Month: September 2021

First Nursing Broncho Blueprint

The Department of Nursing is featuring its first Broncho Blueprint class in Fall 2021. “Broncho Blueprint in the Office of Undergraduate Studies at UCO provides an early exposure, discipline-based learning experience that gives incoming UCO students professional and personal skills to advance in career readiness and transformative learning so they can be productive, creative, ethical, and engaged citizens.” Twenty-five freshman students interested in pursuing the nursing profession enrolled in this Block 1 course to investigate the scope of the discipline and experience some hands-on applications.  Students met virtually with a nursing panel that included UCO nursing faculty to discuss the wide range of career opportunities available and to share their personal pathways. As seen in the picture, the freshmen students visited the STEM lab and, assisted by faculty volunteers, engaged in dressing changes, nasopharyngeal suctioning, and performing IM injections on the mannikins. They also were introduced to the Sim Man by the Lab Manager Diane Gaston, who gave them a wink and a groan (the mannikin not Diane). The Nursing Department looks forward to participating in the Broncho Blueprint in the coming semesters and assisting UCO freshman students in their decision of pursuing nursing as a profession.

Fall Update from the Dean

Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,

I am excited to be writing this letter in my new role as Dean of the College of Mathematics and Science.  This past summer the “Interim” was removed from my title.  Likewise, Dr. Bob Brennan, who served this past year in an interim role, is now the Associate Dean.  We also recently welcomed two new members of our Dean’s Office team: Dr. John Walkup, our Director of Sponsored Programs, and Mary Matlock, our Development Officer.  Dr. Walkup has a doctorate in Physics and has extensive grant-writing experience. Mary comes to us with years of leadership experience in development and annual giving at several higher ed institutions, where she had great success with fundraising.

When I wrote my letter last year at this time, I said that our challenge over this past year was to maintain a sense of normalcy as much as possible during the pandemic and maintain our values and our commitment to academic excellence, transformative learning, and student success.  I used the analogy of a crater I had just hiked through on the Big Island of Hawaii to represent our challenging landscape, but I said that I was certain we were going to adapt, grow, succeed, and thrive, like the plants that are able to become established on the harsh lava and ash landscapes of the Big Island.  As I reflect on the past year, I know I was right.  The awards our outstanding faculty received at the August convocation demonstrate the many ways we contributed to academic excellence, transformative learning, and student success, and engaged with our community:

  • Britney Hopkins from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was a recipient of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award. This is notable because this is the third year in a row that a mathematician has received this prestigious university-wide award!
  • The Vanderford Award for Undergraduate Research went to Dr. Nikki Seagraves from the Department of Biology. It was two of Dr. Seagraves’ students who were selected to present their research at the CUR Posters on the Hill last year.
  • The Vanderford Engagement Award went to Dr. Kathy Smith from the Department of Nursing, and the Citizens Bank Leadership and Civic Engagement Award went to Dr. Pam Rollins, also from the Department of Nursing. These awards recognized their engagement of nursing students in flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics as well as their contributions to the community.
  • The Masonic Endowment for Transformative Learning Award was given to Dr. Carrie Bentley from the Department of Biology for her work helping our pre-health professions students develop their cultural competency – to understand, respect, and better be able to help the diverse types of people they will encounter as a health professional.
  • Robi Hossan from the Department of Engineering & Physics received a Merit Credit Award for Research.
  • And at our CMS Back-to-School Meeting, Dr. Amanda Waters from the Department of Chemistry received the CMS Vanderford Teaching Award.

There were other noteworthy accomplishments last year.  We responded to workforce needs by developing a new Computer Engineering program (a joint program between Engineering & Physics and Computer Science), an Environmental Chemistry degree, thirteen pathways for students to earn an accelerated professional science master’s degree in Computational Science, and a Fast Track in Nursing for students who have earned a B.S. in a non-nursing major.  The Computer Science and Funeral Service departments added more interactive video courses to accommodate working and remote students. The Department of Chemistry received about $800,000 from the estate of Dr. von Minden for an Instrumentation Fund that will allow our students to be better prepared for the workforce, especially with skills for jobs in Quality Assurance/Quality Control.  Our lab and field research continued, and our faculty and students produced many publications, gave many research presentations, and submitted 40 external grant proposals.  We were able to hold some programs this past summer that were not held last year because of the pandemic.  Several faculty-mentored incoming students in our Summer Bridge Program and the Department of Engineering & Physics held a STEM Summer Academy.

We contributed much service to our community and our professions.  First and foremost, the Nursing faculty and students organized COVID-19 vaccine clinics for our community, and they are continuing to do so this fall.  Our faculty held leadership positions in national organizations; one example is Dr. Beth Allan from the Department of Biology, who served as the President of the National Science Teachers Association. And although many events were canceled, we were able to host some events such as the Oklahoma Native Plant Society’s Wildflower Weekend at the Selman Living Lab this summer.

This year, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education is focusing on workforce development in Nursing and Engineering, and they have allocated funds provided by the legislature to support these initiatives at universities including UCO.  The Engineering & Physics and Nursing departments are developing proposals for the use of these funds, which should increase recruitment, retention, and graduation in these areas.   An interdisciplinary team of CMS faculty and staff is seeking funding for a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) van or bus to transport faculty, students, and materials and equipment to area schools to engage students in STEAM activities.  We are offering our first Broncho Blueprint courses, which are first-year experiences that immerse students in their chosen discipline, introduce them to career opportunities, and help them develop professional skills. We have remained an energetic and innovative college despite the pandemic!

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I thank you for your continued confidence in and support of our college.

Gloria Caddell, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Mathematics and Science

Get to know Dr. Timothy Dwyer

The summer of 2020 was unique for all of us. Mine was no different. Things were shutting down everywhere. Reports of sickness and death ran through all the news platforms constantly. We did not know what to believe, what was accurate, or the true sense of urgency that we all know so well now.  I was a single dad with two kids at home, nowhere to be, and all day to get there. The dishes and the laundry were never done. We had no idea what to expect or what the end result of all the chaos would be. I was also embarking on a new career after having worked the same job for eighteen years with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. On top of that, I was able to do something for the first time in almost twenty years: sleep. Not knowing any different having worked on-call in the death care industry for so long, it was mind-blowing to think that when I laid down at night, I was going to wake up in that same spot at some point the following morning. Do not get me wrong, I loved my old job. There are some nice folks along the Red River in towns like Durant, but I sure did not miss making trips to work with them at three o’clock in the morning.

Fast forward twelve months and all of a sudden, I had my first academic year under my belt. It seems as though I just blinked and the world kept turning. After being so accustomed to a profession and career for so long, I was the new kid on the block again. I made a few mistakes those first two semesters and sure acknowledged the fact that I still had a lot to learn in higher education. That being said, it was just like my colleagues told me; that first semester would be the toughest. All of the classes in the funeral service department and my Medicolegal class at the FSI had previously been taught by more than capable professors. I had shells of classes that were like well-oiled machines.  All I needed to do was compile material, make them my own, and get organized.

My classes “caught” me about week three that first semester. I was terrified. Having taught as an adjunct and having been an instructor for various law enforcement academies across the state for years, I was not used to having to outline something for sixteen weeks.  I knew my pace as well as I could predict a coin flip.  Fall of 2020 I felt as though I was staying a chapter or two ahead of the students.  I constantly had to remind myself that this material was all completely new to them, I had been doing it for years in the real world, and that things would work out just like all my colleagues kept telling me.  I had a wealth of support from staff both in Coyner and at the FSI.  With the lack of a fall break and some long evenings compiling PowerPoints, around mid-November I realized I was going to make it.  The semester eventually ended, I logged off my last Zoom class for the year, and I was in the books.

My second semester was in the spring of 2021 and what followed after that was like another world.  I had somewhat of an idea of what to expect, plenty of mistakes and mishaps to learn from, and the continued support of those around me at the University. The material had been compiled and now I just needed to tweak it, make it better, and the student body was the only thing making dramatic changes. I had new faces, attitudes, and expectations to meet. I was starting to have fun and stress was falling off of me like leaves off an oak tree in autumn. What happened next was the hardest part to wrap my head around; I was going to have a “summer break” for the first time since the late ’90s!  Granted this time I had a mortgage and some added responsibility in the form of offspring, but after having worked nights/holidays/weekends for over two decades, I literally did not know what I was going to do with myself.

The kids and I quickly made up for the lost time. Everyone had fun but the bluegills. Between fishing, camping, and cannonballs into the pool, we were living our best life.  We began to almost support the ice cream industry single-handedly. The trampoline in the backyard quickly became the best financial investment I had ever made. If you factored usage into the overall cost, I was down to about $0.0023 per bounce. Dad wasn’t exhausted anymore and could commit to being around for more than just chance happenings when his phone wasn’t ringing. I realized before the end of May that I could get used to this routine.

Another transition formulated in me getting back into the funeral industry a bit. Having been on the investigative side of things for so long, I had some rust to knock off with the service side. Always have enjoyed working with the families, it was a transition not nearly as difficult as making the career change into academia. The funeral home I had worked for when I was an undergrad up in Stillwater all those years ago did not even exist anymore, yet the job itself had not really changed. I started working the occasional funeral with a friend of mine from Seminole who had recently opened his own business. Once catch-phrase so often used in this profession is “hurry up and wait.” Being punctual and planning ahead for various scenarios where you have to think on your feet was something I was used to, but the pressure is different when you have a chapel full of people waiting for something.  Still, I found the work enjoyable. The challenges coupled with the rewards and I was starting to enjoy every element of my life for the first time in years. Between the faculty support at UCO and the comradery of the death-care industry, I look forward now to what is hopefully a career that takes me all the way to retirement.

Summertime Interactive Video Human Anatomy

I was recently assigned the task of developing the summer Funeral Service Anatomy course into one that would reduce lab attendance to one full week and supplement lab time with interactive video and online modules. This was to continue to expand the Funeral Service Department distance course offerings to accommodate more of our commuting and out-of-state students. The last time I checked, most of our students do not have cadavers at home or stainless tanks in which to keep them. So, creating meaningful training and experiences in cadaver dissections for students from the comfortable confines of their second-floor apartment was a challenging task.  Due to social distancing requirements, it was recommended that students’ homes be spaced no closer than three city blocks of each other when studying together online.  I’m kidding of course, but we did have to take into consideration the rules and regulations that accompany cadaver-based instruction.

When Dr. John Fritch came to me and asked me to develop an interactive video version of the dissection anatomy course, I became as interested as he was to see if that could be done. The requirements for the class were as follows:

  • Must include an in-lab component of not less than one week
  • Incorporate a genuine cadaver experience
  • Be designed for online testing, both quizzes, and exams
  • Account for in-class and online learners
  • Introduce students to dissection tools and how to use them
  • Maintain excellent anatomy instruction in preparation for impending board exams
  • Complete the course preparation and be ready in 16 weeks

We wanted to offer the course for the summer session so preparation started in the spring.   My class load during the spring was already extensive since I also instruct courses in Biology and Forensic Science in addition to Funeral Service.  I needed help if there was any chance of having a completed course ready to go for the summer semester. Thankfully I turned to students enrolled in individual study courses with me seeking more immersive and research experiences. One of these students had been assisting me for multiple semesters and was very familiar with my teaching goals and exam style. These students worked well together and were able to assist me in accomplishing this goal in a short time frame.

Lectures in my anatomy class include a lot of drawing of diagrams and me doing my best to verbally help students learn all about the structures of the human body. With students both in-class and online, technology has to accommodate both worlds. To accomplish this, the classroom I teach in includes a desktop monitor that allows me to create digital drawings in real-time. In other words, the students that are with me in the classroom can see what I am drawing (or attempting to draw) on a large, bright monitor. Online students can see the same drawings on their home computer monitor through the use of Zoom. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that application, Zoom allows live video and audio between devices. I can see the online students and they can see me and my drawings. Zoom also allows the students to see which of the other students are online. This allows us all to interact and students to ask questions in real-time.

The Funeral Service anatomy class includes four exams and eight quizzes. The exams are spaced out equally, so students have an exam every two weeks in the 8-week summer session or every four weeks during spring/fall 16-week semesters. The summer course has the same content as the regular 16-week semester course, just at an accelerated pace. There are two quizzes during each exam period. The quizzes are designed to tie up any loose ends on anatomy material that needs to be covered. With the help of my student assistants, we were able to create the online exam material to match the course outline and each of the four dissection guides in time for the class to go live by the summer session. To create an online anatomy exam, there had to be cadaver questions and anatomical knowledge questions. Creating cadaver-focused questions was the challenge, as there cannot be pictures used that include ANY type of identifying marks (tattoos, birthmarks, etc.), facial features, or genitalia. On some cadavers, that does not leave much to photograph (on the outer surface). To get around the photo issues, students have available an anatomy atlas that includes brilliant cadaver photos of each body area. Online students are tested directly from the atlas photos. The photos are incorporated into D2L Assessment Quizzes.

There was a happy ending to the story, as the course was completed in time to go live this past summer semester. I believe the course succeeded in offering the students the opportunity to have the physical experiences that traditional course attendees get given the campus attendance requirement and then we were able to build on that experience with the additional supplements online for the remainder of the summer semester. Even though they did not spend the entire summer semester in the lab doing dissections, there were skills developed to aid in the understanding and retention of the course materials. Teaching to names on a Zoom screen may not be every instructor’s cup of tea, but once accustomed to the technology, teaching skills can be revised (or relearned) to press all the right buttons.

The Department of Engineering and Physics Holds Annual Engineering Workshop Academy

Media Contact: Chloe Hrdlicka, Marketing and Development Coordinator, UCO College of Mathematics and Sciences, 405-597-2740, chrdlicka@uco.eduhand fixing circuit board

The Department of Engineering and Physics Holds Annual Engineering Workshop Academy

From June 7th-18th 2021, the Department of Engineering and Physics in the College of Mathematics and Sciences held the 5th annual Engineering Workshop Academy. Dr. Ait moussa and Dr. Alsbou gathered 30 middle school students from central Oklahoma together to learn basic engineering skills.

Dr. Ait moussa and Dr. Alsbou teach the 8th, 9th and 10th-grade students how to use a program to build a bridge modeled electronically before they complete the paper and wood version, which is then tested to see if it performs how it was intended. The students also learn how to maximize profit with excel, learn how to work with circuits and 3D printers, have exposure to Engineering 3-D modeling programs. This group of 30 students participated in different contests throughout the week to test their new skills.

The academy is set up to communicate to the students that “the only difference between where you are and where you want to be is the steps you haven’t taken yet” (Dawson, 2021:online). students building wooden bridges

Ait moussa hires five graduate students to help teach alongside the professors. The program is sponsored by an annual grant from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education which allows the students to attend at no cost. The first graduating class of engineering program students began college last fall, and we have four of those students attending UCO.

For more information about the Engineering Workshop academy, contact Abdellah Ait Moussa Ph.D.

For more information about the Department of Engineering and Physics, visit


Cutline: University of Central Oklahoma Department of Engineering and Physics welcomes Oklahoma middle school students to partake in Engineering Workshop Academy.

Portable Intelligent Driver’s Health Monitoring System for Safety on the Road

This past year, Dr. Nesreen Alsbou, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was awarded U.S. Patent No. 10,912,509 titled “Portable Intelligent Driver’s Health Monitoring System for Safety on the Road.” Dr. Alsbou is the Electrical Engineering Program Coordinator and Director of UCO’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) Laboratory.

The majority of traffic accidents that involve commercial trucks result from factors related to the driver’s behavior and health.  These may include fatigue, attention deficit, health issues, or simply poor driving habits. Systems currently exist that warn drivers when they are exhibiting potentially hazardous behaviors such as lane departures or imminent collisions. While these smart technologies are more widely available in newer automobiles, commercial trucks generally do not use them or have minimal technology for that purpose. When warning systems are available, they only alert the driver of the errant vehicle.

Dr. Alsbou’s driver alert system, while originally developed for commercial trucking, is portable and adjustable to fit any vehicle, including a passenger car. It monitors a driver’s attention, health, and operating behavior and provides notifications to the driver about potential problems. What makes it unique is that it also has the capability of notifying surrounding vehicles when a vehicle operates abnormally.

Students worked with Dr. Alsbou in her IoT lab on multiple projects in the area of smart vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle communication, and safety on the road through STLR, RCSA, and Senior Design. Students include Michael Nolan, Giang Dao, Skyler Moore, Mohamed Afify, Michael Van Der Veldt, Amjad Barghouthi, Mohamed Keblawi, and others. Students presented their work in local, regional, national, and international engineering conferences. Dr. Alsbou encouraged and supported her senior design student Erin Drewke to be in a team with business and marketing students to develop a business plan and submit it for the Love’s Entrepreneurs Cup Businesses Plan Competition in Spring 2020.

This was the first patent awarded to the IoT Laboratory. Dr. Alsbou continues to work with students, local companies, and hospitals on projects. Her work is focused on the Internet of Things, Smart Vehicles, Smart Homes, and Smart Devices. She recently filed a second patent application, currently under review, related to an intelligent device that gives caregivers real-time feedback when providing CPR.