The University of Tulsa

Chapman Professorships allow faculty to innovate for student engagement 

The University of Tulsa has announced recipients for its new Chapman Professorship award, established to promote student learning and faculty enrichment across campus.

A total of 38 full-time resident faculty members from all five of TU’s colleges received the $5,000 grants made possible by the Chapman Trust Funds. They will be recognized as Chapman Professors for the 2019-20 academic year and have the potential to renew their awards for up to three years.

The initiatives, activities and programs proposed by this inaugural group of applicants reflect faculty who are eager to provide students with creative avenues of instruction and research. Most universities, especially larger state schools, lack the financial means to support faculty on such a personal level. At TU, administrators and the Board of Trustees agreed professors deserve additional resources to further enhance the college experience. The $5,000 awards encourage professors to think outside the box and engage with students in ways that inspire academic ambition.

“These grants represent the university’s commitment to funding novel ideas that promote learning and research,” said President Gerard P. Clancy. “Providing resources to professors who are seeking to further empower their students inside and outside the classroom is money well spent. I’m thrilled we could offer an award to every eligible applicant, and I look forward to seeing their projects develop throughout the academic year.”

Studio visits in the art industry

Teresa Valero, director of the TU School of Art, Design and Art History, plans to use her Chapman Professorship Award to expand curriculum content and help students embrace emerging practices they will encounter in the design industry. Specifically, the funds will support travel to the Dallas Society of Visual Communications conference in April 2020 where students can compete in graphic design events, participate in portfolio reviews, represent TU in an exhibition and network with industry professionals. While in Dallas, students also can visit a design studio and marketing firm to experience the day-to-day operations of agency life.

“These visits give them a sense of where they’d like to go, it gives them a goal,” Valero explained. “They can imagine themselves beyond TU and say, ‘I know what I want to do, and this is how I’m going to get there.’”

Chemical engineering in the kitchen

Tyler Johannes, Wellspring associate professor of chemical engineering, intends to use his award to pique the interest of current and prospective students in science and engineering and incorporate hands-on demonstrations that involve modern cuisine techniques into the curriculum. The funds will help develop cuisine modules for TU’s ChE 1011 course and teach students about the field in a fun and interactive way while increasing enrollment and improving retention in his department.

“The complex field of chemical engineering is often difficult to explain to high school and first-year students,” Johannes said. “Food production processes are a safe and easy way to introduce them to chemical engineering. Demonstrations will focus on films, foams, coffee and spheres to help students understand the concepts of material balances, dehydration, fluid flow and reaction kinetics.”

Expanding Project Commutation

Law Professor Stephen Galoob is a founder of the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s Project Commutation, which helps lessen the sentences of prisoners whose crimes were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors by Oklahoma State Question 780 in 2016. He helped supervise 30 TU Law student interns who have staffed Project Commutation since it launched in 2018. These students have benefited greatly from participation in Project Commutation, refining their skills in legal analysis and advocacy while developing new tools critical for criminal law practice. Galoob’s Chapman Professorship award will fund a formalization of this experiential learning opportunity that ultimately convinced Gov. Kevin Stitt to overhaul the Pardon and Parole Board in support of the TU students’ work.

“Some of the funds will be used to compensate a student who is working on a project to secure the commutation of sentences for approximately 65 people who are serving 10 years or more for low-level property crimes, many of which are no longer even felonies under Oklahoma law,” Galoob said. “Other portions of the funds will be used to reimburse our students as they travel across the state to meet with applicants in nearly every correctional institution in Oklahoma.”

Data mining in health care

Chapman funding will also prove useful for faculty in the Collins College of Business such as  Kazim Topuz, assistant professor of operations management and business analytics. His vision for the grant is to partner with a group of students to develop an online course, analytics programming, that will connect students to the R and Python data analytics community. Topuz plans to invite those same students to work on a couple of his health analytics projects, one of which includes predicting graft survival after liver transplantation.

“In existing organ transportation literature, only a handful of studies utilized data mining approaches in predicting graft survival,” he said. “The overall goal of this study is to contribute to the advance of matching algorithms for liver transplantation. Students will have hands-on experience in data science and will have published conference proceedings and recognition very early in their careers.”

A campaign for student health

chapman professorshipsProposals from the Oxley College of Health Sciences include a plan from Eric Wickel, associate professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences, to develop a university leadership team to implement Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC). “Despite reported benefits of physical activity on chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, about half (54%) of college students do not meet current physical activity guidelines,” he said.

The EIM-OC campaign will promote physical activity as a vital sign of health and conduct surveillance studies among students to assess daily physical activity and unique sedentary behavior. “Implementing EIM-OC through TU’s Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences will facilitate student engagement projects across campus, such as 5K runs and daily health and fitness tips, to promote health and wellness and provide valuable mentorship opportunities,” Wickel said.

The university congratulates all of the 2019-20 Chapman Professorship award recipients:

Kendall College of Arts and Sciences 
Miriam Belmaker – Anthropology
Mark Brewin – Media Studies
Emily Contois – Media Studies
M. Teresa Valero – Art, Design & Art History

Collins College of Business 
Meagan Baskin and Timothy Hart (joint) – Management & Marketing
Meagan McCollum – Finance, Operations Management & International Business
Rob Moore – Energy Economics, Policy & Commerce
Eric Olson – Finance, Operations Management & International Business
Kazim Topuz – Finance, Operations Management & International Business

College of Engineering and Natural Sciences 
Kimberly Adams and Amy Schachle (joint) – Mathematics
Mark Alan Buchheim – Biological Science
Dustin Donnell – Mechanical Engineering
Laura Ford – Chemical Engineering
Tyler Johannes – Chemical Engineering
Gabriel LeBlanc – Chemistry & Biochemistry
Peter LoPresti – Electrical & Computer Engineering
Tom Rendon – Mechanical Engineering
Dale Schoenefeld – Computer Science
Robert Sheaff – Chemistry & Biochemistry
Akram Taghavi-Burris – Computer Science

Oxley College of Health Sciences 
Samantha Beams – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Tedi Courtney – Nursing
Lori Davis – Communication Sciences & Disorders
Cassy Abbott Eng – Nursing
Greg Gardner – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Rachel Hildebrand – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Brandon King – Nursing
Angela Martindale – Nursing
Sheryl Stansifer – Nursing
Suzanne Stanton – Communication Sciences & Disorders
Eric Wickel – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Nicole Wilkins – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Laura Wilson – Communication Sciences & Disorders

College of Law 
Chuck Adams
Stephen Galoob
Gina Nerger

Electrical engineering interns power up for job prospects

Juniors and seniors in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering have a 100% internship and job placement rate. That means all May 2019 graduates are employed in the industry, and all incoming seniors have either concluded or are still working an internship.

A competitive edge

How important is an internship when setting off on the right foot after college? It’s everything, said Kaveh Ashenayi, Hans S. Norberg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Ashenayi, who also serves as department chair, believes that young graduates with engineering experience have a competitive edge over others who do not. “It’s easier to get a job after graduation and experiencing what it’s like to work as an engineer makes a student more desirable to employ,” said Douglas Jussaume, applied associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

That’s why Ashenayi and his faculty sat around a table two years ago and set the lofty goal to find an internship for each junior and senior in the department. “We wanted to find honest-to-goodness engineering internships where students worked on actual projects at local companies,” he said.

Faculty tapped into their industry networks, made dozens of calls at Tulsa-area companies and connected students with electrical engineering mentors. Some students received three-month summer internships while others arranged for year-round positions, allowing them to work part time during the semester and full time in the summer. “We are trying to distinguish ourselves by obtaining internships for seniors, juniors, sophomores and even the freshmen,” Ashenayi said. “Many of the students are eventually hired full time where they interned.”

For all faculty and staff in the department that includes a senior class of less than 30 students, helping young engineers complete their degrees and start their careers is the ultimate reward after hundreds of hours spent teaching, advising and mentoring. “When they get internships, their self-confidence goes up,” said department administrative assistant Marla Zumwalt. “They begin to see how what they’ve learned in class can be used in the real world.”

Mason Holley, John Zink Hamworthy Combustion

electrical engineering internshipsInternships also provide exposure to different work environments, interaction with coworkers and customer service, said senior Mason Holley who interned this summer at John Zink Hamworthy Combustion in Tulsa. “I picked up a lot of soft skills and learned how the business aspect of engineering is a lot bigger than I realized,” Holley said. “You can build something, but if no one buys the product, what’s the point?”

Holley’s technical work involved embedded systems and hardware, but he also gave presentations to business leaders, took a speech class offered through the company and soaked in the advice he received from two company mentors who are TU alumni. “Everyone I bumped into was helpful and knowledgeable and that impressed me,” he said.

As Holley returns to campus for his senior year, he begins the semester knowing he has a job locked down at John Zink if he chooses to stay in Oklahoma. “They extended a job offer to me,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet if I want to go to grad school, but it’s pretty exciting and a relief to know that I already have something lined up. It’s a weight off my shoulders.”

Caitlyn Daxon, Cymstar

electrical engineering internshipsHolley is not the only TU intern to receive a job offer. Senior Caitlyn Daxon has interned at Cymstar since March 2019 and has the option to work there full time in the future. Although there aren’t many engineers in her family, she excelled in math and participated in Project Lead the Way as a student at Union High School in Tulsa. This summer, she has helped Cymstar employees overhaul the website that manages and communicates all company projects. She has shadowed engineers, learned about the accounting skills they often use in projects and explored the inner workings of Cymstar’s flight systems. “Engineering is very hands-on, so you don’t know what you want to do without experiencing it first,” Daxon said.

Taylor Deru, Enovation Controls

electrical engineering internships“All of the professors have been very adamant and persistent with us on internship applications and helping us make connections,” said senior Taylor Deru who just finished a summer position with Tulsa’s Enovation Controls. The Houston native joined an office of longtime employees with decades of engineering experience. His tasks included troubleshooting faulty systems reported by customers and various testing with circuit boards, displays and electronic components.

“Once you move into a professional setting, you realize the point of a degree is to learn the fundamentals such as math, physics, circuits and electrical components,” Deru said. “A degree teaches you to think critically and how to solve problems, but there’s a lot you aren’t able to learn in academics. An internship is a very valuable sneak peek at what’s to come after college.”

Patrick Maley, Aaon

electrical engineering internshipsPatrick Maley’s internship at Aaon began in July, and, as a junior, he plans to continue working part time throughout the semester. Right away, he was handed a program used in the company’s HVAC systems and instructed to test inputs/outputs and communications on the product’s circuit board. “It’s about ironed out,” Maley said, “I’ve learned how much responsibility is needed in product and design.”

His assigned Aaon mentor, Senior Electrical Controls Engineer Thomas Burrow, said Maley’s product design was so good that it was sent to manufacturing, exceeding the skillset and quality of an entry-level engineer. “I would trust Patrick to go into any meeting and represent any department,” Burrow said. “When there are employees with 40 years of experience in the room picking apart a design, that can be intimidating, but TU interns are well-spoken and can handle the criticism.”

Burrow explained Aaon often uses the internship as a job interview and, considering Maley’s outstanding performance review, the odds are in his favor. If he chooses to join the industry after his undergraduate degree, a position awaits him. However, Maley still has two years of coursework remaining at TU, and although he’s keeping his options open right now, he knows he’s in the right field. “Electricity is badass, and I wanted a career that allowed me to help people,” he said. “Choosing electrical engineering was the best decision of my life.”

Around 20 local companies hosted TU electrical engineering interns in 2019. Ashenayi said the department is working on a new goal for next summer: to find internships for all freshmen and sophomores, too.

NSF-funded robotics project helps children with hypotonia at Little Light House

Members of the Biological Robotics at Tulsa (BRAT) Research Group in The University of Tulsa’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, are studying the muscle condition hypotonia to improve the quality of life for children who suffer from it. Graduate student Bradford Kerst and Joshua Schultz, an associate professor and BRAT group director, partnered with teachers and therapists at Little Light House in Tulsa to learn how hypotonia reduces muscle tone and strength. Their research is sponsored by a grant from the Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering program at the National Science Foundation and is TU’s first nationally funded project in rehabilitation robotics.

Understanding hypotonia

Kerst said he and Schultz are beginning the final phase of data collection through a device that supports a child’s head and is worn by Little Light House students who experience weak neck muscles as a result of hypotonia. Known commercially as a Headpod, the device holds a child’s head in a neutral posture. Current therapy for hypotonia involves supporting a child’s head from a lightweight suspension frame using a cable and head strap, but TU researchers plan to build a robotic prototype that relinquishes a portion of the support when a child does not need it. This will allow therapists to program a regimen that trains neck muscles in the hope that strength development will enable children to hold up their heads on their own.

“We will use a motion capture system and the initial data gathered to pick out the right motor size for the device, and we’re working with therapists to determine what safety features we need,” Kerst explained.

Little Light House students who have worn the data-capturing Headpod so far have been able to access switches near their head to activate a switch-adapted power wheels truck. Lynda Crouch, assistive technology coordinator at Little Light House, also explained that, in some instances, the Headpod device has been attached to a stander. “Because of the support of the Headpod, we can see secondary results of increased visual attention and social interaction with other students. Their heads are supported in an upright position to see their world. Without the Headpod, they keep their head down or we have to position them reclined in wheelchairs.”

Robotics to the rescue

With mentoring from Schultz, Kerst and an undergraduate researcher who will be added to the TU team this fall will develop biomechanical computer models to program the device’s robotic support system. The project is Kerst’s first exposure to robotics research and has piqued his interest in a career that uses rehabilitation robotics to improve head control.

“Our goal is to understand hypotonia and learn new information about the disorder that we can use in the future to help people,” he said. “It’s been overlooked in a lot of research, so it’s something Professor Schultz and the therapists discussed and saw a need to study.”

As researchers complete the final phase of data collection, Little Light House therapists anticipate a TU design that will improve head positioning for students and allow them to participate fully in daily classroom activities.

“We already knew our students were special, but this research has shown us how unique and incredible they are,” said Crouch. “We’re learning how important it is to capture data that reflects what we as therapists and teachers observe in daily interactions with the children.”

TU faculty and students have a long history of working closely with the Little Light House. Schultz and Kerst meet bi-weekly with the school’s staff to incorporate problem-solving, strategic planning and engineering applications into the plan for a therapeutic device.

Once data collection is complete, Schultz and his team of student researchers will build a prototype that they plan to begin testing in 2020.

TU recruits tackle STEM Bootcamp before classes start

The first semester of college is an exciting time for students, but living in a different environment, adapting to university academics and making friends can cause anxiety. That’s why The University of Tulsa is introducing a STEM Bootcamp to prepare incoming students for this new and challenging phase in their lives.

Thirty-three participants will begin the TU program Aug. 5 and spend two weeks working on activities involving math, chemistry and academic skill development while completing self-paced math skill sessions and exploring science and engineering career opportunities. Students also will take field trips to facilities such as Fab Lab Tulsa to complete projects that reinforce concepts discussed in the classroom.

Improving the student experience

“The bootcamp is designed to help students feel confident in their abilities and know where to turn if something doesn’t go as planned,” said program coordinator Sheila Givens. “Our goal is to make sure that participants transition into their studies at TU with motivation and preparation and possess tools that can help them succeed to the point of graduation.” 

STEM BootcampGivens said students should expect an intense two weeks of college prep, but she also recognizes that learning occurs off campus. Some of the additional science and engineering excursions planned around Tulsa include stops at ONEOK Field and The Gathering Place.

The College of Engineering and Natural Sciences is sponsoring the program and will pick up the tab for participants’ first-semester math and chemistry books — a $400 value.

TU studied other university summer programs to identify best practices before developing its custom model. “We looked at a lot of schools close to us in the state or similar in size. We chose a program with carryover into the semester because that’s when it becomes real to students — four weeks in, they’ve got their first mid-term,” said Amy Schachle, senior math instructor and lead faculty for the bootcamp.

The summer session and six follow-up meetings are an incentive for students because those who complete the program will earn class credit. Once the semester begins, Schachle said the STEM Bootcamp participants will be required to check in regularly with her and Gabriel LeBlanc, Wellspring Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, to evaluate how they are adapting to their classes and college life. Providing extra resources, boosting skills and starting the college transition process early are all priorities to improve the student experience, which program organizers hope will result in higher retention and graduation rates.

Math + chemistry = STEM foundation

LeBlanc said his role as a faculty adviser involves teaching students how to apply chemistry principles differently than they did in high school. Presenting these basic concepts before the semester begins could prevent some students from leaving the major.

“During a traditional chemistry course, there’s so much content to cover so quickly that we don’t get to spend very much time discussing how to set up problems to solve them,” LeBlanc explained. “Students who don’t understand that baseline information within the first week or two of the semester are destined to do poorly in class. If we can master some of this material on the front end, then chemistry won’t become a deterrent to their career path.”

Although math and chemistry are the two main topics that Schachle and LeBlanc will teach, representatives from TU’s Center for Student Academic Success will lead sessions on study skills, identifying and applying personal learning styles, notetaking, conquering test anxiety and exam prep, goalsetting and more. “It’s important we break down some of those barriers to tutoring, studying and taking notes the right way,” LeBlanc explained.

Students with STEM plans

STEM BootcampGivens said many of the students invited to attend the bootcamp program are interested in using a STEM degree to advance health care or pursue other philanthropic projects that make a difference globally. To become a scientist or engineer, Schachle said it all begins with a strong foundation in mathematics.

“We want to make sure they’re ready to hit the ground running,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure they can do college-level math by starting that transition process a little earlier and providing extra resources.” 

Givens explained the program is designed to improve student learning, but it is also a learning opportunity for TU. Participant feedback will be used to develop future summer programming and allow TU to better understand how to serve students such as Mai VuLe of Broken Arrow, who wants to one day serve in the medical field.

“I hope to make all types of friends, know the campus better, enjoy dorm life and become more prepared for my classes in the future,” VuLe said. Studying biochemistry is the first step toward her career goal to learn about the chemical processes that occur within living organisms.

“It’s a good opportunity to start in advance on being a college student,” VuLe said. “I’ll already have an idea of what classes are like, and I’ll be able to learn how to make sure I’m ready for each class.” 

Read more about TU’s efforts to serve students and help them achieve success in college. 

High school seniors perform cutting-edge research as TURC Junior Scholars

This summer, The University of Tulsa is hosting 13 rising high school seniors from the Tulsa area and surrounding communities as TURC Junior Scholars. The program stems from the nationally recognized Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge (TURC), which allows standout high school students to engage with tenured and tenure-track faculty in the university’s state-of-the-art laboratories. The Junior TURC program has hosted more than 70 high school students since its establishment in 2012.

Researching workout supplements

Seerut Parmar, a senior at Holland Hall, has been working with Gordon Purser, a TU chemistry professor. The two have taken on a project to determine whether a workout supplement is providing the extra boost that it claims.

Junior TURC
Professor Purser and Parmar

Purser explained that the supplement, l-arginine ethyl ester, has been endorsed by athletes for several years, but “we haven’t found any evidence in the literature to support that position.”

As a TURC Junior Scholar, Parmar has the opportunity to look for such evidence or disprove the claims altogether. The high schooler was not shaken by being thrust into an academic environment at the university level.

“I felt prepared coming in,” she said. “I had to adapt and learn things about arginine that I didn’t know, but the people at TU helped me feel included and engaged from the first day. They made the transition from an AP Chem classroom to an actual research project a comfortable one.”

Purser, likewise, had nothing but good things to say about Parmar and the Junior TURC program.

“The high school students do not have the preparation of TU students – they haven’t had organic chemistry here, for example. But they’re also exceptional students from around the Tulsa area, so with very little guidance, they can come into the program and make a big impact. Working with Seerut this summer has been a pleasure. Nobody has been more eager to help and driven to learn.”

As the team continues researching, Parmar is laying the foundation for a potential career. She wants to double major in chemistry and journalism in college, planning a future where she can explore “writing with chemistry, or doing chemistry with writing.”

Studying disease in cotton

In the Department of Biological Sciences, Junior TURC scholar David Steichen is working with TU Associate Professor Akhtar Ali on a project about mycoviruses, or viruses that infect fungi.

Junior TURC
Professor Ali and Steichen

One of these fungi, Fusarium oxysporum, has destroyed large percentages of cotton crops in Texas and will only continue to spread if no remedy is found. Since cotton is a major cash crop of the southwest, a deadly fungi could significantly damage the economy.

Steichen and Ali are working to prevent this. Their research with mycoviruses is aimed at using these mycoviruses as a control agent to stop the spread of the fungal disease.

As Steichen explained, “We are trying to isolate the virus and purify it, find its specific RNA, DNA and genetic material, then eventually get that into sequencing.”

Doing so would make the cure achievable.

“After sequencing, we would have to make a solution to drip near the root of every plant,” Ali added. “The virus would be transferred by nature. It would be a solution with no pesticides, no environmental pollution and positive long-term effects.”

In other words, Steichen has spent the summer focusing on research that can help the Midwest economy. Come August, he will return to high school at Bishop Kelley to focus on AP tests and choosing a university to attend next year.

Steichen spoke on this dichotomy of high school life versus college research, saying that he finds joy in both and values them for different things.

Junior TURC
Ali studies a field of cotton infected by the fungi.

“I recently took AP Bio and learned about DNA and how it’s sequenced,” he said, “But never had I actually sequenced it. At TU, after watching, learning and asking a lot of questions, I was able to dive into the research, and being immersed in what I’ve studied helped me truly understand it.”

Ali, regarding the Junior TURC program, said, “It’s a pleasure to work with such bright, intelligent high school students that want to engage with a research project such as this.”

While Steichen hopes to pursue more research or a career as a medical doctor, Ali will continue his research on crops, and both of them will certainly help advance their fields.

“This is a great experience to learn as much as I can to work with college research while in high school,” Steichen said. “I’m seeing how research works and getting a clear path of where I want to go.”

Learn more about the Junior TURC program.

Student-led team publishes national paper on inquiry-based learning in chemistry

When an undergraduate student approached University of Tulsa Assistant Professor of Chemistry Erin Iski with a new strategy for laboratory learning, no one expected the idea to result in almost four years of research and a published paper. But that’s exactly what happened when Iski encouraged chemistry and music education major Greg Jones and chemistry doctoral student Jesse Phillips to pursue a new project.

“Using a Guided-Inquiry Approach to Teach Michaelis–Menten Kinetics” was published in the American Chemistry Society’s Journal of Chemical Education on July 3, explaining how Iski, Jones and Phillips applied a guided inquiry-based system of lab instruction to this specific type of physical chemical kinetics.

“My research with former TU Professor Justin Chalker had led me to perform kinetics experiments to investigate the efficacy of a molecule as an enzyme inhibitor,” Jones said. “For me, it was these research experiences that formed the foundation of my chemistry education at TU.”

A teaching tool Iski described as “fun and different,” the strategy involved two components: an inquiry-based exploratory approach to lab data collection and asking students to create their own experimental design involving Michaelis-Menten kinetics and inhibition.

“Here in this department, we’re progressively improving laboratory procedures, which are almost always very arcane — they don’t tend to work,” Iski said. “As faculty, we focus mostly on lecture and that takes most of our time, but students spend three hours every week in labs.”

Guided, inquiry-based learning

Phillips, who completed his Ph.D. degree in chemistry in May and now works as assistant director of research and development at Xcaliber International in Tulsa, said physical chemical kinetics is a challenging concept to teach at the undergraduate level. However, by using a guided inquiry approach, student post-assessment scores recorded after the two-week Michaelis-Menten lab rotation improved greatly compared to pre-assessment marks. Students were provided material to review at home on their own time in preparation for the lab series. Week one involved designing and implementing a method to collect data on a simple kinetically-driven chemical reaction and then develop a means to inhibit this Michaelis-Menton enzymatic reaction as well as identify the type of inhibition in week two.

“I was present for the entire lab and tried to direct students in a way that would facilitate good results without explicitly telling them what to do,” Phillips explained. “Determining the type of inhibition they needed to prevent a chemical reaction allowed them to learn a lot about the overall kinetics process. They may not have even realized they were learning chemical kinetics in a more efficient way.”

The spike in post-assessment results suggests students learn more when the instruction is self-directed, Phillips said. “Students have a greater uptake of knowledge when they’re in charge of their own learning it versus sitting in a lecture hall where it can be more difficult to follow the instruction.”

kineticsChemistry and biochemistry juniors participated in the lab experiment, and the assessment results of 37 students from two iterations of the lab were featured in the ACS paper. Research that is focused more on education in chemistry rather than experimental surface chemistry in a traditional sense is what distinguishes the paper from other published projects in her research lab, Iski explained. Instead of proposing an exact series of steps paired with specific lab instructions, students were given more freedom to solve a question by examining the Michaelis-Menten kinetics and understanding the potential reactions on their own. The research showed learning in an inquiry-based way helps students understand Michaelis-Menten kinetics more effectively.

“This is a topic I also teach in lecture but in a lecture you have maybe 20 minutes on a concept, sometimes 30, so you don’t have time to get into the nitty-gritty about how you would actually measure the kinetics in a real setting,” Iski said. “This new idea of students developing their own experimental designs has been growing in the education literature over the past 10 years, and publication in July, during the summer, is a good time to catch the interest of professors who are working on their syllabi for the upcoming fall.”

Valuing the undergraduate perspective

What makes the research paper even more relevant is the fact that Jones, an undergraduate at the time, is the one who initially proposed the idea to help fellow undergraduates grasp such a tough chemistry concept. “Greg came to Dr. Iski and me while he was working in our lab and proposed using this type of inquiry-based lab to teach chemical kinetics,” Phillips said. “We worked together on the project while I completed my Ph.D.”

As the physical chemistry lab teaching assistant for the physical chemistry lab, Phillips facilitated the experiment, while much of the initial prep work was completed by Jones. “Greg created a rubric we used to make sure the grading was very uniform in an attempt to prevent outliers when collecting data from students, grading lab reports and scoring pre- and post-lab assessments.”

A team effort for a universal technique

Once Jones completed his two undergraduate degrees in 2016, he was accepted to graduate school at the California Institute of Technology where he is currently pursuing a doctorate in chemistry. Despite the distance, Jones and Phillips kept the project going with weekly Skype updates, tweaking the experiment from iterations one and two, double-checking each other’s lab analyses and making additional lab changes based on what Phillips experienced in the lab. Other TU chemistry and biochemistry faculty, such as Associate Professor Robert Sheaff and Professor William Potter, contributed to improvements in the lab.

“Inquiry-based laboratories bring raw creative design and evaluation skills to the forefront of the educational experience, not only making for better chemists, but undergirding a strong liberal arts education that should be the mission of a university,” Jones said.

After three years of data collection that indicated the success of a guided, inquiry-based lab, Jones and Phillips developed the charts and graphs, gathered statistics, drafted the first version of the paper for Iski to review and began the diligent process of publishing a paper in a nationally known and peer-reviewed scientific journal.

“It’s definitely a universal technique that can be used for anyone in the scientific field to get a better understanding of many different scientific subjects,” Phillips said.

One of the main takeaways from the paper, Iski said, is that Jones and Phillips “worked very hard and iteratively improved the lab over the course of three years, something that took significant effort and time.” The inquiry-based concept generated a 10-point jump in conceptual understanding between iteration one and two, and the group has several ideas for a third version. “It’s positive in the field to see that you don’t just write a lab and let it sit and never make any improvements to it. We can use it once and then use the students’ responses to make it stronger for the next time. We don’t live just in research land or education land, it’s the two coming together and that’s why I like how these two students took up the project and said, ‘let’s publish this.’”

View the complete paper published in the ACS Journal of Chemistry Education here.

Geologist Janet Haggerty completes service as vice provost for research and dean of TU’s Graduate School

In the summer of 1982, a young marine geologist arrived in Tulsa to begin her new role as an assistant professor. Janet Haggerty had just completed a doctorate in geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii, researching ancient marine environments and projects related to carbonate petrology. She joined The University of Tulsa’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences and later became its first tenured female faculty member.

Janet Haggerty
Haggerty aboard a submergence research vehicle.

A pioneer in marine research

TU’s Department of Geosciences offered Haggerty the opportunity not only to teach and conduct research, but also to participate in pioneering voyages to uncover secrets of the ocean floor. During her first semester at TU, Haggerty set sail on the South Pacific for six weeks to study carbonate sedimentology. The following spring, she embarked on an eight-week Atlantic expedition, returning to campus after each trip with core samples, photographs, notes, briefings and other information useful to her students.

“I loved working with the students in the classroom and the lab,” Haggerty said. “Both undergraduates and graduate students did research with me. That’s what put a smile on my face and watching them learn was pretty exciting.”

Those first few expeditions were just the beginning for Haggerty, who spent the next three decades building her career as a marine geologist, sedimentologist and professor. She traveled aboard ships such as the Atlantis II and conducted groundbreaking research sponsored by major organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Deep Sea Drilling Project and the Ocean Drilling Program. Haggerty also participated in dives on the U.S. Navy’s Alvin and NR-1, submergence-research vehicles that traveled miles deep into an underwater world of mystery and beauty. She also was one of the first women to serve as an American co-chief for the international drilling programs, and she led the first drilling expedition where both co-chiefs were women.

Janet Haggerty“My research involved working with a lot of core materials and dredge samples, researching tectonism of passive and active margins as well as mid-plate settings. This involved studying the geochemistry of sediment fluids, discovering cold-fluid seeping chimneys on serpentinite seamounts in the Marianas and testing Darwin’s theory of the formation of atolls and guyots,” she said.

Serving students and faculty in the Graduate School

In 1990, Haggerty assumed the roles of associate dean of TU’s Graduate School and associate director of research. This move was an opportunity to learn more about TU’s disciplines and serve a greater population of students and faculty. As the Graduate School’s roster of programs expanded, Haggerty established the university’s annual research colloquium in 1998 and assisted in the creation of TU’s Graduate Student Association. Haggerty also served on the Joint Oceanographic Institutions’ U.S. Science Advisory Committee and helped TU earn its Carnegie classification. She was later named vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School. A sound leader dedicated to student and faculty achievement, she has contributed to the Graduate School’s current 92% retention rate.

“I’m fortunate to have the success I’ve experienced with my research and teaching,” she said. “Bringing out the best in the students is special to me, and I enjoyed collaborating with colleagues as a member of a team.”

A teacher at heart

In addition to helping students navigate graduate studies and their next steps in life, Haggerty assisted faculty with professional development, setting up laboratories, placing acquisitions and supporting interdisciplinary research. “It’s wonderful to be able to help people reach their goals and succeed in education,” she said.

Haggerty stepped down as vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School in May and will spend the next year on sabbatical, closing out projects in her Keplinger Hall lab. She plans to transition into retirement but has not completely ruled out the possibility of teaching again. Originally from Pennsylvania, Haggerty never anticipated she would find her calling in Oklahoma. Tulsa is about as far as one can get from the exotic oceans of her marine research, but it is where she and her family – husband (also a geologist) and two sons – plan to stay once she completes her TU service.

Hurricane Mathfest builds confidence for girls in STEM fields

The 2019 Hurricane Mathfest was sponsored by The University of Tulsa Department of Mathematics and included two separate competitions: a girls-only team challenge for local girls in grades three through eight and a high school individual and team competition.

The competition

hurricane mathfestIn the girls-only team event, 136 girls from the following schools competed on 34 teams in two divisions: upper elementary and middle school.

  • Bristow Middle School
  • Carver Middle School
  • Cascia Hall Preparatory School
  • Cleveland Elementary School
  • Collins Elementary (Bristow)
  • Eisenhower Elementary School
  • Gilcrease Elementary School
  • Gilcrease Middle School
  • Holland Hall
  • Kendall-Whittier Elementary School
  • McLain Junior High School
  • Memorial Junior High school
  • Monroe Demonstration Academy
  • Thoreau Demonstration Academy
  • Union 6th and 7th Grade Center
  • Warner Elementary School
  • Daniel Webster Middle School
  • Westside Elementary School (Claremore)
  • Zarrow Elementary School

Helping hands

Hurricane MathfestThe TU student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) co-sponsored this year’s event. SWE members greeted participants at registration, served as proctors
for testing, delivered snacks, graded exams and organized math games during breaks.

The group also provided T-shirts for the event, but most importantly, served as TU ambassadors, promoting degree programs in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.
TU female engineering and science students often volunteer to help raise awareness of the importance of mathematics.

Math + Confidence = Fun

Hurricane MathfestHurricane Mathfest volunteer Gloria Lee, a mechanical engineering sophomore, explained the valuable role that mathematics can have in the lives of young women. “It’s important to encourage them. If you put your mind to it, whether or not you think you’re the best, as long as you give 110%, you can work hard and apply yourself,” Lee said.

Fellow volunteer Caroline Yaeger is majoring in mathematics and economics and plans to pursue a career that educates others in math. “If you look at it the right way, the challenge of math can be fun,” she said. “The field of math, science, technology and engineering is difficult, but that’s part of the fun of it.”

High school senior offered $2.5M in scholarships at 35 universities, chooses TU

Recent high school graduate Nicholas Tsahiridis of Branson, Missouri, has chosen to attend The University of Tulsa after earning more than $2.5 million in scholarship opportunities at 35 universities.

Nicholas TsahiridisTsahiridis is planning a career as a neurologist/neurosurgeon. His inspiration to pursue medicine comes from his younger brother who suffers from conditions including epilepsy, autism, cerebral palsy and ADHD. “Because of him, I became interested in medicine. I want to help cure brain disabilities,” Tsahiridis said.

He committed to attending The University of Tulsa after meeting TU President Gerard Clancy during a campus visit this spring. Tsahiridis, who has decided to major in biology on a pre-med track, said he connected immediately with Clancy, one of only four physicians in the country who also serves as a university president.

“Dr. Clancy said he would help me in my medical career with recommendation letters and advice,” Tsahiridis said. “At a lot of universities, the president is not on everyone’s level, but I could tell he will be very helpful during my time at TU.”

Tsahiridis is wrapping up a successful experience at Branson High School after competing in three varsity sports, completing several advanced placement and honors courses and achieving the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.

Before attending TU this fall, Tsahiridis will participate in Ionian Village, a three-week international summer camping ministry facilitated by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He looks forward to focusing on his academics while joining TU’s diverse community of students from all backgrounds and walks of life.

When asked why he applied to so many different universities, Tsahiridis said he wanted to set an example for high school students. “I wanted to show them that hard work pays off because if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.”

Three faculty named TU Outstanding Researchers

The University of Tulsa honored its inaugural group of Outstanding Researchers at spring commencement on May 4. The Outstanding Researcher Award is a lifetime distinction, received only once in an individual’s career. It is intended to honor career-spanning achievements that have been validated in the scholar’s professional field.

These are the 2018-19 recipients:

outstanding researchersRose F. Gamble, Tandy Professor of Computer Science Engineering. Gamble developed a safety and security requirements model that can be embedded and used by a self-adaptive system to intelligently determine the least risky adaptation to deploy at runtime.

outstanding researchersJamie L. Rhudy, Director of the Psychophysiology Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology. Rhudy’s research identifies mechanisms that contribute to and/or maintain chronic pain (particularly in Native Americans) and seeks to develop non-invasive methods for assessing individuals at risk for developing chronic pain.

Outstanding ResearchersCem Sarica, F.H. “Mick” Merelli/Cimarex Energy Professor of Petroleum Engineering. Sarica’s research has been disseminated to the public at large through more than 240 publications and incorporated in various software. He has been recognized internationally with several awards by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, most notably with an SPE John Franklin Carll Award in 2015.

Candidates for the Outstanding Researcher awards were nominated by deans from the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Collins College of Business and the Oxley College of Health Sciences. Nominees were selected for their recognition of outstanding research and scholarship achievements based on a single project or a cumulative contribution.

Other considerations included pedagogical awards, honors from scholarly societies, grants, publication citation counts or other forms of public recognition. External recognition of a faculty member’s work also factored into the selection process.

Learn more about this year’s distinguished faculty awards, including the 2018-19 Outstanding Teachers and Medicine Wheel Award recipients.

MADE at TU builds device for special needs children at Kendall-Whittier Elementary

special needs childrenAs participants in the TU organization Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU), a group of mechanical engineering seniors built and designed a device for special needs children at Tulsa’s Kendall-Whittier Elementary. Nicknamed the “steamroller,” the three-piece set of children’s play equipment was developed as the students’ senior capstone project in the TU mechanical engineering program.

special needs children

 

 

TU students began meeting with teachers and staff in the fall of 2018 to determine the greatest needs for children with physical and emotional challenges at Kendall-Whittier. Once a concept was approved, students spent months designing a prototype and building the final project for delivery. The steamroller is a device that applies deep-pressure therapy useful for children on the autism spectrum, among others. The project is combined with a climbing wall and slide and engineered to fit the limited space available in Kendall-Whittier’s special needs facilities.

 

special needs childrenThe group of mechanical engineering seniors included team leader Rizka Aprilia along with Ahmed Al-Alawi, Almuqdam Al-Mawali, Ahmad Amsalam, Zach Freistadt, Hafsa Khan, Jacob Waller and Cong Xie.

Tandy School of Computer Science hosts fourth annual high-performance computing competition

On April 13, The University of Tulsa College of Engineering and Natural Sciences and Tandy School of Computer Science hosted the Fourth Annual Oklahoma High-Performance Computing Competition on the TU campus. The event challenged 36 students from local high schools, community colleges, technical schools and universities to demonstrate their skills in high-performance computing. Five institutions participated this year.

Congratulations to the following division winners and their faculty advisers:

High School First Place – Programming Track 1

Moore-Norman Technical School

2-Year College First Place – Programming Track 1

Moore-Norman Technical School

Undergraduate First Place – Programming Track 1

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

Second Place
The University of Oklahoma

Undergraduate First Place – Programming Track 2

Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Graduate First Place – Programming Track 1

University of Central Oklahoma

Graduate First Place – Programming Track 2

The University of Oklahoma

Second Place
The University of Tulsa

Many industries face a shortage of professionals with high-performance computing skills, which will play a central role in future technological developments. TU’s competition encourages students to learn about the supercomputing skillset [HM3] and pursue careers in this growing field. In an effort to help meet industry demands, the Tandy School of Computer Science also created a minor in high-performance computing.

high-performance computingSince its inception, the competition has generated significant interest across Oklahoma, and student participants have been awarded prestigious internships with BlueWaters, NASA and the National Weather Service. Recent Tandy graduates are employed at super-computer centers across the United States. “Oklahoma has a large number of high-performance computing resources and experts and TU is a leader in the area of high-performance computing education,” said Associate Professor Peter J. Hawrylak.

Event sponsors included the Tulsa section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The competition was organized by TU associate professors Peter J. Hawrylak and Mauricio Papa and Tandy Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology John Hale.

Event organizers would like to thank the IEEE Tulsa section for sponsoring lunch at the competition.

Veteran, TU alumnus builds cyber career in Tulsa

Nathan Singleton (BS ’08, MS ’10) has blazed his own trail to success first as a veteran, then a University of Tulsa student and now as a cybersecurity professional. He was the first full-time cybersecurity employee at a Tulsa-based drilling and technology company. Starting with zero budget and staff almost five years ago, Singleton has developed a ten-member cybersecurity team with a multi-million-dollar budget. “We get to interface with all levels of the organization, from the guys on the rigs to those in the mailroom and up to the executive leadership team,” he said.

Learn more about TU’s undergraduate degree options in computer science or graduate programs in cybersecurity.

nathan singletonHis ability to think independently and relate to different fields outside of the cybersecurity discipline are skills he developed as an undergraduate and graduate student at TU. In the ever-changing environment of digital security, Singleton said professionals must be open to continuous learning and different ideas. “There are a lot of bad actors out there that are spending as much money or more than we are in the industry to figure out new ways to get beyond our security measures and protocols,” he said.

“Cybersecurity is always marching forward. It is very fast-paced and going through an education program that is set up in a very similar manner helps prepare you for that.”

Attending TU as a veteran

Originally from Houston, Singleton attended high school in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and joined the military after graduation. He worked 10 years as an electronics technician on submarines in the U.S. Navy, and as his time on active duty drew to a close, he visited Tulsa where a friend told him about TU. He discovered the opportunities that awaited him if he pursued a computer science degree with a focus on cybersecurity. After studying a couple of semesters at Tulsa Community College, Singleton enrolled at TU as a 28-year-old transfer student. Key staff members in the TU Veterans Student Success Center, such as Cindy Watts, helped him coordinate his Department of Veteran’s Affair Vocational Rehabilitation funding. His seamless transition to a four-year university was enhanced by fellow student veterans on campus from all branches of the military.

“It’s a very welcoming vet-friendly environment, and those are relationships that are probably going to carry me through the rest of my life,” Singleton said.

He immediately got involved in research, publishing papers, representing the university at conferences in Japan and Poland and completing internships with local businesses and federal agencies. “My overall experience was amazing,” Singleton said. “I think research at such an early stage of my educational career was what drove me further and further. Because I was former military and because I was older, I had the opportunity to lead research projects that prepared me to manage a cybersecurity department at a multi-national company.”

From grad school to the government

Research, internships, direct interaction with professors and the tight-knit dynamic of TU’s computer science and cybersecurity programs convinced Singleton he’d made the right college decision. Following his bachelor’s degree, he stayed at TU and earned a master’s in computer science, which opened up a whole new world of cyber scenarios and research leadership opportunities. TU’s reputation as a cyber education center set him on track with a career at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Southwest Power Administration where hydroelectric power from U.S. Army Corps of Engineer dams is linked to preference customers in cooperatives and military bases. As the security program manager, Singleton was responsible for the protection and security of the agency’s dams and infrastructure in four states as well as other facilities, substations and power lines that interface directly with the U.S. Army. He rebuilt the physical security program to respond to floods, natural disasters and pandemics. Singleton also oversaw counterintelligence and counterterrorism projects and eventually led the agency’s cybersecurity team.

Finding opportunity in Tulsa

Three years later, he began to look for a new challenge and was contacted by H&P in Tulsa. He has developed the company’s cybersecurity team from the ground up and manages all incident response activities and system reviews. The department’s roles also have expanded to providing security awareness and training, governance, risk analysis and compliance.

“TU taught me how to think outside the box, solve problems and succeed in the government and at H&P,” he said.

After his work experience in the government, he had planned to look for jobs in Washington, D.C., on the West Coast or overseas, but family ties and the prospect of entrepreneurial cyber growth pulled him back to Tulsa. He believes that with more investment from local organizations interested in building out the city’s cyber infrastructure and capabilities, companies will find Tulsa an inviting city with a low cost of living. “As the word spreads and more opportunities arise here in Tulsa, I think we’ll see how it’s a great location for a startup,” Singleton said. “It’s about attracting the minds, giving them what they need to make that initial, first shaky step and then watching them launch.”

 

 

 

Samuel Taylor receives Goldwater Scholarship

University of Tulsa junior Samuel Taylor has been selected as a 2019 Goldwater Scholar and is TU’s 64th student to receive a Goldwater Scholarship. This award honors Senator Barry Goldwater and was designed to encourage outstanding college sophomores and juniors to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate award of this type in these fields.

samuel taylorTaylor is majoring in computer science and mathematics. He is a National Merit Scholar, a member of the TU Honors Program and participates in the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge. Taylor not only excels academically but lives out other aspects of the True Blue identity by giving back to the community. For more than a year, he has mentored high school students in a local Tulsa FIRST Robotics team. Taylor also helped design a bubble machine with the university organization Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU), which aids children with special needs.

From an estimated pool of more than 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,223 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 443 academic institutions to compete for the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship. Only 496 were selected. Many of this year’s Goldwater Scholars, including Taylor, have already published research and presented their work.

Taylor plans to pursue a Ph.D. degree in cognitive science with an emphasis in computer science. This will include researching computational models of biological and artificial cognition to see how these models could inform better adaptive artificial intelligence. Ultimately, he hopes to teach and research within academia.

TU students place first and second at statewide research competition

Two students from The University of Tulsa College of Engineering and Natural Sciences received top honors at the 2019 Research Day at the Capitol in Oklahoma City.

sarah gutierrez
Gutierrez with Chancellor Glen D. Johnson

Chemical engineering junior Sarah A. Gutierrez of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and chemistry junior Marjorie Sheaff of Owasso, Oklahoma, were among 22 undergraduate students representing 16 Oklahoma colleges and universities at the event in March. Gutierrez won first place in the research-intensive campus category for her plasma catalysis research. Sheaff earned second place in the research-intensive campus category for her conductive 3D printing research.

marjorie sheaff
Sheaff with Chancellor Glen D. Johnson

They presented competitive research posters to the State Legislature and the public during the annual event, sponsored by Oklahoma NSF EPSCoR, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the National Science Foundation. The event is designed to raise awareness of the outstanding research that is taking place at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities.

TU’s Conner Bender awarded Truman Scholarship for public service

University of Tulsa computer science senior Conner Bender has received the honorable Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers in public service leadership. The scholarship, awarded in 2019 to 62 students from 58 institutions nationwide, is the hallmark of the Truman Foundation, the nation’s official living memorial to the 33rd U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Bender will receive a maximum of $30,000 for graduate study.

conner bender
Bender with Jim Sorem, dean of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences

Originally from Jenks, Bender is double majoring in computer science and mathematics, while earning his master’s degree in cyber operations. He will graduate with his bachelor’s degrees in May 2019 and continue his graduate degree at TU next fall. He serves as TU’s student body president, an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees, president of Future Alumni Council, and founding president of the Rotaract Club. Bender is a Presidential Scholar, Stanford University Innovation Fellow, orientation leader, university ambassador, triathlete and marathon runner-up.

Bender used his computer science skills to establish a meal swipe donation program and was awarded the prestigious TU Medicine Wheel Award for Community Service. He is a two-time teaching assistant for the TU President Gerard Clancy and one of 10 U.S. undergraduates selected for a Fulbright Summer Institute in Scotland. Bender was named 2019 Greek Man of the Year and has held several internships and research positions with the U.S. government. He created a free iPad app that enhances word association and motor skills for people with disabilities and at Harvard, helped develop an emotion-based text reading application for Android users who are blind or visually impaired.

Bender is a local nonprofit board member, a cappella singer in Phi Mu Alpha, ministry team member for Reformed University Fellowship and was selected to lobby for the Fraternal Governmental Relations Coalition. He also serves as the Philanthropy Committee undergraduate representative, ritual peer for the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and vice president of TU’s chapter of Sigma Chi. Bender is a member of the Diversity Action Committee, Foundation of Excellence Committee, University Council and Student Conduct Board. He also is a notary public and is in the process of obtaining his private pilot license.

This year’s Truman Scholars were selected from 840 candidates nominated by 346 colleges and universities — the largest and one of the most competitive application pools in Truman Scholar history. Finalists were chosen by 16 independent selection panels based on their academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.

 

TU’s Benjamin James and Jordan Sosa receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

Two students from The University of Tulsa have been awarded Graduate Research Fellowships from the National Science Foundation. TU’s 2019 recipients are Jordan Sosa, an engineering physics senior from Florissant, Missouri, and Benjamin James, a computer science senior, from St. Louis, Missouri.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited institutions in the United States. Fellows receive a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 education allowance for tuition and fees. Other benefits include opportunities for international research and professional development and the option to conduct research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education.

Jordan Sosa

jordan sosaSosa currently focuses on materials research and metallic materials as a student in the TU Department of Mechanical Engineering. As a TU undergraduate, Sosa has received valuable experience in physics, materials science and engineering as a visiting researcher at West Virginia University, Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to his academic and research agenda, Sosa has served in leadership roles for TU’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Physics Students, attended the National Institute for Leadership Advancement and helped host a Noche de Ciencias, or “Night of Sciences” community event that invited local public school children to learn about STEM degrees.

“These experiences have instilled a stronger desire in me to pursue a higher degree so I can develop a stronger understanding of STEM and provide others with access to that education,” he said.

He plans to earn a Ph.D. degree from Harvard University in materials science and engineering in research fields of energy storage and eventually work in a laboratory or the research and development department of a materials technology company.

Benjamin James

benjamin jamesJames has performed research in the bioinformatics subfield computational genomics, which emphasizes the use of computational and statistical techniques such as algorithms and machine learning/artificial intelligence to solve biological problems.

“At TU, under the mentorship of Dr. Hani Girgis, I created intelligent and adaptive software systems to compare and cluster nucleotide sequences, especially long, genome-length sequences, as a method of in silico data analysis for computational biologists,” James said.

The clustering algorithm currently is used by biologists in multiple pipelines, including groups of third-generation sequencing reads and grouping of microbial communities. James plans to attend graduate school at MIT and work independently on bioinformatics research projects that can have a positive impact on society.

Foutch and Inhofe named to ENS Hall of Fame

The University of Tulsa College of Engineering and Natural Sciences inducted Oklahoma energy entrepreneur Randy Foutch and U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe into its Hall of Fame during a special ceremony March 7, 2019, at Gilcrease Museum. Foutch and Inhofe were honored for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions that bring significant recognition to TU.

Randy A. Foutch

Randy FoutchRandy A. Foutch is an experienced energy executive and advocate for independent oil companies across the nation and has established several successful startup companies as a respected leader in the oil and gas industry. He has served as chairman of the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board and the International Society of Energy Advocates and is a previous director of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.

Foutch currently is chairman and CEO of Tulsa-based Laredo Petroleum Inc., a New York Stock Exchange listed company, LPI, which he founded in 2006. Laredo is an oil and gas company focused on exploration, development and acquisitions in the Permian Basin in West Texas. Prior to Laredo, Foutch founded and later sold Colt Resources (1996), Lariat Petroleum Inc. (2001) and Latigo Petroleum Inc. (2006).

Foutch has been a loyal supporter of The University of Tulsa for more than a decade, designating funding to areas such as the McDougall School of Petroleum Engineering, Gilcrease Museum and Golden Hurricane athletics. He currently serves on the board of directors of Helmerich & Payne and The National Petroleum Council, The Independent Petroleum Association of America and is chairman of the Energy Institute Advisory Board at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, he served on the board of directors of Cheniere Energy, Bill Barrett Corporation and MacroSolve Inc., among others. Foutch is a member of several nonprofit and private industry boards including the Gilcrease Museum National Advisory Board and The University of Tulsa Board of Trustees. A licensed pilot, his passions for aviation and the history of westward expansion as well as the art and artists of the great American West are reflected in his support of Gilcrease Museum and the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. Foutch has been inducted into the Tulsa Historical Society Hall of Fame and the TU Collins College of Business Hall of Fame and is a current member of the Golden Hurricane Club. He holds a bachelor of science degree in geology from the University of Texas and a master of science degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Houston.

Foutch and his wife, Jean, are parents of four grown daughters and have four grandchildren.

James M. Inhofe

Jim InhofeJames M. Inhofe serves as Oklahoma’s senior U.S. senator and is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Inhofe is a proud Oklahoman and long-time resident of Tulsa. He received a bachelor of arts degree in economics from The University of Tulsa in 1973 and was first elected to the United States Senate in 1994.

Inhofe has supported the Integrated Petroleum Environmental Consortium, a joint project involving TU, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and other companies and institutions. As a longstanding supporter of Oklahoma’s energy and aviation industries, he has contributed to the Center for Aviation Systems Support and Infrastructure, a collaboration between TU, OU, OSU and Tinker Air Force Base, while advocating for TU advancements in computer science and cybersecurity.

In Inhofe’s 25 years of public service as a U.S. senator, he has championed long-term reform to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Defense Department and has focused on streamlining the acquisition process. He has received the Eisenhower Award from the National Defense Industrial Association for his commitment to raising public awareness of U.S. military and defense community needs.

Inhofe serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the Committee on Environment and Public Works and is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. As a committed supporter of U.S. infrastructure, he has worked to implement policies that encourage the United States to meet its energy needs domestically. One of his greatest achievements to date began in 1999 when Inhofe introduced a bill to give states the freedom to make their own decisions about oil and natural gas regulatory structures, including those concerning hydraulic fracturing. The bill was incorporated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

An avid pilot with more than 11,000 flight hours, Inhofe is an advocate for aviation professionals and became the only member of Congress to fly an airplane around the world when he recreated Wiley Post’s legendary trip around the globe.

Prior to the U.S. Senate, Inhofe served in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Oklahoma House and Senate and as mayor of Tulsa. He and his wife, Kay, have been married 58 years and have 20 children and grandchildren.

 

True Determination: TU PetroBowl team takes first place at regionals

The University of Tulsa PetroBowl team won the Society of Petroleum Engineers North American Regional Qualifier February 3 in Houston, Texas. TU competed against 20 teams in this fast-paced quiz competition, defeating UT-Austin for first place.

PetroBowl
The TU PetroBowl team celebrates first place with its winning bracket.

As regional winners, TU team members and petroleum engineering students Juan Diego Comella, Umer Farooq, Blazej Ksiazek, Misael Morales and Luke Moran are invited to compete at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) World Championship in Calgary, Canada, next fall. Farooq, captain of the TU PetroBowl team said, “We go very hard on preparation, but we know the potential is out there from the other teams as they are the best of the best from colleges all across the world. But (when we went to Houston), we did our thing, it went really well, and we were No 1.”

The PetroBowl competition coordinates student SPE chapters to battle against each other in a series of quick-fire questions. Four-member student teams compete in petroleum engineering trivia, including technical and nontechnical industry-related questions. The PetroBowl was founded by the Society of Petroleum Engineers International.

Each member of the team studies a category of the questions to make rehearsing easier. Farooq, a-soon-to-be Ph.D. degree graduate in petroleum engineering, studies reservoir and formation evaluation. Comella focuses on drilling, production and general knowledge, in addition to SPE history. Morales concentrates on geology and geophysics and Moran on drilling and well completions. Ksiazek is a sophomore and the current alternate for the team as well as the TU SPE PetroBowl chair, concentrating on drilling and general knowledge in addition to SPE history. Mike Stafford, faculty instructor in petroleum engineering, is the SPE PetroBowl faculty adviser for the TU team.

PetroBowl
Left to right: Team members Blazej Ksiazek, Luke Moran, Misael Morales, Juan Diego Comella and Umer Farooq

Comella explains that Farooq is dedicated to the group’s success. “Our captain is really like a coach. He writes questions for us to practice and has been doing this for a while.” The team meets once a week until closer to competition when they begin meeting every few days.

“PetroBowl is important because it gives you contact with different people – different backgrounds, different years in school, different passions in petroleum engineering,” Ksiazek said. “You learn so much at TU with a petroleum engineering degree, but with PetroBowl you can learn even more about the field.”

Farooq agrees and said, “It’s a great way to represent TU on an international level.”

For the future, the TU PetroBowl team is brainstorming to create an internal PetroBowl event for just TU petroleum engineering students, similar to an event held in 2016. They also have an idea to create an A team and B team to recruit students for future competitions. “There’s a lot of talent at TU and this is a commitment, but we are looking forward to what’s next,” Farooq said. “I believe our team is very capable of clinching the victory in Calgary this fall.”

TU receives $50,000 grant from AEP Foundation for engineering labs

The University of Tulsa has received a $50,000 grant from Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) on behalf of the American Electric Power Foundation to bring new state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to TU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

AEP
Left to right: PSO President and COO Peggy Simmons, Applied Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Douglas Jussaume, PSO Vice President of Distribution Steven Baker, Hans S. Norberg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Kaveh Ashenayi and College of Engineering and Natural Sciences Dean Jim Sorem

The grant will support updates to the department’s Electric Machines Lab, initiating a Power Electronics Lab and supporting physical modifications of lab space.

“I am pleased to announce this grant that will help prepare the next generation of electrical engineers to take on the challenges and opportunities of working with one of the largest, most complex machines in the world – the electricity grid,” said Peggy Simmons, president and chief operating officer for Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), a subsidiary of AEP. “It’s vital to have highly specialized engineers working to meet the challenges our industry is facing – and will continue to face in the future – as we look more and more toward renewable and alternative energy, smart grids and other potentially transformational technologies.”

Housed in the university’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, the ECE department offers degrees in both electrical engineering and computer engineering. The department currently has 106 undergraduate, eight master’s and nine doctoral students.

“We are grateful to PSO and AEP Foundation for partnering with us to provide students and faculty with cutting-edge facilities. We are eager to work with industry leaders to offer hands-on opportunities that give them an advantage when they start their careers,” TU President Gerard Clancy said. “The University of Tulsa is committed to empowering students with the knowledge and experience to solve the world’s toughest problems. Educating innovative leaders and providing up-to-the-minute technology – such as the labs made possible by this grant – set our students apart.”

About PSO
PSO, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), is an electric utility company serving more than 550,000 customers accounts in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma. Based in Tulsa, PSO has nearly 3,800 megawatts of generating capacity and is one of the largest distributors of wind energy in the state.

TU composite research published in Advanced Functional Materials journal

In a recent article available on the Advanced Functional Materials website, researchers in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences at The University of Tulsa have demonstrated a new composite that can indicate damage using visual, temperature or magnetic detection. The article “Multimodal Damage Detection in Self-Sensing Fiber Reinforced Composites,” written by TU Ph.D. candidate Matthew D. Crall, Samuel G. Laney (BS ’16, MS ’18) and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael Keller, discusses how the new material is a significant step forward in developing biomimetic materials that allow for rapid and simple detection of damage. This new technology has potential applications in aerospace, where inspecting composite materials (such as carbon fiber or fiberglass) for hidden damage is a complicated and time-consuming process.

composite research
a) Schematic of the active microvascular material system used to deliver the liquid constitutive parts of the magnetic particles. b) Mixing of the liquids causing precipitation of magnetic material in the damaged region. c) Schematic of three modes of damage detection: visual, magnetic, and thermal. Each mode is possible because of the high contrast between damaged and undamaged areas provided by the magnetic particles.

Damage detection is critical in these applications since even small damaged regions in composites can reduce the strength of the material by as much as half. The composite works by incorporating a small channel, such as a blood vessel, that is filled with a liquid, like blood.  Damage breaks open the channels and the fluids bleed into the damaged area where they react and form magnetic particles. These particles can then be detected by a magnetic detector, heated by a magnetic field and imaged with an IR camera, or seen visually by the color change associated with the reaction.

To learn more about this research and the published paper in Advanced Functional Materials, please contact Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Michael Keller at 918-631-3198 or mwkeller@utulsa.edu.