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FALL 2019


A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE Education Abroad Broadens Student Perspectives 12

Lessons in Sustainability in Indonesia 10

The Villanova Peace Corps Connection 27


M E S S AG E F R O M THE INTERIM DEAN FROM THE BEGINNING, Villanova University has touched the world. I love hearing Father Peter tell the story of two Augustinian friars from Philadelphia who ventured out to the Main Line to purchase the Belle Air estate with not enough money to do so. Despite the lack of funds—perhaps with divine intervention—they were able to make the deal and Villanova started educating Irish immigrants, welcoming new people into its community. Today, more than 175 years after its founding, Villanova continues to extend a warm welcome to all who search for truth with a commitment to igniting change. In this edition of the newly renamed Villanova Engineer you will learn how College of Engineering faculty, students and alumni are impacting communities around the globe. Our alumni are making a profound difference in countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Their engineering education, which balanced rigorous fundamentals with Augustinian values, fueled their passion and preparation to effect change, both at home and abroad. I am humbled and excited to continue to lead the College of Engineering and foster greater engagement with the wider world.

6 THINGS YOU’LL LEARN IN THIS “WORLD OF DIFFERENCE” ISSUE How radar is being used to monitor human daily activities 6

Which “Grand Challenges” Villanova Engineering students will tackle 8

What one student learned through the Kakehashi project 9

How a popular professor has

contributed to service learning 19 What Electrical and Computer

Randy Weinstein, PhD

Engineering students are up to in Ecuador 24

Interim Dean of Engineering Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning

What advice international alumni

Professor of Chemical Engineering

Villanova Engineer is published by Villanova University College of Engineering, Villanova, PA 19085 Interim Dean Randy D. Weinstein, PhD Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning Professor of Chemical Engineering Senior Associate Dean, Graduate Studies and Research Gerard F. Jones, PhD, ’72 ME Associate Dean, Academic Affairs Andrea Welker, PhD, PE

would offer for working and living abroad 29

Associate Dean, Student and Strategic Programs Stephen Jones, PhD

Questions, comments, letters to the editor Send to

Assistant Dean, External Relations Keith Argue

Address Updates Send to or 1800VILLANOVA

Director of Communications/Editor Kimberly Shimer Contributors Megan Amis Suzanne Wentzel Photo Credits Paul Crane Photography John Shetron Photography

Stay in Touch on Social Media Facebook: VillanovaEngineering LinkedIn: villanovaengineering Twitter: @NovaEngineer Instagram: NovaEngineer



THE CENTER FOR CLIMATE AND SECURITY “We are making aircraft decisions now for planes that will be flying in 30, 50 years. We need to understand future climate and how that will impact aircraft performance.”

“It looks like something out of Frankenstein’s lab, but it’s far from science fiction.” —Matt DeLucia, NBC 10 News, Philadelphia, referring to a newly patented smart brain developed by Mechanical Engineering’s Dr. Qianhong Wu to study the full impact of head trauma

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER “It’s kind of sad that sometimes we’re creating our own problems.”

“This experience helps provide students insight into the real world, outside of a textbook. I wish I would have had an opportunity like this VESL project while in school.” —Aqua North Carolina President Shannon Becker on her Villanova Engineering Service Learning experience in Panama in March 2019


—Recent Villanova Engineering PhD graduate Dr. Mary McRae on the need for accurate and detailed climate threat assessments to improve military readiness

“Our work in the Villanova Sustainable Engineering program is validated by implementation, not just publication.” — Sustainable Engineering Professor of Practice Dr. Ross Lee, who served as Dr. McRae’s advisor


KYW NEWS RADIO “If I can find some of the impervious areas of the pavements in Philadelphia we don't need anymore, we can do de-paving and move that into a park— then you're greatly reducing the runoff that's reaching the streams and the combined sewers.” —Dr. Robert Traver, director of the Villanova Center for Resilient Water Systems, about the impact of too many paved surfaces in contributing to flooding from stormwater

“Our work leads to the creation of new knowledge and through collaborative work and partnership, we can share best practices so that they can become part of land development policies to benefit the environment and society.” —from “A Green Infrastructure Research Lab Grows at Villanova,” by Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Dr. Bridget Wadzuk

“You throw batters some practice pitching and they’re going to crush the ball, so they’d rather see how they handle actual pitches and how well they’re tracking that ball with their eyes and what their state of mind is.” —Dr. Mark Jupina, Electrical and Computer Engineering, on the advantages of his PITCHvr system (Perceptual Image Trainer for the Complete Hitter in the Virtual Realm)



Since he entered the College of Engineering as a freshman in 1965, Villanova University has been a nearly constant part of Ed Dougherty’s life. In 1969, he received his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and in 1986, he earned a master’s degree in Computer Science from the College of Arts and Sciences. A few years later, his children graduated as Villanovans. When he started his own company, August Design—a name inspired by St. Augustine with a mission of serving the greater good—Dougherty hired interns from Villanova and sponsored senior design projects. After selling his company in 2001, he returned to the University as an adjunct and joined the faculty full time in 2007 when the College received funding to develop an engineering entrepreneurship program and asked him to lead the initiative. Proudest Contribution

Dougherty shaped the engineering entrepreneurship program into what it is today. Since its inception, the College has launched a minor and graduate certificate, and has embedded entrepreneurially minded learning into more than 30 engineering courses. He is most proud of the latest addition to the program— E2SI, a summer minor that is open to all University majors. In its second year (this past summer), the class enrollment increased by 50%, and Dougherty anticipates interest will continue to grow. “E2SI provides students from a variety of backgrounds—psychology, environmental science, finance, computer science and more—with the opportunity to collaborate with diverse skillsets, which will better prepare them for the working world.”

“He made our engineering entrepreneurship program the powerhouse that it is today. His enthusiasm, dedication and talent will be missed.” —Randy Weinstein, PhD, Interim Dean

What He’ll Miss Most

“I’ll miss the people I work with,” Dougherty says with emotion. “Our group is so supportive and talented. If you’re working at Villanova, you’re a good person. There are so many nice people—everyone from the gardeners to the president!” As far as the students are concerned, Dougherty confesses, “I’ve learned to keep myself from getting too attached to them because they are here for such a short time and you want to see them move on and succeed, similar to how a parent feels.” Retirement Plans

Most people don’t know that Dougherty began his entrepreneurial career writing computer games—a skillset he really enjoyed. In retirement, he wants to develop games and software for virtual and extended reality. Dougherty also just finished writing his first novel titled Brain Hackers—a science and adventure-based fiction book (not yet submitted for publication). “I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the experience; I hope to write a few more.” Post-retirement, Dougherty expects to stay involved with Villanova. When reminiscing about his time here, he notes, “Villanova feels like family, and for me it really is a second home.”

WITH GRATITUDE “Professor Dougherty was not only an educator, but an adviser and mentor. As students we sought his guidance for various projects, ideas, presentations, prototypes and more. His unique and creative mind, mixed with his real-world experience, will be missed, but not forgotten.” —Christopher LeClerc ’19 EE


Win a Pulitzer Prize Have work displayed in the Philadelphia Art Museum Get inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Host Saturday Night Live Invent the first anti-gravity belt

“Through the Engineering Entrepreneurship minor, Professor Dougherty taught us the importance of creativity and innovation. Because of his success in the real world, he truly understood what worked and what didn’t, making him a valuable resource when discussing entrepreneurial concepts.” —Brendan Lundquist ’19 ME “Professor Dougherty allowed our class to explore our craziest ideas and constantly pushed us to improve those concepts and think further outside the box to see those ideas come to life. None of our accomplishments would have been possible without his mentorship.” —Matt Massina ’19 CpE “Professor Dougherty is incredibly dedicated to showing us how to succeed, but more than that, he’s passionate about truly helping us realize our own ideas and giving us the resources to bring them to fruition.” —Peter Paralikas ’18 CpE “Professor Dougherty’s unique teaching style allowed students to learn in a lowstress environment. As a mechanical engineer working at L3Harris Technologies, I have applied many of the brainstorming techniques he taught, as well as the PowerPoint and presentation skills I acquired. I personally viewed Professor Dougherty as a mentor as opposed to a teacher.” —Mary Spillane ’18 ME

NANCY O’CONNOR, MANAGER OF ACADEMIC POLICY AND PROCEDURES Nancy O’Connor arrived at Villanova University in 1986. In 1999, she tried to retire. It didn’t stick. “In 2001, I was asked to return to help with the ABET accreditation process,” she explains. What was supposed to be a temporary assignment lasted another 18 years. In June 2019, O’Connor made her retirement official and this time her bucket list is full. As manager of Academic Policy and Procedures, O’Connor was often the first College of Engineering staff person that new students met. In supporting the College’s various academic processes, she assisted freshmen with their AP choices and implications, developed and managed the online degree audit system rules, counseled students on academic integrity, and tracked college enrollment and retention data. Every six years she guided the College through the accreditation process, earning stellar reviews by ABET’s visiting committee regarding the quality of its reports. Asked what she most enjoyed about her work, O’Connor says, “I liked seeing the students grow in four years from being eager, new freshmen to graduates who are well equipped to join the professional world.” If she were to give them one piece of advice, she recommends, “Hone your time management skills so that you will do well in your academic programs while having time to experience the many great activities and opportunities available at Villanova.” An invaluable asset to the College, Interim Dean Randy Weinstein, PhD, calls O’Connor, “One of the nicest and smartest people I have ever known. She could do anything and if there was something she had never done before she thrived on figuring it out and making it perfect.” In retirement, O’Connor looks forward to traveling, spending time with family, enjoying music and dabbling in poetry.  


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n summer 2019, Sylvie Lorente, PhD, took a new position at Villanova University as College of Engineering Chair in Mechanical Engineering. Explaining the impetus behind the major change, the mother of two grown daughters says: “My nest is empty and professionally I had already reached the highest level in the French university system. I was looking for a new challenge.” An expert in thermal engineering, Dr. Lorente is excited to be here, noting that the University and the College have “so much potential.” For 20 years, Dr. Lorente’s research, which focuses on flow systems, has made her known around the world. She holds the Hung Hing-Ying Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Science and Technology at Hong Kong University, is an honorary professor at Shandong Academy of Sciences in China and is an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She also serves as an adjunct professor at Duke University and until 2018, was a Visiting Chair Professor of Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. In addition to these appointments, Dr. Lorente was recently named an editor of the journal International Communications in Heat and Mass Transfer. She also is a new member of Academia Europaea, “a European Academy of Humanities, Letters and Sciences.” The academy is composed of individual members who are invited only after peer group nomination, scrutiny and confirmation as to the scholarship and eminence of the individual in their chosen field.

Asked how she came to Villanova, Dr. Lorente explains that it began with an invitation by Jerry Jones, PhD, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and Research, to present during a National Science Foundationsponsored and Villanova Engineering-hosted workshop on constructal theory—yet another field in which she is renowned. Once on campus, she was attracted to the University’s sense of community. “It’s not just words here,” she says. When she discovered the job posting for Villanova’s Mechanical Engineering department, she applied, noting that ultimately, she was “in the right place at the right time.” Dr. Lorente is spending her first semester on campus writing research proposals and settling in to her new home. She will also travel between the United States and France to continue advising PhD students at the University of Toulouse, National Institute of Applied Sciences, where she earned her PhD and served on the faculty for 22 years, including three as the head of foundation and vice president for corporate relations. The visits to her former home will also allow her to see her husband, a banking executive who will join her in the US in January 2020. Come the spring, Dr. Lorente will teach a senior-level course in Constructal Theory and Design, for which she co-authored the textbook, Design with Constructal Theory (Wiley 2008). Next academic year, she hopes to teach a graduate course on heat transfer. Clearly happy to be a Villanovan, Dr. Lorente says, “I think in this special environment I can make a difference.”

UP&COMING FACULTY EARTHQUAKE ENGINEER AT THE READY When the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association (GEER) calls, Jonathan Hubler, PhD, will be ready. An assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering since 2017, Dr. Hubler is eager to apply his knowledge of earthquake engineering wherever and whenever he can be of service. In July, he spent a week immersing himself in training on reconnaissance tools at the National Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure (RAPID) facility at the University of Washington. The National Science Foundation-supported workshop helped prepare him for future reconnaissance opportunities, as well as possible research grants. Through advanced laboratory testing, Dr. Hubler focuses his research on soil liquification, which occurs when saturated soil substantially loses strength and stiffness in response to earthquake shaking. In the lab, he simulates earthquake loading conditions, testing various soil parameters that affect response, including particle size, shape and density. He explains. “By better understanding the effects of various parameters, we can improve our prediction of liquification and its consequences during future earthquake events.”

USING FOSSILS TO MODEL RIVERS THROUGH CLIMATE CHANGE Virginia Smith, PhD, an assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is leading a multi-institutional research study on the use of fossils to model rivers through climate change. Supported by a $538,583 National Science Foundation grant, the goal of the project is to reconstruct the coevolution of paleoriver and ecosystems dynamics with environmental change in western North America during the Eocene-Oligocene transition, perhaps the largest climate state change of the last 65 million years. “Rivers are bellwethers for changes in precipitation, vegetation and temperature,” explains Dr. Smith. “A question of fundamental importance is how river systems respond to major environmental changes (e.g., flooding and erosion). This knowledge is critical for water resource management.” READ MORE

IDENTIFYING BIOMARKERS OF FALLS AND MOBILITY IN MS PATIENTS Meltem Izzetoglu, PhD, associate research professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is part of a multi-institutional team awarded a $704,983 National Institute of Health grant for “Brain systems of locomotion and falls in older persons with multiple sclerosis.” The aim is to identify brain systems, structures and novel mechanisms of mobility using advanced neuroimaging methods that can predict increased incident fall risk. Leading the design, development and application of analysis methods for processing neuroimaging data, Dr. Izzetoglu also will take part in the evaluation and interpretation of project outcomes. She says, “Identifying novel and potentially modifiable biomarkers of falls and mobility impairments in older MS patients will have a major impact on knowledge and potential implications for assessment and treatment.” READ MORE

LESSONS LEARNED FROM FLAPPING WINGS AND A SENSE OF SMELL How do flying insects balance a sense of smell with aerodynamics to navigate their surroundings? And what can we learn from them that can be applied to unmanned aerial vehicles? Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Chengyu Li, PhD—who joined Villanova’s faculty in fall 2018—is using computational fluid dynamics to find answers to those questions. Dr. Li’s proposal entitled “Flow physics of odor-guided aeronautic navigation in nature” received the 2019 Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). One of 36 proposals awarded out of 167 nationwide applications, the award provides a one-year seed grant to enhance his research and professional growth. ORAU integrates the scientific strength of 125 major research institutions to advance science and education through collaboration with national laboratories and federal agencies. READ MORE




ecent advances in machine learning and the Internet of Things have accelerated expectations and performance requirements of ubiquitous sensing technologies. Insights provided by the continuous monitoring of classified medical data and daily lifestyle activities greatly benefit health care professionals. Data obtained through fitness and cognitive activities also are strong indicators of overall well-being and health. Over the past decade, radio frequency active sensing, i.e., radar, has gained increased attention due to its demonstrated efficacy in disparate applications from automotive and smart homes to computer-human interaction and remote health monitoring. Radar systems are both low cost and low power, making them a safe sensing alternative that can operate in darkness and all weather conditions. Moreover, radar is non-invasive, and when used for monitoring, does not require an alteration in daily habits or routines. These attributes have made radar popular in motion monitoring. In over 800 publications and more than 17,800 citations (h-index 66), Moeness Amin, PhD, director of Villanova’s Center for Advanced Communications, has contributed to advances in radar, sonar, communications, satellite navigations, ultrasound imaging, radio telescopes and radio frequency identification. His research on radar monitoring of human daily activities began seven years ago.

RADAR FOR DETECTION OF ABNORMAL GAIT Clinical gait analysis plays a central role in diverse applications, such as medical diagnosis, rehabilitation and sports. Many neurodegenerative, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular diseases have been shown to alter a person’s gait. In particular, many pathological disorders lead to differences between the left and right leg motion, which is referred to as gait asymmetry. Timely detection of gait asymmetry enables early diagnosis and thus can help to ensure proper treatment. Dr. Amin’s research on abnormal

gait detection is supported by Germany’s Humboldt Research Award, which he received in 2016 in recognition of his lifetime achievements in signal processing.

RADAR FOR SMART HOMES AND MAN-MACHINE INTERFACE In collaboration with Comcast, Dr. Amin is looking at the ability of radar-based sensors to precisely detect motion, as well as describe unique characteristics of a motion activity, which provides high-fidelity sensor data to the home security/automation system. These data can be used to detect change of habits and routines and indicate significant changes in home activities, like time spent sitting versus time spent moving. Significant changes in mobility can be a precursor to depression or physical health issues. Dr. Amin’s radar algorithm also recognizes Dr. Moeness Amin, PhD student hand gestures, which can control Ann-Kathrin Seifert and Dr. Abdelhak home appliances, such as desk Zoubir from TU-Darmstadt, Germany, co-authored “Detection of gait lamps and televisions.


asymmetry using indoor doppler radar,” which won the best paper award at the 2019 IEEE Radar Conference.

The elderly will represent approximately 20% of the world population by 2030, reaching 1.4 billion worldwide. Demographic trends indicate that an overwhelming majority of these older adults will choose to receive care in the home, and Dr. Amin’s fall detection technology is an important innovation for helping seniors live more independently. Prompt fall detection saves lives, leads to timely intervention and the most effective treatment, and reduces both private and public medical expenses. Fall detection systems also reduce the burden on families that care for senior family members remotely. Dr. Amin’s fall detection research is supported by the Qatar National Research Fund.



. “Nat” Nataraj, PhD, Mechanical Engineering professor and director of the Villanova Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems, is an expert in developing mathematical models to predict the performance of engineering systems, whether those systems are mechanical or human. In the past year, he completed one project and began another that combine nonlinear science and machine learning to divine the underlying dynamics for analysis, diagnostics, prognostics and health management.

ACCELERATING FATIGUE TESTING Together with Mechanical Engineering Professor and Department Chair Sridhar Santhanam, PhD, Dr. Nataraj has completed phase one of a $125,000 NAVAIR (Naval Air Systems Command), Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project with Global Technology Connections, an Atlanta, Ga., company. While STTR awards typically are led by those working in industry, given his expertise, Dr. Nataraj was named lead on “Systematic Fatigue Test Spectrum Editing Using Wavelet Transformations.” The project’s objective was to economize and reduce the time consumption of fatigue testing, the method by which aircraft companies test aircraft parts under varying loads to determine structural behavior. Dr. Nataraj explains that, ideally, a fatigue test should exactly reproduce the loading conditions experienced by a

given component or part during the entirety of its service life. “However,” he says, “current methods make it prohibitive to run a fatigue test in this manner.” In response, Dr. Nataraj’s team, which included postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Mohseni, PhD, developed an algorithm to predict the viability of aircraft parts through data gathered from just a few loads. He reports, “We achieved over 90% acceleration of the testing process while maintaining substantially equivalent fatigue damage and representative failure modes.”

IMPROVING PEDIATRIC CPR PERFORMANCE In recent years, CPR quality monitoring defibrillators have improved in-hospital CPR performance (and survival outcomes) for adults by providing real-time feedback on mechanical variables such as chest compression depth and rate. Unfortunately, that same technology is limited for children, and each year cardiac arrest claims more than 2,000 young lives. Given the association between CPR quality and outcomes, new methods to monitor pediatric CPR performance are needed to improve the care of this vulnerable population. In collaboration with researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Nataraj is working on physiologic-directed (versus guideline-directed) CPR, a promising technique that uses the patient’s blood flow response—measured non-invasively via pulse oximetry—to guide the ongoing resuscitation effort. The National Institutes of Health has awarded the team $1.22 million ($277,467 to Villanova) for a three-year study on the “Validation of Physiologic CPR Quality Using Noninvasive Waveform Analytics (CPR-NOVA).”


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n 2008, the National Academy of Engineering presented its “Grand Challenges,” an aspirational vision of what engineering needs to deliver in the 21st century. Its vision—to be achieved through 14 corresponding goals—is “continuation of life on the planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy and joyful.” Through the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program, engineering schools around the world have adopted an engineering education supplement that “adds global awareness and social skills with a focus on the Grand Challenges to broaden the reach of undergraduate study in engineering.” In fall 2019, the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program at Villanova University College of Engineering joined programs at more than 125 universities in the United States. As stated on the NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering website: “Addressing any of the Grand Challenges prepares students to think in international terms, and to develop globally relevant perspectives and skills. It attracts students because it prepares them for real and urgent problems that need solutions; it is a basis for

“It is a compelling, interesting and holistic program that will challenge the best and brightest to go beyond the traditional curriculum to create a unique plan of study.” —Dr. Andrea Welker, Associate Dean, Academic Affairs

realistic experiments and problem challenges in the field during their undergraduate years; and it offers a clear view to future jobs that matter and the opportunities in engineering that await them.” Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Andrea Welker, PhD, PE, explains that—much like the new Engineering Honors degree—the GCSP will help the College continue to attract high-achieving students. Leveraging Villanova Engineering’s strengths in sustainability, service learning, engineering entrepreneurship, study abroad, undergraduate research and interdisciplinary learning, Dr. Welker is excited to create a GCSP that is unique to Villanova. She says, “At least initially, the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program at Villanova University College of Engineering will focus on challenges that build upon our research expertise.” From the NAE’s 14 Grand Challenges, the College has selected these five: • Make solar energy economical • Provide access to clean water • Engineer better medicines • Secure cyberspace • Restore urban infrastructure Launching the program with the class of 2023, the goal is to have approximately 20 students per class enrolled, with each department providing a faculty mentor for those accepted into the program. That mentor will ensure that the student is making progress on their plan of study, specifically around five competencies that the NAE requires: talent (research), multidisciplinary, business/ entrepreneurship, multicultural and social consciousness (service). Those who complete the program will receive a letter from the president of the National Academy of Engineers and inclusion on the scholars list on the GCSP website. In addition, Dr. Welker is working on meaningful ways for the College to recognize students who complete the program. “This accomplishment will go beyond being a badge of distinction for these students; their work literally has the potential to change lives.”


or several Villanova Engineering seniors, it was a year of tremendous accomplishments that went beyond even the joy of graduating. In addition to Fulbrights, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellows and Knight-Hennessy Scholars, the class of 2019 included a participant in Japan’s Kakehashi Project. Deyjah Foster ’19 ChE was one of less than 200 American students competitively selected for this unique program sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and coordinated by the Japan International Cooperation Center and the Japanese American Citizens League. For nine days, she and 22 other Pennsylvania college students joined fellow participants from across the country in visiting Japan’s historical and educational sites, experiencing traditional and cultural activities, and participating in lectures and workshops. The goal of the program is to foster US-Japan relations, facilitate crosscultural understanding, and encourage international leadership and business opportunities. During a visit centered on Aomori (the northernmost region on the main island) that included home-stays, temple and museum visits, university exchanges, and local cuisine, Foster was struck by the connections between Japan’s aging demographics and topics learned in a sustainable engineering course she took at Villanova. “The country’s aging population is dramatically affecting communities in the more rural areas such as Aomori. There is tension between the increasing pressures of urbanization and Japan’s initiatives for cultural revitalization.” In addition to a forecasted 24% drop in population by 2050, increasing numbers of young adults are leaving their rural homes for college and not returning, resulting in fewer jobs, food security concerns and vanishing communities. “Nevertheless,” notes Foster, “those concerns are met with innovative and active steps by both the government

and individual parties.” For instance, schools are emphasizing the importance of agriculture and rebranding farming as both an intrinsically and financially fulfilling career, and local farmers have opened their farms to fruit picking and tourism activities as sources of income. Additionally, Japan has begun offering residents business and marketing programs, daycare, housing and insurance incentives to improve growth in agriculture and population. “I have witnessed how engineering—focused on creating current and future opportunities for economic, environmental and societal growth—can be a driver towards improved food security and tourism,” she says. Impacted by the once-in-a-lifetime experience, Foster concludes: “Although short, my time in the Kakehashi Project led to long-lasting relationships and cultural ties. The project highlighted not only the importance of the United States’ political alliance with Japan, but also the value of sustainable development partnerships and international relationships. Food security and drastic population changes are global concerns; however, uniting people and countries despite geographical, cultural and language differences is one of the first steps towards international solutions.” Foster—who taught herself Japanese beginning at a young age and is now fluent in the language—was selected as Pennsylvania’s representative to present the Kakehashi Project to foreign service diplomats. After graduation, she returned home to the island of Saint Thomas and became a summer resident and teaching assistant for Math Behind the Science, a program in which recent high school graduates develop the calculus, reading and college preparation skills needed before their first year on-campus. In August, Foster began working as an engineer in research and development for Mars Wrigley in Hackettstown, New Jersey.


id you know that according to the Institute of International Education, only about 5% of US engineering students study abroad? At Villanova, thanks to flexibility in the curriculum and the support and encouragement of faculty and administrators, more than 20% of Engineering majors take advantage of these life-changing experiences, whether for a summer, a semester or an entire academic year. In 2017–2018, a record high 26% of Mechanical Engineering juniors and 28% of Civil Engineering juniors studied abroad. This past academic year, 42% of Civil Engineering juniors studied in countries including Italy, Ireland, Spain and Australia. An ardent supporter of the international experience, College of Engineering Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Andrea Welker, PhD, PE, feels it’s important for students to become global citizens. “It allows them to contribute to the betterment of communities around the world, broaden their perspectives and appreciation for cultural diversity, and ultimately differentiates them in the job market. Many projects that professional engineers are involved with span countries and cultures, and employers seek graduates with global perspectives and experiences to meet this need.” Visit the Office of Education of Abroad.

<< Richard Annan ’20 ME University of Manchester, England I learned that life and your problems are all relative to others. The only thing that separates us is where we call home. I would recommend being part of a program that allows you to learn from the locals and natives of the country.

<< Bridget Moore ’20 CE and Maddie McQuillan ’20 CE National University of Ireland, Galway Studying abroad is a time to step away from the comfort of the “Villanova bubble.” The best way to get to know the culture and area is to interact with the people around you. Travel and immerse yourself in the history of a country. Visit a museum, climb a mountain, sit at a cafe, or just take a stroll. You never know what is around the corner!


Tony Colarusso ’21 ChE Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy To really understand a different culture, you need to experience it in context. Being in Europe for a semester allowed me to see how much diversity the world has to offer, which helped me grow as a person. Being abroad, I also became more aware of the global impact that engineers can make.



Jessica Ridley ’21 ME Universidad de Cádiz, Spain I would recommend studying abroad for anyone considering it. Being able to experience and learn about different cultures is very rewarding, and you’ll make a lot of friends along the way.


Hunter Gaudio ’20 ME Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain Real growth takes place at the edge of your comfort zone. By fully immersing yourself in a foreign culture and academic system, you discover many fundamental truths about who you are, and who you wish to become. The experience widened the lens through which I view engineering.

Gisselle Espinoza ’21 ChE Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy Studying abroad forced me to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I've only ever visited Spanish or English-speaking countries and it was amazing to get out of the Latinx-American mindset.



Ashley Meier ’19 EE University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia The most rewarding part of the experience was meeting and becoming good friends with so many different people. I grew as a person while I was abroad, both personally and professionally; I saw things I never expected to see; and I feel that I am a better person for it now.


<< Erin McGarry ’21 EE National University of Ireland, Galway Studying abroad gave me a sense of independence and motivation that continues to drive me even after I've returned home. Being able to learn and work on a team with engineers from Ireland was one of the greatest and most valuable academic experiences I've had as a Villanova student.


Jamie Silk ’19 ChE Roma Tre University, Rome, Italy I learned so much more in my four months in Rome than I ever thought possible. The chemical engineering classes were engaging, and they took us on site visits to see how what we were learning applied to life in Italy. Outside of the classroom, I had the opportunity to form lifelong friendships.

Anthony Castelo ’20 CE University of Technology, Sydney, Australia Having an open mind can lead to some of the best experiences of your life! Taking courses at UTS made me a more independent engineering student, requiring me to evolve my learning methods in a way that helped me once I returned to Villanova.




hen Jakarta, Indonesia-native Justinus Satrio, PhD, was awarded a scholarship to pursue his college education in the United States, he chose to study in Iowa. “I thought since it was in the middle of the country it would be close to everything,” he explains. While the location did not meet his expectations where ease of traveling was concerned, Iowa did turn out to be the ideal setting to begin research into biofuels, a topic that bloomed while he was a student. Today, as an associate professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Villanova University, Dr. Satrio puts his education and experience to work in the lab, classroom and field—both here in the United States and in his home country. In the College of Engineering, in addition to teaching traditional chemical engineering courses, Dr. Satrio teaches courses in biomass conversion and sustainable development and leads undergraduate and graduate student researchers in his Biomass Resources & Conversion Technologies laboratory. His interest lies in the development of processes that utilize bio-renewable materials for producing energy, fuels and chemicals to reduce society’s reliance on non-renewable carbon sources. In 2017, working with Villanova’s Office of Education Abroad and Villanova Engineering Service Learning, Dr. Satrio launched a summer program that combines his passion for sustainability with his love for Indonesia, which is rich with biomass resources and is rapidly growing in terms of population, economy and innovation. The program gives Villanova students the opportunity to experience living in Indonesia while doing research and taking part in service internships on topics related to the agroindustry. The key to the program’s success has been a collaboration with Bogor Agricultural University in Bogor, West Java province, the country’s leading institution for the study of agriculture and forestry. This past summer, six College of Engineering students— representing Chemical, Civil, Mechanical and Sustainable Engineering—traveled with Dr. Satrio to Java and Bali, Indonesia, for a six-week experience in “Sustainable Engineering for International Development.” The program began with an internship with PT Swen Inovasi Transfer in Bogor, where the students learned about biogas technologies and integrated farming. It was followed by a two-week summer course at BAU on Sustainable Agroindustry for Rural Communities, which was attended

Dr. Satrio (second from right) with students and Cao Chocolates’ staff members.

by 21 students from six countries. Students were taught process fundamentals at BAU’s campus in the first week, followed by a field study in Baturraden, Central Java, where they learned—hands on—the production of clove and patchouli oils, from plant production to the oil extraction processes. After the course, students traveled to Bali to intern with Cau Chocolates, where they worked with the company in improving the sustainability of cacao production and processing. Last year, a solar drying system for cocoa beans become a senior capstone design project for Mechanical Engineering students. The solar dryer prototype was tested by students during this visit and they subsequently proposed design improvements. At the end of the internship, Villanova Engineering students returned home to the United States, while Dr. Satrio stayed behind for another two weeks to participate in Indonesia’s annual international conference on biomass, in which he plays a leading role. Working with BAU, Dr. Satrio has planned the 2020 Indonesia summer course-internship program, which he hopes will include the participation of Villanova science students in addition to engineering majors and students from other US universities. When asked about the overarching goal of the program, Dr. Satrio explains that while the academic objective is for participants to learn the concepts and engineering approaches to sustainable design and development around the water, energy and food nexus in the developing world, the Indonesia program also benefits students in more abstract ways. “It calls on them to develop cultural fluency, flexibility, adaptability, humility, patience and an ability to listen to others when addressing global issues,” says Dr. Satrio. “I want to immerse them in this culture and allow them to explore. When less is dictated and there’s not one correct answer, students rise to the occasion and put the pieces together themselves.” He adds, “Given its diversity and incredible growth, Indonesia is a good place to help the University produce graduates who possess global perspectives and an informed respect for the differences among peoples and cultures.”

STUDENT REFLECTIONS: Mackenzie Bowden ’18 ChE, ’20 MSSE

While hands-on engineering experiences offer significant educational benefits, the personal connections developed while participating in these projects provide unparalleled benefits for social and emotional growth and well-being. This trip provides a structured experience for students to expand their horizons and step out of their comfort zones, all while strengthening their knowledge of both engineering and the world. Daniel Grover ’20 ChE

I learned that to accomplish anything worthwhile, it is important to have patience and motivation. Our purpose in Indonesia was to develop and install a drying system for their cocoa beans as part of the chocolate-making process, while looking for ways to improve sustainability. While we can draw up the designs and try to think of everything that could go wrong from a distance, you have to be in the field to witness factors that affect your plans.

While language can be a barrier between people, hands-on activities and learning through interactions are meaningful and powerful. I learned so much without ever exchanging words. I learned that family is important whether that be a traditional family or friends one has traveled with. A close-knit community will allow any idea or project to succeed because there are many people working diligently together. I recommend this experience to anyone looking for a challenge outside the classroom where you can directly see how projects and ideas will impact people’s lives.

Mackenzie Bowden ’18 ChE, ’20 MSSE modifies the design of an existing anaerobic digester during a 2017 trip to Tiron, Indonesia.

Dr. Satrio and students visited Prambanan temple in the Special Territory of Yogyakarta, which is the center of a Javanese monarchy and traditional cultures.  

264,000,000 Population


Recognized ethnic groups


Languages and dialects

17,508 Islands

Myah Massenburg ’20 ChE

The 2019 international summer course at BAU included 21 students from six countries.



World economic ranking (2018)


Projected economic ranking (2030)

Anthony Martucci ’22 ChE worked with Cau Chocolates’ technician in building a solar dryer for cacao beans.

Dr. Satrio (left) and the students visited a cacao farm to learn about cacao trees and fruit production.



hen the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards were announced for 2019-20, 33 Villanova University students and alumni were among the winners. This marked the largest single-year number of Fulbright awards in the University’s history, surpassing the previous record of 16 winners set in 2018-19. This year’s recipients included five from the College of Engineering. The Fulbright Program is the US government’s flagship international educational exchange program, offering students grants to conduct research, study and teach abroad. It isn’t, however, the only program that enriches students’ educational experiences through international opportunities. The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program, Boren Awards, Critical Language Scholarship Program, DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service)-RISE (Research Internships in Science and Engineering), Gilman International Scholarship Program, National Science Foundation-PIRE (Partnerships for International Research and Education) and Project GO also provide deserving students with global experiences, and Villanova engineers have participated in each of these programs. Visit the Center for Research and Fellowships.


GREGORY CAMPBELL ’14 ME DAAD-RISE, University of Kaiserslautern, Germany Campbell investigated, through seat experimentation, the effects of whole-body vibrations on tractor drivers. After graduating from Villanova, he was awarded a Graduate Engineering Fellowship to earn his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. Most valuable lesson learned: As much as I learned through the research experience, my most valuable takeaway was the cooking knowledge that I learned from my German roommate! Impact on career path: This experience confirmed that I wanted to pursue research. It also helped me develop valuable life skills. I spent three years as an engineering consultant in the vehicle practice at Exponent before recently beginning my PhD in in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at University of Pennsylvania. How Villanova prepared me for this experience:

I had a Villanova Undergraduate Research Fellowship the summer before RISE. The College provided me with a lot of hands-on engineering and design experience that was invaluable in the workplace.

GABRIEL LOPEZ ’18 EE Fulbright Research Grant, Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT), Finland Lopez has been working toward his master’s degree in Electrical Engineering with a focus on renewable energy systems in LUT’s Solar Economy and Electrical Conversion Systems programs. Most valuable lesson learned: How to take international perspectives into account, especially when it comes to engineering applications. Impact on career path: Within the Solar Economy program at LUT, I have found the area in which I am confident I want to continue my career. Today, through an internship, I am working on an energy transition study for Bolivia. How Villanova prepared me for this experience:

LUT’s master’s program incorporates the engineering solutions-oriented mindset with issues of social justice. If not for Villanova’s core values and emphasis on social responsibility through programs such as the Sophomore Service Learning Community and Service and Justice Experiences, I do not think I would have been directed towards this international experience and career path, let alone be prepared for it.

STEPHEN SECHLER ’15 EE George J. Mitchell Scholars, Dublin, Ireland Sechler graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a master’s degree in Bioengineering with a focus in Neural Engineering. He completed a research-based thesis project on alternative methods to measure sound localization abilities for individuals with bilateral cochlear implants. Most valuable lesson learned: How to be comfortable with uncertainty! Impact on career path: My time as a Mitchell Scholar thoroughly impacted my career path, though not at all in the way I expected. While applying for bioengineering opportunities in both Ireland and the US, I submitted my resume to an actuarial development program at Cigna. I was invited to interview for the job despite not having any actuarial background or experience, and eventually was offered a position. My first role was in international health insurance, and I later learned that my experience as a Mitchell Scholar was a key factor in being offered the initial interview. How Villanova prepared me for this experience: Villanova’s Electrical Engineering

program enabled me to succeed with the technical aspects of my thesis research during my Mitchell year. Though I no longer work directly in an engineering role, the skills I honed during my time in the College of Engineering prepared me for success in a dynamic and challenging industry. I learned how to collaborate, and I rely on my written and verbal communication abilities and problem-solving skills on a daily basis.

PAYAL SHAH ’17 CHE Fulbright-Nehru Teaching Assistantship in India Shah taught English to middle school students and took part in STEM outreach activities in India. Most valuable lesson learned: The world is bigger than just America, the variety of cultures around the world are incredibly interesting, and I was so lucky to explore such a different part of the world at 21 years old. Impact on career path: While today I am a battery engineer for Lockheed Martin, seeing and personally experiencing (with dengue fever) the condition of India’s health care system made me

interested in improving health care in emerging and developing countries, as well as improving women’s health around the world. How Villanova prepared me for this experience: Villanova taught me to be

adaptable, independent and open-minded—all things that were extremely valuable abroad. The value of a Fulbright: People value and admire what it takes to be awarded a prestigious grant and leaving your comfort zone for the experience. In interviews, I’m immediately asked about the Fulbright grant and my experiences.

BRENT STUDENROTH ’18 ME NSF-PIRE, Grenoble, France Through the University of Pennsylvania’s REACT program (Research and Education in Active Coatings Technologies), Studenroth took part in the International Internship Programme at GIANT (Grenoble Innovation for Advanced New Technologies). There he was tasked with trying to improve the distinction between nanowire layers, studying how they interacted with water and developing their hydrophilic and hydrophobic properties to potentially provide water for people who live in extremely arid regions. Most valuable lesson learned:

Flexibility. Learning how to study and live in a completely new environment was incredibly rewarding. I had to become extremely adaptive to new situations in order to be successful. Impact on career path: It made me open to opportunities outside my comfort zone. Today I’m working in research and development within the construction industry, and I find a lot of parallels between my current work and my work in France. How Villanova prepared me for this experience: Villanova gave me the confidence

to work independently and to effectively communicate my results. I credit Formula SAE (NovaRacing) for providing experience in solving real-world problems under practical constraints.









Critical Language Scholarship




Gates Cambridge






2012 16


ngineers looking to study historical structures can’t go wrong with Italy. From arches and aqueducts to catacombs and domes, the country brims with soaring, spanning, leaning, sinking and crumbling monuments of human ingenuity. But it’s also famous for structures made not from bricks and mortar but from “living stones.” One of the sturdiest is the community that bears the name of a man forever linked with Italy: Augustine. It was here that he was baptized; here that his mother died; and here that the hermits who followed his monastic rule came to be known as the Order of St. Augustine. In June 2012, it was here that the first group of Villanova engineering students witnessed the convergence of their academic discipline and Augustinian heritage into one unforgettable experience. The brainchild of David Dinehart, PhD, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and established with the help of Rev. Joseph Farrell, OSA, Vicar General, and the Office of Education Abroad, the Architecture and Augustine program was the first Villanova summer program to not only offer engineering, but to tie it to the University’s heritage. In June 2020, Dr. Dinehart will take a fifth group of engineering students to Tuscany, where they will continue the biennial tradition of design and devotion in one of the most beautiful regions of the country.

The month-long program is divided into four parts: one week of distance education lectures to prepare students for the experience; a two-week traditional study abroad taught by Italian art history and architecture experts at the University of Siena; 10 days in San Gimignano, where students are immersed in a learning community with Villanova instructors and Augustinian friars investigating the fundamental themes in the thought of Augustine of Hippo; and a four-day adventure in Rome. Throughout the in-country experiences, learning goes well beyond books and classrooms to include seeing first-hand that which they read about and discuss. In fact, the Augustinian monastery that serves as home base in San Gimignano engages students not only in Augustinian classes, meals and prayers, but also tests their engineering knowledge as they consider structural changes to the more than 500-year-old architecture based on baseline data from previous Villanova student visits.


Additional sites on the itinerary include Pisa’s infamous flawed tower; Santo Spirito, an Augustinian church designed by Brunelleschi; Santa Maria del Fiore, featuring Brunelleschi’s famous dome in Florence; a cloistered Augustinian convent in Tuscany; and other structures with historic significance to the Order of St. Augustine. The four-day Roman culmination typically includes visits to the Pantheon, Coliseum, Piazza Navona’s Sant’Agostino, St. Peter’s Basilica, the tomb of St. Peter, the Sistine Chapel and—if it works out as it has for the past four trips—mass with the Pope.



“Such Augustinian moments blur the artificial boundaries that often delimit theology and engineering—or any other set of code words for faith and reason,” says Dr. Dinehart, whose passion for the program is palpable. “Fortunately, Villanova is committed to a model of education that strives to integrate the two.” Excerpts from “Distinctly Villanova: Melding Academics and Mission” (Villanova Magazine, Winter 2013) were republished in this article.


Kiera Brady ’14 CE was part of the first Architecture and Augustine summer program, which she describes as “one of my most memorable experiences as a Villanova student.” Noting that the architecture and theology classes went “hand in hand,” Brady recalls learning about the architecture and art in the Italian churches, discovering the inspiration behind their features and paintings, and then visiting the very site it was inspired by. This trip also impacted Brady professionally. Working for a construction management firm, Structure Tone, her first job site out of college was the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. She says, “I was able to use a lot of the knowledge gained in Italy to my advantage on this project—for example, simply knowing all the terms that go with the construction of a church was helpful.” The project was completed with a visit from Pope Francis when he visited the city in 2015. Brady writes, “When I completed the Architecture and Augustine program I knew it would be an experience that I would never forget culturally and personally, but I never imagined that I would end up being a part of the restoration of the largest Catholic church in the United States, and that it would have such an impact on my career.”









ver the past 20 years, hundreds of Villanova students, faculty, staff and alumni have contributed countless hours and traveled millions of miles to put their engineering skills to work in communities around the world. Formalized in 2011 as Villanova Engineering Service Learning, VESL distinguishes itself from the service programs found at other universities in its fundamental belief that empowering local communities is essential to creating sustainable solutions. “We don’t show up assuming we have all the answers,” explains Director Jordan Ermilio, PhD, ’98 ME, ’06 MSWREE, who intentionally roots VESL projects in ethical engagement with partner organizations and communities. VESL work falls into three categories: 1. Field support to partner organizations on community development projects 2. Research and capacity building initiatives aimed at understanding long-term sustainability challenges 3. Humanitarian technology projects where students innovate and design solutions to various problems


This fall, teams traveled to Madagascar, Panama, Peru, Tanzania and Ghana to address challenges ranging from water infrastructure management to renewable energy. During winter break, additional teams will work on renewable energy, explosive ordnance disposal and STEM outreach in Ecuador, Indonesia, Cambodia and India.

students on field assignments






summer service internships


graduate research projects on international development and sustainability


senior design capstone projects


year of service assignment


students in total* *Participated in a VESL project through in-class projects, independent study, undergraduate research, seminar courses, field assignments, summer internships, year of service and graduate research fellowships

1991 New Villanova graduate Chris McMartin ’91 CE moves to Panama to volunteer with Father Wally Kasuboski

2000 Structural engineering senior capstone design projects begin for Amigos de Jesus in Honduras

1992–93 First engineering students work on water project in Panama

2004 Students work on community water supply projects in Nicaragua with Water for Waslala

2002 Water for Waslala established in Nicaragua by Villanova students

2007 Sustainable energy project in the Philippines; summer service internship program is piloted

2010 Faculty initiate new partnerships: Nova Mobile Health program in Nicaragua, EOD robotics and STEM outreach in Cambodia, capacity building and training of local engineers with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Haiti, water resources master plan project in Panama

2012 Summer service internships establish undergraduate leadership opportunities; year of service assignments establish field coordinators; graduate fellowship for international development creates research projects 2011 Villanova Engineering Service Learning program formally established; Jordan Ermilio named director

PROFESSOR JIM O’BRIEN: VESL’S BACKBONE CALL TO ACTION! Alumni have contributed to the College’s international engineering projects through the University endowment program, which provides support to students and program partners in perpetuity. Please contact or Cynthia.Rutenbar@ to learn how you can contribute to these efforts. Volunteers are always welcome and are encouraged to support this work by participating in an engineering service learning project. Special thanks to our endowed sponsors: Karl ’78, ’82 and Nancy Schmidt Tom ’71, ’83 and Anne Caramanico The Hartner Family The Dooley Family The Ermilio Family in loving memory of Frank and Julia Ermilio Joe ’68 and April Denny Thomas Portland ’69, ’72 in loving memory of Sarah E. Portland

2013 New partnerships include water projects with Profugo in Wayanad, India, and Lifetime Wells in Ghana

2014 Research project on sustainable water infrastructure with CRS in Madagascar


hen it comes to the Villanova Engineering Service Learning program, there are always plenty of incredible stories to tell. The one story that had yet to be written, however, is about Professor Jim O’Brien. “Jim is the backbone of the VESL program and his commitment to working with students and program partners is absolutely inspiring,” says Dr. Ermilio. Jim O’Brien ’71 CE, ’77 MSME, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering since 1982, has been serving internationally with Villanova students since the very beginning. “My first project was in Panama over winter break, 1992–93,” he says. In the 27 years since, O’Brien has traveled to Nicaragua, Haiti, Thailand, Madagascar and Ghana—about 35 trips in all. “Jim is selflessly always ready and willing to go wherever he’s needed,” acknowledges Dr. Ermilio. The admiration is clearly mutual. “I want to be sure that everyone understands that Jordan is the force behind Villanova Engineering Service Learning,” O’Brien emphasizes. “His dedication and hard work have developed VESL into an exemplary program—in my opinion, one of the best in the country—benefitting a great number of Villanova engineering students, as well as many communities and organizations worldwide.” When asked about his most memorable VESL experience, O’Brien struggles to name just one. “Most are connected to the wonderful people we

2016 Sustainable Engineering for International Development track furthers graduate student involvement, leading to new projects in Tanzania with CRS; Aqua America partnership creates mentoring opportunities for water sector professionals to support humanitarian projects internationally

Jim O’Brien, Waslala, Nicaragua, 2009

have met in the communities.” He recalls a local farming family taking him into their home when he was not feeling well and offering him what little they had in the way of food and drink, racing the local priest on horseback across a field in a rural community (and losing badly), and women lined up to fill their water containers with newly available clean water. The most important and enduring image, however, is “students using their engineering education to solve problems with creative local solutions.” O’Brien says: “At Villanova we want students to graduate understanding that they have a moral responsibility to improve the world and the lives of the people in it. This is especially important for engineers. These trips and the work associated with them give students experience using engineering for the betterment of mankind, and in the process of serving, they generally find that they gain more than they give.”

2017 New partnerships include sustainability projects with Bogor Agricultural Institute in Indonesia, STEM outreach with Himalayan Hope Charitable Foundation in northern India, and STEM projects with ULACIT in Costa Rica through Villanova’s chapter of Society of Women Engineers

2018 Initiatives to address solar energy and capacity building in Ecuador and urban sanitation in Liberia

2019 Projects explored in Peru with WindAid and Water for People, and in Guatemala with CRS

VILLANOVANS BUILT A CROSS AND PROVIDED HOPE IN HONDURAS In 2004, Jeff Cook ’05 CE, ’06 MSCE with Adonosito, one of the many children at Amigos de Jesus who captured his heart.



n 1990, Anthony Granese graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Civil Engineering. A few short years later, he, his wife Christine, and Fr. Dennis O’Donnell took on the ambitious personal challenge of building an orphanage in Honduras. The goal was to provide as many underserved, emotionally and physically battered and abandoned children as possible with a loving home environment; a formal education; and a trade skill such as farming, welding or carpentry. By 1997, their vision had become a reality known as Amigos de Jesús, and in 1999, Granese involved Villanova’s College of Engineering in the construction of buildings and structures to enhance and expand the organization’s resources. Villanova students’ course of action was structured into a capstone project featuring classroom work and on-site development. That first year, during spring break, eight students and two professors traveled to Honduras to work with community volunteers in construction of the first buildings and a 25-foot cross. Today, that cross sits atop a hill near the orphanage site, visible for miles, symbolizing the motto of Amigos de Jesús—“Follow the Cross and you will find Hope.”

Jeffrey Cook ’05 CE, ’06 MSCE, manager of Villanova’s Richard K. Faris ’69 CE, ’70 MSCE Structural Engineering Teaching and Research Laboratory, took his first service trip to Honduras as a junior and was immediately hooked. “It was clear to me that it was a very special place. I traveled again as a senior and twice as a graduate student. Each time I visited and spent time with the children, I felt compelled to return.” After finishing his graduate degree, Cook decided to volunteer with ADJ. What started as a one-year stay, turned into a two-year life-changing experience that provided countless memories as well as invaluable lessons. He found daily interaction with the children helped him to better develop and understand the virtues of patience, respect and love. The staff and local community members taught him about hard work, dedication and selflessness. “Those two years were the hardest I ever worked in my life,” he says, “but it helped me to be a better person and a much better engineer.” Today Cook serves on the ADJ board of directors with Villanova colleague David Dinehart, PhD, professor of Civil Engineering. Cook also has served as an advisor for several groups of engineering students who have worked on the structural design of past and future ADJ projects. In the 20 years since the building of the ADJ cross, Villanova faculty and students have completed the


Adonosito 10 years later (center of photo, blue shirt)

structural analysis and construction plans for a residence center, chapel and extensive school complex on the orphanage grounds. Unfortunately, since 2012, US travel advisories have prevented student teams from traveling to Honduras, but engineering seniors continued to pursue related capstone projects remotely through 2018. Today, Amigos de Jesús has grown from six boys in the mid-1990s to 140 boys and girls in one of the best schools in the country. The site’s 100 acres include 10-plus buildings, which house roughly half of the children who attend school there. ADJ hopes to one day expand with a technical school and high school, and Villanova hopes it will be right there beside them making that vision become a reality.

“It was clear to me that it was a very special place. Each time I visited and spent time with the children, I felt compelled to return.” —Jeffrey Cook ’05 CE, ’06 MSCE



ver the past seven years, researchers at Villanova University and the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation (GWHF) have developed an integrated research and educational program focused on the use of mechatronics and robotics in humanitarian explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and mine action. Leading Villanova’s efforts is Garrett Clayton, PhD, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering and the director of the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics and Control. Including four months last summer on a Fulbright grant, Dr. Clayton has spent more than six months in Cambodia (where GWHF’s testing facility is located), working with students on a number of ongoing projects—including a low-cost EOD robot and an automated ordnance identification system.




Robots are widely used in EOD, allowing operators to interact with ordnance, e.g., an improvised explosive device (IED), without direct human contact. Typical EOD robots have a robotic manipulator with varying degrees of freedom (multi-link arms with versatile grippers), cameras, are able to traverse diverse terrain, and are remotely operated. Many different robots have been developed, but the current commercially available robots are too expensive for use in low-income countries. Even when initial purchase prices can be lowered, the maintenance costs can be significant, presenting an additional barrier. The VU-GWHF low-cost EOD robot was specifically designed for use and/or manufacture in developing countries like Cambodia. The goal was to produce an EOD robot that had 90% of the functionality of military-grade robots at 10% of the cost. Through the work of multiple senior design teams in Villanova’s College of Engineering and after several iterations, Dr. Clayton is happy to report, “We’ve developed a prototype and are determining how to commercialize the product—managing production and sales.” Once the logistics are in place, he says, “these robots could be available for field work in the next year.”

A more recent project, which is co-led by C. “Nat” Nataraj, PhD, professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Villanova Center for Analytics of Dynamic Systems, focuses on the development of an automated ordnance classification system to aid EOD technicians. In typical EOD missions, classification of the ordnance is of critical importance as it dictates how the EOD technician will approach the situation. High-confidence classification requires an expert with a great deal of training and experience. This expertise is not always available in low-income countries, so this project seeks to aid EOD technicians in the ordnance classification process using machine learning. Dr. Clayton explains, “The concept for this classification support system is that an EOD technician will take a picture of a piece of ordnance and the system will return potential ordnance matches using a ConvNet classifier.” While these techniques are well established in machine learning, the availability of ordnance image datasets is limited or non-existent. Thus, the first step in this project was to acquire such a dataset. This dataset is composed of images taken from ordnance libraries belonging to GWHF, the Cambodia Mine Action Centre and other libraries in Europe. Dr. Clayton says, “Our growing image database currently has more than 250 different types of ordnance and preliminary results have been promising.” Current work is focused on expanding the image database, testing the methods on additional types of ordnance, and enabling the classification of partially occluded ordnance and ordnance in field conditions.

STUDENT INVOLVEMENT Since the beginning of Villanova’s collaboration with GWHF, more than 60 students have participated through senior design projects, summer internships and fellowships, undergraduate research, master’s theses, PhD dissertations, and volunteer work. More than 20 of them have traveled to Cambodia for field work (some for as long as two months). A National Science Foundation International Research Experience for Students grant, awarded in 2017, allowed GWHF to further expand summer fellowships, opening opportunities to students at a number of universities. Anecdotally, Dr. Clayton points out that these international project experiences have affected the students in meaningful ways: “More than 10 have entered the armed forces (three in the Navy nuclear program’s highest engineering position and at least one in EOD) and more than 15 have gone on to pursue advanced degrees in engineering.”

Preston Whiteman ’18 ME, ’19 MSME spent two summers working on the EOD robot with Golden West Humanitarian Foundation.

Excerpts from this story appeared in “Mechatronics for Humanitarian Explosive Ordnance Disposal in Cambodia” in Mechanical Engineering Magazine, September 2018.



urrently, unexploded ordnance (UXO) is disarmed by physically disrupting the mechanisms inside the trigger using a projectile (i.e., bullet) fired from a gun using gun powder. That projectile disrupts the mechanical functioning of the fuze by inducing shearing and/or shattering of the mechanism that would otherwise cause the device to explode if handled incorrectly. The problem with this technology is that gun powder-based systems can be heavily restricted or prohibited in many nations, or unavailable due to supply chain limitations or transportation restrictions. In response, a team of Villanova Mechanical Engineering seniors, for their capstone design project, worked on a device that fires a high-speed metal projectile at the fuze of an ordnance using readily available propane instead of gun powder. Advisor Mike Simard, PE, associate professor of the practice, explains how it works: “The operator loads the gun’s combustion chamber with propane and air and the unit is fired using an automobilestyle spark plug, releasing a small steel projectile.” Testing performed at a firing range found that the students’ prototype generated the requisite number of joules of energy to shear the fuze. Preston Whiteman ’18 ME, ’19 MSME spent this past summer with GWHF (his second with the organization), investigating the feasibility of the system. Proof of concept will help Golden West decide whether to officially adopt the project.

Mechanical Engineering then-seniors Matt Garmer, Dominick Colao, Brendan Lundquist, Matt Bakey and Andrew Lynch test the de-armer at a firing range.

Whiteman says of the experience: “Working alongside GWHF’s fantastic engineers and world experts in EOD technology has been incredible. It has made me a better, more creative and more resourceful engineer, as well as expanding my cultural horizon.” Allen Dodgson Tan, director of applied technology for GWHF, runs the Golden West Design Lab in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He writes: “This project has demonstrated a very interesting technology for humanitarian ordnance disposal operations around the world, which struggle to find solutions given the limited availability of traditional systems. Research partnership projects like this one do a great service to our community by proving the potential for new technologies that may never have been explored otherwise. We consider our partnership with Villanova among the most valuable examples of academic collaboration we have ever seen.”



n spring 2018, Villanova’s College of Engineering, under the leadership of Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Pritpal Singh, PhD, signed a memorandum of understanding with Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL), a highly ranked university in Ecuador. Throughout the past year, faculty and students from both schools—working with Dr. Singh and PhD candidate Javier Urquizo (who came to Villanova from ESPOL)—have collaborated on a solar energy project and an educational intranet system to benefit the island communities of Cerrito de Los Morreños and San Cristóbal, respectively. Both initiatives received humanitarian technology funding through the IEEE, the industry organization for electrical and electronic engineers.

RESTORING SOLAR ENERGY Located in the Gulf of Guayaquil, Cerrito’s 600 inhabitants in roughly 100 homes live without access to 24 the electrical grid. Instead, power is provided by a diesel generator that runs from 5:00 p.m. until midnight daily. Nine years ago, a European Union-funded project installed solar panels in 78 homes in the community; however, most of the systems were no longer working due to lack of maintenance and operational knowledge. “The aim of the project is to rehabilitate the solar home systems and train the local community in their operation and maintenance, enhancing the capacity building of the community and supporting the sustainable development of the island,” explains Dr. Singh. That mission is well underway as students—working with community members—have installed 20 new systems and delivered workshops providing residents with a basic introduction to electric circuits, components of a solar electric system and how to use related equipment. An Ecuador native, Urquizo has also provided residents with energy-saving advice. For Sustainable Engineering Villanova and ESPOL students graduate student Rachel Wieclaw delivered workshops to community ’22 MSSE, the highlight of her visit residents on the basics of electric circuits and solar systems, as well to the island was the moment when as how to save energy.

the lights came on. She says, “The residents literally ‘lit up’; there was such joy in something that we take for granted.” And their level of engagement in the workshops—which included men and women of all ages— inspired her as well. In the short term, Dr. Singh hopes to secure funding for 15–20 more systems. The long-term objective is for the community to have a reliable and uninterrupted power supply and an economic structure reliant on energy metering to sustain the project. In the process, reducing dependency on the diesel generator will address environmental concerns and contribute to economic savings on fuel and maintenance. Dr. Singh says, “This project can serve as an example for surrounding island communities to engage in similar initiatives considering renewable options to fulfill their energy needs.”

CREATING EDUCATIONAL INTRANET CONNECTIONS The Galapágos Islands, located 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the world’s top ecological tourist destinations, and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and a protected area for the islands’ biodiverse flora and fauna. Every year these islands receive a growing number of visitors, and the past decade has seen a significant shift from cruises to community-based options, putting the environment at After establishing an intranet system, considerable risk due to the students provided teachers with a difficulty of monitoring these basic introduction to its functionality, travelers. as well as other digital resources. On San Cristóbal, the easternmost island in the archipelago, there is a desire to educate the youth in sustainable development to protect these valuable natural resources. The challenge, however, is the island’s lack of internet service, which hinders the dissemination of resources and communication between schools, administrators and members of the community. The proposed solution: a community intranet. “We wanted to close the digital divide, enhance collaboration and encourage the sharing of resources,” explains Dr. Singh.

In January 2019, then-senior Computer Engineering majors Lauren Henderson, Gibel Sowe, Karol Pierre and Sarah Chen traveled with Dr. Singh to San Cristóbal where they collaborated with those from ESPOL to implement a WiFi network within all five of the island’s schools. The students then installed computer servers for storing educational resources and other tools and delivered workshops to provide teachers with a basic introduction to the intranet and its functionality, as well as other digital resources. In addition, a number of school computers were refurbished, and Villanova University donated several more.

In June, a new team of Villanova Engineering students returned to the island where they presented a variety of workshops: entrepreneurship for community residents, digital technology for teachers, and community health and first aid training for residents and health care providers. This academic year, three senior design projects will focus on the island’s needs, including energy monitoring and a solar electric system for one of the schools. Those students will likely travel to Ecuador with Dr. Singh in January 2020.

THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE Javier Urquizo’s passion for sustainable energy has taken him to three continents. A native of Ecuador, he earned his undergraduate degree in telematics from ESPOL and his master’s degree in renewable energy from New Castle University in the United Kingdom. After receiving his graduate degree, he returned to ESPOL as a faculty researcher, but a chance encounter with Dr. Singh at an international conference ultimately led him to pursue his PhD at Villanova. Here, he focuses his Electrical Engineering studies and research on isolated microgrids in places with limited energy access. That focus has naturally led to an interest in humanitarian engineering, which is something he shares with Dr. Singh. Urquizo confesses, “When I came to the United States, I thought I’d lose touch with my country,” but serving as Dr. Singh’s right hand on the College’s trips to Ecuador has made his experience that much more rewarding. “I’m able to make an impactful contribution through these service projects.” Equally as rewarding is the opportunity to bring Villanova students to his country. Urquizo says, “I appreciate being able to share the challenges of the living conditions in communities like Cerrito, but also exposing them to all that is wonderful about our culture.” For Shannon Culloo ’21 EE the June trip to Ecuador wasn’t only her first Villanova Engineering Service Learning experience, but also her first time traveling outside the country. “It was the best and it was full of firsts,” she acknowledges.

Assigned to Cerrito’s solar system project, Shannon admits, “I was super nervous about not being smart enough or skilled enough, but everyone was happy to teach and patient with the process.” In addition to the learning she acquired, Shannon also did some of the teaching, leading workshops for community members on how to maintain the solar systems. She recalls, “They were so interested in what we were doing and genuinely excited to learn and to use that knowledge to improve their quality of life.” This past summer, Shannon worked with Urquizo in Dr. Singh’s lab to further advance renewable energy. She hopes to return to Ecuador next spring, noting that she already misses “the people I met and the food that I ate.”

Phillip Dantoin ’20 EE is not your typical Electrical Engineering major, as evidenced by the fact that he delivered a workshop in San Cristóbal on public health and basic lifesupport skills. “I’m pursuing my engineering degree on a pre-med track,” he explains, noting that his grandfather—an electrical engineer who eventually went to medical school and became a surgeon— serves as his inspiration. Phillip says: “I think about health in unique ways. MRIs, pacemakers and the human body all use electrical engineering principles to function and I love this intersection between medicine and engineering.” Speaking of his time in Ecuador, he notes, “I learned about the differences and similarities in terms of the health care problems our respective communities face and it made me even more passionate about my career path.”



n fall 2016, Villanova’s popular Sustainable Engineering graduate program (MSSE) launched an international development track. Designed to train sustainable engineers as development practitioners, the track prepares graduates to engage with community partners to develop “local solutions to local problems” within a broader social, economic, environmental and political context. “The most important aspect of the track is experiential learning through internships, volunteer assignments and research with partners around the world, in conjunction with Villanova Engineering Service Learning,” explains Iain Hunt ’15 MSSE, an alumnus who now leads the track. The program is popular with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (see “The Villanova Peace Corps Connection” on page 27) and Villanova alumni who were active in VESL initiatives. It is also seeing increased interest from international students in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as working professionals in the United States who are interested in gaining experience in an impact-oriented sector. These current MSSE students—all on the international development track—shared their experiences and reflections. Matt Bemis, Ghana


With Lifetime Wells International, Bemis worked on a GIS-based asset management tool for handpump water systems. “It’s not about going in and telling the locals what to do; it’s acting as a resource that local management teams can use to help improve and extend the sustainability of projects.” Cristina Benzo, Peru

Benzo is working on a thesis project with the WindAid Institute to develop a methodology for accessing available wind resources and projecting how they might vary in a changing climate. “My time with WindAid has not only opened my eyes to a beautiful, vibrant culture, but also given me the opportunity to delve into small wind energy manufacturing and implementation in developing communities.”

Mackenzie Bowden ’18 ChE, Indonesia

With a Fulbright award, Bowden will spend the year researching feedstocks for anaerobic digestion in partnership with Bogor Agricultural University. “During a 2017 service trip to Indonesia, I learned a valuable lesson about failure and growth. My anaerobic digestion project at that time was unsuccessful and frustrating. It inspired me, however, to research the topic further and increase my knowledge of the technology so that I can complete a redesigned project for rural application with a greater understanding of how to achieve successful results.” Amanda Findlay ’17 CLAS, Madagascar

Findlay is working with Catholic Relief Services to develop a management tool for rural water utilities to track water quality, financial flows and customer satisfaction over time.

“I’ve learned a lot about being flexible and working as part of a team. To play even a small role in this great mission has been a privilege and a blessing.” Terry Williams, Cambodia

For the past two summers, Williams has worked with the Caramanico Foundation promoting the adoption of simple and affordable technology to improve the quality and range of educational material available to students in the poorest parts of Cambodia. “Development work is often difficult—working in new cultures and environments with unfamiliar customs and values—yet it can also be very rewarding when you see the enthusiasm for your ideas or solutions. Getting work done takes a lot of perseverance, however. The first step is to figure out who to ask and with whom to ally.”



he Peace Corps’ website states, “Peace Corps Volunteers work at the grassroots level to create change that lasts long after their service.” It’s a philosophy that resonates with Villanova’s College of Engineering, as evidenced by its commitment to service learning and sustainable development initiatives. This connection has made the University a natural fit for former and future Peace Corps Volunteers.

SARIELLE BENJAMIN ’13 MSSE Returned Community Service Volunteer, Ecuador Arielle Benjamin served as a community service volunteer in Ecuador for 27 months.

Volunteers in Peru: Andrew Meluch ’16 ME, ’18 MSSE; Bryan Ramirez ’18 CE, ’22 MSSE and Chris Wilson ’16 ME (far right), seen with Deputy Chief of Mission from the US Embassy in Lima, Mark Wells.


How you would encourage others to prepare for

I always knew that I’d want to take my sustainable engineering experience abroad and find ways to connect engineering with community organizing and development work. After the fallout from the Flint water crisis along with a mission trip with my church to Uganda, I decided to put my plans into action. Insight:

I chose human connection over productivity and being present over being perfect. This was a huge transition from my corporate engineering job, but when working in community development, I learned that the most sustainable work comes from fostering deep relationships. Showing up consistently for my community in the ways they needed brought innovation and success to the projects I partnered with them on. Working with others from different cultural and educational backgrounds:

I’ve learned how to become a better listener and observer. There is a lot of power harnessed when we can learn how to just pass time and sit with one another and share our stories. When we look at the world through different lenses, we can see how our ideas intersect and pinpoint better solutions.

the experience:

Take ample time to immerse yourself in a diverse US community that challenges your cultural norms. Volunteer with a local shelter for immigrants seeking asylum, at a community recreation center teaching dance or tutoring in an after-school program in a neighborhood that is not your own. Find a house of worship that celebrates and welcomes cultural expressions that differ from your own. Learning how to love people and affirm the humanity of fellow Americans who do not share your background story will empower you with the ability to do the same when you enter into another country’s cultural context as an outsider.

ANDREW MELUCH ’16 ME, ’18 MSSE Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Peru Inspiration: 

Over the past five years I have visited 33 countries. Traveling expands our minds, opens us to new people and perspectives, fosters a sense of cross-cultural awareness, and pushes us outside our comfort zone. My Peace Corps assignment allows me to apply the skills and knowledge I learned in the classroom in a way that directly benefits those in need. Insight: 

Be flexible. A large part of being a PCV is recognizing  that anything can happen, at any time, for any reason, and it’s our job to make the most of it, no matter what.

Working with others from different cultural and educational backgrounds:

It’s about meeting people where they are and building meaningful relationships with community members to become a part of their lives in such a way that there is a mutual trust. This takes time, but we were told, “they won’t care about your work if they don’t care about you.”  How Villanova prepared you: 

As a student I participated in four engineering service learning trips. It was these opportunities in places like Cambodia and India that inspired me and helped me develop and refine my sense of flexibility, adaptability and patience. 

BRYAN RAMIREZ ’18 CE, ’22 MSSE Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), Peru

Insight:   In the news, people in developing countries are lumped into poverty statistics and indicators. However, by living and working alongside these people you learn that the reality is much more colored and beautiful.  Working with others from different cultural and educational backgrounds: 

I’ve learned to suspend immediate judgment so that I can learn on a cultural level the reasons behind why something may be a certain way. How Villanova prepared you: 

Through VESL, I gained different perspectives and developed empathy on a deeper level. Villanova’s engineering education taught me that any design should ultimately work to improve people’s lives.


The Peace Corps’ open, inclusive and supportive mission—which is allowing Andrew Meluch and me to serve together as the first same-sex couple in Peace Corps Peru—is a huge reason why I wanted to join.  Insight: 


I’ve witnessed firsthand the resourcefulness of people in developing communities. We (volunteers from the outside) often think we have the solutions to their problems, when in reality there is so much we can learn from them. Many times, our role is simply to help bring together people so they can put their ideas into action. Working with others from different cultural and educational backgrounds: 

I’ve traveled to over 30 countries and performed development work in many of them. Every time I meet people from different cultures, I take away new insights, perspectives and outlooks, including slowing down and taking life one minute at a time. How Villanova prepared you: 

A lot of what I learned and carried out in my VESL work was reinforced during my Peace Corps training.

CHRIS WILSON ’16 ME Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), Peru  Inspiration: 

My senior capstone design project involved working with Catholic Relief Services in Madagascar. While there I interacted with PCV and learned how they use a grassroots method of sustainable development to give community leaders and members the tools and skills to improve their own communities. That type of development work and the lifestyle it entailed really appealed to me. 

IAIN HUNT: THE FACE OF SUSTAINABLE ENGINEERING’S INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TRACK Iain Hunt ’15 MSSE leads curriculum development for the International Development track of the College’s Sustainable Engineering program. He also is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. Before pursuing his graduate degree, Hunt served two-year assignments in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. Connections he made led to a job opportunity in Nicaragua, working as the program manager for Water for Waslala, an organization founded by Villanova alumni whose local operations are now under the umbrella of El Porvenir, a continuing VESL partner. Through that position, Hunt met VESL Director Dr. Jordan Ermilio. Once he learned about the Sustainable Engineering program, he realized it was a great next step for his personal and professional growth. Hunt’s advice for those interested in a career in international development: “You first have to pay your dues getting experience in the field in a volunteer capacity, and Peace Corps is an excellent way to do that.”


Advice and lessons learned from Villanova Engineering alumni living and working abroad.

Rick Drayton ’14 CpE

Implementation Specialist, ION Trading, Germany Make an effort to integrate into your new country. That involves learning the language(s), proper table manners, food and even music choices. Integrating is a great way to meet locals (or even other foreigners) who can help make your abroad experience amazing.

Carlos Flor ’99 MSEE

Project Manager, GIS-ECU partner, SolarWinds, Ecuador Engineering is the most exciting career in the world! It let me work in the oil and telecom industries. Knowing at least two languages helps a lot!

Ryan Flynn ’15 ChE, ’18 MSBChE

Engineering Specialist – V920 Ebola Project, Merck and Co., Germany Take the leap! Living abroad and experiencing different cultures, both in work and personal life, has not only been instrumental in my development as an engineer, but as a person as well.

Rene Garrido ’14 PhD

Associate Professor and Head, Environmental Engineering, Universidad de Santiago de Chile Villanova changed what I was expecting in life; now, as a professor, I get to change lives and I encourage my students to do a semester abroad. I would say enjoy your time, learn what you like and dislike from the place, and love it as it is.

Mary Sue Haydt ’87 EE

Field Applications Engineer, Green Hills Software, Germany There are a lot of opportunities for engineers in Germany! Villanova’s well-rounded Electrical Engineering program has enabled me to work as both a design and field-applications engineer and I’ve been able to survive changing markets in both Silicon Valley and Europe.

Jamil Khwaja ’87 MSME

Self-Employed Business Development Consultant, Pakistan Be flexible. Markets are often chaotic, and data can be ambiguous. Be flexible culturally; learn to accommodate opposing viewpoints. Jakub Kukielka ’17 ChE

Engineering Facilitator, Liger Leadership Academy, Cambodia There are so many different ways of viewing and appreciating life. You may become comfortable with being uncomfortable, change perspectives toward old ideas and problems, and form new relationships with people around the globe.

Alessandro Perrotta ’94 MSEE

CEO, Interplex Holding, Singapore Living overseas is the best way to expand your understanding of a different culture. To be a leader you must be sensitive to the backgrounds of your people; cultural insensitivity is one of the main reasons top managers fail in their roles.

Kelly Pitera, PhD, ’01 CE

Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway Be open to opportunities. I would have never thought I would take a job abroad, but when an international possibility presented itself, I’m glad I went for it, instead of dismissing it because it was not part of “my plan.”

Gonzalo Zurita ’86 CE

Member, Foro de Economía y Finanzas; Executive Director,, Ecuador Villanova Engineering provided a multidimensional challenge that transcended into a most valuable life-long experience that endures to this day. When living abroad, never give up on your personal convictions while adapting to other lifestyle conditions, corporate structures and national cultures.




n July, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Jonathan Hubler, PhD, spent a week training on reconnaissance tools at the National Hazards Reconnaissance (RAPID) Facility (see “Earthquake Engineer at the Ready” in UP&COMING, page 5). As chance would have it, RAPID’s founder and director— Joseph Wartman, PhD, ’90 CE—is a Villanova Engineering graduate, attended the same grammar school as Dr. Hubler (a couple decades apart), and is a fellow geotechnical engineer. After earning his master’s and PhD from the University of California, Berkley, Dr. Wartman spent nearly 10 years at Drexel University, where he was a founding co-director of the Drexel Engineering Cities Initiative. In 2010, he arrived at the University of Washington, where today he is the H.R. Berg Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. An expert in earthquake engineering, engineering geology, sustainable geotechnics and natural hazards, Dr. Wartman is a former editor of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Journal of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, and the author of more than 100 professional articles, as well as essays and op-eds that have appeared in The New York Times, Seattle Times, the, and elsewhere. His biggest claim to fame, however, may be his work as the founder and director of RAPID. He says, “I credit Villanova University with providing me with the liberal arts engineering background required to blend elements of engineering and social science into this equipment facility.” Headquartered at the University of Washington, RAPID is a collaboration between UW, Oregon State University, Virginia Tech and the University of Florida. The facility enables the natural hazards and disaster research communities to conduct next-generation rapid response investigations to characterize civil infrastructure performance and community response to natural hazards, evaluate the effectiveness of design methodologies, calibrate simulation models, and develop solutions for resilient communities. The work has taken the RAPID

team on reconnaissance missions to New Zealand, Japan, Indonesia, California, North Carolina, Florida, Alaska, Oregon and elsewhere. In recognition of his work, Dr. Wartman has earned several awards and honors including the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, the John J. Gallen Memorial Award from Villanova’s College of Engineering Alumni Society, and the Geotechnical Engineer of the Year award from the Philadelphia section of ASCE. He was selected for the US National Academy of Engineering’s Frontiers of Engineering program in 2011, and received the Shamsher Prakash Foundation Research Award, New Zealand Society of Earthquake Engineering’s Commendation Award and Geological Society of America’s Burwell Award in Geologic Engineering. Today, Dr. Wartman is involved in several international collaborations to examine natural hazard risks posed to refugees in conflict zones and to other populations facing humanitarian crises. He has led and participated in major investigations of natural disasters in North and South America, Asia, and Oceania over the past two decades. His current work involves developing low-cost, high-resolution tools for identifying and mapping geologic hazards. Dr. Wartman notes: “In the past decade, natural disasters have impacted, on average, close to 300 million people each year worldwide, claiming over 75,000 lives annually. The RAPID Facility helps researchers and practitioners learn key lessons from disasters, and use this knowledge to enhance community resilience— and ultimately, to prevent natural hazards from becoming catastrophes.”

NANCE DICCIANI ’69 CHE AWARDED THE 2019 ST. THOMAS OF VILLANOVA ALUMNI MEDAL “Nance is truly deserving of this award as she is the embodiment of what the St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal signifies in our community.” —Mike J. O’Neill, Senior Vice President for University Advancement


uring Reunion Weekend, the Villanova University Alumni Association (VUAA) presented College of Engineering alumna Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE with the 2019 St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal. The St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal is the highest award given by the VUAA and is presented every year for outstanding service to alumni who best symbolize the spirit and legacy of St. Thomas of Villanova. “Nance is truly deserving of this award as she is the embodiment of what the St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal signifies in our community,” said Mike J. O’Neill, senior vice president for University Advancement. “She has been a tireless advocate and dedicated volunteer for the University and exemplifies the power of our alumni giving back to their alma mater in ways that have a positive impact on future generations of Villanovans.” Dr. Dicciani has been actively involved with her alma mater, serving as a member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 2009-18, spending her final two years as secretary of the board. She has also been actively involved with Villanova’s College of Engineering and was honored with the College’s J. Stanley Morehouse Memorial Award in 1994, honoring leadership in the engineering profession. In 2015, a commitment by Dr. Dicciani established the Nance K. Dicciani Endowed Chemical Engineering Chair. Dr. Dicciani has more than 35 years of experience in the chemicals and materials industry, including significant positions of leadership in business, business development, international operations, manufacturing, research and

development, and engineering. In 2014, she co-founded a medical device startup company, RTM Vital Signs LLC, which focused on the development of a real-time, continuous monitoring system for vital signs of cardiac and respiratory health. Prior to her retirement from Honeywell Specialty Materials in 2008, she served as the company’s president and CEO. Earlier in her career, Dr. Dicciani held leadership positions at Rohm and Haas and at Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. She currently serves on the boards of Linde plc, Halliburton, LyondellBasell and AgroFresh Solutions. Dr. Dicciani has twice been named as one of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” by Forbes magazine and was the recipient of the 2018 Doing a World of Good Medal from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. In 2006, she was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. After graduating from Villanova, Dr. Dicciani received an MS degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. She also earned her MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1995, the St. Thomas of Villanova Alumni Medal has been given to those who have achieved a significant level of distinction within their career field and have made a major impact on their community, the University and the Alumni Association.




illanova’s College of Engineering has a long list of impressive alumni whose accomplishments are deserving of a Who’s Who listing, Wikipedia page or New York Times article. Then there are alumni whose careers and life stories just may be worthy of a book. Douglas Munch, PhD, Chemical Engineering class of 1969, is one such alumnus. He graduated just months before the first moon landing and it’s fair to say his personal and professional contributions have also been out of this world. Meeting Dr. Munch, one would be hard pressed to believe he’s 72 years old. A former track and field varsity athlete at Villanova, he still looks like he could complete a marathon, though he’s traded in his running shoes for swimming and cycling, which take less of a toll on his body. While at Villanova, Dr. Munch learned that he was the first Chemical Engineering major to win a varsity letter in 23 years, a source of pride which he admits, “didn’t make my grades any better.”

“Villanova—and the Chemical Engineering curriculum and faculty—taught me how to think,” credits Dr. Munch. “And the University also put me on a spiritual path that has influenced my life in many, many ways.” —Douglas Munch, PhD, ’69 ChE

Acceptable but not stellar grades, however, didn’t hold him back. After graduating and considering offers from nuclear engineering research facilities (he had focused much of his studies in this area), Dr. Munch interviewed with Grumman Aerospace Corp., which held the contract for NASA’s lunar module. Joining the company soon before the Apollo 11 mission, he says, was a “no-brainer.” Working with the thermodynamics systems engineering team, he was responsible for the spacecraft’s environmental control system—the system keeping the crew alive. Despite serving on the project for only a brief period before the historic flight, Dr. Munch’s name appeared on the parchment containing the signatures of the 1,500 employees who worked on the lunar module. That document accompanied the astronauts on their flight and was left behind on the moon’s surface, as were the parchments for subsequent missions. The exception, of course, was Apollo 13, whose lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank in the service module exploded two days into the mission. When it comes to the subject of that fateful flight, Dr. Munch becomes emotional. He struggles to recount “the stress that we were under to get those guys back. The lunar module had become a lifeboat and having worked on the environmental control system, it was our job to keep them alive and help bring them home.” It’s an experience that clearly changed his life. After contributing to four Apollo missions from Grumman’s Bethpage, NY, location, Dr. Munch moved with the company to Point Mugu Naval Air Station in California, where he ran the flight test and development program for the Navy’s F-14 fighter aircraft. He points out, “It is hard to imagine that two projects I worked on were made into movies. Apollo 13 was quite accurate as a

documentary film with only a few scenes of Hollywood hyperbole; Top Gun was much more Hollywood.” With several years in the aerospace industry under his belt, Dr. Munch decided to pursue a completely new career path. Having had his interest piqued by NASA’s Life Sciences Data Book with its charts and graphs of human performance under varying conditions, he set his sights on medical school. To prepare, he first earned a master’s in Mechanical Engineering and Biochemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He then enrolled in Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, choosing medical school over graduate school because he “wanted to be able to speak medicine as well as the physicians who don’t speak engineering. That allows you to become a translator between them, and there were precious few people who could do that in those years.” Always an overachiever, Dr. Munch earned his PhD in Medicine and Biomedical Engineering in four years and 18 days, just missing the four-year deadline he’d given himself after being informed by the university that it would take six or seven years to graduate. Medical school was followed by a post-doctoral research fellowship in cardiology, during which he invented an open-heart research procedure to measure the distribution of coronary blood flow in animals. He later entered the medical device industry, serving as a project engineer for Travenol Laboratories where his proudest achievement was a wearable drug delivery device for cancer patients. From there, professional highlights included working as director of health care new business development and life science research for Kimberly-Clark; joining a small biotech startup as president and CEO and working in cancer medicine; and serving as a vice president and board member for a division of Johnson & Johnson. In 1993, he started his own consulting practice, devoting 25 years to integrating medicine, technology and business for health care companies. After retirement—a term that only loosely applies to him—Dr. Munch served as the editor of a sports medicine journal for which he wrote a series of articles on heart rate training; began exhibiting his photography and lecturing on its subjects (including Egyptian hieroglyphs); wrote a children’s book titled The Wild Life of Limericks with his wife Dr. Jean Merrill (who holds a PhD in Neuroimmunology); volunteered with a Johns Hopkins School of Public Health program dedicated to keeping Native American children in school; and started lecturing on topics as diverse as spirituality and genetics. “I credit my accomplishments to a short attention span and high curiosity,” says Dr. Munch. “Those character traits—and life’s strange twists and turns—pushed me in a hundred different directions. I’ve been very lucky.”





Apollo missions




board memberships


lectures and presentations



Dr. Douglas Munch displays a copy of the parchment with his signature that accompanied the Apollo 11 mission to space.

MOST ENDURING ACCOMPLISHMENTS • The Apollo program and the many accomplishments of the “enormously talented team that I was privileged to work with.” He says, “Those guys didn’t get to the moon on their own, they got to the moon because of many, many people who dedicated their careers to making that happen.”

• “ Working on the F-14 in the capacity I did was an opportunity to serve our country, which I couldn’t have done in the military due to my sports injuries.”

•G  etting into (after the admissions deadline had passed) and graduating from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine (nearly two years early), and later serving as chair of the board of the University’s Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute, are enormous sources of pride.

800 Lancaster Ave. Villanova, PA 19085

A FOUNDATION OF SUPPORT The College of Engineering gratefully acknowledges its donors and their generous contributions made during the 2019 Fiscal Year. The following donors established endowed funds that will directly benefit in perpetuity students and faculty in the College of Engineering. For a complete list of endowment funds that have been established over the years to benefit the College of Engineering, please visit Robert J. Bettacchi ’64 Robert J. Bettacchi ’64 Endowed Engineering Scholarship Fund Philip A. Piro ’50 Carolyn and Philip A. Piro ’50 Endowed Engineering Undergraduate Research Fund

Hugh T. Sharp ’53 Elaine K. and Hugh T. Sharp ’53 Endowed Fund for Engineering Grace and Casimir ’62 Skrzypczak Grace K. and Casimir S. Skrzypczak ’62 Endowed Scholarship Fund Gifts made in memory of Dean Gary A. Gabriele, PhD Dean Gary A. Gabriele Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund Nancy and William ’75 Webster Nancy and William Webster Endowed Scholarship in Support of the Luckow Scholarship Challenge Program Thomas L. Portland Jr. ’69 Sarah E. Portland Endowed Fund for Villanova Engineering Service Learning

BEQUESTS AND PLANNED GIFTS The 1842 Heritage Society recognizes and honors individuals who have made a bequest or planned gift. The donations may be testamentary gifts, life-income gifts or the transfer of assets. We invite you to visit plannedgiving to learn more about the benefits of joining the 1842 Heritage Society. We welcome the following College of Engineering alumni and friends to the 1842 Heritage Society: William P. Sheridan ’10 Francis R. Bradley ’68

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