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NEWS + EVENTS 2 NEW FACES 5 COMCAST MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER 6 College celebrates partnership with Comcast and College of Arts & Media



Students wow at NASA competition

Grant will support new multidisciplinary

PIRATE AIRWAVES 10 Alumnus broadcasts in the fight for Mosul

NIH’S NEW BRAIN INITIATIVE 12 Gibson and team receive $2M grant to refine


certificate program

DURIP AWARD 15 Gedney establishes lab, builds research

FACULTY Q & A 16 Computer science faculty Tom Augustine

miniature microscope

Bioengineering’s first class of undergraduates

INT E R IM DE A N Stephen Gedney E D ITO R IA L M A N AG E ME NT Erica Lefeave E D ITO R IA L R E V IEW Faith Marcovecchio

W R ITING Christopher Casey Vicki Hildner Erica Lefeave David Kelly Amy Ventura Steven Vigil-Roach

DESI GN AN D PRODUC TI ON Rachel Olson Design COV ER I L LUSTRATI ON Rachel Olson PH OTOGRAPH Y Matthew Kaskavitch Trevr Merchant

ABOUT Impact is published annually by the University of Colorado Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science for college alumni and friends. Send correspondence to Erica Lefeave, CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, Campus Box 104, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.

DEAN'S NOTE It is both a pleasure and an honor to be

and the CU Denver College of Arts &

serving as interim dean. As I reflect on the

Media. The center was made possible by a

past six months in this role, I continue to

generous contribution from Comcast Cable

be impressed by the work of our students

and is aimed at generating, developing

and faculty and the strength of our

and activating culturally focused, action-

programs. Through meetings with industry

orientated education, research, commercial

leaders, advisory board members, alumni

enterprises and community services. The

and students, I have come to realize the

center has already cultivated a number of

extent to which CU Denver and the College

research collaborations in fields spanning

of Engineering and Applied Science are

immersive interactive systems using virtual

making an impact on the city of Denver,

reality, 3-D and 4-D scanning, reconstruction

the state of Colorado, our country and

and printing. This partnership exemplifies

the world. Much of this is due to the

the types of industrial relationships and

transforming efforts of Marc Ingber, who

interdisciplinary programs that we strive

stepped down as dean this past summer,

to establish.

as well as extraordinary efforts put forth by our outstanding faculty and staff.

Our students continue to strongly represent the college and university on an

“It's through this ongoing growth and exposure that we continue to stake our claim as an asset to the city around us.”

I am also excited to announce the arrival

international level, competing at events

of our new dean, Martin Dunn, who

such as NASA’s Human Exploration Rover

will take over the helm on January 1,

Challenge in Huntsville, Ala.; the Formula

2018. Dean Dunn is formerly a professor

SAE competition in Lincoln, Neb.; the

and department chair of mechanical

ASCE Rocky Mountain Regional Student

engineering at the University of Colorado

Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah; and

Boulder; he is currently associate provost

more. In April, our Human Exploration

for research at the Singapore University

Rover Challenge team received the Neil

of Technology and Design. Dean Dunn is

Armstrong Best Design Award as well as

Engineering for Safe, Healthy and Resilient

bringing new vision and energy to our

the Rookie of the Year Award! Our student

Communities GAANN Program in 2016.

college that will springboard us to even

team HyperLynx this past year was one

Such research awards allow us to continue

higher levels.

of 22 finalists chosen out of 124 teams in

to expand our research, grow partnerships

the SpaceX Hyperloop competition. Both

and establish new programs.

We welcomed eight new faculty members

of these accomplishments speak volumes

this fall: four in computer science, three

about the quality of our students and our

It’s through this ongoing growth and

in electrical engineering and one in civil


exposure that we continue to stake our claim

engineering. All eight of these faculty

as an asset to the city around us. I hope you

are from top-ranked universities such as

Faculty continue to build our research

enjoy the current issue of Impact. I believe

Stanford, Cornell and the University of

portfolio. This year, they received more

the stories highlight the connection between

Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They come

than $16 million in research grants, and

the work taking place inside our classrooms

here with excellent research portfolios and

two of our new faculty already have had

and labs and the impact we have on the

are committed to teaching excellence. They

external grants funded. In addition, two

growing community around us.

have already made a strong impact on our

faculty have received prestigious Graduate

college and our students.

Assistance in Areas of National Need

With regards,

(GAANN) awards: Farnoush Banaei-Kashani In February, we celebrated the opening of

from computer science with the Big Data

the new Comcast Media and Technology

Science and Engineering GAANN Program

Stephen Gedney

Center, a novel collaboration between the

in 2015 and Wesley Marshall from civil

Interim Dean

College of Engineering and Applied Science

engineering with the Transportation

College of Engineering and Applied Science



CU Denver ASCE steel bridge team places third at regional conference On April 6–8, the CU Denver ASCE Student Chapter competed in the Rocky Mountain Student Conference hosted by the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. This annual competition brings together civil engineering programs from 14 institutions across the intermountain West. The steel bridge team passed their horizontal deflection test and earned third place in Steel Bridge Display. The steel bridge team included Aaron Blahut (captain), Erik Causey, Ben Johnk, Xavier Montoya, Jackson Pedziwiatr, Stephen Sowal and Dahria Uwamahoro.

CEM program wins 2016 AGC award for excellence in education In October 2016, faculty and students from the Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program attended the AGC Colorado Industry Gala and ACE Awards and received the 2016 award for Excellence in Education. This event is the state’s biggest commercial building construction event of the year, bringing together general contractors, specialty contractors, architects, owners and professional firms that support the industry, key leaders and staff from related associations, legislators and other industry supporters for a night of networking, recognition and celebration.

Connors receives 2017 RaCAS faculty mentor award Dan Connors, associate professor of electrical engineering, received one of three faculty mentor awards at the 2017 Research and Creative Activities Symposium (RaCAS). This year marked the first time RaCAS honored CU Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus faculty for outstanding mentoring of student research. He was the only CU Denver faculty member to receive an award. From 23 nominations, three recipients were chosen based on the extent of their engagement with undergraduate and graduate students, their impact on research and creative activities and the potential importance of their students’ work.

Marshall receives GAANN fellowship award Wesley Marshall, associate professor of civil engineering, received a U.S. Department of Education-sponsored Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) PhD fellowship award, to establish the Safe, Healthy and Resilient Communities (SHRC) Program. The SHRC program focuses on the interdisciplinary training of fellows in the area of transportation engineering for safe, healthy and resilient communities. The fellowship program will cover tuition, fees and travel to select conferences, as well as an annual stipend for each fellow.


Carpenter presents at TEDxUCLA In May, assistant professor of mechanical engineering Dana Carpenter delivered a TED Talk at TEDxUCLA. The talk, titled “Space travel is human travel,” examined the effects space travel has on the human body. Carpenter says the experience was the “one of the funnest things I’ve ever done related to work.” To view the talk, visit

CU Denver hosts international energy seminar in Chile Associate professor of electrical engineering Fernando Mancilla-David and CU Denver are partnering with Chile’s Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE), the equivalent of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in the United States, to conduct a study to identify ad hoc methodologies and good practices to help draft technical regulations that properly capture the spirit of the newly established Law 20.936. This Chilean law mandates that the planning of the transmission system expansion shall be performed by the CNE. Centralized planning of the transmission system expansion has been widely recognized around the world as a key enabler for the penetration of renewable energy and for lowering prices for users. In April, CU Denver and CNE hosted an international seminar to discuss the transmission expansion planning processes. This seminar was a key milestone of the project, drawing more than 150 attendees from Chile, Mexico, Brazil and the United States.

Park receives AHA Winter 2017 Grant-in-Aid Daewon Park, assistant professor of bioengineering, received an American Heart Association Grant-inAid with his research titled “Engineered biomimetic injectable system towards cardiac repair.”

Marxhausen named NSPE Educator of the Year Peter Marxhausen, instructor in the Department of Civil Engineering (right), received the National Society of Professional Engineers – Colorado 2017 University Educator of the Year award. In addition to teaching at CU Denver, Marxhausen is a licensed professional engineer with Higgins & Associates Forensic Engineering Consultants and the City and County of Denver Building Department, which enables him to bring a real-world perspective to the classroom.

With this grant, Park will develop an alternative treatment strategy for myocardial infarction (MI), a leading ischemic cardiovascular disease, using an injectable biomaterial with the capacity for localized co-delivery of therapeutic agents to target key endogenous processes of the post-MI healing process: the antiinflammatory reaction and the formation of new blood vessels. This injectable biomaterial system addresses MI in a onetime treatment platform, removing the critical barrier of patient compliance and thereby promoting therapeutic success.

Top, right to left: Nishant Kumar, Kate Seppala, Genia Herndon, Isha Kanu (bioengineering), Aaron Blahut (civil engineering), Kailey Beck (bioengineering). Bottom, right to left: Samantha Muse (bioengineering), Jihan Shah (civil engineering), Victor Millan (electrical engineering), Jun Wang (civil engineering)

Engineering students participate in LeaderShape conference In May, seven engineering students joined peers from Colorado State University to participate in the LeaderShape Institute, a six-day leadership program that carries the mission of creating a just, caring and thriving world where all lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible. The intensive and introspective program challenges students to look at who they are as leaders and who they want to be. The week culminates in students assessing their personal values and creating a vision for the future. Although these visions seek to tackle some of the most difficult problems in the world, the students break their expansive visions into small goals they can apply at home and to the campus community. Students were accompanied by bioengineering program manager Kate Seppala and Genia Herndon, CU Denver assistant vice chancellor for university partnerships and student engagement.



College hosts CodeSpire youth coding camps This summer, the college partnered with CodeSpire, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids computer coding, to host two weeklong coding camps. The first was Minecraft Mods in JavaScript; the second explored apps, drones and robots with JavaScript. Approximately 20 kids ages 8 to 14 participated. Additional camps are scheduled for later this year and spring 2018.

Senior design team receives $5k EPRI-GridEd grant An electrical engineering senior design team consisting of Carolina Guerrero-Rocha, Jackson Osborn and team advisor Jaedo Park received a $5,000 grant through the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) Center for Grid Engineering Education (GridEd). CU Denver became eligible for this program through efforts by associate professor Fernando Mancilla-David. Guerrero-Rocha and Osborn’s project is titled “Power Potty” and has the goal of using microbial fuel cells to generate power from waste in developing countries.

Electrical engineering department hosts 23rd RF Ionospheric Interactions Workshop In May, CU Denver hosted the 23rd RF Ionospheric Interactions Workshop, an annual meeting of researchers from academia, industry and government on the topic of experiments involving electromagnetic waves in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Such research involves some of the largest electromagnetic transmitters in the world, including the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, the HAARP facility in Alaska, the Sura Ionospheric Heating Facility in Russia and the EISCAT facility in Norway. Researchers seek to understand complex processes known as space weather through active experiments at these powerful facilities. Thirty-five scientists and engineers attended this year’s meeting, organized by associate professor of electrical engineering Mark Golkowski. Attendees traveled from as far as Washington, D.C., Alaska, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. The National Science Foundation provided student travel grants that allowed students from Georgia Tech, UMass Lowell and the University of Florida to join six CU Denver students who presented posters or talks at the meeting. An evening banquet in the Tivoli Student Union included a fascinating dinner talk by CU Denver assistant professor of anthropology Jamie Hodgkins on the role of cooperation in the evolutionary history of early humans. The workshop was a success thanks to the personal effort of student volunteers Ashanthi Maxworth, Poorya Hosseini, Chad Renick and Jamie Bittle, as well as the college communications and outreach manager Erica Lefeave.


Dunn named new dean Beginning January 1, 2018, Martin Dunn will take over as dean for the College of Engineering and Applied Science. His appointment was approved by the CU Board of Regents in June. Dunn comes to the college from his positions as the founding associate provost for research and co-director of the Digital Manufacturing and Design Research Centre at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. He has held positions at the Boeing Company, Sandia National Laboratories, the National Science Foundation and the University of Colorado Boulder. Dunn planned weeklong visits throughout the fall semester to meet with university leadership and college faculty and staff so that he can hit the ground running in January. Stephen Gedney, chair of electrical engineering, served as interim dean from July 1–December 31, 2017.


Tenure & Promotion ASHIS BISWAS Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering PhD, University of Texas at Arlington Research areas: machine learning, big data analysis, data mining, bioinformatics

Tenure The following faculty were awarded tenure, effective for the 2017/18 academic year.

SATADRU DEY Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering PhD, Clemson University Research interests: control, estimation and fault diagnosis of dynamic systems with application to energy, transportation, batteries, electric vehicles


RICHARD BENNINGER Department of Bioengineering

Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Research interests: ecohydrologic process networks, information theory and network applications to ecosystem data and modeling, hydrology and weather variability

VIJAY HARID Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering PhD, Stanford University Research interests: long-wave electromagnetics, geophysical plasmas and computational physics

CHRISTOPHER YAKACKI Department of Mechanical Engineering

LIANG HE Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering PhD, Nankai University, Tianjin, China Research areas: cyber-physical systems, cognitive battery management, mobile computing and systems, Internet of Things (IoT)


HAADI JAFARIAN Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering PhD, University of North Carolina at Charlotte Research areas: proactive security for cyber threats, big data analytics for cyber threat intelligence, security analytics and automation, security of cyber-physical systems, Internet of Things (IoT)

FENG LIN Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering PhD, Tennessee Technological University Research areas: mobile and pervasive sensing, cyber-physical security, smart and connected health, human-centric computing

J. KENNETH ORTEGA Department of Mechanical Engineering

ALIREZA VAHID Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering PhD, Cornell University Research interests: network information theory, theory of communications, coding theory, data storage and memory systems



In February, the


University of Colorado Denver

announced the launch of the Comcast Media and Technology Center, a new

Gift from Comcast Cable establishes innovative media center “The Comcast Media and Technology Center is an example of how CU Denver works with

problems in a setting designed to prepare

and in-kind contribution from Comcast

our industry partners to develop innovative

the next generation of creative leaders.

Cable valued at $5 million. The Comcast

approaches to the problems of today,” said

Media and Technology Center at CU Denver

CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell.

will offer a special curriculum designed to

“We’re grateful for Comcast’s support and

help cultivate the unique combination of

delighted to be able to offer this

technical and creative skills necessary to

resource for the community.”

create the workforce of tomorrow. “We are proud of the role we’ve been able to

“If creativity is the currency of the 21st century, then academic institutions need to join with media and technology organizations to work toward discovery and excellence in creativity,” said College of Arts & Media Dean Laurence Kaptain. “Denver

The multidisciplinary academic center,

play in building Denver’s vibrant technology

located in the Tivoli Student Union on

community, and are committed to helping

align with Comcast to advance the creative

the Auraria Campus, will provide an

it grow and thrive,” said Matt McConnell,

economy and the tools necessary to succeed

opportunity to engage many audiences

senior vice president and general manager,

after graduation.”

in collaborative activities focused on new

Comcast Technology Solutions. “The

approaches to research and development,

Comcast Media and Technology Center

media creation and content delivery.

will help to empower the professionals of

As a partnership between Comcast, the College of Engineering and Applied Science and CU Denver’s College of Arts & Media, the

today and tomorrow with the skills they need to innovate the next generation of rich, immersive media experiences.”

Comcast Media and Technology Center will

The Comcast Media and Technology Center

be a place for students, researchers, Comcast

will engage CU Denver students who study

employees and the greater community to

engineering or arts and media to come

work together to develop new technologies

together and apply what they are learning

and learn from one another.

in the classroom to real-world problems. Students will take part in courses focused on building collaborative skills and creating innovative media content. They will

The Comcast Media and Technology Center is home to state-of-the-art facilities designed to promote the development of new technologies. It is housed in the Tivoli Student Union.


learn to work together on complex

academic facility made possible by a cash

is the ideal place where our college can

Comcast, as part of its mission to invest in the community, will offer internships to CU Denver students involved in the center. “Comcast brings together the best in media and technology. At the College of Engineering and Applied Science, we develop new and innovative methods to approach and solve modern-day problems,” said Marc Ingber, former engineering dean. “This passion, shared by CU Denver and Comcast, enables a creative workforce to implement the world’s best experiences. This new cuttingedge venue will allow CU Denver students to learn with purpose and inspire change.”



Left to right: Adam Rauff, Jacob Altholz, Ryan Brody, Justin LeDoux, Rachelle Walter, Nasib Abdullah, Ava Mistry, Robin Cross, Bhavya Khilnani, Michelle Omernik, Anthony Caffaro, Meghan Arora, Matthew Curran, Patrick Stevenson, Aimee Lam

CU Denver’s first bioengineering undergraduates In May, the Department of Bioengineering graduated its first class

Between working in a prosthetics lab and working in the cardiology

of undergraduates, 15 students who have since moved into industry,

department of Children’s Hospital Colorado, Altholz was able to get

medical school or graduate school.

hands-on experience through numerous internships while being connected to faculty and students of other departments along the

Graduate Jacob Altholz, who is now attending medical school,

way. “Everything I was doing felt relevant,” he said.

chose bioengineering because of its biological nature and the opportunity to work in a field related to health policy.

The program’s new facilities and curriculum tailor it to “face the needs of the bioengineering field,” as Altholz described it.

“I think of biology as a people-based study and I’m a social person,

Unlike similar degree programs, which start with a mechanical

so I like being around other people,” he said. The bioengineering

engineering core and add biological components, CU Denver’s

program gave him the chance to work with others while also

program was created with bioengineering in mind.

challenging his intellectual skills. Using CU Denver’s resources and keeping with the integrative focus At the undergraduate level, bioengineering offers rigorous training,

of the program, professors bring in guest lecturers and faculty from

combining mathematical and physical sciences with engineering

other departments to create well-rounded courses. By maintaining

principles. At the core of bioengineering is a focus on catalyzing

a small core group of students, faculty have the opportunity

technology to cure and prevent disease.

to offer more one-on-one feedback and really get to know the students’ capabilities, preparing them for success post-graduation.

Bioengineering is a relatively new field with big potential for the future, but as Altholz sees it, “the degree is meaningless

To learn more about the Department of Bioengineering, visit

unless you also have skills and experience when you get it.” While

an engineering degree may put graduates ahead of the game, in a rapidly growing field like bioengineering, students need handson experience now more than ever. That’s where the program meets the needs of its students head-on, offering research and collaborative opportunities across departments.




Engineering team brings back honors from spaceflight competition

“AT FIRST, WE DIDN’T THINK HE WAS CRAZY” The idea for the senior project started with Derique Duran, BS 2017, who readily admits that he borrowed it not from a textbook but from television: an episode of the reality show “Rocket City Rednecks.” “At first, we didn’t think he was crazy,” said team member Skyler Bunce, BS 2017, laughing. “But

Some of the nearly 100 high school and college teams competing in the 2017 Human Exploration Rover Challenge spent hundreds of hours on their “moon buggy” rovers. The CU Denver team, comprised of nine members from mechanical engineering instructor Doug Gallagher’s Senior Design course, estimates that they collectively spent 5,000 hours engineering, building and testing Epiphany, their human-powered entry in the competition. Their hard work paid off with two big awards at the international competition hosted by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., this past April. CU Denver brought home honors for Rookie of the Year and, even more significantly, the Neil Armstrong Best Design Award. “We are so lucky to have this kind of flexibility with choosing a project for senior design,” said team member Jason Fuqua, BS 2017. “At some schools, you are told what you have to build. We chose our own project, got to build this amazing thing and then take it to NASA to race.”

none of us knew what we were getting ourselves into!” Inspired by the lunar roving vehicles of the Apollo moon missions, the competition challenges students to solve engineering problems while highlighting NASA’s commitment to inspiring new generations of scientists, engineers and explorers. “It takes you back to a time when the country was excited by space,” Duran said. “You arrive at Rocket City in Huntsville, and the first thing you see is the Saturn V rocket standing there. It’s taller than the Statue of Liberty!” To test the student-built rovers, NASA engineers created an obstacle course that simulates conditions on the moon or Mars, and teams compete to finish the course in the best time. There are additional requirements—the rover must be able to fold into a five-foot cube, and the two riders, one male and one female, must be able to pick it up and carry it for 25 feet.

Left to right: mechanical engineering students Derique Duran, Binh Dao, Jason Fuqua, Skylar Bunce. Not pictured: Kristen Bonifield, Carl Bergstralh, Lesley DiMarco, Jared Harper, Josh Leyendecker.


Some entries in the competition weighed as much as 300 pounds. Epiphany weighed 170 pounds, prompting competitors at the race to ask the CU Denver team about the secret to its lightweight design. “We built everything we could out of carbon fiber,” said team member Binh Dao, BS 2017. “It has very high strength and very low weight.”

“SHE IS ONE OF THE MOST DETERMINED HUMAN BEINGS” Four members of the team spent 28 hours on the road driving Epiphany to Huntsville for the competition, where they faced teams from schools around the world, including U.S. universities Purdue, Ohio State, Arizona State and Drexel. The competition course included a 30-degree hill, fondly referred to by competitors as the “Martian Butte,” which had stymied every entrant in the previous year’s competition—no one had made it up without dismounting. This year, Epiphany made it. But the riders also had to navigate sand dunes and two boulder fields. When a shifter cable broke, the front driver was limited to a single gear for the remainder of the course, minimizing his contribution to powering the vehicle.

As a result, Epiphany was powered


primarily by the female driver Lesely

After the competition, Epiphany returned

DiMarco, BS 2017, for the remainder of the

to the 5th Street Hub, where its creators

course. All of her fellow teammates credit

can admire their handiwork and reflect

her powerful pedaling and physical stamina

on the reasons for their success. They give

for their award-winning finish, despite the

credit to the great instruction they received


in the mechanical engineering department, specifically naming Gallagher, senior

“She is one of the most determined human

instructor Joe Cullen, adjunct professor

beings you will ever meet on this planet,”

Amir Torbati and assistant professor

said Bunce.

Dana Carpenter.

Choosing DiMarco as the female driver was

“They have an overwhelming amount

no accident. Before picking drivers, the team

of knowledge in the general field of

took everyone to the gym for a pedaling test,

engineering,” Bunce said. “Some professors

calculating each person’s power-to-weight

are only skilled in one area. These professors

ratio and the amount of wattage each person

think about everything.”

generated. DiMarco beat out everyone, including every male in the group.

Duran believes that Epiphany did well because students started the project thinking about the engineering rather than about the design. “Every single thing on the rover was engineered,” he said. “Our engineering foundation skills were tremendous, and other teams looked at us and said, ‘Wow.’”

“That,” he added with a smile, “was our goal.”

LEFT: Students spent more than 5,000 hours engineering, building and testing Epiphany. ABOVE: Epiphany, a human-powered Mars rover designed by a team of nine engineering students sits on display in the 5th Street Hub.




Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in CU Today in late 2016; an update on Al Mawsily’s activities can be found at the end of the story.

Alumnus uses pirate airwaves to fight for Mosul Every day, Mohammed Al Mawsily takes enormous risks in what is one of the most dangerous places on earth. The engineering graduate is on the front lines of the battle for Mosul, his home city, which fell to the Islamic State (ISIS) more than three years ago and has now been retaken by the Iraqi military.

But Al Mawsily, who received a master’s degree in computer science,

With fighting intensifying as liberation forces moved in, the voices on

is not holding a gun. He’s a pirate broadcaster: In spring of 2015,

Alghad airwaves are more heartbreaking than ever. ISIS militants are

shortly after ISIS invaded, he launched a radio station as part of the

reportedly gathering thousands of Mosul residents, including women

ongoing information war against the militants. From inside Mosul,

and children, and using them as human shields against the Iraqi

ISIS militants have cut residents’ access to the internet and cell


phones, all the while terrorizing them with threatening propaganda.

“CHANGED MY LIFE COMPLETELY” Meanwhile, Al Mawsily and his two radio partners, operating from a

“People are very afraid – we receive calls from inside Mosul every day,”

secret location in the Kurdish region outside Mosul, are broadcasting

Al Mawsily said. “It’s important for us to give them the opportunity

24/7, skillfully navigating ISIS attempts to shut down their signal.

to express themselves. It’s very emotional when people share some of their stories, talking about how they are trying to survive this



Their station is called Alghad FM, or “Tomorrow” in Arabic. It’s a lifeline to people who’ve fled Mosul but still have loved ones in the

Post-college life in Mosul was initially good for Al Mawsily. He lived

city. “That’s one of the reasons we started the radio station is to be

with his parents and was putting his CU Denver degree to work by

in touch with people inside Mosul. They are our friends and family,”

launching what is now a growing software development firm that

Al Mawsily told CU Denver Today in a phone interview late last year.

employs programmers from several Iraq provinces.

It’s not his real name, and CU Denver Today and Al Mawsily took technical precautions to protect the interview from being monitored

But one day everything changed. An ominous alarm went out: Get out

or traced.

of the city immediately; ISIS militants are coming. “It was one of the moments of my life I’ll never forget – it changed my life completely,”

ISIS hasn’t collected everyone’s phones, as the radio station receives

he said. “There was a curfew, and me and my family had to leave

calls daily from Moslawis. “Just listening to people talk from Mosul

Mosul in 15 minutes. My degree from CU Denver was one of the last

… it’s a very powerful tool, and it’s annoying the Daesh so much,” Al

things I took from our home. You want to take your most important

Mawsily said, using a derogatory Arabic term for ISIS.


things with you.”

UPDATE, September 2017 In the ensuing days, Al Mawsily saw his home

He considered pursuing a doctorate in

city fall, and at the heart of it all was ISIS

computer science at CU Denver as well, but

propaganda. ISIS had been using multiple

the chaos in Mosul erupted before he’d made

media channels, especially social media, to

a decision. Al Mawsily speaks impeccable

convey its brutal tactics. Panic overtook Iraqi

English, which he said was greatly helped by

troops within Mosul after watching a barrage

the ESL Academy at CU Denver.

of videos showing massacres and other atrocities, according to Al Mawsily. “There

“I learned a lot from my professors at CU

were about 60,000 Iraqi soldiers in Mosul, and

Denver,” he said. “The computer science

they left the city without fighting because of

department is a great department. I remember

the (ISIS) media,” he said. “That helped me

all of my professors there and keep tabs on

realize how powerful media is. Many people


were deceived and ended up being recruited to their ranks through that misunderstanding.”

Al Mawsily would like to make a return visit to Denver – “my favorite city after Mosul,”


Iraq’s second-largest city – after the current

He decided to fight back through media

crisis ends. He hopes his beloved Mosul isn’t

channels, and Alghad became the first radio

left a “destroyed city” by the siege, which he

station to broadcast after Mosul’s collapse.

expects could last several months.

The station, using both radio signals and social media channels, now reaches people

Meanwhile, his pirate radio station has

with ties to Mosul all over the world. Alghad

garnered worldwide attention, with CNN

uses Facebook Live to stream content to

breaking the story about the underground

Europe, the United States, Australia and

operation followed by reports in Al Jazeera

beyond, Al Mawsily said.

and other major media outlets.

The war of information is very real and it


never stops. It’s essentially a strength-of-

ISIS has issued a fusillade of death threats to

signal battle, as each side tries to reduce the

the station, but the menacing recently tapered

radius of the other’s transmission signal by

off. Al Mawsily suspects the militants are busy

broadcasting on the same frequencies.

repelling the Iraqi Army or have been ordered

As of early September, Al Mawsily was still operating his pirate radio station outside Mosul. He emailed this update to CU Denver University Communications: “Even though Mosul is liberated (from the Islamic State, ISIS), there is risk from some of the Daesh sleeping cells who are still in the city. After the liberation of Mosul, our role moves into the next phase, which is making sure we are supporting the community to ensure stabilization. I now have staff working in Mosul. The youth (in the city) have shown great movement toward being positive, and we are doing what we can to support those individuals who see hope for change in the future of my city and Iraq.” Al Mawsily said listeners frequently reach out to the radio station, offering to help the people in the war-torn city who’ve been featured in the station’s news reports. “The staff working for the station are now (treated) like celebrities if they go to Mosul,” he wrote. “People always remember the station’s role in providing a massive help to all the people in Mosul who were completely disconnected (since the ISIS invasion of 2014).”

by their leaders to stop calling the station. He “We are one of the few media outlets that’s

continues to be fascinated by how ISIS uses

trying to cover what’s happening inside Mosul

professional-quality videos to transmit their

during the liberation operations,” Al Mawsily

declarations of a caliphate. “Media is one of

said. He added that it’s gratifying to bring

the main tools they use to control people –

about social change while “delivering the

they use fear,” he said.

voice of Moslawis to the rest of the world.” Out of a desire to shield his parents from fear,


he kept his radio enterprise a secret until

Having received a bachelor’s degree from

about three months ago. He has learned from

the University of Mosul, Al Mawsily already

residents within Mosul that his former house

had a strong technical background when he

is now occupied by ISIS militants. His parents

arrived in the Mile High City. He chose CU

also fled to the Kurdish region outside Mosul.

Denver for graduate school because “many

“As parents, they are worried about me,” Al

people recommended me to do my master’s

Mawsily said. “But at the same time, they

in computer science there, and Denver is a

know people have to stand for themselves –

wonderful city.”

not sit and wait for others to do something. They have to do something.”




Bioengineering’s Gibson and a team of CU researchers awarded prestigious $2 million NIH grant for brain study

Emily Gibson, assistant professor of bioengineering, and a team of researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Colorado Boulder have been awarded a $2 million grant allowing them to refine a unique microscope they have developed while expanding its use to other scientists across the country. “We will deploy a fiber-coupled two-photon miniature microscope to the laboratories of four users studying neural activity to understand vocal learning, decision making, social interactions and neural development in various species,” said Diego Restrepo, professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for Neuroscience at the CU School of Medicine. Gibson and Restrepo, along with Juliet Gopinath, associate professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering at CU Boulder, and Victor Bright, professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder, have collaborated on the development of the microscope and share

'SEEKING CURES, TREATMENTS, PREVENTION The grant goes to researchers developing innovative technologies that show how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. That knowledge will hopefully lead to cures, treatments and prevention of brain disorders. The microscope, known as the 2P-FCM, uses an electrowetting lens mounted on the head of a live mouse from which a high-powered fiberoptic light can actually view and control neural activity as it happens. The lens is liquid and can change shape when electricity is applied. Gibson said the microscope is unique because it allows deeper brain imaging by using two-photon excitation with longer wavelengths to reduce light scattering in tissue. “Our 2P-FCM is the only miniature head-mounted microscope that provides dynamic focus capability in real time to image different brain areas and cells in different layers of the brain to get a more complete picture of neuron interactions,” she said. “This grant will allow us to take our proof-of-concept design, which we have demonstrated in my lab, and begin to disseminate it for widespread use in the neuroscience community.”

the grant. CU Anschutz Medical Campus’ Baris Ozbay also helped

Bright and Gopinath at CU Boulder spearheaded the development

create the microscope.

of the electrowetting lens.

The $2 million grant, spread over three years, comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of

“My group developed fluid-based electrowetting tunable optical components for focusing and scanning the laser beam in the

Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It is part of the NIH’s

microscope,” Bright said. “I have been working with Juliet Gopinath

new BRAIN Initiative, aimed at revolutionizing the understanding

on the tunable fluid-based optics for eight years. We started working

of the human brain.

on the microscope concept with Diego Restrepo and Emily Gibson about five to six years ago.”


“Gibson said the microscope is unique because it allows deeper brain imaging by using two-photon excitation with longer wavelengths to reduce light scattering in tissue.”

Emily Gibson, assistant professor of bioengineering (above), and Diego Restrepo, professor of cell and developmental biology and director of the Center for Neuroscience at the CU School of Medicine, examine the miniature microscope they developed with two professors from CU Boulder. This miniature microscope allows researchers to see inside the living brain.

DIRECT IMPACT ON QUALITY OF LIFE Gopinath has focused on the design and characterization of the adaptive optical elements that allow for 3-D imaging. “I think that the technology I develop will actually be used to benefit society and have a direct impact on quality of life,” she said. “I also think this intersection of neuroscience and engineering is wonderful.” The grant will allow the researchers to incorporate new holographic optogenetic stimulation into the microscope to record and modulate brain activity in awake animals. Last year, the team received a $600,000 grant from the National Science

The grant also offers four other scientists the chance to use the microscope to study neural activities in animals besides mice: • Richard Mooney, professor of neurobiology at Duke University, will study the neural basis of vocal learning in songbirds. • Bijan Pesaran, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University, will examine decision making in non-human primates. • Ethan Hughes, assistant professor of cell biology

Foundation to use the microscope to reconnect neural communication

at CU Anschutz Medical Campus, will study the

between parts of the brain where it had been severed.

dynamics of myelination. Myelin protects neurons

The Denver company 3i (Intelligent Imaging Innovations, Inc.) is working on the commercial release of the microscope. The Brain Initiative grant number is U01 NS099577.

and helps them conduct signals more efficiently. • Zoe Donaldson, assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience at CU Boulder, will investigate the neural basis of social bonding among prairie voles.



Left to right: David Mays, civil engineering; Rafael Moreno, geography and environmental sciences; Timberley Roane, integrative biology

NSF INCLUDES award to support new environmental stewardship of indigenous lands certificate program David Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, Rafael Moreno, associate professor of geography and environmental sciences, and Timberley Roane, associate professor of integrative biology, have received an award of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation for their project “Building a Network for Education and Employment in Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands." This award is one of 27 design and

The ESIL certificate program is designed

development launch pilots in the second

for undergraduate students focusing on

round of NSF’s program for Inclusion

civil engineering, biology or environmental

across the Nation of Communities of

science. These three co-PIs have teamed up

Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in

with CU Denver’s American Indian Student

environmental regulations and organizational

Engineering and Science (INCLUDES).

Services, Office of Diversity and Inclusion and

dynamics. Additionally, this educational

“There are many examples, such as the Gold King Mine spill of 2015 or the Standing Rock pipeline dispute of 2016–2017, where

Office of Assessment, plus external partners

program is designed to support recruitment

representing numerous tribal, state and

of indigenous students.

federal organizations. “In fact,” said Mays, “forming a network of equal partners is the primary focus of NSF’s INCLUDES program.

selected not only because it demands the

have played out in the context of indigenous

They have learned that no one organization

expertise of STEM professionals but also

lands,” said Mays, explaining that the term

can really develop game-changing, new

because land stewardship is among the

“indigenous” is intended to include the more

educational approaches working alone.”

top motivations for indigenous students

specific terms Alaskan Native, American


The focus on land stewardship has been

questions of environmental stewardship

considering STEM careers.

Indian, Native American and Native

ESIL students are required to meet the

Hawaiian. Mays continued, “Our principal

requirements of their home department plus

The team plans to launch the ESIL certificate

investigator (PI) Professor Roane recognized

those of the ESIL curriculum, which ensures

program in August 2018.

the profound need for a new kind of

that all ESIL students have a common core in

educational program that would train

STEM, social science, cultural diversity and

NSF INCLUDES awards aim to enhance U.S.

students in science, technology, engineering

transcultural communication competence.

leadership in STEM discoveries and innovations

and mathematics (STEM) but also provide

A key feature of the program, in addition

through a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

the nontechnical skills needed to serve as

to a traditional four-year STEM degree, is

This is the second year of awards for INCLUDES.

a liaison between tribal, state and federal

participation in training and internships

Professor Mays can be contacted at david.mays@

organizations. We call it the environmental

designed to provide background with or 303-315-7570.

stewardship of indigenous lands (ESIL)

nontechnical matters such as cultural

certificate program.”

awareness, transcultural communication,


Gedney establishes lab, builds research with DURIP award For the past 10 years, Stephen Gedney, professor and chair of electrical engineering, has been involved in multiple programs funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) that are focused on the prediction and removal of magnetic signatures from naval vessels. Thanks to funds from the ONR Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), Gedney has established a new lab focused on such research. While at sea, naval vessels endure tremendous changes in magnetic or mechanical stress encountered during maneuvering, from changing wave states and temperature variations to large changes in hydrostatic pressures experienced by underwater vehicles. In fact, dynamic stresses can be the largest contributors to changes in magnetic susceptibility and permanent magnetization in a vessel’s steel members, which impact the vessel’s magnetic signature. Magnetic signatures above a certain threshold must be removed or else the vessel is susceptible to detection by hostile forces. This is accomplished through the use of longitudinal, vertical and athwartship degaussing coils placed around the ship. Unfortunately, assessment of the magnetic state of a ship currently has inherent delays and uncertainty. The most accurate assessment of a vessel’s magnetic state is through the use of off-board sensors; however, measurement cannot realistically be done in real time and requires an auxiliary measurement system or vehicle. There is uncertainty in predicting the signature using onboard sensors because of an inability to directly assess the magnetic and magnetostrictive hysteresis (or history) of the ship’s ferrous materials. The goal of Gedney’s ONR-sponsored research is to be able to predict the magnetic state of a ship given the ship’s location, movement, stress and thermal history, with the objective of first being able to predict the ship’s magnetic signature in real time and second to use this capability as part of a closed-loop degaussing system. The success of this research is strongly dependent on the ability to model the physical magnetic properties of the ship’s ferrous materials, typically high-tensile steel. Accurate models must represent the impact of the magnetic properties under the influence of varying magnetic fields; axial, biaxial and shear stresses; temperature; and eddy currents, as well as magnetic viscosity and creep. To date, the research into the fundamental physics of ferromagnetic hysteresis for each of these phenomena remains incomplete. The new ONR DURIP-sponsored laboratory allows Gedney’s team to solidify the laws for these physical properties of ferromagnetic materials and to develop physics-based mathematical models that describe them. The new laboratory provides a controlled environment to carefully study the phenomena independently and in cooperation, thus enabling the accurate prediction of the changes in magnetization and magnetic properties due to changes in mechanical, thermal and magnetic stresses. Such nonlinear and hysteretic models can then be used by the advanced software developed by Gedney’s team to greatly enhance the impact of degaussing system design and the employment of closed-loop degaussing systems.


Students enrolled in the spring 2017 General Chemistry for Engineers course had the opportunity to participate in a re-creation of NASA’s Space Poop Challenge, a crowdsourcing project intended to equip space suits with better built-in bathroom technology. Chelsea Magin, assistant professor in the division of pulmonary sciences and critical care medicine, department of medicine and department of bioengineering, taught the course and chose to use the open innovation competition as a classroom project to expose students to the importance of discovery, innovation and design, essential qualities in all engineering fields. “The learning environment created by open innovation assignments allows students to experience the challenges of working in a team to solve a problem without a fixed solution, which is typically the first stressful situation you encounter at work as a newly hired engineer,” explained Magin. The teams’ first assignment was to solve the Space Poop Challenge in the same format as it was presented on, including all guidelines provided by NASA. Magin, however, added one additional requirement: The students had to use at least three chemistry concepts and one engineering principle in their solution. In total, 13 teams completed the challenge and provided a final report aligned with the Space Poop guidelines, including a background, innovation and approach section, among others. At the end of the semester, the teams presented their final solutions to their peers and a team of industry judges. The class also participated in a webinar with NASA and the Space Poop Challenge winners. “Our students excelled in this environment by developing creative and resourceful solutions to both the technical assignment and the confounding social pressures of teamwork, all under the constraints of space travel,” Magin said. The students’ solutions ranged from detailed liquid transportation systems to retrofitted underwear modeled after NASA’s current system.



Q&A:TOM AUGUSTINE Department of Computer Science and Engineering

Assistant professor of computer science Tom Augustine joined the college in 2015. He is the primary undergraduate computer science advisor and teaches a full load of courses. We sat down to learn a little more about him.


What is your background? What did you do before coming to CU Denver?

I spent 24 years in the U.S. Air Force working with very large network and satellite communications and defensive cybersecurity for the federal government. I also spent four years teaching computer science and cybersecurity at the U.S. Naval Academy and one year teaching at Front Range Community College.


What are all of your roles within the Department of Computer Science and Engineering?

My roles include teaching, advising and facilitating research. I teach lower-level classes that provide the foundation to the bachelor of science and the minor in computer science, as well as computing electives for other majors. Additionally, I teach the department’s cybersecurity courses. We currently are creating both an undergraduate and graduate certificate program in cybersecurity, which will provide an edge in the cybersecurity job market. I also lead a small number of senior design students throughout the year, helping them work with cybersecurity industry partners to design, develop and test new applications. In my advisor role, I spend almost half my time working with high school students and transfer students interested in the computer science program. I also advise current students; we meet with each student every semester to give guidance on the courses they should be taking, and to talk about internship opportunities, senior design projects and future career employment. I am also the faculty advisor for the CU Denver Association for Computing Machinery student chapter, the campus professional group for computer scientists. I advise the group leads in ways to meet professional development goals and plan social events. Finally, I spend part of my time facilitating research, working with master’s-level students on their theses and academic articles. I also spend a lot of time building labs and keeping current in the field of cybersecurity. I maintain my Certified Information Systems Security Professional qualification, which requires that I regularly attend formal training conferences and work with industry professionals.


Which role do you enjoy the most and why?

While I like all aspects of the job, I definitely find mentoring students on career-related issues most rewarding. I like to use my 25-plus-year career knowledge of government, industry and academics


to help a current or prospective student make the right choice for them. I have a number of students who come back to me five and 10 years after graduation with stories of success. Since everyone has different goals and many don’t know what they want when they start a program, it is very rewarding to have them come back years later and note that they listened to (and sometimes took) the career and educational advice we gave them.


What is your favorite part about working with students?

I like working with students who want to learn and are motivated to some end goal. Often the student who has to struggle through some courses but still puts in a full effort is my favorite. I like when students ask what additional things they can do to meet their goals; sometimes they will show me a project or talk about things they have done outside the classroom. I really enjoy working with students who have a passion for something … sometimes it’s computer science, sometimes it's music, and other times it’s just a passion for life.


What is your advice for aspiring computer scientists?

I advise anyone in school to first choose to have a good attitude. We can’t love every class and will get frustrated often. If you choose to have a positive attitude and realize each step gets you closer to your goal, the positive attitude will be contagious and people will want to work with you. I also note that my best students get extra help even before they need it. Sometimes just getting to know your instructor and regularly validating the work that you have done is enough to help when the work gets tough. Many feel that asking for extra help is a sign of weakness, but the opposite is true. Getting to know your instructors is a good thing. Sometimes these instructors become long-term mentors who can help advise on future career opportunities. Finally, if you can, incorporate computer science (or your field) into a hobby. When you do this, you will learn a lot more working on projects for yourself rather than for a grade for class. I work with cybersecurity, but I spend some of my own time reading, working on personal projects and building solutions. The key is to combine it with something that you find fun so you actually look forward to working on the project.


We Want to Hear From You! Tell us about the impact you’re making by sending an update to Erica Lefeave at or CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science, Campus Box 104, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.

Get Involved We’re always looking for ways to build

Senior Design Competition MAY 11, 2018 | AURARIA CAMPUS Come see our students’ finest work as they present their senior design projects to a panel of industry judges and compete for cash prizes. Visit in early May for project abstracts and event timing and location.

Commencement Celebration MAY 12, 2018 | AURARIA CAMPUS Each semester, graduating students participate in commencement ceremonies to mark the completion of their degree and a new beginning for what comes next. Everyone is invited to attend and to congratulate our newest class of alumni. Find additional details at

stronger connections with our alumni, our partners and the community. If you want to get involved with the college— as a mentor, a volunteer or through internships—contact the Office of the Dean at 303-315-7170.

Support Your College Give a scholarship, send a student team to an engineering competition or support cutting-edge research. Your gift makes a tremendous impact. For more information on how you can help, contact the Office of Advancement at or 303-315-3601.

Year-End Celebration 2018 MAY 11, 2018 | NINTH STREET PARK, AURARIA CAMPUS Join faculty, staff, students and alumni for sun, BBQ, conversation and fun as the college hosts its sixth annual Year-End Celebration. Visit this spring for details.

Block Party 2018 AUGUST 2018 | DOWNTOWN DENVER Take to the streets with the college for the annual CU Denver block party, which happens during the first week of fall classes. Live music, food trucks, games and information—we take over a block of the city for an afternoon of fun. Visit for more information.


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ABOUT THE COVER: The College of Engineering and Applied Science plays a significant role in the city around us, from student and faculty research projects to industry partnerships. The cover illustration represents how our bright, innovative minds are fueling the city and state.

Impact magazine 2017  
Impact magazine 2017