Day: March 23, 2020

Faculty Spotlight: Pam Rollins

Pam RollinsDr. Rollins currently serves as Professor, Assistant Chair, and Sarkeys Endowed Chair for the Department of Nursing at the University of Central Oklahoma. Areas of interest include public health, leadership, complex adaptive systems, community engagement, social/emotional intelligence, and experiential learning. Having retired from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) with 28½ years of service, Dr. Rollins served in a variety of state and county level leadership positions. She has been recognized at the state and national levels for professional activities, being named Oklahoma Nurse of the Year and receiving the AANP Award of Excellence. Since entering academia in 2012, Dr. Rollins has been actively involved in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, as well as the neuroscience of learning. Acknowledged by the University as a Most Distinguished Teacher-Scholar, a SOTL Scholar, and a Service-Learning Scholar, Dr. Rollins continues to strive for excellence in Transformative Learning, as well as continued involvement in Public Health practice. Dr. Rollins and a colleague received the 2017 Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award, in recognition of outstanding achievement in the implementation of the “Making-a-Difference Capstone Project” for graduating seniors in the nursing department. Also, Dr. Rollins and Sadie, a trained therapy dog, serve the UCO Community as a member of the Broncho Barkers.

From the Desk of the Dean

Dean Wei R. ChenDear CMS Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the Dean’s Office. I hope you had a great winter break and a wonderful holiday season.

Spring always brings us a new spirit and fresh ideas, and often new challenges. This spring, we are facing a crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic that affects our health, our lives, and our education. However, in Chinese, “crisis” is composed of two characters: “danger” and “opportunity”. The current crisis is not an exception. While we are preparing to face down the danger, we are also looking for opportunities to carry on our duties: producing needed STEM graduates. The CMS faculty and staff are working hard to prepare for alternative methods to deliver classes. Our faculty and students are resilient, resourceful, and dedicated. Nothing will defeat us. Please rest assured that our students will receive the education they deserve and they will graduate on time!

The heart and soul of the team that is always prepared to overcome any obstacles are our faculty. CMS has the best faculty in the country. I cannot brag enough about them. I would need to write a book in order to include all their achievements. Here I just want to mention a few wonderful people in our college.

Dr. David Bass, a 35-year veteran biology professor, was selected to receive the 2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence award. This is considered the highest award in public education. Dr. Bass was selected because of his dedication to teaching and mentoring students. He will receive a medal and a glass sculpture, “Roots and Wings”, designed by the late Oklahoma Artist Ron Roberts. His award will be sweetened by a $5,000 check.

In my nomination letter, I described Dr. Bass this way, “Even though Bass has been a professor at UCO for 35 years, he still works as if he were a green Ph.D. starting his first semester of teaching. He treats each class as a new adventure, constantly revising lecture notes, adding new content, and experimenting with new delivery approaches.” I am sure the faculty and students who know Dr. Bass would wholeheartedly agree with me.

More information can be found at the following websites:

Medal for Excellence Winners

I am also pleased to report to you that in the past five years, in addition to Dr. Bass, two other CMS professors have received this high honor: Dr. Wayne Lord, a professor with joint appointments in the UCO Forensic Science Institute and the Department of Biology (2019) and Dr. Bill Caire, a professor emeritus of the Department of Biology (2016). I am also certain that people in CMS and outside CMS would agree with me that we have many more professors who deserve this recognition.

I am looking forward to sharing more wonderful news in the near future.

Wei R. Chen, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Mathematics and Science

David Bass, Ph.D. Receives 2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching

David BassDr. David Bass, Professor of Biology, is the recipient of the 2020 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at Regional Universities and Community Colleges. Dr. Bass joined the Department of Biology at UCO in the fall of 1985. He is an internationally respected aquatic invertebrate biologist, who brings his vast real-world experience into the classroom to enrich the learning opportunities for his students. His passion and energy for teaching are clear to his students and we congratulate Dr. Bass on this well-deserved honor.

UCO Biology Alumnus Received 2019 PepsiCo Science Award

PepsiCo Science and Technology Award winnersDr. Toby FitzSimons, who worked with Dr. Bidlack on photovoltaic solar cells (MS from UCO in 2010) and went on to complete a PhD at the University of Arkansas, has been working as a Senior Research Scientist at PepsiCo after receiving his doctorate. Dr. FitzSimons recently received the 2019 PepsiCo Science Award and continues to impress the company. Pictured here (from left to right) are René Lammers (Chief Science Officer), Mac McWilliam (UK Manager), Patricia Ouimet (Senior Citrus R&D), Toby FitzSimons (Senior R&D Scientist), and Ramon Laguarta (PepsiCo CEO).

Dr. David von Minden to Retire in May

David von MindenDr. David von Minden has announced his intention to retire at the end of this semester. He has served the Department of Chemistry for 24 years. Dr. von Minden grew up in La Grange, Texas, which is about halfway between Austin and Houston. After earning his BS degree in Chemistry from Texas Tech University, he began his graduate work at the University of Nebraska. He worked in organic chemistry with a focus on mass spectrometry. After completing his PhD, he served in post-doctoral positions for four years. He then began a 19-year career in the Navy focusing on toxicology. After retiring from the Navy he worked a few years as a toxicologist for a medical laboratory. He Joined the UCO Chemistry Department in 1996, filling a need for more support for the Department’s forensic science program. Early in his career at UCO, Dr. von Minden served as faculty advisor for the Chemistry Club, and students were enthusiastic about his devotion to the club. Dr. von Minden also helped students create the Forensic Science Club, which includes both undergraduate and graduate students. He enjoyed cookouts with the clubs. Dr. von Minden also contributed his time to the UCO chapter of the American Association of University Professors, including serving a term as President. Dr. von Minden is well-known for his chili, which he would bring to cookouts and department and college potlucks. For a long time, he enjoyed gardening in his back yard, and often shared his plentiful chile peppers and heirloom tomatoes with his colleagues. In his classes, Dr. von Minden enjoyed including the history of chemistry in his General Chemistry lectures, so students understood the human side of the discipline. He would also try to convince promising students to switch their majors to chemistry, and a few students did switch because of this encouragement. Dr. von Minden reports that he spent more time at UCO than any other job, and he has lived in Edmond longer than he has anywhere else. He plans to remain in Edmond upon retiring, so if you are in the area he would be happy for you to contact him.

Dr. Shuai Zhang Joins Computer Science Faculty

Shuai ZhangDr. Shuai Zhang is a new assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science since Fall 2019, after he obtained his PhD in Computer Science at The University of Texas at Dallas in the same year. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Electronic Information Science and Technology from the University of Science and Technology of China. Before joining UCO, Dr. Zhang worked at Nokia Research Center and Google, in the areas of mobile-device-enabled human-computer interaction and on-device machine learning toolkit development. Dr. Zhang’s research focuses on performance monitoring of large-scale intelligent systems. He has several publications related to semantic-centric data storage and data analysis for fault diagnosis. Currently, he is working on systematic behavior learning for water treatment systems and performance evaluation in dynamic systems using transfer learning techniques. He is looking forward to collaboration in research and service with his colleagues and students.

Sila Tamang, Undergraduate Researcher in Computer Science

Sila Tamang and Grace ParkI came from a background where for computer class, I played Mario games and improved my typing speed. For a person who entered Computer Science thinking HTML was a programming language, I found it difficult in the beginning. Yet, pushing through that class and proceeding onward to the Programming I class acquainted me with Dr. Park. I got into my research with her knowing nothing about how to research and with few programming skills. The project also diverged a lot. We started from professional development for teachers to reaching out to high school students. The purpose of the Code Okie workshop is to reach out to high school students in Oklahoma, especially minorities, females and students from rural areas and low-income families, to help them have exposure to CS and raise their interest in CS. I, along with five other undergraduate students in the Department of Computer Science (CS), have been actively involved in high school outreach with the Code Okie Workshop since 2016 and have taught more than 150 high school students conducting more than 20 workshops and reaching out to more than 20 different high schools in Oklahoma. Through my involvement in the project, I did a co-op program with Google and experienced immense growth in my leadership as well as programming skills. I have been selected as a STLR and RCSA grant recipient, Leaders of the Tomorrow Award recipient, NCWIT- Change leader scholar and had the privilege to attend the NCWIT Summit and Aspiring Technologists and also got to attend the GHC conference in Florida. Being part of the project, not only financially supported my ride through the university but also boosted my job search after graduation. I am grateful to Dr. Park, Computer Science Department, and the STLR program for guidance, support, and funding.

Dr. Benjamin Tayo Joins the Engineering and Physics Faculty

Benjamin TayoDr. Benjamin Tayo joined the faculty in Fall 2019 as an Associate Professor working in the areas of Computational Materials Science and Condensed Matter Physics. He earned his PhD in Computational Material Science from Lehigh University, his M.S. in Condensed Matter Physics from the University of Trieste (Italy), and his B.S. in Physics and Computer Science from the University of Buea in Cameroon. As the only faculty member in the department to have earned degrees on three separate continents, Dr. Tayo brings a wealth of experience to the department. He served previously as a tenured Associate Professor at Pittsburg State University in Kansas where he established an interdisciplinary research program that led to his mentoring of 5 M.S. projects, several undergraduate research projects, 8 refereed journal articles, 22 conference presentations, and 7 invited talks. Dr. Tayo’s computational research will provide collaborative opportunities with faculty in each engineering discipline, while also supporting the college’s Professional Science Master’s program. He has already begun working with several students on undergraduate research projects and senior design projects. We are very excited to have Dr. Tayo as a member of our faculty.

Joseph Dwerlkotte Graduates with Three Degrees

For most students, earning a degree and getting a job is sufficiently challenging to occupy their time. This past December, Joseph Dwerlkotte graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering, a BS in Electrical Engineering, and (if that were not enough) a BS in Engineering Physics. A product of Jones, Oklahoma, Joseph worked with Merik Aston, Josh Branscum, Colten Hutson, and Taylor Stow on a senior design capstone project to design and fabricate an assembly jig for the restoration of vintage Funk B85C Airplanes. He also did undergraduate research work on CAD modeling of a microwave imaging device to safely detect breast cancer. He did a summer internship with DJ Engineering in 2018 and is currently a Systems II Engineer with Boeing here in Oklahoma City.

Other students recently earning more than one degree are Mohamad Keblawi (EE/BME), Abby Magee (EE/BME), Andrew Matli (EE/ME), and Blake Obr (EE/ME). Several of our current students are also working on double degrees. They are in good company.

Mikala Lea, Funeral Service Major, Receives Prestigious Scholarship

Mikala LeaMy name is Mikala Lea and I am a senior in the Funeral Service Department at UCO. This semester I had the honor to receive the Larry Morgan Mortuary Jurisprudence scholarship for having the highest grade in the class for the 2019-2020 academic year. Not only do I feel this shows my prowess in the program, but also how funeral services have pushed me to achieve and contribute more. I joined Sigma in my first semester and have been a part of it ever since. Within Sigma, I am always helping where I can for our different events. Last semester I became the secretary of our group and coordinated our service event for the holidays. We collected donations to fill stockings to hand out to veterans at the Veteran’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. The group overall, along with the help of some local funeral homes, was able to make 40 stockings to give out. I am also on the CMS Student Advisory Council where I am the representative for the department. With this group, we have worked towards implementing a mentorship program in each of the departments to help incoming students feel more comfortable. Along with this, I have helped to begin working on a better notification system for Funeral Service students so that we can inform more students of events and job opportunities going on specific to our field. During my time at UCO, I have been very proud of the achievements of not only myself but the Funeral Service Department as a whole and cannot wait to see what the future holds for us both.