Category: CMS-Newsletter – Page 2

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

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.


In Fall 2019, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was awarded a grant to run a summer program called GirlsGetMath@UCO, mirroring a well-established program at The Institute for Computational and Experimental Research at Brown University. However, COVID-19 hit, and all summer camps were put on hold. We were hopeful for Summer 2021, but during the planning phase, we found that vaccination rates weren’t at a level high enough to safely run the program. But this time we were able to modify our plans and shift our goals a bit in order to introduce local high school students to math in a way they may not have previously imagined. One way we did this was by creating a summer virtual book club. The book club was facilitated by UCO mathematics education major Amanda Tingler. She met (virtually) with students four Sundays during the summer to discuss the book “Power in Numbers: Rebel Women of Mathematics” by Talithia Williams, Ph.D. During one of the book club meetings, Amanda also held a college Q&A session. In addition to the book club, Amanda and UCO mathematics major Chase Compton began developing interactive, online math modules for high school students. Their work, which is still in progress, can be found here:

Students Conduct Research on UCO’s Mediterranean Geckos

During the early surge of undergraduate research and transformative learning at UCO, we conducted a study of Mediterranean Geckos for which the data were collected by undergraduate students as part of a class project. For six consecutive Spring Semesters (2012-2017) students in General Biology for Majors – Principles (BIO 1204) conducted nightly censuses of Howell Hall, recording the presence of geckos on the walls of the building. Students were responsible for scheduling and conducting censuses, making and printing datasheets, entering and analyzing census data, collecting temperature data, and writing a report every year summarizing the data.

The original goal of the study was to document the date of spring emergence from hibernation. We assumed geckos hibernated during winter, because every other lizard species in Oklahoma hibernates. However, students made an interesting discovery during our study – geckos at UCO are active all winter. Geckos were active on the outside walls of Howell Hall on 343 of 391 censuses (88%), including 13 of 31 censuses (42%) when ambient temperatures were 0oC (freezing) or lower. It seems clear that this activity could not be sustained unless geckos were moving in and out of the building, using heat produced by humans to avoid the metabolic challenges of hibernation.

We recently published a manuscript about the study:
Stone, P. A., H. M. Marinoni, S. Laverty, and A. M. Fenwick. 2021. Winter activity in a northern population of Mediterranean Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). Herpetological Conservation and Biology 16:405-411.

Students were enthusiastic about the project, especially censusing geckos. A total of 193 students participated, and eventually, one determined student, Hillary Marinoni, spearheaded the effort to publish.

Welcome Mr. Chi San (Derrick) Lau

Mr. Chi San (Derrick) Lau joined the computer science (CS) faculty as a visiting instructor in fall 2021.  Mr. Lau holds an MS in Computer Science degree from UCO.  While studying at UCO, Mr. Lau completed the first graduate thesis of the MS in Computer Science program under the supervision of Dr. Jicheng Fu.  His research focuses on applying deep-learning techniques to the area of artificial intelligence planning.  Mr. Lau will teach at UCO for one year.  In the fall, Mr. Lau teaches several lower-division programming classes and labs.  Using this opportunity, we would like to welcome Mr. Lau to the CS faculty.