Auburn Engineering fall 2016 magazine

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

Formula for success

Faces in the crowd There are quite a few new faces around the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering these days. And, no, they are not freshmen. Since fall 2015, Auburn Engineering has hired 50 new faculty members across our eight departments and welcomed 10 administrators to new roles within the college. These outstanding individuals are helping take our education and research programs to the next level. You can read all about these new faculty members in a special publication on our website Join us in welcoming our new faculty and leadership to campus!

From the dean Each academic year welcomes many new faces to campus, as thousands of freshmen descend upon the Plains. But here at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, we’ve added even more new faces this year as we’ve welcomed dozens of new faculty members to our team. These talented researchers, scholars and instructors represent the most significant investment that we have ever made in our most important attribute – our people. We recently highlighted these faculty members and administrators who began their appointments within the past year and those who will be joining us in spring 2017 in a publication that you can find on our website at These individuals have outstanding research and education credentials, and their expertise will further enhance our impact as we continue on our upward trajectory as one of the nation’s premier engineering institutions. These faculty members are undertaking scholarly work in areas of strategic national and international importance that will significantly bolster our college’s research in fields such as energy and the environment; biomedical and pharmaceutical engineering; cybersecurity and information technology; infrastructure and transportation; advanced manufacturing; and engineered materials and nanotechnology. The influx of new faculty will also help us improve our student-faculty ratio and create a more student-centered experience as we aim to educate engineers capable of addressing the world’s greatest challenges. I am confident our new faculty members and administrators will elevate our academic and research activities to an entirely new level of prominence in the college. Please join me in welcoming my new colleagues to Auburn University. In addition, we recently broke ground on the first of three projects totaling more than $60 million in new construction and major renovations. Construction began on the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory project, formerly the Textile Building, in November. This project will allow the college to demolish the Engineering Shops and L Building and construct an elevated area and terrace. This beautiful new area will serve as the renovated south entrance of the Gavin Laboratory to allow students more convenient entry to the building when coming from the heart of campus, while also providing accessibility to the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center once it is constructed. Renovations to Broun Hall are anticipated to begin in December, and this project will include a modernized entrance which will allow natural light into the facility, incorporation of the latest instructional technologies and a more dynamic collaborative setting for students. The construction of the Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center will round out our major overhaul of facilities and programs, and this state-of-the-art engineering center will enhance a multitude of critical student support activities, including student recruitment, curriculum advising, tutoring, career mentoring, job placement and more. The center will also provide innovative student maker spaces and flexible technology-rich classrooms. As part of our vision to produce the best student-centered engineering experience in America, we are dedicated to the educational needs of our students, the research efforts of our faculty and the technological advancements of our facilities. We thank you for your support and assistance in helping us achieve this vision, as together we are all Auburn Engineering. War Eagle!

Christopher B. Roberts

Auburn Engineering Fall 2016 Volume 26, Issue 2 DEAN Christopher B. Roberts DIRECTOR, COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING Jim Killian EDITOR Austin Phillips CONTRIBUTORS Chris Anthony Megan Burmester Emily Esleck Christine Hall Morgan Martin GRAPHIC DESIGN Katie Haon WEB MANAGER Tyler Patterson PHOTOGRAPHY Brandon Goebel Jim Killian Austin Phillips Shelby Taylor



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


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


Winning formula The student-led SAE team finished first in Nebraska in the spring, and the group is building off that victory for 2017


Wheels of future Research within the college is moving us closer to an autonomous passenger vehicle reality


We must protect this house The newly created McCrary Institute places the college on the forefront of cyber security research


Oh, the places Auburn Engineers will go An engineering degree opens endless job opportunities, including some that may be unconventional


No place like home Erich Weishaupt, ’97 electrical engineering, has found his way back home as an entrepreneur

Everybody’s All-American Kasey Cooper, senior in mechanical engineering and softball third baseman, is heading to medical school

The rocket man Brooks Moore, ’48 electrical engineering, is a pioneer of the space program and he’s still looking up

Power play Mshon Pulliam, ’12 industrial and systems engineering, is helping to turn the lights on for one of Atlanta’s biggest projects

Follow your heart Jason Thompson, ’93 chemical engineering, has a heart for engineering and surgery

52-second dream Luis Martinez, junior in mechanical engineering, has taken his skills all the way to the Olympics in Rio

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5 minutes with Linda Figg, ’81 civil engineering, is the president and CEO of FIGG Bridges Inc.

Auburn Engineering is published twice yearly by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

From the faculty Alice Smith, Joe W. Forehand/Accenture professor of industrial and systems engineering, shares her research project on empty container depots

Engineering Communications and Marketing c/o Editor 1320 Shelby Center Auburn, AL 36849 334.844.2308

It’s my job Will McCartney, ’13 biosystems engineering, is a project engineer at Lendlease in New York City

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Faculty highlights The college’s dynamic faculty is exemplifying excellence and innovation through cutting-edge research, instruction and outreach


And the winner is . . . The Auburn Alumni Engineering Council honored five alumni as Distinguished Auburn Engineers, two as Outstanding Young Auburn Engineers and one for superior service to the college

© 2016 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer.


Happenings Broun Hall

Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory

Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center (Pending Board of Trustees approval)

Breaking ground As part of more than $60 million in new construction and renovation, the college recently broke ground on the first of three major projects. Thanks to an $8 million gift made possible by Carol Ann and Charles E. Gavin III, the first project will include the renovation of the Textile Building into the Gavin Laboratory. This will allow the college to demolish the Engineering Shops and L Building, and construct an elevated garden area. Site preparation began summer 2016, and construction is anticipated to be completed by November 2017. An additive manufacturing facility will be incorporated into the building renovation, allowing students to gain experience with emerging fabrication technology, as well as a new Center for Advanced Polymers and Composites to continue the college’s research in this area to meet industry needs. The renovated structure will include new research laboratories, as well as a facility for the Nuclear Power Generations Systems Program, a new wind tunnel system, a series of hands-on student project areas and collaborative meeting spaces. The south entrance of the Gavin Laboratory will also be renovated to allow students more convenient entry to the building when coming from the heart of campus, while also providing accessibility to the BrownKopel Engineering Student

Achievement Center once it is constructed. Broun Hall, home to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will also be renovated to provide students with an improved learning environment, thanks to the generosity of Dorothy Davidson, chair and CEO of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies. Davidson’s $5 million gift honors her late husband, Julian, a 1950 electrical engineering graduate and defense industry pioneer. The Broun Hall improvement will include the Julian Davidson Pavilion, which will incorporate a modernized entrance that will invite natural light into the building, while also adding the latest instructional technologies and creating a more dynamic setting for students. Construction of the BrownKopel Engineering Student Achievement Center will begin once the Board of Trustees approves the final plans. This state-of-the-art facility, made possible by a $30 million gift from John, ’57 chemical engineering, and Rosemary Brown, ’57 chemistry, will enhance a multitude of student support activities, including student recruitment, curriculum advising, tutoring, career mentoring, job placement and an industrial relations hub. The center will also create space for innovative student maker spaces, flexible technology-rich classrooms and an engineering international experience office.


Dictson named senior director of development Derek Dictson has been named senior director of development in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Dictson previously served as senior director of development at Texas A&M University. He will be responsible for the college’s development and fundraising efforts, managing and coaching development officers and coordinators, implementing fundraising activities and strategies, supporting the college’s strategic plan in collaboration with the dean and ensuring goals and objectives are met. He will also serve as a major gifts officer. He holds a bachelor’s in agricultural business/ economics from New Mexico State University and a master’s in public service and administration from Texas A&M. Dictson succeeds Ed Lewis, who served as engineering lead development advisor since 2013. Lewis will assume his new role as senior advisor to the dean.

Read all about it

Shining star

If you’ve read the recently released biography titled “Lorendo” about beloved and longtime Auburn assistant football coach Gene Lorendo, you’ll notice the author’s name also has a familiar ring to it.

Auburn astronaut Jim Voss, ’72 aerospace engineering, received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Haley Space Flight Award for his performance in space flight, space station assembly, leadership in spacecraft design and dedication to space education. Its highest honor, the award was presented at the AIAA SPACE and Astronautics Forum.

The book was written by Ken Ringer, ’59 industrial management, and it chronicles the life of Lorendo, including his service with the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific theater during World War II and his 25year career as an assistant coach under legendary head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan. Ringer spent the majority of his career in sales at 3M before retiring to Auburn with his wife, Joyce. They are members of the university’s Petrie and Foy societies and the college’s Ginn Society. “Lorendo” is available for purchase at local Auburn bookstores and on

A native of Opelika, Voss also earned a master’s degree in 1974 from the University of Colorado, which later granted him an honorary doctorate. Voss joined NASA in 1987 and flew on five space missions, including a five-anda-half month assignment on board the International Space Station. Before his career as an astronaut, he served in the U.S. Army, retiring with the rank of colonel. He is married to Suzan Curry Voss, ’71 mathematics, and they have one daughter.


Familiar faces in new places The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering welcomed four outstanding individuals to its leadership team over the past several months. Steve Taylor, professor of biosystems engineering, was appointed associate dean for research on July 1. An Auburn faculty member since 1989, Taylor has also served as head of the Department of Biosystems Engineering and director of the Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural engineering from the University of Florida and a doctorate in the same discipline from Texas A&M. Taylor succeeded Ralph Zee as associate dean for research. Three new department chairs have also been appointed within the college this year. John Evans, Charles D. Miller endowed chair, began his term as chair of the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering at the beginning of the fall semester. Evans joined the Auburn Engineering faculty in 2001, following a 17-year career in the automotive industry with Chrysler Corp. and DaimlerChrysler in Huntsville. He earned a bachelor’s

degree in electrical engineering from Auburn in 1984 as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1987 and 1991, respectively. N. Hari Narayanan, John H. and Gail Watson professor, was appointed chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering beginning for the fall semester. An Auburn faculty member since 1996, Narayanan earned master’s degrees in automation and computer science from the Indian Institute of Science and the University of Rochester, respectively, and a doctorate in computer and information science from Ohio State University. He also holds a certificate in leadership, management and communication from George Washington University. Brian Thurow, W. Allen and Martha Reed associate professor, began his term as chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering this summer after serving as the acting department chair. Thurow joined the aerospace engineering faculty in 2005 after completing his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering at Ohio State University.

NCAT adds four The National Center for Asphalt Technology at Auburn University has named Adriana VargasNordcbeck, Fabricio LeivaVillacorta, Fan Gu and Fan Yin to its research team. Auburn alumna Vargas-Nordcbeck and her husband, Leiva-Villacorta, joined NCAT in August as assistant research professors. VargasNordcbeck leads all pavement preservation experiments and pursues new projects related to pavement management and pavement preservation. She also teaches select civil engineering courses. Leiva-Villacorta leads research on using recycled materials in asphalt pavements, performs multi-scale pavement analysis, teaches civil engineering materials courses and instructs segments of NCAT training courses for the asphalt pavement industry. Yin joined the staff in July as a postdoctoral researcher, and Gu joined in September. Yin is working on the cracking group experiments led by NCAT and the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s MnROAD facility. One of his initial assignments is to recommend a longterm aging protocol for lab and plant produced asphalt mixtures prior to cracking tests. He is also working on analysis of cracking tests, cost effectiveness of premium mixtures and porous asphalt pavements. Gu leads research regarding rolling resistance, cold central plant recycling and cold in-place recycling. He also assists numerous ongoing studies and instructs segments of NCAT training courses.


Commitment and dedication The college recently dedicated two areas, thanks to the generosity of two prominent alumni. The Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management was rededicated, rebranded and relocated to 3341 Shelby Center following a generous gift from Walter, ’55 engineering physics. Established in 1989, the center is home to the business-engineering-technology minor, which is a joint program between the College of Engineering and the College of Business. The B-E-T minor educates and trains engineering and business students to develop new products, business models and startups, while working in a team environment. The two-year minor consists of seven courses that provide a thorough overview of all aspects of business. It is designed to add significant value to the engineering or business degree by preparing students to work in technology-intensive firms by training them to have the skills necessary for developing business plans, including market research, marketing, accounting and production management. The program also teaches technical skills, including intellectual property evaluation, patent research and engineering analysis of products and components. The college also dedicated the first named area in the soon-to-be-constructed Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center as the Ed and Peggy Reynolds Classroom. This state-of-the-art facility will enhance a multitude of student support services and revolutionize the engineering educational experience at Auburn. Ed, ’70 electrical engineering, has demonstrated a strong commitment to the college throughout his career, serving as a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Electrical and Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board and the Wireless Engineering Industrial Advisory Board. He is a member of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and the Robert E. Lee High School Hall of Fame. He received the Distinguished Auburn Engineer award in 2012 and the Outstanding ECE Alumni award in 2013.

The newly renovated Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management.

Christopher B. Roberts, dean of engineering, presented Ed and Peggy Reynolds with a resolution commemorating their dedication to Auburn Engineering.


Not your average K-9 sniffer Gopikrishna Deshpande, associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, took part in a study on using zinc nanoparticles to enhance dogs’ sense of smell. He said this could help improve security at airports and public spaces. “Even though dogs have very good olfactory capabilities, they can miss detection of explosives, which are intentionally concealed to not give out odor,” Deshpande said. “I am sure you can envision such a scenario in the national security context and using zinc nanoparticles in that context will be useful.” The researchers also investigated the nanoparticles’ ability to kill cancer cells. They discovered animal and human blood naturally contains many different types of metal nanoparticles. The technology could even lead to ways of improving the human sense of smell, with fragrance companies expressing interest.

Problems in paradise Auburn University civil engineering professor Prabhakar Clement continues to study effects of the 2010 BP oil spill. On a trip to the Gulf Coast in May, he collected tar balls found lining the beaches for testing. More than one pound of tar balls were picked up along a small stretch of beach at Fort Morgan. The tests confirmed the tar balls were from the BP oil spill, and he said the chemicals in those tar balls aren’t breaking down effectively. Clement advises people not to be afraid to swim in the Gulf of Mexico because he said it’s not immediately harmful. However, he said Alabama can’t afford to ignore the continuing impact of the BP oil spill. “It’s slowly poisoning the environment and the longterm consequences aren’t completely clear,” Clement said.

GOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLL!!! The university announced Sept. 1 that it has reached its $1 billion goal as part of Because This is Auburn – A Campaign for Auburn University. The campaign, publicly launched in April 2015, will propel the university forward through a renewed commitment to students, a continued promise to the state and a shared responsibility to the world. As of the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, the university has raised $1.03 billion, receiving more than 393,000 gifts from more than 95,000 donors, 131 of which have given $1 million or more. More than 70 percent of campaign funds have come from Auburn alumni and friends who want to see the university continue to offer students unparalleled educational experiences. The College of Engineering announced in November 2015 that it surpassed its $200 million goal. The college has raised $217,355,689 as of Nov. 1, 2016. In fact, during the 2015-16 fiscal year, the college raised $27,522,090, surpassing its $20 million goal. While the university has surpassed its campaign fundraising goals for students and programs, the remainder of the campaign will focus heavily on reaching the goals established to support faculty and facilities. The campaign runs through December 2017.


Partners for the future

Showing off Graduate students from across the college presented their research at the 2016 Graduate Engineering Research Showcase, an annual event sponsored by the Council of Engineering Graduate Students that consists of poster presentations which highlight the work of Auburn Engineering graduate students. The event promotes scholarship, professionalism and interdisciplinary research. The showcase featured 142 graduate students and 81 judges, including faculty, alumni and special guests. The winning students received more than $7,500 in cash prizes. The following students were recognized: Top prizes 1st place: Remington Harrison, Electrical and Computer Engineering 2nd place: Bahareh Ramezan Pour, Mechanical Engineering 3rd place: Kyle Johnson, Aerospace Engineering Departmental Awards Tharikaa Ramesh Kumar, Aerospace Engineering Ravishankar Mahadevan, Biosystems Engineering Matthew Hilliard, Chemical Engineering Sarah Gustitus, Civil Engineering Hamza Alkofahi, Computer Science and Software Engineering Yuan Meng, Electrical and Computer Engineering Alejandro Teran-Somohano, Industrial and System Engineering Hossein Talebinezhad, Materials Engineering Hao Zhang, Mechanical Engineering Mehul Barde, Polymer and Fiber Engineering

FPInnovations and Auburn University, through its Alabama Center for Paper and Bioresource Engineering, announced a five-year agreement Sept. 27, aiming to bring NearNeutral Binding technology to ACPABE’s member mills in Alabama while facilitating the transfer of FPInnovations’ technical services to Alabama and neighboring states. Both parties signed a memorandum of understanding at the 2016 TAPPI PEERS conference held in Jacksonville, Florida, forming a partnership that will introduce and implement FPInnovations’ NearNeutral Brightening technology and other technical services to the forest products industry in Alabama, and over time to the broader Southeast. In addition, FPInnovations have agreed to begin building future technical support capabilities by sponsoring a post-doctoral student at Auburn University to conduct further research on NNB technology and other aspects of the bleaching of kraft pulp and to support the implementation of the technology in the state. AC-PABE is hosted within Auburn University’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

New Additive Manufacturing Center established, receives $1.5 million grant Auburn University has established a new Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing and selected Tony Overfelt, William and Elizabeth Reed professor of mechanical engineering, as its inaugural director. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing, is a growing sector of the manufacturing industry. Using this advanced technology, manufacturers can save time and money by printing objects out of plastics, metals and other materials and using them in the manufacturing process. The center has also been awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology to research ways for smaller manufacturers to use additive manufacturing for reliable, highvolume production of metal parts.

Winning formula BY JIM KILLIAN



hen the final scores came in at Formula West in Lincoln, Nebraska, this summer, feelings ran high on Auburn’s travel team – it was our first overall win in two decades of racing in what is arguably the Society of Automotive Engineers most challenging student contest. Auburn had come close before, finishing second, third, fourth and fifth, all part of a comfortable number of top tens. But this was a ringing validation for the team’s many long nights and lost weekends. Indeed, while Auburn participates in a number of student competitions, each with its own challenges and obstacles, it would be hard to think that there’s a tougher nut to crack than Formula SAE. The international competition draws colleges and universities from around the world – Europe to Africa and the Pacific rim to the Indian subcontinent, as well as all of the Americas – north, south, central, and the Caribbean. The largest competitions annually involve nearly 150 vehicles, with every name-brand engineering program that comes to mind – MIT, Cornell, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Florida, and yes, Auburn. The competition draws from an essentially clean sheet of paper every year, meaning the team cannot recycle last year’s car. It’s also relatively open – any kind of combustion engine can be used up to 700 cc, and it can be turbocharged, supercharged or

naturally aspirated. The limiter is that the engine must breathe through a 20 mm intake manifold, and the chassis must meet stringent safety regulations that are carefully vetted before the cars hit the track. Race week begins with static show-and-tells featuring design, engineering, cost and marketing reviews, and ends with crowdfavorite dynamic events – skidpad, acceleration, autocross and endurance, which consists of a grueling race punctuated by a driver change at the mid-point. It’s a race car graveyard for designs that aren’t carefully thought out, and machines that haven’t been robustly constructed. Auburn’s designs this year reflected careful and iterative movement in some areas, and complete departures in others. “This year represented our fifth generation composite tub,” explained Drew Campbell, a mechanical engineering senior from Birmingham who is in charge of chassis development. “The tub is stiffer and lighter at 36 pounds, but we’re already looking ahead to further improvements in ’17, when we will extend the composites beyond the bulkhead at the driver’s back.” It’s not an easy thing to push the envelope every year. This time out the team used ultra-lightweight carbon suspension links for the first time, but quality control issues led the team back to more traditional chrome-moly steel links after testing found flaws in the former suspension parts.

“We’re going to have the carbon links back on the car next year,” Campbell promises. “What happened this year just reflects the fact that not everything is going to necessarily work right off the bat, but requires more development time and supplier oversight.” The big news this year was the adoption of an aerodynamics package with wings front and rear, along with other aero bits on the fuselage. “We went from 206 composite pieces last year to about 250 this year, primarily because most of the aero parts are made from composite,” said Payson Williams, a senior in mechanical from Houston who serves as team captain. “We produced most of these parts in house, with all but the largest being autoclaved in our shop. The ones that wouldn’t fit, like the tub, went to GKN Aerospace for curing.” The aero package allowed the team to put 40 pounds of downforce on the track at 35 mph, which is frequently the speed taken through track corners. They plan to up the number for next year, maybe doubling downforce to 80 pounds. “The math is there,” Campbell said, “Force is mass times acceleration.” Campbell also said that in real-world testing, the car felt slower and heavier through the corners with the aero package, adding that the team felt the need to go to a harder compound on a heavier tire so that the rubber didn’t overheat from the additional downforce.

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“But when we tracked our lap times and converted those numbers into competition points, we came out 34 ahead,” Campbell explains. F=ma! Also accelerating is the team’s use of telemetry and software solutions, with quantum advances in data logging. “For the first time we were able to use data logging during the actual race, with real time data transfer that let us read vital signs on the car while it was in competition. The next iteration is to allow the driver to change parameters himself, and switch between drive modes, peak power settings, traction control bias and ignition cutouts during gear shifts,” Williams added. “It’s where so much development is really happening.”

In fact, he points to developments that would have seen unimaginable even five years ago. “We are repurposing our 2015 cars with sensors and actuators to make it a driverless car that we are entering into competition in 2017,” he explained. “It reflects the innovation that is happening on a broader scale in the automobile industry.” Peter Jones, the group’s advisor and Woltosz Professor in mechanical engineering, agrees. “This is one of the great things about our student groups – in addition to our traditional combustion car, we now have an electric vehicle and the beginnings of a driverless car. When our students graduate and take

jobs, they are not only prepared for the new technologies that are being developed, but ready to contribute from the beginning.” Team captain Williams and technical director Campbell, along with team leaders Michael Moritz, aero/ suspension/steering, and Steve Hough, engine, are taking a more immediate look at life. “We have four competitions next year,” Williams says. “Detroit, Lincoln, Barrie, Canada, and the Hockenheim Ring in Germany – with about 12 days between them . . . so that whenever I think of what a watershed year this has been, it all just seems like preparation for 2017. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s teamwork and it’s all a lot of fun.”

Sponsor support keeps Smith in the game When Austin Smith showed up for Formula Sponsor Day on a crisp fall morning, he didn’t expect to see anything all that different. An engineering account manager for National Instruments and 2010 graduate in mechanical engineering, he drove during his days on the team, as well as in previous sponsor days since graduating.

“Now the technology is more readily available to get the team to the next step, utilizing tuning parameters like in-cylinder combustion pressure, just to name one element. There’s also more room to innovate with new engine and chassis strategies because you’re not having to build these resources almost from scratch.”

“I was surprised,” he admits. “The biggest thing was that I could drive the car deeper into corners and still have grip. It was a lot of fun to get behind the wheel of this vehicle, with the benefits of an aero package and a really nice power train. It’s quick.”

It’s working out well, he adds, and he commends the team for their continued hard work.

He points to the difference that six or seven years can make.

“This isn’t just a seat-of-the-pants assessment. The team has results on the track to back up what they’re doing. As an alumnus of both the team and the college, it means a lot to me to see the direction they are going.”

From left, Formula team captain Payson Williams, faculty advisor Peter Jones, and alumnus Austin Smith.

Wheels of future BY CHRIS ANTHONY



magine a future where automobile accidents are nonexistent, saving the U.S. economy nearly $900 billion per year. Thirty-five thousand road deaths each year are prevented. Never again do we lose luminaries such as James Dean or Princess Diana to an automobile accident. It may sound like a pipe dream, but manufacturers and researchers from around the globe, including those in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, have made tremendous progress over the years in developing self-driving, or autonomous, vehicles with the potential of reducing – and possibly eliminating – automobile accidents and deaths. These vehicles are already popping up on roads throughout the country, from the fleet of Google cars autonomously roaming the streets of California to the self-driving Uber taxis chauffeuring passengers in Pittsburgh. But these early versions of autonomous vehicles do have shortcomings. In February, a Google car made headlines when it caused an accident – the first time one of its fleet was at fault for a collision. As the car was cruising the streets of California, it encountered sandbags partially blocking its lane. The car briefly stopped before attempting to merge into the left-hand lane, where it bumped into a passing bus. Issues such as these are among some of the primary challenges researchers are attempting to address with autonomous vehicles, said David Bevly, director of Auburn’s GPS Vehicle

Dynamics Laboratory and Bill and Lana McNair distinguished professor of mechanical engineering. He has researched automated systems for nearly 20 years. “We, as humans, are very, very good at figuring out what to do in situations we have never encountered by piecing together past experiences,” Bevly said. “For an autonomous vehicle, one of the greatest challenges is for it to understand what to do in a situation it has never encountered, such as a blocked intersection or a pedestrian violating a ‘don’t walk’ sign.” A self-driving vehicle operates using sensor sets to perceive the environment and determine what factors might affect it from traveling from point A to point B. The sensor sets can include GPS, cameras, radars, light detection and ranging and other types of navigation equipment, such as inertial measurement units. The vehicle’s computer then makes decisions based on the environmental data and electronically controls steering, acceleration, braking and other functions. Many of these early autonomous vehicle systems can be switched from self-driving mode to a manual mode operated by a driver. With the increasing prevalence of autonomous vehicles, the U.S. Department of Transportation decided in September to release regulatory guidelines governing their development and use. Before the Department of Transportation rolled out the guidelines, President Barack Obama touted the virtues of the technology in an op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Any time you can remove a human from a task that is dull, dirty or dangerous, replacing them with automation makes a lot of sense.

David Bevly Professor, Mechanical Engineering “Right now, too many people die on our roads – 35,200 last year alone – with 94 percent of those the result of human error or choice,” Obama wrote. “Automated vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year. And right now, for too many senior citizens and Americans with disabilities, driving isn’t an option. Automated vehicles could change their lives.” Bevly predicts it will be many years before all of our traffic is fully autonomous, but in the short term, he said, we will see much more “mixed traffic” – composed of autonomous vehicles and traditional vehicles – on our roadways, especially highways and interstates. Due to the structured nature of interstate travel, Bevly said it is the ideal environment for autonomous driving. “I think we’re going to see a lot more automation in those scenarios where it’s fairly structured and you don’t have pedestrians,” he said. Could a self-driving vehicle navigate downtown Auburn during a football weekend? It’s possible, but the level of complexity and unpredictably in that

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situation would make a human driver more of a sure bet. “The human is good during short durations at being able to focus on a specific task, such as navigating through pedestrians and traffic, but once the driver gets on the interstate, let the vehicle do that part,” Bevly said. Before self-driving vehicles become mainstream, there is another challenge to overcome: the price tag. Sensor sets that make autonomous driving possible cost more than most vehicles. For instance, a light detection and ranging sensor can run from $75,000 to $80,000. To bring down cost, researchers and manufacturers are challenging themselves to do more with less. “There’s been a huge push to figure out how we can use cheaper sensors and write better software and better algorithms that can allow a cheaper sensor to function just as well as an expensive sensor,” Bevly said.

The GPS Vehicle Dynamics Laboratory team generally focuses on navigation and localization issues related to autonomous vehicles. The thrust of their research is improving the capability of the vehicle’s navigation system to determine its exact location and whether it is adhering to the computer’s protocols. “For a lot of scenarios, this is fairly easy using GPS, but the GPS accuracies aren’t always what they need to be to pinpoint my location for automated driving,” Bevly said. For instance, GPS can lose reception when a vehicle goes underground, in a tunnel or in a heavily wooded environment. For vehicles used for military purposes, they could also run into the prospect of GPS signals being jammed. In these scenarios, Bevly and his team are researching ways to use other sensors in place of GPS. “We tend to focus a lot at the signal processing level, trying to pull as much

information out of the GPS signal and combining that information at very low levels with other sensitive information specific for vehicles,” he said. Due to the versatility of the technology that powers autonomous vehicles, Bevly sees widespread applications beyond the standard automobile. His lab also works on research related to GPS-guided farm tractors for John Deere. Beyond that, the technology can power automated warehouses, self-driving trucking fleets and military convoys in dangerous areas. “Any time you can remove a human from a task that is dull, dirty or dangerous, replacing them with automation makes a lot of sense,” Bevly said. By that same principle, you may see automation coming to a road near you one day soon.

Velislav Stamenov, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, researches how LIDAR can be used to improve navigation for autonomous vehicles.


We must protect this house BY MEGAN BURMESTER



he world we live in continues to evolve as remarkable technological advancements drive society forward, and the College of Engineering is doing its part to protect the security of our infrastructure through the establishment of the Charles D. McCrary Institute. The institute focuses on several areas of key research and is tasked with developing next-generation technologies aimed at improving the security and operation of the nation’s infrastructure. “Security of our critical infrastructure will be among the top research areas at the McCrary Institute,” stated Anthony Skjellum, newly appointed as the founding director of the institute. “Through an understanding of how to safeguard complex cyber infrastructure, such as computing networks, and sensors used in the energy, chemical and manufacturing sectors, researchers will learn how to better design and protect these systems from threats in the future.” One area of emphasis for researchers involves helping design and develop infrastructure systems that can continue normal operation, even when partially compromised. Forging long-term partnerships with peer universities, national laboratories, government agencies, and industry leaders in the private sector, researchers will gain knowledge in strengthening and better protecting cyber systems.

Another area the institute aims to address is ensuring the security and reliability of the nation’s power grid. Research in this area will examine how consumers and corporations can find ways to reduce power, increase energy efficiency and achieve economic savings. In addition, the institute is leveraging Auburn’s expertise in big data analytics by examining how data from business can be optimized and interpreted. The goal is to allow employees to analyze and interpret data remotely and disseminate that information safely and securely across the globe. Strengthening the nation’s defense systems is another research area the institute is closely studying. Research will include accurately predicting the reliability of defense systems under cyber threats, such as missiles, by improving the hardware and software design and lifecycle strategies used to build our tactical system network. Another research area that will be studied involves examining psychosocial cyber and institutional security. Research in this area will focus on the human threats to an organization, including interactions, motivations and strategies that may lead to an attack to an organization by an insider breach. By studying the design of organizational processes employees are expected to follow, researchers can better predict, and therefore prevent, human threats to institutional security.

The institute will also conduct research in several of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors defined by the Department of Homeland Security, including cyber security as it relates to the Internet of Things. This includes a number of traditional digital devices, but the institute is also interested in studying how and why IoT devices including home automation systems, HVAC units and automobile electronics can fall victim to hacker attacks. The more information that is passed back and forth within the network, the greater the chances for security to be compromised. In fact, a Hewlett Packard enterprise survey concluded that 70 percent of the most commonly used IoT devices contained vulnerabilities. The McCrary Institute strives to address this concern through the creation of more secure cloud and mobile architectures, as well as developing a more protective cyber operational environment. “This is an exciting time to work and study at the College of Engineering,” Skjellum said. “Through the McCrary Institute, Auburn will become a leader in addressing the needs of our state and country in the areas of our infrastructure and cyber systems.” However, improving the cyber security systems is not the only major research emphasis the institute is taking on. It will also address methods of advancing responsible natural resource development and conservation

McCrary Institute’s areas of emphasis:

• Critical infrastructure security, protection and operations

• Smart grid research and development

• Responsible development and conservation of natural resources

• Secure systems engineering

• Tactical systems cyber security

• Psycho-social cyber and institutional security

• Cyber security and forensics of the Internet of Things and industrial control systems

through state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed research and outreach. This focus relates to conservation and management of forested landscapes and wildlife habitat for socioeconomic and environmental benefits, known as natural capital. Combining efforts with Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, a founding partner of the institute, researchers will determine how to conserve our natural resources through urban expansion and shifts in climate. “To collaborate with industry experts and peer institutions to achieve a collective goal is what the McCrary Institute represents,” Skjellum said. “I look forward to elevating this institute on a national scale and providing significant contributions to the knowledge and expertise necessary to ensure our nation’s safety.” An advisory council has been formed that includes experts in academia and industry. This council will work toward fostering research collaborations that address the security needs of our state, region and nation. “With Dr. Skjellum’s outstanding credentials and national profile in cyber systems research, we are poised to advance the institute’s mission to the highest level,” said Christopher Roberts, dean of engineering. “The McCrary Institute will be part of the movement toward development of the next generation of advanced technologies.” The McCrary Institute was founded in 2015 through a generous donation by the Alabama Power Foundation in honor of Charles D. McCrary, who culminated a 40-year career with Alabama Power Co. as its president. A 1973 graduate in mechanical engineering, he has remained deeply devoted to the advancement of Auburn University and currently serves on the institution’s board of trustees.

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Go. . .

Our graduates are leaders in the aerospace, automotive, computer technology and refining industries, but some have parlayed their engineering education into unconventional careers. See some of the interesting places Auburn Engineers have gone‌

No place like home BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS

. . . To entrepreneurship


t’s taken nearly 20 years, but Erich Weishaupt has found his way back home.

Weishaupt, ’97 electrical engineering, is the owner of The Ruby Slipper Café, and in June 2016 he opened his sixth location with a restaurant in Orange Beach. But his journey back to Sweet Home Alabama has been an unconventional one for an engineer. Weishaupt lived in Opelika as a child and spent many of his adolescent years in Selma before he arrived at Auburn. His mother attended the university and his father even taught some courses, so the 100-mile trek to the university was a no-brainer. “When I was a kid, that’s when I fell in love with Auburn,” Weishaupt said. “I had no doubt where I wanted to go to school.” As a child, he loved science and math and showed an early interest in electronics. So, it was only a natural fit when he chose electrical engineering as a major. “I loved the community within Broun Hall and the entire electrical engineering department,” Weishaupt said. “Everybody was always in it together.” During his senior year at Auburn, representatives from Schlumberger were recruiting on campus, and he jumped at the opportunity to work for the Fortune 500 oilfield services company. “It was a great job coming out of college,” he said.

Engineering teaches you how to solve problems. You’re not going to know the answer to everything, but if you know how to get the answer and research and problem-solve and make good decisions, that will carry you a long way and that’s what I have carried with me.

During his tenure with Schlumberger, Weishaupt even worked on the now infamous Deepwater Horizon rig years prior to the 2010 explosion. In 2003, after seven years with Schlumberger, Weishaupt decided it was time to leave to take on a new adventure. While working for Schlumberger in New Orleans, Weishaupt met and married his wife, Jennifer, who also happened to be an engineer working in the city for Shell. In addition to falling in love with Jennifer, he also fell in love with the architecture of New Orleans, and he began flipping houses in his spare time. As he started to make enough money with his side gig to make it a full-time job, he decided to make a leap of faith. “It was a momentous decision,” Weishaupt said. “I felt passionate about real estate and it gave me the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. “And then Katrina hit.”

A business is born Being in real estate has its ups and downs and unexpected turns, but nothing could prepare Weishaupt for what was ahead when he embarked

Erich Weishaupt ’97 Electrical Engineering Owner, The Ruby Slipper Café

on his real estate career. Just two years after making the decision to leave Schlumberger for his newfound passion, Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the southeast Louisiana coast, destroying thousands of homes in New Orleans. Weishaupt wasn’t immune to the devastation, as his own home was affected by the torrential storm. But as he had always done, he got right back to work to rebuild the community he called home. He took leadership roles in neighborhood meetings, and helped devise plans to build back this once beautiful city. “Katrina changed everything,” Weishaupt said. “It forced a lot of new ideas into New Orleans. There were a lot of absentee landlords and this forced their hands to either renovate or sell the property.” In addition to this major life event for the Weishaupts, they also found out just two weeks after Katrina that they were expecting their first child. “No matter how much you plan for life, you can’t overcome where life leads you,” Weishaupt said with a laugh.


Over time, Weishaupt renovated more than a dozen homes in his six-block by six-block neighborhood before he was approached regarding a seedy property –­ a convenience store – that was a cancer on the community. The store was a haven for drug activity and loitering, bringing nothing but trouble. A couple living next to the establishment wanted to rid the neighborhood of the store, and they did just that when the building’s owner agreed to sell as long as they paid pre-hurricane market price for the property. The couple and the Weishaupts had previously spoken about the need for a restaurant in the neighborhood, so the pair confronted Weishaupt about the idea. “I told them that we didn’t say ‘we’ wanted to open a restaurant, we said we wanted ‘somebody’ to open a restaurant,” Weishaupt said jokingly.

with step-by-step instructions and started tearing everything apart.” The Weishaupts took elements from their travels to create the menu, and in 2008 The Ruby Slipper Café was born. But why the name? When discussing possibilities, Jennifer came up with the idea after hearing a local radio host share a recent experience she had with her daughter, who was returning to New Orleans after living in Houston for several years. “She said she realized that when you grow up in New Orleans, everywhere else is just Kansas. New Orleans is Oz,” Weishaupt said. “That’s who we are. Even though I’m not a native of New Orleans, if you were here before Katrina and came back to help rebuild, you are a true New Orleanian.”

So, what did he do?

Within two months of opening the restaurant, the couple realized their success was causing them to outgrow the location. So, they decided to try and re-create the idea and began scouting for an additional location. They found a spot in the Central Business District, renovated the vacant space and opened in December 2010. And again, within just a few months, he realized they were also outgrowing this facility. To this day, he said the Central Business District restaurant is the busiest they own.

“Me and my wife, being engineers of course, the first thing we did was look up ‘how to open a restaurant’ on the internet,” Weishaupt said with a laugh. “We found a website called and we downloaded the Excel spreadsheet

After opening the second location, Weishaupt said they began developing and honing their systems and processes, eventually leading him to open two more restaurants in New Orleans. That success and growth led him to open his first out-of-

But, as he had done with his real estate venture, he took a leap of faith into the world of restaurants. “We had heard all the horror stories of opening a restaurant, but there was a need in the neighborhood. It really needed something after Katrina, a community gathering place. We were traveling all over the city to get good breakfast,” Weishaupt said.

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state restaurant with the location in Pensacola, Florida. And as his business grew, so did his family. “The second location coincided with the birth of our second son and we opened the third location shortly after the birth of my daughter. So when we announced that we were opening our fourth New Orleans location, my parents asked, ‘Is this your way of saying Jennifer’s pregnant?’ he said with a laugh. To help him with his transition from a traditional engineering profession to building a career as an entrepreneur,

. . . To entrepreneurship he enrolled in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which he said helped him create and focus on a five-year growth plan. Part of that plan was the creation of a commissary kitchen to keep everything fresh and consistent across all locations. “Replicating recipes at each restaurant is not as scientific as a lot of the engineering background I came from. We use all fresh ingredients, made in house, and that has really helped with our brand recognition. Everything is really consistent,” Weishaupt said. After opening the Pensacola location, Weishaupt decided to open one more restaurant. This location would be the first of his six to be built as a new structure, and it would be back home in the state he grew up in.

“We wanted to be somewhere we could still travel to, somewhere we could we put the kids in the car and be there within two DVD movies time, and I thought being on the beach would be great. We proved our concept worked in Pensacola, so I thought Orange Beach was a great fit,” Weishaupt said. So does he have plans to keep expanding on the Gulf Coast, or beyond? “I keep saying I’m ready for a break,” Weishaupt said. “There’s the issue of whether to franchise or not franchise. I don’t want to just own a restaurant, I want to own a restaurant I can be proud of.” While some people questioned him when he left a career in the oil industry

The Ruby Slipper Café’s BBQ Shrimp and Grits INGREDIENTS:


8 large peeled and deveined shrimp

Cook grits according to package

1 oz. rosemary infused oil

Lightly coat skillet with rosemary oil

1 tsp. rosemary (minced) 1/2 oz. amber beer 1/2 oz. Worcestershire Grits (made with butter, salt and milk) Biscuit Compound butter (makes multiple

Cook shrimp about 1.5 minutes until 80 percent done. Add rosemary, beer and Worcestershire sauce. Reduce by half.

1 lb. unsalted room temp butter

Turn off heat and add 1 oz. of compound butter and swirl until melted.

.6 oz. minced garlic

Spoon on top of grits.

1/4 tbs. lemon juice

Serve with a biscuit.

servings – can be used for lots of things)

1/4 cup Worcestershire 1/4 cup hot sauce 1/4 oz. fresh rosemary

for the unknown, he said he would have never been able to make the smooth transition and achieve the success he has without his engineering training. “When I first told my parents, they said, ‘Well, great, we’re glad we put you through engineering school so you could do real estate,’” he said. “But I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I’ve been able to achieve without that background. Engineering teaches you how to solve problems. You’re not going to know the answer to everything, but if you know how to get the answer and research and problemsolve and make good decisions, that will carry you a long way and that’s what I have carried with me. That has stuck with me my entire life,” Weishaupt said.

Everybody’s All-American BY AUSTIN PHILLIPS

. . . To medical school


wo roads diverged in orange and crimson, and Kasey Cooper took the one less traveled by. Cooper, a senior in mechanical engineering and third baseman for the Auburn softball team, grew up in Dothan in a house divided. “My mom graduated from Alabama, but my dad grew up in the Opelika area so he has always been an Auburn fan,” Cooper said. “I was a mom’s girl, so I cheered for Alabama. My car was named Allie and my cat was named Bama. I never thought I would ever come to Auburn University.”

It’s all about finding a little bit of balance and knowing I’m never going to get it all done. I’m not perfect, I don’t strive to be, but I strive to be great and the greatest Kasey I can be.

“My mom always told me that school is going to get me everywhere,” Cooper said. “It came down to which engineering school was the best. I walked on campus for my official visit, I said, ‘Mom, this is where I want to go. This is where I belong.’”

But after visiting Tuscaloosa and stepping foot on the Plains, her mind was made up. And while her mother bled crimson and white, she was nothing but supportive of her daughter’s decision, although it did take her some time to come around to the new colors.

Upon seeing Shelby Center for the first time, Cooper said she was amazed at the facilities and the engineering faculty she met.

“Mom told me, ‘this is the school for you.’ My parents were happy for me because they knew it was the best decision for me. They support me and love me,” Cooper said. “However, my first year my mom wore only orange or only blue. Now, she wears Auburn softball gear and even has some other Auburn stuff. Dad was just so ecstatic that he finally had another Auburn fan in the house.”

After touring the engineering campus, Cooper said she was impressed with the hands-on learning environments such as the Design and Manufacturing Laboratory. Although she was unsure of a major, she was intrigued with mechanical engineering after hearing professor Roy Knight speak at orientation and listening to him talk about how he felt it was the broadest field and it explored options across all disciplines.

At home, Cooper’s father kept her structured on the field while her mother was the enforcer of grades. Although softball was an extremely important element in her life, it was her academic goals that sold her on Auburn.

“I loved the Auburn Engineering structure, the family atmosphere,” Cooper said. “This is what Auburn is.”

“In high school, I always wanted to be an engineer because engineers figure out how to solve problems and they break down complex problems into the simplest form,” Cooper said. “So, I chose mechanical engineering because

Kasey Cooper Senior, Mechanical Engineering Third baseman, Auburn Softball

you have to know a little bit about everything.” And even though she knew choosing such an arduous curriculum was going to be tough, especially coupled with the brutal softball schedule, she was comforted by the support she received from the athletic department, coaches, administrators and faculty. “They told me it was going to be difficult, challenging and rigorous,” Cooper said. “But I met with (Assistant Dean) Dr. (Bob) Karcher and he told me ‘You can do it.’ That’s all I needed to hear.” Balance has been the key to being a success on the field and inside the classroom, and Cooper has been both. In the classroom, she’s at the top of her class and was named the 2016 SEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. “I lose a lot of sleep every night, but you learn to time manage, you learn to fit in everything. Maybe tonight I need to focus on heat transfer and organic chemistry, maybe another night I didn’t really feel good on the field and so I’m going work more on softball and get my mind away from the classroom,” Cooper said. “It’s all about finding a little bit of balance


and knowing I’m never going to get it all done. I’m not perfect, I don’t strive to be, but I strive to be great and the greatest Kasey I can be.” On the field, Cooper has been just as amazing. In 2016, she was named the NCAA Elite 90 Winner, espnW Player of the Year, Top 3 finalist for USA Softball Player of the Year, NFCA First Team All-American, Women’s College World Series All-Tournament Team and SEC Player of the Year while leading the Tigers to a runnerup finish in the WCWS. While many of the accolades bestowed upon her are individual in nature, she credits everyone from those in her hometown

to her coaches and teammates for any and all of her successes. “It takes a village to raise a family. I always give credit to Dothan because that’s where I’m from, but Auburn is my home. Auburn just took me in,” Cooper said. “My success is everyone’s success. I know I have a God-given talent and it’s my job to work that talent, it’s my job to set that foundation and standard to live my dreams.” Cooper has also succeeded outside the classroom through an internship with Lockheed Martin and extra credit research through a partnership with the School of Kinesiology. Last

year, following a career fair organized by the athletic department, Cooper worked on a missile line at Lockheed’s Troy plant, learning the ins and outs of what engineers do each day. Her extracurricular research also gave her a glimpse of everyday engineering life, as she combined her love of softball and engineering to study the center of percussion on aluminum composite bats while factoring in different models, sizes, weights and how the sweet spot varies from person to person because of how each player breaks in a new bat. Cooper used popular DeMarini bats for her project and then compared the findings with the batmaker. “We verified the data with DeMarini, and it was really cool to see that we could replicate the data from their lab to Dr. [Wendi] Weimar’s lab in the Department of Kinesiology in both ways,” Cooper said. While her research and internship fueled her passion, she still had a deep down desire to pursue a dream she had for many years. During her sophomore year, Cooper felt a pain in her side that wouldn’t go away, and that pain would eventually lead her down a road to realizing her dream. After consulting with a local physician to get the pain checked out, Cooper discovered she had a large ovarian cyst. With the possibility of the cyst being cancerous, she sought out the advice of trainers, family and coaches, who also had personal experience with their wives going through the same thing. Cooper decided to travel to Birmingham to see a specialist, and it’s a good thing she did. After meeting with Dr. John Straughn Jr. of

. . . To medical school UAB, she contemplated whether surgery was the right option. She opted for surgery and Straughn performed the successful procedure just two days following her 20th birthday. When she returned to Auburn, the outpouring of support from her teammates was overwhelming. “I got to my apartment and it was completely full of gifts and get well wishes, and I just started crying,” Cooper said. “I never knew how much Auburn really meant by family until then.” Following the surgery, Cooper and Straughn continued to have a bond and a strong relationship that lasts till this day. Straughn, a former Princeton football player and Alabama football fan, knew the rigors of being a college athlete, and he wanted to ensure she healed properly. As a new Auburn softball fan, he attended the regionals and super regionals that year, and even extended a shadowing opportunity to Cooper, which she gladly accepted. Following the Women’s Softball World Championship in July 2016, Cooper spent two weeks with Straughn to see exactly what the life of a surgeon is all about.

Cooper with the surgical team at UAB.

“I’ve always considered medical school, and my goal was to go into it with an open mind. I didn’t really know what to expect,” Cooper said. “I wanted to take this opportunity because not a lot of people have it.” Cooper spent 11-12 hours per day with Straughn, arriving when he arrived and leaving when he left. She witnessed surgeries of all kinds, and came away with a definitive conclusion that the medical field was for her. “I found out that I was so mentally exhausted. It was just like softball,” Cooper said. “You go up and down. It’s like a roller coaster.” And because of her training in the engineering classroom and on the softball field, she knows the transition from the locker room to the operation room will be a seamless one. “I never knew how much teamwork and communication actually played a part in the medical field. You can relate athletics and engineering to the medical field because sometimes things don’t happen the right way. You have to think on your feet, you have to figure out the problem and it has to be a good solution. I am confident that because of my time here at Auburn, I will be able to perform under pressure and come up with the best plan of action for each patient. Softball and engineering have provided me the tools to solve problems, effectively communicate with a team, perform under pressure and trust the process,” Cooper said. “Seeing how softball and engineering ties into the medical field, I thought this is what I want to do. I want to help people. I just fell in love. This is where I belong.” And that has made all the difference.

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The rocket man BY MORGAN MARTIN

. . . To the stars


few days a week, Brooks Moore can be found at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, the largest spaceflight museum in the world. It is fitting that the renowned exhibition is located in north Alabama – where America’s space program was born, and where it continues to thrive. Nobody knows Huntsville’s history of spaceflight better than Moore, who today gives tours of the museum’s exhibits including the Saturn V Moon Rocket and America’s first satellite, Explorer I. But they are more than space artifacts to Moore. They are highlights of his career. An Alabama native, Moore earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Auburn, or API as it was then known, in 1948, as well as a master’s degree from Georgia Tech in 1949. He has called Huntsville home for more than six decades after joining space pioneer Wernher von Braun’s guided missile development team.

several of the German team members and two young Auburn Engineering graduates.”

The renowned von Braun team spent the decade of the ’50s working for the Army, and had grown into a fairly large operation, with Moore serving as chief of the team’s control section. The unit initially built the 200-mile-range Redstone, the Army’s first surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It proved to This was the beginning be extremely accurate and reliable, and was subsequently of the Cold War and U.S. deployed to West Germany. intelligence learned that the After the Redstone success Russians had an intercontinental of the early ’50s came the next “big boost in activity,” ballistic missile, with the sudden as Moore said. In early realization that we were far 1956, the Army assigned the behind them in the development team the task of building an intercontinental ballistic missile of long-range missiles. on an emergency basis.

“I had an interest early on in aircraft,” Moore said. “Of course, there weren’t any missiles or rockets back then. I did read the comic book ‘Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.’ It was rocketry – it was actually showing these rockets flying around in space. I thought that was nothing but far-out thinking that would never happen in my lifetime.” Moore was developing underwater mine and torpedo defense systems at the Naval Research Center in

Panama City, Florida, when he made the decision to move to Huntsville in 1952. He was one of the first young American engineers hired to work with von Braun and his key specialists from Germany who were brought to the area after World War II and tasked to build a precision guided missile for the Army.

Brooks Moore ’48 Electrical Engineering Defense and NASA Pioneer

“Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal was largely unused since the end of WWII and all civilians had been moved off the land much earlier,” Moore said. “It was an ideal place for missile development – lots of space, 50,000 acres. The Army moved the German team here and decided they needed to build it up with younger engineers. At that time, I was 25 years old. I was not fresh out of college like the typical young hires. I had three years of experience and a master’s degree, so I had a little jump ahead of the others. On my very first work assignment in Huntsville, however, I worked with

“This was the beginning of the Cold War and U.S. intelligence learned that the Russians had an intercontinental ballistic missile, with the sudden realization that we were far behind them in the development of long-range missiles,” Moore said. “We called that a ‘crash effort.’ We were assigned to develop a 1,500-mile-range precisionguided intercontinental ballistic missile as rapidly as possible.” The missile development team’s staffing was quickly increased and a four-star general was sent to Redstone Arsenal to head the project, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense to “bypass all of the red tape within the Army.” With Moore directing the design of the guidance and


control systems, the team developed the missile, named Jupiter, in an unprecedented 18 months. The Jupiter missile systems were rapidly matured to operational status and were deployed to Italy and Turkey. “While we were still with the Army we got the assignment to put up the first American satellite, Explorer I, in response to the Russians having launched Sputnik in October 1957,” Moore said. “We didn’t have a singlestage rocket with sufficient power to put anything into orbit around the Earth. However, we did have our little reliable Redstone. Earlier we had built, and successfully tested, an

experimental vehicle with small, solid propelled upper stages on top of a Redstone. Our analyses indicated that with this combination we could lift a small payload to Earth orbit altitude and accelerate it to orbital velocity. Three months after we received authorization to proceed, the team launched Explorer I in January 1958. It was a resounding success – not only did it orbit the Earth once, but it continued in orbit for 13 years and 58,000 revolutions.”

Force and Navy, with each wanting to build rockets for their own purposes. President Dwight Eisenhower decided in 1958 to eliminate the space exploration rivalry by establishing a civilian agency to focus on space flight for the benefit of humanity in general, and NASA was born. The von Braun team was selected to become a part of NASA and Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center was created with the assignment to develop all future U.S. spacelaunch vehicles.

In the 1950s, the desire to develop rockets for military and space application created severe internal competition among the Army, Air

“Because of the reputation we had built up here with the old reliable Redstone and the fast-track Jupiter, as well as putting up the nation’s

. . . To the stars first satellite, there is no doubt in my mind those are the reasons President Eisenhower selected Huntsville, Alabama, to be the home of Marshall,” Moore said. The whole von Braun rocket team, which consisted of 2,000 people at the time, was reassigned to MSFC. Within the new organizational arrangement, Moore was assigned as director of the Guidance and Control Division. Under the new structure, the Army, Navy and Air Force were allowed to continue missile development for their own specific military applications, which the Army chose to continue to do at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

“We already had the assignment to work on a heavy-lift launch vehicle while we were with the Army, so we continued that development and it evolved into being a vital test vehicle, designated the Saturn IB, for the Saturn V Lunar Landing Program. The first stage of the Saturn IB was really just a combination of a Jupiter and eight Redstones,” he said.

a Jupiter. We approached a lot of challenges in that manner, using the hardware we had available,” he added.

“Again, this goes back to the old ‘Buck Rogers’ comics – some of those rockets used a cluster of small engines at the base of the rocket instead of one large engine, and what we ended up doing was essentially that, we took eight Redstones and wrapped them around

“It was an all-out thing,” Moore said. “Because of the complexity of the Saturn V Lunar Launch Vehicle, it took several years – almost nine years since it was already May 1961 when he said we’d do it in this decade – so we used our little test vehicle, the Jupiter with the Redstones wrapped around it, and we developed an upper-stage single engine which became the third stage of the Saturn V. We used it on top of the ‘cluster,’ as we called it. Some of our critics laughed at us, calling it ‘Cluster’s last stand,’ he said.

It had only been a year since NASA’s establishment when President John F. Kennedy made his ambitious pronouncement to send an American to the moon before the end of the decade.

“But the Saturn IB proved to be an invaluable test vehicle since we could launch lunar landing hardware and three-man crews into Earth orbit for developmental hardware and operational procedure testing while developing the much larger and more complex three-propelled-stage Saturn V,” he added. “Developing the Saturn V was based on a step-by-step learning process dating back to the 1950s. The reliable Redstone was based on what the Germans had learned from their V2 development. We then used a lot of the same techniques and technology to develop the much larger and more powerful Jupiter. The progression continued through the Saturn IB


and ultimately into the Saturn V development. In my area of specialty, the guidance and control systems, there is an evident trail of continuity of design techniques and technology from the Redstone through to Saturn V,” he added. Throughout the ’60s, the MSFC team worked to fulfill Kennedy’s goal to send Americans to the moon. The original MSFC engineering organization, consisting of nine key technical discipline laboratories, remained intact throughout the Saturn IB/V Lunar Landing Program. Each laboratory was directed by a senior German engineer or scientist from the original von Braun team, which contributed to the continuity of the design philosophy. The Astrionics Laboratory, with the responsibility for all guidance, control, computers and electrical/ electronic systems, was one of those nine laboratories. In 1969, Moore was selected to become the director of the Astrionics Laboratory, making him one of only two American engineers to become a MSFC laboratory director during the Lunar Landing Program. Twelve Saturn V’s were launched during the Lunar Landing Program. Since the system was completely automated, flight tests could be conducted unmanned. The first two launches were unmanned flights into Earth orbit, thereby testing the systems without endangering a crew. Both flights were successful, so the decision was made to put a crew on the third launch scheduled for December 1968. “Most people think astronauts guided us into space,” Moore said. “They did not. We used our same techniques that we used with military missiles

– we used computers and electronic systems to drive the control surfaces, or gimbal the engines, to keep the vehicle flying on the desired course. We could preprogram the vehicle to hit a target. When we got into the lunar launches we had to go precisely to a certain spot in Earth orbit and direct the spacecraft toward the moon, then increase the velocity to escape Earth orbit. We did all of that automated.” This next step called for launching Apollo 8 with Cmdr. Frank Borman and his crewmates, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders, with the intent to fly around the moon, but not land. “It was just as exciting and important as the first landing on the moon to send the first astronauts around the moon. Of course there were some very anxious moments on that Christmas Eve 1968 when the crew was not in communication while on the back side of the moon – we didn’t know whether they were going to come out or not. When they came out around the moon, it was on live TV and you could see for the first time the picture of the whole globe. We could see the round shape of the Earth, the oceans and the lands. As we saw this view for the first time, the astronauts were reading from the Book of Genesis: ‘In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth . . .’ This was such a dramatic moment. It was just as much of a highlight in my memory as the landing on the moon six months later.” The next step in preparation for a moon landing was to send another crew around the moon, but this time they would dip down within eight miles of the lunar surface before going

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back into lunar orbit and then back to Earth, all executed successfully. All of the NASA team’s meticulous step-by-step groundwork paid off on July 16, 1969, when the Saturn V rocket launched from Kennedy Space Center. Moore was inside the control center, while his family sat outside in the stands. “It’s amazing that we had very little difficulties on that particular flight. On some flights there were anomalies that we overcame, but on this one everything just went as smoothly as possible,” Moore said. “It was justifiably cause for a big celebration. However, there had been many celebrations along the way.” While the astronauts were on their way to the moon, Moore came back to Huntsville. The Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center in Houston was now in control of the operation. “It was now a waiting game,” Moore said. “People ask if I went to any landing parties, but I was too uptight. I stayed home with my family and watched on TV as they landed, took that ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,’ explored the moon, returned to orbit and headed back to Earth. I celebrated when the three parachutes opened as they arrived safely back home.” The NASA team would go on to put 12 more men on the moon and build the country’s first space station, Skylab. What used to be fiction from his childhood comic book eventually became Moore’s reality.


. . . To the home of the Braves


shon Pulliam is full of energy – literally and figuratively. From his job as a commercial-industrial sales executive for Georgia Power to his endless engagement with the College of Engineering, Pulliam is constantly in motion.

and restaurant spaces. In addition, he’s also working on the Kennesaw Marketplace, which will house a Whole Foods, Academy Sports and more than 35 retail and restaurant spaces. Prior to his current role, Pulliam served as a distribution engineer, where he was responsible for the electrical systems of more than 43,000 customers in the metro Atlanta area.

A 2012 graduate in industrial and systems engineering, Pulliam realizes not a lot of engineers have the word “sales” in their title, and it’s often a good conversation starter.

Pulliam credits his father with encouraging him to pursue a career that stretched his limits academically. His father’s advice was to choose a profession that would always be relevant and could withstand any economic downturn. After shadowing his father as he built and remodeled homes in the construction industry, Pulliam was attracted to the engineering profession and never looked back.

“Most people ask me why would an engineer work in sales? Honestly, I’m more of an energy consultant than a salesman,” Pulliam said. “I promote the use of electric end-use products, so it’s my job to show customers the financial and production benefits of electric products over gas.” Pulliam identifies opportunities by understanding the equipment or machinery his customers plan to add, then completing a load analysis. He uses this information to complete the business’ transformer sizing, which helps Georgia Power engineers determine what electrical infrastructure is needed to serve that customer. Currently, he has his hands full working on the transformer sizing for the retail and restaurant portion of The Battery Atlanta, one of the largest and most anticipated developments in the city. The project will house the new Braves stadium, Roxy Theater, Kings Bowling Alley, a multi-story office building and more than 45 retail

In high school, Pulliam was recruited to play Division I lacrosse at universities in the Northeast, so Auburn was originally not on his radar. However, many of his classmates and friends who attended Auburn always expressed a strong sense of pride and love for the school. “After I was accepted, it was actually my parents who made me visit, and I absolutely fell in love with the town, campus and school culture,” Pulliam said. “In the end, I was fortunate to receive an engineering scholarship and the opportunity play club lacrosse, so deciding to go to Auburn was an easy choice.” According to Pulliam, graduating with an industrial and systems engineering degree was the best decision he could

make. Even in his current role, he uses his engineering tools and knowledge of lean-six sigma principles to save time, money and increase efficiency. Pulliam said that one of the most powerful aspects of earning an industrial and systems engineering degree is the ability to understand high-level business and effectively convey technical information to non-technical decision makers. On of the most rewarding aspects of his job is when he learns a customer has implemented his recommendations and experiences significant economic savings and improved efficiency. “One of the hardest aspects of working in this industry isn’t knowing that you’re right, it’s convincing others that you’re right,” Pulliam said. “My industrial engineering degree did a great job of teaching me how to understand a problem and build a business case, then organizing the facts to prove why the recommendation should be implemented.” As Pulliam continues to experience professional success and growth, he has not forgotten the college that helped him get there in the first place. During his early days at Georgia Power, he was involved with an activity team where he traveled to Auburn to recruit engineering co-op students and interns. He found that experience to be rewarding and it made him want to become even more involved not just with the university, but on a student level. That motivation and thinking led him to join the Auburn Engineering Young Alumni Council, helping to promote the importance of why other young alumni should give their time


and resources to stay connected to the college. “For a lot of us, we’d like to give back to the college, but don’t quite know how. I just remind young alumni to give their time and have a presence on campus,” Pulliam said. Giving back is an integral part of Pulliam’s core beliefs. He attributes his professional success to the mentorship of older alumni and wants to pay it forward himself. Transitioning from student to teacher has been a welcome role change, and one he wants to use to influence the college and future Auburn engineers.

I’m a strong believer that as you learn, you should teach. There is no better family of people to learn from and teach than Auburn Engineering.

Mshon Pulliam ’12 Industrial and Systems Engineering Georgia Power And he’s not slowing down anytime soon. While already knowledgeable about customer loads and how distribution lines are sized and constructed, in the next decade, he hopes to become a well-rounded, go-to source for information and best practices in the energy industry. To achieve that level of expertise, he hopes to gain a greater understanding

“I’m a strong believer that as you learn, you should teach. There is no better family of people to learn from and teach than Auburn Engineering,” Pulliam said. As a mentor to current students, Pulliam offers a key piece of advice: make time to learn about yourself, identify your aspirations and find mentors who can help you achieve your goals. In his case, networking with alumni in various industries enabled him to see the possibilities and better define the direction of his career. It’s that advice that’s propelled him forward. “I’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot in a relatively short amount of time because I’ve always been surrounded by a strong circle of people who know more than I do,” Pulliam said. “In today’s world, you can’t be afraid to believe in yourself and tell others what skills you can bring to their organization.”

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of battery storage and renewable energy. Whether working on construction sites, promoting the value of engaging with the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering or guiding current students toward a fulfilling professional career, Pulliam’s future will be electrifying.

Follow your heart BY EMILY ESLECK

. . . To the operating room


ason Thompson knows the way to a person’s heart, and if there’s a problem with the major cardiac muscle that pumps life through our veins, he fixes it – cardiac stents, angiograms, arteriograms. These are only a few of the procedures he performs. The cardiologist has always considered himself a fixer, not only with medicine but also in every aspect of his life. Tackling complex problems to achieve his career goals was something he learned through Auburn Engineering. However, his journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Thompson, ‘93 chemical engineering, put himself to the test, studying late nights for medical school exams while simultaneously earning his doctorate. Overcoming cancer while in residency would be his next achievement, but he got through it and has become an even stronger person for it. Originally from Trussville, Thompson said he always wanted to be a physician. In high school, he excelled in science and math, so he knew engineering would be a natural fit. In 1989, Thompson visited the university for E-Day and after seeing engineering students engaged and excited about their classes, he knew Auburn Engineering was where he needed to be. It just had “the right feel.” “I loved it, loved the curriculum, the skill set that it taught me in terms of problem solving and really how to approach a problem,” Thompson said.

Even as a high school senior, Thompson said the faculty was extremely approachable. “It’s home, and to some degree it will always be home,” he said. After completing his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1993, Thompson worked at a Swiss company for one year before deciding he needed a graduate degree. Many of his coworkers had their doctorate, and he quickly realized he would be a better engineer if he went back to school. A few years later, he returned to the Plains and studied under Christopher Roberts, dean of engineering who then served as chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering. While in graduate school, Thompson helped start Roberts’ lab, and the two developed a close relationship – one they continue to build upon today. He said he and his fellow graduate students had more interaction with Roberts than the typical doctoral student. “We would roll up our sleeves in the lab side-by-side with him to determine directions of research, protocols and structure of the projects we were doing,” Thompson said. “He was a friend, even at that early age, and he has continued to be.” In 2000, Thompson became Roberts’ second graduate student to receive a doctorate. According to Thompson, Roberts’ best quality is his genuine interest in his students not just professionally, but on a personal level as well.

“He still stays in touch,” Thompson said. “It’s nice to know you have someone like that in your corner, someone you can always pick up the phone and call, and there’s not going to be this distance and time between you. It’s like you were in his lab yesterday.”

Decisions, decisions Aside from having a blast in graduate school, Thompson began wondering if he should be doing something more. Without telling his parents or Roberts, he started studying for the MCAT. By day, he was in the lab teaching two classes as a graduate assistant, and by night he hit the books, not expecting to pass. “I thought a poor performance on the MCAT would just end this dream for me, and I wouldn’t have to address it,” Thompson said. He passed, but he wasn’t sure if medical school was the right move. Even going into the interview round,


nobody knew he was pursuing this dream he thought he would never achieve. Sure enough, after his interview he received a call and was accepted into medical school at UAB. However, Thompson was still torn on his decision. He thought ‘what do I do?’ The first person he told was Roberts. When he heard the news, Thompson said he was fatherly and told him he would support him the whole way. “He said, ‘You’re going to finish your Ph.D. too,’” Thompson said with a chuckle. Living in Birmingham, he would drive to Auburn on weekends for research with his fellow graduate students. To avoid paying two rents, he stayed in the Phi Gamma Delta house, his fraternity during his undergraduate years. Once in medical school, Thompson realized the true benefit of an engineering background. At the beginning, it was hard since he didn’t have as much medical knowledge. But by year three, when problem-solving was needed, Thompson said he and the other engineers in his class rose to the top. Examining data requires sifting through what’s important so decisions can be made. Thompson said the training he received while obtaining his doctorate was invaluable during this process. However, he struggled with memorizing all the medical material. He said there isn’t much memorization involved in engineering. Professors taught a way to approach a problem and how to apply principles, but once

you knew how to solve the problem, it was all calculations. “I had this blue recliner in my den that I grew to hate,” Thompson said. “But I would sit in that recliner, and for 12 hours a day I would memorize transcript after transcript, and that was very different for an engineer who never had to memorize anything.”

Residency and his battle with cancer It all started Sept. 10, 2003, when Thompson and his wife, Tami, visited the doctor for her ultrasound. He was busy working as a resident at UAB, and she was 32 weeks pregnant. The OB-GYN told them there might be chromosomal issues with their first child, Libby, so they were hoping the ultrasound would be normal. Fortunately, everything was just as it should be, signaling their baby was fine. That night, the excited couple went to dinner in downtown Birmingham to celebrate the great news. Thompson said his wife suggested he have a glass of wine for the occasion. Within 15 minutes he started having neck pain. “I started pressing around, and I found a lymph node in a place where you shouldn’t feel a lymph node,” Thompson said. One of his mentors always liked medical trivia and an odd question he always asked was, “What causes lymph node pain in the setting of alcohol?” Thompson said that immediately came to him, so he worried it could be Hodgkin lymphoma.

“My wife will tell you that over the years I have diagnosed myself with a number of things,” Thompson said with a laugh. “And in fairness I have, most of which have not proven to be accurate. But that one was accurate.” Thompson said he made a few calls and received a CAT scan the next day. The results showed stage two Hodgkin lymphoma. The next week he started cycles of chemotherapy that would last six months. “It’s amazing how you can go from the top of the world to the depths in a matter of seconds,” Thompson said. From finishing his third year of residency at UAB Hospital and being named one of the chief residents to being matched with Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to further his academic research, everything stopped in that moment. For a couple days, the weight of the diagnosis was overwhelming. Between doctors trying to stop Tami’s contractions from sending her into pre-term labor and him getting a port implanted for chemotherapy, Thompson’s life seemed to be spiraling out of control. But in the whirlwind of it all, Thompson found a different perspective. On day three, he contacted a friend from medical school. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma as a medical student six years before. He told her he was sick, and she responded with, “Jason, that is such a blessing.” At the time it was hard to hear, but now Thompson feels his illness has

. . . To the operating room completely changed his life – for the better. “At the end of the day it was probably the greatest blessing I ever had,” Thompson said in reflection. “You can’t let it define you, but it changes you.” Amidst the chemotherapy and disease, he was able to finish his residency – a testament that he said was not to him, but his coworkers. Each night he was on call, a fellow resident would relieve him of his duties and tell him to go home for eight or nine hours to rest. “It was just amazing,” Thompson said. “Had it not been for them, I would have had to bow out for a period of time.”

The engineering of surgery During his residency, Thompson rotated through every surgery specialty, gaining as much experience as possible. But when it came to cardiology, he said it was love at first sight. However, it didn’t come without demanding, laborintensive work. Early in his career, he thought he would spend the majority of his time performing procedures in the lab, but now his passion is working at the Birmingham Heart Clinic, where he has been for nine years. He sees anywhere between 140–150 patients per week, which allows him to interact with them more since he sees many of them on a regular basis. In addition to working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., he has to be prepared for emergency calls after hours, such

as acute heart attacks. There isn’t a typical day in cardiology because of its diversity, according to Thompson. He said cardiology has shifted in the past 10 years, from primarily focusing on the heart to looking at the whole body, as well. Cardiologists have to be prepared for just about anything. Thompson specializes in cardiac catheterization, performing arteriograms and reading echocardiograms, or stress tests, during any given week. However, he said there are many engineering applications in his day-to-day work. When he calculates valve areas in a heart, he uses the Bernoulli equation to determine rise and fall in pressure and flow of blood pumped by the heart. This uses the equations in the same way chemical engineers look at fluid flow. Techniques used in engineering imaging are also apparent in cardiac imaging. Materials science is used when constructing stents made out of different materials. Nitinol retains strength better than regular metal stents, making it possible to stent legs. “Materials engineering has probably had the biggest impact in terms of the practice of cardiology,” Thompson said.

How cancer changed his life Overcoming cancer has helped make Thomson a better surgeon, physician, husband and father to his three children: Libby, 13; Lauren, 8; and Walker, 6. “It permeates every area of my life,” he said.

Being a doctor, Thompson read various scientific studies for Hodgkin lymphoma following his diagnosis. Seeing his survival rate drop from 70 to 50 percent across multiple articles “would take the wind out of your sail,” so he had to stop researching. One of the hardest things Thompson needed to do was truly accept the role of patient and put his trust in the doctor’s hands. He had to stop trying to solve the puzzle and let his doctors do the problem-solving. Having been a patient and seeing things from the other side allowed him to improve his own patient care as a doctor. Getting pricked with needles over and over for lab work made Thompson aware of the pain patients have to undergo. When he started practicing medicine again, he vowed to limit lab work as much as possible. Thompson also realized, after hearing his own diagnosis, how overwhelming complex medical issues can be, so he worked to explain things better and educate his patients on a level each of them could understand. Cancer also renewed Thompson’s faith in people. He said he and Tami probably didn’t cook dinner for four months. Neighbors, patients and community members brought food to their doorstep, uplifting the Thompson family during a difficult time.

Support system Tami has stood by his side through it all – picking up the kids when Thompson works late nights, understanding his schedule and valuing all the hard work he put

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in to get to the point where he is today. Thompson said he couldn’t do it without her. They met during Jason’s third year of graduate school on the Plains. Best friends and very much alike, the couple works as a team to ensure everything gets done. During his treatment, Tami supported him, especially by making side effects easier to deal with. She exchanged his electric razor with a regular one because he was prone to excessive bleeding and slipped silk pillowcases on his pillows to reduce hair loss. His 10-minute morning routine quickly turned into an hour as he searched cabinets for his trusty electric razor – things they both laugh about now. Even his Auburn Family supported him through his cancer. When Roberts heard about Thompson’s diagnosis, he worried about his friend and former student. “I think it hit him hard as well,” Thompson said. Auburn University and Auburn Engineering helped shape Thompson into the man he is today. With three children, sometimes it’s hard to make it back to campus, but he said the family has recently been able to visit more often. He and Tami have even explored ways they could retire in Auburn. “It’s a special place, and I think that’s lost on people who don’t have a connection to Auburn,” Thompson said.

52-second dream BY CHRISTINE HALL

. . . To the Olympics


ornings are the toughest part of swimming. Awake before sunrise and into the frigid waters of the James E. Martin Aquatics Center pool, Luis Martinez, junior in mechanical engineering and member of the Auburn swim team, finishes his laps before most people are out of bed. Whether training to cut a fraction of a second from his lap times or trying to find enough hours in the day to attend class and study, he doesn’t have a moment to spare. It’s a grueling pace that would overwhelm many athletes, but Martinez doesn’t know any other way. Fighting off the desire to sleep, his race against the clock is a mental struggle. It’s the desire to get better, and not being afraid of failure, that has led to his ability to come to terms with his relentless schedule. But consistently getting better every time, as he has, requires perseverance. Day after day, month after month, year after year, Martinez is defining himself in a sport where doing something over and over

again is crucial for success. You can see it when he’s behind the blocks, waiting for the signals that start the race; he is swimming not only against the competition, but against the standard he has set for himself. Martinez secured his spot in the 2016 Olympics by proving he could swim against the sport’s most elite. In fact, his time of 52.35 in the 100-meter butterfly – clocked at the U.S. Winter Nationals last year – was third behind Michael Phelps and Tom Shields. Representing Team Guatemala in Rio, Martinez was 19th fastest in his Olympic heats. Although he didn’t make the finals, he cut his time to 52.22, a personal best and Guatemalan record. “Going to the Olympics is a dream for any athlete that belongs to an Olympic sport,” Martinez said. “But making the Olympics is not the dream. The dream is going to the Olympics and performing the best you’ve ever performed. Going there and knowing I accomplished that, and gave it my all, was one of the best feelings I’ve ever

felt in my life. No matter if I would have finished second, first or last, it would be probably the same feeling at the end. You have 52 seconds to prove that you’ve worked harder than a lot of people, and that’s tough when you know some have worked just as hard as you. It’s extremely competitive, but everyone is going to feel happy at the end.” Born in New Orleans and raised in Guatemala City, Martinez appreciates the opportunities he’s had in life and said that swimming has opened “some amazing doors that maybe nothing else would have opened.” Like many Latin American nations, Guatemala has regions that struggle with poverty and malnutrition rates. For many in the country, the distribution of income remains highly imbalanced, with more than half of the population below the national poverty line. “Guatemala is a very unequal country. There is a huge gap between upper class and lower class. There’s no real substantial middle class,” he said. “I know a lot of kids [in Guatemala] don’t have the opportunity I have, which gives me a lot of motivation to represent my country in the best way possible.” Martinez was determined to swim from the age of 3. After a few years, his trainer suggested that the talented athlete should take his skills to the next level. With the support and encouragement of his parents, he was competing by age 10 and moved to Florida after high school. “I decided to move to the U.S. to pursue not only a career in


engineering, but also as a swimmer. And the U.S. is the biggest powerhouse for swimming in the world,” Martinez said. Martinez will be the first to tell you that he was afraid he wasn’t fast enough to be recruited by the NCAA powerhouse Tigers, but transferring to Auburn was the best decision he’s ever made. After swimming at Missouri University of Science and Technology, Martinez realized he wanted more, especially the option to compete yearround. That’s where Auburn entered the picture. “Even though (Missouri S&T) was really good, I knew there were some other great schools, such as Auburn, that have an amazing engineering program and also have such an amazing swim team. It’s just a really good sports legacy.” Swimming at this level is a full-time job, but the Auburn junior manages it while also dealing with the academic demands of mechanical engineering, a major that could rival any college course of study for the title of most rigorous. Although he is determined, he acknowledges that pursuing both dreams at once can be a physical and mental struggle. Akin to the butterfly stroke, it is quickly exhausting – an act of coordination that becomes a challenge of rhythm and timing. “It’s getting to a point where none of my classes are easy anymore,” he said. “Some are easier than others, but that doesn’t make them easy. Now that I’m starting the real engineering classes, it’s so time demanding. Sometimes I just want to sleep. Sometimes I just want

In swimming, time doesn’t lie. If you’re out of time, you’re out of time. You can’t cheat the clock.

Luis Martinez Junior, Mechanical Engineering Guatemalan Olympic Swimmer to nap instead of going to class. And a part of me knows that actually I would get more benefit for my body, but on the other side my grades would be hurt if I don’t go to class. But it’s going to be like that forever. Even when I’m not swimming, when I get a job, there are decisions you have to take that you’re not going to like. But you have to take them because they’re necessary.”

he is excited about the future and the opportunity to work in the U.S.

Swimming doesn’t allow much time for extracurricular activities, but Martinez tries to make sure he isn’t missing out on the typical life of a college student. He catches up on sleep during the weekend, he attends football games with his friends and teammates on Saturdays and he even plays the electric guitar – a passion of his for almost nine years.

Martinez is confident that the lessons he’s learned from competing will apply to the engineering profession. The combination of self-discipline and the motivation to constantly improve and progress to the next level is something he takes to heart. If he doesn’t give it his all and learn from his mistakes, Martinez knows he will have no one to blame but himself.

“I’m a huge fan of music. I played piano when I was a little younger and I used to give little concerts when I was in Guatemala. I was so serious about piano that I actually thought about quitting swimming for piano. I’m glad I didn’t do that. I stopped playing piano and I forgot everything.”

“In swimming, time doesn’t lie. If you’re out of time, you’re out of time. You can’t cheat the clock,” Martinez said. “If you didn’t do something right, just one thing right, you’re going to pay for it at the end. There’s no other way around it. We have this subconscious feeling when we know we didn’t give it everything we could have, and the end result isn’t going to be the best it could have been, you know it’s because that’s on you. It’s hard to get better all the time, month after month. When you realize you’ve done everything perfectly, there’s always something to get better at.”

For now, his aspirations for the near future remain in the pool. Martinez plans on training for the 2020 Olympic trials, but a career in engineering is what he’s striving for in the long term. Inspired by wanting to innovate new and creative ways to solve problems,

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“I really like designing. I would love to go to a job, and someone tells me, ‘We have this idea, and I would like you to sit down and give us a prototype, or design something, or manufacture this.’ That would be my dream job. That sounds really fun.”

It’s my job

It’s my job BY JIM KILLIAN

Will McCartney, ’13 biosystems engineering Project Engineer Lendlease Corp. New York City A day in the work life . . . the company that I work for, Lendlease, is a leading international construction and development firm. The Lendlease New York office is located in midtown Manhattan, and the projects that I work on are all located at a medical center that sits on the East River. They are predominantly MEP renovations (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), most of which

involve purposefully redundant power systems. My biggest project is currently ramping up from the preconstruction phase into the mobilization and demolition phases, which means bringing manpower on site, preparing the space for demolition and testing for any asbestos that may contaminate the site. During a normal workday, I typically walk the site, meet with the owner’s representatives,

It’s my job

process bids, revise or approve change orders, create safety and logistics plans, and update schedules. I work with architectural supplemental instruction a lot because what we’re doing on the job site involves a lot of renovation, and we never know when a field condition is going to necessitate a change in the design. Every time the architect makes a change, we must disseminate new drawings to all of the subs on the job, track down change orders from the subs, check the revised pricing to ensure it is accurate, and get the new pricing approved by the owner so that we can put the proper work in place. Career success . . . right now I am involved in renovations of a Manhattan medical center that was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, so I can say this: while all modern health care construction is complex, building in Manhattan presents a unique set of challenges – it’s as difficult to build here as anywhere else. When you’re working in health care there are special logistical concerns that you need to take into account and there are layers of management that involve working to strict codes in a facility that will also include a high level of technical hardware. After all, it’s a hospital, and we work to a standard that reflects that people’s lives will be at stake. There are a lot of redundant systems involved, particularly in the management of electrical power. It’s our responsibility to make sure the hospital is equipped to handle all types of weather – even the most extreme. I got a taste of New York weather my first week on the job, when 22 inches of snow fell. As an Alabama native, that’s 16 more than I had ever seen. Biosystems calling . . . I don’t use the agricultural side of my biosystems degree that much, since I work in the middle of New York City. However, the organizational skills I honed in college are the basis of my work. The role that I am in is all about project management: moving people and resources around to meet schedules, deadlines and budgets. In fact, budgeting and scheduling are the two primary tools of project management, and organizational skills are in high demand. I will add, however, that part of the job that I am currently involved in requires building an elevator on reclaimed land on the East River, so that does involve some of the technical principles that I learned in biosystems. We’re pumping out groundwater during construction and using a sedimentation tank that has to be discharged according to specific environmental codes and procedures.

That definitely bridges the gap between what I learned in school and what I am tasked with managing on the job. Future leader . . . I love what I am doing. My usual day is spent on the job site, but we have occasional training and staff meetings at the main office in the Metlife Building in midtown. I remember going there the first time. I got out at Grand Central Station and began to look for the office. It was literally above me. My goal is to stay in health care, and to work as a project manager in progressively larger situations. I am not sure where that will take me in the next five years. Looking back to five years ago, I was in college at Auburn, and since then, I have lived in seven states. The most important thing that I have learned so far is how much people are the same. Sure, this is New York, and the pace is a bit different from Gadsden or Auburn, but at the end of the day – cultural differences and all – people are really all the same. You have to learn what they are like and learn to appreciate the differences, but the commonality is there. Auburn Engineering impact . . . I feel incredibly well prepared. In fact, when I took the Fundamentals of Engineering test, I didn’t really have to do any kind of additional study for it. My professors had already ingrained the curriculum in my mind. They’re the ones that prepared me. I was also involved in a lot of extracurricular activities when I was at Auburn, and I really think that they were important in preparing me for a career. I was a member of the Cupola Engineering Ambassadors, which involves working with prospective students and their parents on one end of the college experience, and alumni on the other. I’m in a role here where I regularly lead clients, or their representatives, through the job site, and the interaction is not dissimilar. I was also a member of Engineers Without Borders, and traveled to Quesimpuco, Bolivia, with the team. This placed me in a role where I was able to take a lead in project management, starting at the concept level and telescoping it to the mobilization phase in a developing country. I am particularly grateful to Dr. Steve Duke, our faculty advisor, for the role that he played in mentoring me. He taught me a lot about working with others on a project that provided greater access to irrigation in a place that really needed it. We worked on that project at an elevation of 12,000 feet, but it was Dr. Duke who taught me to take the 30,000-foot view of how to make it happen. I bring this lesson, and others from Auburn, to the job site every day.

5 minutes with

5 minutes with

Linda Figg


Linda Figg, ’81 civil engineering, knows how to bridge the gap. As president and chief executive officer of FIGG Bridge Group, Figg has a keen eye for the design and construction of the structural marvels. From an early age, Figg always knew she wanted to combine her love of nature with math and science to make something that would have an impact on people every day around the world. With her Auburn Engineering degree, coupled with her superb level of bridge knowledge, Figg has seamlessly transitioned into the highest-level position at FIGG Bridge Group and along the way, has made her childhood dream come true. MB: Why did you choose to become an engineer, and more specifically choose to attend Auburn Engineering? LF: Growing up I was always fascinated by creative ways to make things and loved to climb to the top of trees and sit for hours each day dreaming of building structures high in the air surrounded by nature. I loved math and science, while also expressing myself creatively through designing and sewing my own clothes and working with various fabrics. The engineering and artistic creation of bridges built upon this passion. Most FIGG bridge designs are made of concrete, which is a structural material that can be shaped into many unique designs. I chose Auburn Engineering because of the memorable day my father took me to visit the campus to learn about the engineering program. And honestly, it just felt like home. It was my first visit and it was all I needed to know that I was in the right place. MB: Describe your first job out of school ... how did it lead to you becoming owner of FIGG? LF: My father started our bridge company when I was at Auburn, studying civil engineering. We shared a passion for creating bridges so I joined the company after graduation. One of my first assignments was monitoring and overseeing the construction of bridges in the Florida Keys. Over the next 20 years, I learned every part of the bridge business working with my father. In 2002, I took over the company after my father passed away unexpectedly. It is hard to believe that was nearly 15 years ago.

MB: How did your civil engineering degree from Auburn prepare you as a business owner? LF: The Auburn Engineering experience gave me skills that went beyond technical engineering in areas such as technical writing, public speaking, human relations, teamwork, leadership, organizing and preparing reports, time management and an appreciation for success. MB: Tell us about how you and FIGG develop such innovative bridge concepts. How did you think to create such modern (and frankly nicer-looking) bridges over the traditional, older-feeling ones? LF: It is embedded in the foundational spirit of the company to appreciate the beauty of the natural environment of every bridge site. Then our mission is to discover distinct traits of each community and reflect their vision. Through innovation and creativity each bridge tells a story of the technology of its time, and we hope becomes a lasting symbol of the community it serves. We think of each bridge as a functional, structural sculpture that blends economy, sustainability and timeless artistry. MB: What is your favorite, or most interesting bridge project you’ve had the opportunity to be part of ? LF: The most interesting bridges are always the ones that are right in front of us, and that we’re working to build at the moment. Each new bridge is like a member of a special family and is loved for its own unique aspects and story. A few of our more prominent bridges that people might

recognize in the past 15 years include: • The new I-35W bridge in Minneapolis • 10-lane interstate bridge over the Mississippi River designed and built in 11 months after the old bridge collapsed • Zakim Bridge in downtown Boston • Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory in Maine (tallest public observatory on a bridge in the world) • I-280 Veterans Glass City Skyway in Toledo, Ohio • 4th Street Bridge in Pueblo, Colorado • Colorado River Bridge in Moab, Utah MB: Where do you see yourself professionally in 10 years? What are your professional goals you have yet to achieve? LF: It has been great fun working with our bridge team on new ideas in design and building, so I want to continue expanding our team and create many new bridges over the next 10 years and beyond! One of my goals is to help more communities build bridges using private resources when public funding is not available. We have a new company that focuses on this mission called United Bridge Partners. MB: What have you learned as a woman in the engineering industry? LF: When you are a woman in a profession dominated by men you automatically examine performance based on

what people do and not who they are. Perhaps there is some feeling of having to work harder to prove yourself. Finding the best solutions takes all viewpoints and ideas in a team environment. MB: What is the biggest piece of advice you would offer women considering a career in engineering? LF: Engineering changes people’s lives. It makes a difference and it is rewarding to know that people are better off because of what you do. It’s important to believe that you can do anything you put your mind to and it will be a success. Trust your instincts. “Can’t” is a four-letter word that is not allowed in my vocabulary. Creativity comes from the heart, mind and soul with an extreme passion to seek new ideas. Success is an adventurous spirit. Read, ask lots of questions and surround yourself with great people who enjoy working together. MB: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? LF: Bridges are my work and my hobby. When I am not working, I like to take long hikes or travel with my husband, Richard. We also enjoy art shows and the symphony. I also enjoy reading mostly nonfiction, human interest stories, inspiring business books and natural health reports. Occasionally I shoot clay targets. In addition, I also like to help with Habitat for Humanity, College Possible Program and other programs for middle schools to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and construction.

From the faculty BY ALICE SMITH

From the faculty

Editor’s note: “From the faculty” is a new addition to Auburn Engineering magazine. Each issue, a faculty member will share their current research project, opening up a window to our leading researchers who are improving quality of life and fostering economic competitiveness.


he globalization of the world economy calls for integrated supply chains that can efficiently distribute products and services to global markets, urging market players to rethink their roles in the logistics process. Inland distribution is becoming a critical dimension of the efficiency in international trade. This imposes significant challenges to the role of ports, intermodal terminals and empty container depots as functional nodes in logistics networks. The aim of my research project is to determine the current performance of operational policies related to the stacking of empty containers at depots in order to derive recommendations for improved stacking policies and procedures and, eventually, yard layout redesign. Empty container depots serve several vital functions. First, they provide temporary storage – usually two to three months – for containers between active transport roles. This storage is necessary for cargo rotation and container repositioning. Second, they allow for inspection of containers for integrity and condition. Third, they often provide maintenance services to repair and refurbish damaged or deteriorated containers. Empty container depots, and other associated inland facilities such as dry ports,

are proliferating because of the congestion at most wet ports such as seaports or on waterways, the growth of intermodal transportation and the efficiencies realized by concentrating the storage, inspection and repair functions together at a location strategically chosen for its appropriate geography, its ease of ingress and egress and its relatively low land costs. Not much research has been done on empty containers, and relatively none has been conducted on empty container depots. Our partner is an empty container depot that provides services for shipping lines that operate with the port of Valparaíso, Chile. The depot is located in the inter-port suburb of Placilla, where several depots and custom storage areas are located to provide cargo handling and other related services. The port of Valparaiso is the second-largest port in Chile in terms of containerized cargo per year, which is measured in 20 feet equivalent units, and it’s ranked 17th in the Latin America and Caribbean region. This research project is sponsored by CONICYT Chile – the Chilean equivalent of the U.S.

National Science Foundation – under the program MEC 2014 for exchange and visiting professors at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso in Chile. It will also be funded in 2017 by the Fulbright Commission, as I will serve as a senior fellow at PUCV for three months to work on this project and to teach a graduate course. Auburn University doctoral student Erhan Karakaya will work with me on this project, and he will spend several weeks this fall in Valparaiso conducting field work for his dissertation. There is also a Chilean research team consisting of PUCV professor Jimena Pascual and two graduate students. Professor Rosa Gonzalez of the University of Los Andes in Santiago is also providing guidance to the project. The outcomes of this project have the potential to improve operations and designs of empty container depots which are ubiquitous throughout the world’s supply chains. Alice Smith is the Joe W. Forehand/ Accenture professor in the college’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

From left, Diego Aranda, PUCV graduate student; Jimena Pascual, PUCV professor; Felipe Hidalgo, PUCV graduate student; Alice Smith; and José Jiménez, AGUNSA Container Depot engineer and supervisor.

Faculty highlights

Faculty highlights Robert Barnes, associate professor of civil engineering, won the 2016 National Arthur N.L. Chiu Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award from the Chi Epsilon National Civil Engineering Honor Society. Bryan Beckingham, assistant professor of chemical engineering, Jeffrey LaMondia, associate professor of civil engineering, and Jin Wang, Walt and Virginia Woltosz professor of chemical engineering, were three of only 48 faculty in the nation selected to participate in the prestigious Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium sponsored by the National Academy of Engineering. Prabhakar Clement, Harold Vince Groome Jr. professor of civil engineering, won the 2016 John Hem Award for Excellence in Science and Engineering from the National Ground Water Association. The award is given for significant scientific or engineering

contributions to the understanding of groundwater. Robert Dean, McWane associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded funding from Auburn University’s LAUNCH Innovation Grants Program to commercialize moisture sensors developed for agricultural purposes. Butch Foster, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering, won the prestigious Hermann Oberth Award. This highly competitive recognition is reserved for an individual who has contributed outstanding achievements in the field of astronautics while promoting the advancement of aeronautical sciences. Michael Hamilton, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been named director of the Alabama Micro/Nano Science and Technology Center at Auburn University. Gregory Harris, associate professor of industrial and systems

engineering, has been named director of the Southern Alliance for Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing at Auburn University. Joel Hayworth, associate professor of civil engineering, has been appointed to the Solid Waste Management task force by Gov. Robert Bentley. Wei-Shinn (Jeff) Ku, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, was awarded two National Science Foundation grants to study cloud computing and geospatial location research. Co-principal investigators on the $640,440 cloud computing grant study include Shiwen Mao, Samuel Ginn professor of electrical and computer engineering; Anthony (Tony) Skjellum, Charles D. McCrary eminent scholar of computer science and software engineering and director of the Charles D. McCrary Institute and the Auburn Cyber Research Center; and Ming-Kuo Lee, Robert B. Cook professor of geosciences. Coprincipal investigator on the $499,995 geospatial location grant study is Xiao Qin, professor of computer science and software engineering.

Faculty highlights

Pradeep Lall, John and Anne MacFarlane professor of mechanical engineering, received the 2016 Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation from the National Science Foundation’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers program. The award honored his work as director of Auburn University’s Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics. Daniela Marghitu, professor of computer science and software engineering, participated in the White House Summit on Computer Science for All, an initiative by President Barack Obama to increase access to computer science education. Marghitu was invited by Ruthe Farmer, White House senior policy advisor for tech inclusion. Alice Smith, Joe W. Forehand/Accenture distinguished professor of industrial and systems engineering, won the 2016 Wellington Award from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers for her outstanding contributions to the field of engineering economy. Bruce Tatarchuk, Charles E. Gavin III professor of chemical engineering, has been given the Advancement of Research and Scholarship

Achievement Award by the Auburn University Research Advisory Board. The award recognizes high quality, competitive research and scholarly activity that exemplifies and advances Auburn’s research and scholarship mission. Rod Turochy, associate professor of civil engineering and director of the Alabama Technology Transfer Center at Auburn University, received the 2016 Innovation in Education award from the Institute of Transportation Engineering’s Transportation Education Council. This national award recognizes the efforts of faculty members who improve the quality of transportation engineering education. Wesley Zech, Brasfield & Gorrie professor of construction engineering and management, won the 2016 James M. Robbins Excellence in Teaching Award from the Chi Epsilon National Civil Engineering Honor Society. Eldon Triggs, lecturer in aerospace engineering, received the Konrad Dannenberg Educator of the Year award. This honor is extended to an American Institute of Aeronautics

and Astronautics member who has demonstrated exceptional service to education and the promotion of math and science within the local community.

Appointments William Ashurst has been named the Uthlaut Family associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. James Davidson has been selected as the Gottlieb professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Virginia Davis has been selected as an alumni professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Xing Fang has been named the Feagin Chair in the Department of Civil Engineering. Elizabeth Lipke has been named the Sanders associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Andrzej Nowak has been named the Huff Eminent Chair and professor in the Department of Civil Engineering. Anton Schindler has been named the Mountain Spirit Foundation professor and director in the Department of Civil Engineering. Jin Wang has been selected as the Walt and Virginia Woltosz professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.


And the winner is . . .

From left, Pedro Cherry, Chris Moody, Gary Martin, Rob Taylor and John Watson.

Each fall, the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council honors outstanding alumni for their representation of Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Eight exceptional alumni ambassadors who have made distinct contributions to the engineering profession received recognition at the awards banquet held Sept. 30. Five were recognized as Distinguished Auburn Engineers, two as Outstanding Young Auburn Engineers and one for his superior service to the college. Pedro Cherry Distinguished Auburn Engineer After completing his undergraduate degree, Pedro Cherry, ’93 industrial engineering, earned a master’s degree in operations management and finance from Auburn in 1995. He played three seasons on the Tigers’ football team, which included the 1989 SEC Championship squad. He began his career with Carolina Power and Light

Corp. While there, he held positions of increasing responsibility and served as vice president of international finance. In 1997, Cherry joined Southern Co. subsidiary Southern Energy and then worked for Mirant Corp. He returned to Southern Co. in 2006, and from there served as finance manager for Southern Generation/Southern Power. Before leaving the company, he rose to assistant to the chief financial officer of Southern Co.

In 2010, Cherry became metro west region manager for Georgia Power, serving 175,000 customers in the Atlanta area. He also served as vice president of community and economic development for the company, where he led efforts to recruit new industry and improve the marketability of communities in the state. He currently serves as senior vice president of the metro Atlanta region for Georgia Power. In this role, he is responsible


for the company’s operations, sales, customer service, economic and community development and external affairs activities for 1.2 million customers across 29 counties. He is on the board of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, the Georgia Transportation Alliance, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Latin American Association. Cherry is vice chair of the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance and an advisor to the board of directors for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. He also serves on the board of directors for Junior Achievement of Georgia, Great Promise Kids and the State of Georgia Children’s Cabinet. Cherry is a member of the Georgia Economic Developers Association, CFA Institute, Association for Financial Professionals, NAACP and Auburn’s Alumni Engineering Advisory Council. Gary Martin Distinguished Auburn Engineer Gary Martin, ’57 industrial management, knew he always wanted to attend Auburn University despite living in Texas and having never visited the Plains. His father went to Auburn in 1929 and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Later, his older brother attended in 1949 and pledged to the fraternity as well. Like his family before him, Martin pledged with the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Alpha Mu Chapter and made many lasting memories and great friendships. After leaving Auburn, he has worked at Martin Sprocket and Gear Inc., a

manufacturing business, for 62 years, where he established the company’s profit sharing program and serves as the executive vice chairman. Through distance and time, Martin lost touch with the university for many years before returning for a visit, and falling back in love with Auburn. He has since been involved on campus with the College of Engineering as a huge supporter of the Formula SAE team and Engineers Without Borders, a student service learning project team working in Bolivia and Rwanda. A member of the university’s 1856, Foy and Ginn societies, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to Auburn and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Martin received the Spirit of Auburn Family Entrepreneur Award in 2015. Chris Moody Distinguished Auburn Engineer Chris Moody, ’90 electrical engineering, began his career as a technology consultant working for EDS, Oracle and IBM. Currently, he is the vice president of data strategy at Twitter and is responsible for ensuring the value of Twitter’s data is realized across the entire ecosystem of developers, partners and customers. Moody is considered a pioneer in the data industry, and has worked closely with some of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing technology companies to help them formulate and execute their data strategies with leading social platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare, WordPress and Disqus.

Prior to his work at Twitter, he served as CEO of Gnip, the world’s largest and most trusted provider of social data, which was acquired by Twitter in 2014. Before Gnip, Moody served in several executive roles at Aquent, including chief operating officer. During this time, he was responsible for the daily operations of 70 teams in 17 countries. Moody is also the founder and chairman of The Big Boulder Initiative, the largest nonprofit organization focused on the impact of social data. His views on the importance of data to global health and safety have been shared at locations across the world, including the White House and the United Nations. He credits his love for Auburn to his parents – a love he considers a gift he received from them at an early age. He and his brother, Michael, ’84 electrical engineering, recently turned that love into an enduring legacy by creating the Thomas and Ernestine Moody Scholarship in honor of their parents. In addition, Moody was the guest speaker at the 2016 spring commencement ceremonies. Rob Taylor Distinguished Auburn Engineer Ever since his co-op assignment at Auburn, Rob Taylor, ’85 civil engineering, has ascended the Brasfield & Gorrie company ladder from an estimator in the mid-’80s to the company president. From the time he joined, Taylor led the pursuit and


construction of several pivotal projects for the Atlanta office, including the Georgia Dome. He built on the preconstruction training he received from Miller Gorrie and other company leaders and honed it for the Atlanta market, implementing strategies that established Brasfield & Gorrie as the most accurate, value-driven contractor in the area. Under Taylor’s direction, the Atlanta team secured commercial, education and health care projects, developing Brasfield & Gorrie’s commercial office portfolio, working with universities in the state and building relationships through multiple projects on several hospital campuses. During Taylor’s decades of leadership in Atlanta, the office has grown from a decision that Gorrie once questioned to the company’s second-most profitable office, in line only behind the corporate office in Birmingham. Taylor was named president of the company as a result of his practical engineering strategies, natural business savvy, ability to motivate and history of success in Atlanta and regionally across Georgia, the Carolinas and Texas. As president, he has operational responsibility for more than 30 divisions performing work across the country and generating approximately $2.5 billion in revenues annually. He has served on the board of directors for the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Associated General Contractors and the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. Taylor has also been on

the board of directors for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the WellStar Kennestone Hospital Foundation and the DeKalb Medical Center Foundation. John Watson Distinguished Auburn Engineer John Watson, ’60 mechanical engineering, is the chairman of Smith’s Inc. and Engineered Systems Inc. His role at Smith’s began after his college co-op experiences at Redstone Arsenal and Fort Rucker, and after completing service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a second lieutenant. Within four years of joining Smith’s, the founder extended financing to support the final sale to Watson and two colleagues. Watson’s flair for engineering economics led to Smith’s quick and marked diversification. Simple heating and air-conditioning contracts yielded to complex industrial ventures that, following the launch of Engineered Systems, were often completed inhouse. Projects include the nation’s largest latex glove manufactory, a cutting-edge baker’s yeast plant representing one-seventh of the U.S. market, a camper manufactory, a pelletized fuels plant and a financial products company. For his contributions to the engineering field, he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 2008. In addition to his professional achievements, he is a founding board member for the Alabama Institute for

the Deaf and Blind, and has helped double its financial endowment. He was named the institute’s 2002 Volunteer of the Year, and his contributions led to the construction of the institute’s Wiregrass Center for disabled infants, children, adults and seniors. Watson has also chaired the Alabama Ethics Commission, served on the Alabama Industrial Relations Board and was a board member of the Alabama Research Institute. A dedicated member of the Auburn Family, he is a member of the Oaks, Talons, All-American, 1856 and Ginn societies. In honor of his contributions to Auburn athletics, the field house bears his name. Jennifer Hall Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer Following graduation, Jennifer Hall, ’05 chemical engineering, rose through the ranks at Southern Co. She served as a modifications engineer at Southern Nuclear’s Farley plant and as a project-reporting engineer at the Vogtle 3 and 4 plants. She has since moved to Georgia Power where she was an executive speechwriter before being promoted as the assistant to the chairman, president and CEO. She currently serves as the general manager of environmental affairs for Georgia Power. For her professional achievements, she was awarded two Southern Nuclear Excellence Awards and four Georgia Power Excellence Awards. Hall was also chair and public outreach chair


for the Southern Nuclear North American Chapter of the Young Generation in Nuclear. Hall is a founding member of the College of Engineering’s 100+ Women Strong program and has been on the Young Alumni Council and the Young Alumni Chemical Engineering Panel. Kevin White Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer Kevin White, ’99 civil engineering, currently works as vice president and division manager at Brasfield & Gorrie. Following his co-op assignment at Saiia Construction (formerly BEC/ Allwaste), he joined Brasfield & Gorrie as an assistant project manager and estimator and worked his way up through responsibilities such as project manager, senior project manager and operations manager. During his time with the company, he has helped develop the division responsible for power plant construction, making it a substantial component of Brasfield & Gorrie’s business. White’s successful track record of helping to grow a multimillion-dollar division and solving challenges on heavy construction jobs place him among the company’s most valuable employees. Some of the projects he has worked on include the $3.5 million Interstate 65 emergency bridge replacement project in Birmingham and the $89 million Waterscape Condominiums project in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. The Birmingham project

From left, Jennifer Hall, Stuart Wentworth and Kevin White.

was honored with an Alabama Associated Builders and Contractor’s Excellence in Construction award in the Construction Infrastructure/Heavy category. It also received a prestigious ABC National Eagle Award and a Civil Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers. In addition, this project was named to the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. Stuart Wentworth Superior Service Stuart Wentworth, ’82 chemical engineering, is an associate professor in Auburn’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and heads the curriculum committee for the department. In addition to his Auburn education, he also earned a master’s

degree in electrical engineering in 1987 and a doctorate in the same discipline in 1990, both at the University of Texas. Before joining Auburn’s faculty in 1990, Wentworth served as a quality assurance engineer at DuPont and as a technician at Pinson Associates. Wentworth has been awarded the Electrical Engineering Outstanding Faculty Award an impressive eight times, while also being honored as the college’s faculty member of the year in 1995, the Birdsong Merit Teaching Award winner in 1999, the William F. Walker Superior Teaching Award winner in 2005, the Auburn Alumni Association Undergraduate Teaching Excellence Award winner in 2010 and the Auburn SGA Final Lecturer in 2015.

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