Samuel Ginn College of Engineering Fall 2017 Magazine

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uburn A E N G I N E E R I N G

Celebrating women in engineering


President Leath The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is pleased to welcome Steven Leath, Auburn University’s 19th president. Prior to arriving at Auburn, Leath served for more than five years as president of Iowa State University, one of the nation’s top research institutions with an international reputation in science and technology. While he was president, Iowa State achieved its highest student graduation rate, lowered student debt, grew research expenditures, set fundraising records and secured the university’s largest private gift for an academic facility. He also led efforts for the 200-acre expansion of ISU’s research park, creating new jobs and attracting new companies, industry partnerships and government collaborations. Leath served at three universities in teaching, research and economic development posts en route to his positions at Iowa State and Auburn. He was vice president for research and sponsored programs for the 16-campus University of North Carolina system. Under his leadership, external research grants and contracts steadily increased and technology transfer activities were streamlined to make the universities more attractive to private sector partners and more responsive to state needs. He also helped develop the North Carolina Research Campus, a private-public venture that fosters advancements in biotechnology, nutrition and health. At North Carolina State University in Raleigh, Leath held several positions of increasing responsibility and prominence. Those positions included director of the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (ARS), associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, professor, and research leader and plant pathologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ARS. Leath began his academic career at the University of Illinois as an extension plant pathologist. He holds a B.S. in plant science from Pennsylvania State University, M.S. in plant science from the University of Delaware and Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of Illinois. He assumed his role as Auburn University president on June 19.

From the dean Not long after I became dean I found a friend in Melissa Herkt, a 1977 civil engineering graduate who has a track record of accomplishment that has literally taken her around the world. I am happy to say she finally landed in Auburn, and has translated her energy and business acumen into a strong relationship with the College of Engineering, Auburn University, and Auburn Softball, hopefully in that order. Because there’s a story on her elsewhere in this magazine, I won’t say much more here. But there is one thing I want to mention – when she graduated from civil, she was one of only three women in the class. This never bothered her, but as dean, it’s a concern for me, and I am happy to report that we not only have many more women enrolled in classes and graduating – but we have also hired new faculty in civil such as Lauren Beckingham, Frances O’Donnell and Marta Miletić, as well as Adriana Vargas-Nordcbeck at our National Center for Asphalt Technology. They are not only excellent teachers and researchers, but role models as well. I want our readers to know that we are working hard to raise the profile of women students – and faculty – in Auburn Engineering. In addition to student groups such as the Society of Women Engineers, we have also seen our 100+ Women Strong program, which seeks to recruit, retain and reward women students, ramp up in the past few years to where it is now a significant force in meeting our goals. As well, for the first time in the college’s history, we celebrated the induction of an awards class at the fall meeting of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council that honored more women than men as Distinguished Auburn Engineers. Inducted this year were former astronaut Jan Davis, bridge builder Linda Figg and Cindy Green, who served as president of one of DuPont’s core businesses. All of these taken together are part of a sea change that is moving our college ahead in the recruitment, retention, hiring and recognition of women engineers. It’s a fitting testament to an event being celebrated throughout Auburn University this year – 125 years of women in our academic community. We are thrilled to be a part, and look to even greater inclusivity as we move to the future. War Eagle!

Christopher B. Roberts



Fall 2017 Volume 27, Issue 2 DEAN Christopher B. Roberts

From the dean Message from Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering


Happenings A snapshot of some recent accomplishments in and around the college


Micro machines The Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center is at the forefront of research on microelectronics and nanotechnology



EDITOR Austin Phillips

Reaching for the stars Jenna Klemkowsky, doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering, hopes to be the seventh astronaut in university history

Breath of fresh air Beverly Banister, ’83 chemical engineering, defied the odds to climb the ladder to success

CONTRIBUTORS Chris Anthony Christine Hall Carol Nelson GRAPHIC DESIGN Katie Haon WEB MANAGER Tyler Patterson PHOTOGRAPHY Jim Killian Marcus Kluttz Austin Phillips Tiensae Teshome Visit Auburn Engineering online at for videos, photos and more. You may also submit news items, suggestions or comments by clicking the Contact Us tab. Auburn Engineering is published twice yearly by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Engineering Communications and Marketing c/o Editor 1320 Shelby Center Auburn, AL 36849 334.844.2444 © 2017 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer.

Celebrating women in engineering As the university marks the 125th anniversary of women at Auburn, we stop to celebrate our pioneers of the past and leaders of tomorrow




Ingénieur exceptionnel Amber Jackson, a junior double majoring in computer science and French, finds comfort in helping others

Family tradition Emily Traylor, ’10 wireless engineering, is giving back to honor her family roots

Strength in numbers Marta Miletić, civil engineering assistant professor, is one of three new female faculty members in the department

Renaissance woman Melissa Herkt, ’77 civil engineering, has traveled the world over through her illustrious career and service to others


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It’s my job Will Bates, ’14 double major in electrical and computer engineering and computer science, is putting his love of electronics and fishing to work


5 minutes with Ashley Gann, ’05 aerospace engineering and meteorologist at CBS 42 in Birmingham, is proving that all engineers aren’t created equal


Band aid Pradeep Lall, director of the CAVE3 Electronics Research Center, shares his research on life-saving wearable electronics


Faculty highlights Our dynamic faculty exemplifies excellence and innovation through cutting-edge research, instruction and outreach


The award goes to . . . The Auburn Alumni Engineering Council honored five alumni as Distinguished Auburn Engineers, one as an Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer and one for Superior Service to the college


Happenings Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center future site

Broun Hall

Gavin Laboratory

Getting closer After months of demolition and site preparation, contractors began work on the highly anticipated 142,000-square-foot Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center in September. The building is scheduled to open in May 2019. Meanwhile, renovations to Broun Hall with the creation of the Davidson Pavilion are wrapping up. The project will be completed in December. The Gavin Laboratory, formerly known as the Textile Building, project is moving along, with renovations scheduled to be completed in April 2018.

New tools of the trade

Researchers from GAVLAB in Port Huron, Michigan.

International platooning The college joined the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center in October to conduct a live demonstration of autonomous vehicle technology traveling across the border between the U.S. and Canada. The capabilities of truck platoons were showcased traveling down Interstate 69, going east across the Blue Water Bridge connecting Port Huron with Ontario before returning to the U.S. The demonstration was conducted in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Transportation. Auburn’s two Peterbilt 579 trucks led the mixed convoy of commercial and military trucks using autonomous platooning software developed by a research group led by David Bevly, director of Auburn University’s GPS and Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory and professor of mechanical engineering. Truck platooning links two or more trucks using vehicle-to-vehicle wireless communications technology and sensors that allow them to maintain a set, close distance between each other automatically. Truck platooning generates tremendous returns in terms of increased fuel efficiencies, decreased traffic congestion and improved safety for both commercial and military applications.

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Materials engineering faculty Tony Overfelt and Bart Prorok have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for their additive manufacturing research. Their research study, “Layer-by-Layer X-ray Computed Tomography of Additive Manufacturing,” will examine the use of X-ray computed tomography, also known as a CT scan, as a means to inspect metal components created through 3-D printing techniques. While more manufacturers are using additive manufacturing to produce high-value components with complex designs, they face challenges of inspecting these components to assess their metallurgical quality and dimensional integrity. Through their research study, Overfelt and Prorok plan to advance metallurgical and metrological inspection capabilities for additive manufacturing of metals and provide reliable quality assurance capabilities for manufacturers in Alabama and around the nation.


Davis to head new Center for Occupational Safety, Ergonomics and Injury Prevention

Umphress named director of Auburn Cyber Research Center David Umphress, COLSA Corporation Cyber Security and Information Assurance Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, has been named director of the Auburn Cyber Research Center. Umphress has been a member of the Auburn faculty since 1999. His career spans nearly 40 years in various software and systems engineering capacities in academic, military and industrial settings, and his areas of expertise include software engineering, cyber security and mobile device development. In 2013, he received the Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching from the university. He has been named Outstanding Instructor five times by his department, and he received the William Walker Teaching Award in 2008. Umphress earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Angelo State University and his master’s and doctorate in computer science from Texas A&M University. The Auburn Cyber Research Center integrates cutting-edge engineering technology with research to develop innovative methods of protecting the nation’s cybersecurity. The center’s mission is to excel in cyber research, development, education, policy and practice, with the goal of becoming a nationally recognized research and development center making a strategic impact on the community, state, region and country.

Auburn University has established a new interdisciplinary center in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. The Center for Occupational Safety, Ergonomics and Injury Prevention is housed in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and focuses on improving quality of life and economic development in the state and region through the training of graduate students in fields related to worker and public safety. Jerry Davis, Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden Professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, has been named as the center’s director. The program has operated for nearly 40 years as a component of one of 18 educational research centers funded nationwide by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to train graduate students in occupational safety, ergonomics, human factors, industrial hygiene and occupational health nursing. Currently, the center’s interdisciplinary work is primarily with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, but projects are taking place on campus that bring together researchers from mechanical and biosystems engineering, computer science, psychology, kinesiology, pharmacy, nursing and others.

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Honoring pioneers John Brown and Rosemary Kopel Brown, ’57 chemical engineering and chemistry, respectively, were awarded honorary doctorates of science during spring graduation ceremonies in May. The Browns were among 3,653 university graduates, including 580 from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, that were awarded degrees during the five main graduation ceremonies in the spring. John retired from Stryker, a globalleading medical technology company, as its president, CEO and chairman of the board. There, he took the company public and increased revenue from $17 million in 1976 to more than $10 billion today. Rosemary retired as a mathematics teacher, a position she

Former university President Jay Gogue with Rosemary and John Brown.

held for almost 30 years, impacting hundreds of students along the way. Benefactors of the highly anticipated Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center, the Browns have supported scholarships and programs within engineering, sciences

and mathematics, performing arts and veterinary medicine for nearly four decades. The Browns also have endowed an eminent scholar chair in the Department of Chemical Engineering and the first endowed eminent scholar chair in the College of Sciences and Mathematics.

From left, Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University President Steven Leath, Alabama Sen. Tom Whatley, Alabama Rep. Joe Lovvorn, NCAT Director Randy West and Ron Sines, chairman of the NCAT board of directors.

Standard of excellence Auburn University’s National Center for Asphalt Technology was recognized in July with resolutions from the Alabama Legislature commending the institution’s 30 years of service to the state. Sen. Tom Whatley and Rep. Joe Lovvorn, both of Auburn, sponsored the resolutions and presented the 6 | Auburn Engineering

documents during NCAT’s Board of Directors summer meeting held at its facility in Auburn Technology Park South. NCAT regularly brings in millions of dollars of sponsored research projects to Auburn University each year and

has an annual economic impact of more than $125 million on Alabama. Auburn’s civil engineering curriculum was also recognized for its nearly 150 years of improving the state’s transportation network through education, research and outreach.


$4.7 million grant to prepare cybersecurity professionals Auburn University has been awarded a $4.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation to help address a shortage of public sector cybersecurity professionals. The award is part of NSF’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program that provides students with scholarships and stipends to fund their education in a cybersecurity field in return for service to a government agency after graduation. A longtime participant in the program, Auburn plans to use the new grant to expand its involvement in recruiting students from underrepresented populations and raise cybersecurity awareness in Alabama communities. Auburn’s program is open to undergraduate and graduate students studying computer science, software engineering, computing engineering, wireless engineering or electrical engineering. The program is overseen by David Umphress, the COLSA Corporation Cyber Security and Information Assurance Professor and director of the Auburn Cyber Research Center, and Dean Hendrix, associate professor of computer science and software engineering.

Elite 8 GE has chosen Auburn University as one of only eight universities from around the world to participate in the GE Additive Education Program. Auburn has received the state-ofthe-art Concept Laser MLAB 100R metal printer as part of the program, which will support ongoing research and education initiatives in additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing. A GE advisory group composed of engineers and additive manufacturing specialists chose Auburn out of more than 250 applicants because of its established additive manufacturing curriculum and extensive research initiatives within the college. Through the program, GE is investing $8 million over five years to provide up to 50 metal additive machines to higher education institutions around the world. The printers are valued at $250,000 each.

All-American doctor Gregg Carr, ’85 civil engineering, and former Auburn defensive back Buddy McClinton, ’70 business administration, are two candidates for the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2018 Class. Carr, a first-team All-American linebacker in 1984, had 453 tackles during his Auburn career, which ranks second in team history. A 2008 Alabama Sports Hall of Fame inductee and member of the 2010 SEC Legends class, Carr was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1985 and played four seasons in the NFL before giving up football for medicine. An orthopedic surgeon in his hometown of Birmingham, Carr received the NCAA’s Silver Anniversary Award in 2010 for his professional and civic contributions. The 2018 class, consisting of 11 to 13 players from among 75 Bowl subdivision and 98 divisional candidates, will be announced on Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta before the College Football Playoff National Championship.

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LAUNCHing commercialized research Five Auburn Engineering researchers have been recognized for their research that could impact the economy of the state and region. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development recently presented the researchers with funding from LAUNCH: The Fund for Research and Innovation to help move their research to the marketplace. Associate professor Robert Ashurst and Alumni Professor Virginia Davis, both from the Department of Chemical Engineering, are commercially developing cellulose nanocrystal microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS, devices to deliver low cost, high sensitivity bio-sensing. Professor David Beale, professor emeritus Roy Broughton and doctoral candidate Austin Gurley, all in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, are using shape memory alloy servo actuators to improve mobility in robots. “Researchers in the College of Engineering are conducting pioneering research that goes beyond the theoretical; it has a tangible impact by improving our quality of life and fostering increased economic competitiveness,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering. “Our enterprising faculty and students are a major reason why Auburn Engineering is a national leader in engineering education and research.”

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Game, set, match An Auburn inventor and a team of entrepreneurs are marketing a product that will be good news to tennis players with backaches the world over. Tennibot is the brainchild of Haitham Eletrabi, who earned his doctorate in civil engineering and an MBA at Auburn. Tennibot is being billed as the world’s first robotic tennis ball collector. It took more than a year for Eletrabi and a team of six to work out the design requirements. Tennibot uses sensors, computer vision and algorithms to detect, locate and collect tennis balls. Using a fisheye camera, it panoramically scans the court. The Tennibot’s on-board computer analyzes the information collected, and it moves toward the ball. Haven Barnes, senior in software engineering, was involved in the design. According to Barnes, one

hang-up was the algorithm, which involved compiling data for the device. For the Tennibot camera to locate the tennis ball, the team had to make thousands of pictures duplicating multiple variables – light, shade, nighttime, daytime – so the computer could recognize conditions. The device can work up to five hours on a single charge, and can collect up to 70 balls. Over time it becomes more familiar with the player’s hitting pattern. Using an app, the owner can specify locations for the Tennibot to scan or tell it to pick up every ball on the court. It then autonomously begins roaming the court in search of tennis balls. The app also keeps track of how many tennis balls are collected. Tennibot is currently taking reservations for orders online at The device should be available later this year at a projected price of $900.


Branching out The Birmingham chapter of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers has established a scholarship to support students in the newly established Auburn branch. Representatives from the Birmingham chapter recently toured facilities in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and awarded the first two scholarships to Ford Gibbes and Morgan Price, both juniors in mechanical engineering. Each scholarship is for $1,000. Auburn’s ASHRAE branch was established early in 2017 and is open to all engineering students whose scholarly interests include heat transfer, thermodynamics, thermal systems, energy and the environment.

Getting the shot The branch’s president is Andrea Bigi, doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering. Lorenzo Cremaschi, associate professor of mechanical engineering, advises Auburn’s ASHRAE branch. ASHRAE is a global professional organization whose members serve as engineers in the fields of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration.

Graduate leads K-12 robotics into the future Mechanical engineering graduate Tj Nguyen is working toward his master’s degree while serving as assistant director of the newly established Southeastern Center of Robotics Education, or SCORE. Nguyen says he has a powerful ambition: to increase the abilities of Alabama schoolchildren in STEM and dramatically improve their achievement scores. The only center of its kind in the country, SCORE is designed to more effectively develop and deliver robotics education to K-12 students and teachers. The program centralizes the

robotics education activities already underway in Auburn Engineering, the College of Sciences and Mathematics, and the Auburn University Aviation Center, providing a mechanism for growth in the area of robotics education outreach. “We work with classroom teachers on their professional development as they learn how to use robotics and engineering in more traditional science and math classrooms,” Nguyen said. “We also host student robotics competitions to provide some context for the students to practice engineering design.”

A research team led by Brian Thurow, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and W. Allen and Martha Reed Professor, has been awarded a $1.1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a single-camera imaging system capable of capturing high-speed and 3-D measurements in practical flow fields. Thurow’s lab developed a prototype that has been demonstrated as a simple, robust and effective 3-D imaging system. The grant will help researchers develop the hardware and software of the technology, which allows them to capture all the information they need in one snapshot, using just one piece of equipment. Other researchers involved in the project include David Scarborough and Vrishank Raghav, also of the Department of Aerospace Engineering, Stanley Reeves of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Pavlos Vlachos of the Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering. Thurow said the technology would allow them to expand their research beyond aerospace to other areas including biomedical engineering and cardiovascular fluid mechanics.

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Happenings From left, Randolph Winter, Anne Wooldridge, Elizabeth Lipke and Fred Caldwell.

Not horsing around with healing A collaborative research program involving Auburn Engineering and the College of Veterinary Medicine is developing a procedure to heal distal limb wounds in horses through stem cell therapy. Adequate blood flow to a wound is vital to the healing process. Horses tend to sustain severe cuts and other serious wounds in the distal area – the leg region below the knee and hock. Because the distal area is mostly bone and tendon, it does not contain much muscle to carry blood to the wound to promote healing. Through the partnership, researchers have developed a promising way

toward a feasible wound healing treatment procedure. “The engineered biomaterials are hydrogels that we are developing in our lab,” said Elizabeth Lipke, the Mary and John H. Sanders associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. “They protect and hold these cells together to ensure that they reach their target and remain intact in order to form the type of regenerative cell desired.” The team is analyzing its research data and preparing for next steps. They hope, ultimately, to develop a medical treatment that is commonly available to the equine industry.

A great run Because This is Auburn – A Campaign for Auburn University will come to a close Dec. 31 with both the university and the college surpassing its goals. As of Nov. 1, the college has raised $235 million, surpassing its $200 million goal. The college raised $17.9

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million in FY 2016-17, surpassing its $14.5 million goal. Funds raised during this campaign will support student scholarships, programs, faculty and facilities.

Lall and Deshpande

Top honors Shantanu Deshpande, doctoral candidate in mechanical engineering, won the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ 2017 Electronic and Photonic Packaging Division student member of the year award. The award recognizes a current student who has excelled in research and has shown promise to be a strong contributor in the field of electronic and photonic packaging. Only one student is selected every year for this national award. After earning his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Pune University, Deshpande came to Auburn for his doctoral studies in 2012. He is working on reliability of electronic packaging in the Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics under the direction of Pradeep Lall, the John and Anne MacFarlane Professor of mechanical engineering.


From left, NCAT Postdoctoral Researcher Fan Gu, Sinyue Senior Advisor Bin Wang, NCAT Director Randy West, Sinyue President Shuihui Wu, Sinyue Senior Advisor James Luo and NCAT Associate Research Professor Nam Tran.

Partners in innovation Auburn University’s National Center for Asphalt Technology and Jiangsu Sinyue Asphalt Co. of China recently established a 10-year research and development agreement focused on advancing cost-effective and sustainable asphalt pavement practices in China and throughout the world. NCAT researchers will provide support in developing innovative asphalt

technologies, training programs and workshops to foster technological advancements involving high percentages of reclaimed asphalt pavement, cold asphalt recycling, highly modified asphalt binders and asphalt pavement preventive maintenance and rehabilitation. SINYUE will finance the program, which will include building a new

facility in Jiangsu Province and purchasing new testing equipment. In turn, NCAT engineers will travel to China for up to three months each year to provide leadership and technical expertise, while SINYUE employees will receive training each year at the NCAT facility located in the Auburn Technology Park.

Feeling the SonarBeat Two graduate students and their faculty advisor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center were recently recognized for their demonstration of the ‘SonarBeat’ vital sign monitoring system at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Conference on Sensing, Communication and Networking, or IEEE SECON. Xuyu Wang, Runze Huang and Shiwen Mao earned the Best Demo Award for their project titled “SonarBeat: Sonar Phase for Breathing Beat Monitoring with Smartphones.” The technology, which has applications in health care, disaster recovery and even drowsy driving detection, is a contact-free system, which uses the transmittal of wireless signals to monitor respiration and heart rates. Mao, director of the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center and Samuel Ginn Endowed Professor, said the team’s next step is to pursue collaborations for testing the technology with researchers in industry or medical schools.

New year, new look Prior to the beginning of the fall semester, the college unveiled its redesigned website. The new design shifts the focus from a news platform toward student recruitment and interest. Users will notice a video tour of campus when the page loads, giving visitors to the site and prospective students a glimpse of what the best studentcentered engineering experience in America is all about. The new platform also offers a more user-friendly site navigation mainframe and a better mobile experience with added accessibility enhancements. Be sure to visit Auburn Engineering | 11


Micro machines BY CHRIS ANTHONY

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he advent of the integrated circuit more than 50 years ago revolutionized the electronics industry, ushering in an era of rapid advancement in computing. In the intervening half century, we now have smartphones in our pockets that are more powerful than the earliest computers. Since then, there has been a race to make these microchips smaller while achieving more computing power with lower costs and lower power dissipation. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted early on that the number of transistors – the miniature electronic components that amplify or switch electric

Mike Hamilton, director of the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center at Auburn University and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

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signals in microchips – would double on integrated circuits approximately every two years. Moore’s law, as it is known, has held true. But engineers are beginning to reach the limit of how far they can scale down the transistors in integrated circuits with silicon technology, which has dominated the industry for so long. Researchers are exploring other materials and methods that may be better suited toward advancing micro and nanoscale electronics technology. “We’re really reaching the end of the scaling predicted in Moore’s law,” said Mike Hamilton, director of the Alabama Micro/Nano

Science and Technology Center at Auburn University and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Researchers in the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center are working to scale a little bit further, develop more efficient devices for computing systems and compute faster with less power. We’re also looking at new materials, devices and technologies altogether to be able to do something that’s parallel to that. That’s called More Than Moore or Beyond Moore technologies.” Since its establishment in 1984, the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center has been at the forefront of research on microelectronics and


nanotechnology. Its researchers have worked closely with government and industry over the years to address applied research in addition to the theoretical research it conducts.

transistors just don’t function quite like they are supposed to,” said Mark Adams, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We’re certainly getting to that point.”

With silicon-based technologies, engineers are able to scale down transistors to nanoscale dimensions. This year, electronic companies such as Samsung and Apple have begun using transistors in their products as small as 10 nanometers – multiple orders of magnitude smaller than a human hair. However, engineers can only scale down this technology so far.

Researchers are looking beyond silicon to other types of materials to extend integrated circuits down to smaller and smaller geometries while achieving superior computing power.

“Eventually, we start to run into quantum mechanical effects where

Masoud Mahjouri-Samani, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is one of the researchers exploring alternate materials for integrated circuits. Many engineered atomicallythin two-dimensional materials

show great promise for the next generation of electronics with properties well-beyond conventional 3-D counterparts. Mahjouri-Samani is working on a new class of atomically thin 2-D materials known as metal chalcogenides, which include tungsten ditelluride, molybdenum diselenide, gallium sulfide and others. The combination of these 2-D materials has the potential to create a new paradigm in nextgeneration transparent and flexible quantum electronics, photonics, optoelectronics and sensing devices. The 2-D materials can be synthesized through processes such as chemical vapor deposition

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and metal organic chemical vapor deposition, but MahjouriSamani prefers using laser-based techniques to synthesize, process and make hybrid structures with these materials. He believes that the spatial, temporal and spectral tunability properties of lasers give him the power to control the synthesis processes more accurately. “This is a big class of materials and only a few of them have been synthesized so far,” MahjouriSamani said. “They exist in a bulk form, but they do not exist in a single layer form, so to unleash their potential you have to synthesize them first. However, there are many challenges. For instance, how can we grow them as large as possible to make large-scale crystalline monolayers and how do we directly integrate them into different platforms?” Aside from using different materials in integrated circuits, Auburn researchers are also exploring entirely different types of electronic systems for computing. Hamilton’s research group is studying superconducting electronics, as opposed to the traditional semiconducting silicon platforms. “It’s a totally different method of storing and moving information, allowing us to evolve from something like a transistor to a device called a Josephson junction, and constructing integrated circuits based on superconducting devices,” Hamilton said. “You then get the advantages with superconducting circuits of having lossless elements,

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very low power dissipation and very high-speed operation.” By utilizing new materials and superconducting circuits, researchers hope to open the door for quantum computing systems. Unlike classical computing systems, quantum computing can employ phenomena found in quantum physics, such as quantum superposition and quantum entanglement, to process information in new ways using quantum bits, or qubits. Once quantum computing systems are perfected, researchers believe they will be able to solve problems that classical computers never could. “With quantum computing, we’re going to be able to make incredibly powerful computers that just put our classical computers to shame for certain types of computational problems,” Hamilton said. The Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center’s work goes far beyond finding new materials for integrated circuits and developing alternate computing architectures. In his Sensors, Transducers, Optics, Research and Modeling Laboratory, Adams conducts research in the area of fabrication, integration and packaging of microelectronic systems. His research runs the gamut from ensuring an environmental sensor probe can operate at 50,000 feet to developing a contact lens with microelectromechanical systems, or MEMs, to diagnose traumatic brain injury.



“A lot of my work is solving usability problems,” Adams said. “We’re not necessarily building a chip that sits in a computer. We’re trying to build devices that are flexible and wearable, so there’s still a huge challenge on the usability side of that. There are also reliability challenges in getting a specific device to function at a really high g-force or really high temperatures. There’s a lot of engineering that has to be done in order to accommodate that.” From developing the next generation of integrated circuits to the development of quantum computing and beyond, the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center’s researchers are conducting leading research in these areas. “I’m really proud to say that we have a large number of highquality faculty here at Auburn working across these different areas whether they are in electrical and computer engineering, computer science, physics or another STEM-related department,” Hamilton said. “We have strong research groups, and our topnotch facilities and equipment are able to support pioneering research in microelectronics and nanotechnology.”

Visit Auburn Engineering online at for video and photos of this story


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$44 million engineering facility to transform student experience Thanks to the largest gift in university history from 1957 graduates John and Rosemary Brown, the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering broke ground in early February on the three-story, 142,000-square-foot Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center. This state-of-the-art facility, located on the former site of the Engineering Shops and L Building, will build on our vision of providing the best student-centered engineering experience in America through high-contact initiatives, programs and collaborative learning areas.

John and Rosemary Brown

ƒƒ Design and Innovation Center ƒƒ Professional Development and Corporate Relations Suite ƒƒ Academic Excellence Program Suite ƒƒ Tutoring and Learning Suite ƒƒ Academic Advising Suite ƒƒ Recruitment and Scholarship Suite ƒƒ 40+ Study Areas and Computer Clusters

Study Areas

ƒƒ Flexible Classrooms

Design and Innovation Center

The best student-centered engineering experience in America! Learn more about the project at

As the university marks the 125th anniversary of women at Auburn, we stop to celebrate our pioneers of the past who have left their mark as engineers while also celebrating those leaders of tomorrow who are paving their own way.

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Reaching for the stars BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS

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Five Minutes With

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enna Klemkowsky first became interested in math and science when she was in elementary school in Morgantown, West Virginia, but it was during an exciting camp just two hours away at the Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University that she discovered her calling in life. “My love for STEM grew when I first went to space camp in elementary school,” said Klemkowsky, doctoral candidate in aerospace engineering. “Just spending that whole week immersed in the different missions and activities they involved us in with science really sparked my interest.” It was then she knew she wanted to be an aerospace engineer. “Engineering has always been my career path mainly because it’s a way to apply all of that science and math, and I like having a problem and being able to solve it using real world solutions,” she said. Klemkowsky returned to Wheeling Jesuit as an undergraduate student, was a member of the university soccer team and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s in physics. When it came time to decide on a graduate program, a university more than 700 miles away came calling. “I fell in love with Auburn the minute I got here,” Klemkowsky said. “They flew me down here for a visit and I immediately knew

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this was a family built around supporting its students.” She earned her master’s in aerospace engineering in 2016 and anticipates earning her doctorate in the same discipline in 2019. Her research under the guidance of Department of Aerospace Engineering Chair Brian Thurow focuses on different flow visualization techniques using a plenoptic camera, which has the ability to record 3-D information in a single image. “Having an advisor like Dr. Thurow pushing us in all aspects of our life, whether it’s conducting research or communicating those findings, is the complete package and the perfect fit for what you want in a graduate education,” Klemkowsky said. While Thurow has been impressed with her research and everything she brings to the classroom, he is even more inspired by her intangible qualities and limitless possibilities for the future. “In addition to her technical accomplishments, one aspect of Jenna’s education that I am particularly excited about is her potential to be a leader, both in my laboratory and the overall scientific community. Jenna has the charisma, ambition and intellect to inspire and motivate those around her. Her personality is warm and friendly making those around her comfortable, but the example that she sets is one that values scholarship, hard work and persistence,” Thurow said.

“Based on these characteristics, I believe Jenna has the potential to be a natural leader, inspiration and role model to the next generation of students interested in STEM disciplines.”

FOLLOWING IN FOOTSTEPS While Klemkowsky has been blessed with dedicated mentors, she has also been inspired by those who have come before her. Catherine Johnson is a mathematician who calculated the trajectories of many early NASA missions, was the first AfricanAmerican woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University and was a central figure in the Academy Award-nominated film “Hidden Figures.” “She is an incredible woman from West Virginia, and sharing that connection piqued my interest to learn more about her,” Klemkowsky said. “Having interned at NASA Langley, I feel I have a closer connection to her research and passion now. I have great admiration for her.” Sandy Magnus, former NASA astronaut, has also served as an inspiration. Like Klemkowsky, Magnus played soccer during her undergraduate years and earned a bachelor’s in physics. “Her career path is similar to mine, and I relate to her through my educational goals,” Klemkowsky said. “She is an inspiration to what I

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want to do in the future, and I really aspire to be like her.” Klemkowsky has also found a group of mentors through the college’s 100+ Women Strong program. Established in 2012, 100+ Women Strong assists the college through programs aimed at recruiting, retaining and rewarding Auburn women in engineering. She was the inaugural recipient of its fellowship in 2015. “I am thankful there is already a core group in the college willing to support women in engineering. It’s so great to have role models to learn from who have paved the way for us at Auburn University,” she said. “It’s a really great opportunity to make those connections with those who have been here before. It allows us to create these bonds that are so crucial for career success. It’s so important for women in engineering to support other women in engineering, and it’s something I know I’m going to do when I graduate.”

Based on these characteristics, I believe Jenna has the potential to be a natural leader, inspiration and role model to the next generation of students interested in STEM disciplines.

Brian Thurow, Chair, Department of Aerospace Engineering

students in the College of Engineering,” she said. “Interacting within different departments on both the social and academic level is a really great way to build those connections and build that Auburn Family.”

In addition to her work with class, research, internships and teaching, Klemkowsky somehow finds the time to do even more.

Outside of her work with CEGS, Klemkowsky has also been an active member of the college’s Engineers Without Borders chapter. She serves as the team lead for the Rwanda group, having traveled to the village of Kabaya twice. As part of the trips, student-led teams work with locals to provide communities with sustainable water resources for the most basic human needs.

Since 2014, she has been active with the college’s Council of Engineering Graduate Students, helping to plan and market the group’s annual showcase from 2015-16, serving as its vice president from 2016-17 and currently as president.

In addition to developing the engineering concepts to produce clean drinking water, these service-learning groups help build irrigation and hydroponics systems, handpowered washing machines and solar showers, among other things.

“I love CEGS because it encourages us to branch out and get out of that narrowminded research mentality that’s instilled in us because that’s what graduate school is all about. It’s a really great organization that promotes the quality of life for graduate

“EWB is a great way to merge my skills in engineering with my love for serving others. Having those two things mesh together has been a really great fit for me,” Klemkowsky said. “I’ve always had a love for serving others.”


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Breath of fresh air BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS

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Five Features Minutes With

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t was a beautiful spring day in 1980 when a chance visit to the Auburn University campus forever changed the course of Beverly Houston Banister’s life.

with four siblings. An engineer was not something many people there aspired to be, especially for an African-American woman, but she was also taught to do more and reach higher.

As a student majoring in hospital administration at Southern Union State Community College, Banister was encouraged by a professor to attend an Auburn Engineering event since she was excelling in science and math.

“Statistically, I should not have made it. In my high school, we didn’t talk about engineering, for men or women. But I had a chemistry teacher, Diana Jones, who inspired me to stretch. She really piqued my interest in science, physics and chemistry.”

“As long as I can remember, I have had a love for math and science. I’ve always loved solving problems. I’ve always loved being challenged. In math and science, there are lots of opportunities for innovation and creativity,” Banister said. “And, I was just blessed to be good at it.” From the moment she stepped on campus, she knew she was home. “That day absolutely changed my life. My world just opened up. I knew two things when I left Auburn that day: one, I wanted to go to Auburn and two, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, more importantly I knew I wanted to be a chemical engineer,” Banister said. “On that day in spring 1980, my life changed and it has never been the same since,” she added.

ROAD TO SUCCESS Banister grew up in the small town of Woodland, Alabama – population 183 – in rural Randolph County in a single-parent home

And while Jones sparked that love for science in Banister, it was her mother who instilled in her a drive and determination to succeed. “My role model was, and continues to be, my mom. She knew very little about engineering, but she inspires me even today that, with God, I can do anything. When I told her about the things I had learned about engineering at Auburn, she said, ‘Go for it. You can do it.’ That was all I needed to hear,” Banister said. Once at Auburn, Banister quickly discovered the educational expectations were far greater than what she was accustomed to in high school. “Getting in was easy, staying in was a challenge,” she said with a laugh. “The chemical engineering curriculum is a very demanding curriculum. It really doesn’t matter whether you are black or white, male or female, the expectations are the same. We have very high standards for engineers at Auburn.”

While the large size of some of the pre-engineering classes came as a shock to her, so, too, did the amount of information coming from her introductory engineering classes. For many, this was refresher information, but to her, it was all new. “Several times I asked myself, ‘What am I doing here? Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Is this for me? Should I go with another major?’ I was scared. There were many sleepless nights and I prayed a lot, but I knew one thing – I wanted to be an engineer,” she said. “I just told myself, ‘I’ve got to figure it out,’ and that’s what I did.” Instead of just being a number in her large classes, Banister started making sure each professor knew her name and face. She joined study groups both large and small. As one of only three AfricanAmericans in her class, and the only female in the group, Banister and the others found friendship and formed a lasting bond. “We were very tight. But I also found that you had to branch out. I found the entire chemical engineering community to be a close-knit group. I found a lot of comfort in reaching out and networking and building those relationships outside of that very small circle,” she said. As she gained confidence and familiarity with the campus, curriculum and culture, she began to spread her wings. She became Visit Auburn Engineering online at

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The chemical engineering curriculum is a very demanding curriculum. It really doesn’t matter whether you are black or white, male or female, the expectations are the same. We have very high standards for engineers at Auburn.

Beverly Banister, ’83 chemical engineering

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Five Minutes With

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involved with the chapter for Society of Women Engineers, played intramural basketball and began volunteering in the community. “It was wonderful. I found that if you’re willing to study hard, you’re willing to network outside of your own comfort zone, you could build the confidence to build success,” she said. “I transitioned from surviving to thriving.”

A SERVANT’S HEART Banister graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1983, and the winds of change quickly lifted her from one challenging environment to another. For the past 33 years, Banister has spent her professional career ensuring the environment we live in is one we can proudly pass down to future generations. As director of the Air, Pesticides and Toxics Management Division for the Environmental Protection Agency in the Southeast since 2003, Banister is responsible for working with local and state governments to maintain and improve air quality through regulatory and voluntary programs. “The goal is to deliver clean air,” Banister said. She also directs a staff dedicated to reducing potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals. “I absolutely love my job. I get to utilize the engineering skills I learned from Auburn each and every day because it’s all about Banister with Trey Glenn, who was named EPA Region 4 Administrator in August, overseeing operations throughout the Southeast. Glenn is also an Auburn engineer, graduating in 1994 in civil engineering.

problem-solving. I knew when I left Auburn that I could succeed at anything because I knew how to problem-solve,” she said. In addition to her professional work, Banister also dedicates much of her time giving back, supporting young women aspiring to be engineers and those who are following in her career footsteps. “I feel it’s important for Auburn women engineers to support future Auburn women in engineering because unique challenges still exist and this is still a predominantly male field,” Banister said. “We all have challenges, but I would encourage women pursuing a degree in engineering to pursue it with passion and hard work and success will follow. If I could make it in the early ’80s, they too can make it today. Who is better than us to come forth and support the women that are pursuing these careers? At this point in our lives, we have information, resources and time that we can share with future engineers.” As a member of the college’s 100+ Women Strong program, Banister is excited for the opportunities of women in engineering at Auburn and beyond. “The platform 100+ Women Strong provides us is a phenomenal opportunity for all of us to contribute to recruiting, retaining and rewarding those women that are pursuing engineering careers. It’s an opportunity to give back. It’s an opportunity to build camaraderie and show in a powerful way that we can, together, continue to help strengthen engineering programs not only at Auburn, but also across the country. I get excited just talking about it,” she said with a smile.

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IngĂŠnieur exceptionnel BY CAROL NELSON

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I simply enjoy helping people, and I want to help as many people as possible throughout my lifetime. Amber Jackson, Junior, computer science



mbracing the job no one wanted on her middle school robotics team is what led Amber Jackson to where she is now as a junior studying computer science at Auburn. “I’ve always loved computers,” she said. “When I was in eighth grade, I taught myself how to code for my robotics team. No one else was willing to take on the task of becoming the only programmer for the team, but I accepted the challenge.” Jackson spent her time poring over tutorials to grasp the basics, searching through BEST Robotics online forums and testing code on the team’s robot to understand how to make it work. She became so successful at programming that another area school sought her out to assist with their robot, and when she attended a BEST training camp before high school, she thoroughly impressed the instructors with the code she produced. In high school, Jackson continued her technological pursuits at the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, while at the same time developing a love for the French language and culture with the help of her teacher, Muriel Hoequist. “She played a major role in my love for French,” she said. When the time came for her to make a decision about college, Jackson knew she wanted to study an engineeringbased discipline to continue to develop her programming skills, but the guidance she received from

her recruiter is what brought her to Auburn. “One of the reasons I chose Auburn is because of the support I received from my recruiter, Jessica Taylor,” she said. “She would send me emails to regularly check in and offer encouraging words as I made my decision. She gave me so many great tips and introduced me to the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program, which made me fall in love with Auburn even more.” At the urging of her French teacher, Jackson also decided to take the placement exam and scored well enough to skip the first three classes in Auburn’s French curriculum. During freshman year, her advisor, Adrienne Angelo, told her she was just one course away from obtaining a minor and encouraged her to challenge herself by adding a second major in French. The computer science and French double major is now an ambassador, facilitator and computer science and software engineering affinity group leader for the Academic Excellence Program and a Tiger Tutor for the Student-Athlete Development Center, roles in which she is able to use her skills to help other prospective and current students. “As an ambassador, I am able to encourage middle and high school students to join the Auburn Engineering family,” Jackson said. “It’s especially important to me to go back to my hometown of Selma to visit and persuade students there to branch out and explore things that are

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beyond what they’re learning in the classroom.” Jackson tutors her fellow students in math, French and computer science courses, while also volunteering to work with her peers on résumé writing, interview preparation, and applications for conferences, research opportunities and jobs in the industry. “I simply enjoy helping people, and I want to help as many people as possible throughout my lifetime,” she said. Last summer, an internship at GE Aviation gave Jackson the opportunity to work in the industry on a project designing, from scratch, a search engine for four different websites. “GE originally had this job outsourced, but realized they could save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year by doing the work in-house,” Jackson said. “User interface and user experience design is one of my passions in computing, so my main contributions to the team included going through the customer feedback reports in order to know what they wanted and reporting this information to my team. I implemented an autocomplete functionality with previous search history that connected to our databases in order to save cutsomers time and money, and benefit GE by encouraging them to buy parts from our websites instead of from competitors. We leveraged another

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in-house project that we repackaged and that can now be reused throughout GE for anything that needs a search engine. I contributed my autocomplete functionality to the team’s project that we leveraged and created documentation for my code for the full-time employees working on our team’s project, and they are currently putting our work into production with hopes of completion before 2018,” she added. Jackson said she traces her successes back to her faith, her family and the many women who have been role models and mentors to her, something she, in turn, hopes to be for others. “I could not have accomplished what I have at Auburn without Dr. Cordelia Brown, who told me about GE’s recruiting efforts for women in STEM,” she said. “Dr. Brown has been an exemplary advisor to me. I met her at Camp War Eagle, and she encouraged me to be a part of AEP. I attended the Summer Engineering Enrichment Program, which was one of my favorite Auburn experiences, and I was a camp counselor the following year. Dr. Brown is such an advocate for her students and works to bring so many opportunities to us.” Jackson also praised Cheryl Seals, associate professor in computer science and software engineering, who she said exposed her to the world of research and user interface/user experience design, as well as Charria Campbell and Othello Dalton in AEP, whom she

said have always been willing to lend an ear and give advice. “They are amazing examples of female role models, and they have supported me every step of the way,” she said. “I simply cannot state every single occurrence of support that I have received from my Auburn Family without accidentally forgetting something,” she added. “Through AEP, Engineering Services, the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, my professors and teaching assistants, the associate deans, the dean and my peers, I undoubtedly feel supported. Auburn is doing a fantastic job of recruiting women, and I would definitely encourage other young women to pursue STEM fields.” As for what’s ahead for Jackson, she said she is passionate about so many aspects of computer science that she doesn’t have a particular job in mind and that a move to France after graduation is also a possibility. “I don’t mind dabbling a bit in different fields of computer science,” she said. “I may move to France after graduation because of my love for the French language and culture, and there are various software companies I’m interested in. My work at Auburn has made me well rounded. The last line of the creed, ‘I believe in Auburn and love it,’ is so important to me, and it’s something I truly mean when I say it. I love Auburn, and coming here was definitely the best decision I could have made.” Visit Auburn Engineering online at for video and photos of this story


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Features 38 | Auburn Engineering

Family tradition BY CAROL NELSON

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s a student, any time Emily Wood Traylor questioned her future in engineering, she was lucky enough to have the support of another strong female engineering role model: her mother, Julia Cheape Wood ’82 industrial engineering. “She was there to support me and to explain all the benefits of sticking with my major,” Traylor said. “In many of my classes, I was the only female. In one of my previous jobs, I was the only female in the entire office, but I have come to learn that my gender really doesn’t affect my ability to work hard and solve problems.” Traylor, ’10 wireless engineering, is a third generation Auburn engineer – her grandfathers, both parents and two uncles all are engineers. That, however, did not make her automatically choose Auburn. Even though Auburn is in her blood, she wanted to make her own decision. She researched engineering programs around the country and chose Auburn because of “its exceptional value, its exceptional engineering program and the overall family feel.” “Wireless engineering was fairly new when I came to Auburn in 2006, and it impressed me that Auburn had the first accredited program in the nation,” she said. “I had always loved computers, technology and problem-solving, so

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In many of my classes, I was the only female. In one of my previous jobs, I was the only female in the entire office, but I have come to learn that my gender really doesn’t affect my ability to work hard and solve problems.

Emily Traylor, ’10 wireless engineering

I knew that a career in engineering was probably what I wanted to do. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from Vodafone, so that was kind of my impetus to study wireless engineering. The program really allowed me to become a well-rounded engineer because I was able to study both the hardware and software components of engineering, but it also allowed me the flexibility to specialize in wireless software engineering. Throughout my career, I’ve kind of progressed to the software track. I haven’t done as much in the hardware area in my work, but I do feel that my degree made me very wellrounded.”

takes to help lead them to Auburn Engineering.”

As a student, Traylor served as an ambassador for the Honors College and a Cupola Engineering Ambassador. She enjoyed having the opportunity to show prospective students the benefits of choosing Auburn Engineering and everything Auburn has to offer.

“I think it’s important to give back because you’re able to help shape the future of Auburn engineers, from an industry and personal perspective,” she said. “As an alumna, I’m passionate about Auburn Engineering, and I think a lot of other alumni also are passionate, and they want to see the college continue to thrive. Getting involved allows you to play a part in that. I try to stay as involved as I can, and I enjoy showing students all that Auburn has to offer.”

“My favorite engineering experience was my involvement in Cupola,” Traylor said. “That gave me such great insight into the decision-making process of high school students and what it

Her ambassador role and love for Auburn led her to remain close to the university, as well as the college after graduation, in particular as a member of the college’s 100+ Women Strong program, the Engineering Young Alumni Council and the Wireless Engineering Alumni Council. She now serves as the automation engineering team lead and deputy director for the Auburn Technology Center for Equifax, and she said she is happy to have the unique opportunity to combine her passion for technology, engineering and Auburn.


In the spring, Traylor established the Clyde H. Wood and Dudley W. Cheape Jr. Family Endowed Scholarship for students in the college. The endowment is named for her grandfathers – Wood, ’60 electrical engineering, and Cheape, ’44 chemical engineering.

Strong program and will co-chair the group’s upcoming leadership and development conference, an event she said gives female students the opportunity to work with industry role models on real-world engineering issues, from a woman’s perspective.

“When my grandfathers entered into engineering at Auburn University, they could not have known the impact and legacy they would have on future generations, and no one could have predicted just how many Auburn engineers would come from their families,” Traylor said. “As a recipient of engineering scholarships myself, I want to pay it forward and share where it all began in my family, with Clyde and Dudley. My hope is that this scholarship will help others in creating their own Auburn Engineering legacy.”

“I attended Auburn University before 100+ Women Strong was formed, but I had that strong role model in my mother,” she said. “We want to make sure that the young women we recruit into engineering will also stay in engineering. I hear stories of young women switching majors after making their first B or realizing they are the only woman in their classes. They have mostly male classmates, mostly male professors and see mostly male industry leaders. This sometimes leads to them not being able to envision themselves as engineers. We want to change that.”

Traylor’s university relations work also gives her opportunities to work with Auburn Engineering students at mock interview events and panel discussions, as well as through sponsorship of senior design projects for computer science and software engineering students.

Through 100+ Women Strong, Traylor and other women in engineering industries serve as mentors to students to help them see what their futures could

look like. They offer advice and encouragement in students’ classes, tell them what to look for when finding their first job and show them how to handle work-life balance. “One phrase mentioned a lot in 100+ Women Strong is, ‘if they can see it, they can be it,’” Traylor said. “Students having a relatable role model, who also is from Auburn, is one of our main goals for retention.” When Traylor speaks with students now, she encourages them to stick with engineering, especially if they have a passion for problem-solving. “The career possibilities are endless for engineers, no matter which direction you choose to pursue, whether it is in industry or academia. Having an engineering degree is a great foundation,” Traylor said. “Having more women in STEM, and specifically, engineering, is essential for all industries to promote a good balance between women and men and to help encourage diversity of thought within an organization.”

“My senior design class was one of my favorites because it gave me a real-world look into what my life as an engineer would be outside of school,” she said. “The fact that I’m sponsoring that project now has just made it come full circle for me.” Traylor also serves on the retention committee for the 100+ Women

Traylor with Aymeric Zuurhout, ’16 software engineering and automation engineer at Equifax.

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Features 42 | Auburn Engineering


Strength in numbers BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS

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rowing up in Zagreb, Croatia, Marta Miletić had an affinity for numbers at an early age.

Matter of fact, it runs in the family. Miletić, assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, is the daughter of a math teacher, and the sister of an engineer. “I have been surrounded with numbers all of my life. My mom, Jadranka, and sister, Mladena, both excelled at math, so I have grown up with crazy mathematician ladies,” she said with a laugh. Miletić, naturally, was interested in math in growing up, and knew she wanted to do something where she put her skills and passion in both math and science to work. Toward the end of her high school years, a teacher gave her a piece of sage advice. “She told me there’s no money in studying math, so I tried to look into something where I could apply my knowledge in math and physics, so I ultimately decided engineering was the perfect fit,” she said. She began her engineering education at her home university in Zagreb, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering. From there, she earned her doctorate, also in civil engineering, through a dual program between Kansas State University and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Just like with students, recruiting female faculty in engineering is easy, but retention is crucial. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I like where we’re headed.

Marta Miletić, Assistant professor, Department of Civil Engineering

“I have been fortunate to study on three continents,” Miletić said. “Each has its pros and cons, but they also have their similarities.”

“After seeing them and how successful they were, I was encouraged to pursue the same path they did,” Miletić said.

While the main culture shock to Miletić of the American university experience was the popularity of collegiate sports, especially football, and the Greek culture that she had only seen in movies, she was most impressed by the unique studentcentered approach to engineering education, especially at Auburn.

Now the professor, Miletić is dedicated to mentoring young women in engineering. She is active with the college’s 100+ Women Strong program and worked with the Kansas State mentoring program through the Office for the Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering. She, along with other members in the department, are currently working to establish a campus Women in Civil Engineering group.

“Here, the student experience is everything. Students are valued more, the professors interact with students one-on-one much, much more. There are more hands-on activities, there’s more emphasis on practical work and internships,” Miletić said.

PAVING THE WAY While Miletić grew up emulating strong women in STEM within her own household, she gained several others during her time in graduate school. During her time in Zagreb and Manhattan, Kansas, Miletić’s advisors were both women. Vlasta Szavits-Nossan at the University of Zagreb and Dunja Peric at KSU both provided an inspirational example for Miletić to follow.

“It is vitally important to support other women in engineering, to let them know they’re not alone and to help prepare them to succeed in whatever career they choose,” she said. While she knows prospective future women engineers are coming to Auburn in record numbers, Miletić is focused on retaining those students in the discipline and making sure they have the resources and access necessary to succeed. “Recruiting women in engineering is easy, but retention is crucial,” she said. Visit Auburn Engineering online at

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NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK Miletić joined the Department of Civil Engineering in January 2017, just after Lauren Beckingham and Frances O’Donnell came aboard in 2016. With the addition of the professors, the department now has the third most female faculty members in the college. “With the addition of Dr. Miletić this year and two other outstanding new assistant professors in Dr. Beckingham and Dr. O’Donnell last year, Auburn Civil Engineering is well prepared for major contributions in timely and important areas,” said Andy Nowak, Department of Civil Engineering chair. In addition to their instruction inside the classroom, Miletić, Beckingham and O’Donnell are providing valuable research to further enhance the department’s mission to equip its students, the region, state and country with the knowledge to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain facilities and systems that serve the basic needs of society. Beckingham, assistant professor in civil engineering who earned her bachelor’s from Michigan Technological University and master’s and doctorate from Princeton, focuses on subsurface environmental geochemistry and engineering for energy technologies. Her research interests also include multiscale imaging and analysis of porous media, subsurface hydrology,

water-rock interactions and reactive transport and geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide. O’Donnell, assistant professor in civil engineering who earned her bachelor’s from Harvard, doctorate from Princeton and served a postdoctoral appointment at Northern Arizona, is considered an expert on the world’s most abundant natural resource – water. Her research centers on ecohydrology, or the relationships between vegetation and the water cycle, and examines the sustainability of water resources, particularly in water-scarce environments. She also studies how vegetation can affect the ecosystem. Milectić’s work builds on mathematical theories to improve performance of real-world systems. In particular, her teaching and research interests are mainly focused on experimental and computational modeling of the onset and growth of strain localization in pressuresensitive materials such as soils, rocks and man-made geomaterials such as cementitious composites. Her research aims to investigate mechanisms that suppress and delay the inception of strain localization in pressure sensitive materials. As the country’s aging infrastructure is updated, her research will aim to effectively and efficiently address the materials needed in specified conditions to withstand the tests of time and heavy use. “Our infrastructure is in terrible shape,” Miletić said.

“Environmental conditions aren’t the same as they were 50 years ago when much of the current infrastructure was built. Through some of our research initiatives on infrastructure resilience and sustainability, we are tackling these problems head on.” Road, bridge and rail improvements are inevitable as current conditions on aging surfaces decline, and Miletić hopes her research can assist in speeding up this process. “For good research, it takes time,” she said. “I know we need something much, much quicker, but I think we are on a good path of solving some of these issues.” Just as it has taken time to begin to solve the issue of an aging infrastructure, it has also taken time to close the gap in faculty gender representation, but that is changing. “Obviously there is an issue with female engineering faculty representation across the nation, but we are moving in the right direction. Female faculty members can bring in a new perspective and contribute in many new ways. The more diversity, the better,” she said. Miletić sees the same need to support female faculty members as she does the students she mentors. “Just like with students, recruiting female faculty in engineering is easy, but retention is crucial,” she said. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but I like where we’re headed.” Visit Auburn Engineering online at

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From left, Lauren Beckingham, Frances O’Donnell and Marta Miletić all joined the Department of Civil Engineering faculty within the past year.

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Renaissance woman BY JIM KILLIAN

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t never bothered Melissa Herkt – then or now – that she was one of three women to graduate in civil engineering in 1977.

“I transferred into Auburn from a community college as a rising junior, and always found the Auburn campus friendly and open,” she recalls. “I was so focused on working and studying hard, and so set on finding a good job. It’s where most of my energy went.” She does recall, with a laugh, that one of her civil professors told her that he would look out of his Ramsay Hall window after class, and watch her cross the street to McDonald’s with some male students in tow as they went for coffee and conversation.

“If you were a female engineering graduate, you had a lot of job offers to choose from,” she recalls. “I took a position with Exxon because they told me that if I spent a couple of years stateside in training, I could see the world. I began at Bayway refinery in New Jersey, and did just that.”

Don’t give up before you get started. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, there is a lot of work, but it is so worth it.

Melissa Herkt, ’77 civil engineering

“If I had to do it all over again, I would have started at Auburn,” Herkt reveals. “Then, as now, I love the Auburn University campus, the look and the feel, and the opportunities. I didn’t know then how to apply for scholarships, and I went to a community college because that’s all I thought we could afford.”

Herkt worked in several European countries during her time with Exxon, as well as with other companies. Some locations were hard for her to love – “When you’re 25 and live in a town of 20,000 and don’t have television . . . and you’re lonely . . . you know, what are you going to do?” There were, of course other, enviable locations that served as eurotour destinations, such as England and France.

Herkt says that something else she missed out on were extracurricular activities, mostly because of her work schedule, but probably as well, because the range and scope of activities that are now available on the Auburn campus – dozens of student groups in engineering alone – weren’t that readily available in the early ’70s. But the jobs were there, she says with a smile.

As much as any of these she relished her time in Barranquilla, Colombia, where Exxon built a $3 billion open-pit coal mine nearby in the early ’80s. There was a huge amount of infrastructure to develop, a deepwater port to bring online, and rolling stock to buy, ranging from tugboats to airplanes and some 100 large trucks – all, she says, an engineer’s dream.

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“I’ll tell you this too,” she says, “ I learned there and at the Canadian tar sands that the women truck drivers were much better than the men for reasons almost nobody can argue. They didn’t take the chances the men took behind the wheel and they didn’t wring the engines out. The rolling stock lasted longer with women behind the wheel.” It was during her time in Colombia that she also learned to speak Spanish, a skill that she used much later down the line when she began to volunteer as an alumni advisor to the Engineers Without Borders teams that were engaged in work in the remote Bolivian village of Quesimpuco, in irrigation infrastructure projects. “I think that you have to speak the language if you really want to understand another person, and understand their culture. I have been to Bolivia with EWB four times, and made some dear friends there because I could speak to them,” she points out. “It’s been a real joy, not only in doing that, but in being able to ask the questions, and to translate for others.” In addition to her work with Engineers Without Borders, Herkt has recently become involved in the College of Engineering’s 100+ Women Strong program, which seeks to recruit, retain and reward female engineering students. “I’ve always had some level of involvement with this group, but my commitments and my travel schedule were limiters,” she notes. Visit Auburn Engineering online at for video and photos of this story


“Now that I live in Auburn, I look forward to more involvement, particularly in the area of retention. My advice to freshmen and sophomores who are questioning their commitment to study engineering is always the same. “Don’t give up before you get started. Yes, it’s hard, and yes, there is a lot of work, but it is so worth it. I would also counsel juniors and seniors to seek out co-op assignments, as I did, or internships . . . the experience will help you find out if you are cut out for engineering, if it’s something you will enjoy. If it isn’t, it gives you a chance to alter what you’re doing.” Herkt is also one to ask students to look at the opportunities, which in engineering, she adds, are limitless.

Herkt and the college’s namesake, Samuel Ginn, were both honored with the Auburn Alumni Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the university’s highest honor, in 2015.

“There is nothing that says you have to sit in an office and pound out equations on a calculator,” she exclaims. “I never did that! I worked in project management, designing and building, and in general business heading up a large company P&L. My last corporate move was in the Process Systems and Solutions business unit for Emerson Process Management, which was a global unit with more than 5,000 engineers.” Her background is one that Auburn has taken advantage of, naming her to the university’s Foundation Board, which oversees gift development. She’s in her third year with the board, and serves on the finance and real estate committees; in January, she will become treasurer. She also serves

on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council. An undercurrent in Herkt’s life has always been change – the need to forecast it, adjust to it, and ultimately, to push it forward. “I’m sometimes asked what I feel my legacy is – and hopefully, that’s still unfolding – but something that comes to mind is the work I did at GlaxoSmithKline, where there was a management track and a technical track, with the latter tapping out long before the former. I was able to help redefine that, to the point where you can now stay in the technical track to the director level, which is just below where the VP slots are. It’s a significant improvement and it keeps great engineers in their field of expertise.


“I learned how to navigate this by listening, which is something I want our students to learn as well. I also want them to find out and work though the fact that they are not necessarily the smartest person in the room – although that may well have been the case all the way through high school.”

also suggests being open to the mentoring process, or to shadow an engineer at work. She suggests as well that students take advantage of the membership of the Alumni Engineering Council, which even now is ramping up its efforts to work with students on leadership issues and mentoring.

To grow from that point, she asks students . . . to ask a lot. She

“I have never seen a group so focused on the success of our

students, on giving them the confidence to succeed,” she concludes. “It’s something my mother gave me, and I want to pass it along as well. It humors me to think that this person, who was really not a math person like I am, believed in me, and convinced me, that I could do anything I set my mind to, including seeing the world. I want to give that to our students as well.”

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Kindred spirits Natalie McCormick Mills picked up the phone, dialed her parents and held her breath. This was not going to be an easy conversation for the Auburn sophomore – she was quitting engineering. Her parents got the first word in when they picked up because they were eager to share some good news. They received a letter that morning reporting that she had earned a full ride scholarship from a civil engineering alumna. “Well, I actually called you up to tell you I’m quitting,” she replied, to which her parents said, “This donor – Melissa Herkt – she didn’t give up. She kept going and did some great things in engineering.”

was wonderful, but it’s not the end of the story. I met with Melissa when I was a student, first at an Alumni Engineering Council banquet, when I was a Cupola Engineering Ambassador and our advisor sat me at her table. “I met her again on an occasion or two as a student, and now I have reconnected with her through our 100+ Women Strong program. I’m not sure I told her this, but she became much more than a donor – she became an example to me, an exemplar of what you can become. She showed me that one person can make a difference in your life.”

That comment put some steel back into Mills, and she accepted the scholarship, did well in school, and has gone on to a position with Southern Company Services in Birmingham.

Mills, ’10 civil engineering, has taken an active role in 100+ Women Strong and is currently co-chair of the group’s executive committee. She has become a donor and mentor as well, in no small part she says, to honor that someone who made a difference in her life, who became that someone to challenge her, who became that someone to build an engineer.

“When it sunk in, I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “My parents and I were living in Florida at the time, so it was a full out-of-state scholarship. That

And, of course, that someone is Melissa Herkt, whose presence and career, “challenges me still today in a way that matters and always will.”

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It’s my job


Will Bates, ’14 double major in electrical and computer engineering and computer science Software Engineer Johnson Outdoors, Alpharetta, Georgia A day in the work life

I’ve been fishing since I was 5 years old, and I’ve always had such a passion for it. I never thought I would be working in an industry where I’d feel the accountability and the drive to make the experience out on the water more pleasurable for people.

the software goals we’ve set for ourselves. That usually includes some Linux work, C++ development, and some Python work as well. Some days I’m lucky enough to get out on the lake and work on things I can’t do in the office.

Most days I’m in the office writing code, typically doing agile development and working to accomplish

On the boat, we have fish finders that give us sonar, mapping and navigation features that we rely on for

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It’s my job

safe operation, depth purposes and finding fish. We also have a GPS-guided trolling motor, which is used to automatically navigate with internal GPS. This kind of development work gets me out in my boat where I’m checking navigation, sonar and things like that. Those are the fun days. Computer engineering calling

I knew I wanted to do something with electronics. I chose computer engineering because it felt like a good mix of electrical engineering with some computer science. Midway through college, I felt like I wanted more, so I added on the computer science major. Basically, the things that motivated me were my desire to work in electronics and the feeling of empowerment that came with working with software. Auburn Engineering impact

I went to Auburn because of the fishing team – partially. Auburn Engineering is well known throughout the South, and that was the primary reason I chose Auburn. The campus culture and the chance to compete on the fishing team really put it over the top for me. During my senior year, my roommates – who also were on the fishing team – and I were looking for jobs and jokingly said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to work in the fishing industry?’ I started looking online at jobs with marine electronics manufacturers, and Johnson Outdoors was looking for a software engineer. I applied and got the job. Auburn Engineering is fantastic, but Auburn itself is such a great school. Auburn Engineering specifically is, to me, one of the most practical, hands-on schools. We did a lot of Linux development, which I feel gave me an advantage over others coming into the industry. Participating in practical team applications, like our senior design groups, was so important. Working as a team is critical in the engineering world, and I feel like Auburn did a good job preparing us for that as well. Auburn also offered me opportunities to do undergraduate research. I worked with Dr. Saad

Biaz in computer science and software engineering on autonomous aircraft, and later with Dr. Chase Murray in industrial and systems engineering. These experiences were invaluable to me, not just in the technical aspect of learning new technologies, but also in the mental aspect of self-driven accomplishment. I learned how to figure things out and overcome obstacles without relying on someone who has done it before to help. Career success

Technology is going crazy in the fish finder industry. We’ve gone from a single, low-frequency beam pointed straight under the boat to 360-degree imaging beams, and we have megahertz frequency beams. The user interface on the fish finders is going crazy, too. Eight years ago, a touchscreen was unheard of. Now touchscreen on the high-end electronics is pretty much standard. Bluetooth connectivity is something we’ve been working on lately. You can hook your fish finder up to your phone, to your trolling motor, and to your shallow water anchors. The technology has just exploded. I also use the equipment outside of work. If I find something is not right, I can come in and fix it, and I can get excited about it. At one point, for example, I came up with an idea to improve the heading calculation on our units. I asked my boss if I could come out on the water to work on that for a few days, and now we use the algorithm that I developed. I feel I’m very lucky to come out here and do what I do. I’m lucky to be able to work on something that I enjoy and have passion for. I’m looking to progress in my career with Johnson Outdoors, to maybe become a lead software/senior software engineer sometime in the near future. I think I’d like to get a Ph.D. at some point – at Auburn, of course – and maybe even work as a professor one day. But for right now, every day feels like a blessing because I’m able to come in and do what I enjoy.

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5 minutes with

5 minutes with

Ashley Gann


Ashley Gann, ’05 aerospace engineering, is a wife, mother, meteorologist and Mrs. Alabama International 2017. Gann knew at the age of 12 that she wanted to forecast the weather and as the morning meteorologist for CBS 42 in Birmingham, she hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists by proving that all engineers aren’t created equal. CH: Can you walk me through a typical morning? AG: It begins very early. I usually wake up at about 2:30 a.m so that I can get to work by 3:30. The first thing I do is review all of my weather models to create the best forecast I can for my viewing area. I always try to pare it down to three main points, and from there I can build a weather story. I plug in a lot of those numbers from the weather models into our computer systems and update our weather graphics. I use those like a PowerPoint presentation to help tell that story in pictures. I don’t read a teleprompter since everything is unscripted, but I have a very good idea of how that weather story should flow. Our morning broadcast ends at 7:00, then we have live cut-ins until 9:00 followed by a noon newscast. I usually finish work around 1:00 in the afternoon and rinse, wash and repeat, day after day.

career – it’s where the future is headed. I’m very passionate about building confidence in young girls, and I want to inspire our youth and show them that you can wear a crown on a Saturday and you can be back to work crunching numbers on a Monday. The look of a scientist is changing and we have to embrace that.

CH: Do you ever get nervous being on live TV? AG: This is the only job I know – I’ve never done anything else. There were definitely some first-time jitters, but one of the things my job has taught me is to not take myself too seriously. I think it’s given me a great attitude and outlook on life. Live TV is going to happen with or without you, so you’ve just got to roll with the punches. That’s how life should be.

CH: What made you decide to attend Auburn? AG: I chose Auburn because it was in my blood. My mom went there and my uncles did too, but initially I was going to go against the grain and do something else. Unfortunately Auburn doesn’t have a meteorology major so I had actually applied and gotten into another school. Then I thought, what if I don’t like meteorology? It’s a specialized degree. I realized that I could go to Auburn and major in something else that I enjoyed and get a master’s in meteorology if that’s what I really wanted to do. So, I applied to Auburn, and I got in. My mom was over-the-moon excited. Even though Auburn didn’t have a meteorology program, I had a master’s in sight and Auburn Engineering was an amazing foundation for that long-term goal.

CH: Can you tell me how STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) became your passion? AG: One of the biggest reasons STEM means so much to me isn’t just because I’m a female and I’m in a STEM

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I’ve been working with local businesses and organizations to fund scholarships for students to go to Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. As a Space Camp alumna myself, I’ve always loved supporting their mission in building the next generation of scientists. It’s been a huge honor to reach out to these local students who may not otherwise be exposed to STEM programs and have access to these opportunities.

5 minutes with

CH: What was your best experience as an Auburn Engineering student? AG: I have great memories thinking about the friendships and bonds formed within our group of aerospace engineering students. We came from such different walks of life but it was aerospace that brought us all together. We became family. We’d hop across to Toomer’s Corner for lunch and we used to play Frisbee on the front lawn of Samford. I still have those friendships being almost 15 years removed from the school, and it all started because we studied for hard tests together, we failed together and we succeeded together. In every sense of the word, we were the Auburn Family. CH: What was the most valuable lesson you learned? AG: One of the things that Auburn Engineering taught me was to dream big and not to be afraid of failure. One semester I had a math class where I was the only female. Even though I felt a little outnumbered and a little out of place at times, I realized that I didn’t have to fit a

stereotype. I was a War Eagle Girl, I was involved with the Student Government Association and I was an engineering student. Auburn really gave me a fearless spirit. CH: The tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011 changed many lives. Tell me about how that day affected you. AG: It was single-handedly the most sobering moment of my career; it forever changed me. I was the chief meteorologist in Montgomery and I was on-air while we had a Skycam in Tuscaloosa pointing straight at the tornado. I’ll never forget standing in front of that screen knowing in my mind and in my heart that people were losing their lives. That day marked the beginning of my passion for being a servant meteorologist. Every day I’m building credibility and a relationship with my viewers so that they will trust me on those big event days. I love telling weather stories and I love that people have invited me into their home to bring them information every day. I realize now that my job is not just about the weather; it’s about serving people.

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58 | Auburn Engineering

From the faculty

Editor’s note: Each issue, a faculty member will share their current research project in their own words, opening up a window to our leading researchers who are improving quality of life and fostering economic competitiveness.

We now are working on the development of a technology product demonstrator consisting of a multi-sensor wearable biomedical band along with a smartphone app. The intended application for the technology product demonstrator is for operators working on the inspection and maintenance on aircraft fuel tanks. The fuel tanks are small, confined spaces in the aircraft, which reside in the fuselage and inside the wings of the aircraft. Inspection and maintenance operations require the operators to climb inside the confined space of the fuel tanks. Oxygen levels in a confined space may become depleted due to oxidation or depletion by another gas. The typical concentration of oxygen in the environment is 20.9 percent. When oxygen levels drop from 19.5 percent to 12 percent, judgment is impaired and personnel may experience an increased pulse and fatigue. If levels drop further, from 12 percent to 6 percent, fatigue, nausea and vomiting will occur. A dual-use aspect of the technology may include the following applications: monitoring of vitals of workers in high-heat environments to determine when workers need to come out of the heat before the effects of heat stress become a physical risk factor and monitoring of an individual worker in a hazardous environment.

The technical objective is to design and fabricate a band in wearand-forget format with multiple biomedical sensors including GPS, pulse oximetry, pulse-rate and electromyography sensor integrated with a microcontroller and Bluetooth communications link on a flexible high-density substrate. In addition, an additional objective of the project is to design a smartphone app with the required logic for processing the vital signals of the operator with capability of autonomous decision making for contacting emergency services with the location of the operator if the operator’s wellbeing has deteriorated. The approach will involve the design of flexible substrate for the assembly and integration of sensors with a microcontroller for the acquisition of signals and a Bluetooth module for the transmission of vital data to the paired smartphone. The multi-sensor biomedical band will be worn by the operator working in a confined space and it’s multiple sensors will measure for the loss of blood oxygenation resulting from depletion of oxygen in the environment in the fuel tank, abrupt changes in the pulse rate resulting from anxiety or claustrophobia, loss of consciousness, myocardial infarction, stroke, bradycardia or aneurysm. Additional sensors can be added if needed to address a broader range of medical conditions. The raw data from the sensors is gathered by the embedded microcontroller on the

wearable band through the GPIO and transmitted via the Bluetooth sensor on the USART port of the microcontroller to the paired smartphone. The LifeSaver App is installed on the smartphone and receives the transmitted data via the Bluetooth module and processes the data checking for imminent danger to the operator. If the status is OK, the app continues to monitor silently. However, if the operator is in imminent danger, or in need of medical attention, the app autonomously contacts emergency medical services with the GPS location of the operator and details the condition of the operator and the nature of the medical condition. Emergency medical personnel can be dispatched to the location of the operator immediately without any action needed on the operator’s part. Pradeep Lall is the director of the Harsh Environment Node of NextFlex and the CAVE3 Electronics Research Center and is the John and Anne MacFarlane Professor of mechanical engineering.

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Faculty highlights

Faculty highlights Civil engineering faculty J. Brian Anderson, associate professor of geotechnical engineering, and Jack Montgomery, assistant professor of geotechnical engineering, received a $180,240 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for their research on geosynthetic reinforced soilintegrated bridge systems. Sanjeev Baskiyar and Alvin Lim, professors of computer science and software engineering, received a $291,590 grant from the NSF for their research on parallel and distributed computing. Lauren Beckingham, assistant professor of environmental engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, received a $125,000 grant from the Southern States Energy Board and the Department of Energy for her project to establish an early carbon

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dioxide storage complex in Kemper County, Mississippi. Majid Beidaghi, assistant professor of materials engineering, was honored with a Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award, given annually by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities consortium. David Bevly, the Bill and Lana McNair Professor of mechanical engineering, received a $162,500 grant from the National Advanced Mobility Consortium and the Army, a $275,000 grant from Parsons Government Services and the Missile Defense Agency and a $150,000 grant from Autonomous Solutions Inc. and the Army. Sushil Bhavnani, the Henry M. Burt Professor of mechanical engineering and associate department chair, received a $159,993 NSF grant for his research on mobility of vapor bubbles in microgravity. Pengyu Chen, assistant professor of materials engineering, received a $170,890

grant from the NSF for his research on plasmofluidic nanoattenasuperlens biosensors. James Cross, professor of computer science and software engineering, was named a 2017 distinguished member by the Association for Computing Machinery for his educational contributions to computing. Gerry Dozier, the McCrary endowed chair in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, gave an invited talk at the 2017 MidSouth Cyber Security Summit. Toshi Hirabayashi, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, was recognized by the International Astronomical Union with an asteroid named in his honor, 11471 Toshihirabayashi (19821 EH48). Jeffrey LaMondia, associate professor of transportation engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, received a

Faculty highlights

$146,176 grant from the Alabama Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration for his research on pavement quality assurance. Shiwen Mao, the Samuel Ginn professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center, received a $299,994 grant from the NSF for his research on RF sensing in the Internet of Things. Carolina Rodezno, assistant research professor at the National Center for Asphalt Technology, received a $250,000 grant from NAS/DOT for her research on ignition furnace correction factors. Nima Shamsaei and Scott Thompson, associate professors of mechanical engineering, received $105,682 from NASA to research fatigue behavior of additively manufactured components.

Tao Shu, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering, received a $120,000 NSF grant for his research on visible light communications. Jakita Thomas, Philpott-WestPoint Stevens associate professor of computer science and software engineering, received $188,179 as part of her National Science Foundation CAREER Award to support algorithmic thinking capabilities in African-American middle school girls. Nam Tran, associate research professor at the National Center for Asphalt Technology, received a $139,000 grant from the National Asphalt Pavement Association and the Federal Highway Administration for his research on enhanced durability of asphalt pavements. Rod Turochy, the James M. Hunnicutt Associate Professor of traffic engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering,

received the 2017 James M. Robbins National Excellence in Teaching Award from Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honor society. Randy West, director of the National Center for Asphalt Technology, received a $100,000 grant from NAS/ DOT for his research on balanced asphalt mixed design.

PROMOTIONS Sushil Adhikari, Alumni Associate Professor of biosystems engineering, has been promoted to full professor. Maria Auad, associate professor of chemical engineering, has been promoted to full professor. Sanjeev Baskiyar, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, has been promoted to full professor. Roy Knight, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has been promoted to associate professor. Brian Thurow, the W. Allen and Martha Reed Associate Professor of aerospace engineering and department chair, has been promoted to full professor. Rod Turochy, the James M. Hunnicutt Associate Professor of Traffic Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering, has been promoted to full professor.

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Awards From left, Steve Manown, Jan Davis, Linda Figg, Cindy Green, Ralph Zee, John Chambliss and Thomas Walter.

The award goes to . . . Seven outstanding alumni and ambassadors of Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering were honored by the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council at the group’s fall honors banquet. They included five who were recognized as Distinguished Auburn Engineers, one as an Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer and one for Superior Service to the college. For the first time in the history of the Distinguished Auburn Engineer award, more women were represented than men. John Chambliss Distinguished Auburn Engineer Chambliss is a 1975 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in construction engineering. He began his career in heavy construction in 1969 and has worked all across the country

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on highway, bridge, power, dam, marine and civil projects. Chambliss served as chief engineer at Brasfield & Gorrie for the past 19 years and retired in July. In this role, he led construction, engineering and budget development from the preliminary stages through complete construction drawings. During his career, he has been

involved in many notable engineering projects, including the Galveston Causeway Vertical Lift Railroad Bridge, ALDOT I-65 Emergency Bridge Replacement, the Savannah Coal Port and the Smithsonian Institution South Quadrangle. Chambliss became a professional engineer in 1983 and was one of the first P.E.’s to work at


Brasfield & Gorrie. Since 2002, his mentorship has helped more than 35 Brasfield & Gorrie employees attain their P.E. licenses. Chambliss is a member of the Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honor society, the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society. He is a donor and volunteer with the United Way of Central Alabama and Down Syndrome Alabama. Chambliss also serves on the City of Homewood’s board of zoning adjustment and is a deacon at Briarwood Presbyterian Church. Jan Davis Distinguished Auburn Engineer Davis is a 1977 mechanical engineering graduate who enjoyed a distinguished career at NASA as an engineer, astronaut and executive and now serves as a leader in private industry. Before coming to Auburn, Davis earned a bachelor’s degree in applied biology from Georgia Tech. Following her undergraduate studies, she earned her master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1983 and 1985, respectively. After beginning her career at Texaco, Davis joined NASA as an aerospace engineer in 1979. After the Challenger accident, Davis made a lasting impact on the Space Shuttle design by leading a multicenter team for the redesign of the Solid Rocket Booster Aft External Tank Attach Ring. From 1987-98,

she was an astronaut mission specialist, serving on three space flights and logging more than 673 hours in space. Later in her career at NASA, Davis served as director of the Flight Projects Directorate from 2001-03 and as director of the Safety and Mission Assurance Directorate from 2003-05. From 2005-17, she was a vice president at Jacobs Engineering. Davis now serves as a program manager for Bastion Technologies Inc. In addition to her many awards from NASA and other professional organizations, Davis is a member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame. Davis is also a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She received the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Senior Executive in 2002. Cindy Green Distinguished Auburn Engineer Green is a 1979 chemical engineering graduate who spent a 32-year career with the chemical company DuPont. She began her tenure there as a process engineer, working her way up to positions such as business director and president of the Global Business Unit at DuPont Fluoroproducts. She retired in 2011 as DuPont’s chief marketing officer. During her tenure at DuPont, Green was one of only three women to run one of DuPont’s

core businesses, managing a $2 billion business as president of DuPont Fluoroproducts. As chief marketing officer, she negotiated and supported DuPont’s long-term sponsorship deal with NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon and the Rick Hendrick Motorsports team. Additionally, she was named one of the Best of 2010 by BtoB Magazine for her work as chief marketing officer. Some of her other accomplishments at DuPont include establishing one of the first U.S. chemical plants in China to produce fluoropolymer products, leading efforts to reinvent Teflon and other non-stick chemicals, and spearheading initiatives to reduce the company’s environmental footprint. Green has also been a staunch supporter of the College of Engineering. In addition to her service on the Auburn Engineering Alumni Council, Green is a member of both 100+ Women Strong and the Chemical Engineering Alumni Council. Green and her husband established the Dr. Larry S. Monroe and Cynthia Green Endowed Chair to strengthen and enhance the chemical engineering program. Linda Figg Distinguished Auburn Engineer Figg is a 1981 civil engineering graduate who has spent her career building bridges around the world with her company FIGG. Upon graduating from Auburn, she joined FIGG, the company her father

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started in 1978. After taking over from her father in 2002, Figg has continued the tradition of building sustainable, world-class bridges that are cost effective and sensitive to the environment yet continue to set new industry standards in design, technology, materials, and efficiency. As president and CEO of FIGG, she is responsible for bridges in 42 states and six countries, totaling $14 billion in revenue. During her tenure at FIGG, she has won more than 374 design awards, including three Presidential awards, was named one of the top 22 newsmakers by Engineering News-Record, and has testified before Congress on regulatory impediments in the construction industry. FIGG bridges have been featured on front pages of USA Today, in five “Modern Marvel” documentaries on the History Channel and in PBS’s “Nova’s Super Bridge.” Figg also authored a book chapter on bridge aesthetics in 2009. For her engineering achievements, she was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2010. In addition to her service on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, Figg is a member of 100+ Women Strong and a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association. She received the Engineering Achievement Award from Auburn University in 2006 and was the Outstanding Civil Engineering Alumna in 2010.

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Thomas Walter Distinguished Auburn Engineer Walter is a 1955 engineering physics graduate who built a successful career at the intersection of business and technology. After graduating from Auburn on a Naval ROTC scholarship, Walter served for four years aboard an Atlantic Fleet destroyer and with the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. During this time, he was introduced to Ross Perot. Working together, they developed respect for each other’s skills and capacity for hard work, and a loyal friendship was formed. Following his military service, Walter began his career as a circuit design engineer at Texas Instruments and later went to work for IBM as a systems engineer. In 1962, Perot founded a computer service company, Electronic Data Systems, and asked Walter to join him. Working alongside Perot, Walter helped shape Electronic Data Systems into an industry leader, with more than 100,000 employees and serving a range of U.S. and foreign companies. In 1984, General Motors purchased EDS for $2.5 billion. He remained a close associate of Perot and, in later years, was a consultant to Perot Investments. In 1989, Perot honored his friend and business associate by granting $2.6 million to Auburn University to build the Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management. Walter played a prominent role

in the formation of the center’s business-engineering-technology, or B-E-T, minor, which has produced more than 250 graduates. In 2016, Walter increased his support to expand the B-E-T program and to assist in the development of a new master of engineering management program. In addition to his loyal support of Auburn, Walter was recognized for his engineering pedigree with a place in the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2003. Together, Walter and his wife, Jean, have demonstrated a strong commitment to the university. They are life members of the Auburn Alumni Association, and they have provided scholarship support within engineering, science and math, and agriculture, including the James H. Hall Scholarship in honor of Jean’s father. They have also provided a number of professorships, chairs and endowments. Steve Manown Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer Manown is a 2001 civil engineering graduate who built a career at Brasfield & Gorrie, advancing from estimator to vice president and division manager. In his current role, Manown is responsible for overseeing all business development, preconstruction, and project operation functions for the industrial division of Brasfield & Gorrie’s Birmingham office. Under his leadership, the division has


secured prominent new clients and completed award-winning projects. Manown’s accomplishments include leading the $7.5 million construction of Railroad Park in Birmingham. Completed in 2010, this project spurred revitalization in downtown Birmingham and earned numerous accolades, including an Excellence in Construction Award from the Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama. During his tenure as construction manager, Manown led work on the $32.5 million Auburn University Student Center, which opened in 2008. As a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Manown managed the first LEED Goldcertified project in Alabama – the M. Miller Gorrie Center at Auburn University. Manown was a member of the 2014 class of the Alabama Leadership Initiative and the 2013 class of Leadership Vestavia Hills. He was recognized in the Top 40 Under 40 by the Birmingham Business Journal and in the Top 20

Under 40 by Engineering NewsRecord Southeast, both in 2015. Manown’s community involvement includes six years as a youth baseball and soccer coach and volunteer service with Habitat for Humanity and Magic Moments, an organization that fulfills the nonmedical wishes of chronically ill Alabama children. Ralph Zee Superior Service After joining the Auburn Engineering faculty in 1986, Zee spent 30 years in service to Auburn, helping advance research initiatives at the college and university levels. Zee completed his graduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison after earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of WisconsinWhitewater. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees in materials science in addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics. From 2001-16, Zee served as associate dean for research,

revitalizing the college’s research programs, guiding Auburn into the top 50 of engineering research institutions nationally, and increasing research funding by tens of millions of dollars. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Auburn University Huntsville Research Center and the recruitment of Rodney Robertson as executive director, opening access to millions of research dollars from Redstone Arsenal. While juggling his duties as associate dean for research, Zee also served as acting university associate provost and vice president for research from 2007-09. In addition to his work on behalf of the college’s research programs, Zee was also recognized for his leading performance in the classroom. He was a four-time recipient of the Outstanding Materials Engineering Faculty Award. He also received the 1990 Ralph R. Teetor Award sponsored by the Society for Automotive Engineers and Auburn Engineering’s 1995 Birdsong Teaching Merit Award.

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