Category: CMS-Newsletter – Page 3

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.

Thomas Dunn Undergraduate Researcher in Mathematics

Thomas Dunn with research poster.Thomas Dunn is a sophomore at the University of Central Oklahoma majoring in mathematics. He started working on research with Dr. Tyler Cook and Dr. Emily Hendryx in the spring semester of his freshman year. Interested in applications of deep learning, Thomas has been rapidly learning the Python coding language to put these methods into practice. During his sophomore year, Thomas has been particularly focused on using autoencoders to differentiate between normal and anomalous electrocardiogram (ECG) beats. ECG data can provide a wealth of information to physicians about the health of a patient. However, even experienced clinicians may struggle to distinguish normal from anomalous ECGs in cases when the differences are subtle or distributed over long periods of time. Thomas’s autoencoder model takes steps toward developing an initial screening tool for ECG beats. An autoencoder (AE) is a machine learning model which learns to compress input data into a low dimensional vector representation and then reconstruct an approximation. The goal for such a model is to learn to reconstruct the input data as well as possible, which requires learning an effective representation for the data. An AE trained to reconstruct one class of data (normal ECG beats) will have a high error when trying to reconstruct data from another class (anomalous beats). His model uses reconstruction error to discriminate between different beat types which can then be assessed by a clinician or further classified using additional models. He investigates whether AE-based anomaly detection methods are viable tools in application to real ECG data, comparing the performance of the autoencoder against traditional classification methods. Thomas presented his results at this year’s Oklahoma Research Day at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He also hopes to continue his research on deep learning by exploring the use of generative adversarial networks for 3D image generation.

From the Desk of the Dean

Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the Dean’s Office. I hope you had a great summer.

We have completed a successful academic year. Thanks to the efforts of our faculty and staff, we produced another large group of graduates for the much-needed STEM Workforce in Oklahoma and in the country.

We started our 2019-2020 academic year last month. The faculty and staff are excited about and look forward to our new year as we will continue our tradition of providing an excellent learning environment for our students.

Of course, I would like to brag about our faculty and staff. Their accomplishments are so amazing and so numerous, but I can provide only a few examples within a limited space.

1. Dr. Beth Allan of the Department of Biology was elected as the President-Elect for the National Science Teachers Association, the largest professional organization promoting excellence in science teaching and learning.

2. Dr. Wayne Lord of FSI and the Department of Biology received the 2019 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching Award, the highest college teaching award in Oklahoma.

3. Dr. Morshed Khandaker of the Department of Engineering and Physics was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and is taking a sabbatical to conduct research at Uludag University, Turkey, for the 2019-2020 academic year.

4. Dr. Kristi Karber of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics received the Oklahoma/Arkansas Mathematical Association of America Section 2019 Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics.

5. Dr. Jim Bidlack of the Department of Biology was recognized by Multimedia Educational Resource for Online Teaching (MERLOT) for his contributions to the organization’s Biology Editorial Board with the MERLOT House Cup.

6. Dr. Leann Laubach of the Department of Nursing was elected as a National Council on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) Councilor.

7. Dr. Eric Eitrheim of the Department of Chemistry was selected for the first cohort of IONiC VIPER fellows, which is a grant-funded program to help faculty become better teachers and develop new teaching resources for Inorganic Chemistry.

8. Dr. John Fritch of the Department of Funeral Service served as President of the University Mortuary Science Education Association.

9. Dr. Tom Turner of the Department of Computer Science served as a Commissioner for the ABET Computing Accreditation Commission.

Our faculty also won many accolades at UCO during the Convocation last month including:
Two recipients of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award: Dr. Britt Bannish of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Professor Nelda Fister of the Department of Nursing. That is a record in the history of the Neely Excellence in Teaching Award – both Neely Awards given to faculty in the same college.

Two recipients of the Faculty Merit Credit Award in the area of Research: Dr. Robi Hossan and Dr. Morshed Khandaker, both from the Department of Engineering and Physics.

Dr. Britt Bannish of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics also received the CMS Vanderford Teaching Award.

We also have a recipient of the Exceptional Performance Award: Tara Simmons, the Director of Development at the UCO Foundation and CMS. She has done a great job in raising over $1.2 M for our college last year.

I would like to ask you to join me to celebrate and congratulate these and many other not-mentioned faculty and staff for their achievements. I cannot be prouder to work everyday with such wonderful colleagues in our college.

I would like to let you know that our new, 57,000 square-foot, Donald Betz STEM Research and Learning Center opened its doors last November. The faculty and students thoroughly enjoy the interdisciplinary teaching and research facility. I myself now have a new research lab space in this building so that I enjoy some “stolen moments” from my busy schedule to work in the lab. If you have not visited our new STEM Building, please do so. It has quickly become a landmark in UCO and Edmond.

Looking forward, we are still facing challenges. Working with the department chairs, we have set up our priorities for the next several years:
Increase recruitment, retention, and graduation
Enhance capacity through fundraising

With the efforts of all faculty and staff in these critical areas, we are confident that we will prevail and succeed to fulfill our mission as the only Oklahoma Metropolitan University and become the STEM powerhouse for Oklahoma.

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and students, I would like to thank you all for your continued confidence in and support of our college. I would like to let you know that we are doing our best to make all our alumni, friends, and supporters proud!

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

CHEM Updates

Like many departments across campus, the Chemistry Department has a long history of faculty who take pride in and devote a great amount of time to their work with students in the classroom. Over the past year, a number of faculty in the Department spent time learning how to improve their teaching through book groups, workshops, and other learning opportunities. Eric Eitrheim was named a VIPEr Fellow in an innovative National Science Foundation-funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course. As one of the first twenty faculty selected for this ground-breaking project, Eric Eitrheim joins other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. A number of faculty from the Department participated in events sponsored by UCO’s Center for Excellence in Transformative Teaching & Learning 21st Century Pedagogy Institute (CETTL 21CPI). 21CPI exposes faculty to ideas related to course design, active learning strategies, learning assessment, learning environment, and academic professionalism. In addition, faculty can learn about and begin projects in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Through participation in activities, evidence of adopting practices, and reflections on the impact of these new practices, faculty can earn various levels of recognition. Four Chemistry faculty members (Dallas New, Sanjeewa Gamagedara, Shawna Ellis, and Stephanie Skiles) were recognized as SoTL Research Participants. Two Chemistry faculty members (Luis Montes and Shawna Ellis) were recognized as 2019 Teacher-Scholars, and four Chemistry faculty members (Amanda Waters, Eric Eitrheim, Sanjeewa Gamagedara, and Stephanie Skiles) were recognized as 2019 Distinguished Teacher-Scholars. In addition to these recognitions, two Chemistry faculty members (Cheryl Frech and Luis Montes) who have previously been recognized with UCO’s Neely Excellence in Teaching awards, were invited to contribute to a book with reflections by Neely award winners. Cheryl’s reflection “A Long and Winding Road: A Teaching Journey”, and Luis’ reflection “Take the Next Step: Opportunities for Growth”, are now included in the book Inspired Learning: 50 Insights from Personal Transformative Learning Journeys.

Cody Wilkerson, Nursing Graduate Student

Cody Wilkerson graduated from UCO with his bachelor’s in nursing in May 2017. During that time he served as a tutor for the department. He states “I developed a passion for pediatrics very early on in nursing school so I took a full time job on the Pediatric Surgical Unit at The Children’s Hospital after graduation and have worked there since.”

Cody returned to UCO and was accepted into the Master’s of Nursing program to pursue his passion for nursing education in Fall 2018. He is scheduled to graduate in May 2020. Currently, Cody works as an adjunct in the nursing department in pediatric clinical as well as Foundation lab/clinical. “I’m so excited to start teaching for UCO as adjunct clinical faculty and I hope I can make an impact on the future of nursing through education!”

Recently Cody received accolades from the Safe Sleep Work Group for the Oklahoma Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative for the OKC/Tulsa area for his work on his safe sleep project that has been implemented at Children’s Hospital.
Welcome Cody! We are proud of you!

Joel Erickson, Computer Science Undergraduate Researcher

Joel Erickson is a recent graduate of UCO with a computer science major. During his undergraduate studies, Joel became interested in applying his computer science knowledge to financial trading. He created a trading infrastructure on his own, which incorporated a number of algorithmic and parameterized trading strategies.

In the summer and fall 2019 semesters, Joel started a project that used machine learning (ML) techniques to enhance trading strategies, with Dr. Gang Qian serving as his advisor. In the research project, Joel compared the effectiveness of various features derived from the price series of trading. His system also considered the uniqueness of financial data, which have distinctive characteristics such as time-dependencies compared to those of a typical machine learning application.

The result of his research showed that, by appropriately incorporating ML techniques, it was possible for a computerized trading system to maintain consistent profitability even in a declining market. The research also shows that the application of ML algorithms and techniques to financial trading is a promising direction in ML research due to its uniqueness. His results were presented as a research poster at the 2019 Oklahoma Research Day.

Department of Funeral Service Welcomes New Professor

The Department of Funeral Service is excited to introduce our newest faculty member, Eric Kroier, JD/MBA. Eric is a licensed funeral director/embalmer, and graduate of the UCO Funeral Service department. After finishing his funeral service degree, he continued his education at the University of Oklahoma earning both a JD and MBA. In addition to his academic and legal accomplishments, Eric has experience as a funeral home owner and manager. He brings a diverse background that will translate into a very effective member of our faculty. We are excited that Eric returned to campus this fall as a full-time professor. Welcome aboard!