College of Engineering and Computing 2022 Annual Report: Defining Diversity

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Bouncing Back BETTER

THE COLLEGE RECOVERED WELL from last year’s downturn in research. The pandemic created challenges that we have largely overcome. The growth of our faculty, student, and staff populations and our ever-increasing laboratory resources moved the research enterprise forward.

Perhaps the most watched metric is expenditures. In fiscal year 2021 (FY21), our expenditures fell to $62.4 million but in fiscal year 2022 (FY22), they recovered strongly to $70.1 million. Ten departments and centers increased expenditures this year and the Department of Mechanical Engineering set a record of $901,000.

In FY21, awards fell to $46.9 million, however in FY22, they grew to $61.6 million. Awards increased in nine depart ments and centers this year. The Department of Information Sciences and Technology’s awards grew by more than four times and Mechanical Engineering by almost three times.

We are all proud of this past year’s performance, with proposals up to almost $175 million in FY22. We expect FY23 will be another banner year for the college.


Among public universities included in the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development Survey rankings, the college is in the top 50 in engineering and the top 20 in computer and information sciences.

0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
■ EXPENDITURES ■ AWARDS 30 51 54.5 77.5 61.4 75 62.4 46.9 70.1 61.6 ii
STUDENT ENROLLMENT Enrollment continues its upward trajectory, with an increase in students in many majors and at all levels. We provide an outstanding education and are committed to increasing access and inclusivity. 6000 8000 10000 12000 2018 FALL 2019 FALL 2020 FALL 2021 FALL 2022 FALL2021 2022 2022 FALL 2021 FALL 2020 FALL 2019 FALL 2018 FALL ■ UNDERGRADUATE ■ MASTER’S ■ PHD 6000 8000 10000 12000 2018 FALL 2019 FALL 2020 FALL 2021 FALL 2022 FALL2021 2022 2022 FALL 2021 FALL 2020 FALL 2019 FALL 2018 FALL FACULTY Successful faculty recruitment continues to keep pace with our growing student population. This year we welcome 36 new faculty to our ranks. They come from all corners of the world and provide the diverse perspectives that benefit our students. 6000 8000 10000 12000 2018 FALL 2019 FALL 2020 FALL 2021 FALL 2022 FALL2021 2022 2022 FALL 2021 FALL 2020 FALL 2019 FALL 2018 FALL 10,098 BEGINING OF TERM TOTAL ENROLLMENT 7,853 8,156 8,550 8,800 7,200 4752,600 ■ RESEARCH ■ INSTRUCTIONAL ■ TENURE TRACK ■ TENURED 6,900 4451,455 50 41 39 35 33 84 77 73 72 60 81 61 54 46 43 82 93 94 95 95 FALL 2022 FALL 2021 FALL 2020 FALL 2019 FALL 2018 272 TOTAL 297 TOTAL 260 TOTAL 248 TOTAL 231 TOTAL COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING ANNUAL REPORT 2022 | C EC.GMU.EDU iii

Fuse at Mason Square

LAST APRIL, George Mason University broke ground on a new 360,000-square-foot building—Fuse at Mason Square. When completed, the building will serve as the home for programs within the School of Computing as well as faculty and students working with the Institute for Digital Innovation (IDIA) and its partners. This expansion supports the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program, a 20-year program designed to produce more than 25,000 additional graduates in computer science, computer engineering, and software engineering.

You can support Fuse through philanthropy. Our team will work with you to find the best fit for your philanthropic dollars and ensure your gift creates lasting impact. Opportunities include


Work with us to gain close familiarity with innovative students, interns, graduates, and faculty.


Become part of our research enterprise by partnering on sponsored research initiatives, technology transfer, or collaborating with student and faculty innovators.


Memorialize your commitment by helping to name spaces. From classrooms and labs to common areas and meeting rooms, you or your business can establish an enduring presence.


Explore leasing opportunities at Fuse and benefit from proximity to the region’s newest innovation epicenter.


Financial gifts make it possible for the College of Engineering and Computing to provide an affordable education for aspiring engineering and computing students. Since its inception, the College of Engi neering and Computing’s alumni, faculty, and friends have provided generous philanthropic support to increase access to education for our students. These gifts also helped elevate our programs to the Top 100 best engineering schools in U.S. News & World Report. Our graduates benefit from the expe rience of working in innovative labs with current technology and they learn from dedicated faculty who are experts in their fields. You can impact our students’ education by funding a senior design project, donating to a scholarship, or making an annual gift.

To learn more about how you can invest in our future, contact Bonnie Crews, senior director of advancement, College of Engineering and Computing, at

Mark your calendars for College of Engineering and Computing Giving Day on December 8, 2022.

Renderings by EYP

From the Dean

Since its founding 50 years ago, George Mason University has promoted diversity and accessibility, and today the College of Engineering and Computing embraces these values. Diversity and accessibility define and shape our culture, inform how we educate our students, and guide our sense of responsibility to our communities and the world.

Our location, and its proximity to Washington, D.C., attracts students from all races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Whether they come from community colleges, the military, or the workforce, the college welcomes and supports their ambi tions. Location helps make us accessible, and our students follow various pathways to access our degree programs and certificates.

The power of many perspectives fosters innovation in our academic pro grams and research enterprise. New ideas take shape in labs and classrooms and may lead to a unique patent or innovative business idea. Hailing from dozens of different countries and states, our 10,000+ students offer ideas and perspectives that contribute to a vibrant and engaging community.

This dynamic community of students forms powerful connections with industry and government entities. They work as interns, create unique senior design projects, and learn from exceptional faculty who inspire, teach, mentor, and guide. We reach out to the local community to share the excite ment of engineering and let them know what is possible for their children.

Finally, our exceptional outcomes demonstrate the benefits of inclusive and accessible education. First-generation graduates become faculty. International students earn citizenship. Women and underrepresented minorities gain support to achieve their dreams. Our faculty research port folio crosses disciplines to leverage unique viewpoints and new solutions to many of society’s biggest challenges.

The 2022 Annual Report highlights the stories and accomplishments of the College of Engineering and Computing. We hope you enjoy reading them. Once you do, you will see that we are remarkably diverse and proudly accessible. I invite you to visit our website at to learn more about the college, meet our people, and explore our programs.

Ken Ball, PhD, PE Dean, College of Engineering and Computing

Contents DIVERSITY 2 CEDRIC Launch Supports Diverse Students and Offers Opportunities ................................. 4 Summer Saturdays Spark Interest in STEM 5 George Mason NSBE Wins Small Chapter of the Year Award 6 Stepping Out onto a Different Path 7 LOCATION 8 President Washington and Dean Ball Present at ASEE Summit 11 Mason Cherry Blossom Predictions Play Up Statistics 12 Engineering Student Makes Moves on Capitol Hill 14 Clinical Immersion Leads to Medical Breakthroughs 17 INNOVATION 18 CSIRTs Protect Cybersecurity and Expand Job Opportunities 20 Racing toward Mason’s First 3-D Printed Solar Car 23 AI Aids Individuals with ADHD in Construction 24 CONNECTIONS 2 6 Conservation Incentives May Improve Water Sustainability 28 People, Ideas, and Resources Converge at Innovation Pilot Space 31 Break Through Tech Sprinterns Intern at Top Companies ........................................... 32 OUTCOMES 3 4 George Mason Alum Named President of Clarkson University 36 Bioengineering Undergrad Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship 38 Beating the Odds and Winning 39 New Mason IT Grad Says ‘Just Go for It’ 40 College of Engineering and Computing 2022 Annual Report Designed and produced by Mason Creative Services Nathan Kahl Rena Malia Ryley Mcginnis Tama Moni Contributing Writers Martha Bushong Editor Priyanka Champaneri Rebecca Kobayashi Corey Jenkins Schaut Copy Editors Ron Aira Evan Cantwell Photographers Azriel Towner Designer Raissa Macasieb-Ludwig Illustrator ABOUT THE COVER Britney Aiken, a 2022 graduate of the College of Engineering and Computing, used her Mason degree to launch her career with Amazon. Read her story and learn about her journey on page 7. Photo by Ron Aira COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING ANNUAL REPORT 2022 | C EC.GMU.EDU 1


We are remarkably diverse. At the College of Engineering and Computing, we prepare students for life and work in a 21st-century multicultural world in an educational setting that is just as diverse.
Photo by Evan Cantwell

CEDRIC Launch Supports Diverse Students and Offers Opportunities

ACCESS TO SUPPORT and resources is essential for students from diverse backgrounds.

The Computing and Engineering Diversity Resource and Information Center (CEDRIC) is dedicated to giving diverse and underrepresented students at the College of Engineering and Computing the tools they need to succeed. Guest speakers, Mason staff, and students gathered October 29, 2021, for CEDRIC’s official virtual launch.

Sharnnia Artis, who is Mason’s vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and chief diversity officer, as well as an engineer, shared with the audi ence that if it were not for help from an organization like CEDRIC, she would not be where she is today.

She encouraged students to explore all the opportu nities and mentoring CEDRIC offers.

“The journey to your profession of choice is not going to be easy,” she said. “But CEDRIC will help you

build a foundation to make that journey a little easier and more innovative, rewarding, and successful.”

According to Ken Ball, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, CEDRIC is committed to supporting students so everyone can be successful as they navigate the process of earning their College of Engineering and Computing degrees at Mason.

“This is wonderful for us, and wonderful for George Mason University,” he said.

CEDRIC is a one-stop shop for students from underrepresented backgrounds, says Christopher A. Carr, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusive learning in the College of Engineering and Computing. Students can find not just a home, but resources, connections, friendship, collaboration, and guidance both during their time at the college and beyond.

The journey to your profession of choice is not going to be easy. But CEDRIC will help you build a foundation to make that journey a little easier and more innovative, rewarding, and successful.

Summer Saturdays Spark Interest in STEM

The Nguyen Engineering Building buzzed with activity on Saturday mornings throughout the month of July as the Office of Diversity and Inclusive Learning hosted 200 elementary, middle, and high school students for STEM Summer Saturdays.

“It was exciting to see so many kids here at the college. We hope the experience sparked an interest in STEM that will continue throughout their school year, and we see some of them again next year,” says Mercadi Crawford, diversity associate for the College of Engineering and Computing (CEC).

The students learned about flying drones, forensic science and entrepreneurship, statistics, career pathways, and preparing for college. CEC faculty and staff volunteered to make the experience both

enjoyable and educational. Student mentors and orientation leaders were also on hand to help.

Parents said their children raved about the program and were grateful for the opportunity to explore STEM careers, see possibilities, and focus on abilities. The students came home excited to research careers in fields such as forensic toxicology and other areas they might not have otherwise known about. Many parents look forward to the program again next year.

“The support from our partners in the College of Science, the National Society of Black Engineers, STEAM Pipelines, the Abacus Project, and the Department of Statistics was spectacular,” says Christi Wilcox, CEC diversity associate. “We are so thankful for their contributions.”

Elementary school students explore sci ence, technology, engineering, and math during the STEM Summer Saturdays offered by the college’s Office of Diversity, and Inclusive Learning. Photo by Sierra Guard

George Mason NSBE Wins Small Chapter of the Year Award

THE GEORGE MASON University National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter received the Region 2 Small Chapter of the Year Award. The award was presented to Mason NSBE members at the NSBE national convention held March 23–27, 2022, in Anaheim, California.

The award is a testament to the hard work the Mason–NSBE executive board has done to serve the Black science, technology, engineering, and mathe matics (STEM) community on campus and uphold the NSBE mission.

The Mason–NSBE chapter hosts various social, academic, and career development events for STEM majors to have fun and bond with their peers, while strengthening their professional development skills. Events have included a Spa Destress, Black

History Month Jeopardy, Career Fair Prep, and an Engineering Career Panel. The chapter also hosted a monthlong Python coding workshop for beginners.

NSBE gives students the opportunity to pursue leadership positions and enhance team-building skills. Members participate and plan academic and professional events that enhance technical skill sets and prepare them for future careers in STEM.

Founded in 1992, Mason–NSBE is the premier orga nization for African American students pursuing STEM degrees at Mason. According to MasonNSBE members, being part of the organization is an important asset in bringing together STEM students across various disciplines.

College of Engineering and Computing students (from left) Nigel Brown, Alissa Wells, Adaora Orakwue, and Eric Williams. Photo courtesy of NSBE

Stepping Out onto a Different Path

BRITNEY AIKEN, RECENT information technology graduate, comes from a family where everyone works in health care.

Although she thought about following suit, Aiken knew she wanted a different path. She says she loved math in high school and wanted to do something in the field of engineering once she reached college. Her mom picked up on her daughter’s abilities early on, and Aiken attended the Academies of Loudoun, a STEM program for high school students in Loudoun County, Virginia.

“As far as I can remember, I was always drawn to technology,” says Aiken. “I chose to pursue information technol ogy in higher education because I wanted a well-rounded perspective. Computer science is a popular way to go, but IT covers everything—cloud computing, cybersecurity, computer networking, web development, program ming, and more.”

Aiken says joining the Break Through Tech program at George Mason University allowed her to be sur rounded by like-minded people who are just as intrigued and interested in engineering as she is.

“As a Break Through Tech student peer leader and a Mason Ambassador, people ask me about the difficulty level of engineering,” says Aiken. “The best thing to set yourself up for success is to join a community like Break Through Tech and talk with professors and advisors. Don’t be afraid to put your brand out there early.”

Setting a good example for future STEM graduates is a motivating factor for Aiken, who will be working at Amazon full time after interning for the tech company last summer in Denver. She is excited to be part of a change that will hopefully encourage more women to choose STEM careers.

“I took an engineering class in high school, and I was the only girl,” says Aiken. “I want more women to join this field. There is nothing we can’t achieve.”

She says she may have broken the mold for one of her sisters, who might join her sibling by also pursuing STEM.


Break Through Tech works at the intersection of academia and industry to propel more women and members of underrepresented communities into technology degrees and careers. Break Through Tech DC is the organization’s first cross-institutional collabora tion, partnering with Mason and the University of Maryland.



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We offer remarkable advantages by virtue of our location. We are the only college of engineering and computing headquartered in the heart of Northern Virginia’s technology corridor. COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING ANNUAL REPORT 2022 | C EC.GMU.EDU 9

Automation in manufacturing will bring new opportunities for the next genera tion of engineers.

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President Washington and Dean Ball Present at ASEE Summit

ENGINEERS FROM AROUND the globe gathered in Washington, D.C., in April for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Industry 4.0 Workforce Summit. The summit mainly touched on challenges within engineering curricula, and how diversity within the field could be strengthened.

George Mason University provided premier academic sponsorship for the summit, which featured a keynote address from President Gregory Washington and a panel discussion led by Ken Ball, dean of the College of Engineering and Computing.

We’re going to have new fields of endeavor over the next five years that we’re not prepared for today. That’s what I think about when I think about 4.0.

During his speech, Washington expressed that the important question to ask is whether engineering curricula are preparing students for the current real ity and giving them the tools that they need to have for what’s coming now.

“Currently 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at risk due to automation,” said Washington. “More than half of the top ten in-demand jobs currently did not exist in 2008. We’re going to have new fields of endeavor over the next five years that we’re not prepared for today. That’s what I think about when I think about 4.0.”

Ball emphasized it’s important to find innovative ways around any resistance to changes within curricula. One is for college faculty to have the opportunity to spend time within industry working spaces and bring those experiences back to the classroom.

“When industries provide opportunities for faculty to even spend a month in a work industry, or a summer, it makes a huge change in the way they approach teaching and working with students,” said Ball. “I think any way we can deepen that interaction would have a good impact.”

Sessions at the summit also discussed talent, partic ularly when it comes to opportunities for younger people starting out.

“We need more competitive individuals in the pipeline, and we need to get them in cheaper,” said Washington. “One way to do that is through transfer programs at community colleges. Mason has 80 academic programs where you can start off at a com munity college and not lose any time.”

Attendees from bigger companies were also encour aged to think about incorporating or expanding STEM internship programs.

ASEE, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit organization of individuals and insti tutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The summit goal was to reach a consensus on improve ments to engineer curricula, work-based experiences, policies, and practices.


Mason Cherry Blossom Predictions Play Up Statistics

EVERY SPRING, THOUSANDS flock to the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., to witness the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms. The peak bloom period sparks a variety of parades, events, and, this year, the first-ever cherry blossom prediction compe tition, hosted by George Mason University.

The competition was organized by Mason Department of Statistics professors Jonathan Auerbach and David Kepplinger, along with Elizabeth Wolkovich from the department of forest and conservation sciences at the University of British Columbia.

According to Auerbach, it’s the first year that stu dents have participated in this kind of international prediction competition, which is open to everyone. Participants submit their predictions for each loca tion along with a narrative of how they came to their guesses. Each submission is then assessed by a panel of international judges from statistics, biology, and ecology backgrounds.

“The cherry blossoms signify a special time of year, and they’re fleeting,” says Auerbach. “Statistics can be dry, so it’s great for our students to participate in a competi tion like this. The cherry trees hold much appeal, both scientifically and for a diverse student body.”

Cherry blossoms surrounding the Washington, D.C., Tidal Basin.
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Historic data on peak bloom dates serve as a starting point. Students then consider anything and every thing that could affect blooming times, like extreme weather, soil, rainfall, and average blooming time over the last few years, and then used tools such as machine learning to analyze bloom timings.

The 2022 peak cherry blossom bloom date in the Washington, D.C., area was March 21. The predic tions from undergraduate student Sara Alhassani and graduate student Douglas Nedza came closest, with Alhassani zeroing in on March 23 and Nedza predicting March 20.

Nedza currently uses machine learning to study climate variability, and he saw the competition as a way to put his skills and knowledge to the test. He selected a variety of predictors on spring variability, including temperatures through the end of February and temperature trends over the last 60 years.

“The machine learning algorithm is given these predictors with corresponding cherry blossom date observations and attempts to produce the best pre diction model based on the provided data,” he says.

The cherry trees hold much appeal, both scientifically and for a diverse student body.

Engineering Student Makes Moves on Capitol Hill

WHEN LINDSEY DAVIS attended the American Society of Civil Engineers career fair in fall 2018, she was hunting for an internship with Christman Company. Armed with a list of company names, she had done her research and found that Christman had ties to her home town, Richmond, Virginia.

The career fair led to an internship with Christman Company’s project with the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for the maintenance, operation, development, and preservation of the United States Capitol Complex. The nearly $1 billion project aims to renovate the Cannon House Office Building, built in 1908 in the Beaux-Arts style. The structure, last renovated in the 1960s, needs a serious upgrade and modernization.

After her first internship in 2020, Davis returned for a second summer, and in August 2020, was offered a job. In June 2021, she began full-time work and now spends 40-plus hours a week as a project engineer while completing her studies at Mason.

Davis enjoys being connected to the history and immersed in the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C. “I pass by representatives who I see on TV and think, ‘I know who you are,’ or, ‘I know what you said on Twitter last night,’” she says. “Most people in our country will probably never meet their representative, and I’ve met a dozen.”

Davis says the representatives will ask ques tions about the renovation. “They’re interested in what we’re doing too because it’s their build ing, they want to know that history.”

She says the biggest challenge has been the steep learning curve. The renovation started almost eight years ago; there’s a lot of historical information to piece together. Scheduling work can be a daunting task as they navigate special events and security issues.

“I am so thankful that the career fair led me to this terrific internship,” Davis says. “The job that it led to is everything I thought it would be and more.”

Most people in our country will probably never meet their representative, and I’ve met a dozen.
Lindsey Davis stands in front of the Cannon Office Building where she interned with the Architects of the Capitol. The U.S. Capitol is in the background. Photo by Evan Cantwell
Real-world clinical experience can provide bioengineering undergraduates a chance to contribute to medical solutions. Getty Images

Clinical Immersion Leads to Medical Breakthroughs

IN SUMMER 2021, the College of Engineering and Computing’s Department of Bioengi neering launched its first clinical immersion program. This academic year, seniors from the program used their observations to design and build solutions to medical problems.

The new program, funded by a nearly $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gives bioengineering students a six-week clinical immersion experience at major hospitals in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

In the program, students are matched for the summer with doctors at an Inova Health System hospital, Georgetown Hospital, or the Children’s National Medical Center, where they then identify solutions to clinical problems they observe.

Throughout the following academic year, students are advised by a clinical mentor from one of the hospitals; a faculty advisor in the Department of Bioengineering; an advisor from Mason’s School of Nursing, Health Administration Program, or Health Informatics Program; and an industry advisor from the Mason Bioengineering Alliance.

The program provides an enriched real-world work environment for students that allows them to develop a network of colleagues with complementary skill sets.

Senior Natai Jinfessa spent his summer doing a virtual immersion with Stanley Fricke, director of medical physics at Georgetown University. “We talked a lot about the functionalities of MRIs and X-ray technologies,” says Jinfessa. He learned about machine operator and patient safety issues and analyzed potential solutions for their marketability, feasibility, and impact in the medical field.

At the start of the fall semester, Jinfessa and other students who completed the clinical immer sion program presented their findings to their classmates and formed their teams. “Our project was to design an MRI-compatible temperature monitoring system for the eyes,” says Jinfessa.

“In MRI machines, radio frequency deposition can cause tattooed skin to heat up. On other parts of the body, there are simple solutions like placing an ice pack, but the eyes don’t have such solution.”

The monitoring system would let the MRI operator know when a person’s eyes are heating up to dangerous levels and warn them before possible injuries can occur.

“When I first heard about it, the program seemed like a great opportunity. I’m happy I did it,” says Jinfessa.

We are a force for innovation. We are always seeking imaginative new ways to educate future engineers, computer scientists, and IT professionals.

CSIRTs Protect Cybersecurity and Expand Job Opportunities

CYBERSECURITY IS A growing concern for anyone using technology—which is pretty much ev eryone. The area has seen tremendous research since the first global attacks surfaced in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Low-income countries can face challenges with putting appropriate cybersecurity protective measures in place and developing much needed cybersecurity talent. To address this concern, Sherif Hashem, an information sciences and technology professor at George Mason University, was part of a team that produced a report titled “Cyber Incident Management in Low-Income Countries.” The report was funded by Global Affairs Canada and presented at an international webinar by the Global Forum on Cyber Expertise.

According to Hashem, having computer security incident response teams (CSIRTs) in place can greatly help in handling and preventing cyberat tacks. He says computer incident response is a term that popped up globally about 30 years ago, and it is associated with professionals who respond to threats made over computer systems and networks.

“Established CSIRTs can help detect a cyberattack when it happens, and greatly minimize its impact,” Hashem says. “Cyberattacks against critical national infrastructure can be some of the most impactful as they can potentially affect everyone in society.”

One recent example is the Colonial Pipeline ransom ware attack in 2021, the largest cyberattack on an oil infrastructure target in U.S. history, says Hashem.

“CSIRTs across the globe work together to mitigate such cyberattacks and help bring the criminals to justice,” he says. “Without CSIRTs in situations like this, the aftermath of a cyberattack can be devas tating. It’s better to be prepared and minimize any losses [and] recover quickly.”

The “Cyber Incident Management in Low-Income Countries” report showcases CSIRT models and structures that are workable within limited budgets. The report also provides guidance on developing technical skills within CSIRTs and highlights a wide range of training programs and tools.

Cyberattacks against critical national infrastruc ture can be some of the most impactful as they can potentially affect everyone in society.

“Our research findings can be used holistically by any entity looking to establish CSIRTs, whether there is a limited budget or not,” says Hashem.

According to Hashem, the first CSIRT was created by Carnegie Mellon University more than thirty years ago. Since then, the cybersecurity space has become rich with job opportunities. An estimated 400,000 cybersecurity jobs are available today in the United States alone.

“I hope this motivates students to consider informa tion security as a part of their education and career plan,” says Hashem. “The opportunities are endless.”

by Raissa Macasieb-Ludwig
Mason engineering students are building the first-ever 3-D-printed solar-powered car.

Racing toward Mason’s First 3-D Printed Solar Car

MOST PEOPLE WITH access to a 3-D printer find themselves creating small objects or gadgets. But one student group working each Friday at the MIX at George Mason University is driven by a different dream.

“We build, design, test, and plan to compete in solar-powered car competitions,” says Michael Riggi, president of Mason’s solar car team, Hypernova Solar. “[We believe] our car, when complete, will be the world’s first and only 3-D-printed solar car.”

members comprise everyone from Mason fresh men to seniors, and a few students from Northern Virginia Community College and local high schools.

Their momentum has been strong.

“We’re in the process of building our own car, Hypernova One, that we plan to complete in about a year,” Riggi says, adding that the car’s steel frame, which they are welding on Mason’s Science and Technology Campus, is halfway done.

Riggi, a junior studying systems engineering, says the team aspires to compete in the American Solar Challenge, which involves racing a couple thousand miles across the country against other university teams. Their subsequent goal is to race in the World Solar Challenge in Australia.

When Hypernova Solar was founded in 2019 by Mason alum Alex Hughes, BS Bioengineering '21 and an Honors College graduate, Riggi says the group laid the logistical groundwork for parts, designs, and fundraising. Today, the group’s 50

Riggi explains Hypernova One will be the team’s proof-of-concept car. Once it is complete, they will review it to see what they can do better, and then build a second car for competition.

“The opportunity to build a unique machine like this is a huge draw to a diverse group of students,” says Colin Reagle, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “I can’t wait until you see them rolling around campus in this vehicle inspiring the next surge of students.”

[We believe] our car,
when complete, will be the world’s first and
only 3-D-printed

AI Aids Individuals with ADHD in Construction

USING VIRTUAL REALITY (VR) and arti ficial intelligence (AI), a team of researchers at George Mason University is taking a wrecking ball to barriers faced by neurodiverse individu als working in construction.

The Mason team partnered with researchers at Purdue University on a $2 million National Science Foundation project. The project will explore the future of construction and identify ways to use human-robot teaming to open the construction field to neurodiverse individuals, specifically those with attention deficit/hyper activity disorder (ADHD), formerly known as attention deficit disorder (ADD).

People with ADHD have more variable atten tion levels than those without it, which brings with it strengths and weaknesses. Strengths can include incredible problem-solving skills and creativity, while diagnosed individuals also tend to be disorganized, have difficulty focus ing, and take part in more high-risk behaviors that can limit their ability to succeed in specific fields—like construction. But the research team believes that with the help of new technology, we will better understand this condition.

“As the future of construction is moving toward technological coupling, workers and machines must team up to accomplish project goals. Using AI, robots can learn to understand, react, and predict human behaviors. This collabo ration could make it possible for us to bring neurodiverse people into construction,” says Behzad Esmaeili, assistant professor of civil, environmental, and infrastructure engineer ing, and the principal investigator (PI) for the Mason team.

Robots, or cobots, could learn to spot inatten tion, riskier behaviors, and mistakes while their human partners can be trained to work with these robots to improve their collaboration.

As the future of construction is moving toward technological coupling, workers and machines must team up to accomplish proj ect goals.


At least 5 percent of the population has been diagnosed with ADHD. Still, many are undi agnosed, says Brenda Bannan, professor of learning design and technology in the College of Education and Human Development and co-PI on the grant project.

For AI robots to learn human behavior, they must gather data, which has limitations on construction sites. “We cannot safely collect data from actual construction sites because it exposes people to potential injuries. Additionally, this is for a futuristic construction site, where humans and robots are working together,” says Esmaeili.

Craig Yu, assistant professor of computer science and co-PI, uses VR and works with the research team to develop a virtual environment to simulate different scenarios on construction sites, including risky and accidental situations.

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The team can also use the virtual environment to train people and construction teams to work with these robots. “Using VR lowers costs and risks, and it can be used to further improve efficiency and produc tivity on construction sites,” says Yu.

Yu, Esmaeili, Bannan, and their co-PI Maurice Kugler, professor of public policy in the Schar School of Policy and Government, will employ the observa tions and data from numerous variable sensors, like eye trackers, cognitive brain monitoring, and other

psychophysiological and biomechanical metrics to better understand the behavior of people with ADHD on construction sites and teach robots about how this population works.

Their collaboration came from conversations at meetings for the Center for Advancing HumanMachine Partnerships (CAHMP). “This is the CAHMP’s purpose. It was designed to strike these transdisciplinary collaborations and projects,” says Bannan, one of the center’s founders.

Mason researchers are explor ing ways to use virtual reality to aid individuals with ADHD in construction jobs.
We are a place of powerful connections. We have a wonderful culture of breaking down the barriers between disciplines to frame problems in new ways and collaborate on solutions (e.g., multidisciplinary capstones).

CLEAN WATER IS a vital component of life, and without it, human existence as we know it would quickly cease. This is largely why water con servation is an important and ever-growing concern, particularly when it comes to natural resources, like rivers, and to the allocation and management of freshwater resources.

Shima Mohebbi, assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Computing at George Mason University, together with researchers from the University of Oklahoma, Texas A&M University,

between social and environmental systems over time can raise new fundamental questions in the field of operations research and system engineering. This in turn can help with further understanding the intricacies behind water resource management and incentives allocation.”

Under this grant, Mohebbi will develop novel game theory models to understand how conflicts and propensities for cooperative behavior among water users—including farmers—might vary over time across the river network.

Clark University, Oklahoma State University, and Florida International University, received a nearly $1.6 million project grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for Conservation Incentives and the Socio-Spatial Dynamics of Water Sustainability.

Although this project focuses on the Red River, the second-largest river basin located in the southern part of the United States, Mohebbi says the solutions and lessons gained throughout are transferable to water systems around the world.

“Water resource management is a complex prob lem that is affected by water scarcity, the impact of climate change on water supplies, and decision-mak ers’ behavior (behind water conservation policies),” Mohebbi says. “Capturing the complex feedback

The project started in January 2022 and will run for five years. Working alongside colleagues from fields including geography and environmental sustainabil ity, ecology, and agricultural engineering, Mohebbi says the project’s end goal is to demonstrate how voluntary conservation incentives—like offering subsidies to water users—could potentially be used to achieve water sustainability.

“Along with my student researchers, we will work closely with collaborators, use data collected on user’s belief and behavior, formulate the game theory models, and discover novel and fair solutions around water conservation incentive schemes,” Mohebbi says.

Capturing the complex feedback between social and environ mental systems over time can raise new fundamental questions in the field of operations research and system engineering.
Conservation Incentives May Improve Water Sustainability
by Raissa Macasieb-Ludwig
Students work in the new Cyber Living Innovation Lab at Mason Square. Photo by Ron Aira

People, Ideas, and Resources Converge at Innovation Pilot Space


COMSovereign, Widelity, and OPNT unveiled the latest addition to the Mason Square lab space’s growing technological capabilities. COMSovereign has provided a portable, com pact, easily deployable standalone communica tions system. The system could keep an entire city’s secure communication structure up and running—especially during national emergen cies, says Mohan Tammisetti, COMSovereign’s senior vice president and chief engineer.

“Partners like COMSovereign, OPNT, and Widelity, who integrate commercial-grade equipment and their expertise with the Mason research enterprise, accelerate the timing for our solutions to impact the public and commer cial sector,” says Liza Wilson Durant, associate provost for strategic initiatives and community engagement. “We are operating as an integrated team invested not only in the mutual success of the new technologies and solutions we are developing, but in the success of the training ground our partnership creates for the next generation of talent.”

Widelity, who was instrumental in bringing the two other partners into the project, recently signed a lease to occupy three offices adjacent to the lab. “Widelity recognizes our indus try-faculty partnership’s intrinsic value in

advancing robust national network infrastruc tures,” says Paul Altoz, CEO at Widelity. “We believe collaboration with Mason will be a vital component in hardening and scaling our com munications capabilities in the years ahead.”

The new testbed will power connected devices in the lab and beyond. It focuses on portabil ity and adaptability. OPNT has provided the software to create precise timing for the system, which is crucial to 5G applications.

Parag Singh, managing director at Widelity, says, “Widelity is a proud industry partner and system integrator to George Mason University. Via joint orchestration with Mason and our industry partners, Widelity has successfully created an organic and secure 5G capability at the vibrant innovation center at Mason Square with one common goal—transforming our nation’s critical infrastructure and networks to provide more security, resilience, and reliability.”

Singh adds, “Today, we continue to serve Mason researchers in 5G network development to improve our community’s safety by facilitat ing pilot programs in positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), security, smart cities, industrial internet of things, and multi-access edge computing.”


Break Through Tech Sprinterns Intern at Top Companies

MOST STUDENTS LOOK at winter break as a time to rest and catch up with family and friends. But a se lect number of George Mason University students used it to gain valuable professional experience through the Break Through Tech Sprinternship program.

These Sprinternships (or, mini-internships) took place in January 2022 and ran about three weeks. The program, which is targeted toward women and students from underrepresented groups, allowed Mason participants to bring their tech talents to top companies that included Microsoft, Booz Allen Hamilton, Mastercard, and Verizon.

According to Shvetha Soundararajan, site lead for Break Through Tech at Mason, the Sprinternship program is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain real-world experience, tech-industry resume credentials, and build professional networks.

“This was the first iteration of the Sprinternship program at Mason, and 32 Sprinterns were a part of this cohort,” she says. “Some of our Sprinterns have already received return offers for summer intern ships. We are immensely proud of them.”

Sprintern Shruti Sekar, a computer science major at Mason, saw her experience at Mastercard as a useful introduction to learning how the professional world works.

“It was actually the first opportunity for me to have an internship,” says Sekar. “I wanted real-world experience and to learn collaboration, and how a company works in general.”

Neha Acharya, also a Mastercard Sprintern, saw her Sprinternship as a way to open doors to bigger and better opportunities in the tech world.

“This was a great opportunity to gain experience and explore potential careers,” says Acharya, a sopho more studying information technology. “We had networking opportunities at Mastercard and were introduced to a wide variety of career options.”

Negative stereotypes about intern positions involve boring tasks and intimidating surroundings. Iza Lazaneo, a Sprintern at Microsoft and a junior studying computer science, was thrilled to find a welcoming environment, challenging projects, and plenty of support from seasoned colleagues.

“Students nervous about Sprinternships shouldn’t be,” says Lazaneo. She points out that any new expe rience can be stressful, but a Sprinternship is well worth the work. A refresher course before beginning a Sprinternship can help ease nerves, especially if working with unfamiliar coding language.

Acharya says students can use knowledge gained in classes and apply it to a Sprinternship, especially when it comes to coding. “Bring your questions and jump in,” she says.




We achieve exceptional outcomes for our alumni. Our alumni
impressive careers— from climbing the corporate ranks to launching new enterprises.
Photo by Ron Aira

George Mason Alum Named President of Clarkson University


Christensen, MS Electrical Engineering ’98, PhD Electrical and Computer Engineering ’01, became the 17th president of Clarkson University on July 1. Christensen was previously dean of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a post which he held for nine years.

“I owe so much to people at Mason,” Christensen says. “Michael (Mike) Haney was my PhD advisor. He was my supervisor when I was a co-op student at a defense contractor. He told me in my second week as a permanent hire that I was going into academia. I wasn’t thinking about grad school at the time, but he told me it was time to start.”

Christensen credits Haney for instilling some important leadership qualities. “He taught me that a leader was responsible for getting the resources needed for the people reporting to them, and [for] keeping the things flowing downstream off their shoulders so they can get their job done. That has stuck with me my entire career.”

“Ravi Athale was the professor who recruited Mike to Mason. As a co-op student, I used to sit in Ravi’s old office at the defense contractor,” Christensen says. “Once I was at Mason, a typical Friday after noon was spent with Mike and Ravi pondering patterns and underlying principles in the science. Ravi’s holistic approach always had me looking for underlying connections.”

Christensen also cited former Mason professor Geoffrey Orsak, from whom he took his very first class, as having a big impact. Orsak moved on to Southern Methodist University (SMU) and brought Christensen to SMU’s engineering school when he heard he was look ing to go into academia.

He noted that his time as a graduate student was during a turning point for Mason and its engineer ing program. “I was their first PhD in electrical and computer engineering. Prior to that, [the degree] was in information technology. My bachelor’s degree is in engineering physics, which I always have to explain, so when I learned I could have a PhD in something with a name that everyone could recog nize, I held on until all the paperwork was in place for the new name. And because I was first, I think I had the most rigorous qualifying exam that’s ever been administered! At least the department chair at the time seemed intent on making sure that was so.”

Christensen has followed Mason’s transformation. “Campus was a lot different when I was there. I was one of those commuter students working full time for a defense contractor. It’s not the sleepy school I went to anymore.”

The campus of Clarkson University Courtesy of Clarkson University

Bioengineering Undergrad Awarded Prestigious Goldwater Scholarship

WHEN GEORGE MASON University bioen gineering undergraduate Medhini Sosale was a child, she loved trivia and had a curiosity about everything around her. This knack for question ing her world led her to pursue a career in STEM research and, more recently, to win the Barry Goldwater scholarship.

The scholarship is one of the highest awards in the United States for undergraduate students inter ested in developing STEM research careers, with winners receiving up to $7,500 annually. Sosale sees her win as not only helping her toward her career goals, but financially freeing up her time to delve into research more fully.

“I don’t really personally know many people who have pursued PhDs,” says Sosale, who is also an Honors College student. “This scholarship offers a big community network of recent scholars, and I’m excited to draw from this network for general career advice and advice about graduate school.”

She says being inquisitive probably played a part in going after the scholarship. The application process has several steps, and Sosale made sure to start early and find out every detail she could about what she needed to submit. Although the applica tion required one research essay, Sosale wrote two. She then worked with Karen Lee, her scholarship mentor, and other staff members in the Mason Office of Fellowships to decide which essay would work best.

Her essay on the research project “Modelling Cerebral Blood Flow to Optimize Ischemic Stroke Treatment” was the winning choice. The project focuses on studying the effects of various factors on ischemic stroke treatment. She also previously worked on a project with Parag Chitnis , assistant professor in bioengineering, to develop a 3-D cell model that examines the barrier between the brain and the blood stream.

“I am very grateful to now be a Goldwater scholar,” says Sosale. “It definitely wasn’t a one-person process. There were a lot of people behind the scenes that helped me get here, and I want to thank each and every one of them.”

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Senator Barry Goldwater. The Goldwater Scholarship Program iden tifies and supports college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming the next research leaders in the fields of engineering, mathematics, and natural science.

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Beating the Odds and Winning

HIS OWN RISE against long odds is what fuels Kwabena Konadu, BS Electrical Engineering ’00, MS Telecommunications ’02, every day, and it is what makes him such an effective educator.

Konadu is a professor of computer science at Northern Virginia Community College’s (NOVA) Woodbridge Campus and the college-wide head of the cybersecurity program.

In March, he was recognized for his work by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia with a 2022 Outstanding Faculty Award, which is one of the most prestigious teaching awards in the state.

“I come from very humble beginnings,” says Konadu of the award. “So [the recognition] does mean a lot to me because I’ve been spending a significant amount of time helping the next generation of cyber profes sionals who will help protect our infrastructure.”

Arriving in the United States from his native Ghana at 14, Konadu could barely speak English and had never laid eyes on a computer. But his persistence in learning the language and fully immersing himself in education has transformed his life and spurred him to pay it forward.

Initially, Konadu struggled academically, and he credits his teachers for encouraging him to press on. In addition to earning two degrees from Mason,

he also holds a degree in physics from Washington College in Maryland.

“Mason really challenged me, but it prepared me for what I’m experiencing right now,” he says.

After completing college, Konadu initially worked as an engineer in different capacities before opting to follow his passion for cybersecurity. In 2008, he began teaching noncredit workforce courses at NOVA, even tually becoming an adjunct professor for the school in 2014 and a full-time faculty member in 2018.

His dedication to his students knows no limits, as Konadu also coaches the NOVA Cyber Sports Team, which was the only community college squad to make it to the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition’s regional qualifying round finals.

He sees himself remaining at NOVA for the long haul because he feels it’s where he can make the most positive impact each day.

“This is where you see the kids most in need,” says Konadu. “I’m excited about being able to help guide those kinds of students, prepare them [for the work force], and help them put food on the table.”

For added motivation, his own stirring personal story is among the first things he offers students at the start of each year.


New Mason IT Grad Says ‘Just Go for It’

IT WAS A friend’s serendipitous homework assignment that prompted Dania O. Abu-Irshaid, a recent George Mason University graduate from the Department of Information Sciences and Technology, to switch her major from pre-law to a science, technology, engineering, and mathemat ics (STEM) path.

Abu-Irshaid says she’s always had a natural knack for coding, and it’s something that’s always inter ested her. But it wasn’t until she helped a fellow Mason student with a Python coding exercise that it all clicked.

“I was thinking about pre-law, but after taking a class in it, I didn’t feel like it suited me. I was undecided,” says Abu-Irshaid. “Then, my friend was struggling with this homework assignment, and I ended up finishing it for her in five min utes. She looked at me and said, ‘This is what you should be doing.’”

When Abu-Irshaid made the move to study IT with a concentration in cybersecurity, that’s when things really fell into place for her. As the oldest child in her family, she was relied on to be the tech-savvy expert who could help fix Wi-Fi rout ers in the house or explain internet nuances to her parents. Although she is the first female in her family to study and work in STEM, she’s confident about the opportunities coming her way.

After graduation, Abu-Irshaid will enter a 10-weeklong internship with the Virginia Department of Elections, where she will work in cybersecurity. She also sees potential for a corporate position for herself at some point, and she has her eye on one major corporation—Walmart. As a Mason resident advisor to freshman engineering students, AbuIrshaid says some of her mentees good-naturedly tease her about her Walmart aspirations.

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“I’m like, guys, Walmart isn’t just about celery and sticky buns, they have a corporate side,” she says, “But they’ll still ask me how Walmart’s going and what kind of merchandise I have.”

With a bright future ahead, she says she’ll miss her time at Mason, particularly the diverse community and her role as an advisor.

“I love the community and culture at Mason. There’s always something to do, and something to look

forward to on campus. But I’ll hopefully be back, in some capacity,” says Abu-Irshaid.

Her message for future grads is to just go for it, whether it’s a job, course of study, or other opportunity.

“It’s really as simple as that, and it’s what got me every where,” she says. “Just go to that club meeting, go to that class, ask your professor that question. You’re not going to get the results unless you go for it.”

Just go to that club meeting, go to that class, ask your professor that question. You’re not going to get the results unless you go for it.
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