Day: October 18, 2022

Mathematics and Statistics Department

The newly created (joint with the Department of Computer Science) Master’s degree program in Data Science started in January 2022 and is already a rapidly expanding program with 16 accepted students and multiple new applications arriving every week.

In order to develop a supportive and welcoming community for mathematics educators at all levels in the metropolitan area, UCO is host to the Central Oklahoma Math Teachers’ Circle meetings. This diverse community of teachers and mathematicians meet four times during the academic year where they participate in collaborative problem-solving activities. By inspiring teachers to discover the joy of solving mathematics problems and by cultivating their confidence to engage in open-ended math problems, teachers become better equipped to incorporate more student-centered, discovery-based pedagogies into their classrooms.

Funeral Service Department

Funeral practices in Latin America are truly different than what we are accustomed to in North America.  Most families prefer to have their visitation and service and disposition within 24 hours of the death.  Most families choose to bury rather than cremate. Most cemetery plots are rented for 7 years and then the bones are reclaimed and placed in a communal ossuary. Most firms are open 24 hours a day to serve their community.

What is remarkable about all of these funeral professionals is that there is no formal education for any of their practices.  There are no mortuary programs, no training in embalming, no college program to learn how to run a funeral business.  They learn from others, they acquire skills on the job, they seek out any kind of training available to advance their knowledge.

ALPAR – Latin American Association of Cemeteries and Funeral Services– has devoted their organizational efforts to provide training for member firms all over the continent.  Glenda Stansbury, adjunct instructor in the UCO Funeral Service Department and founder and trainer for Certified Funeral Celebrants with the InSight Institute, returned to Bogota, Colombia in August of this year to conduct the second Celebrant Training co-sponsored by ALPAR and ICCFA (International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association).  This training was actually scheduled for March, 2020, but, of course, those plans had to be significantly postponed, so everyone was relieved that it was finally safe to hold the event.

Thirty-four participants from nine countries gathered for a 5-day experience of creating unique ceremonies for their families.  To overcome the language barrier, 2 sets of translators sat in a soundproof booth at the back of the room translating the presentations into Spanish and Portuguese and the participants patiently sat with headphones to understand the resources and information that were being offered.  Even though the cultures and mores and traditions are vastly diverse, everyone bonded through understanding the universal language of serving families during the most difficult days of their lives and celebrated their success at the end of the training.

Computer Science Department

A new undergraduate Certificate in Cybersecurity program is being offered starting Fall 2022. The new cybersecurity certificate program offers excellent opportunities for students interested in joining the cybersecurity workforce. This program aims to prepare students to become well-rounded cybersecurity specialists, not only with must-have technical skills required for securing software, systems, and networks but also with in-depth knowledge and core practices in incident responses and cyber operations. Students will learn to conduct their roles with an ethical responsibility specific to their work environments, become proficient at communicating with people at different levels in an organization, and engage in continuous education to deal with new threats and vulnerabilities evolved with technological advances.  Students can pursue the certificate independently or jointly with a B.S in Computer Science or B.S. in Software Engineering degree with only a few additional credit hours. Multiple courses were designed to help students prepare for industry-leading Computing Technology Industry Association certificates as a partner of CompTIA.

The program is supported by a group of five core faculty members with years of academic and industrial experience in cybersecurity. Dr. John Rhee, the director of the cybersecurity program, has more than nine years of experience in an industry research lab in addition to his Ph.D. study at Purdue University, which is well known for its strong cybersecurity program, CERIAS. Dr. Rhee and faculty members cordially invite and welcome prospective students and other stakeholders of cybersecurity to join the program to become cybersecurity leaders, obtain a high-quality education, conduct exciting research, and prepare for future opportunities in a robust cybersecurity workforce.

Biology Department

The Biology Department has had a great start to the year.  We’ve had new faculty members join the department and we are so lucky to have them! They include Dr. Justin Agan. He teaches Bio for Majors: Diversity & Life Sciences Lab. Dr. Ashley Mattison teaches Bio for Majors: Principals, General Biology, and Intro to Micro and lab. Dr. Richard Dolman teaches a Life Sciences Lab & Human Physiology lecture and lab and is also Physiology lab coordinator. Randee Marble M.S. teaches Mammalian Physiology I, Cell Biology and Lab, and she’s the Cell Bio Lab’s coordinator.  Come by and say hello to them all.

We are revising the Biology: Biomedical Sciences degree and developing new courses for the Spring 2023 semester. Look for Pathogenic Microbiology and Advanced Human Anatomy and Dissection next semester and more for the Fall 2023 semester. We are also excited for the final approval for a new Ecology and Conservation Biology degree that could be in the 2023-2024 course catalog.

GRANTS, GRANTS, GRANTS!

A number of UCO faculty were recently awarded a $1,187,961, six-year grant from the National Science Foundation as part of its Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. This project titled “Master Teachers Conducting STEM Practices and Action Research” will create a new partnership among the University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Public Schools, and the Central Oklahoma STEM Alliance to serve the national need of developing highly effective biology and mathematics teacher leaders in secondary education in Oklahoma.

The Noyce program supports talented STEM undergraduate majors and professionals to become effective K-12 STEM teachers and experienced, K-12 teachers to become STEM master teachers in high-need school districts. Fourteen central Oklahoma high school biology and math teachers will become Master Teaching Fellows. They will conduct STEM research and educational action research, do leadership training, and continue professional development and community building with each other while teaching in high-need schools. The program will orient these teachers to effectively support and mentor other teachers, especially those with emergency and alternative certifications.

Program organizers include UCO’s: Allyson Fenwick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology; Liz Lane-Harvard, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics; Elizabeth Allan, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology, and Mike Nelson, Ph.D., Professor and Assistant Dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. The program evaluator is Cynthia Murray, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. Additional UCO faculty are senior personnel on the project and will mentor Fellows.

Dr. Ben Tayo, Associate Professor of Engineering & Physics was awarded a National Institutes of Health, R-15 grant. The grant, a three-year, $425,928 research grant will bring deeper insights on a new class of materials for DNA detection. The ability to detect and discriminate DNA bases by reading it directly using simple and cost-effective methods is an important problem whose solution can produce value for areas such as cancer and human genetic disorder research. Despite progress in sequencing techniques, there are still several challenges to be overcome. Because of the challenges, the need for cheaper and faster approaches for automated sequencing is crucial. This research will employ high-performance computing and machine learning resources to investigate the potential of several two-dimensional crystalline materials for DNA sequencing. The knowledge gained from this research will provide deeper insights that will help guide the integration of these materials as active components of electronic devices for fast, direct-read, and affordable DNA sequencing. This award will strengthen the research environment at the University of Central Oklahoma and engage students in computational research.

Dr. Emily Hendryx from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was awarded a three-year, $410,515 grant from the National Institute of Health. Titled “Summarizing Cardiac Data: An Automated Approach for Identifying Representative Heartbeats in the Clinical Setting,” this project involves a collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital to use applied mathematics and data science in removing noise and summarizing pediatric electrocardiogram data recorded at hospital bedsides. This project will provide a way to present a representation of a patient’s recent cardiac health history to clinicians and deliver clinical decision support toward improving patient outcomes. Co-advised by Dr. Tyler Cook from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, this project will also offer undergraduate students an opportunity to participate in innovative interdisciplinary research.

Dr. John Rhee from the Department of Computer Science received a $87,873 grant from Sandia National Laboratories as part of his effort to build better cybersecurity services for cloud-based software systems. Once completed, the tools developed in his project titled “TelScope: Discovering Blind Spots of Telemetry Diagnosability” will be used to reveal gaps between telemetry requirements and implemented telemetry collection for cloud services.

Dr. Morshed Khandaker from the Department of Engineering and Physics received an Oklahoma Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grant for his project “Anti Corrosion Behavior of Mg and Zn nanoparticle incorporated nanofiber membrane.” This $5,000 award will be used to evaluate the structural efficacy of magnesium- and zinc-loaded nanofiber membrane coating on steel in reinforced concrete.

Fulbright Scholars 2022

The College of Mathematics and Science (CMS) hosted four Iraqi Fulbright scholars in Summer 2022 as part of the prestigious Fulbright Visiting Scholar for Iraq program sponsored by the United States Department of State.

During the 10-week program, the scholars participated in professional development workshops, mentoring, cultural activities, and research. Seven CMS faculty members from the departments of Biology and Computer Science served as teaching or research mentors to the scholars, engaging in thoughtful discussions about teaching pedagogy and advising interesting research projects that the scholars continue to work on from Iraq.

Iraqi Culture Night, hosted by the scholars in their final week on campus, was a fun opportunity to learn about the history and different geographic regions of Iraq, try traditional Iraqi dances, and eat delicious Middle Eastern food. The scholars also thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in American culture; highlights for them were a trip to the rodeo, driving historic Route 66, visiting many museums, eating lots of delicious ice cream flavors, and being welcomed into the homes of several different families.

The CMS and broader UCO community made the scholars feel so welcome that they talk about UCO as their “American home” and the people here as their “family”. It was a very successful program, and CMS looks forward to hosting another group of scholars in Summer 2023!