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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

University of Oklahoma engineering teams field bikes, planes, cars for international competitions

By Silas Allen | Published: April 1, 2012 Oklahoman

NORMAN — On Thursday afternoon in a University of Oklahoma workshop, Carly Young and her teammates were making final adjustments to a remote-controlled plane they'd built from scratch.
photo - Carly Young, a senior from Paris, Ark., works on the University of Oklahoma’s unmanned aerial vehicle. Photos by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

About 30 feet away, another team worked on an off-road vehicle. All around the two teams were bits and pieces of two other vehicles — a race car and a recumbent bicycle — built by other OU student teams.

The teams are a part of OU's School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Young's team is gearing up for Design/Build/Fly, a national collegiate aviation competition sponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. This year's competition will be April 13-15 in Wichita, Kan.

The other three teams — Sooner Off-Road, Sooner Powered Vehicle and Sooner Racing — all compete in national and international tournaments in their categories. In each contest, teams receive contest requirements months in advance and build vehicles that meet those parameters.

The teams then head to the annual competition where their vehicles compete with those built by other college teams from around the world.

Those requirements change from year to year, meaning each vehicle is unique from one year to the next. For example, Young said, this year's plane is built to carry a payload of eight aluminum bars. Last year, the contest required the planes be able to break down and fit into a piece of standard carry-on luggage.

Young said preparing for the competition is a valuable learning experience. She tends to learn best when she's working with her hands, she said, and the competition affords her that opportunity.

“This is as good as it gets when it comes to aerospace,” she said.

Chase Knowles, one of Young's teammates, said the program allows the team to take what they've learned in class and work on it in greater depth than they would normally be able to. Teams spend most of their waking hours in the workshop, he said — even more than they spend at home.

“We pretty much live in here,” he said. “If we're not in class, we're here.”

That level of depth is a part of the reason for the teams, said Farrokh Mistree, director of the school. It's important for students to learn through doing, he said, both in the sense of making a physical object and also analyzing the systems that make it work.

Working on the projects helps students who learn well in a classroom setting put their knowledge into practice. Likewise, he said, it helps more tactile learners to tie what they learn in the workshop back into classroom theory.

“This has been part of our culture,” he said.

Even within that culture, each individual team sees its own brand of participant, said Sarah Warren, a spokeswoman for the school. Sooner Powered Vehicle tends to attract people interested in cycling, she said, while Sooner Off-Road draws more rough-and-tumble members who like to get muddy.

“There's really kind of a niche for anybody,” she said.

OU's teams have had a fair amount of success in recent years, Mistree said. Several years ago, Sooner Racing developed a component that's designed to improve traction. Other teams soon copied the idea, he said.

Although the teams tend to be competitive, Mistree said he sees value in the competition no matter how the students fare. His message to the teams reflects that idea, he said:

“I'm delighted to support this as long as learning takes place and you have fun.”