Page 1

Fall 2013

Volume 23

Issue 2


Samuel Ginn College of Engineering


Mike Zieman, ’04 wireless engineering, returns to campus to fly an octocopter built with teammates Chris Sallis and Richard Zappe from XF Aerials in Huntsville, Ala. Watch a clip of the octocopter at

Auburn Engineering


Fall 2013 Volume 23, Issue 2


Office of the Dean Christopher B. Roberts, dean Steve Duke, associate dean for academics Bob Karcher, assistant dean of student services Oliver Kingsley, associate dean for special projects Nels Madsen, associate dean for assessment Ralph Zee, associate dean for research


Office of Engineering Communications and Marketing Jim Killian, director Morgan Stashick, editor Contributors Katie Beck Alissa Best Megan Burmester Carol Nelson Beth Smith

From the Dean






my job


Katie Haon, graphic designer Tyler Patterson, web manager Photography Joshua Brinkerhoff, Katie Haon, Jim Killian and Shelby Taylor Office of Engineering Development Ed Lewis, lead development adviser Dan Bush, associate director Patrick Allen, development officer Kori Caldwell, development officer Veronica Chesnut, major gifts officer David Mattox, development officer Margaret Schlereth, development officer Jon Wilson, development officer Experience Auburn Engineering online at eng.aub ur n. ed u/ m a g a z i n e Auburn Engineering is published twice yearly by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Please send news items, suggestions and comments to: Engineering Communications and Marketing c/o Editor 1320 Shelby Center Auburn, AL 36849 334.844.2308

Girls engineer change


Leading the blind


Into the lab


Bringing the battle home



minutes with

Fro m th e d e sk o f . . .


And the winner is...


Š2013 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University

2 Auburn Engineering

From the Dea n As a typical engineer, my natural tendency is to use quantitative metrics in evaluating the performance of a system. This is particularly true when I consider the tremendous progress that our college has made in the area of research, and the impact that our graduate programs are making even beyond the boundaries of the Auburn campus. However, I would like to take a moment to talk about our graduate research programs without mentioning specific numbers – not that they aren’t impressive. They are. Instead, I want to begin by telling you about my typical Mondays. When the semester is in session (and sometimes, when it’s not) I have a four o’clock meeting in my office with a small group of graduate students who are completing their research in my laboratory. In fact, just last week, we gathered to practice the presentations that they were scheduled to give at a national chemical engineering conference. This group includes Ray Xu, a post-doc who is a wonderfully effective lab manager; Jennifer Duggan and Pranav Vengsarkar, who are involved in nanoparticle research; Charlotte Stewart and David Roe, both involved in alternate fuels; and Jay Zhong, who is co-advised with Bob Ashurst on the chemical engineering faculty. These students are a constant reminder to me about how wonderful it is to be on the Auburn Engineering faculty and to be able to work with brilliant graduate students in their research. My interactions with these students also remind me of how important our graduate program is to everyone associated with our college, even our alums who attended Auburn for the baccalaureate degree. Cuttingedge research helps to sustain our teaching programs at the frontier of engineering education, and literally keeps us, as faculty, at the top of our game. When our faculty commit to their research, they commit not only to staying abreast of their field, but they also act as agents of change to move their field forward. It makes a significant difference in how dynamic their own teaching is. A second factor is the role research plays in moving the state and nation ahead in terms of tomorrow’s economy. That economy – the one with the greatest benefit and with the greatest potential, is technical in nature. We recently took a large group of faculty to Huntsville to interact with the many technologybased companies and agencies in the area, but we could have just as easily found an audience in Mobile, Montgomery or Birmingham. The industries of tomorrow are technology-based industries, even if they don’t appear to be so to the casual observer – indeed, without being specific, they cover a broad range of sectors, from aerospace to transportation, to cyber, to energy and more. Finally, our graduate research programs affect how we are viewed, and subsequently ranked, by our peers. Like it or not, the national rankings of engineering colleges are largely based on research performance. Our peers look to our research because they know – as I have suggested above – that the best engineering faculty are excellent researchers as well as excellent teachers. And they look, if you will, to the students in our graduate program as they publish their scholarly work and present their findings at national conferences. They judge our graduates for the depth and breadth of the knowledge they take with them. As I look across my table to Ray, Jennifer, Pranav, Charlotte, David and Jay, I know that our peers will find in Auburn’s graduate students superior preparation as well as innovation and technical abilities second to none. I am glad to be a part of this process. I hope you will also be invested in supporting our graduate research program – it is making a difference for tomorrow. In this issue of Auburn Engineering, we touch on a number of interesting research areas – I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Auburn Engineering 3

by Jim Killian

Engineering computation has moved from mainframes to personal computers and P.K. Raju has made – and led – the transition to them as teaching methods have evolved. 4 Auburn Engineering


eaching has more or less remained the same over time: the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. But it is always in a state of flux as well, particularly as new technologies are able to greatly expand fundamental techniques through the use of multimedia and computer-based instruction, as well as web and online learning, to name just a few of the more obvious. Auburn’s engineering faculty has remained current in these changing teaching tools – two veteran teachers show us how.

A dedicated teacher with decades of service, P.K. Raju, Thomas Walter professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has not only seen the classroom move from blackboard to white, but has also been influential in the way that the engineering curriculum has evolved with new concepts, new technology – and new students. “When I came to Auburn in the mid-eighties, the department head called me in, and gave me a syllabus and a textbook,” Raju remembers. “He pretty much said, ‘well, here you are, now go and teach it.’” The teaching model, he jokes, was “the sage on the stage.” So much has changed since then. “In a sense, what we teach is often the same material – after all, the laws of thermodynamics haven’t changed – but the way in which we teach has changed dramatically, and it has done so as the result of research into teaching methods as well as teaching technology,” Raju explains. “I was part of a study conducted in 1996 led by William Walker, who was dean at the time, and Larry Benefield, who was then associate dean for academic affairs,” says Raju. “We knew that up to 40 percent of our students dropped out between the freshman and sophomore years. And we knew that these students were academically strong, with good high school GPAs and strong test scores. “What we found out was that many of our students didn’t really see the relevance between the science, math and physics taught at the freshman level to real-world engineering.” Auburn’s solution was to introduce classes that brought engineering to the freshman class, including a non-credit survey course that introduces students to all of the engineering curriculums, from aerospace to polymer and fiber and everything in between. In addition, every department offers a two credit-hour course to introduce students to engineering. The Department of Mechanical Engineering introduces students to case studies and games in the course that it offers.

“The presentation of case studies has been particularly important,” Raju notes. “We have used a wide range of them, including bringing in plant managers to talk to classes. What our students frequently learn is that there are conflicting solutions to real-world problems, and that engineering is often just one component of the whole – there are usually business questions that need to be answered as well, because there are generally dollar issues attached to the engineering problem at hand.” Raju also points to global education as part of the new learning paradigm. “We are in such a global economy now, that we absolutely have to bring to our students a sense of what it is like to work in this arena,” Raju observes. “We have sent some 40 students to India during the past six years, partnering with the Indian Institute of Technology. Students collaborate on projects that involve working with international corporations under the program, which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation.” Raju has also received grants from the National Science Foundation to develop teaching methods that rely on a wide range of technologies, including computer simulation, video and game-playing to teach engineering design. “We have used these methods in conjunction with case studies, and have now taught more than 10,000 engineering students in partnership with other universities such as MIT and Georgia Tech,” Raju notes. “At Auburn, we have engaged about 100 undergraduates, 40 master’s students and eight doctoral candidates in the development of these novel instructional materials.” Raju says that generational and cultural differences, as well as differences in individual learning styles. need to be taken into consideration in teaching engineering students. “We no longer have a generation of students that will simply sit in front of a blackboard in the classroom,” Raju explains, adding, “We may be approaching the end of a generation that will be challenged in the class by watching PowerPoint presentations. Now we have to look at a greater level of computer interaction and game playing. “Some students learn textually, that is, they literally have to have the words in front of them to understand engineering concepts. Others are very visual in their approach to learning, and have to have some degree of visual stimulation in order to understand the material.” As a teacher, he says, the bottom line is moving from the “sage on the stage” concept to one in which a teacher is more of a facilitator who gives students an opportunity to think and analyze, rather than memorize. “There is much more research that needs to be conducted on ways to more fully engage our engineering students,” Raju concludes. “I believe that Auburn is playing an important part in Auburn Engineering 5

it, and will become better recognized as an innovator not only in engineering practice, but also in engineering education.”

A new take on teaching Flip the classroom. What does it mean? An immediate thought is that the teacher is somehow seated in the back row while a student teaches a class from the podium. But that’s not really it. David Umphress, an award-winning faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, likes to think of flipping the classroom as inverting the traditional process of learning while sitting in your seat and taking notes. While there is no single, all-encompassing definition of the term, in the inverted, or flipped, classroom students are encouraged to learn outside the walls and take a more interactive, problemsolving approach during the hours they meet in class. “Some faculty members have described their own experience as being as much a listener in class as a lecturer, and in some ways this captures the flavor of a flipped classroom,” Umphress observes. “Sometimes, in class, I think of myself as more of a consultant than a teacher. That’s how it feels.” One of the classes that Umphress teaches is software engineering for wireless devices, in which students learn to design Android apps. He typically plans a week with Monday and

Wednesday classes treated as lectures where software concepts are described, often with videos and screen casts that capture and project what’s on his computer in real time. On Friday, the class is flipped and the concepts that were learned earlier in the week are applied and mastered. “We have some very specific objectives in this class, which lends itself to this approach,” Umphress notes. “We look at it as directed problem solving with the goal of finding ways for users to interact with their Android devices.” He notes that Android platforms lend themselves to this kind of approach because they are programmed in Java, a readily available source code that is easy for students to work within a learning environment. “You can only go through so much program code before your eyes begin to glaze,” he jokes. “We have found this to be a very workable way of teaching because we are not reinventing code, but making incremental changes.” The approach in which Umphress has found success is to challenge his students with a large project, and to break it down into smaller components from week to week. He provides them with links related to the work, and lets them surf the web for solutions. He makes himself available to help students over the roadblocks that routinely occur during the process.

David Umphress explains some of the concepts underlining Android programming in a class whose blended approach combines traditional lectures and "flipping the classroom" techniques. 6 Auburn Engineering

“This kind of strategy lets them research the problem and find out what they need to know about the code and how it is written,” Umphress explains. “It is always my goal to get them to go through this process until something clicks, and they find a successful solution.” Umphress says that he has learned a lot during the process of flipping the classroom. “It’s not easy to do this,” he comments. “There is a lot more preparation time involved with this approach, and you have to face the fact that some students are not culturally prepared to work in this way. “Some students feel that you should talk in class, and work outside of it, which, again, is the traditional approach. They can feel as if they are put on the spot if they have to come up with the kinds of answers we are looking for in this new paradigm.” The hybrid, or blended, approach that Umphress favors helps to alleviate some of this feeling in students who are used to the traditional manner of teaching. “I think that the greater expectations that we place on these students will result in better graduates, because when they are in the job force, they will be essentially following this model in their career.“

Umphress has been recognized for his innovative teaching abilities, most recently as a recipient of Auburn University’s Gerald and Emily Leischuck Award for Excellence in Teaching, as well as the 2013 Outstanding Instructor Award in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. He is a former recipient of the College of Engineering’s Walker Teaching Award, and a number of other citations for teaching excellence. He also serves on the university’s graduate and undergraduate curriculum committees.

Umphress likes to point out that if you have 30 students, you will have 30 sets of expectations, 30 styles of learning and 30 different outcomes. Asked if a student could provide a point of view, he suggested Andrew Marshall, a computer science and software engineering senior who took his Android class last spring. Umphress noted that he was tuned in to both the challenges and benefits of new teaching methods. “This style of learning really puts the responsibility on the student, so you have to be ready for that,” Marshall says. “There is always going to be a segment in the room that does not so much want to work outside of the class, or that does not want to think in terms of ‘learning is optional but understanding is not,’ as we like to joke. “Dr. Umphress wants us to really play around with the code and let us find our own insights into the process – which is not an easy thing to do. It takes discipline to play! He was always around to unstick us when we got stuck, and to walk us through the fundamental concepts. At the same time, he won’t go after the code line by line, or ask you to sit down and regurgitate what he said in class on a test. “We worked on an Android application for cardiovascular health and in the end, it was a lot of fun – I learned a lot. Programming for the Android platform is fairly easy, so that’s a plus, even for someone like myself who is totally married to any and all Apple products.”

Raju serves as director of the Laboratory for Innovative Technology and Engineering Education, recognized recently by the National Academy of Engineering as an outstanding program that infuses real-world engineering into undergraduate engineering education. He is also a member of the National Academy of Engineering Committee on Engineering Case Study Library Development, and has served as chair for the Southeastern Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education. He has won a number of teaching awards, including the Birdsong (now Walker) Merit and Superior Teaching Awards, the Auburn University Outstanding Faculty Award, the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s Curriculum Innovation Award and the Auburn University Award for Excellence in Faculty Outreach. See more at

Auburn Engineering 7


Cast away Matt Lee, a senior in industrial and systems engineering, isn’t just a student at Auburn – he is also a prize-winning bass angler. Matt joined Auburn’s club bass fishing team in fall 2011. Matt’s younger brother Jordan, ’13 marketing, is also his teammate. The duo has competed in tournaments around the country, and participated in the 2012 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. In the final individual rounds, the two brothers faced off. Matt had the winning bass, a five-pound catch. The Lee brothers have since separated as a team, but there are no hard feelings. New rules allow schools to have an unlimited number of teams in competition, so by spreading their talents, a win for Auburn is likely. Recent competitions include traveling to Muskegon, Mich., for the College Series Classic Bracket during Toyota All-Star Week in September. At this year’s tournament, it was Jordan who took home the top prize and who will compete in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham. To learn more about Matt and his accomplishments on and off the water, visit

8 Auburn Engineering

photo courtesy,

Top of the power grid Larry Monroe, ‘79 chemical engineering, has been recognized as one of Power Engineering magazine’s top 25 most influential people in the power industry during the past 25 years. Monroe, ranked number 16, is currently general manager of environmental affairs at Georgia Power Company. Power Engineering announced its top 25 most influential people daily leading up to the POWERGEN 2013 conference on Nov. 12 in Orlando. The honorees were nominated and selected based on a poll of peers and industry professionals. Monroe joined Southern Company in 1998 as a program manager for emissions control research in the research and environmental affairs department. He was responsible for developing and improving processes to control emissions from the company’s fossil-fired generation fleet. He was named senior research consultant in 2007 – the highest level technical position in the company. Monroe has also been a part of several outreach initiatives, most prominently in pollution control research for coal power plants in university, not-forprofit research institutes and corporate settings. He also serves on the board of the Clean Air Campaign in Atlanta. He is the past president of the Auburn University Chemical Engineering Alumni Council, and serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and the Auburn Research Advisory Board.

Ralph Zee, associate dean for research, speaks to Auburn Engineering Day participants.

Industry show and tell The Auburn University Huntsville Research Center hosted Auburn Engineering Day in September to bring the college’s research expertise to Huntsville-area government agencies and companies. More than 25 engineering faculty traveled to Huntsville to present current research projects, as well as potential collaborations in areas including cyber security, manufacturing, GPS, energy, nanotechnology and microelectronics. “In many ways, Huntsville represents the frontier for research collaborations in highly strategic areas between our outstanding faculty and the needs of industry and government,” said Ralph Zee, associate dean for research. The Huntsville Research Center was established to bring Auburn’s resources to that area of the state in an effort to expand initiatives in government contracts and to establish key partnerships with industry. “This event has allowed us to bring focused research capabilities to Huntsville in areas of interest specific to government and corporate partners,” says Rodney Robertson, director of the center. “We are committed to growing and leveraging research opportunities between Auburn and Huntsville.”

Archangel rises A number of the world’s aviation leaders are purchasing parts designed, manufactured and tested right here in Auburn. Michael Greene, former faculty member in electrical and computer engineering and CEO of Archangel Systems, built his company from the ground up in 1992 when he saw a need for better instrumentation for his personal airplane. Archangel Systems, a leader in the development and manufacturing of inertial sensing equipment and micro-electromechanical systems, or MEMS, provides products to the likes of Boeing, Elbit Systems and branches of the United States military, among many others. Archangel’s catalog includes five products, but Greene’s team also builds custom assemblies for their clients. The company currently employs 32 people, including 18 engineers – many of whom are Auburn graduates. Auburn Engineering 9


Wearable research Frank McCullough, adjunct professor in the Department of Polymer and Fiber Engineering, has been recognized for the high-tech, carbonbased fiber technology that he used to produce an affordable comfort management clothing system called Diamondown. He was recently awarded the 2013 R&D 100 Award by R&D Magazine. The Diamondown clothing system is made from McCullough’s patented Carbtex Fiber used for clothing and thermal shielding. This technology blocks conductive and convective heat, as well as radiant energy transfer, and doubles the thermal resistance of any other polymer or natural product insulation. Testing of the product was conducted in Auburn’s polymer and fiber engineering facilities, under the direction of David M. Hall. “We are honored to receive such an award,” said McCullough. “We tested the product with hunters, military officers, skiers and mushers in the famous Alaskan Iditarod . . . they were all astonished by its quality, durability and comfort.” McCullough has previously been recognized with advanced material technology awards for Curlon aircraft insulation and NuGard cutresistant hand and arm protection. For more information about Diamondown and McCullough’s work, visit

H av e a s eat . . . i n sp a c e Auburn Engineering’s influence expands beyond the borders of Alabama, and even the country. David Brown, a doctoral student at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, is using research and technical documents from aerospace engineering students and Auburn alumnus and “Auburnaut” Jim Voss, ’72 aerospace engineering, that were used to develop a next-generation space seat at Auburn in 2004. Brown describes his research as “an overall argument that pushes for smaller-scale development in the area of space technology.” While researching space technology and small science activities, Brown discovered Voss’ space seat. He became interested in the investigation and design process completed by Voss and his students. Voss, a former NASA astronaut with five space flights under his belt, served as the associate dean of engineering for external affairs at Auburn in 2003. During this time, he also taught an aerospace engineering class featuring human spacecraft design. In 2007, Voss began working for the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) as the director of advanced programs. Current development projects Voss oversees for SNC include the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a small carrier that can transport six to seven people to and from the International Space Station. Voss’s passion for education continues at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he teaches a class on human spaceflight.

10 Auburn Engineering

Singing on Wire Road Anyone who has spent time in Auburn is familiar with Wire Road, the winding country two-lane that leads people into – and out of – this college town. But for Auburn alumni Byron Kelley, ’70 civil engineering, and his son James, ’05 sociology, Wire Road represents a vision and an Auburn connection. In 2009, when the duo created their nationally acclaimed recording studio, it carried the name of the road much traveled by Byron, his wife Melva and James during their years as students at Auburn. Located in Houston, Wire Road Studios offers a complete array of music production services including recording, tracking, editing, mixing and mastering, and has become a recording and audio production destination for the likes of Lyle Lovett, Steve Tyrell, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes, Trey Songz and Pat Green. The studio is a product of a joint passion for music and James’ dream of one day owning and operating his own music recording studio. Following a 40-year career as an engineer and executive in the energy industry, Byron retired in 2010. By this time, James had already begun operating a smaller scale music recording business, while serving as president and chief audio engineer. After Byron came on board to assist his son, they designed and constructed a world-class, 5,000-square-foot facility that features three recording studios, each offering unique production capabilities. “Building this type of facility and business environment was James’ and my field of dreams,” said Byron. “And so far, the formula is working as we have quickly built a reputation and client base that far exceeds the boundaries of Houston.” The company has added audio production to its menu of services, making it the only recording facility in Houston to offer both audio and music production, allowing the company to work with popular TV shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Nashville” and “Dallas.” It is evident that the Kelleys have carried Wire Road with them into the music industry, and both are quick to point out that they celebrate their Auburn connections. “We love Auburn, and you can see that throughout the studio,” said James. “I have even converted a few of our clients into Auburn fans including the group The Niceguys who recorded a song entitled ‘War Eagle’.”

Auburn Engineering 11


At the frontier Two Auburn Engineering faculty members were selected to participate in fall symposiums sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Steve R. Duke, associate dean for academics and alumni associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, participated in the NAE’s fifth annual Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium in October in Irvine, Calif. Brian S. Thurow, W. Allen and Martha Reed associate professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, participated


in the NAE’s 2013 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium, a two-day event held in September in Wilmington, Del. The NAE’s Frontiers of Engineering program brings together engineers from all industry disciplines, universities and federal labs to facilitate collaborative exchange, as well as promote the transfer of new techniques and approaches that will help to sustain and build U.S. innovative capacity. Duke and Thurow were nominated by their peers and elected from a competitive pool of applicants. Thurow

Low gravity thirst Auburn alumnus and Gadsden State student Steven Martinez, ’11 aerospace engineering, is making headway in the electronics engineering world as the team leader for a NASA experiment. The Zero-G plane team of Gadsden State’s electronics engineering program has been selected to perform tests relating to potable water on longterm space flights. The experiment will monitor and prevent foreign fluid and chemical exposure from entering the astronaut water supply. “The original experiment is still an ongoing project. As of now, we have developed the prototype and are in the process of developing a flight model to be tested aboard NASA’s Zero-G plane,” said Martinez. “The success of this project has led us to now work on a different experiment that NASA scientists will use with the ‘Advanced Plant Habitat,’ or growing plants in space.” Before attending Auburn, Martinez completed basic courses at Gadsden State and decided to return after graduating from Auburn to pursue a hands-on electronics engineering technology degree. Martinez credits the experience he gained while at Auburn for developing the skills he uses now in his graduate studies. 12 Auburn Engineering

Earlier this year, Auburn Engineering graduated its first set of engineers who hold a minor in nuclear power generation systems. One of those graduates, Rebecca Osteen, has accepted a position at the Hatch Nuclear Power Plant in Baxley, Ga. Osteen, a 2013 graduate in

We’re online

chemical engineering, was among the first five students to

The Department of Industrial

complete the minor.

and Systems Engineering now offers an online graduate certificate program in

Beyond an understanding of basic construction

occupational safety and ergonomics. The program,

techniques, power plant models, integration into the

which is recognized by the National Institute for

national electrical grid and reactor plant operations, the

Occupational Safety and Health, includes five three-

minor emphasizes safety, regulation, radiological health,

hour courses delivered online. Coursework in systems

work control practices and training requirements for

safety, biomechanics and human factors engineering

operators and maintenance technicians. Osteen credits

teaches students about the design, operation and

the minor with playing a key role in securing her job at the

maintenance of systems and products, as well as

power plant. “It provided me with an understanding of the

the integration of safety and human performance

nuclear power industry, from both a technical and safety

considerations. Auburn’s Engineering Online

standpoint, that I would not have gained otherwise,” she

Graduate Program is ranked sixth in the nation

says. “I am well prepared to enter the industry, and am

by U.S. News & World Report’s 2013 Best Online

confident that what I have learned will be invaluable as I

Graduate Engineering programs.

begin my career.”

International internship Bastien Oppenhauser, a senior in mechanical engineering at the Institut Français de Mécanique Avancée in ClermontFerrand, France, is experiencing an internship like no other. He is the first student to intern with the College of Engineering’s Formula SAE (AUFSAE) racing team. Oppenhauser’s French university offers students the opportunity to study abroad for a year, spending six months working with a company and five at a university. Since April, he has been splitting his time between Michelin’s U.S. headquarters in Greenville, S.C., and Auburn’s Formula SAE team, where he provided engineering support to prepare the 2013 racecar for competition in Michigan and Nebraska, where the team placed second overall. Oppenhauser will also assist the team with the fabrication of next year’s vehicle. “This internship represents a continuing partnership between AUFSAE and the Michelin Corporation,” said Peter Jones, Woltosz War Eagle Motor Sports professor and faculty adviser to Auburn’s Formula SAE racing team. 13 Auburn Engineering


The Council of Engineering Graduate Students (CEGS) hosted its second annual Graduate Engineering Research Showcase (GERS) in October. The event, held in the Shelby Center’s courtyards, promoted engineering scholarship, professionalism and interdisciplinary research, and provided an opportunity to introduce new graduate students to the culture of engineering graduate programs. Nearly 120 students from all engineering disciplines presented their work to 50 faculty judges, and the first place prize of $1,000 was awarded to Hamed Ghaednia in mechanical engineering for his research entitled, “The Effect of Nanoparticle Additives in the Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication Regime.” Second and third place prizes were awarded to chemical engineering student Shaima Nahreen and aerospace engineering student Timothy Fahringer, respectively. Departmental awards were also presented to 10 other students for their research. Jennifer Duggan, a chemical engineering doctoral candidate and one of six graduate engineering leaders for CEGS, has been involved with several other graduate engineering initiatives across campus, but says the GERS is important because it helps students work on their communication skills. “We’ve built this program to be professional and to foster the importance of engineering and communication,” says Duggan. “It also gives students and faculty the opportunity to learn about what is happening in other departments.” Student’s participating in the showcase were asked to produce a poster representing their personal research. During the event, presenters answered questions and received comments from attendees and judges. Each poster was evaluated on a set of criteria by three judges, and scores were compiled and normalized. Duggan and her fellow engineering leaders were pleased with this year’s attendance and hope to continue growing the program in years to come.

14 Auburn Engineering

to win it

A fresh face

Imagine presenting hours of

one of 10 New Faces of Civil Engineering by the American

research in only three minutes.

Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The award highlights the

Auburn University graduate

achievement of young civil engineers and their impact on society.

students competed this summer

Green will be honored at ASCE’s annual Outstanding Projects and

to present their research within

Leaders Gala in Arlington, Va., in March.

Three minutes

Julia Bower Green, ’05 and ’07 civil engineering, has been named

that time limit as part of the Green began her career working

university’s first Three Minute Thesis competition. Students were judged on communication


on small and large scale multimedia environmental remediation

style, comprehension and engagement with the audience, as

projects for private, government

well as their capacity to effectively explain research to a non-

and municipal clients. She

specialist audience.

then joined Southern Nuclear Company and was responsible for

Chemical engineering graduate student Shaima Nahreen

environmental compliance and

won first place in the doctoral category for her three-minute

permitting for the construction

presentation on producing jet fuel from biomass. Runners-up

of the Vogtle Nuclear Power

included electrical and computer engineering student Nikhil

Plant’s Units 3 and 4, the first

Jha and materials engineering student Naved Siddiqui. The

new units to be built in the

competition originated at the University of Queensland in

U.S. in three decades. Green is

Australia and has since spread to more than 10 countries.

currently part of the climate and environmental strategy group at

Auburn University became the fourth institution in the United

Southern Company in Birmingham and oversees the company’s

States to implement the competition.

communication, development and coordination of a system-wide


environmental compliance strategy. Auburn held its second Three Minute Thesis competition in October. The top 10 competitors in the preliminaries advanced

In addition, she mentors students through the iCan Girls in

to the final round held in November.

Engineering program and is a co-founder of Young Architects, Engineers and Contractors Consortium of Birmingham. She is also a member of Auburn Engineering’s 100 Women Strong program.

Stepping stone to full-time employment

A “stepping stone to full-time employment” is the perfect way to describe the experience three Auburn students gained through the summer student-employee program at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). Twenty-five students, including Auburn engineers Patrick Berry, Logan Brost and Travis Wheeler, had the experience of a lifetime working for SAIC on various projects relating to their disciplines. Berry, a senior in electrical engineering, researched the development and execution of software testing in engineering and analysis operations. Brost, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, converted missile models from outdated I-deas CAD software to the updated NX Cad software. He also built 3D models from scan data. Wheeler, also a senior in mechanical engineering, concentrated his research in explosion and dispersion gas and concentration modeling. Each of the students presented research and findings at an open exhibition for student employees at the end of the program. The projects and presentations were graded on significance of accomplishment and presentation quality, and the outstanding SAIC student projects were honored at an awards ceremony. Auburn Engineering 15

Are YOU smarter than a freshman?

It’s my job

by Morgan Stashick

Sean Cook ’05, software engineering; ’06, computer science Senior mobile partner engineer Twitter San Francisco

Try your hand at this freshman engineering problem and find out for yourself.

with a wide range of global companies – from small start-ups to large corporations – to engineer mobile integrations that are then used by millions of people. I’m currently working with software development kits to allow mobile developers to leverage the power of Twitter in their applications.


Sense of pride… the

“Shirley had two children. For many generations, all of her descendents each had two children of their own, except for one, who had no children. Shirley had 12 great-greatgrandchildren. Is the descendent with no children her child, grandchild, or great-grandchild?”

Typical day… involved

role that Twitter has had in giving a voice to anyone, anywhere in the world. I’m also proud that any phone in the world is a “Twitter phone.” Whether you’re on a smartphone or one that can only support voice and text messages, that phone can use Twitter.

Engineering challenge… more than half a billion tweets are shared each day. When you send a tweet, it must be distributed to followers on devices throughout the world in a matter of mere milliseconds. I’m responsible for harnessing that data in real-time, and for surfacing it in meaningful ways for every device imaginable, including video, phones and even automobiles. Turning point… in

my junior year at Auburn, I took a class on mobile software architecture taught by Dr. David Umphress. It was in that class that I not only learned how to connect the abstract concepts of computer science to real-world problems, but I also discovered how much fun writing mobile apps can be. From the first day of class to today, I’ve worked almost exclusively on mobile. There’s not a minute that goes by that I’m not thankful for both my Auburn education as well as Dr. Umphress’ great teaching.

My Auburn Engineering… gave

Consider what would happen if no descendents were missing: There would be 2 children, 4 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and 16 great-great grandchildren. There are only 12 great-great-grandchildren, not 16, so 4 are “missing.” The key fact is that every descendent with children has exactly two of them, or none at all. That means there are 4 / 2 = 2 “missing” greatgrandchildren, so the lone descendent with no children is her grandchild.


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me a solid foundation both in engineering and in software development. It also gave me a chance to learn mobile development at a time when it was just coming into the mainstream. Personally, Auburn taught me that being a good engineer is more than just having engineering skills; you have to be a great communicator, be hard-working, and be dependable, and you must remain humble in order to succeed.

in 6th grade, my English teacher required that we read for one hour a day in her class. She had a wall full of books from which we were supposed to choose our weekly reading material. In that collection of books, I found a large book about the BASIC programming language and, without the teacher ever finding out, used that time each day to teach myself programming. Geek moment…

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Alex Lohrke, from Birmingham, listens to instructions for the lab activity.

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Girls engineer change . . .

at summer camp


By Katie Beck

he Auburn Creed states, “I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.” Twenty rising 8th-, 9th- and 10th-grade girls from around the country embodied this part of the creed by spending a week at the College of Engineering’s first Women in Engineering Camp. The camp, held in July on the Auburn campus, provided the opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience in engineering and with scientific design processes. Virginia Davis, Mary and John H. Sanders associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, is focused on promoting engineering careers for women and minorities. She saw a need to participate in the camp to provide educational opportunities to students, as well as increase female representation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

Heather Haynie, from Knoxville, Tenn., participates in the “magic sand” activity.

“We see significant issues with diversity,” says Davis. “If current proportions hold true, we won’t have the engineers, economists or mathematicians that we need. We must get women and minorities engaged.” Phylesia Hill, a senior in mechanical engineering and camp counselor, recognized the need to encourage women to choose engineering. “Engineering is known to be a male-dominated field, and it is comforting, as a female, to see other females with the same interests,” she says. “Having a women’s only camp for engineering is important.”

From left: Lauren Dunn, Jacksonville, Fla.; Grace Littlefield, Dunwoody, Ga.; Morgan Akins and Rainey Mozena, both from Helena, Ala.

To kick off the week, Bonnie Wilson, Auburn’s coordinator for the Women in Science and Engineering Institute, introduced participants to the engineering design process including how to identify a problem or opportunity for improvement, research, brainstorm solutions, select an approach, and finally, prototype, test and refine a design. The girls put this process to the test by creating ping pong ball launchers before moving on to a more serious matter on a global scale. Wilson discussed a number of everyday challenges faced by women in Ukunda, Kenya, the birthplace of Auburn alumna Esther Ngumbi. Esther, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Entomology, and her parents opened a primary school – the Faulu Academy – in Ukunda after her parents retired from public service in 2011.

Carol Allison, from Fayetteville, Tenn., works with a team to construct a ping pong ball launcher.

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“The campers learned about life without running water and electricity, and were challenged to research and create solutions to these everyday obstacles to benefit the lives of students at the school,” says Wilson. The girls brainstormed and researched a variety of issues and developed prototype solutions that they presented to Ngumbi. Among the items developed were a long handled spoon for cooking, a flexible gutter system for collecting rainwater, and reusable cooling packs for refrigeration, as well as underground water storage solutions and a rigid gutter system. Hill noted that Ngumbi’s reaction to the campers’ finished projects was the highlight of the Women in Engineering Camp. “When the girls saw how amazed she was, they realized that being an engineer is more than creating things – being an engineer is creating things that change lives,” says Hill.

students use Legos to design and build vehicles at a rate of 70 cars per hour. Students produce three types of Lego vehicles: a 278-piece speedster, 254-piece SUV and 231-piece Baja car. The process requires 18 students, 15 for assembly operations and three for material delivery. Christine Schnittka, a joint assistant professor in the College of Engineering and College of Education, gave an introduction to electrical generation and energy transformations by appealing to the students’ love of pets. In many regions, coal is the primary source of energy which ultimately harms the environment. By examining indicator species, such as amphibians and snails, scientists can see the effects of burning coal for energy. In her “Save the Snails” curriculum, Schnittka explained how to create electricity by capturing the energy from gravity, and in turn, limiting the use of coal. Schnittka developed the snail teaching curriculum to portray engineering as a real-world situation to helping animals. “They have empathy for animals and want to develop ways to help them,” she says. In addition, campers worked with Davis and her research assistants to learn more about how chemical engineering can create a positive environmental impact. Tera Jo Stone, a senior in chemical engineering, created a "magic sand" demonstration using a hydrophobic coating that repels water. Stone’s experiment served as an engaging example of how a small change in properties can affect an object’s behavior, as well as the role chemical engineers play in environmental clean-up.

Tera Jo Stone, senior in chemical engineering, assists Heather Haynie with the “magic sand” activity.

The campers were also shown how engineering impacts everyday challenges that most Americans and people from other first-world countries never face. Thomas Baginski, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, presented student-made, low-cost water purifiers that prevent water-borne diseases in impoverished locations. Today, more than five countries, most recently India, are reaping the benefits of these one-of-a-kind purifiers. Baginksi explained how a pinch of salt and specially coated electrodes work together to produce chlorine compounds that sanitize the water to make it potable. Cheryl Seals, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, taught an introduction to computer programming class throughout the week. Campers were introduced to computing concepts, personal productivity tools, web page development and visual programming using the program Alice 3D. Lessons were put into action by having the students create a web page or interactive game about themselves, which they presented to the group. Participants also received a tour of the automotive manufacturing systems laboratory, or the “Lego Lab,” from LuAnn Sims, graduate program coordinator and instructor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. In this lab,

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“I think it’s really important for girls to know that there are other female engineers in the College of Engineering,” says Stone. “I really like when all sorts of students, male and female, can come and have a good time and learn about our program in fun ways.” Throughout the week, campers had the opportunity to meet with women engineers, including members of Auburn’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and the college’s 100 Women Strong program. Jessica Taylor, undergraduate student recruiter for the College of Engineering, served as a coordinator and camp counselor for the week. As a female Auburn Engineering graduate, she thought there was no better way “to expose women to the world of engineering than through a summer camp.” Taylor sees the potential for future women’s camps after determining the first one a success. “I thoroughly enjoyed organizing the first Women in Engineering summer camp. With the help of many people, it was a successful week,” she says. “It was such a fun and rewarding experience to see 20 girls get excited about engineering. I am truly looking forward to the next summer camp as we develop more ways to attract women into the field of engineering.” At the end of the jam-packed week, parents were invited to the graduation ceremony held in the Shelby Center. Watching each girl walk proudly across the stage was a momentous occasion – 20 potential engineers ready to take on the world.

Rainey Mozena, Helena, Ala., and Sarah Atkinson, Andalusia, Ala., use a microscope during a lab session.

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Leading the blind

by Morgan Stashick

David Bevly, Albert Smith Jr. professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is leading a team of Auburn researchers to build a prototype extended mobility system that will help navigate the visually impaired to their desired locations. The team is investigating the use of cameras, inertial sensors and communications devices to track the movements of visually impaired individuals who wear the system. GPS data, as well as wireless information available from future Department of Transportation wireless communication devices, will be integrated into the device to guide users to their destinations. The system will include technology developed for soldiers and unmanned vehicles by Draper Laboratory, a not-for-profit engineering research and development organization dedicated to solving national challenges. Members of the research team include industrial and systems engineering faculty members John Evans and Richard Sesek and graduate student Tenchi Gao, mechanical engineering graduate students Robert Cofield and Christopher Rose, and consultant Richard Bishop. The system will be designed with the input of blind individuals from the National Federation of the Blind, who are crucial to ensuring the system is both accessible and useful. “Commercial products have been created that primarily use GPS in conjunction with voice-over communication as a means of telling the visually impaired where they are and which way to go,” Rose said. “Unfortunately, these products often suffer from poor positioning. That is, they are not accurate enough to tell the difference between a sidewalk and a road, or going in the wrong building or doorway.” According to Rose, utilizing Draper Laboratory’s robotics expertise in vision navigation and Auburn’s GPS and pedestrian dead-reckoning capabilities allows the system to provide blind people with more precise directions, as well as indoor navigation. The prototype will enable impaired individuals to more intuitively participate in activities and events in a readily available way, from attending concerts to taking the subway to visiting friends. The system of devices, which Bevly describes as potentially including an ankle bracelet containing inertial sensors or a camera positioned in a pair of glasses, is under contract with the Federal Highway Administration. A prototype device is expected to be available in 2015.

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23 Auburn Engineering

Into the lab CHEMIC A L Jin Wang, Buddy Redd associate professor of chemical engineering, has been awarded a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant to examine and model cellular changes in yeast. The project, “An Integrated Systems Engineering Approach to the Modeling of Cellular Dynamics and Bioreactors,” will focus on studying and then modeling cellular changes from aerobic growth to anaerobic fermentation, a method cells use to extract energy from carbohydrates when oxygen is unavailable. Working with Thomas W. Jefferies, professor emeritus of bacteriology at the University of Wisconsin, and Peter He, associate professor of chemical engineering at Tuskegee University, Wang’s team hopes to discover the engineering and science of cell metabolism by examining the yeast strain Scheffersomyces stipitis and the commonly used industrial strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The researchers are working toward establishing a framework of processes that other researchers can apply to a variety of biological and industrial applications that require similar cellular changes, which could help biologists discover more efficient ways to generate ethanol on an industrial scale, as well as better detect and treat cancer. “Understanding how a cell changes from aerobic growth to anaerobic fermentation provides valuable insight on why most yeast cells cannot grow anaerobically,” says Wang. “It’s an unsolved fundamental biological question. We will manipulate the cells, whether it is their environment or genetic materials, to find out more about the way they grow.” Wang and her team will also use computer simulation to track cellular changes. Auburn is the first to study Scheffersomyces stipites’ cellular behavior this way. The team will collect time course data, which tracks a cell’s growth from one stage to the next. Jefferies, who is best known for his groundbreaking work sequencing the genome of Scheffersomyces stipitis, will help the team record the first data set taken during cell transition from aerobic growth to anaerobic fermentation. Through Wang’s collaboration with He, a specialist in bioinformatics, data mining and algorithm development, the team will integrate computer simulations with their studies of the living yeast strain. “We integrate wet lab experiments on the yeast strain with computational approaches to study the dynamics of cellular metabolism at the systems level,” says Wang. “Most research examines a steady state, but we’ll address it by studying a living organism as well as by using computer simulation.”

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Into the Lab A EROSPACE Andrew Sinclair, associate professor of aerospace engineering, is studying the relative motion dynamics of satellite formations in elliptical orbits. Sinclair, along with Ryan E. Sherrill, aerospace engineering ‘13, has been working in collaboration with faculty member Subhash Sinha in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Auburn alumnus Alan Lovell, aerospace engineering ‘01, a research aerospace engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico. The team’s research on formation flying dynamics is critical to developing next-generation space vehicle design, which will require vehicles to perform operations such as rendezvous, on-orbit servicing and orbital debris removal.

BIOS YS TEMS Biosystems engineering assistant professor David Blersch is researching the potential of using controlled algae cultivation for improving the quality of natural waters. Blersch is using various reactor designs to cultivate naturally-occurring algae at high growth rates to absorb pollutants from impaired waterways. Regular harvest of the algae removes the pollutants from the water and produces a biomass that he is investigating for its value as a biofuels feedstock or a fertilizer amendment. “The algae are everywhere in our waterways, and they cause problems when out of control,” says Blersch. “We are using a controlled algae bloom as a tool to remove the source of the problem, and are looking at the economics of using the byproduct.”

Photo courtesy, Doug Lavere, University at Buffalo

While these dynamics are well researched in circular orbits, Sinclair’s work focuses on elliptical orbits, which could provide new insight to both mission planners and satellite operators. In circular orbits, the motion of one satellite relative to another is described by Hill-Clohessy-Wiltshire equations. Sinclair and Sherrill, along with Sinha and Lovell, have developed time-varying coordinate transformations that reveal how the Hill-Clohessy-Wiltshire equations actually generalize to elliptic orbits. Their work is improving the visualization of relative motion in elliptical orbits, and is leading to fuel efficient approaches to formation control.

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Into the Lab

CI V IL Civil engineering professor James Davidson and his students are currently using advanced modeling and simulation techniques to analytically characterize the blast resistance of a new construction form – foam insulated concrete sandwich panels – so that building design methodologies and criteria can be developed. Davidson began working in the area of protective structures and security engineering technology development more than 15 years ago – shortly after the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 U.S. servicemen and injured more than 300 others. This tragedy alerted the nation to the need for design and construction technologies that better protect our servicemen. Davidson and his students will present their studies at two upcoming international conferences: the International Symposium on the Interaction of the Effects of Munitions with Structures in Potsdam, Germany, and the International Conference on Shock and Impact Loads on Structures in Singapore, as well as at the Research and Development session of the 2013 Precast/Prestressed Concrete Convention in Grapevine, Texas. Davidson’s protective structures research has been supported by a wide range of agencies and collaborators, including the National Science Foundation, Engineer Research and Development Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Air Force Research Laboratory, National Concrete Masonry Association and Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute.

COMPUTER SCIENCE A ND SOF T WA RE Jeffrey Overbey and Munawar Hafiz, faculty members in computer science and software engineering, are among those selected to take part in a new partnership with Google. As the recipients of a Google Faculty Research Award, Overbey and Hafiz will study advanced software development tools that will improve the design and performance of Google’s programming language, Go. The collaboration will include work at Auburn to refactor or modify aspects of the program, as well as investigate automated refactoring tools that can be used to analyze and alter programs faster and more accurately than a single programmer.

ELEC TR IC A L A ND COMPUTER Prathima Agrawal, Samuel Ginn professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center, and Shiwen Mao, McWane associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, have received one of two best paper awards from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2013 International Conference on Communications Wireless Networking Symposium. Additional authors of their paper, “Algebraic connectivity of degree constrained spanning trees for FSO networks,” include Hui Zhou, doctoral student in electrical and

26 Auburn Engineering

computer engineering, and Alireza Babaei, former postdoctoral fellow in Auburn’s Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center. Free space optical (FSO) networks transmit data for telecommunications and computer networking. Directional FSO transceivers support high capacity communications, but performance can be easily disrupted by atmospheric obstructions such as rain and dust. Agrawal and Mao’s team studied FSO link reliability along with algebraic connectivity to ensure network dependability, resulting in topology control algorithms that outperform two existing systems.

Into the Lab INDUS TR IA L A ND S YS TEMS Jorge Valenzuela, department chair of industrial and systems engineering, is working with Jin Wang, Buddy Redd associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, and scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory to develop efficient computer algorithms that can improve the economics of electrical power systems by powering transmission lines on and off. Traditionally, transmission switching has been done for periodic maintenance and planning issues. Valenzuela’s research

team will create a large-scale mixed integer programming model and explore an efficient solution technique to determine which transmission lines should be removed during a particular time period or season. Valenzuela’s team is working to minimize energy generation cost over the season, as well as to ensure the line on and off plan meets the North American Electric Reliability Corportion’s single contingency reliability standard for power systems.

MECHA NIC A L Pradeep Lall, Thomas Walter professor of mechanical engineering and director of Auburn’s NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, is researching a copper-aluminum wire bond system for cost-effective, next generation electronics through grants from the Semiconductor Research Corporation and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center. Wire bonding in electronics, which predominantly Copper wire bonding uses gold wires, is used extensively in semiconductor packaging for chip interconnections. The increase in the price of gold has motivated the industry to search for alternatives to gold wire, and a transition has been made to use

copper wire bonding technology. Potential advantages of this transition include the lower cost of copper wire, lower thermal resistivity and lower electrical resistivity, as well as higher mechanical strength and higher deformation stability compared to gold wire. The shift to copper wire brings along a number of risks such as higher hardness compared to gold wire, narrow process windows and susceptibility to oxidation during the ball formation process. Problems encountered with copper wire bonding technology encompass cracking of the wire bond interface under extended exposure to humidity and temperature. Lall is studying the reliability and prognostic indicators for the copper-aluminum wire bond system.

POLY MER A ND FIBER Yasser Gowayed, professor of polymer and fiber engineering, is collaborating with a team from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Alabama-Birmingham to investigate the long term behavior of fiber reinforced polymers, an advanced material made from resin, fillers, fiber reinforcements and additives. Fiber reinforced polymers have a high strength-to-weight ratio, as well as durability and resistance to corrosion. This new material is gaining popularity as a way

to build stronger concrete structures, which could prove beneficial to the state and nation’s economic health. Through an $80,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation, Gowayed’s team is studying new uses and techniques to enhance the performance of fiber reinforced polymers over time. According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 30 percent of U.S. bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Auburn Engineering 27

Bringing the battle home by Carol Nelson

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Auburn University is joining forces with military researchers to study the structures and activity of the brains of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to better understand posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-concussion syndrome (PCS). The project brings together the Auburn University Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Research Center, the Department of Psychology in Auburn’s College of Liberal Arts and the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory in Ft. Rucker, Ala. Faculty and graduate students in the departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Psychology are testing 160 soldiers – those with PTSD, those with PCS and healthy control soldiers. A percentage of the healthy control soldiers have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, but do not have PTSD or PCS symptoms. “We hope to use our results to test the efficacy of different treatments for people with PCS and PTSD,” said Tom Denney, director of the MRI Research Center. Capt. Michael Dretsch, chief of neuroscience applications with the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program at the Pentagon, said he met Denney and Jeffrey Katz, director of the Cognitive and Behavioral Science program in the Department of Psychology, while he was stationed at the U.S. Army Aeromedical Research Laboratory at Ft. Rucker. Denney and Katz were presenting research there. Because of their shared research interests, Dretsch said he thought combining their work would be a

great collaboration. They began working on grant proposals, and Dretsch was able to secure funding from the Military Operational Medical Research Program through the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. Participants in the study undergo MRI brain scans to analyze the structures of the brain, as well as the fiber tracts that connect those structures. In addition, each group participates in functional MRI scans, which measure brain activity while subjects are engaged in a specific task.

“We’re doing a 3D scan of the brain every two seconds for 10 minutes, getting gigabytes worth of data for each little bit of the brain,” Denney said. “We have thousands of time series from each part of the brain that correlate with each other to see which ones work in a network or in concert with each other. Dr. Deshpande’s expertise is taking these sets of data and reducing the information to something that tells us what parts of the brain are working in concert together in a network and how strongly related they are. We can measure the different types of networks.”

“There’s a series of networks in the brain that are active, and there’s a natural rhythm to the network in our brains,” said Katz. “Various structures have more blood flow going to them at different times, and the brain oscillates in these different networks. The networks of people with psychological problems don’t oscillate the same way. Nobody really knows what that means at this point — it is a hot topic of research.” Participants in the PCS or PCS healthy group are scanned while being presented with a series of military related pictures projected on a screen mounted inside the scanner. Some pictures are of disturbing events, animals and people, while some are ordinary, everyday objects. After the participant is presented with an image, he is asked to do one of three things: enhance, suppress or maintain his emotional response to the images. Katz said initial analyses are showing differences in brain activity during emotional regulation that may be related to the disease. Participants in the PTSD or PTSD healthy group perform what is called a fear-conditioning task. During the scan, the participant is presented with a tone that is then followed by a burst of aversive white noise or a tone that is not followed by the noise. Using a track ball, participants continually report their expectancy of the noise’s occurrence on a scale of 0-100. During the scan, skin conductance response – a method of measuring the electrical conductance of the skin, which is related to emotional response – is collected to assess learning. “Our initial analyses are showing differences in brain activity in PTSD patients during threat-related responses and learningrelated differences in the predictability of the threat,” Katz said. In addition, all participants undergo a resting state functional brain scan to reveal the connectivity of brain regions that are consistently found while the subject is at rest. Participants are instructed to clear their minds and lie still while not performing a specific task. “Analyses will be conducted that compare the resting states of PCS, PTSD and healthy participants to test if differences exist across groups in the connectivity of the brain regions,” Katz said. The scans create a large data set that will be analyzed by Gopikrishna Deshpande, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who works at the MRI Center.

Study participants also have their blood drawn for researchers to look for particular biomarkers that are related to PCS and PTSD. Researchers will conduct biochemical assays to better understand the relationships between the peripheral (blood plasma) protein molecules and lipid species and the outcomes of the brain scans and neuropsychological assessments. In addition, specific genes implicated in neurobiological processes and their role in neural functioning associated with PTSD and PCS will be explored. “Ideally, we’d really like to understand what’s taking place when a soldier is concussed – when you get a concussion, what changes take place?” Dretsch said. “And are there specific biomarkers – imaging biomarkers or blood-based biomarkers – which could better assess and diagnose what’s happening with the soldier? This is a very unique study in that our sample size of soldiers is enormous compared to other studies which have previously been published. We have a lot of opportunities here to contribute to the body of research in psychological resilience, as well as the clinical psychopathology.” “Once you’ve established all of this with the military population, then you can start asking about treatment,” Katz said. “You establish these tasks, scan the participants, then they go through treatment, which may be meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of treatment. Then, you scan them at a later time and ask, ‘Are they better able to perform these tasks?’ to validate whether or not those therapies are working.”

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minutes with Steve Duke Interviewed by Megan Burmester

After serving 17 years in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Steve Duke is eagerly embracing his new role as the college’s associate dean for academics. After graduating from Georgia Tech, and working in Texas, Duke moved to Illinois where he earned his master’s and doctorate in chemical engineering. He moved south again to chart a new career in academia. Charged with overseeing the college’s academic programs, Duke ensures the quality of the engineering curricula and provides counsel to faculty, staff and students on a wide variety of academic issues. With a passion for education, he is eager to take the college in a new direction with a special emphasis on the student experience.

MB: How have you settled into your new role as the college’s associate dean for academics?

MB: What are your priorities for students?

SD: I am honored to work with Dean Roberts and help develop the student experience. I thoroughly enjoyed serving in the Department of Chemical Engineering where I was able to teach students while also performing research. Both of these aspects are my favorite part of the academic world. I always said I would not assume an administrative role unless it was one that related to students, and in this position, I still have that connection. Dean Roberts and I have the same goal of developing students so that by the end of their time at Auburn, they can make a lasting and significant impact on society.

SD: I want all students to have a hands-on experience in engineering. This includes lab research, but I also want students to become well-rounded and be involved in extracurricular activities and volunteer groups outside of the classroom. It is essential for students to learn by giving back and gaining real world experience through service as well. I also want to see more —preferably all—students go through a co-op or internship program while earning their degree. There is no better way to gain real-world experience. You learn countless lessons that prepare you for a career, and enable you to be more successful after graduating.

MB: How did your background prepare you?

MB: Do you have goals you want to achieve?

SD: I grew up right outside of the Atlanta airport and graduated with a chemical engineering degree from Georgia Tech. Then I worked for two and a half years at ExxonMobil in Baytown, Texas, where I met and married my wife Robin. We then moved to Illinois where I earned my advanced degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I loved both the classroom and research aspects of academia and wanted to be involved in both at an institution. I heard about Auburn’s strong reputation in each of these areas and decided to move here.

SD: I want to move our vision of helping to link students with industry. It’s important that we enable students and employers to network and establish connections, which in turn would foster the careers of our graduates. In addition, we want to have a center that could house laboratories to support projectbased learning, including research, service, and entrepreneurial opportunities of our engineering courses. While we are still in the conceptual phase, this center would connect our talented students with corporate and institutional partners and serve as a place to enhance the engineering student experience.

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MB: Speaking of the student experience, Engineers Without Borders is a passion of yours. How did you get involved? SD: In 2007, I approached Dean Emeritus Larry Benefield about the possibility of forming an Auburn chapter of Engineers Without Borders. I had been very involved with the national program prior to coming to Auburn. In 2008, a group of about 15 students was formed, and it has since grown to nearly 50 volunteers. Since 2010, our team has traveled to Bolivia for 10 days each year to help build a better living environment for local residents. To date, completed projects include constructing a solar water shower system for a high school dormitory, developing charcoal from agricultural wastes, and creating a pilot hydroponics demonstration system. We returned in August from our most recent trip where we began the implementation of a 50-plus acre irrigation project for terraced croplands. The group is now meeting every week to plan next year’s trip – and the students are very excited about it. The team has grown so much that we’re now considering adding a second site, in addition to Bolivia, which is a wonderful challenge to face.

MB: Your connection to Auburn and Dean Roberts is a unique one. Tell us about it. SD: While I was earning my master’s and doctorate, I was friends with Dr. Joan Brennecke who was Dean Roberts’ faculty adviser at the time. I was nearing the completion of my Ph.D. and trying to make the decision of the next step for my future. One night, at a social event, Joan grabbed my arm and insisted I meet “this guy, Chris Roberts, who you must know” and I instantly hit it off with him. He spoke so passionately about Auburn and the chemical engineering department that he sold me on the program — I haven’t looked back since.

MB: Your interest in chemical engineering seems to be all encompassing, doesn’t it? SD: Yes! My wife is a chemical engineer, and is a high school chemistry teacher; my daughter, Kate, is a sophomore at Auburn in chemical engineering; and my son, Bram, is a senior in high school and was just accepted into the chemical engineering program at Auburn. Our lives do extend beyond chemical engineering, but at the same time, our common interest makes for some unique family-time discussion.

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From the desk of... Sushil Adhikari, assistant professor of biosystems engineering, received the 2013 New Holland Young Researcher Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, which recognized him as the top researcher under the age of 40. Adhikari was honored for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of bioenergy and biofuels research, as well as for his enhancement in the profession by developing a program devoted to discovery and education in the field of agricultural and biological engineering.

Sushil Bhavnani, Henry M. Burt Jr. professor of mechanical engineering, has been named a fellow in the 2013-14 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program, a professional organization that seeks to identify, prepare and advance academic leaders for roles within Southeastern Conference institutions and beyond.

faculty highlights

J T. Black, professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering, was mentioned in the Journal of the Association of Military Industrial Engineers as one of the “architects of the practice of industrial engineering.” Black’s name appeared among historical figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick W. Taylor and Henry Ford. Jerry Davis, Nuclear Power Systems associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, was recognized for 10 years of active membership and participation in the American Society of Safety Engineers. Jeffrey Fergus, professor of materials engineering, has received a $300,000, threeyear grant from the Department of Energy to investigate longer lasting, cost-effective coatings for fossil energy conversion systems. Fossil fuel systems, such as modern turbine engines, use high

temperatures and pressures for efficient energy conversion, requiring long-term heat-resistant coatings on the engine components. Fergus seeks to develop cost-effective, corrosion-resistant thermal barrier coating systems that will replace the current platinum-containing coating systems.

Sean Gallagher, associate professor in industrial and systems engineering, was recognized with two Don B. Chaffin awards; one for podium presentation and another for round table presentation at the 2013 Applied Ergonomics Conference held in Dallas, Texas.

Yasser Gowayed, professor of polymer and fiber engineering, and George Flowers, professor of mechanical engineering, are studying composite structures during operation and how the interference monitoring systems impact these structures. Through a $270,000 grant from the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, they’re working with intelligent fiber optic

NEW FACES IN ENGINEERING Melissa Baumann joins Auburn as assistant provost of undergraduate education and director of the Honors College. She will also be serving in the Department of Mechanical Engineering as professor. Baumann was previously associate dean of the Honors College and associate professor of chemical engineering and materials science at Michigan State University.

Andres Carrano joins the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering as associate professor. He comes to Auburn from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

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R. Michael Eison joins Auburn's Huntsville Research Center as principal research scientist and engineer. He previously served as assistant to the director at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center.

Joseph Majdalani joins the Department of Aerospace Engineering as chair and Auburn Alumni Engineering Council Endowed Professor. He was previously the Arnold Chair of Excellence in Advanced Propulsion and the Jack D. Whitfield Professor of High Speed Flows in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Tennessee.

faculty highlights systems to investigate implementing fiber Bragg grating-based structural health sensors to evaluate their accuracy and adaptability to the manufacturing and operation of composite structures.

Roy Hartfield, Woltosz professor of aerospace engineering, has received a two-year, $100,000 grant from NASA to study sub-cooled liquid propane as a primary propellant for multiple stage rocket powered launch vehicles, which could offer advantages over traditional fuels and liquid hydrogen from both a performance and logistics perspective. Sub-cooled propane has the highest density specific impulse of any hydrocarbon when paired with liquid oxygen. It can also be stored at liquid oxygen temperatures and is a viable fuel in a single tank configuration for a given stage during which the fuel and oxidizer are separated by a baffle. Daniela Marghitu, Comp 1000 coordinator in computer science and software engineering and the university’s AccessComputing coordinator, has received grants from Microsoft Fuse Research and the AccessComputing

Alliance to develop and implement two introductory computer science courses at Opelika Middle School this fall. The courses will be taught to seventh and eighth grade students using Computer Science Unplugged, a system that teaches principles of computer science without using computers, as well as the game-creating program Microsoft Kodu and computer programming tool Alice by Carnegie Mellon University.

Victor Nelson, professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the Distinguished Member Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Educational Society. Nelson is recognized for his leadership and service on the IEEE Education Society Board of Governors and as chair of the constitution and bylaws committee, as well as for related professional contributions through publications, accreditation activities and as an associate editor.

Fadel Megahed joins the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering as assistant professor. He was previously a graduate research and teaching assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Andrzej Nowak joins the Department of Civil Engineering as chair and professor. He comes to Auburn from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he served as a distinguished professor of civil engineering. Jeffrey Overbey joins the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering as assistant professor. He previously served in the department as assistant research professor.

Richard Sesek, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering, recently received national recognition as the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) recipient of the Certified Safety Professional Award of Excellence. In addition to being honored by his peers in both the American Society of Safety Engineers and the BCSP, Sesek was recognized by students in the department as the outstanding faculty member of the year. Jeff Smith, Joe W. Forehand Jr. professor of industrial and systems engineering, received the 2012 Distinguished Service Award from the INFORMS Simulation Society for providing long-standing, exceptional service to the simulation community. As part of a year-long sabbatical, Smith taught a hands-on workshop for professors entitled, “Rapid Modeling with Intelligent Objects: Simio Academic Grant Program Training,” at the University of the Bundeswehr in Munich, Germany in April.

Mary Robbins joins the National Center for Asphalt Technology as assistant research professor. An Auburn alumnus, she returns after serving as a transportation engineer for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Huaguo Zhou joins the Department of Civil Engineering as associate professor. He comes to Auburn from the Department of Civil Engineering at Southern Illinois UniversityEdwardsville.

33 Auburn Engineering

faculty highlights Steven Taylor, department head and professor of biosystems engineering and director of Auburn University’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, has been named a fellow in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in recognition of his accomplishments in structural wood engineering education and forest engineering research. In addition, he is being honored for his service to the wood products industry and his academic leadership of biological engineering programs.

Recipients of Auburn's Faculty Awards Celebrating Excellence David Umphress, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, is the recipient of one of this year’s Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching. Casey Cegielski, associate

David Timm, Brasfield & Gorrie professor of civil engineering, served as a keynote speaker at the 15th International Flexible Pavements Conference in Brisbane, Australia. The conference, hosted by the Australian Asphalt Pavement Association, included experts from around the world to discuss new age solutions in asphalt production, testing and performance. Timm’s talk featured research findings from the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) Pavement Test Track. He also presented NCAT’s test track research in post-conference master classes held in Brisbane and Sydney, which were aimed at developing and implementing perpetual pavement design in Australia.

professor in the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, was also honored. The award recognizes two full-time, tenured faculty members who demonstrate effective and innovative teaching methods and a continuing commitment to student success through advising and mentoring inside and outside the classroom. Umphress also serves as the director of the Auburn Cyber Research Center. Read more about Umphress and his service in teaching on page 4.

Pradeep Lall, Thomas Walter Professor of mechanical engineering, has received one of the university’s Creative Research and Scholarship Awards. Conner Bailey, professor in the College of Agriculture, also received this award, which recognizes the achievements and contributions of faculty who have distinguished themselves through research, scholarly works and creative contributions in their field. Lall serves as the director of Auburn’s NSF-CAVE3 Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, a research entity dedicated

Jorge Valenzuela, department chair of industrial and systems engineering, designed a three-hour study abroad course in international logistics, which was held for the first time this spring at the Universidad Technica Federico Santa Maria (UTFSM) in Valparaiso, Chile.

Jin Wang, Buddy Redd associate professor of chemical engineering, has received a $50,000 renewal grant from the Ray C. Anderson Foundation for her work on “Next-Generation Control Solutions for Sustainable Manufacturing in Pulp Mills.” 34 Auburn Engineering

to developing and implementing new technologies for the manufacturing and packaging of electronics, while focusing on the cost, environmental and reliability requirements of the vehicular industry. Learn more about Lall’s research on page 27.

Saad Biaz, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, is the recipient of the Provost Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship. Biaz was recognized for a decade of grant support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense to host an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Biaz’s REU has been hosted at Auburn for the past 10 consecutive summers and offers students from across the country the opportunity to conduct research and design algorithms for unmanned aerial vehicles.

On October 11, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering honored five Auburn engineers at the annual Auburn Alumni Engineering Council Awards Banquet. Each of these individuals have served as an outstanding representative of Auburn University and the College of Engineering, and their contributions to the engineering profession have been above and beyond. This year, three recipients were presented with the Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award, and two recipients were recognized as Outstanding Young Engineers.

Anne Cleary Distinguished Auburn Engineer Anne Cleary graduated from Auburn University in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, as well as a master’s degree in finance. She serves as executive vice president and chief integration officer of NRG, one of the country’s largest power generation and retail electricity companies. Cleary holds the 2010 Outstanding Alumna Award from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. For more than a decade, she served on the board, including a stint as chair, of the Human Resources Compensation Committee of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council in which she was responsible for the reliability of the 14 western U.S. states and portions of Canada and Mexico. Cleary has maintained a strong relationship with her alma mater, serving in various capacities within the College of Engineering and financially supporting many areas within the university. She serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Advisory Board and is active in the Houston Area Auburn Capital Campaign committee. Cleary is a charter member of the college’s 100 Women Strong program – a new and

exciting initiative designed to increase the recruitment and retention of women in engineering.

Oscar Harper Distinguished Auburn Engineer Oscar Harper graduated from Auburn in 1989 with a degree in electrical engineering and went on to obtain a master’s degree in business administration from Brenau University. He also completed the executive management programs at both Harvard University and Emory University. Harper joined Georgia Power in 1984 and held a number of positions within the company including vice president of marketing and generation, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs, and ultimately, vice president of nuclear development. He currently leads Southern Power as president and CEO. Under his leadership, the company has achieved a number of noteworthy milestones – one of the most significant being the acquisition of three solar facilities located in Nevada and North Carolina.

And the Winner is . . .

From left, Oscar Harper, Bill Reed, Anne Cleary, Diaco Aviki, and John R. Smith

In addition to an outstanding career, Harper is committed to giving back to the community. He was appointed by the Governor of Georgia to serve on the Georgia Energy Task Force and was the Chick-fil-A Bowl sales chairman. He has also been a member of the Downtown Development Council in Macon, Ga., and on the board of directors of the Hickory Log Vocational School for Men located in Cartersville, Ga. Harper continues to maintain a strong relationship with Auburn University; specifically, he has worked diligently to enhance the long-standing relationship between the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering and Southern Company. He continues to support the university, most recently through his son – and namesake – who is following in his steps to become an Auburn engineer.

Auburn Engineering 35

Bill Reed Distinguished Auburn Engineer Bill Reed obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1950 in mechanical engineering from Auburn University – Alabama Polytechnic Institute at the time. He began his career with General Electric where he developed expertise in steam-turbine generators and later became a marketing manager for the company. Following a 19-year tenure at General Electric, Reed became the executive vice president of Southern Company Services and in 1976, became the company’s president. After retiring from Southern Company in 1984, he founded Reed Consulting and for two decades advanced the field of electric power engineering in the state and region. During this time, Reed also served as CEO of Selma’s American Fine Wire Company, providing managerial and financial guidance. In 1998, he purchased Systems Controls, Inc., a controls integrating firm specializing in materials handling, and has ensured its reputation as a leader in conveyor control systems. For his contributions to the engineering profession, Reed was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2006. Reed is an active member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, as well as the Auburn Alumni Association, university’s 1856 Society, and the College of Engineering Eagles, Keystone and Ginn societies. His financial support of the college has been equally noteworthy – he established the William B. and Elizabeth Endowed Professorship in the College of Engineering, and made a generous contribution for the completion of Phase II construction of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology. In recognition of his commitment to mechanical engineering education, the university named the mechanical engineering conference room in Wiggins Mechanical Engineering Hall in his honor.

Diaco Aviki Outstanding Young Engineer Diaco Aviki obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1995, as well as a master’s degree in energy finance from the University of Texas. He began his career with Exxon Lubricant and Petroleum Specialties and quickly rose to positions of increasing responsibility in commercial, analytical and management assignments. In his tenure with ExxonMobil, he served as a national account manager, a natural gas trader and brand manager, and a U.S. gas strategy lead for ExxonMobil’s Gas and Power Marketing. Since 2011, he has worked as regional marketing manager at BHP Billiton. In addition to his professional achievements, Aviki reaches further to challenge other young engineers and has been a strong supporter of his alma mater. He is an active member of both the Auburn Alumni Engineering 36 Auburn Engineering

Council and the Chemical Engineering Advisory Council. His contribution of forward-thinking ideas, as well as his commitment to the principles and values he acquired at Auburn, demonstrate for future generations of engineering students what can be accomplished with vision and hard work. He has taken an active role in engaging other young alumni from the college to become involved and financially support Auburn Engineering. He does this because of his own personal commitment to the College of Engineering. Aviki has established a significant scholarship endowment in the Department of Chemical Engineering in tribute to his mother, Dr. Sandra G. Solaiman. He and his wife Angela also created an endowed scholarship in the department as part of the Spirit of Auburn Scholarship Campaign. He is a member of the Engineering Eagles and Ginn societies, as well as the university’s 1856 Society and Samford Societies – an achievement quite unusual for someone so early in his career.

John R. Smith Outstanding Young Engineer John Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Auburn University in 1996, as well as a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2002. He began his career as a project manager for Volkert and Associates before joining the architecture and engineering firm of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon in 2003 as a civil engineer. By 2010, he was promoted to vice president and Birmingham office manager – the youngest office manager within the company. In 2011, he led the civil design for the Auburn Research Park, a collaborative effort among the State of Alabama, the City of Auburn and Auburn University. Smith has led a number of other significant projects for Auburn and the surrounding area including the Auburn Technology Park West industrial park, as well as several projects for the City of Auburn Water Resource Management Department including the 2011 Tank Rehabilitation Design, the Alabama Highway 14 Water Line Extension project and the Gold Hill Booster Station design. As a result of his contributions, he was named a member of the Birmingham Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 in 2011 in recognition of his business influence and achievement. Since leaving Auburn as a student, Smith has been a dedicated ambassador and supporter of the College of Engineering. He was one of the first young engineers to support the Engineering Eagles Society and has been a member since 2005. Smith has also played a key role in encouraging other young alumni to become involved in the college, and has organized efforts at Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon to urge other Auburn engineers to support the college through annual giving.


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2013 fall magazine  

Auburn University Engineering Alumni Magazine

2013 fall magazine  

Auburn University Engineering Alumni Magazine