father’s advice to heart when he was a senior in high school contemplating his summer plans. “Dad encouraged me to start thinking about what I wanted to do,” Smith said. “I thought I’d like to go into the medical field, so I volunteered at the local hospital and took a basic life support class.”

Smith declared chemical engineering, pre-med option as an incoming freshman, knowing if he didn’t pursue a medical career, he would have many options as a chemical engineer, including a promising career in pharmaceuticals, drug development, the oil industry, among others. But his passion for becoming a physician did not wane.

Smith recognizes this chapter in his higher education journey will soon come to a close. However, he is keenly aware of the benefits his OU education has afforded him by the connections he has made along the way. Richard Wainerdi, OU alumnus and president of the Texas Medical Center, introduced Smith to Thomas Krouskop at the National Center for Human Performance in Houston, where he would spend two summers as an intern. He then interned one summer at the Shriner’s Hospital in Houston, a facility specializing in children’s cerebral palsy and the treatment of burns. Smith also shadowed a cardiothoracic surgeon in Raleigh, N.C., a total of four weeks: two weeks for two summers.

From more than 180 fields, Smith has narrowed the field in which he hopes to specialize to cardiology or neurology.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Radar Brings Engineering Expertise, Research to OU

NORMAN, Okla. – Expertise in weather radar research is synonymous with the University of Oklahoma, home of the National Weather Center, and in a strategic move to expand radar multi-mission capabilities, the university is hiring engineering expertise and building lab capabilities.

While radar plays an important role in weather forecasting and prediction, its application of measuring distance, direction and speed includes many fields. In addition to traditional military remote sensing applications, such as early warning systems for incoming aircraft, radar can be used in the detection of land mines and underground gas leaks, as well as providing “sense and avoid” capabilities to Unmanned Aerial Systems.

That is why the OU College of Engineering recently hired four nationally recognized radar engineers to join the faculty of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Caleb Fulton, Nathan Goodman, Jessica Ruyle and Hjalti Sigmarsson, all with doctorates in electrical engineering, were recruited for their experiences, education and research in remote sensing to offer hands-on training in radar engineering.

“Radar engineers are researching, designing and building new systems and processes for data collection in meteorology, energy, defense, aerospace and other fields,” said Thomas Landers, dean of the College of Engineering. “The addition of these four experienced radar engineers represents a very significant addition of talent that will not only enhance the College of Engineering, but will also benefit our entire state as we compete and lead in radar innovation in all fields.”

Fulton earned his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering from Purdue University. Fulton’s research interests are in advanced, multi-function phased array systems that leverage recent advances in low-cost transceivers and digital beamforming technologies to provide new radar, communications and electronic warfare capabilities while lowering cost, size, weight and power consumption.

Goodman earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas. Goodman’s research interests are in developing novel system concepts and signal processing techniques to enhance performance of surveillance and imaging radars.

Ruyle earned her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Texas A&M University and her master’s and doctoral degrees in the same field from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ruyle’s research interests are in the development and characterization of new electromagnetic devices and platforms, such as antennas, and packaging to improve the performance of radiating systems in challenging environments. The applications for her research range from extremely thin “sticker” antennas for Radio Frequency Identification applications to adaptive antennas for radar systems.

Sigmarsson earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Iceland, Reykjavik, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in the same field from Purdue University. Sigmarsson’s research interests include development and implementation of reconfigurable radio frequency and microwave hardware for the next generation of communications, radar and measurement systems.

The addition of the new faculty members will allow the curriculum for the electrical and computer engineering program to be enhanced. New courses, such as Microwave Systems and Antennas, will give students a wider variety of technical electives. Students specializing in radar engineering also will benefit from the added depth these new courses will bring to the program. In addition, students will see expanded opportunities to engage in research at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Construction is currently under way for the Radar Innovations Laboratory that will include a large microwave laboratory, high-bay garage, prototype fabrication facilities, isolated anechoic chambers for the characterization and experimentation of radiating systems, and shared rooms to enhance collaboration. The center, expected to be completed in 2013, will be near the National Weather Center on OU’s Research Campus.

“I’m impressed with the initiative to expand in radar education and research,” Goodman said. “The Radar Innovations Laboratory will allow us to take ideas further than computer simulations, actually building circuit boards, fabricating antennas, testing radar-related electronics and algorithms, and integrating these into systems that work.”

The School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at OU is the second-largest school in the College of Engineering. There are currently more than 330 undergraduate and 140 graduate students served by 23 faculty members on the Norman campus as well as four faculty members on the Tulsa campus.

Monday, April 9, 2012

OU Telecommunications Engineering Team Wins Top Honors at International Conference

TULSA, Okla. – A team of students from the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa Telecommunications Engineering Program took home first prize honors at the International Telecommunications Education and Research Association (ITERA) Annual Conference in Indianapolis last week.

In its first-time entry in the event, the OU-Tulsa team won the Business Case Competition, consisting of proposing a solution for small businesses – primarily physicians’ and insurance agents’ offices – in a specific geographical location: Charlotte, North Carolina. Team members Jonathan King, Nikhil Punekar, Bhagyrashri Darunkar, Swamy Tummala, and Krishna Kumar, all second semester students in the OU-Tulsa Master of Science in Telecommunications Engineering Program, submitted their proposal in January and were named one of four finalists. .

“Our team performed exceptionally well with their excellent technological solution, and their presentation was superb, thanks to excellent coaching by several business mentors and staff of the OU Center for Creation of Economic Wealth, said Pramode Verma, Ph.D., Professor of Engineering and Director of the OU – Tulsa Telecommunications Program, and faculty advisor to the team. “It was a great team effort, and we’re extremely proud of all of them.”

Students were awarded $1,000 in cash prizes and a trophy, and OU-Tulsa received a $250 award.

The University of Oklahoma Schusterman Center is home to all OU programs in Tulsa. Located on a 60 acre campus at 41st and Yale, it strengthens OU’s presence in northeast Oklahoma and expands educational, research and patient care programs in the Tulsa area. OU-Tulsa offers six bachelor’s degree completion programs; 14 master’s degree programs, including the physician assistant program, nurse practitioner program, doctoral programs in medicine, physical therapy, education, early childhood education, engineering, pharmacy and nursing, as well as nine residency programs in medicine. It is also home to the OU School of Community Medicine, the first of its kind in the nation, created with the explicit purpose of improving the health of all Oklahoma communities. For more information about OU-Tulsa, call 660-3318 or visit