Day: April 1, 2021

Student Highlight- Maggie Ward

My name is Maggie Ward, and I’m currently a third-year chemistry major here at UCO. I graduated from Broken Arrow High School and started my undergraduate education as a forensic science and biology major. However, as I started doing research in inorganic chemistry as a freshman, I soon discovered my love for research. Now, I intend to go to graduate school to get my doctorate in organic or inorganic chemistry.

The current project in my research group centers around using the Evans Method to calculate the number of unpaired electrons in a particular sample. We insert a sealed capillary tube containing a solvent and its deuterated counterpart into an NMR tube containing our complex of interest. The extra solvent tube inside creates a large solvent peak in the 1H-NMR spectrum, and we can calculate the number of unpaired electrons from the distance between the solvent peak and the peak from our sample.

Program Highlight- PSM

Computational Problem Solving: Engineers’ soft skill for the 21st Century

Engineering is defined as the application of math and science to solve problems and engineers are often defined as critical thinkers. Transformational changes in computer technology and extensive use of computers may expand this definition to computational thinkers and computational problem solvers.

The term “computational thinking” was initially associated only with computer scientists, computer engineers, or software engineers. In recent years we saw a paradigm shift. Computational thinking and computational literacy made inroads into all science and engineering disciplines. Integration of computational principles and tools into science and engineering enhances the way of solving complex problems.

So, what actually is computational thinking? Does it mean knowing how to use a computer and the internet? Does it mean knowing a programming language or coding?

Computational thinking is a thought process involved in problem-solving.  It is strategically designing a solution in a form that can be effectively carried out by a computer.

Sorting, searching, clustering, basic mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication can easily be performed by computers in a very short amount of time. The first step in computational problem solving is called algorithm development, which is converting your problem into a suitable form that computers can recognize. Furthermore, it is developing a set of instructions or sequences which can be easily executed by computers.

To program a computer to execute a step-by-step procedure, an algorithm needs to be translated into a machine language that can be read by a computer. Programming or coding can be explained as translating higher-level human language (i.e: English) to a machine language (i.e: Python, C, Java, etc.).  Programming is a fundamental part of computational problem-solving. It needs creativity and the ability to communicate in writing a code that humans can easily read while computers can still properly execute it.

Among the programming languages, Python has clearly come a long way since the 1990s; it now has one of the most crowded developer communities and is the second most used language on GitHub. The availability of specific Python libraries and frameworks make it an easy choice for all kinds of projects in Web development, artificial intelligence, data analysis, and scientific computing.

Many middle and high schools in the U.S. are now teaching Python as part of their curriculum. Engineering schools are looking for ways to incorporate computational thinking and programming in their curriculum. Computational Engineering and Computational Science graduate programs are gaining popularity among students as they have greater potential to better prepare them for 21st Century job market.

The University of Central Oklahoma is leading the way in developing computational science and engineering curriculum by offering the one and only Computational Science and Engineering Professional Science Master’s degree in Oklahoma. Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degrees are the fastest-growing type of master’s degree in the United States. It is partly a technical science master’s degree (think statistics, engineering, or computer science) with communications and business courses added to the mix.

The PSM degree is designed to train the next generation of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professionals for the integrator and technical leadership roles in science-intensive industries.

Student Highlight: Mukesh Tumbapo and Matthew Henry

Two Engineering Physics Master’s Recipients Present Research on Phosphorene and Silicene:

Mukesh Tumbapo and Matthew Henry both completed Master’s degrees in Engineering – Physics last December. Their research was conducted under the direction of UCO Associate Professor Dr. Benjamin Tayo. Ever since the isolation and controlled exploration of the two-dimensional (2D) crystal graphene was made possible (leading to the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010), the scientific community has taken great interest in the possibilities graphene offers for new approaches to DNA sequencing. Despite several major advances, sequencing DNA using graphene has not yet been demonstrated. One of the major hindrances is the hydrophobic nature of graphene’s surface which causes DNA bases to stick to its surface. Matthew and Mukesh have demonstrated, using computational studies, that phosphorene and silicene are promising alternatives to graphene.

Binding energy (in electron-volt) for GNP, PNP, and SNP.

The above figure from their work shows that binding energies of the 4 DNA bases Guanine (G), Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), and Thymine (T) for interaction with graphene nanopore (GNP) are much higher than those for phosphorene nanopore (PNP) and silicene nanopore (SNP). This shows a minimal tendency for bases to stick on phosphorene and silicene, compared to graphene.  Hence the problem of DNA bases sticking to graphene’s surface is not expected for phosphorene and silicone. These results were presented at three national conferences and at two regional conferences, and are also the subject of a manuscript that has been accepted for publication in the journal AIP Advances.

Matthew accepted a position as a Systems Engineer at Boeing, and Mukesh is considering whether to move into the industry or continue his studies in pursuit of a doctorate.

Student Highlight- Jordan Gray

Jordan Gray has been serving as a tutor for the nursing department since January 2020. She states “during my time as a tutor I have enjoyed developing close relationships with the faculty and staff as well as making connections with students. My favorite part about my job is helping students achieve their goals and watching them grow as a student nurse.” Jordan has served in a variety of leadership positions across campus and hopes to continue leading and helping others long after leaving the UCO campus. She is set to graduate in May 2021 and hopes to become an ICU nurse. Tutoring has given her a passion for educating and eventually she hopes to continue her education so she is able to continue to teach new nurses.

Featured Faculty- Steve Smith M.S. Lecturer

Steve is a full-time lecturer in Human Anatomy and has been teaching in various capacities at UCO for over ten years. His Master’s degree is in Biology with a specialization in Human Anatomy. Steve has taught as an assistant for five different human anatomy instructors. He absorbed as much knowledge as possible from each of his mentors (also considered as friends) and tried to incorporate their insight and experience into his concept-based style of teaching. Steve’s instructional methodology is different than his predecessors, in that he employs a “manage by walking around” classroom approach. Steve speaks one-on-one with each student many times during class. Students respond to instruction better when they know an instructor really cares about them and their understanding of the material. The small class sizes at UCO contribute to the efficacy of this approach to teaching.

His ultimate concern while teaching human anatomy is to produce prepared students that are marketable and productive in the medical and funeral service community. Steve is not comfortable sending students to advanced-level medical programs, or funeral homes, without proper exposure to human cadavers and other essential training aids. Students should leave his classroom with an understanding of many Latin terms. Students become proficient with these terms, which aid in locating various structures on human cadavers. Concept-based instruction (instead of rote memorization) helps students construct a thorough understanding of the human body and its component parts.

Steve is the anatomist for the Funeral Service Department, teaching the Introduction to Human Anatomy course required by all funeral service students. He is also an instructor for the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute. He teaches Biological and Forensic Anthropology, specializing in Human Osteology.

Featured Faculty- Dr. Chad King

Dr. Chad King, associate professor of Biology, was recently recognized by the City of Edmond Urban Forestry Commission for his work over the past eight years in research and education about the Cross Timbers forests in Edmond. Edmond Urban Forestry commissioned an educational plaque that is located at E.C. Hafer Park in Edmond, Oklahoma that highlights the research efforts of Dr. King and his students. Dr. King and his students continue to work with the City of Edmond on urban forestry projects and tree preservation of the Cross Timbers ecoregion. Congratulations to Dr. King for this well-deserved honor.

Chad King, Ph.D. is a native of the Great Plains, having been born and raised in Nebraska, living in South Dakota and Missouri before coming to Oklahoma. King earned a B.S. in Biology from Wayne State College, Nebraska; an M.S. in Biology from the University of South Dakota, Vermillion; and a Ph.D. in Forestry from the University of Missouri. King comes from a family of educators including his mom, dad, and sister. His wife, Vicki Jackson, also is an associate professor of biology at UCO.