Author: Schools of Nursing and Engineering Join Together For New Center

A young man using a student-design wheelchair.

The University of Connecticut’s Nursing and Engineering Innovation Center, one of the first of its kind in the nation, will advance health care, workforce, and economic development through interdisciplinary collaborations, positioning Connecticut to be a global leader in health care technology innovation.

Nurses interact with patients daily and see where there are gaps in care. Nurses are also taught to be problem solvers, adapting as necessary to fix unique health issues. Engineers are technically trained and up to date on the latest technology. Engineers typically also thrive in creating new devices to improve the quality-of-life for end users.

Read more on UConn Today.

Author: Advancing Engineering Education Through Students and Industry

By Claire Tremont, SoE Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

Students of all backgrounds, ages and industries can discover possibilities and create a better future through the new University of Connecticut Center for Advanced Engineering Education.

The Center for Advanced Engineering Education (CAEE) offers top-tier teaching that’s relevant, accessible, interactive, convenient, and affordable.

The CAEE will delve into today’s most current and applicable engineering topics, like advanced manufacturing and data sciences, all while catering to varied audiences that aim to upskill, change careers, work more effectively, or pursue a new degree.

“Our commitment to offer and design innovative and flexible programming remains steadfast,” said Center Director Nora Sutton. “Not only do we serve an extensive student population, but we also work with industry to discover, design and deliver innovative educational training and upskilling programs.”

CAEE serves companies of all sizes that deliver engineering services or employ engineering talent. The Center is a resource for individuals and employers to help achieve growth and development.

The Center is an expansion of the UConn Engineering Professional Education program, which specialized in online and flexible learning for engineering professionals.

“Transitioning to the Center for Advanced Engineering Education more accurately reflects the current programmatic offerings, curriculum and enrollment as well as allows us to be consistent with similar peer institutions,” said UConn Engineering Assistant Dean for Administrative Operations and Strategic Initiatives Kylene Perras. “CAEE faculty and staff are pushing the boundaries for master’s level curricula and programming.”

CAEE will continue to offer the flagship MENG online degree program in 13 disciplines. The Center will also offer certificates, bootcamps and many other credit and non-credit options.

“The knowledge I’ve gained to date has helped broaden my overall knowledge and helped change my perspectives on my day-to-day tasks at my current job and continues to open up more opportunities for me” said current MENG student Matthew Labrecque. He is a Lead Customer Project Engineer at Unison Industries.

The Center has served a total of 1,989 students in both credit and non-credit programs over the last five years.

Many of the students are high-level industry experts.

Pratt & Whitney/RTX Engineering Vice President Matt Teicholz said his industry wins or loses based on the strength of his team, and UConn is one of their biggest sources in high-quality talent.

“New team members that come from UConn are well prepared, come with diverse experiences and strengths, and quickly add value to the Pratt & Whitney Engineering team,” Teicholz said. “And then once they get here, they can leverage our Employee Scholar Program to continually upskill and stay on a life-long learning journey with programs that CAEE offers.

“Pratt & Whitney and RTX have benefited greatly from our partnership over the past several years with the Center for Advanced Engineering Education,” he continued. “In particular, they are highly responsive to emerging professional education demands. The Center stays very close to industry and listens, tailoring or even creating new programs that focus on cutting edge technologies, techniques, and processes.”

An additional facet of the new center is the Excellence in Engineering Communication (EEC) program, an exclusive workforce development option offered through Assistant Professor Rory McGloin.

Dr. McGloin teaches under the UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Business and will serve as the Program Director for EEC. He is also the Associate Director for Communication and Entrepreneurial Research at UConn’s Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and a visiting professor, School of Communication and Media at Ulster University.

EEC aims to provide comprehensive communication training, development, and support to empower and elevate the communication skills of various engineering communities, enabling them to effectively articulate their ideas, inspire others, and drive positive change in their respective fields and organizations.

“The EEC program recognizes that engineers have the intelligence and technical expertise that the field demands, but we also acknowledge that sometimes engineering professionals need additional skill development to help ensure their ideas and designs come to life, and we believe this starts with more effective communication,” McGloin said.

For more information on the Center, contact Center Director Nora Sutton at nora.sutton@uconn.edu or visit advancededucation.engineering.uconn.edu. The Center can also be reached at engrcaee@uconn.edu.

Author: Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats Research Launches New Era of Space Travel

A cyber-physical testbed  to mimic a moon habitat.

By Lisa Ferraro Parmelee

“The keyword here is resilience,” says Professor Ali Bazzi. “Resilient extraterrestrial habitats.” He is talking about UConn’s part of a NASA-funded Science and Technology Research Institute (STRI) to support projects like Artemis, the most exciting NASA project in decades that hardly anyone seems to know about.

Artemis aims to return humans to the moon and establish a base there that will serve as preparation for manned missions to Mars, where another base will be built as a habitat for astronauts to live and work. As part of the Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats (RETH) institute, led by Purdue University, researchers at UConn School of Engineering are responsible for four vital aspects of this undertaking:

  1. Power systems infrastructure, diagnostics, and power rerouting in space microgrids
  2. Robotics, to operate in space and maintain and repair the habitat
  3. Communications, to enable the habitat systems to communicate with each other and with Earth
  4. Monitoring, to diagnose, for example, the damage to the habitat from a meteorite strike

According to Bazzi, who heads the project at UConn, the big news from the School of Engineering is the recent completion on the Storrs Depot Campus of a cyber-physical testbed, where, he says, “All of these four themes basically lump together.” Students, each of whom worked on a subsystem serving one of these areas, can now run computer simulations and physical experiments to test the technology essential to the habitat’s operation and survival.

One of those students is Hasnain Nisar, an electrical and computer engineer in the first year of his Ph.D. program at UConn. The testbed, he explains, incorporates physical components, such as solar arrays, pressure and temperature controls, and electronic loads that mimic habitat power loads, along with cyber components to simulate, for example, nuclear generation and energy storage systems. Nisar built the hardware for the implementation of power systems for the habitat, while Leila Chebbo, another Ph.D. student whose research interests are power systems and renewable energy, has developed the algorithms.

All scientists and engineers are, understandably, most engaged with their own specializations. For Nisar, whose expertise is in electric machines, drives, and microgrids, the most exciting part of the project is the prioritization of power loads. “Let’s suppose we have less power. Which load is more important in space?” he asks. “In case of low power, lighting is not something that is needed for life. Pressure and heat might be. So how should these be prioritized in case of any disturbance?”

The implications of this work go far beyond the needs of space travel. Ultimately, the RETH project is about making uninhabitable places habitable. And as climate change advances, and communities run out of water or burn in wildfires, and power grids struggle through increasingly brutal heatwaves and extreme cold, the terrestrial applications of this technology will become increasingly relevant.

Still, it’s the goal of supporting life in extraterrestrial places that really fires the imagination.

It has, after all, been more than half a century since humans last walked on the surface of a planetary body other than Earth. What would Bazzi say to the engineers, scientists, and technicians who dedicated their lives, labor, and ingenuity to putting them there long ago, only to see their grand endeavor fade away in the years that followed?

Students from the Artemis project.

The following graduate students from the departments of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), computer science and engineering (CSE), and mechanical engineering (ME) have all contributed to the creation of the testbed:
Rounak Bhattacharya (ECE)
Leila Chebbo (ECE)
Vrithik Guthikonda (ECE)
Hasnain Nisar (ECE)
Ghananeel Rotithor (ECE)
Jiachen Wang (CSE)
Chuanyu Xue (CSE)
Yang Zhang (ME)
Qianyu Zhou (ME)

“This is accelerating now,” he would tell them, “and there are many, many brains working between NASA, industry, and academia. We will have the ability, not just to visit the moon and come back, but to have people live on planets and moons and use one as a launchpad to another and then maybe the other as a launchpad to someplace else. We need to explore a new frontier.”

As Nisar more simply puts it, “This thing is really going to be happening.” And, maybe not too long from now, he, Bazzi, and the rest of their UConn team will be among those who—much like those earlier pioneers—will watch the arrival of explorers on other planets and be able to say, “We did that.”

The University of Connecticut’s part in the Resilient Extra-Terrestrial Habitats (RETH) institute is being conducted by a dedicated team of faculty and students from UConn School of Engineering. Professor Ali Bazzi is leading the research on power systems, while Professor Ashwin Dani is in charge of robotics. Communications is led by Professor Song Han and monitoring by Professor Jiong Tang. The following graduate students from the departments of electrical and computer engineering (ECE), computer science and engineering (CSE), and mechanical engineering (ME) have all contributed to the creation of the testbed:

Rounak Bhattacharya (ECE)

Leila Chebbo (ECE)

Vrithik Guthikonda (ECE)

Hasnain Nisar (ECE)

Ghananeel Rotithor (ECE)

Jiachen Wang (CSE)

Chuanyu Xue (CSE)

Yang Zhang (ME)

Qianyu Zhou (ME)

Author: UConn and Bridgeport Partner for Greener Schools

Children in classroom.

Backed by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Connecticut will assist two K-12 schools in Bridgeport with designing and implementing smart control systems to achieve energy savings and promote healthy learning environments. (Abobe Stock)

The University of Connecticut School of Engineering and Bridgeport Connecticut Public Schools have joined together to implement comprehensive energy efficiency and renewable projects at two Bridgeport schools through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of State and Community Energy Programs.

The project was one of only 24 projects selected nationwide after over 1,000 concept papers were submitted early in 2023.

“Connecticut’s flagship state university is honored to be part of this effort,” George M. Bollas, director of UConn’s Pratt & Whitney Institute for Advanced Systems Engineering, says. “The design of smart, healthy, and resilient schools for the low-income Connecticut environmental justice community in Bridgeport is well aligned with the mission of the University to support the growth and prosperity of the state.”

Read more @ UConn Today

Author: Courtney Commends UConn Crumbling Foundation Research

UConn Engineering faculty and staff welcome Joe Courtney as he works for additional support for crumbling foundation research.

UConn Engineering faculty and staff welcome Joe Courtney as he works for additional support for crumbling foundation research.

By Claire Galvin, Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

Joe Courtney chats with Kay Wille.

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney visited the University of Connecticut on Friday, July 7 to hear the latest on crumbling concrete foundation research conducted by the UConn School of Engineering.

The Congressman was welcomed by UConn President Radenka Maric and UConn Engineering staff and faculty. Courtney and Maric were also joined by Debbie McCoy, a Vernon resident whose home was affected and who’s among the leaders of a group who have supported the research and testing.

Courtney was brought up to speed on the latest research efforts conducted through the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Concrete samples collected at UConn.

Concrete samples collected at UConn.

The UConn School of Engineering has been a leader in crumbling concrete research. To date, the team has developed a testing method that is minimally invasive to the foundation in use, and is time and cost-efficient; and conducted intense research based on 100+ houses showing 70+ homes with sulfide-bearing minerals that can contribute to crumbling concrete. Next steps will include expanding the evaluations of mitigation methods, with a focus on cost-effective alternatives to replacement.

Courtney briefly discussed the Community Project Funding that was included in the FY23 omnibus to support ongoing research into crumbling foundations.

Author: Connecticut’s Young Inventors Find Their Start in Storrs

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By Claire Galvin, Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

The University of Connecticut Storrs campus hosted the Connecticut Invention Convention (CIC) on June 10, connecting young inventors and entrepreneurs to a plethora of university resources.

The 40th annual state finals were held in the Student Union Ballroom.

The CIC is an education non-profit deploying K-12 innovation and entrepreneurship programs for more than 12,000 young innovators annually.

From hockey neck guards to magnetic board games, the students presented their next-generation ideas to a panel of judges.

Associate Dean Daniel Burkey, Castleman Term Professor in Engineering Innovation, said the K-12 innovation and entrepreneurship program is often a student’s first experience in engineering.

“By partnering with this organization, we welcome young STEM students into the university environment at the earliest age possible,” Burkey said. “Plus, we’re given the chance to see fascinating inventions with real-world applications.”

Previous CIC finals have been held in the Gampel Pavilion. That space was unavailable this summer due to the basketball court floor replacement project.

“The CIC team couldn’t be prouder of our amazing student inventors,” said CIC Executive Director Nick Briere. “Each and every student brought creative innovations that solved the real-world problems of today.”

More information about the convention is available online: https://ctinventionconvention.org/

Author: Nine New Academy of Distinguished Engineers Inductees

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

University of Connecticut School of Engineering faculty, staff, alumni and friends gathered on May 11 to celebrate the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers Class of 2023.

New inductees include Anthony D’Andrea, Brian Heery, Richard Ierardi, Nader Jalili, Anne-Marie McDonnell, Matthew Olander, Vineet Sahasrabudhe, Michael Sarpu, and Richard Thibeault.

The UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers is a highly selective and esteemed community of accomplished alumni and friends who have made exceptional contributions to their fields of engineering. Membership in the academy is a recognition of an individual’s significant achievements and leadership in their profession, as well as their commitment to the advancement of engineering education and research.

D’Andrea is the President of Rocco V. D’Andrea, Inc, a land-use consulting firm. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Civil Engineering.

Heery is Chairman of the Board for Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering.

An engineering Fellow for Pratt & Whitney, Ierardi has worked at Raytheon Technologies for his entire career. He graduated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering.

Jalili is the Southern Methodist University Mary and Richard Templeton Dean of Lyle School of Engineering. He earned a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.

McDonnell is recently retired from Connecticut Department of Transportation after 35 years of service. She graduated with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering.

Olander is the Vice President for Design and Engineering at General Dynamics Electric Boat. He currently sits on the advisory board for the School and for the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and Metallurgy.

Director of Engineering Services and Systems Engineering at Sikorsky, Sahasrabudhe is also a member of the Systems Engineering and Professional Education Advisory Board.

Sarpu is a retired Lockheed Martin Operations Executive. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Finally, Thibeault is a Principal Investigator for Shipboard Electromagnetic Compatibility Improvement Program for all active United States submarines. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering.

New this year is the GOLD Rising Star Awards. This award recognizes graduates of the last decade, alumni who inspire the world around them through their contributions to engineering. Two rising stars earned this distinction: Morad Behandish and Nicole Piscopo.

Behandish is the Research Director for Digital Design and Manufacturing at the Palo Alto Research Center. He graduated in 2016 with a master’s in Computer Science and Engineering and a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering.

Piscopo is a Senior Engineer in Cell Therapy Process Development at CRISPR Therapeutics in the immune-oncology division. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering.

More information about the 2023 winners is available in this download. More information about all award winners throughout the years is available on our website.

Author: McCutcheon Shares Membrane Technology Views With “Science”

Materials innovation in a systems and manufacturing context.

By Loretta Waldman

UConn Chemical and Biomedical Engineering Professor Jeffrey McCutcheon is a nationally recognized expert in separation technology. His thought leadership in the field earned him an invitation from the journal Science to share his views on an ongoing challenge associated with one area of this branch of materials science – how to improve the membranes used in the desalination of seawater. The resulting paper – “Fixing the desalination membrane pipeline: Materials discovery alone has not translated into lower cost water treatment” – appears in the “Perspectives” section of the April 21 issue of the journal Science.

McCutcheon, who is Director of the Connecticut Center for Applied Separation Technology (CCAST), delves into the intricacies of membrane technology used in desalination known as reverse osmosis (RO), a process that uses semipermeable membranes and applied pressure to separate solids from the water. Co-authored by Meagan S. Mauter, an Associate Professor at Stanford University and the Research Director of the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI), the article notes that the enduring dominance of traditional RO membrane barriers to separate salts, dissolved organics and pathogens from seawater, brackish water and waste water has exposed a broader need to rethink the innovation pipeline for desalination and water treatment membranes.

“There is no lack of membrane technologies proposed to replace today’s state of the art RO membrane. After decades of research, however, not one of the proposed alternatives has displaced the polyamide RO membrane first  introduced 40 years ago,” said McCutcheon, who is also Deputy Topic Area Lead at NAWI, and an Associate Editor of the Journal of Membrane Science Letters. “The promises of new technology have failed to impact commercial desalination. I think that is something we need to understand and address.”

Jeffrey McCutcheon

Jeffrey McCutcheon

As a first step, researchers, manufacturers, and the companies using the membranes need to come out of their silos and start collaborating, McCutcheon says. Ever since the last major innovation in RO membrane technology that made today’s RO membrane, researchers, manufactures, and end users have retreated to their respective corners. Obstacles to innovation include reluctance on the part of manufacturers to share key pain points of their technologies with outside partners, leaving researchers to make assumptions as to what challenges they should be working on.  To compound the problem, researchers are often limited to lab-scale research that cannot make membranes at scale or challenge membrane in real conditions.  This problem is largely caused by the lack of research tools that allow for pilot-scale RO manufacturing and testing.  

“I think that is why we have seen no adoption of new technology in RO,” he said, “We are making membranes at the millimeter scale, testing them, and then promoting an unrealistic narrative about how this membrane will change the industry. No one really believes that.”

Fixing the innovation pipeline to meet industry needs will require reintegrating membrane materials discovery, design, and synthesis with membrane manufacturing, component design and process systems engineering, McCutcheon says. To explore new membrane materials, an understanding of both conventional and emergent manufacturing techniques for those materials is essential, he says. His paper calls for new scale- up and prototype facilities that would allow researchers to determine manufacturability in the research, development, demonstration, and deployment process. McCutcheon would like to see more support from government and non-government funding organizations and more respect from elite scientific journals which, he says, place less value on manufacturing research. Such efforts would benefit other membrane processes as well.  Membrane fields such as gas separations and ion exchange face similar challenges.

McCutcheon’s lab (CCAST) is working to address some of these challenges. Located at UConn’s Innovation Partnership Building, CCAST is developing a new membrane manufacturing technology that enables customization of membrane performance, exquisite control of thickness and surface roughness, and reduces the use of chemicals by 90 percent. McCutcheon’s work is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Office (IEDO) through NAWI..

Membranes play a key role in a host of industrial processes beyond water treatment, including fuel cells, electrolyzers, petrochemicals, food & beverage, and the bio-tech and pharmaceutical industries.  CCAST’s mission is to identify opportunities to implement membrane and other advanced separation technology into various industrial and manufacturing processes in order to lower energy use, reduce carbon footprint, limit waste, and prevent adverse environmental and health impacts.  That can only happen if we can facilitate the translation of newly identified membrane materials into manufacturable membrane platforms at scale.

“Membrane materials research in the absence of manufacturing considerations is unlikely to lead to commercially relevant improvements in membrane technology”, says McCutcheon. “I hope that UConn and NAWI can be leading organizations supporting the membrane innovation pipeline and play a critical role in the membrane innovation ecosystem in the United States.”





Author: Student Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Pitch Day

Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship students and faculty.

By Julia Carangelo, Written Communications Assistant

This past Monday, April 24th, was the final pitch day and culmination of the Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship (TIE) courses for Spring 2023. The course is part of the two-series TIE I and TIE II courses that are offered in the Fall and Spring, jointly by the Schools of Business and Engineering. The courses provide a unique opportunity for students from both schools to form interdisciplinary teams and work on technology-based innovations together.

Read more on UConn Today.

Author: Alumni Working at the Forefront of Jet Engine Technology

Mechanic overhauling engine at an aftermarket repair shop.

Pratt & Whitney Aftermarket and Sustainment Engineering group provides innovative aftermarket repair strategies for various jet engine hardware.

By Megan Andrew, Written Communications Assistant

Vincent Ybanez has always been fascinated by the properties of different materials and how they can be used to solve complex problems. Now, as a key member of the Aftermarket and Sustainment Engineering team at Pratt and Whitney, he’s putting that expertise to work on some of the most cutting-edge engine technologies around.

MSE Alumnus Vincent Ybanez (’16), Senior Design Engineer at Pratt & Whitney

In his role of senior design engineer, Ybanez works on repairs for jet engine hardware by “initially developing repair concepts, establishing design and testing requirements for the repair, substantiating and obtaining approvals within the various engineering groups, and drafting the technical documents for the repair.”

The specific processes he uses to repair engines utilize solid-state welding, fusion welding, additive manufacturing, machining, and plasma spray coating to optimize cost and repairability of hardware.

“UConn’s MSE curriculum and instructors provided an excellent basis for understanding materials science and general engineering fundamentals, which help me make design engineering decisions with a materials engineering mindset,” Ybanez said.

Ybanez recalled that his initial interest in engineering came at an early age, as he worked alongside his father on home-repair projects. Following that spark of interest, Ybanez attended a vocational technical high school, where his hands-on work with electromechanical technologies solidified his future career path.

“I chose UConn as their Engineering program is highly acclaimed, the university itself was known as one of the top public research universities nationwide, and I heard many good experiences of the university and Engineering program from friends and relatives,” Ybanez said.

At UConn, Ybanez discovered the materials science and engineering (MSE) field through Professor Daniel Goberman’s ‘Foundations of Engineering’ class. “I didn’t realize mse was a field until that class, and how broad the MSE field was, as well as the various job opportunities that materials engineers can pursue,” Ybanez said. That helped him decide to declare MSE as his major.

With Professor George Rossetti as his advisor, Ybanez was able to explore different career options during his undergraduate studies. “I remember having helpful discussions with him regarding pursuing graduate studies versus working directly in industry after graduation, which led to me pursuing an independent study opportunity to help me decide,” he said.

Ybanez also fondly described his favorite class as being ‘Failure Analysis’ with Goberman. “The class content has been very useful in my Welding Engineer role when I am leading various investigations for welding process failures and improvements,” he said.

“I remember all the MSE professors not only being very knowledgeable within their fields, but also being very engaging and enthusiastic when teaching as well. The enthusiasm of all the professors and staff, as well as the smaller size of the MSE department, helped MSE feel like a more close-knit and inclusive department in the UConn School of Engineering,” Ybanez said.

After graduation, Ybanez decided to move directly into industry before pursuing his master’s in welding engineering a few years later at The Ohio State University. There, Ybanez recalled drawing from his UConn education in materials science and engineering to excel in his academics. “Topics such as phase diagrams, microstructure, phase transformation in steels, and thermodynamics were being reintroduced in my grad school program, and I was able to easily understand them due to my strong undergraduate background.”

He also drew from his experience in a favorite independent study class. Because of his work as an undergraduate research assistant in Professor Puxian Gao’s Nanomaterials Science Lab, he gained insight into the research lab setting and what post-graduate research would be like. Ultimately “this helped me with the personal decision of pursuing industrial experience instead of post-graduate academic research right after graduation,” he said.

Directly following his graduation with a BS in MSE from UConn in 2016, Ybanez was hired as a materials engineer for Quest Global in East Hartford. His involvement in both the Material Advantage club, as well as the Engineering Ambassador club at UConn, helped him stand out from other candidates when applying for his first job after graduation. Ybanez advises current students to do the same—”get involved.”

“Particularly, leadership roles set potential new hires apart,” Ybanez said. “Also, try to pursue and apply for any internships and/or independent research opportunities that are available. This will help you decide which specific field/industry you want to specialize in, as well as whether you want to pursue post-grad academic research or industrial work right after graduation.”

Author: Belimo Scholarship Offers Students A Warm Welcome Into Engineering

UConn and Belimo representatives gathered in the Belimo facility.

Rohan Anderson and Lauren Guo were recognized by several UConn and Belimo representatives in a facility tour on April 14, 2023. (Claire Galvin / UConn School of Engineering Photo).

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

In a competitive job market, recent graduates need to draw on studious scholarship, relevant internship experience, and hands-on practicum to earn an attractive offer.

Thanks to Belimo, an international HVAC manufacturer, several University of Connecticut School of Engineering graduates will be able to check off those boxes before they even snag a diploma.

University leadership are celebrating a partnership between the UConn Foundation, the UConn School of Engineering and Belimo this week.

Six UConn Engineering students are being supported every year thanks to the generous Belimo Scholarship Program.

Two of these students were recognized in a facility tour event on Friday, April 14 in Danbury.

Read more on UConn Today.

Author: Two UConn-Affiliated Engineers Selected For The National Academy of Engineers

A group celebrates the NAE.

Goeff Hunt, Radenka Maric, David Furrer, Thomas Prete and Kazem Kazerounian celebrate the NAE induction.

By Claire Galvin, Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

University of Connecticut engineers are lauding the national recognition of two UConn-affiliated engineers into the National Academy of Engineers this year.

Thomas Prete

Thomas Prete is the Vice President of Military Engineering at Pratt & Whitney.

Thomas Prete and David Furrer were elected into the National Academy of Engineering in February. The pair were recognized in a celebratory reception in South Windsor on April 13, 2023.

Prete and Furrer are both UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers members inducted in 2008. Prete is also a member of the School’s advisory board which provides input and advice on issues of importance to the school.

Furrer is a Senior Fellow Discipline Lead of Materials and Processes at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford. He was recognized through NAE for the development and industrial implementation of computational modeling tools enabling efficient material/process/product design of legacy and emerging aerospace alloys.

Prete is the Vice President of Military Engineering at Pratt & Whitney’s Northford location. He was selected through the NAE for engineering leadership in developing and servicing advanced military and commercial aircraft jet engines.

In attendance Thursday were Prete, Furrer and their families, as well as UConn President Radenka Maric, UConn Provost Anne D’Alleva, Engineering School Dean Kazem Kazerounian and other UConn and UConn School of Engineering faculty and staff.

David Furrer

David Furrer is a Senior Fellow Discipline Lead of Materials and Processes at Pratt & Whitney.

“It’s an honor to be among these esteemed engineers this evening,” Kazerounian said. “Tom and David have made significant contributions to the aerospace and military fields and thoroughly deserve this national attention.”

Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership to the nation.

According to the organization’s website, it has more than 2,000 peer-elected members, senior professionals in business, academia, and government who are among the world’s most accomplished engineers. They provide leadership and expertise for projects focused on the relationships between engineering, technology and the quality of life.

More information about the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers is available online: https://www.engr.uconn.edu/academy-profile/.

Author: Recognizing Alum and NASA Public Servant Andrew Hoffman

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

Andrew Hoffman, Class of '53, died on March 24, 2023.Leadership from the University of Connecticut School of Engineering were bereft to hear about the passing of an alumni and distinguished engineer last week.

Andrew Hoffman died March 24 at his home in East Windsor, Connecticut. He was 91, according to the family obituary.

“Andy wanted to be remembered as a good man who worked hard to make his country and community better because of his dedication and work ethic,” his obituary read.

Assistant Dean of Administrative Operations & Strategic Initiatives Kylene Perras echoed these comments about the 1953 graduate.

“Andy was a salt-of-the-earth individual,” Perras said. “He was a true gentleman, a sincere advocate to our University, and a kind soul that our School of Engineering will forever miss.”

Perras said she worked closely with Hoffman when he was invited into the Academy, a recognition he was especially proud of.

Despite that award and his incredibly impressive resume, Perras said Hoffman was humble and never made anyone feel less than their worth.

Hoffman was inducted into the UConn Academy of Distinguished Engineers in 2016. The Academy recognizes the brightest engineers, alumni and friends, who have made significant contributions to the engineering profession through research, education, practice, policy or service.

Hoffman graduated from the UConn School of Engineering Electrical and Systems Engineering program in 1953. After graduation he joined Hamilton Standard, later the United Technology Corporation (UTC), rising through the ranks before he retired in 1987 as the Executive Vice President.

According to the family obituary, Hoffman devoted much of his career to the United States Manned Space Program. He was part of the company’s team that designed and developed the Apollo space suit assembly, the Apollo and Space Shuttle life support systems and the Skylab crew equipment.

After retiring, he formed a consulting firm East Windsor Associates, where he continued to consult for  the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, UTC, Boeing, McDonnell and others.

According to the obituary, he was most proud of his company’s and his personal contributions to the Apollo 13 rescue mission.

Because of his diligent work he was recognized with several awards, including two NASA Public Service Awards.


Author: Three Professors Selected For AAUP Awards

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

John Chandy

Three professors from the School of Engineering have been recognized for their achievements by the University of Connecticut chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

“It is with immense pleasure that I congratulate John, Junbo and Yi,” said School of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian. “Our faculty are our best assets and they work hard to instruct, lead and advise our undergraduate and graduate students.”

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Head and Professor John Chandy earned the Service Excellence award.

Junbo Zhao

Two other awards were given to Engineering faculty. Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor Junbo Zhao and Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Yi Zhang both earned the Excellence in Research and Creativity: Early Career award.

Yi Zhang

These professors were selected by the UConn-AAUP Excellence Awards Committee for their outstanding work. The UConn-AAUP awards began in 1997 to showcase academic excellence within the university.

Kazerounian said he appreciated the AAUP’s recognition of these three School of Engineering faculty.

“Our faculty are skilled in designing curriculum to inspire the next generation of engineers,” Kazerounian said. “I’m grateful to the association for making these careful selections.”

A virtual Zoom presentation is planned for April 24 at 12 p.m. All are invited to attend. RSVP via barbarak@uconnaaup.org.

Author: New Data Science and Engineering Major Leads to Booming Career Opportunities

Two businessmen working in a team doing analytics in the office.

The new data science major offers growing career opportunities.

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

The University of Connecticut School of Engineering is pleased to be on the forefront of workplace trends and demands, this time with the unveiling of a new undergraduate major.

The Computer Science and Engineering department will launch the Data Science and Engineering Bachelor of Science in the fall 2023 semester.

The field of data science has evolved dramatically over the past decade. According to data available through the career website dice.com, Data Scientists and Data Engineers have experienced more than 40 percent year-over-year growth in the first 10 months of 2022. In addition, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40,500 new Data Scientist positions are anticipated between 2021 and 2031.

Computer Science and Engineering Professor Ion Mandoiu said organizations ranging from large technology companies to small nonprofits need assistance in managing and understanding their data.

A businesswoman looks on a large blue screen with chart.

“When companies evolve to make data-driven decisions, they start building toward a specific, clear goal based on all information they already have, but maybe weren’t using to potential in the past,” Mandoiu said.

Data science is a field that combines statistics, scientific computing, algorithms and other numerical systems to analyze or extrapolate insights from structured or unstructured data.

The UConn College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has recently developed two bachelor degrees in data science areas of study, and the School of Engineering has carefully designed this plan of study to complement the CLAS degrees, from the lens of computer science.

“Students in this program will have access to interdisciplinary curriculum and initiatives throughout the School of Engineering,” said Computer Science and Engineering Department Head Sanguthevar Rajasekaran. “We’re leveraging our professors to offer a holistic education in this rapidly advancing field.”

The Data Science and Engineering degree will apply theory, techniques and tools through the data science lifecycle and employ the resulting knowledge to satisfy stakeholders’ needs.

Required Data Science and Engineering courses will include “Introduction to Computing for Engineers,” “Data Structures and Object-Oriented Design,” “Introduction to Discrete Systems,” “Introduction to Data Science and Engineering,” “Contemporary Issues in Computer Science and Engineering,” “Cybersecurity Lab,” “Algorithms and Complexity,” “Big Data Analytics,” “Principles of Databases,” “Introduction to Machine Learning,” and “Senior Design I & II.”

These courses are supplemented by engineering and university electives to meet the minimum of 120 credits required for graduation.

The plan of study is designed for new college entrants, not upperclassmen looking to change majors.

For more information, especially for incoming freshmen, contact Educational Program Assistant Rebecca Cretella at rebecca.cretella@uconn.edu.

Author: MSE Alum Uses 3D Printing to Create Patient-Specific Models

Adam Wentworth and graduate student in scrubs and protective gear.

Wentworth with a Northeastern Cooperative Educational Program graduate student in Traverso Lab.

By Megan Andrew, MSE Communications Assistant

MSE alumnus Adam Wentworth (2011) is a senior engineer at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he utilizes his master’s degree in materials science and engineering (mse) to create patient-specific anatomic models and surgical guides. His position requires him to constantly draw on his expertise in 3D printing, a skill that he has been honing since his advising days at UConn. From designing guides to resect pelvic tumors, to molds enabling silicone casting of a face, Wentworth uses 3D printing to create innovative and individualized medical solutions.
Wentworth utilizes his passion and expertise in mse to develop cutting-edge solutions in the healthcare industry. Mayo Clinic is at the forefront of developing 3D printing infrastructure to battle modern health concerns from many angles. Wentworth serves on a team that combines surgery, biomedical engineering, and radiology to optimize surgical outcomes for patients.
Despite not being fond of biology, Wentworth became interested in biomaterials and the healthcare industry after taking ‘Introduction to Biomaterials’ with Professors Lakshmi S. NairSangamesh G. Kumbar, and Yusuf Khan. “I was actually really excited for learning how biotechnology has advanced and learning more about applying the knowledge of materials to a specific set of applications. The class is a core reason I ended up at MIT and Mayo Clinic.”
After getting both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in materials science and engineering at UConn, and ably directing the MSE undergraduate Laboratory as its Manager for seven years, Wentworth worked for Brigham and Women’s Hospital and MIT before he began his current position at Mayo Clinic.

Along the way, Wentworth also co-founded Teal Bio Inc., a company designed to develop personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers in a sustainable way. Teal Bio Inc. was founded following research Wentworth completed alongside several other scientists that uncovered exactly how wasteful PPE in the healthcare industry can be. These studies illustrated that switching from one disposable respirator per day to a reusable respirator with disposable filters could lower waste produced by the healthcare industry over a six-month span from 37.22M kg to 15.73M kg.
That conclusion, combined with research about the use of transparent masks for emotional communication, led to the development of the Teal Bio Reusable Respirator, a transparent, reusable respirator with partially biodegradable filters.
Wentworth fondly recalls his experiences volunteering for UConn’s Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center (EDOC), which has now grown into the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion. This included helping with UConn SPARK, a summer residential program igniting the next generation of women engineers and scientists by shrinking the gender gap in the STEM field. That is “definitely a reason why I have been able to work at some incredible places,” because it gave him experience in “taking a leadership role through an opportunity, and then becoming known for your work in that particular area.”

A 3D-printed anatomical model

An example of a 3D-printed anatomical model/guide that might be used to tackle a patient-specific health issue.

Department head Bryan Huey notes, “MSE has always been incredibly fortunate to have devoted lab directors like Adam working closely with our students. They are critical to our department’s outreach, and advise many of our hands-on materials-centered clubs too. The amazing labs and lab curriculum we have today is a testament to all of their contributions along the way.”
Wentworth’s advice for current and incoming undergraduate students is to take advantage of those labs, and to get involved in extracurriculars they are passionate about. “After graduating, you will quickly value having spent your free time learning new skills,” he said. Whether it be 3D printing, or learning a new programming language, engaging with your passion early on is what gives you a leg-up after graduation, he said.
Wentworth was also involved in several other MSE-based organizations on campus. “UConn Materials Advantage (UCMA) allowed me to go to conferences and learn about research. I eventually became the advisor for the 3D Printing Club, which gave me a majority of the knowledge I have about 3D printing and provided many opportunities for professional development.”
Upon his enrollment at UConn, however, no one would have predicted Wentworth’s profuse success in the field of materials science and engineering. He actually entered school as a computer science major, realizing his passion for materials science and engineering after a seminar presented by then UConn MSE Professor Leon Shaw.
The message was that progress in materials science defines societal development. “It’s why we call it the bronze age, iron age, silicon age, etc. They encompass the world we live in, and understanding what they are and how we use them to benefit humanity provides a solid knowledge base for an understanding of many things,” he said.
So how did Wentworth get from first realizing his passion to becoming a highly accomplished engineer and scientist?
“Success happens by accumulated effort,” he said. His combined involvement in an assortment of productive extracurriculars gave him room to develop career-building skills in an interesting way.
Adam has one last piece of advice. Students should look up their dream job and learn what are the minimum and preferred qualifications. “Build your LinkedIn network, ask someone to review your resume, join a club. In an interview, show an example of your work. It will easily communicate your attention to detail, creativity, or some other skill that’s not easy to put into words. That’s how you can separate yourself from other applicants.” he said. Students should always ask themselves “what don’t you know?”

Author: A Grad’s Remarkable Journey From Peru to the United States

Ada Liz Gabancho-Soto, a 2014 UConn School of Engineering graduate.

By Rick Domas, UConn School of Engineering Research Development Proposal Team

“My name is Ada Liz Gabancho-Soto. I am from a small town called Uchiza located in the Peruvian Amazon. At night the sky is so clear. It almost feels as if you can reach out with your hands and touch each star.”

So begins the remarkable first-person story of Ada Liz Gabancho-Soto, a 2014 UConn School of Engineering graduate with a B.S.E. Environmental Engineering degree, as presented in the summer 2022 issue of InFlow-Line magazine published by The Connecticut Section American Water Works Association (CTAWWA) and The Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA).

Even at an early age Ada is enthralled with the environment around her. “The sounds of many different kinds of animals can be heard throughout the day and night. As a child, I remember playing in the orange groves at my parents’ farm. I can still smell the fresh oranges, and I remember the times when my sister and I were playing and jumping into massive piles of oranges. It was there that I planted my first tree: a Caoba tree. I felt very accomplished in my contribution to my environment.” A Caoba tree is the most commercially important mahogany tree and one of only three species that produces true mahogany.

But not all is as idyllic and peaceful in Peru as Ada’s orange groves. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the brutal Shining Path terrorist organization, masterminded by Abimael Guzmán, a onetime philosophy professor and longtime Communist Party member, nearly toppled the government of Peru. By 1990, the Shining Path controlled a substantial part of the Peruvian highlands and countryside, and nearly three-quarters of the country was under a state of emergency or virtual martial law. Guzmán was captured in September 1992 in an operation later found to have been supported by the CIA, and the Shining Path movement soon fell apart without him.

A truth and reconciliation commission in 2003 determined that almost 70,000 people had been killed in the 1980s and 1990s — about half by the Shining Path and half by government security forces.

Ada remembers this period well: “When violence invaded my town, my good memories start to disappear. I remember as a child waking up very early because I heard an explosive noise like fireworks. It was gunfire! I huddled under the bed with my sister and my mother. I was so scared. After the gunfire, we went outside, and I will never forget the sight of the dead bodies littered on the ground and holes in the walls from the bullets. Even the town’s church had a hole in the walls. I was in shock looking at the church that was destroyed and all the dead bodies. Uchiza had changed, and it was now too dangerous to stay.”

Ada and her family move to Lima, the cosmopolitan and rapidly-growing capitol of Peru, and very soon she becomes aware of a different environment — one of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, lack of potable water and other basic services. Ada recalls observing “how the people were living with a lack of basic water services, bad water quality, and bad treatment of residual water. I saw the reality of how people suffered. The poor had to pay more money for their water. They had to pay for the transportation to distribute the water to their houses which were far from everything. Trucks would be used to transport water.” Still, many lacked any form of water delivery, and collected and transported water in containers for later use. Unsanitary conditions led to frequent outbreaks of waterborne diseases, a huge health problem for these impoverished communities. “As a witness to all the problems with drinking water in Peru, I told myself that I would help to solve these problems.”

After emigrating to the U.S. and Connecticut with her sister, Ada enrolled in the UConn School of Engineering, with interests in environmental engineering and water quality and supply in particular. Today, she is employed by the Connecticut Water Company as a Service Delivery Performance Systems Administrator, where her varied duties range from maintaining/expanding the company’s data storage and information systems, developing SQL reports on various topics, responding to data requests from internal departments, and serving as a specialist on the water information data management system.

She is also very active in various professional organizations, and presently serves as chair of the CTAWWA Philanthropic Committee, which, under Ada’s guidance, is strongly supportive of two charitable organizations: Water for People and the American Water Works Association Water Equation Foundation. Not surprising, both organizations support grassroots efforts to secure access to clean drinking water. Water for People is a global nonprofit working to address the global water crisis and equip communities with lasting access to clean water and sanitation services. The nonprofit Water Equation Foundation provides funding for workforce advancement, academic scholarships, student and young professional programs, and the Community Engineering Corps.

Ada’s most positive experiences at UConn? “The amount of knowledge and expertise that all the professors shared with me and the positive learning environment.” She mentions her difficulties with English as a second language, noting that “homework that took most of my classmates one hour to do took me sometimes two hours to complete.” Ada made extensive use of the tutorial hours offered by her professors, and cites all, particularly Dr. Alexander Agrios, P.E., Associate Professor and Al Geib Professor of Environmental Engineering Research and Education, as being helpful and supportive. Her most negative experience? Two final exams on one day, something that all past and present UConn students can relate to!

Ada maintains close contact with her family, and though widely dispersed, sees her parents and one or more of her seven siblings as least once a year. And she has “see the world” options to do so: her parents and one brother remain in Peru, another sibling resides in Argentina, four siblings live in France, and a sister, an industrial engineer, remains nearby in Connecticut. “I’m fairly fluent in French given trips to France to visit my siblings there,” she notes.

Through her family and a small Peruvian community in Connecticut, Ada remains in touch with her heritage and culture. A favorite activity is attending the festivities around Las Fiestas Patrias, the two-day celebration that commemorates the liberation of Peru from Spain (July 28) and the establishment of the Republic of Peru (July 29). Ada travels to Norwich, Connecticut for these celebrations.

From her youthful experiences in Peru to a practicing water professional in Connecticut, Ada continues to value what many take for granted: clean and available drinking water. Wise beyond her years, Ada has some parting words: “We must consider where our water comes from and value our water. One day all the people around the world should have drinking water available. Please do not waste it when it is not necessary. We must take care of our water.”

This article adapted from the original in InFlow-Line Magazine, Volume 17, Number 2, Summer 2022. © 2022 CTAWWA and CWWA. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Ada Liz Gabancho-Soto, The Connecticut Section American Water Works Association and The Connecticut Water Works Association.

Author: Remembering Samuel Altschuler: Alum, Philanthropist, and Advisor

Samuel Altschuler died at the age of 95 on February 5, 2023.

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

The UConn School of Engineering family were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of alum, philanthropist and industry advisor Samuel Altschuler.

Altschuler died at the age of 95 on Feb. 5 at his home in Lexington, Mass. Altschuler received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Connecticut in 1950. He went on to give generously to the institution and, specifically, the School of Engineering. Dean Kazem Kazerounian spoke highly of Altschuler and his brother, Stephen.

“For more than 30 years, Sam and Steve have supported our school with time, energy, funding and expertise,” Kazerounian said. “Sam was a pioneer in the electrical engineering field, and his strong legacy will continue throughout the years within and beyond UConn.”

Over 30 years ago the Altschuler brothers established the Altschuler Family Scholarship. The endowed fund has helped four students a year complete their education in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department.

“The Altschuler Family Scholarship is one of our longest-running endowments,” Kazerounian said. “Sam has lifted up young people, allowing the students of today to solve the problems of tomorrow.”

More recently, the brothers partnered with School of Engineering faculty to launch the Altschuler Cybersecurity Laboratory. The curriculum is offered to undergraduate and graduate students and gives pupils the skills to thwart cyber threats against businesses and industries.

According to Altschuler’s Boston Globe obituary provided by the family, he began his career as a manufacturing engineer with the Western Electric Company, an arm of AT&T. He then went on to work for Honeywell and Adage before starting his company Altron. Altschuler served as president of the Institute For Printed Circuits.

After serving the industry for nearly 50 years, Altschuler retired in 1998.

In addition to UConn, the Altschuler family gave to Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Sam leaves behind his wife Nancy, five children and their spouses and 11 grandchildren.

Author: Andres Godoy Wins Chateaubriand Fellowship

Andres Godoy and visitors in the Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2) laboratory.

By Kyra Arena, MSE Written Communications Assistant

Graduate student Andres Godoy recently won the prestigious Chateaubriand Fellowship to study at the Université Grenoble Alpes in France. The fellowship is a merit-based grant offered by the Embassy of France in the United States that supports Ph.D. students from American universities who wish to conduct research in France. He first learned about the fellowship from Assistant Director of Enrichment Programs for Research and Fellowship Programs, Rowena Grainger. “This opportunity has been a very fruitful and rewarding experience, at the personal and professional level,” describes Godoy.

Godoy received his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from Universidad del Valle-Cali (Colombia) in 2011. He decided to join the field of MSE because he was interested in the idea of working in an interdisciplinary field of science that brings together physics, chemistry and engineering with the goal of designing or discovering new materials. After working at the University of Texas as a research assistant from 2011 to 2017 he joined the MSE Department at UConn as a graduate student.

At UConn, Godoy is a part of Assistant Professor Jasna Jankovic’s research group. “At the time, Professor Jankovic was a new professor in the department, but she had a lot of experience in fuel cells and was eager to build something great,” claims Godoy. “I wanted to be part of that process, and so far we have grown significantly together; I am very proud of that and our team. Professor Jankovic always keeps pushing us to go beyond our limits, but also encourages us to get some time for ourselves to have a balanced life.”

“I am very proud of Andres” says Professor Jankovic. “He has advanced so much during his Ph.D., and gained invaluable expertise in microscopy and fuel cells. His energy and passion are indispensable, and his desire to learn more is admirable. Congratulations to Andres for receiving the Chateaubriand Fellowship! I am sure you will represent our team and UConn in the best light. Also, make sure to wave to us from the top of the Eifel Tower!”

Currently, Godoy is interested in clean energies. “I am especially interested in using fuel cells as a practical solution to tackle the existential climate and environmental crises triggered by the use of fossil fuel-based energy generators,” he says. His goal is to create a new and efficient catalyst materials for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC) which use clean fuels instead. This solution would give zero-emissions, be highly efficient, have low maintenance costs, and contain a high energy density.

Godoy built on this area of interest to conduct research while in France. By using advanced electron microscopy techniques, he proposed an investigation into the structure and properties of state-of-the-art and novel catalyst materials used for fuel cells. This will help to fundamentally understand the dominant degradation mechanisms at a nanometric level which these catalyst systems can experience under certain operating conditions.

Post-graduation, Godoy hopes to be a Fullbright Scholar to teach in France, Germany, England or Japan. Then he plans to continue his research in academia and wishes to be a professor.

For undergraduate students considering graduate school in materials science and engineering, Godoy suggests talking to professors and completing an internship. “If you talk to a professor doing research on topics you are interested in or passionate about, most of them are very responsive and willing to help,” he says. “If possible, do an internship and build up a strong resume tailored to the area you feel strongly about. But in general, get out of your comfort zone and do the things that may intimidate you.”

Author: First CyberLEAP Module Tackles Data Structures and Object-Oriented Design

CyberLEAP is an innovative path for non-computer scientists to break into the Computer Science industry.

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

A new UConn School of Engineering program launched this semester offers students a direct route into one of the most profitable fields in the job market.

CyberLEAP is an innovative path for non-computer scientists to break into the Computer Science industry. The online program is a partnership between the UConn School of Engineering Professional Education Program and the Computer Science and Engineering Department.

Computer Science and Engineering Department Head Sanguthevar Rajasekaran said the CyberLEAP program is a crash course in computer science requirements.

“CyberLEAP offers budding and working professionals the opportunity to gain key skills in high-demand fields,” Rajasekaran said. “Our faculty have carefully selected curriculum that offers the greatest advantage to enter the expansive field of computer science.”

CyberLEAP is designed to help meet the base admission requirements of the MENG in CSE and MENG in Data Science. Full admission requirements for the MENG in CSE program and the MENG in Data Science program can be reviewed online.

CyberLEAP also attracts individuals looking to gain skills outside of a credit program.

“The modules can also be taken independently for career enhancement and knowledge acquisition,” said Professional Education Program Director Nora Sutton. “We hope students take advantage of these programs, hit the ground running, and make the leap into the booming computer science industry.”

According to payscale.com, the average base salary of a MS in Computer Science graduate is $101,000.

Current CyberLEAP student Salvatore J. is a biology undergraduate alum, but was looking to learn skills in Computer Science before considering a master’s degree in that field.

“The fact that this special program was available to be taken asynchronously but still have a direct line of contact to professors and other students made it feel like a great way to continue learning something I felt so interested in while balancing the responsibilities of work and family,” Salvatore said. “So far it’s been a wonderful experience filled with learning about something I love and I’m excited to continue on my journey through UConn’s CyberLEAP.”

The school’s Computer Science and Engineering Department is growing significantly, with the undergraduate population increasing more than 30 percent over the last two years.

Two more modules are planned for the 2023 calendar year. Students can choose any or all of the modules.

The next module titled “Introduction to Discrete Systems” begins on May 1 and applications are due by April 24.

After completing the module, students will be able to: determine whether an argument is logically sound and write clear, thorough, and precise mathematical proofs; analyze discrete mathematical functions, sets, graphs, and recurrence relations; apply principles of set theory and the element method of proof to formally demonstrate equality of sets and subset relationships; apply counting principles to determine the order of magnitude of a computing problem or other related domain and; apply elementary probability concepts.

The cost of each module is $2,000.

More information about CyberLEAP is available here.

Author: University Budget Cuts “Would Be Devastating”

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

The UConn School of Engineering is currently working to determine the full effects of the state’s recently proposed budget. If approved, the budget would leave the university with a shortfall of $159.6 million next year and $197.1 million the following year, under the budget requests originally made by UConn and UConn Health.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont shared his proposed two-year state budget to the General Assembly on Feb. 8. The university relies on the state for approximately 25 percent of its operating funding annually.

“Unfortunately, the appropriations proposed for UConn and UConn Health fall far short of what is necessary to adequately fund the university, carry out our critical public health mission most effectively, and fully cover the sizable costs the state seeks to pass along to us,” UConn President Radenka Maric wrote to the university community earlier in February.

UConn School of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian echoed the president’s frustrations.

“A budget cut of this magnitude would be devastating for our School and our state’s economic future,” Kazerounian said. “We provide 51 percent of the state’s engineering graduates. Sixty-five percent of UConn Engineering graduates are employed in Connecticut.”The growth of the UConn School of Engineering.

Kazerounian explained that the school is significantly contributing to the state and the country, like by topping $72 million in research expenditures in fiscal year 2022.

“If approved, this budget will bring our School’s recent progress to an abrupt halt,” Kazerounian said.

Kazerounian said within the School of Engineering, the budget cut equates to around an 8 percent decrease in operating expenditures for the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Maric explained that the governor’s proposed budget does not cover the total amount of salary increases approved under the collective bargaining agreements between the state and the state employee unions. The proposal does cover more of what is known as historical unfunded “legacy” costs related to employee fringe benefits that the state assigns to UConn and UConn Health. However, it simultaneously reduces the university’s block grant, cancelling out any fiscal benefit for the university.

“We are strongly aligned with and fully support the governor’s focus on economic growth and inclusive opportunity over the next two years and beyond; investing in UConn and ensuring that our students have access to a world-class education is one of the best investments Connecticut can make to bolster that economic future and create those new opportunities,” Maric wrote.

Review Maric’s full comments on the governor’s proposed budget here.

Author: Third Bridge Grant Program Supports Four UConn Startups

The Third Bridge Grant program supports UConn students in developing their ideas into commercializable technologies.

By Anna Zarra Aldrich ’20 (CLAS), Office of the Vice President for Research

This year’s round of Third Bridge Grant awardees has developed innovative technologies focused on patenting, mobility, online education, and tick safety.

The Third Bridge Grant program awards grants for engineering students to take their technologies to the next level. Award amounts range from $5000 to $50,000. The program began in 2013.

PatentPlus AI, one of this year’s recipients, is an AI-driven patent search engine. This technology helps research and development-focused companies, research universities, and law firms determine quickly and easily if an invention is patentable. PatentPlus AI founders Massyl Mallem and Jake Winter trained their AI technology on millions of patent documents to predict what patents are most relevant to a disclosed invention.

Winter says the Third Bridge Grant will allow them to scale the platform to include international patents and improve the web application.

“Receiving the Third Bridge Grant has given us both the funding for important product development that brings our platform closer to launch as well as mentorship from the experienced Third Bridge Grant [mentors],” Winter says.

SedMed is a mobility products company whose products improve the safety and independence of those who struggle with everyday activities like getting out of bed or using the bathroom. Jeremy Bronen and Timothy Krupski founded SedMed after Krupski sponsored Bronen’s senior design project. The project was a device that helps people with mobility issues use the bathroom independently.

“We’re looking to innovate and build and sell mobility products for people who struggle with everyday activities other people take for granted,” Bronen says.

The Third Bridge Grant helped SedMed launch their product for a pilot in various healthcare facilities.

Webquity creates digital accessibility tools to promote equitable access to online education. Their first product is a set of “Digital Glasses,” a web-plug-in for college students with visual dyslexia and minor visual impairments.

“Webquity was founded on the basis that inclusion is not optional and technology being leveraged for equity,” Webquity founder Kianjai Huggan says.

UConn student Xin Dong and professor of allied health sciences Lawrence Silbart invented Tick Me Off, an on-hand, rapid Lyme disease prevention kit. The kit includes a test strip which detects the presence of the Lyme disease agent (Borrelia burgdorferi) in ticks removed from people or animals and a therapeutic bandage that can prevent the onset of disease.

Leila Daneshmandi, the principal investigator for the program, highlights the importance of the program and the critical stage at which it provides support to the teams.

“The Third Bridge Grant Program comes in at a critical stage where these technology startups are in the early stages of research, design, development, and validation,” Daneshmandi says. “We’re providing funding, mentorship, and support for the teams to de-risk their technologies and emerge from the ‘valley of death’ in their path toward building high-growth companies.”

Students working on technology-based innovations and who are interested in participating in the Third Bridge Grant program can apply during the next cycle. Engineering students currently or previously enrolled in the 3-credit Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship I and II courses are encouraged to apply. Applications from other UConn students will also be considered.

Author: Laying a New Foundation Before Building Up

UConn’s first integrative studies student bridges passion for art, engineering in research and life

By Kimberly Phillips

Arpita Kurdekar

Arpita Kurdekar’s story doesn’t start at the point she came to the United States, or when she got her dream job as an engineer, or when she pivoted to graduate studies at UConn. It doesn’t even begin when, as a young woman just starting out, a tree limb fell on her, rendering Kurdekar paralyzed from the chest down.

Her story begins long before all of that, when she was a young girl in India, and first picked up a paintbrush. It was a childhood hobby stoked by two artist parents and encouraged by accolades and a few awards for her work.

Growing up, Kurdekar was caught between an affinity for art and a passion for math and science, the latter winning out educationally and professionally when she pushed painting aside and sought to design bridges as masterful as her favorite, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Never did she think the bridge that would become her greatest accomplishment to date would be the one that marries engineering and art, bringing travelers to a place that merges the two – if only virtually.

‘My life changed in just a moment’

Kurdekar earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University at Buffalo in 2015 after completing her undergraduate degree in India and working a few years at a structural engineering firm there. She came to the U.S. for the opportunity of advanced education and the hope for a professional license not long thereafter.

While at Buffalo, an internship at the New Hampshire Department of Transportation provided a conduit to a full-time position in the Granite State at GM2 Associates, where she focused on structural design calculations for projects in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

She says she enjoyed the work, suiting up in a safety vest and headlamp out in the field, ascending into the underbelly of structures for visual inspections, and sometimes walking through construction sites as workers laid the steel girders that help give a bridge its strength.

“One day, about seven months after I started at GM2, I went home after work and planned to go to the gym. As I walked down the driveway, a neighbor’s tree fell on me and immediately I was paralyzed with a spinal cord injury,” she says. “My life changed in just a moment.”

Kurdekar says she lay on the ground calling for help for an hour because she was in a location that neighbors couldn’t readily see. Eventually her roommate came home, and Kurdekar says she remembers being found. She then lost consciousness.

Girish and Vandana Kurdekar traveled from India as quickly as possible to sit by their daughter’s bedside, and today provide her around-the-clock care. Her first memory after the accident was waking to them in the hospital.

“It was a very difficult time,” Kurdekar says of those early days of recovery. “I was on a ventilator, so it has been a long recovery journey. I had to learn to breathe on my own again, how to talk, how to eat, and how to move what parts of my body I could. It has been a very, very long and difficult six years.”

Those early days of rehab at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Boston were centered on regaining the most basic of life skills. Once Kurdekar moved to Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire, a therapist suggested she tap not just into the muscle memory of the art from her youth but also the peace it gave her.

At first, Kurdekar says the only movement she had was shrugging her shoulders. Then, with the aid of a splint, she learned to hold a paintbrush. Eventually, she wrote her name, and later she painted flowers.

“I remember those sunflowers,” she says with a giggle. “They didn’t look like sunflowers – only my therapist and I knew they were sunflowers. Still, art has been an outlet of joy for me to fight depression and feel happy again. It gives me a lot of rest and peace.”

As she awakened to the value of art in her life, Kurdekar returned to work at GM2 for a few months before assessing her professional future and recognizing academia was the place she wanted to be.

GM2 President and CEO Manish K. Gupta ’98 MS, ’01 Ph.D. had become a mentor to Kurdekar and spoke fondly of his time at UConn. At his urging, she applied.

Teaching with VR Technology

Accepted into the School of Engineering Ph.D. program in 2018 and poised to study civil engineering, Kurdekar realized the passion she’d had for engineering had waned, though it wasn’t extinguished. She thought there might be a way to bring art and engineering together to complement each other.

Kurdekar says she shared with faculty in the schools of Education, Engineering, and Fine Arts her idea to create virtual reality technology to help students learn engineering principles that can be difficult to understand via a two-dimensional description in a textbook or on a screen – think thermodynamics, angular momentum, and gyroscopes.

It’s technology that visual artists, too, could use to practice their skills or plan for a piece that might be too large or cost prohibitive to build as a prototype.

“I’m aiming to teach concepts related to rigid body dynamics and specific art movements and art-making techniques through the overarching theme of kinetic sculptures,” she says. “I wish to present the learning experience in a more interesting and playful manner, in which the students can engage in creative thinking and problem solving by applying learning from both fields. That’s the kind of education we need to give students to prepare them to become innovative thinkers.”

She assembled a team of advisors from each of the three schools and became UConn’s first Integrative Studies Ph.D. candidate. It’s a program that allows students to combine several disciplines into one study track that doesn’t fit neatly into an existing department. Kurdekar hopes to finish her degree in 2024.

She has a fellowship from the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute, for which she’s been a teaching assistant in courses such as Entrepreneurship & Innovation in Industrial Design, Packaging Design, and Human Factors in Design. Kurdekar also has received support from the Dr. Radenka Maric Fellowship Fund for Engineering.

“There are a lot of parallels between my research and the art-making process,” she says. “In both, I focus my energy on solving creative challenges, whether on canvas or in a 3D virtual space. I want the viewer to be moved by the visuals and feel the same sense of engagement and enjoyment as I had during the making of it.”

In the beginning, though, Kurdekar was not a computer programmer. She says she’d picked up only bits of coding experience during school and needed to lay that foundation before building up.

Advisor Kenneth Thompson, an assistant professor in-residence in UConn’s Digital Media & Design department, taught Kurdekar’s first class, Introduction to Game Scripting.

“It takes grit to go from nothing to where Arpita is now,” Thompson says. “Since she came at it with a background in engineering, she already had the foundational logic and thought process that allowed her to excel in class. She knew where she wanted to go, and that made it easy to point her toward the material she needed to learn.”

Kurdekar found supplemental instruction on YouTube, and, coupled with DMD classes, gained proficiency in the language C#, or C Sharp.

“Woods in My Dream” oil painting by Arpita Kurdekar

Making Her Mark in a Burgeoning Field

“Game development is a ubiquitous thing that we see everywhere,” Thompson says. “Your mailer that you get from the grocery store asks you to go on a quest for a 75-cent-per-pound ham to get experience points on your badge when you scan your card. Gaming is applied in different ways. Arpita really made the case that what she’s doing with VR is valuable from an educational research perspective and adds to the numerous projects being done across campus and disciplines.”

Thompson says that while people might associate VR mostly with gaming or entertainment, the technology merely helps users understand something at scale: “It’s like the first time you step out of a car or an airport in a big city and you have that feeling of looking up. It’s kind of overwhelming to feel that sense of height. VR provides that kind of experience and makes it possible to communicate or teach it.”

He says that a giant swinging pendulum, for instance, might be too dangerous, too difficult, or too expensive to create or too limited to have more than one per class. Kurdekar’s VR technology will allow students to learn concepts related to that pendulum because it will be right in front of each of them.

“People who are working on VR technology now, like Arpita, they’re the ones who are going to make marks and be the forebearers of how we have new experiences and interact with things,” he says.

School of Engineering Associate Dean Daniel Burkey, another of Kurdekar’s advisors, says some UConn faculty members already have begun to use VR technology for straightforward purposes, like looking at landscapes, viewing topographical maps, or manipulating objects.

Kurdekar’s work differs in that it’s more immersive.

Burkey says what’s being used now is in addition to classroom lessons, whereas Kurdekar’s technology will bring the educational space into the virtual world.

“That’s the defining feature and that’s something that will be really impactful moving forward,” he says. “The other interesting thing about Arpita’s work is that it is applicable to a lot of different engineering fields. Engineering has a strong psychometric component; it’s very hands on. Sometimes it’s difficult to give students an authentic hands-on experience. Virtual reality allows you to do that in a much more authentic way than simply interacting with something on a screen, or reading a case study, or doing it in pen and paper.”

Thompson adds that the pandemic accelerated the mainstream’s adoption of VR technology, especially since the cost of the requisite hardware is decreasing.

Burkey says, “Previous generations of the hardware have been large. They’ve been bulky. They’ve been attached to a computer with a lot of wires. There’s lag time that can be disorienting for people. The increases in computing power, the shrinking of technology, the reductions in cost are all making it a lot more accessible.”

Accessibility for those with limited mobility also has been central to Kurdekar’s research, especially since she’s just beginning to move her fingers at the first knuckle thanks to surgeries in 2021 and 2022.

“For five years I couldn’t move a finger, and now I can,” she says. “This is very new research, and Dr. Justin Brown, my doctor, at the Paralysis Center at Spaulding, is one of only a few doing it. Who knew this could happen for me, but it did. People are doing research and breakthroughs are happening every day. These unbelievable changes in my life have made me look at the future in a very positive way.”

Immersed in Art, Memorizing Nature

At home, Kurdekar paints as often as possible, trying to fill most of her free time with it and having done hundreds of pieces, many of which she has posted on Instagram and her website. Lately, she’s tried painting on wood and even using clay to create pottery.

“I started off with representational style paintings, trying to make things look real, very life-like,” she explains. “But slowly, I realized my inner voice was missing in the art I was creating. So, I started laying fragments of my memories and experiences with people, places, and things on my canvases. My work started becoming more abstract and meaningful as I traced those memories with the use of expressive brushstrokes and vibrant colors.”

Using the beauty of New England as a muse, she adds, “It’s hard not to have imprints of the sunsets, the sky mixing with the water, or even the energetic shifting movements of the birds foraging the farms and the feeders in your mind and heart.”

In 2019, Kurdekar’s work went on display for the first time at the Mansfield Community Center. Since then, she’s exhibited there and at various galleries, including Arts Center East in Vernon, and has won a few awards in area juried art shows.

She continues to find inspiration in nature. Last summer, she and her parents visited Maine and ascended Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park via wheelchair ramps that stretched to the top. She saw views of the ocean and islands below, memorizing the shapes and colors of the scenery.

“I was a totally different person before the accident,” she says. “I was active. I would dance, I would hike, I would drive to different places. I lost a lot. But this journey has made me a different person. It’s opened my eyes to see what’s important in life. I realized who my true friends are and what really matters. I would never have gone on for my Ph.D. and do the research I’m doing if this hadn’t happened. It gave me a new direction and I totally enjoy what I do now.”

The biggest obstacle at this juncture is her and parents’ immigration status. None of them have U.S. citizenship, keeping Kurdekar from obtaining certain home-care services and her parents’ the ability to apply for driver’s licenses, work here, and get medical insurance.

U.S. Rep. Ann M. Kuster, D-N.H., introduced legislation in 2021 to relieve some of that strain and grant the family of three lawful permanent resident status. That bill, HR680, passed the House in June, the Senate on Dec. 21, and received President Joe Biden’s signature on Jan. 5.

“My parents had tourist visas and every six months they had to renew them in order to stay here legally to care for me. There was always uncertainty they wouldn’t get approved and that was a very big worry for me,” Kurdekar, who now will have a green card, says.

Going back to India isn’t an option. The infrastructure is not handicapped friendly, which means she wouldn’t have job opportunities let alone be able to obtain medical care that, she says, would be inferior to what she’s receiving here.

“I don’t know if I’d even be able to survive there,” Kurdekar says. “All the skills, all the hard-earned skills I have wouldn’t be utilized. In the U.S., every individual has equal opportunities in spite of their physical abilities. I can do a lot here. I can use my knowledge and skills to contribute to society.”

Despite all of this, she’s carried on.

An engineer friend designed and built an adaptable easel that, with the push of a joystick, can rotate a canvas, lift it, push it left or right, or tilt it to give Kurdekar easier reach. The palate of paint rests on the tray of her motorized wheelchair as she gets lost in the small brushstrokes that give her paintings their texture and movement.

“Life is much better than what it was five years back,” she says. “I want to tell people who are struggling not to be afraid. Take one day at a time. Have small goals and try to achieve them. If you really work hard, there’s always a way out. You can always find a way. If you keep looking, you’ll eventually find an answer.”


Author: Eight Engineering Students Chosen as McNair Scholars

Students studying at the Homer Babbidge Library on March 26, 2019. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

The UConn McNair Scholars Program identified its next cohort of scholars last month, identifying eight engineering students that are leading the way in STEM fields.

The program prepares first-generation, low-income and historically underrepresented students for M.S. and Ph.D. studies in STEM disciplines. Of the 22 selected scholars for 2022-2023 academic year, eight have ties to engineering. Those students are:

Jose Cevallos Jr: Physics/Mechanical Engineering

Thuany De Carvalho Lachos: Biomedical Engineering

Malachi Denton: Environmental Engineering; Scholars House

Malik Francis: Computer Engineering; LSAMP, Scholars House

Jason Pulla: Chemical Engineering; Upward Bound (pre-college)

Justin Ridley: Biomedical Engineering

Cesar Rodriguez: Mechanical Engineering

Manav Surti: Biomedical Engineering

The McNair Scholars Program is an intensive research and graduate school preparation program for upper-division STEM students actively pursuing careers in academia.

“On behalf of the School of Engineering, I congratulate these scholars for this well-deserved and prestigious recognition,” Dean Kazem Kazerounian said. “They make us all very proud.”

UConn School of Engineering Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Diversity Daniel Burkey serves as an advisor to the McNair Scholars Program.

“We look forward to supporting their development as students and scholars,” Burkey said of the engineering students. “These students will go on to become academically well-rounded and competitive candidates for graduate studies.”

Ronald McNair was a NASA astronaut and physics Ph.D.

Author: Yaakov Bar-Shalom Earns IEEE Pioneer Award

By Claire Galvin, UConn School of Engineering Manager of Communications and Digital Strategy

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Professor Yaakov Bar-Shalom has been selected for the 2022 IEEE AESS Pioneer Award. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society recognizes individuals that have made significant contributions to the field of aerospace and electronic systems engineering. Bar-Shalom has won this award with Henk Blom of the Delft University of Technology, and their award stems from the development of the Interacting Multiple Model (IMM) approach to multi-model estimation and maneuvering target tracking.

Yaakov Bar-Shalom on May 13, 2021. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)“I am glad I can contribute to the increasingly high reputation of our ECE department and our school,” Bar-Shalom said. “It has been a great pleasure to serve UConn and continue cutting-edge research in electrical engineering.”

Bar-Shalom received a B.S. and M.S. from the Technicon in 1963 and 1967 before he received a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1970, all in electrical engineering. He is a UConn Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor and M.E. Klewin Professor. He is an IEEE Fellow, served as Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control and Automatica, General Chairman of 1985 ACC and FUSION 2000, and served as ISIF President (2000, 2002) and VP Publications (2004-13).

He has published over 650 papers and book chapters on his research. Current interests include estimation theory, target tracking and data fusion.

Bar-Shalom has graduated 42 Ph.D.s at UConn.

Other awards include: a corecipient of the M. Barry Carlton Award for the best paper in the IEEE TAES in 1995 and 2000, the IEEE Dennis J. Picard Medal for Radar Technologies in 2008, and the Connecticut Medal of Technology in 2012.  He also received the ISIF Award for a Lifetime of Excellence in Information Fusion in 2015, which was then renamed in 2016 to the “ISIF Yaakov Bar-Shalom Award for Lifetime of Excellence in Information Fusion.”

The IEEE AESS has invited Yaakov to be recognized at the 2023 International Information Fusion Conference in Charleston, SC in June 2023.