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.

Health and Life Sciences Career Fair on Tues, Feb 25th in NUC

Health and Life Sciences Career Fair taking place on February 25th, from 10 AM to 1 PM in the Nigh University Center at UCO

UCO students and faculty are welcome to attend our annual Health & Life Sciences Career Fair taking place on Tuesday, February 25th 10am to 1pm in the Nigh University Center (3rd Floor). Students are encouraged to come and network with representatives from graduate programs, Oklahoma clinics, hospitals, and local biotech companies. For the UCO community, the event is free to attend and no registration is required. If your organization would like to participate in the career fair in the future, please contact Dr. Caroline Bentley, cbentley3@uco.edu.

Dr. Bob Brennan Co-PI on a $4 Million NSF EPSCoR grant to investigate the complexity of Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases

Over the next three years Dr. Bob Brennan, Professor and Chair of Biology, along with Dr. Sean Laverty from Mathematics and Statistics and their students will be involved in the generation of disease risk maps, remote sensing, and spatial analysis of ticks and tick-borne disease biodiversity in the Southern Great Plains.  The grant is a collaborative effort between investigators at several institutions in Kansas and Oklahoma (KU, KSU, PSU, OU, OSU, and UCO), with KU serving as the parent institution.

Oklahoma Academy of Science Meets on UCO Campus

OAS Poster Session in STEM BuildingThe 108th Annual Technical Meeting of the Oklahoma Academy of Science was held on the campus of the University of Central Oklahoma on November 8. The meeting was attended by approximately 350 science faculty and university students representing 21 colleges and universities from across the state, making it the largest meeting ever of this organization. During the course of this conference 80 oral presentations and 97 poster presentations were given. Luncheon speaker Dr. John Barthell, UCO Provost, described some of his research experiences with bees and the values of bees to society. Dr. David Bass and Dr. Chad King served as meeting co-coordinators while UCO’s Office of Academic Affairs and the College of Mathematics & Science co-hosted this conference. For information about OAS, check out the Academy’s web site at: http://www.oklahomaacademyofscience.org/.

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.