Eng fall 2015 magazine

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Fall 2015

Volume 25

Issue 2


Looking toward the future

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

Auburn Engineering Fall 2015 Volume 25, 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 Jeffrey Fergus, associate dean for program assessment and graduate studies Ralph Zee, associate dean for research Office of Engineering Communications and Marketing Jim Killian, director Morgan Stashick, editor Contributors Megan Burmester Austin Phillips Gail Riese Christine Riggs Katie Haon, graphic designer Tyler Patterson, web manager Nic DiChiara, web developer Photography Katie Haon, Jim Killian, Kris Sims and Shelby Taylor Office of Engineering Development Ed Lewis, lead development adviser Margaret Arnold, development officer Dan Bush, associate director Veronica Chesnut, major gifts officer David Mattox, development officer Mindy Street, 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 editor@eng.auburn.edu







Š2015 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University

From the dean I am overjoyed to be able to share with you that, though it has only been half a year since the university’s Because This Is Auburn $1 billion campaign went into its public phase, the College of Engineering has already reached its initial goal of $200 million. This support, both pledged and in hand, will allow us to better accommodate our students, faculty, programs and facilities into the future. This is happening because of you, our generous alumni. It is because of you that we have exceeded our initial scholarship and fellowship goal, thereby creating new opportunities for deserving students. We are committed to continuing to increase this kind of funding so that we may offer financial incentives and compete with other prestigious institutions for the most outstanding students. It is because of you that the college will be able to provide a rich, studentcentered experience through enhanced recruiting, curriculum advising, career mentoring and job placement, tutoring and academic support, international studies, student projects and competitions, professional societies and student organizations, and curriculum development to spur teaching innovation. These areas of programmatic support remain critical as the college moves forward. It is because of you that we will further advance our facilities. We are in the process of creating a student achievement center, made possible by a gift from John and Rosemary Brown, which will house the college’s support programs and serve as a central meeting location for our students. In addition, renovations are being made to the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory, formerly known as the Textile Engineering Building, made possible by Charles and Carol Ann Gavin. The building will house the newly established Center for Polymer and Advanced Composites which will focus on research, graduate education and collaborative outreach opportunities to advance economic growth in Alabama and the Southeast. Portions of Broun Hall, the home of electrical engineering, will also be renovated thanks to a gift from Dorothy Davidson, chair and CEO of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies. Her gift honors her late husband Julian Davidson, a 1950 Auburn electrical engineering graduate and defense industry pioneer. It is because of you that faculty members will be better supported in their research through laboratory equipment, professional development and grants. To continue to build a leading engineering program, we must secure the resources necessary to attract and retain the most exceptional engineering educators and researchers. Finally, we are seeking to add several new faculty positions as we continue in this campaign in order to meet the ever increasing interest of students in our engineering programs. We look forward to what else we can accomplish together during the remainder of the campaign. Why are we able to achieve these things? Because this is engineering. Because this is Auburn.

Christopher B. Roberts 1 Auburn Engineering




Cover story


12 Looking toward the future

8 Enhancing education

John and Rosemary Brown, ’57 Auburn graduates, share their Auburn experiences and tell what led them to make the largest single gift in university history that will fund an engineering student achievement center and performing arts center

Dorothy Davidson, chair and CEO of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies, has made a $5 million gift to renovate portions of Broun Hall, the home of electrical engineering. Her gift honors her late husband, Julian Davidson, a 1950 Auburn electrical engineering graduate and defense industry pioneer

9 Series champion Robby Foley, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, can make a claim that few college students can: winning not just a car race, but a race series – the 2015 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge

10 Electrifying performance Jan Davis, '77 mechanical engineering and former astronaut, visits Auburn University's Space Club

2 Auburn Engineering

Sara Kouroupis, a 2015 electrical engineering graduate, has been named the most outstanding electrical engineering senior in the nation





It's my job

5 minutes with

4 To infinite and beyond

16 Mary Robbins

22 Grady Cox

What started as a dream is now a reality for ’87 electrical engineering graduate Sanjay Govil; he started his company, Infinite Computer Solutions, with a vision and $1,000, and never imagined what would happen when it went public on the stock exchange

She doesn’t just drive on roads, she paves the way for them to be built – this civil engineering researcher tells us about her job at the largest asphalt research facility in the nation

He was dean when the School of Engineering began to turn into the College of Engineering it is today – Grady Cox reminisces about his time on campus and tells us how it all began

14 American ninja


Deon Graham earned his nickname “The Destroyer” through his physical prowess displayed on “American Ninja Warrior.” Graham, ’09 civil engineering, was one of the contestants featured this season on the action-packed show that quickly became a fixture among households across the nation

18 Taking the lead Auburn University has been selected to lead a national manufacturing effort on harsh environment electronics as part of a U.S. Department of Defense led flexible hybrid electronics institute

Faculty highlights Awards Auburn Engineering faculty members are some of the most outstanding in the country – learn about some of their achievements

30 We take pride in recognizing our alumni; read about this year’s recipients of the Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award and Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer Award

20 Back to Bolivia

24 Constructing a giant

Engineering students and faculty members returned to their home away from home, high up in the Andes mountains; the group has traveled to Bolivia and back, implementing engineering systems into the remote community of Quesimpuco – read a first-hand experience of this year’s trip and see what life in Bolivia is like these days

It isn’t new news that Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium holds the largest video scoreboard in college football; the construction of the board, however, is a story all its own – we spoke to engineering alumnus Jared Kime, who designed the structural components of Auburn’s new 200-foot stadium scoreboard, to see what it takes to construct a giant 3 Auburn Engineering

T and o infinibeyond te By Austin Phillips

The word infinite can be defined as immeasurably great, unlimited or boundless. Ironically, those words can also describe Sanjay Govil, an ’87 electrical engineering graduate. He is the founder and chairman of Infinite Computer Solutions, an information technology solutions provider focusing on platformization, infrastructure management, intellectual property leveraged solutions and application management solutions.

4 Auburn Engineering

5 Auburn Engineering


hat started as a dream is now a global leader in IT outsourcing, as Infinite Computer has more than 6,000 employees.

With $1,000 in hand and a clear vision, Govil founded Infinite Computer in 1999. In 2010 Govil sought to take the company public with a goal of raising $50 million for a primary dilution of approximately 13 percent. But when the company went public on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange of India, the initial public offering was about 43 times projections, or more than $1.8 billion. According to The Wall Street Journal, the share offer for 11.5 million shares received more than 422.5 million bids. “It was something I always wanted to do and I knew if I waited, it was never going to happen,” Govil said. “To be successful at something, you have to be focused and be persistent. I’m a part of the whole thing, but there are a lot of success stories with Infinite.” As for one day going public with Infinite on an American stock exchange, Govil said the company is “keeping all of our options open.” Following Infinite Computer’s rousing success, Govil branched out with a new venture — Infinite Convergence, a result of Infinite Computer’s strategic alliance with Nokia Siemens Networks (formerly Motorola). Infinite Convergence leverages communication related intellectual property to develop a range of mobile messaging products. These products are then sold to existing and future clients in markets worldwide. While his experience with IBM and Verizon early in his career had prepared him for this undertaking, Govil still knew he was taking a risk with this new subsidiary.

6 Auburn Engineering

“You have to go with your gut,” Govil said. “It was where the world was heading.” And that instinct paid off. Infinite Convergence supports more than 130 million subscribers globally, and will deliver more than 900 billion messages this calendar year. Govil’s international experience began as an infant in Montreal. When he was 4, the family moved to New Delhi, where Govil’s father, Narenda, served as a mathematics professor at the Indian Institute of Technology. But in 1984, the Govils made a move that would forever change their lives. Upon receiving a job offer in Auburn University’s College of Science and Mathematics, the family moved to the Plains. Govil attended Auburn High School his senior year, and he cherishes his time there. “I really enjoyed my journey at Auburn High,” Govil said. “It was a wonderful experience.” Following graduation, it was only natural that he make the journey just a few blocks away to the university campus. “It was the most natural move,” Govil said. “I didn’t even apply anywhere else.” In India, Govil studied sciences and always had an interest in technology. So, he decided to give electrical engineering a try. And a career was born. “To me, engineering gives you a methodology for learning, how you take a big problem and break it up into smaller pieces and

connect those pieces,” Govil said. “Engineering gave me that opportunity.” While Govil credits much of his Auburn education to his success, it was more than basic concepts that he said he learned at the university.

Govil was so dedicated to his academics that he didn’t attend one football game as a student. But, he has made up for it since. Govil is now an avid Auburn football fan and attends games when his schedule allows. His love for Auburn has even spread to his friends, who now cheer along with him, because of the passion they’ve seen from Govil for his Tigers. Although he loves the Tigers’ football team, it’s his love for the university that brought his family to America that he cherishes most.

arrives at the bottom first? Would your conclusions change if the hollow cylinder was made out of a more dense material such that the two cylinders have the same mass?


“To me, failure was not an option,” Govil said. “I was a very busy person and my primary focus was academics. I wanted to make sure I did the best I could in school.”

bottom of the incline at the same instant? If not, which one


Govil graduated in just three years, dedicating his time to ensure he got the most out of his education.

but one is hollow and the other solid. Do they both reach the

Assuming air and rolling resistence have equal effects on both cylinders, we start with the energy equation: mgh = ½ (mv2 + Iw2) Knowing: v=rw and I=mk2

“It was destiny,” Govil said.

The two cylinders are identical in length, radius and material

gh = 1/2 (1+2 k )v2 r

Govil was the only Auburn student hired by IBM that day.

from rest next to one another and roll down an inclined plane.

2 2

And he got the job.

Question: Two uniform cylinders are released

mgh = 1/2 (mv2 + mk2 v ) r

And he got the interview.


He was told to come back that afternoon after all the scheduled interviews were completed, and he did.

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

v2 = 2gh

Wearing a T-shirt and shorts, not the usual interview attire, and not knowing the recruiter’s schedule was full, Govil inquired about the company.

Are YOU smarter than a freshman?

1+k r2

During his senior year, Govil got his break with an elite company on sort of a whim. A recruiter from IBM was on campus and Govil went to check it out.

We can see that the velocity is independent of mass and dependent upon the change in height (h), gravitational acceleration (g), outside cylinder radius (r), and the radius of gyration (k). In this problem, the radius of gyration is the only characteristic that differs between cylinders. The solid cylinder, with a smaller radius of gyration, will reach the bottom first.

“Auburn Engineering is a fantastic program that really taught me how to analyze a problem, and also gave me wide experience to numerous aspects of engineering,” Govil said. “In life, by earning college degrees, we are being taught the tools to succeed in the real world. Through all of that, we are really being taught how to approach a solution and analyze a problem.”

“It is great to have a football team and a basketball team, but what matters most in life is having an education,” Govil said. “Our main love for Auburn is for Auburn as a whole.” 7 Auburn Engineering

happenings Dorothy Davidson

Enhancing education Dorothy Davidson, chair and CEO of Huntsville’s Davidson

Conference credit More than 125 professional engineers, 60 of whom were Auburn alumni, attended the 13th Annual Elements of Mechanical Engineering Conference hosted by Auburn University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Held Oct. 4-5 in Opelika, Alabama, the conference provided a forum for interaction among practicing engineers, Auburn alumni and faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, all attendees earned 15 hours of professional development credits towards the maintenance of their professional engineering licenses. Short courses were presented by mechanical and materials engineering faculty on topics such as additive manufacturing, cutting electrical energy costs, commercial nuclear power and regulation and modern mechanical systems simulation. In addition, Department Chair Jeff Suhling shared current trends in mechanical engineering; Peter Jones, Woltosz War Eagle Motor Sports professor, discussed vehicle design; and graduate students presented their research activities during a poster session.

Technologies, has made a $5 million gift to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to renovate portions of Broun Hall, the home of electrical engineering. Her gift honors her late husband, Julian Davidson, a 1950 Auburn electrical engineering graduate and defense industry pioneer. “Julian would agree that the renovation of Broun Hall will provide an environment that will inspire the next generation of engineers through spaces that are conducive to study and collaboration,” Davidson said. The Broun Hall renovation will provide students with an improved learning environment by incorporating the latest instructional technologies. “Mrs. Davidson’s gift will do more than just renovate a building – it will remodel parts of the structure to transform the areas most used by students,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the College of Engineering. “This will in turn invite collaboration and teamwork, enhancements that appeal to Dorothy as well. Her desire has always been that this generous gift would create the most immediate impact on the student experience at Auburn.” In 1996, the Davidsons co-founded Davidson Technologies, a company providing innovative engineering, technical, and management solutions for our nation’s defense and aerospace industries. Their previous giving to Auburn includes funding for scholarships and programs within the college, as well as support for acquisitions in the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. Davidson is a member of the College of Engineering’s Ginn Society, as well as the university’s Foy and 1856 societies.

8 Auburn Engineering

Celebrating commitment Thanks to a generous gift to establish the Diaco and Angela Aviki Endowed Fund for Excellence in the Department of Chemical Engineering, the atrium in Ross Hall has been named the Aviki Family Atrium. This fund will benefit the educational needs of students, the research efforts of faculty and the technological advancements of engineering facilities. Diaco, ’95 chemical engineering, serves as Atlantic Basin Regional Natural Gas, NGL and Midstream marketing manager at BHP Billiton Petroleum in Houston. Diaco has demonstrated a strong commitment to Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Diaco and Angela Aviki

Engineering throughout his career. In addition to his professional achievements, he is an active member of both the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and the Chemical Engineering Alumni Council. He

Series champion Robby Foley, a sophomore in mechanical engineering, can make a claim that few college students can: winning not just a car race, but a race series – the 2015 Battery Tender MX-5 Cup Skip Barber Mazdaspeed Pro Challenge. The series, which competes on tracks throughout North America, came with a Mazda development driver contract for the 2016 series in the newly developed MX-5 cup car, and $100,000 which, sadly, is not Foley’s to spend – it goes back into

was recognized by the college in 2013 with the Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer Award. He and his wife have remained committed to the College of Engineering, previously establishing a significant scholarship endowment in the Department of Chemical Engineering as a tribute to his mother, Sandra G. Solaiman. Diaco and Angela also created an endowed scholarship in the department as part of the Spirit of Auburn scholarship campaign.

racing development.

He is a member of the Engineering Eagles and

Foley has also been named as a development driver in the Mazda

Samford societies.

Ginn societies, as well as the university’s 1856 and

Road to 24 competition, which is a ladder system that gives drivers the goal of competing in the Mazda SKYACTIV prototype. The Randolph, New Jersey, native began his racing career at an early age in carts, driving competitively at 8 years old, and never left the track. At Auburn he belongs to the Formula SAE team, where his specialty is driver development. He was leading by a point going into the last race of the season at Road Atlanta, but knew he had to finish ahead of the second-place driver to win the series. That driver was leading Foley going into the last lap . . . but he passed him with three corners to go. “I felt that I was in a good place,” Foley said of the series-winning race. “The 11 corner is just a bend in the straightaway, so I was looking ahead to 10 and 12, and felt I could catch him there. And I did – that’s racing!” 9 Auburn Engineering


Electrifying performance Auburn Engineering alumna Sara Kouroupis is the nation’s

Paving away After a successful reconstruction this summer, the National Center for Asphalt Technology has begun its sixth cycle of accelerated pavement testing. Major focus areas of the three-year cycle include pavement preservation and pavement recycling, as well as structural, surface and material studies. The first phase of the research cycle consists of constructing test sections on and off NCAT’s 1.7mile Pavement Test Track. In the second phase, a five-truck fleet applies over a design lifetime of typical interstate traffic to experimental sections in just two years, and traffic on off-track sections is carefully documented. Damaged sections are analyzed in the final phase to determine the contributing factors to pavement distresses. Many of the same pavement preservation treatments installed in Alabama will also be investigated in a cold weather climate through a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s MnROAD facility. Sponsors of the sixth testing cycle include highway agencies and private sector partners who will use NCAT’s research to improve materials, specifications and design policies across the country.

top electrical engineering student. A 2015 electrical engineering graduate and Ellicott City, Maryland, native, Kouroupis was named the winner of the Alton B. Zerby and Carl T. Koerner Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ international honor society, Eta Kappa Nu. With a perfect 4.0 GPA, Kouroupis excelled in the classroom and served in numerous key leadership roles within campus, community and professional associations. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s President’s Award and was named the Outstanding Electrical and Computer Engineering Student of the Year. “Being recognized for my accomplishments and efforts in school is great, but I am more honored to represent Auburn on a national scale,” Kouroupis said. “I hope my selection as this year’s recipient will motivate others, especially women in engineering, to challenge themselves academically, get involved in leadership positions on campus and give back to the community.” Following graduation, Kouroupis accepted a position with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in a two-year rotational program while she is also pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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10 Auburn Engineering

Student success

In memoriam

In October, Auburn faculty, staff and alumni filled the

The Auburn Engineering family lost one of its dedicated

Shelby Center courtyards, engaged by the outstanding

members of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and

work conducted by students from all engineering

a gracious benefactor of the Samuel Ginn College of

disciplines. More than 150 graduate students presented

Engineering. Thomas Lowe Jr., a 1949 civil engineering

their innovative research – from software forensics to

graduate, was elected to the council in 1974, and was

biomass fuel production to curing agents for epoxy

a member of the college’s

resin – during the Graduate Engineering Research

Eagles, Ginn and Keystone

Showcase. Hosted for the fourth year by the Council of

societies, as well as Auburn

Engineering Graduate Students, posters were evaluated

University’s 1856 Society

by 70 judges who awarded more than $7,500 in cash

Founders’ Circle. Through

prizes. First place was presented to Jonathan Cook in

the generosity of Lowe and

polymer and fiber engineering for his research, “Amine

his wife, Bettye, the Tom and

Functionalized Polyanilines as Conductive Curing Agents

Bettye Lowe Lobby and Grand

for Epoxy Resin.” Second and third place prizes were

Foyer in the Shelby Center for

awarded to Nianjun Fu in mechanical engineering for his

Engineering Technology were

research, “Aging Induced Evolution of the Cyclic Stress-

named in their honor.

Strain Behavior of Lead Free Solders,” and Alan Hanley

Tom Lowe

in chemical engineering for his research, “Developing

A practicing engineer for more than 60 years, Lowe

‘Smart’ Nanostructures Using Janus Nanoparticles

founded Lowe Engineers, Inc., in 1957 and played

Synthesized Via a New Method with Potential for

an extensive role in the commercial and industrial


development of Atlanta and the Southeast. After leading the company for 27 years, he passed the baton to his son, Tim, in 1984 who continued to oversee the firm’s success.

Being centered

In 1974, Lowe was elected to the Fulton County Board of

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering has established

serving member, having worked 40 years before his

a new interdisciplinary Center for Polymer and Advanced

retirement in December 2014. Lowe was commissioned

Composites. The center will focus on research, graduate

in 1949 as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, retiring

education and collaborative outreach opportunities to

at the rank of captain, and was a National Skeet Shooting

advance economic growth in Alabama and the Southeast.

Association life member, champion skeet shooter

Commissioners in Georgia. He was the board’s longest-

and member of the NSSA Senior All-American team. With more than 20 years of experience in polymer

Furthermore, he was involved in the planning of the 1996

research, Maria Auad, associate professor of chemical

Olympics in Atlanta and was instrumental in developing

engineering, will lead the center as interim director.

Wolf Creek Skeet and Trap Range, a host range for

She joined the Auburn faculty in 2006 and served as

Olympic shooting competition later named the Tom Lowe

the interim department chair of polymer and fiber

Shooting Grounds in his honor.

engineering from 2013-15. Through a generous gift by Charles Gavin III, a 1959 textile management alumnus, and his wife, Carol Ann, the center will be located in the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory, formerly known as the Textile Engineering Building. The structure will soon be renovated to include an additive manufacturing facility that will allow students to gain experience with emerging fabrication technology, a series of hands-on student project laboratories, fully equipped traditional research laboratories, student project space and collaborative study meeting areas. 11 Auburn Engineering

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson

Looking toward the future By Jim Killian


he way John and Rosemary Brown decided to attend Auburn almost seems whimsical, although it really wasn’t. They were both students at FreedHardeman University (at that time a junior college) in Henderson, Tennessee – a small, private institution where enrollment even now is just under 2,000. John and Rosemary both applied to Auburn sight unseen. One of their good friends, Ken Fike from Jasper, Alabama, was an unabashed Auburn fan, and John and Rosemary drove down to the Plains with him (he had a car!) and they ended up as students at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The two, who first met in math class at Freed-Hardeman, took their studies seriously, and did well. 12 Auburn Engineering

John, who initially considered civil engineering, noted that he had grown up on a farm, where “we worked seven days a week and the job was never done. I was determined not to be a farmer, and that was the only kind of engineering I knew about since I had worked one summer on a road construction crew.” After taking chemistry at Freed-Hardeman, he decided on chemical engineering as a major. At Auburn, John found the chemical engineering curriculum tough and demanding. He recalls that there were about 15 to 20 students in his class, joking that there had been many more than that, “until organic chemistry drove them out.” When John and Rosemary graduated from Auburn in 1957, they both felt ready to face the world, John as a chemical engineer and Rosemary as a chemist. Later, when they lived in New Jersey, Rosemary went to Rutgers University for a master’s in math education and then began her teaching career. John went on to become CEO and chairman of the board of Stryker Corporation, a leading medical device company with annual revenue exceeding $9 billion. “People talk about the Auburn spirit,” John observes. “It’s very real. It’s profound. And that’s why people talk about it. The Auburn family is smart, dedicated, hard-working, and they care about each other, and they care about the world. Rosemary and I feel that we took that with us when we graduated from Auburn.”

faculty of the College of Engineering. As we spoke with Dean Chris Roberts and a team of Auburn development officers – Ed Lewis, Jane Parker and Rob Wellbaum – we realized that an engineering student achievement center would be an appropriate addition to the university. “It is our hope that the new student center will develop into something that is useful for all segments of the engineering community. Our real desire is that it will have a broad and encompassing benefit for all.” Will it be nice . . . to have your name on a building? “Certainly,” Rosemary says. “I think that in one sense it speaks to our commitment . . . my maiden name is Kopel, so I think it’s great that the building will be known as the Brown-Kopel Student Achievement Center. The Miller Auditorium at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo was named after an acquaintance of ours, and whenever I attend an event there I think of him – Jim Miller. It’s a personal thing for me. “At the same time, I don’t think that the vast majority of people who go to events there make that personal connection and that’s fine, there is no reason for them to do so. I feel the same way here, that while we feel so grateful to have played a small part in Auburn’s growth, the real value is that we, in a sense, have planted a tree. “One of our favorite quotes is ‘The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’ That is a guiding principle for us, and one that we hope to share with others in the Auburn family.”

Adds Rosemary, “It’s not something that’s taught, but it’s a sense that you feel. I think that you see it everywhere, even in the way our fans act at football games. I think that the Auburn family is different. It’s friendlier.” Another aspect John and Rosemary see in the Auburn spirit is the way in which Auburn alumni give of their money, their time and their service. “Auburn educated us and prepared us for life. That drives us.” Of their $57 million gift, $30 million is earmarked for the College of Engineering and the remaining balance to the university, with most of that portion for a performing arts center. “We were trying to think of something that could make an impact on both the students and the 13 Auburn Engineering

By Megan Burmester


Deon Graham has earned his nickname “The Destroyer” through his physical prowess displayed on “American Ninja Warrior.” Graham, ’09 civil engineering, was one of the contestants featured this season on the action-packed show that quickly became a fixture among households across the nation. Graham stood out from among the 50,000 individuals auditioning for the show because of his dynamic three-minute video which displayed his athleticism, training regimen and background. Working as a nuclear trained warfare officer for the Navy, Graham already had the discipline needed to be successful on the rigid course. “To prepare and condition, I did a lot of upper body training, focusing more on my body weight than traditional weightlifting,” Graham said. “I also utilized rock-climbing walls and spent time outside improving my endurance.” 14 Auburn Engineering

Once selected for the show’s special active/retired militarythemed episode, Graham flew to Long Beach, California, to film, along with 110 other contestants. Since Graham’s turn to complete the course was right in the middle of other competitors, he was able to watch their mistakes and formulate a strategy for how he could get through the course. He ended up unable to complete the entire course, but it was not a disappointment and more of a triumph. “Once I got going it was just a rush with the crowd cheering and my adrenaline pumping,” Graham said. “It honestly felt as if how a professional athlete experiences a game, with lots of cheering and support.” Graham did complete the military qualifying round and advanced to the military finals competition in San Pedro City, California. Ultimately, Graham placed 20th overall before being eliminated.

“I was most intrigued with civil engineering because I could study structural analysis, and civil is such a tangible field where you can see and touch anything,” Graham said. “I thought earning an Auburn Engineering degree would serve me well in any capacity whether I stayed in the Navy or pursued other options.” As part of the commissioning program requirements, Graham had to attend classes year round and graduate within three years, which was quite a challenge in the civil curriculum. He faced that obstacle head on, however, and is grateful to the college for the boost it has given to his career.

Photos courtesy of NBC.

“My degree has helped me solve problems, which is a large part of what I do now in my job,” Graham said. “When I’m in a ship with a reactor, I always take a methodical approach to solve challenges and my Auburn Engineering degree laid that groundwork for me.”

Graham may not have conquered it all, but he won the admiration of thousands across the country not just for how he competed, but because of his service to the nation.

Looking toward the future, endless opportunities are open to Graham, especially now because of his “American Ninja Warrior” involvement. He’s coming up on a milestone with the Navy where he can commit to 10 more years, or evaluate other options available to him. Thanks to his popularity on the show and social media, Graham has interviewed for several consulting positions with various companies. As he faces this fork in the professional road, Graham is ready to tackle his future with great optimism just like he did facing the “American Ninja Warrior” obstacle course.

Serving as a warfare officer for the Navy, Graham oversees the propulsion systems and personnel on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. In addition, he is responsible for the maintenance and operations of nuclear aircraft engineering space and keeping the reactors under his control. Graham decided to enlist in the Navy after he completed high school and served for two years, before he was selected for the commissioning program. The program pays for a student’s college education while they serve on active duty through the school’s ROTC program. Graham selected Auburn as a secondary choice, but now says it was fate that brought him to the school he grew to love. “Everything happens for a reason and as soon as I arrived at Auburn, I knew I had made the right decision and fell in love with the people and campus,” Graham said. One of Graham’s strongest subjects throughout his schooling had been mathematics and while engineering, specifically civil, was not something he knew a lot about, he thought the combination of the two could serve him well in the long run. 15 Auburn Engineering

16 Auburn Engineering

It’s my job Mary Robbins, ‘09 and ’12 civil engineering Assistant Research Professor National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University Auburn, Alabama

By Christine Riggs

Typical day . . . ranges from analyzing data, working on a report and documenting findings of an experiment, to being on-site to see the construction of pavement test sections, teaching a class, working with a graduate student, attending conferences or presenting the details of a research project. We also conduct outreach and training courses here at NCAT, so I may be presenting information to other engineers in a classroom environment. My main project, pavement preservation, has a number of sponsors and has garnered a lot interest, which means I am often answering questions or giving tours of the project site or presentations to various stakeholders. Current projects . . . my primary research project looks at different pavement preservation treatments, such as chip seals, crack sealing or thin asphalt overlays, to try to understand how much these different types of treatments can extend pavement life. We know if we maintain our cars with oil changes and rotating tires, they will last longer, so it seems intuitive that preventive maintenance will help extend the life of the pavement. However, there has not been much research in terms of quantifying the number of years that each treatment can elongate pavement life, and that’s the gap we hope to fill with this research. We are in a situation where we are no longer building roads at the rate that we once were; rather, we are left maintaining an expansive infrastructure with limited funds. This research will be beneficial to agencies in helping them make decisions about maintaining their roadways. Engineering challenge . . . my research encompasses a number of different pavement preservation treatments, and it really is the first large-scale project of its kind. We are constantly learning as we go and having to develop new methods for analyzing the data, while trying to keep it in context so we have results that can be implemented. That is always a challenge – the scale we work on and the tools and resources we have as researchers are not the same as the engineers that are putting things into practice. It is important that what we develop is something that advances our field but can be implemented on a larger scale while not being overly time consuming or costly. My Auburn Engineering . . . I had some fantastic opportunities as a graduate student at Auburn. I was fortunate to find an adviser that gave me lots of room to grow while providing me the instruction that I needed, and also granted me some unique opportunities. I was able to travel to many places — both domestic and international — as part of various research projects and to present and attend conferences. Working with my adviser and other graduate students as a team to install instrumentation in the NCAT Pavement Test Track was critical to the research we were conducting. All of these experiences helped shape me as an engineer and gain the knowledge and confidence I needed to succeed as a researcher. Adding to that was the experience I had with Engineers Without Borders, using appropriate technology to develop engineering solutions for a village high in the Andes mountains of Bolivia. That experience truly breathed life into the Auburn Creed for me. Early years . . . I wanted to be a fashion designer, which is comical considering I am far from being a fashionista now. I had to make some decisions during my senior year of high school in terms of classes, and I realized that what led me to fashion design was that I liked to take clothes and make them better — to make them fit me (I am pretty tall!) and my personality. That’s when I realized what I really liked was the problem solving. I had always enjoyed math and science, so I chatted with my physics teacher and I decided at that time to pursue engineering. Turning point . . . as an undergraduate student I enjoyed classes, but I had not found the one area of civil engineering I loved. My junior year I was a co-op student for Wright Patterson Air Force Base. One day I was out on the airfield helping lay new pavement markings for larger cargo planes that were set to arrive soon, when I watched the airmen load a C-130 with a Humvee and other supplies. That is when my mind just started spinning with questions. This cargo plane was on an asphalt apron — which instinctively when you look at asphalt you get the sense that it is flexible — but it is obviously stiff enough to carry heavy loads. So I started asking how thick the apron had to be to support a cargo plane of that size and weight, and how those decisions were made. My mentor didn’t have answers for me other than using a standard thickness based on experience. That was just not good enough for me; I needed to know more about asphalt! That experience really set things in motion for me. 17 Auburn Engineering

Taking the lead By Morgan Stashick

Auburn University has been selected to lead a national manufacturing effort on harsh environment electronics as part of a U.S. Department of Defense led flexible hybrid electronics institute. In August, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a cooperative agreement to the research consortium FlexTech Alliance to establish and manage a flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing institute called Nextflex. FlexTech Alliance, based in San Jose, California, will coordinate Nextflex, which comprises 96 companies, 11 laboratories and non-profits, 43 universities and 15 state and regional organizations. Auburn University will head the only node in the state of Alabama. Leading Auburn’s node on harsh environments is Pradeep Lall, the John and Anne MacFarlane professor of mechanical engineering and director of Auburn’s NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, or CAVE.

non-federal sources including private companies, universities, not-for-profit organizations and several states, including Alabama. “The strength of the institute will stem from the strong support and previous work of our partner organizations,” said Michael Ciesinski, CEO of FlexTech Alliance. “Auburn University’s strong work in utilizing electronics in harsh environments will lend the institute a huge advantage in the special needs for that environment. We look forward to collaborating with the excellent team there and the CAVE facility.” In addition to defense, the institute’s activities will benefit a wide range of markets including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, medical devices, health care, transportation and logistics and agriculture.

“I am pleased Auburn University is a partner in this national organization, and Dr. Lall is leading the way for its initiatives on harsh environments,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “The “This establishment will institute represents an provide engineers with innovative collaboration the integrated skills and Lall and a graduate student analyzing flexible electronics between the public and theoretical background private sectors and has the potential to make a huge for the manufacture of flexible hybrid electronics impact on our nation as we continue to embrace for extreme environment applications,” said Lall. “It advanced manufacturing.” will create intellectual property and expenditures on research, education and related activities, as well as catalyze development of technologies which can The new institute is part of the National Network be manufactured in the state. We have developed for Manufacturing Innovation program. Nextflex strategic partnerships with industry and research is the seventh manufacturing innovation institute labs in Alabama and nationally for development announced and the fifth under Department of and demonstration of technologies for harsh Defense management. The institutes are intended environment operation.” to bridge the gap between applied research and large-scale product manufacturing, and it is anticipated Auburn’s harsh environment node will The institute will be awarded $75 million in federal create technologies for the benefit of the nation’s funding over a five-year period and is being matched commercial and national defense interests. by more than $96 million in cost sharing from 18 Auburn Engineering

19 Auburn Engineering

Back to Bolivia

Back to Bolivia T

hree years ago I was asked to accompany a group of students to report on their efforts to bring sustainable engineering to a remote village in the Altiplano of the Bolivian Andes. The village, Quesimpuco, was selected in part because of its remote location and the desire by Auburn students to bring its residents a kind of engineering that used primarily local materials, tools and techniques, along with modern engineering concepts. It’s often called ‘appropriate technology.’ The outcome is to develop projects that can be serviced locally, where there is much less of an infrastructure – or to put it more plainly in the language of the students, the lack of a Walmart or Lowe’s across town. Projects that have been developed include an irrigation system that incorporates a large water tank to grow crops in the dry season; hydroponic vegetable planters to increase and extend variety in diets; and residential projects such as an evaporative cooler for refrigeration, a clothes washing machine and a wind power system to provide electricity. The experience of integrating engineering solutions into a developing community inevitably changes another thing as well: the outlook and world view of our students as they are exposed to cultures at once familiar and foreign to them. In the simplest of terms, the familiarity comes from the fact that people are people, no matter where they are or who they are. The unfamiliar aspects derive from the developing, but changing, economy of the Bolivian Andes, where so much that we take for granted is simply unavailable. 20 Auburn Engineering

By Jim Killian

So what changed in the three years since I was in the Altiplano? Starting out, the trip was much longer than the last time, mainly due to transportation. We left Atlanta on time, but there were departure delays in Miami for the seven-hour trip to La Paz, and further delays for the 12-hour ride to Quesimpuco. When we arrived late into the night, a day and a half after leaving Auburn, there was a lot of fatigue in the group. Then 10 long days at more than 12,000 feet took a toll, with oxygen intake at about 62 percent of sea level; some altitude sickness came around as well. It was amazing, though, to see students and faculty bounce back from their physical ailments and move onto the tasks at hand. People got down, but nobody stayed down. There were some changes in the country that surprised me. In the first, not insignificant, leg of the trip from La Paz to the regional hub of Oruro, the two-lane blacktops had become four good lanes. As we moved into the Altiplano closer to Quesimpuco, there were improvements in the two lane roads. Then we got into the dirt roads that made up the final leg of the trip – not much different from before. Three years ago, there were cell phones around, but seemingly, not so many. In my time away, there seems to have been a cell phone revolution, with a much higher presence, from the ubiquitous advertising on the side of the road to the places that sold phones, whether they were city stores or little booths. The advance of technology: amazing. Even in Quesimpuco, there were phones, used as much for taking selfies as for talking, of course, and a couple of small (satellite?) dishes on a house or two, and now, in town, a couple of cars and two motorcycles. In short, the technologies we take for granted

Students measure and cut mesh to hold a filtration panel used to remove silt from water valves in an irrigation field.

are now flowing into the most remote of all areas. At the same time, the measured pace and timeless ways of life still persist in this small, agricultural town. The flocks go out to pasture in the morning and return at dusk, shepherded by both men and women. The overall flow of living there seems unchanged. The kids go to school, play in the streets, and don’t really treat us like strangers. Somehow we fit into the tide of the town. But there are more houses with electricity, too. It’s changing. Not that the need is not there, perhaps no more apparent than in the irrigation project Auburn’s student engineers have been involved in during the past six years. Quesimpuco is an agrarian community, and the land around it has been farmed since Incan times. Over a period of hundreds of years they developed a system of aqueducts to water their fields, but the mountainous plots still yielded a one-crop economy. By building a storage tank fed by a reliable water source and using a PVC grid, Auburn students were able to demonstrate a more efficient, wider ranging irrigation system that holds promise for additional crops. This system has been expanded and improved over time, and the Auburn team this year showed how simple in-line valves could be installed to keep pressures within the range of the PVC pipe’s rating, while being easily replaceable with what are essentially homemade components, rather than the commercially available – and expensive – ones that we would typically use. Time and again students were reminded of the ingenuity of the local Quechuans; for instance, when team member Tom Burch, a faculty member in mechanical engineering, ran out of Teflon tape for pipe joints

he didn’t think they would be able to continue. One of the local farmers found a plastic bread wrapper and it worked just as well. It was a lesson the students had to pick up on time and again: expect the unexpected, and find something, somewhere, that will work. Maybe student Michelle Luther, a junior in chemical engineering, said it best: “It has been exhausting but amazing . . . it has been nothing like I have ever experienced – the people are so kind, faithful and generous, the landscape so breathtaking . . . it’s been amazing to do this kind of work in this kind of environment.” Or Alexandra Phillips, a senior in industrial and systems engineering, who said, “We went from getting on a plane with people we knew nothing about, to becoming a team, spending 10 days together – eating together, sleeping together and working together, and pretty much not having a second of ‘alone’ time at all, to create a kind of dynamic in which we got some real stuff done.” Auburn will continue to have a presence in the kinds of outreach activities that have characterized our half dozen years working with the Quechuans of Quesimpuco. Now that we have officially partnered with Engineers Without Borders USA, we may extend our reach beyond Bolivia to serve other areas that can benefit from the kinds of hands-on work that is so much a part of the fabric of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. It’s been said that nothing is so constant as change itself, which we take as a challenge to fit our engineering skills to the needs of those around us, wherever they may be. Bob Karcher, assistant dean for student services, who led the trip this year, is ready for the next challenge, the next adventure. We all are. 21 Auburn Engineering

minutes with Grady Cox

Interviewed by Jim Killian

Grady Cox served successful terms as dean of the School of Engineering from 1969-72, and again from 1979-80, when the college began to evolve into what it is today. He also spent several years in Auburn’s central administration as executive vice president. Cox reflects on his time at the university, and shares what life is like now as he continues to live in Auburn, the town he loves. JK: You were born in North Carolina and grew up there as well. What brought you to Auburn? GC: I was stationed in the hospital corps at Sampson Naval Station in New York in 1945 when I tested and was accepted for officer training . . . there was no room for the program at NC State, so I chose API. The only thing I knew about Auburn was that they had beaten Georgia’s powerhouse football team at some point – and that it was a co-ed school. I arrived by train and soon found myself living in Graves Center. It had been repurposed by the Navy ROTC unit, and I went to classes in full uniform. The second day there I was in a long registration line, and I asked to go into pre-med, which is what I was in at UNC Chapel Hill before I joined the Navy. They told me I had to pick a different major, one that was suitable for a line officer or an engineering officer. I didn’t have much time – I quickly told the officer in charge that I liked chemistry and I liked math . . . so he checked the box for chemical engineering, and said, “next!”

I ended up enjoying it, and after graduation and my Navy discharge from NAS New Orleans, I worked at a couple of jobs, including stints at Vitro Corporation and Southeast Sand and Gravel. In March 1949 I reentered Auburn in graduate school, first in chemical engineering but ultimately in mathematics, where I was also given an instructorship. I received my master of science in mathematics in 1950, and taught another year before accepting a job at the Air Proving Grounds at Eglin Air Force Base.

JK: Did you think that experience would represent your Auburn connection from that point out, or did you plan to return? GC: My supervisor at Eglin encouraged me to get a doctorate, so in 1953 I moved back to Chapel Hill to get a Ph.D. in math. I

22 Auburn Engineering

finished the coursework there, passed the preliminary exams and co-authored a paper with my major professor, but failed to satisfy him in terms of my dissertation. That was disappointing, and I returned to my job at Eglin with mixed emotions. Then I got a call from Floyd Smith in Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and got hired on as an associate professor there in 1958. Another turning point came when Fred Pumphrey was named as dean of engineering. My wife Jean and I came to know him well, and in fact, played bridge with him frequently. He encouraged me to go to Purdue on an NSF fellowship, where I studied for a Ph.D. in industrial engineering, and I was successful there, graduating in 1964. I returned to Auburn as head of the Department of Industrial Management, which was located in the School of Engineering.

JK: Tell us how that worked out. GC: Dean Pumphrey was on a committee charged with bringing

the School of Engineering back on course when several programs lost accreditation in 1957. Working with the Engineers’ Council for Professional Development [now ABET – Ed.] we developed a sound program in math, chemistry and physics along with a humanities core. In terms of the industrial management curriculum, we bulked up the math component and made some other changes that strengthened its base in engineering, and it became industrial engineering. We had to build a new faculty as well, and over time we did just that. I followed Pumphrey as dean in 1969 and stayed in that position until 1972; Vince Haneman came in after I did, serving six years, and then I returned as dean from 1979 through 1980.

JK: Then you went to the central administration during Hanley Funderburk’s term as president . . . GC: Yes, I served in the early ’80s as the university’s executive

vice president, during a period that was really tumultuous as far as the feeling on campus. Many faculty members were unhappy with the administration at the time. You may recall that I left that position, along with Taylor Littleton, who was then the vice president for academic affairs – it was a tough decision. I took a year’s leave of absence before I returned to Auburn in 1985, and taught until 1992. After I retired I continued a relationship with UAB until I was in my early 70s, also consulting with industrial firms. Although I still drive today, I finished up in Birmingham because I didn’t feel the need to get up at 4 a.m. on weekdays, drive two hours, and get back to the house late at night.

JK: What is the largest change that you have seen in the college over the years? GC: I think it’s important to look at the road we have traveled to becoming a major research institution. When I came to Auburn, there simply was no research. Dean Pumphrey changed that – he went to Huntsville and formed relationships with NASA and the Army Missile Command, and developed funded projects that for the first time allowed some of our faculty release time from teaching to do research. These were mission-oriented projects that didn’t result in publishing papers – but they were the baby steps that preceded just that, to the point where we now have an immensely successful research program with nationally recognized papers published by our faculty. I think it is also important that we worked hard to bring salaries up – early in my career at Auburn I remember Dean Pumphrey on more than one occasion combining two positions to pay for one engineering faculty member. When I joined the faculty, I only made half of what I was earning in industry, but I felt okay about it because we were building something from the ground up. Eventually, and thankfully, the raises came or I could not

have stayed. There were many successes over these years, such as formally moving chemical engineering into the School of Engineering as a department.

JK: What has pleased you during your time at Auburn? GC: Well, as you know, I moved in and out of administration

over the years, from the department level to the university level. My journey in upper administration was both rewarding, and to be honest, trying at times, but nothing has ever thrilled me more than teaching as a full professor. I have always enjoyed teaching, I have always enjoyed the students and I have always enjoyed the classroom. When you open the door to a student’s perception, when you see the light come on in their eyes – nothing beats it. It’s just the best job.

JK: You have impacted hundreds, even thousands of students. What is left for you now? GC: I’m enjoying myself as I approach my 89th birthday. My wife

Jean and I stay active socially – we still play bridge every week in a group of six tables – and we still get some travelling done. I have a son in the Atlanta area, and a daughter in Birmingham, so we visit them. If there is one thing that I really don’t do much of now, it’s getting out at night, so that’s a concession to the times. I have always enjoyed living in Auburn because of its location and weather, and have resisted moving elsewhere. I have had a couple of knee surgeries, and my back always reminds me that it’s there – so I have made the kinds of adjustments that need to be made. I feel grateful to have had the kinds of opportunities that I have had, and to work with students on a regular basis – nothing is more energizing.

23 Auburn Engineering

24 Auburn Engineering

By Jim Killian Mike Stallings’ steel design class – CE 4650 – was packed to capacity on an early Wednesday morning this fall. The reason: Jared Kime, who designed the structural components of Auburn’s new 200-foot stadium scoreboard, was there to talk about the process, and the back story on what it took to build college football’s largest video board.

An eight-year veteran of LBYD in structural engineering, Kime noted the old board had been in place in one form or another for 40 years, serving as both a camera platform and scoreboard. Its size was approximately 18x40 feet. Structurally, the new board, at five times the length, needed to have supports that were up to eight times stiffer than the ones used for the existing board. Because of the complexity of the subsurface area around the stadium’s south end zone, it was also necessary to install a micropile system to complement the four existing columns that held the old board in place. The micropiles consist of 46 10-inch diameter piles in six separate pile caps that fan out into the ground and are grouted 15 feet into bedrock under 35 feet of soil.

Photo courtesy of Auburn Athletics

Kime, a 2005 graduate in civil engineering, works for Birmingham-based civil and structural engineering firm LBYD, and served as the video board’s lead designer and project manager.

25 Auburn Engineering

Brad Christopher, the engineer of record and also a member of the LBYD team, noted that while the board and supporting structure create tremendous downward forces, wind forces on the board can be extreme as well. Indeed, the new board – rated to 95 miles per hour winds – is so large that it would take a huge load during normal conditions.

“This means it was necessary to create horizontal and vertical x-bracing in the steel structure to ensure that the lateral movement of the screen was consistent and would not distort the image on the screen, or damage the individual components,” Kime added. “Again, differential in the size factor of the new screen over the old one is a 435 percent increase.”

“The main concern for us is the fans’ safety. We had to account for the fact that we were building a giant sail that was not only 200 feet wide, but sat at an elevation of 200 feet,” Kime said.

Kime also spent some time describing to the class in detail how software was used in designing the structure, from the viewpoint of analysis and 3-D modeling, down to the details of how the stresses would act on the thousands of bolts holding the structure together.

“Although it is highly unlikely that anyone will be in the stadium if there are winds near 100 miles per hour, the structural integrity of the video board is hugely important to us. Some have remarked that it even looks overbuilt, but, again, the bottom line is safety,” he stressed. “We had to commit to a new 12-story structural steel tower in the center of the design to support the 50-ton video board in a way that fed the side loads to the center, as well as account for the gravity load,” he told students in the class. Although the finished video board has the characteristic of a monolithic, uninterrupted expanse, it is actually composed of 162 individual screens stitched together by the supporting structure.

Jared Kime overlooks JordanHare Stadium from inside the structure surrounding the new video scoreboard 26 Auburn Engineering

To Stallings, it was important that his class understand not only the physical aspects of engineering steel in these kinds of projects – and more than 800 tons were used – but also the project management that goes into these large-scale structures as well. A number of engineers with Auburn connections have been involved with the new video scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium: civil engineering P.E.’s Curtis Eastman and Curtis Walker from LBYD, Inc.; structural engineering P.E.’s Brad Christopher and Jared Kime, also from LYBD, Inc.; electrical engineering P.E. Charlie Conway from Conway & Owen, Inc.; and geotechnical engineering P.E. Kevin Blake from CTL, Inc. Mike Stallings is a long-time faculty member with Auburn’s Department of Civil Engineering.

Photos courtesy of AL.com

The face on the video board By Morgan Stashick

Auburn Engineering student Lucas Tribble gained instant fame during Auburn’s home football game against Mississippi State on Sept. 26, when he became the focal point on Jordan-Hare Stadium’s new 200-foot-wide video scoreboard. With a deadpan stare into the camera, Tribble held up one hand and extended his index finger – an emotionless “number one.” He did not move a muscle, and hardly blinked, as the camera stayed on him, and later came back to him for more. Fans laughed at his expression and cheered when he came on the screen. The camera shot to kids mimicking his pose. By the end of the game he was a campus celebrity known to most as “The Mustache Guy,” homage to his impressive facial hair that was front and center on the big screen. “The Mustache Guy” was quickly imprinted on a T-shirt design stating he is “The Hero We Need, Not the One We Deserve.” Football fans and students alike ask him to pose for photos, and call out to him when they see him on campus. He was in the newspaper, on the scoreboard time and time again and even a Halloween costume at the game against Ole Miss on Oct. 31. But there is more to “The Mustache Guy.” Tribble is a senior in industrial and systems engineering, and is unaffected by the newfound attention. The 6-foot-6 Montgomery, Alabama, native is instead focusing on the greater good, which was his career goal all along. After graduating this year, Tribble plans to go to seminary school to one day become a pastor and apply his engineering skills to the mission field. He currently serves as a youth minister at a church in nearby Smith’s Station, to which he is donating 25 percent of the T-shirt profits to the church’s mission budget. It seems that, like his “The Mustache Guy” alter ego, Tribble himself is also a hero we need. And we can’t wait to see what he does next.

27 Auburn Engineering

David Bevly has been

named the inaugural Bill and Lana McNair distinguished professor of mechanical engineering, where he has been a faculty member since 2001.

Joel Hayworth, formerly a research professor in civil engineering, has been appointed as an associate professor of the department’s environmental engineering group.

Saad Biaz, professor of

Pradeep Lall, director

computer science and software engineering, has been awarded a grant of $320,000 for three years from the National Science Foundation to continue his NSF and Department of Defense-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates on Smart Umanned Aerial Vehicles site at Auburn. Biaz’s REU site has been awarded more than $1.5 million from the NSF since 2003.

Bryan Chin, director of

the Materials Research and Education Center and Auburn University’s Detection and Food Safety Center, has been named the Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden professor of mechanical engineering.

John Evans, interim

director of the Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management, has been named to the Charles D. Miller chair of industrial and systems engineering, where he has served as a faculty member since 2001.

28 Auburn Engineering

of the National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environmental Electronics, has been named the John and Anne MacFarlane professor of mechanical engineering.

Jeffrey LaMondia,

assistant professor of civil engineering, and civil engineering senior Nathan Moore have been selected to receive the 2015 Fred Burggraf Award from the National Academy’s Transportation Research Board. One of the highest honors presented by TRB, the international award recognizes the year’s best research paper by researchers 35 years of age or under.

Shiwen Mao, associate

professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been named director of the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. He has also been named as the Samuel Ginn professor in conjunction with the appointment.

Daniela Marghitu,

professor of computer science and software engineering, has received the DO-IT Trailblazer Award from the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) program at the University of Washington. The program seeks to increase the success of people with disabilities.

Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, was presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Notre Dame’s graduate school. where he earned his master’s and doctorate in chemical engineering.

Anton Schindler,

director of the Highway Research Center, has been named the Mountain Spirit professor of civil engineering.

Richard Sesek has been named the Tim Cook professor of industrial and systems engineering, where he has served as a faculty member since 2009.

Puneet Srivastava,

professor of ecological engineering in the Department of Biosystems Engineering and the

Butler-Cunningham Eminent Scholar on Agriculture and the Environment in the College of Agriculture, has taken the reins of the interdisciplinary Water Resources Center at Auburn.

Steve Taylor, professor and head of biosystems engineering and director of Auburn’s Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts, has received the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ 2015 James R. and Karen A. Gilley Academic Leadership Award for his outstanding academic leadership and exemplary service to the professional society. Brian Thurow, W.

Allen and Martha Reed associate professor of aerospace engineering, was selected for the Konrad Dannenberg Educator of the Year Award presented by the Greater Huntsville Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Jorge Valenzuela, chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has been named the PhilpottWestPoint Stevens distinguished professor. Jin Wang, Walt

and Virginia Woltosz associate professor of chemical engineering, and Anthony Skjellum, director of Auburn's Cyber Research Center, received an award of nearly $245,000 from the NSF to build a testbed of chemical reactors and Internet of Things sensors to monitor and examine big data analytics and create improved control of complex systems in the next generation of smart plants.

New faculty members fall 2015 Majid Beidaghi

– Assistant professor of materials engineering – Previously served as a postdoctoral research associate at Drexel University – Ph.D.: Florida International University

Cordelia Brown – – –

Director of the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program and senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Previously served as an assistant professor in Purdue University’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and School of Engineering Education Ph.D.: Vanderbilt University

Jeremiah Davis – – –

Associate professor of biosystems engineering and director of Auburn’s National Poultry Technology Center Previously served as an associate professor at Mississippi State University Ph.D.: Iowa State University

Jasmeet Lamba – – –

Assistant professor of biosystems engineering Previously served as a postdoctoral research associate at Pennsylvania State University Ph.D.: Pennsylvania State University

Jack Montgomery – – –

Assistant professor of civil engineering Previously served as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California, Davis Ph.D.: University of California, Davis

David Scarborough – – –

Assistant professor of aerospace engineering Previously served as a senior research engineer and lab manager at Georgia Institute of Technology Ph.D.: Georgia Institute of Technology

Mark Schall – – –

Assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering Previously served as a postdoctoral research scholar at the University of Iowa Department of Occupational and Environmental Health Ph.D.: University of Iowa

Aleksandr Vinel

– Assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering – Previously served as a graduate research assistant at the University of Iowa – Ph.D.: University of Iowa

Yi Wang – – –

Assistant professor of biosystems engineering
 Previously served as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois’ Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research Ph.D.: University of Illinois 29 Auburn Engineering

And the winner is . . . Allen Reed, John Thomas, Melissa Herkt, Charlie Miller, John Smyth and Ben Charmichael


he Auburn Alumni Engineering Council

decades, she led major global capital projects for refining,

honored six alumni at its annual awards

chemicals and offshore developments around the world. As

banquet held Oct. 2. These individuals

a construction engineer, she was Exxon’s first female posted

have served as outstanding ambassadors


of Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and have

Working mostly with petrochemicals at Exxon, she switched to

made distinct contributions to the engineering profession.

pharmaceuticals as a project director with Hoffman-LaRoche,

This year, five recipients were presented with the

and later as vice president of global project management with

Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award and one was named

GlaxoSmithKline. After eight years in the pharmaceutical

Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer.

industry, Herkt moved to Austin, Texas, in 2004 to lead the Process Systems and Solutions business division of Emerson

Melissa Herkt

Process Management — overseeing 4,000 employees providing

Distinguished Auburn Engineer

process-improvement solutions. She retired in 2012 as president

Among many firsts throughout her career, Melissa Herkt was

and chief operating officer for the unit.

Auburn Engineering’s first female co-op student, spending three semesters with Alabama Power as a design engineer. She

A life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, Herkt earned

graduated with honors from Auburn in 1977 with a bachelor’s

its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015.

degree in civil engineering. Following graduation, Herkt joined

Additional recognitions for her outstanding contributions to the

Exxon Research and Engineering Company. For nearly two

engineering and construction industries include her induction

30 Auburn Engineering

into the National Academy of Construction in 2009 and the State

Allen Reed

of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2008. She also received

Distinguished Auburn Engineer

the Richard L. Tucker Leadership and Service Award in 2012 and

Allen Reed earned a bachelor’s degree in aviation management

the Construction Industry Institute’s Outstanding Implementer

in 1970 from Auburn, as well as an MBA from Georgia State

Award in 2004.

University and certification as a chartered financial analyst, one of the most recognized and respected global investment

Herkt is a member of the Auburn University Foundation

designations. Reed is the retired president and CEO of General

board of directors and a generous benefactor of the College of

Motors Investment Management Corporation and chairman of the

Engineering, establishing the Melissa Brown Herkt Endowment

General Motors Trust Bank. He was responsible for overseeing the

for scholarships in civil engineering. She is a member of the

investment activities of the GM savings and pension plans, which

Auburn Alumni Engineering Council and serves as a mentor and

was the largest U.S. corporate pension fund. Prior to joining GM

three-time member of the Engineers Without Borders’ travel team

in 1994, Reed was president of Hughes Investment Management

to Bolivia.

Co., a subsidiary of the Hughes Aircraft Company.

Charlie Miller

Reed’s distinguished reputation is evidenced by numerous

Distinguished Auburn Engineer

professional service activities. He serves as special adviser to

Charlie Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering

the financial committee of the Auburn University Foundation

from Auburn in 1980, and later completed the Wharton

board of directors and adviser for the Howard Hughes Medical

Executive Program on financial management at the University

Institute. He is the director of Legg Mason and Morgan Stanley

of Pennsylvania. He joined Brown & Root, a global engineering,

Mutual Funds and serves on the board of executives of the New

construction and services company in Houston, where he

York Stock Exchange and board of directors of the University of

served in project management positions and worked overseas in

North Carolina Endowment and Foundation Funds. Plan Sponsor


magazine named him Innovator of the Year in 2000 and awarded him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

In 1985, Miller went to work for Birmingham-based Harbert Corporation where he managed cost estimates for large

Reed and his wife, Martha, have supported Auburn University

engineering projects. As a founding partner, he played a key

with generous gifts to the Samford Society, the College

role in the company’s transformation into Harbert Management

of Engineering’s Keystone and Eagles societies and the

Corporation, a privately owned alternative asset investment firm

establishment of two endowed professorships in the college.

with approximately $4.4 billion in assets under management across 10 discrete asset classes. During his career at HMC, Miller

John Smyth

worked in several treasury and financial roles, including treasurer

Distinguished Auburn Engineer

and director of corporate acquisitions. He served as executive vice

John Smyth graduated from Auburn in 1970 with a bachelor’s

president and chief financial officer from 2002-11 and became

degree in chemical engineering and later completed an executive

executive vice president and global head of distribution. He

development program at Texas A&M in 1985. Following

currently oversees all fundraising, capital acquisition and investor

graduation, he joined Memphis-based International Paper, one

relations operations.

of the largest paper companies in the world. While at IP, Smyth rose through the ranks from an entry-level process engineer to

A dedicated alumnus of Auburn University, Miller serves on the

a mill manager, among other high-level managerial positons. In

Auburn University Foundation board of directors as chair of the

the early 90s, he was the project manager for a $300 million

investment committee, as well as the Auburn Alumni Engineering

expansion at the Riverdale Mill in Selma, Alabama. He served in

Council, and is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.

his final role as a project and start-up manager for the installation

He and his wife, Lisa, support Auburn’s 1856, Samford and Foy

of a $200 million pulp plant in Russia until his retirement in

societies and engineering’s Eagles and Keystone societies. They

2009, completing a successful and distinguished 39-year career

have also generously established an endowment to support an

with the same company.

outstanding faculty member with expertise in engineering and business practices. 31 Auburn Engineering

Smyth was named Outstanding Alumnus by the Department

contract for NASA, which included the development of an

of Chemical Engineering in 2005. In addition to his service

advanced solid rocket motor. Following his work at Lockheed,

on the engineering council, Smyth is a member of the

Thomas became a member of Lee and Associates, LLC, where

Auburn Pulp and Paper Foundation and founding member

he has served for the past 15 years as a mentor and consultant

of the Alabama Center for Paper and Biosource Engineering.

for NASA and the aerospace industry.

He enjoys keeping the paper industry’s business activities in the forefront of the college’s academic programs. Each

In addition to his extensive professional success, Thomas

time he visits campus for council or foundation meetings, he

is engaged in the community through both his time and

devotes a great amount of his time mentoring students and

philanthropic involvement. He is a member of the Auburn

sharing his insights about the industry.

Alumni Association, has presented lectures to aerospace engineering design classes and generously contributed to the

Smyth and his wife, Melanie, have established an endowed

engineering gift fund. He is the recipient of the Department of

scholarship in chemical engineering. They support the

Mechanical Engineering’s 1987 Outstanding Alumni Award.

college’s Keystone Society, as well as Auburn University’s

He and his wife, Sara, are in several community outreach and

Samford Society, and are engaged in numerous community

church activities. Thomas is a command pilot for Mercy Flight

service and church activities.

Southeast and Sara is a retired nurse. Together, they provide emergency transportation to economically disadvantaged

John Thomas

patients at no cost to passengers throughout the Southeast.

Distinguished Auburn Engineer John Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical

Ben Carmichael

engineering from Auburn in 1960. He led an exemplary

Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer

career with NASA in numerous key engineering positions.

Ben Carmichael earned two Auburn degrees: a bachelor’s

His first assignment was as a lead test facility engineer

in electrical engineering in 2000 and master’s in chemical

working on rocket engines for the Saturn IB launch vehicle.

engineering in 2005. He earned his professional engineer

He then served as a lead systems engineer on the nation’s

license in 2005. For the past two years, Carmichael has

first space station called Skylab, from its development,

served as the nuclear fuel supply lead for Southern Nuclear

its launch from the Kennedy Space Center and flight

Operating Company where he manages the procurement,

operations at the Johnson Space Flight Center.

strategy, budget and analysis of nuclear fuel for Southern Company’s reactor fleet.

When the tragic Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred in 1986, Thomas led the accident investigation, initializing

Carmichael joined Southern Company nearly a decade ago

redesign and recertification of the solid rocket motor,

and has worked in a variety of positions including system

the cause of the Challenger explosion. Later, after his

planning, fleet operations and fuel services in Southern

team successfully redesigned the motor and returned the

Company Generation, a business unit that manages the

shuttle to flight, the Orbiter returned with a new issue —

operation of 73 fossil and hydro plants for Southern Company.

severely damaged thermal protection tiles that protect

He has also worked as a civil engineer for Southern Nuclear

the vehicle during reentry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Operating Company at the Farley Nuclear Plant. Before

Once again, Thomas was called upon to oversee the team

joining Southern Company, Carmichael was an estimator and

as they determined the debris that damaged the tile and

assistant project manager for Brasfield & Gorrie in Raleigh,

recommended solutions to prevent future damage.

North Carolina.

After a productive career with NASA, Thomas joined

He is dedicated to Auburn and understands the importance of

Lockheed Space Operations at the Kennedy Space Center

engaging the college’s young alumni. He is a charter member

as vice president and site director. Later, he became vice

of the Auburn Engineering Young Alumni Council and served

president and general manager of a multifaceted service

as the board’s first chair from 2013 to 2015.

32 Auburn Engineering

33 Auburn Engineering

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