College of Engineering Archives - UConn Today https://today.uconn.edu Tue, 20 Feb 2024 17:54:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.4.2 Dean of Engineering to Transition from Administration to Research, Teaching https://today.uconn.edu/2024/02/dean-of-engineering-to-transition-from-administration-to-research-teaching/ Wed, 21 Feb 2024 12:30:23 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=209860 You got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
—Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

After 12 years leading the direction of UConn’s College of Engineering (CoE), Dean Kazem Kazerounian is heeding advice from one of his favorite musicians, Kenny Rogers.

“At some point, you have to know when to fold,” he says. “There’s a time to hold ’em and a time to fold ’em. This is my time for change.”

This August, Professor Kazerounian—or simply “Kazem” as he’s fondly known in the CoE’s Deanery—will step down from his role as dean and return to research and teaching. He’s already developing new courses including one on the intersection of advanced technologies and humanity, as well as advance his research on computational kinematics in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Manufacturing Engineering.

“While Kazem has made an extraordinary impact to the College of Engineering as a dean, the students will really benefit by having access to his wealth of experience and knowledge, and our faculty will gain a formidable mentor,” says Horea Ilies, school director and professor of mechanical engineering. “He’s equally respected as an instructor and a researcher as he is as an administrator.”

The Dean’s Doings…

As dean, Kazerounian leads strategic initiatives focused on expanding the CoE’s research enterprise, institutional advancement, educational innovation, and technology commercialization. He’s consistently striving to ensure growth in all engineering programs by focusing on three pillars: developing successful students, maintaining research excellence, and contributing to the economic output and development in the state of Connecticut.

He works with the UConn Foundation to secure private and corporate donations for the college including the College of Engineering Dean’s Fund, which provides resources, program support, and scholarships for engineering students. But the majority of his time is consumed by “running an enterprise” that consists of nearly 200 faculty, 152 staff members, and about 5,000 students. He oversees all academic programs, seven departments and 20 centers.

“The College of Engineering is one of the best engineering schools on the East Coast in so many ways,” Kazerounian says. “I always say we are the Berkeley of the East. We offer a wonderful public engineering program that’s very comprehensive, and being a land grant university, there’s a lot on our shoulders,” Kazerounian says. “It’s critical that we produce engineers who contribute to the state’s economic development so we need to keep going down that path.”

Leaving a Legacy

During Kazerounian’s tenure as dean, enrollment in the College of Engineering has more than doubled, research expenditures have quadrupled, and industry partners offer 46 full scholarships for students. The School of Engineering—as it was called since 1940—was elevated to a College last November, as was Kazerounian’s own department; Mechanical Engineering is now the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Manufacturing Engineering.

And, as part of UConn’s Next Generation Connecticut initiative to expand research in STEM fields, Dean Kazerounian’s tenure overlapped the opening of the Engineering and Science Building in 2018, the Innovation Partnership Building in 2018, and the state-of-the-art Science 1 building in 2023, which houses the Materials Science and Engineering Department.

No small feat, but Kazerounian humbly shares the credit with his colleagues.

“Really, the blessing of being the Dean is that you’re surrounded by amazing, brilliant administrators, faculty and staff who put forth the effort to improve our programs and impact students and people’s lives,” he says.

Among Kazerounian’s staff is Kylene Perras, assistant dean of operations and strategic initiatives for the CoE. They met in 2011 when Perras worked in advancement at the UConn Foundation, and in 2015, Kazerounian hired her to work in various capacities in the CoE.

“Humility is a rare trait in leadership, but Kazem exemplifies this effortlessly, despite his impressive achievements,” Perras says. “He heads the College of Engineering with his wisdom, inspiring us not only with his vision but also by rolling up his sleeves working alongside us, creating a culture of mutual respect. This, combined with his thoughtful approach to decision-making and genuine concern for our well-being individually and collectively in the College of Engineering has made him not only a great leader, but also a mentor we trusted and admire.”

From left to right, Anne D'Alleva, dean of the School of Fine Arts; John Krenicki '84 (ENG); President Tom Katsouleas; Donna Krenicki '84 (SFA); and Kazem Kazerounian, dean of the School of Engineering. (Gerry McCarthy/UConn Photo)
From left to right, Anne D’Alleva, former dean of the School of Fine Arts; John Krenicki ’84 (ENG); former President Tom Katsouleas; Donna Krenicki ’84 (SFA); and Dean of Engineering Kazem Kazerounian celebrate the opening of the Krenicki Institute for Arts and Engineering. (Gerry McCarthy/UConn Photo)

Claire Tremont, manager of communications and digital strategy for UConn Engineering, also admires Kazem for his humble mannerisms.  “In all meetings I’ve had with Kazem, he thanks me for giving him some of my time. I know he does it with others, too. The value he places on relationships is noticeable.”

Kazerounian “is all about relationships,” says Donald Swinton, senior director of development for the College of Engineering/University of Connecticut Foundation. “From the moment he took on the role as associate dean … he started a constant mission to find partners who could help raise up the College of Engineering. It started with companies like Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand (now Collins Aerospace). As dean, Kazerounian was constantly doing one visit, one plant tour, one coffee/lunch/dinner after another—building relationship after relationship with our alumni and executives.”

His knack for relationship building led to years of negotiations that birthed the United Technologies (now Pratt & Whitney) Institute of Advanced Systems Engineering with $10 million in funding; the Krenicki Institute for Arts and Engineering (in partnership with then Dean of Fine Arts Provost Anne D’Alleva), with $5 million in funding; and the National Institute for Underwater Vehicle Technology with $90 million (over 5 years) in funding. He supported growing the Eversource Energy Center to a $30 million enterprise; launched the Comcast Center of Excellence and the Altschuler Cybersecurity Laboratory, and helped enable UConn to land the modern day Thermo Fisher Scientific Center for Excellence in Microscopy and Materials Characterization, a similar partnership with Zeiss, and several others in the Innovation Partnership Building (IPB).

His work also broadly affected students.

“Acutely aware of undergrad students’ unhappiness with the required engineering ethics requirement that generally fell to an introductory philosophy course,” Swinton says, Kazerounian began talks with the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute that resulted in the Engineering for Human Rights Initiative, which addresses human rights implications of the most significant challenges in engineering and technology. “Students from all parts of UConn were introduced to courses with case studies, experiential learning and content from the hard sciences, social sciences and humanities,” Swinton recalls.

This radical idea firmly connected engineering to the social sciences and broadened faculty collaborations throughout UConn—now involving 60 faculty.

Of his list of accomplishments, Kazerounian is most proud of his efforts in diversity and inclusion. In 2019, Women Engineering magazine recognized UConn’s College of Engineering as a “Top 20” leader in the nation for fostering diversity and inclusion among its student and faculty population. And in 2016, The Washington Post reported that UConn saw the largest five-year gain in female engineering graduates among 90 public institutions nationally.

His work with Betsy ’81 (CLAS) and chemical engineering major Mark Vergnano ’80 (ENG) brought Engineering’s DEI efforts to a new level with the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion and the Vergnano Chair for Inclusion.

“We’ve really worked to close the gender gap in engineering,” Kazerounian says. “We’re really leading many institutions in that regard.”

Four Decades at UConn (and Counting)

Dean Kazem Kazerounian in 1985
Dean Kazem Kazerounian is pictured in 1985 during his first year working at UConn.

In 1984, Kazerounian graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. He was married with two children, and applied to four institutions, of which three granted him an interview and consequently an offer.

Being a political refugee from Iran, he didn’t know much about different parts of the country, so he headed to his local library to look at photographs of the three places—UConn being among them.

“The foliage grew on me and my wife,” Kazerounian recalls. “We came here and fell in love with Connecticut.”

Kazerounian accepted an assistant professor of mechanical engineering role, but didn’t intend to stay.

“My future [at UConn] was probably a couple years and not more than that,” he recalls. “But UConn is a wonderful university in a beautiful part of the country with amazing colleagues and above all, really interested, passionate students. I couldn’t ask for more in life.”

Forty years later, he’s still a Husky. And he doesn’t mind reflecting on his extensive career that led him to the Deanery.

Kazerounian—renowned worldwide for his significant contributions to kinematics, robotics, gear systems, and protein-based nano mechanical devices, “embodies the spirit of a quintessential systems builder, a trait evident in everything that he does,” Ilies says. “From courses that push out-of-the-box thinking to his pioneering multidisciplinary research focused on understanding and predicting protein motions using tools from theoretical kinematics, his collaborative approach extends to research, scholarship, student and faculty mentorship, and leadership. In fact, his systems thinking approach has been on clear display as a leader of the College of Engineering, where he has empowered the collective to produce, create, and execute compelling visions for UConn Engineering.”

After teaching mechanical engineering for 10 years, Kazerounian began a 30-year path in leadership roles. He spent four years as group chairman for Design, Manufacturing, and Systems faculty in Mechanical Engineering; two years as associate dean for research and outreach and director of the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI); one year as director of graduate studies in mechanical engineering; another four years as group chairman for Design, Manufacturing, and Systems faculty; three years as associate dean for research and strategic initiatives; and then in June 2012, he became dean of the present College of Engineering.

Outside of his work as dean, Kazem is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE), a fellow of the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. He has also been a consultant on the design of consumer products to OSIM International in Singapore, a consultant on gear systems dynamics to Pratt & Whitney and a consultant on ultra-precision, high-speed automation systems to the Singapore Productivity and Standards Board.

For ASME, he’s chaired the Design Division Executive Committee and several major national and international conferences and technical committees. He has served on the editorial boards of the ASME Applied Mechanics Review and ASME Journal of Medical Devices and was associate editor of the ASME Journal of Mechanical Design and the Journal of Mechanisms and Machine Theory. In 2006, he received the ASME Design Division Mechanisms and Robotics Award—a lifetime achievement award—in recognition of cumulative contributions to the field of mechanisms design and theory.

And during all this time, he continuously worked alongside students, mentoring them—“hundreds of them, but who’s counting,” he says — on their educational journey in engineering.

Kazem’s Commitment Continues

Dean Kazem Kazerounian is a professional classical guitarist
Dean Kazem Kazerounian is a professional classical guitarist. (UConn Photo)

As Kazerounian prepares to leave his prestigious position, the Office of the Provost is already looking for the next dean of the College of Engineering. A search committee, made up of faculty, directors, industry leaders, and one undergraduate student, is hosting final interviews this month. More information on the candidates is on the Academic Leader Searches website.

Without the rigorous role of dean, Kazerounian is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and exploring his other passion in life—music. As far back as his teenage years, Kazerounian enjoyed playing classical guitar, and even performed professionally. “I was very serious about it then, and I had to choose between teaching classical guitar or engineering after college.” (Watch a short video of Kazem playing a guitar in this UConn Foundation conversation video.)

One thing is for sure: Kazerounian will remain dedicated to the College of Engineering.

“As long as my health allows, I want to continue supporting the students and the college,” he says. “And retirement? I haven’t thought about that yet. I’ll probably start thinking about it when I’m 97.”

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Grab that Safety Vest, Get Your Hazard Lights Ready: Students Invited to “Reflect” on Public Safety at 2024 HackUConn https://today.uconn.edu/2024/02/grab-that-safety-vest-get-your-hazard-lights-ready-students-invited-to-reflect-on-public-safety-at-2024-hackuconn/ Wed, 21 Feb 2024 12:21:32 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=209835 Whether on campus or online, in our homes, at school, in workplaces, or at public events, issues of public safety are never far from our collective consciousness.

But public safety encompasses far more than police officers and caution tape, flashing lights and orange cones – and the issues are ever-evolving.

What can we do to help keep people safe at large public events?

How do we support safe environments for everyone in our classrooms?

How do we manage challenges surrounding public safety that arise from our increasingly online lives?

This spring, UConn undergraduates are invited to “Reflect on Public Safety” at 2024’s HackUConn – an event that aims to bring together young innovators and industry experts for a non-stop, fast-paced innovation and invention competition.

HackUConn logo

A hackathon is a chance for creative thinkers, problem solvers, and anyone eager to make a difference to come together for the greater good. Students of all majors and backgrounds are invited to collaborate and innovate solutions to real-world challenges, whether you’re into design, business, marketing, or simply passionate about creating positive change.

This year, the student-led planning team for HackUConn settled on the theme of public safety after just a few conversations, says Katherine Bates ’25 (CLAS), the student planning team lead for HackUConn.

“As the team conversed, we all realized we had an area of safety that related to us personally,” says Bates. “This personal connection to the theme, whether it was safety on campus, safety online, safety in the classroom, just to name a few, led the team to choosing public safety as the theme for this year.”

First launched in 2016 as a way to help contribute to the University’s now thriving and collaborative entrepreneurial culture, HackUConn is the University’s flagship hackathon and an annual tradition – supported by the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation – that offers an opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zone and gather ideas, attend workshops, gain insight from mentors, and compete for prizes during the 20-hour in-person event.

This year’s HackUConn will begin at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 1 (with check-in starting at 4:00 p.m.), and will run until noon on Saturday, March 2, at the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on the UConn Storrs campus.

“Students participating in HackUConn are expected to find a problem within this year’s theme, public safety, and create a solution to solve it,” explains Rachel Laemle ’24 (CAHNR), the logistics co-lead for HackUConn.

Registration for the event is now open, and students are encouraged to register by Friday, February 23. Students can register individually and then join a team at the event, or have the option of building a team before the event and registering together, though teams cannot bring in prior work – hacking can only be done during the event’s announced hacking period.

Over the course of the 20 consecutive hours, the student teams will brainstorm, prototype, and pitch their solutions to a panel of judges, who then select the winning ideas.

“You can gather close friends or make some new ones and pair up to pitch a solution to this year’s theme of public safety,” says Ava Carter ’25 (CLAS), the content team lead for HackUConn. “Not only should students be eager to participate for one of several grand prizes, but it’s an opportunity to network, problem solve, and create in a way never done before! It’s a night of fun and competition that any college student will be thrilled to attend!”

“I encourage participation in HackUConn for all students,” says Julian “Juju” Setiadi ’25 (ENG), the technology team lead for HackUConn, “emphasizing that regardless of their major or academic year, everyone stands to benefit from the valuable experience gained through involvement in this innovation competition!”

Some previous HackUConn winners have gone on to later pitch their hacked ideas to UConn’s Get Seeded, which gives students opportunities to earn seed funding and mentorship through the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Education, or CCEI, to help launch an entrepreneurial idea.

It’s a fun, creative, and safe environment to make like-minded new friends, says Aaron Rosman, operations manager for the Werth Institute and the HackUConn planning team’s supervisor, with the freedom to experiment and discover great new ideas.

“I encourage any student of any major or background to come and see where your creativity takes you,” Rosman says. “I think you’ll be surprised and pleased with yourself when you finish this event and see how far you have come in a day’s worth of time.”

 

HackUConn is free, and food is provided to all participants. For more information, or to register for this year’s HackUConn, visit werth.institute.uconn.edu/events/hackuconn.

 

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Matheou’s Art, Inspired by Fluid Dynamics, on Display at National Academy of Sciences https://today.uconn.edu/2024/02/matheous-art-inspired-by-fluid-dynamics-on-display-at-national-academy-of-sciences/ Mon, 19 Feb 2024 15:59:31 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=209777 Clouds strongly interact with solar radiation and as a result small changes in cloud cover have big impact on the Earth’s surface temperature. Currently, the effects of clouds are one of the largest sources of uncertainty in climate projections.

Recent computer technology, however, is enabling scientists and engineers to create cloud simulations in controlled environments.

Georgios Matheou, associate professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Manufacturing Engineering, is using a mathematical model called large-eddy simulation to replicate cloud physics and create cloud models. These simulations help improve weather forecasts and climate projections while contributing to the field of fluid dynamics—a discipline that describes the flow of liquids and gases.

“Climate is the biggest problem for humankind today. With new computer models, we can predict the motion and turbulence of the atmosphere. This is a much more accurate way to forecast weather.”

“Climate is the biggest problem for humankind today,” Matheou says. “With new computer models, we can predict the motion and turbulence of the atmosphere, and therefore predict wind patterns, thunderstorms, temperature, humidity, and hurricanes, for example. This is a much more accurate way to forecast weather.”

The computer model isn’t only useful to scientists, it’s pretty too. And in video form, it appears as a crystal-clear rendering of real clouds.

“The video is sort of a byproduct of our research on cloud and the atmosphere,” says Matheou, who heads UConn’s Computational Fluid Dynamics Group. “When we’re doing the simulations, they create a nice visual, which we can use to engage people in our research. They’re scientific and visually interesting.”

A projected video of Matheou’s cloud simulations is currently on display in a traveling exhibit, “Chaosmosis: Assigning Rhythm to the Turbulent.” This art exhibition, housed at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C., is inspired by fluid dynamics.

The exhibition draws from past submissions to the American Physical Society’s Gallery of Fluid Motion, an annual program that serves as a visual record of the aesthetic and science of contemporary fluid dynamics. Matheou’s video—“Large-eddy simulation of cumulus clouds”—won the Gallery of Fluid Motion contest in November 2021.

NAS gallery
The exhibit, “Chaosmosis: Assigning Rhythm to the Turbulent” is inspired by fluid dynamics.

His video is among 11 works on view, which range from photography and video to sculpture and sound. In the video viewers watch, from a static point of view, clouds forming in fast motion. This later changes to an airborne perspective, to give the views a dreamlike sensation of flying.

“Simulation is an additional tool for discovery, enabling us to conduct experiments that offer new insights into the intricate nature of clouds, particularly as our planet’s climate becomes more volatile,” Matheou said.

Matheou joined UConn’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Manufacturing in August 2017 from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He combines theory, modeling, computational algorithms, and remote sensing data to understand and predict complex multi-physics fluid flows.

His work on large-eddy simulations was recently published in Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences in 2022; Physical Review Fluids in 2022; Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society in 2022; and the Journal of Computational Physics in 2021.

“Chaosmosis: Assigning Rhythm to the Turbulent” is on exhibit until Feb. 23 at the National Academy of Sciences, 2101 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. The term chaosmosis, coined by the philosopher Félix Guattari in the 1990s, conveys the idea of transforming chaos into complexity. The exhibition is curated in coordination with the American Physical Society, Division of Fluid Dynamics.

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Online Graduate Programs at UConn Place Highly in National Rankings https://today.uconn.edu/2024/02/online-graduate-programs-at-uconn-place-highly-in-national-rankings/ Fri, 09 Feb 2024 13:41:48 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=209653 The online master’s programs offered by the School of Nursing, School of Business, and College of Engineering are among the best in the country, according to new rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

According to the latest rankings:

  • The online Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program in the School of Business is No. 9 nationally, up from No. 11 three years ago.
  • The two online Master of Science in Nursing programs are No. 8 nationally, up from No. 18 last year and the highest ranked program among nursing schools in New England.
  • The online Master of Engineering program is No. 37 nationally, a placement identical to last year’s ranking. The rank is 25 spots higher than three years ago.

U.S. News ranks programs according to their performance across a set of indicators of excellence, including faculty credentials, student engagement, reputation in both academic and industry circles, graduation rates, class size, online teaching best practices, support services, and more.

A commitment to innovative nursing education

The School of Nursing offers a significant opportunity for online programs in continuing education. This has grown from past years to include family nurse practitioneradult gerontology acute care nurse practitioneradult gerontology primary care nurse practitionernurse educatorneonatal nurse practitioner concentration, and nurse leader.

The graduate program was established in 1971 and has been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Its experienced faculty prepares skilled nurse leaders who synthesize the best evidence and translate it into practice to advance health locally and globally. Graduate students are offered flexible online programming, superior clinical experiences, multiple concentration options, and a superior certification pass rate.

“The significant rise to Number 8 in our national rankings demonstrates UConn Nursing’s outstanding program and the school’s commitment to innovative, high-quality nursing education. UConn Nursing faculty are dedicated to preparing the next generation of advanced practice nurses, nurse educators and nurse leaders,” says Dean Victoria Vaughan Dickson. “Our graduates are poised to address the complexities of nursing care; advance evidence-based practice that promotes health equity; and be leaders who champion the transformation of healthcare. UConn Nursing is proud to recognize our exemplary faculty and students.”

Advancing the careers of working engineers

Underneath the UConn College of Engineering, online Master of Engineering (MENG) degrees have remained strong and steady. 

With 14 concentrations offered, from biomedical engineering to digital design and manufacturing, students earn the skills to advance as engineers in various professions. 

The MENG degree is offered through the Center for Advanced Engineering Education, a UConn Engineering center dedicated to providing continuous learning opportunities for engineers that are flexible and accessible. The entity was formerly known as the UConn School of Engineering’s Professional Education program before its elevation to a center this past fall. 

“We believe it’s pivotal that working engineers are provided with the opportunity to earn their MENG in a way that is flexible and convenient,” says Center Program Director Nora Sutton. “Our degrees are designed to help students balance their work/life responsibilities, empowering them to be a real force in the increasingly evolving, and highly impactful, world of engineering.” 

High standards for online education

This year, the School of Business’ MSA program added two certificates, one in tax and the other in financial reporting, that align student coursework with the newly redesigned CPA exam.

“What makes the program consistently successful is that we have always set high standards for online education, even before other universities were offering online programs,’’ says Professor George Plesko, accounting department head.

“Over time, the program has continued to innovate and to increase the expectations of what we can offer,’’ he said. “In addition, we have a group of highly talented faculty who are dedicated to the program, its mission, and our students.’’

The UConn accounting program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), considered the ‘gold standard’ of business school evaluation.

The 30-credit MSA program was created in 1999 and is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It provides the additional accounting credit hours to complete the educational requirements needed to earn a CPA license. Over the last few years, several UConn MSA alumni have won the coveted Elijah Watt Sells Award, from the American Institute of CPAs, presented to those who score among the best in the nation on their first attempt at their CPA exams.

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Researchers Aim to Predict the Probability of Concrete Foundation Failure in Connecticut Homes https://today.uconn.edu/2024/02/researchers-aim-to-predict-the-probability-of-concrete-foundation-failure-in-connecticut-homes/ Mon, 05 Feb 2024 12:35:45 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=209086 In north central and northeastern Connecticut as well south-central Massachusetts, tens of thousands of homes built between 1983 and 2015 are potentially sitting atop faulty concrete foundations.

But, when some concrete foundations began to crack and crumble, researchers at the University of Connecticut are determined to help homeowners take the best course of action.

With support of almost $7 million in federal grants from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the form of four grants, a team from the College of Engineering is working to better understand the effects of the concrete-degrading mineral pyrrhotite. When exposed to oxygen and water, pyrrhotite expands, triggers additional reactions inside the concrete and can cause a slow deterioration of a home’s foundation.

“With the increasing use of concrete over the last decades sources of good quality aggregates are depleting,” says Kay Wille, associate professor of materials science and engineering and civil and environmental engineering. “But as we expand our quarries to crush more aggregates to make more concrete, we’re going to find other aggregates of potentially lower quality.”

Cracked foundation
When exposed to oxygen and water, pyrrhotite expands, triggers additional reactions inside the concrete and can cause a slow deterioration of a home’s foundation.

In this case, contractors used a concrete aggregate—unknowingly embedded with pyrrhotite—from a quarry in Willington. The cracking can take 10 to 30 years to appear as the foundation becomes structurally unsound and the costs replace the foundations are typically well excess of a hundred thousand dollars. While the State of Connecticut offers some reimbursement funds, homeowners’ insurance won’t cover the fix—which involves lifting the house, removing the old foundation, replacing the foundation, and securing the home to its new foundation.

“When the rock was removed from this particular quarry, and crushed into the right sized aggregates, they were not tested for pyrrhotite since this problem was not known at that time,” Wille explains. “So over decades unsound aggregates were used for concrete foundations which now show different stages of deterioration and damage.”

Wille, who became involved in studying the crumbling concrete problem in 2015, is a member and Principal Investigator (PI) of UConn’s Crumbling Concrete Research and Testing team. With support of the latest NIST grant, worth $4 million, the team is now working on these five areas of focus:

  • Develop an efficient and reliable sampling and testing method to determine the amount of pyrrhotite in the concrete foundations.
  • Establish a field-testing program to support homeowners in getting their foundation tested for no additional cost.
  • Develop methods for accelerated testing in the lab to better understand how pyrrhotite will affect concrete in a shorter time span.
  • Create a risk assessment framework for homeowners to support decision making.
  • Determine the effectiveness of potential mitigation strategies to prolong the concrete degradation process.

This work will be accomplished by analyzing more than 450 samples taken from homes with pyrrhotite detected in the foundation. The results help predict the probability of if—and when—a home’s foundation will be failing.

When the research team visits a house for testing, homeowners often ask many questions. “How much pyrrhotite is ‘too much’ in my concrete?” “Is there anything I can do to prevent this?” “Does the [concentration] vary house to house?”

“The goal of this research is to make a defined conclusion for these questions, but that’s not an easy task,” Wille explains. “If we tell them they have a high percentage of pyrrhotite in their concrete foundation, does that mean their foundation crumbles before another house that has a lower concentration? In the last few years we have collected data with consistent quality from the field which already allow us to start making prediction with a certainty, whether this house will be failing in 10 to 20 years.”

While there isn’t a way to prevent pyrrhotite from causing concrete degradation, the next step is to explore options for mitigating the damages.

“In order to understand whether mitigation strategies are going to be effective, we need to fast forward to understand, OK, is this going to prevent the deterioration from happening. This is a very critical piece of the research,” explains PI James Mahoney, a research engineer specializing in transportation construction materials and an associate program director of UConn’s Connecticut Transportation Institute. “The last thing we want to do is tell a homeowner, use this product on your basement walls and 10 years later you find out, whoops, it didn’t work. It may have prolonged its life, but it’s not the solution.”

Accelerated testing will help develop mitigation plans. This research direction is supported by Lesley Frame, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

“If there’s something that can slow down the rate of reaction and have a positive impact, we need to be able to make sure that with the accelerated testing that it will actually bear out,” Mahoney said.

The Inspection Process

crumbling foundation
The research team first makes a visual inspection, noting any visible cracking in a home’s foundation.

While Wille oversees ongoing research, Mahoney manages a group of experts who conduct field tests on site. The service is free to eligible homeowners in the affected areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts.

“First, we’ll make a visual inspection and note any visible cracking, and then, we’ll drill into foundations, collect the material, and bring that material back to the labs at UConn and test it for pyrrhotite concentrations,” Mahoney explains.

The material undergoes a microstructural analysis at laboratories throughout campus including the Advanced Cementitious Materials and Composites (ACMC) Lab, the Central Electron Microscopy Facility, the Geoenvironmental Engineering Lab, Thermo Fisher Scientific Center for Advanced Microscopy and Materials Analysis (CAMMA) Lab, and others inside the Connecticut Transportation Institute, Institute of Materials Science and the Innovation Partnership Building at the UConn Tech Park.

The team uses multiple instruments such as optical microscopes, scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), X-ray fluorescence (XRF), and elemental analysis systems to determine the elemental composition of the samples. Several graduate students, who are pursing degrees in civil engineering, materials science and engineering, and environmental engineering, assist with the testing and analysis.

Ultimately, the homeowners receive a report of the team’s findings. The report is also added to the team’s database and is used to help predict the risk of future foundations failing.

“We’re very fortunate at UConn to have access to so many instruments and world-class facilities such as the Central Electron Microscopy  center, which are crucial for this type of research,” says team PI Marisa Chrysochoou, professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

UConn’s Early Involvement

In August 2015, the Attorney General and Commissioner of the Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut reached out to Wille, who directs the CoE’s ACMC lab and specializes in concrete technology and material design.

Around this time, many homeowners in the eastern area of the state were noticing deterioration of their concrete foundations.

“They asked if our team could assist in investigating why certain concrete has failed prematurely,” he recalls.

Wille agreed to the challenge and formed a team.

Initially, the investigators explored the idea of how environmental conditions, including soil conditions, could impact the deterioration of concrete. But it wasn’t until the researchers collected and examined the microstructures of material samples that they determined the crumbling culprit—the oxidation of pyrrhotite-containing aggregates and expanding minerals.

Eight months later, Wille and postdoctoral researcher Rui Zhong released a report titled “Investigating the Deterioration of Basement Walls Made of Concrete in CT” for the Attorney General’s Office. The report was shared with the Governor’s Office to bring awareness that consumer protection laws at the time did not provide relief to homeowners affected by the deteriorating concrete.

Mahoney joined the research team in 2017 after dealing with the crumbling concrete firsthand. In March 2016, the Ellington resident noticed the cracking pattern typical of pyrrhotite damage in his foundation.

“As a homeowner, it was quite devastating, but of course, as a scientist, I was thinking, let’s see if we can turn lemons into lemonade,” he says. “Realizing that UConn has a lot of capabilities and ability to help with this problem, I started getting involved.”

After completion of the work for the CT Attorney General, UConn provided seed funding to help jump start the research into developing a test method to detect the presence of pyrrhotite in concrete in 2019.  This seed funding was vital for securing the subsequent NIST research funding which started in 2020.

 

For more information or to request a core sample test, visit the Crumbling Concrete Research and Testing website.

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Exploring Heavy Metals Along the Ocean Floor https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/exploring-heavy-metals-along-the-ocean-floor/ Mon, 22 Jan 2024 12:09:17 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208647 A UConn Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering has received a 2024 Young Investigator Program (YIP) Award from the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

Xueju “Sophie” Wang is one of 24 awardees representing 20 institutions in 16 states who will share nearly $18 million in funding to conduct innovative scientific research benefitting science and technology for the Department of the Navy.

Xueju "Sophie" Wang
During her promising career, Assistant Professor of Material Science and Engineering Xueju “Sophie” Wang has earned an NSF Career Award as well as a Young Investigators Program Award from the Office of Naval Research.

Wang will receive $750,000 for her project: “a soft intelligent robot for self-digging, multi-modal sensing, and in situ marine sediment analysis.” The proposed robot -­ an octopus-shaped device – will have pliable arms equipped with multimodal flexible electronic sensors able to elongate and dig into ocean sediment. The robot will be able to determine conditions such as temperature, pressure, and concentrations of heavy metals in real time, while in place on the ocean floor.

Ocean pollutants, such as heavy metals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and pharmaceuticals, are often stored in marine sediment, especially in regions with intense industrial activities, agriculture, shipping, and oil exploration. Once accumulated, such pollutants pose significant threats to marine ecosystems and organisms, and ultimately human health. Sediment analysis is an important means of assessing the marine environment and providing guidance to relevant authorities.

The technology will address limitations in existing sediment analysis, which uses energy-efficient, miniaturized electronic ocean sensors that require high pressure chambers and seals to withstand the extreme pressure and harsh ocean conditions. Those devices also require a larger power supply and sensor system.

The project builds on Wang’s prior work published in the journal ACS Sensors. The 2021 paper introduces the concept of the soft, pressure-tolerant, flexible electronic sensors “that can operate under large hydrostatic pressure and salinity environments, thereby eliminating the need for pressure chambers and reducing the power consumption and sensor size.” The goal of the project is to make a prototype that can later be tested in an ocean environment.

“There is no device like ours that can dig into ocean sediment for in situ measurements,” says Wang. “That is why ONR is so excited about our project.”

Wang describes her research as a crossover of biomedical engineering and materials science. In addition to marine uses, soft robotics and flexible electronic sensors have agricultural, pharmaceutical, and healthcare applications.

Soft robotics can morph from one shape to another. The soft, flexible electronic sensors are sensitive to temperature, pressure, strain, salinity, and more factors. In the healthcare arena, Wang and her group developed a smart bandage integrated with pressure sensors that speed up the healing of diabetic foot ulcers. Agricultural applications include a robot that monitors ground conditions.

Established in 1985, the ONR YIP is one of the nation’s oldest and most selective basic-research, early-career awards in science and technology. Its purpose is to fund tenure-track academic researchers, or equivalent, whose scientific pursuits show outstanding promise for supporting the Department of Defense, while also promoting their professional development.

The 2024 YIP awardees were chosen from more than 220 applicants. Wang’s fellow recipients include researchers from Stanford University, Columbia University, Brown University, Boston University, University of California, Irvine, and the University of Michigan, among others, pursuing a broad range of naval-relevant research topics, that include quantum information, artificial intelligence, autonomous operations, sensors and sensing, power systems, robotics, high-temperature thermal management and hypersonics.

In announcing the awards, Chief of Naval Research, Rear Admiral Kurt Rothenhaus, noted the vital importance of identifying and attracting the nation’s brightest scientists and engineers in support of the innovation and scientific and technological excellence pursued by ONR in service to Marines and sailors.

“The Young Investigator Program is critical to that goal,” he said.

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UConn’s Innovation Quest Turns Students into Entrepreneurs https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/uconns-innovation-quest-turns-students-into-entrepreneurs/ Thu, 18 Jan 2024 12:30:23 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208596 Just a year ago, Amelia Martin ’23 (CAHNR) was an undergraduate student with a great idea for creating an eco-friendly surfboard, but little idea how to bring it to the marketplace.

Today she is an entrepreneur and the owner of Mud Rat, a company creating organic surfboard cores from the mycelium of mushrooms. The material can replace Styrofoam, which produces toxic dust, and takes hundreds of years to decompose.

Mud Rat was one of the winners in last year’s UConn Innovation Quest (iQ) entrepreneurship competition, and the business knowledge Martin gained, coupled with introductions to business advisors, helped launch her company.

Her product is already drawing the attention of big brands in the sports industry, and she is optimistic about the future.

“Before I enrolled in iQ, I had no knowledge of how to run a business or how to get money for my business,’’ Martin says. “Aside from the knowledge I gained in how to be a successful CEO, iQ gave me a network of mentors and other business owners that I still talk to regularly and get advice and support from.’’

She distinctly remembers being asked, ‘Do you have what it takes?’ to become an entrepreneur. She wrote it on the cover of a notebook and looks at it periodically when she needs motivation.

“IQ taught me how to take criticism and persevere when things get difficult, and always keep going. It gave me the backbone and perspective I needed to come as far as I have, and I am so grateful to have gotten to participate in it,’’ she says.

Kickoff Workshop is Feb. 7; Entrepreneurs Vie for $30,000 in Prize Money

Since its inception 13 years ago, UConn Innovation Quest has helped participants create dozens of innovative, successful and profitable companies. Their focus has been on everything from medical technology to athletic-training devices, from consumer goods to video games that address mental health challenges.

UConn’s 2024 Innovation Quest competition will begin with a kick-off workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 7. Although the program is a part of the School of Business’ Boucher Management & Entrepreneurship Department, all UConn undergraduate and graduate students are welcome to participate. The program meets virtually. Pre-registration is available at http://innovationquest.uconn.edu

After completing four workshops in February and March, participants can submit a formal application with their business idea. A panel of judges will select the most promising enterprises in April. Those teams will compete for $30,000 in startup funds and a chance to attend the university’s Summer InQbator, a next-step entrepreneurship bootcamp.

The 2024 iQ program will be led by Kevin Gardiner ’06 MBA, an adjunct professor in both the School of Business and College of Engineering. Gardiner has served as an iQ mentor for several years and has held management and senior management positions at both startups and long-established companies, including Welcome Commerce, Macy’s, and Oracle.

“I would encourage students to apply even if they don’t think they are ready to start a business or if they are concerned that their idea still needs some work,’’ Gardiner says.  “Even if they don’t win the top prize, they’ll learn so much about starting a business and about themselves, and they’ll have a lot of fun doing it.’’

“We have so many talented mentors in every discipline, from intellectual property to go-to-market strategy to product development,’’ he says. “If young entrepreneurs want feedback, they will find out quickly if their idea has ‘legs’ and whether they have the passion to pursue their business.’’

It Takes More than A Good Idea and a Million Bucks

One of the greatest advantages of the iQ competition is that it welcomes all ideas—whether software or medical devices, engineering technology or a much-needed consumer product, he says.

“What I want to see is passion in the presenter,’’ he says. “I love that every year we see great ideas across the gambit.’’

Based on his business experience, Gardiner says that entrepreneurs need to be able to build a strong team to support them, and to inspire great people to want to work for them.

“Most people think that a good idea and million bucks will make a company soar, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle,’’ he says. “I would bet on an A-Team with a B-Idea, over a B-Team with an A-Idea every time.”

Gardiner is taking the helm of the popular program as two of its founders step back from leadership roles. Alumnus Keith Fox ’80, a former senior executive at Apple and Cisco, brought the program to UConn, and entrepreneurship professor Rich Dino who educated, nurtured, and encouraged the students. Both men will remain engaged with the program. Their work has been credited for ushering in a deep commitment to entrepreneurship at the University, and contributed to creation of new entrepreneurship programs and institutes.

“The iQ program came to UConn through the initiative and generosity of alumnus Keith Fox. It has flourished through the hard work of Professor Rich Dino and the amazing group of mentors and judges he has cultivated,’’ says David Souder, senior associate dean at the School of Business. “Now it will continue to be an opportunity for hands-on learning that energizes students through the leadership of Kevin Gardiner, who has been part of that mentoring group for years.’’

“We celebrate the successful companies that have grown out of iQ, but as educators, we are just as proud of how the program gives a wide range of students, across every school in the university, a chance to try out their entrepreneurial spirit and learn more about the entrepreneurial journey,” Souder says.

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AIAA Honors Professor Sung with Prestigious 2024 Energy Systems Award https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/aiaa-honors-professor-sung-with-prestigious-2024-energy-systems-award/ Thu, 11 Jan 2024 12:30:01 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208517 For his “outstanding contributions” in engineering low-emission energy systems, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) honored UConn professor Chih-Jen “Jackie” Sung with the 2024 AIAA Energy Systems Award.

“Professor Sung is one of those rare individuals who are totally conversant in experiment, theory, and computation. His research interests not only straddle the physics of fluid flows and the chemistry of reaction kinetics—which are the foundational disciplines anchoring various forms of energy systems—but they also range from the fundamental to the applied,” said AIAA President Laura McGill, who presented Sung with the award on Jan. 10.

Sung, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy, and professor of mechanical engineering in the College of Engineering’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Manufacturing Engineering, joined the faculty at UConn in 2009. Since then, and as head of the Combustion Research Group at UConn, he’s investigated various combustion and propulsion phenomena to gain insights into efficient and environmentally friendly combustion technologies.

“Jackie Sung is a world-renowned scholar and educator specializing in efficient combustion systems, with a focus on flame dynamics and low-temperature chemistry. As a key figure in our Combustion Research Group—one of the strongest in the country—within our School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Manufacturing Engineering, the depth and breadth of his experience will be pivotal in shaping the future direction of our School in research and education,” says Horea Ilies, professor and department head.

At UConn, Professor Sung’s research focuses on clean combustion, flame dynamics, oxidation chemistry of fuels, laser diagnostics, catalytic and supersonic combustion, high-pressure flame phenomena, soot formation, and computational simulations of complex combustion processes.

“This award is a reflection of the achievements and efforts made by all my dedicated graduate students and postdocs whom I have had the privilege to interact with over the years.” — Professor Jackie Sung

He has made research contributions to the dynamics and flammability of flames, the chemical kinetics of fuels oxidation, and practical device applications such as the scramjet, gas turbine, and reciprocating engines. In addition, his design of a rapid compression machine “is a breakthrough in the experimental studies of chemical kinetics,” says Kazem Kazerounian, dean of the College of Engineering.

Sung developed the unique compression machine to investigate the kinetics of combustion reactions at low temperatures. “When he developed this technique, it was one of the first such techniques and apparati that combustion researchers now use to probe into the chemistry of combustion reactions,” Kazerounian recalls.

In addition, Sung is the author of more than 200 publications on combustion, propulsion, and sustainable energy. His work contributes to the understanding of combustion phenomena and energy issues related to hydrogen, syngas, hydrocarbon, and bio-renewable fuels.

In addition to his scholarship, Sung is a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME); a fellow of the Combustion Institute; an associate fellow of the AIAA; member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering; member of the Editorial Board for Combustion Theory and Modelling; and founding faculty advisor of UConn’s AIAA Student Chapter.

Sung received his BS in mechanical engineering from the National Chiao Tung University in 1986, MSE in mechanical engineering from the National Taiwan University in 1988, and MA and Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 1991 and 1994, respectively.

“Professor Sung’s research is at the forefront of combustion R&D, especially on topics related to energy sustainability and the environment,” McGill said. “He is quick to seize new opportunities in research, and interacts easily and effectively with colleagues from academia, industry, and the government, and through such relations forges collaborations.”

Professor Sung also has been an effective educator, having received many teaching awards, and has provided guidance and advising to over 55 graduate and post-doctoral students and over 100 undergraduates on their senior or independent research projects. He has been active in STEM outreach and is an active faculty advisor of the student chapter.

“I am very appreciative of this tremendous honor, but also humbled by it. It is truly rewarding to be recognized by your peers within the AIAA family,” Sung says. “This award is a reflection of the achievements and efforts made by all my dedicated graduate students and postdocs whom I have had the privilege to interact with over the years.”

]]> Seven UConn Students Earn Prestigious Gilman Scholarships https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/seven-students-earn-gilman-scholarships/ Fri, 05 Jan 2024 12:30:53 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208095 The Gilman Scholarship, a prestigious academic award congressionally funded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs at the State Department, has been awarded to seven UConn students for the current application cycle. The funding supports broadening student participation in study abroad programs and encourages travel to diverse locations around the globe, along with intensive language study and internship experiences.

“We are very excited to see STEM students being represented with Gilman Scholarships this award cycle,” says Valerie Jenkelunas, Experiential Global Learning (EGL) advisor and community liaison specialist. “We also appreciate that four students will be studying abroad in East Asia, an underrepresented region in study abroad nationally.”

In addition to EGL, students applying for Gilman Scholarships also work with advisors in UConn’s Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (ONSF).  Michael Cunningham, assistant director of ONSF and UConn’s Fulbright program advisor, is one of two Gilman certifying advisors at UConn along with Jenkelunas.

Each Gilman Scholar is required to complete a service project upon their return from studying abroad in their campus or home community, with the goal of sharing the value of participation in study abroad and promoting the scholarship to prospective students. Applications are reviewed with consideration for the proposed follow-up service project.

Eligibility for the Gilman Scholarship requires undergraduate students to be Pell Grant-eligible, United States citizens who plan to study abroad for academic credit through a program approved by their home institution. Supporting students with high financial need provides access to students who are historically underrepresented in study abroad, including first-generation college students, STEM majors, ethnic and racial minority students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and others who experience barriers to participation.

Students from underrepresented areas of the U.S. are also considered during the application process and this year there are recipients from all 50 states.

The following UConn students were selected as Gilman Scholars in this cycle and they are listed with the location of where they will study as part of the program:

Andrew Change ’25 (ENG), a mechanical engineering major, who will study at Korea University in Seoul in the spring of 2024. Change also received a Critical Need Language Award, which is given to selected recipients who are studying in a location where a critical need language is spoken – Korean in the case of Change. There are only 90 of these awards given nationally.

Michelle Eweka ’25 (CLAS), a political science and humanities major, who will study at the University of Granada in Spain in the summer of 2024. Her sister Victoria Amy Eweka ’24 (CLAS) is currently studying at the University of Konstanz in Germany on a Gilman Scholarship.

Moera Kamimura ’25 (ENG), a mechanical engineering major from Stamford, who will study at Waseda University in Tokyo in the spring 2024 semester.

Avery Lyn Sparks ’25 (CLAS), a psychology major with a political science minor from East Haddam, who will study at the International Studies Institute in Florence, Italy, in the spring 2024 semester.

Alexandra Torres Munoz ’25 (CAHNR, CLAS), an allied health sciences and French double major with minors in Spanish, European studies, physiology, neurobiology, and literary translation, from Wallingford who will study at the University of Granada in Spain in the spring of 2024.

Yanni Ysiranidies ’25 (BUS), a finance major from Norwalk, who will study at Waseda University in Tokyo in the summer of 2024.

Suki Zheng ’25 (ENG), an environmental engineering major, who will study at Korea University in Seoul in the spring of 2024.

 

The Office of Experiential Global Learning (EGL) and the Office of National Scholarships & Fellowships (ONSF) are resources for students interested in learning more about the Gilman Scholarship and other scholarships and fellowships that support education abroad opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students. Students interested in learning more about the Gilman should reach out to one of UConn’s Gilman Certifying Advisors, Val Jenkelunas (EGL) and Michael Cunningham (ONSF)

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UConn Stamford Clothing Pantry Offers Students Range of Everyday Wear, Professional Attire https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/uconn-stamford-clothing-pantry-offers-students-range-of-everyday-wear-professional-attire/ Thu, 04 Jan 2024 12:30:59 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208175 Ralph Lauren might not have visited UConn Stamford in person, but he’s there – along with Gloria Vanderbilt, Liz Claiborne, and Calvin Klein.

Students can find them in the old gymnasium in the heart of campus, alongside designers from LOFT, Charter Club, and Chaps, on the labels of shirts, pants, skirts, and dresses that are for the taking as part of Husky Clothing for All.

Started in 2018 as Dress for Success through the efforts of a student club, organizers quickly partnered with Stamford’s Center for Career Development to provide students professional clothing to wear outside the classroom for job interviews, internships, or other typically adult endeavors, says sociologist Laura Bunyan, an associate professor-in-residence who was the club’s advisor and who continues to run the program.

Laura Bunyan, associate professor of sociology in residence, at the Clothing for All closet at the Stamford campus
Laura Bunyan, associate professor of sociology in residence, at the Clothing for All closet at the Stamford campus on Nov. 30, 2023. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Over two days in the week that preceded the biannual career fair, students would rummage tables to put together an outfit, while workshops to develop an elevator pitch and critique resumes prepared them for employers’ queries, she says.

Then, Bunyan noticed students needed more than just suits and jackets. People started asking for everyday wear like jeans, coats, boots, sweaters, and sweatshirts, she says, and the dress clothing that fell out of fashion among the masses during the pandemic wasn’t as necessary.

“I don’t even dress up as much anymore,” she says.

Around the same time, Bunyan and one of her sociology classes started a pop-up food pantry on campus, which later became part of the University-wide Husky Harvest initiative, giving her access to student workers and experience sourcing product.

“Students in general need social support like access to food and free and reduced-cost textbooks,” Bunyan says. “Clothing is expensive and in their time at UConn Stamford, they change sizes and shapes and encounter situations, like new jobs, where they need to step up their wardrobes. We’re just trying to break down barriers so they can access things that will enrich their lives.”

With a dedicated student worker in spring 2023, Dress for Success became Husky Clothing for All and opened a few hours a week. This academic year, it boasts a handful of workers and is open 15 hours a week Monday through Thursday.

“Yes, Fairfield County is one of the wealthiest in the country, but there’s also extreme poverty here,” Bunyan says. “There’s insecurity at all levels in all the towns around here, but especially in the schools. People don’t always think of college students as needing help because they are privileged in a lot of ways. But also in a lot of ways, they need help more than any of us.”

Karlie Krasowski ’27 (CLAS) says she doesn’t own a single piece of professional clothing, nor does Tiarra Shaw ’27 (ACES).

The only reason Jaret Jimpikit ’27 (ENG) has a shirt and tie is because he’s attended his fair share of quinceañaras, and Nicolas Roman ’27 (ENG) dresses for church.

“When someone starts college it’s a new experience and they don’t know if they fit in or not,” Roman says. “Sometimes people need extra stuff to help them fit in and having a clothing pantry like this means anybody can explore any style they want with our very wide range of clothing selections.”

The four – all finishing their first semester of college – work with Bunyan to staff Clothing for All a couple days a week.

Krasowski says word came a few weeks ago that someone was looking for clothing in extra-large sizes because they didn’t have a cold-weather wardrobe: “We scavenged through the racks and found a lot of items to give her. There are a lot of things in here to fit just about any taste.”

Jimpikit holds up an emerald-colored poncho that could be the perfect holiday accessory for someone.

“Everybody needs help of some kind,” Krasowski says. “It’s cliché to say someone is going to struggle just because they’re in school.”

Much of the clothing comes from community donations, primarily the suburbs of the Naugatuck River valley, Bunyan says. A donation box is located at Piper and Dune, a gift shop in Southbury, and there are boxes around the Stamford campus.

In the spring, one student benefited from a donated tuxedo.

In the fall, many found bathing suits for use at the Stamford YMCA, where students get free admission.

“We have students who take things home for family members, which I encourage just to try to give back to their families and the community,” Bunyan says. “The community, in general, has been so good to us.”

Nicholas Roman '27 (ENG) and Tiarra Shaw '27 (CLAS) fold items at the Clothing for All closet at the Stamford campus
Nicholas Roman ’27 (ENG) and Tiarra Shaw ’27 (CLAS) fold items at the Clothing for All closet at the Stamford campus on Nov. 30, 2023. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

While the immediate hope is to attract more students to Clothing for All, Bunyan says she would like to find a permanent location on campus and expand it with a sewing machine, a few mannequins, a full-length mirror, some couches, and maybe a computer.

Perhaps there’s a way to link it to Husky Harvest, she adds, to provide things like can openers, spatulas, food storage containers – things necessary to make and store food for later, things most take for granted.

Jimpikit says that as a computer science major he envisions a website for Clothing for All, with pictures of what’s available to entice more people through the door.

“The student body has really evolved over the years,” Bunyan says. “If, 15 years ago, you told me I would start a food pantry, I wouldn’t have believed you. But I see the shifting needs of the students and I want to help fill the gaps.”

She continues, “One of the problems, too, is high schools delivering the message that when you go to college no one is going to help you. That’s one of my biggest obstacles in teaching. Students eventually will come to me after I’ve sent a few emails and apologize, saying they’re not used to someone offering to help.”

Shaw says that working at Clothing for All has acclimated her to the campus, made her feel welcomed and needed.

“That’s what I feel like this place is for also,” she says.

 

Monetary donations to Husky Clothing for All can be made to Husky Harvest Stamford through the UConn Foundation. For large clothing donations only, contact Bunyan at laura.bunyan@uconn.edu.

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Vergnano Endowed Chair for Inclusion Established at the College of Engineering https://today.uconn.edu/2024/01/vergnano-endowed-chair-for-inclusion-established-at-the-college-of-engineering/ Wed, 03 Jan 2024 15:29:26 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208313 For the second time in two years, the generosity of UConn alumni Mark and Betsy (Reddington) Vergnano is shaping the future of engineering education at UConn.

The couple made a $3 million gift this fall to establish the Vergnano Endowed Chair for Inclusion within the College of Engineering. Support for this faculty position, in addition to new programs and staff support, will build upon the impact the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion is already having on students.

“We are so grateful for the continued support of Mark and Betsy Vergnano,” says UConn College of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian. “The Vergnano Institute for Inclusion has unified our efforts in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. These founders inspire our faculty, staff, students, and alumni to aim higher, break boundaries, and work better together. I am particularly enthusiastic about the new chair, and I look forward to everything they do to lead us forever, united and stronger than ever before.”

Expanded Support for the Vergnano Institute

An initial $3 million gift from the Vergnanos in 2021 established the Institute, which is dedicated to increasing the number of underserved students in engineering and other STEM fields. The Institute provides scholarships, mentoring programs and development resources to help students succeed both during their time at UConn but also after graduation, whether that is in the workforce or academia. Inspired by the Institute’s success thus far, the Vergnanos decided to expand their involvement and support.

“We have learned that scholarships are very helpful, but to ensure the students’ successful matriculation, there is a need for continued support over their four years,” Mark Vergnano explains. “We wanted to make sure that scholarships, content, and leadership are all part of the Institute.”

It was also important to the Vergnanos that students within the Institute felt continued support in the wake of the national conversation around equity, justice and inclusion in higher education and the workplace.

Building on the Institute’s Success

Currently, 45% of students in the College of Engineering come from underserved educational backgrounds that have been historically overlooked within the field. And the retention rate for students participating in the Institute is above the national average for engineering students. And this is just the beginning.

“The students within the Institute are building a community,” says Vergnano. “Since our initial gift, Betsy and I have seen these amazing students elevate themselves into leadership positions throughout the College and across the entire campus.”

The Institute is also attracting significant interest from the Connecticut engineering industry as businesses look for a pipeline of diverse talent. Some of these companies are adding their support through scholarships and internship programs in hopes of bolstering the state’s engineering workforce.

 

Support the Vergnano Institute for Inclusion-Scholarship Fund.

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Dr. Cato T. Laurencin Delivers Keynote Speech at University of Virginia Diversity Conference https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/dr-cato-t-laurencin-delivers-keynote-speech-at-university-of-virginia-diversity-conference/ Tue, 26 Dec 2023 21:19:17 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208247 Cato T. Laurencin, MD, Ph.D., was the invited keynote speaker for the 2023 How When & Why of DEI Conference sponsored by the University of Virginia School of Medicine and School of Nursing.  Laurencin is the University Professor and Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Chief Executive Officer, The Cato T. Laurencin Institute for Regenerative Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

An understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion in health care today needs to be acknowledged and in practice by all members of the health care team and administration. The conference focused on helping health care team members support their respective organizations in establishing attainable goals within a reasonable timeline. The conference also provided resources to implement and constantly improve valuable diversity, equity, and inclusion at the learner’s institution and to evolve further opportunities for future education on the topics.

Laurencin’s keynote challenged the audience to consider the adoption of the IDEAL Path (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Learning), a concept he first presented when he was awarded the Herbert W. Nickens Award by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

An advocate for diversity in the medical field,  Laurencin has received Diversity and Inclusion awards across medicine (the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Diversity Award), Engineering (the Biomedical Engineering Society Diversity Award) and Science (the Society for Biomaterials inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award). He is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, published by Springer Nature.

At the meeting he was reunited with several individuals he has mentored over many years including Professor Rashard Dacus of the University of Virginia, Professor Jasmin McGinty of St. Louis University, and Professor Erica Taylor of Duke University.

Laurencin stated, “The conference was wonderful. It was particularly great to reunite with my mentees and see how accomplished they have become in their careers.”

Laurencin is the first individual to receive three of the principal honors for mentorship in our nation: the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Math Mentoring (from President Barack Obama), the Beckman Award for Mentoring, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mentor Award. His philosophy on mentoring is discussed in his autobiography entitled “Success is What You Leave Behind,” published by Elsevier.

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Research Team Develops Hybrid Propulsion Commercial Electric Aircraft https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/research-team-develops-hybrid-propulsion-commercial-electric-aircraft/ Wed, 20 Dec 2023 12:35:18 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=208021 As the aviation industry strives to achieve net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, engineers at the University of Connecticut are designing a sustainable jet propulsion system with the ambitious goal of being cleared for take-off within the next three decades.

While most aircraft rely on jet fuel to power a flight, the combustion of this fossil fuel releases greenhouses gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and the depletion of finite oil resources. Using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) is a viable option, but some scientists, like those at UConn, are exploring newer technologies such as using fuel cells for hybrid propulsion.

“This is an amazing time to see humans starting to transition from using internal combustion engines to electrics; kind of like when we moved from wood to coal and coal to oil,” says David L. Daggett, a scholar affiliated with UConn’s Center for Clean Energy Engineering (C2E2).

“This is an amazing time to see humans starting to transition from using internal combustion engines to electrics; kind of like when we moved from wood to coal and coal to oil,” says David L. Daggett, C2E2 Scholar

A UConn team and fellow research partners are designing a carbon-neutral energy storage and power generation system that could serve as an alternative for aircraft propulsion.

The proposed system will consist of optimally sized fuel-to-electric power conversion devices (fuel cells and turbogenerators) using carbon-neutral SAF. Batteries will provide additional electrical power to the aircraft during the power-hungry climb phase of a flight and be recharged during descent.

Senior Design engineering students are currently building a small-scale airplane to demonstrate the concept.

The project, titled “High Performance Metal-Supported Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) System for Range Extension of Commercial Aviation” is supported by a $4.5M cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) under its Range Extenders for Electric Aviation with Low Carbon and High Efficiency (REEACH) Program. This grant will support Phase II of the project over a two-year period.

“We are thrilled that ARPA-E is continuing to support this project as we’ve already made significant progress,” says Xiao-Dong Zhou, the Nicholas E. Madonna Chair in Sustainability, Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy, director of C2E2, and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, materials science and engineering, and mechanical engineering at UConn.

“The DOE ARPA-E program is immensely competitive and has been highly lauded by the National Academies, academia and industry to push the technology to market,” says Subhash Singhal, a member of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and Battelle Fellow Emeritus at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Xiao-Dong Zhou
Xiao-Dong Zhou is the PI of the “Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) System for Range Extension of Commercial Aviation” project.

Phase I of the project began in August 2020 when the U.S. Department of Energy first awarded $33 million in funding to 17 projects as part of the ARPA-E REEACH program. Zhou, who worked at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette at the time, received $2,263,000 in funding to develop a concept that uses innovative fabrication techniques for high-performance, ultra-low weight, and low-cost solid oxide fuel stacks. Fuel cell stacks generate electricity through an electrochemical process, rather than combustion.

Phase I study showed that SOFCs and batteries have now progressed enough to consider fuel cells to power future long-range commercial airplanes with no harmful emissions or performance degradation. Unlike traditional batteries, which store energy and must be periodically recharged, fuel cells can continuously generate electricity if the SAF or renewable liquid natural gas and an oxidizer (air) are continuously supplied.

For Phase II, the team of researchers will refine their initial airplane design and fuel cell integration concepts to make them easier to commercialize.

“You have to consider that very high development costs result in commercial airplane designs that are typically produced for 50-some years,” Daggett says. “Incorporating some changes now will enable that future airplane to possibly morph into an all-electric airplane within its likely 50-year design life.”

In this UConn study, the team is using solid oxide fuel cells, which operate at high temperatures, as opposed to proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells that operate at lower temperatures. SOFCs can use a turbine downstream to recover high quality heat energy.

“This results in more efficient utilization of the fuel than today’s low temperature PEM fuel cells as well as future turbine engines,” Scott Swartz, chief technology officer and co-founder of Nexceris, explains.

Other members of the C2E2 research team at UConn include Wilson Chiu, professor of mechanical engineering; Yudong Wang, assistant research professor of mechanical engineering; Stoyan Bliznakov, associate research professor; and Nengneng Xu, assistant research professor.

Once the designs are finalized, Nexceris will work to manufacture and commercialize the SOFC stack technology. UConn and Nexceris have had discussions with potential SOFC-based aviation system integrators, such as Boeing, General Electric, Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and others, to secure licensing arrangements.

“This project, led by Professor Zhou and his outstanding team, will benefit UConn’s research innovation efforts while contributing to carbon neutrality,” says UConn President Radenka Maric, Connecticut Clean Energy Fund Professor of Sustainable Energy in the departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science and engineering. “Building a more sustainable future for our university, our nation, and the world is the great challenge of our lifetime. UConn must always be at the forefront of that effort.”

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Kuhn Develops Patent-Pending Process to Create Comfortable Prosthetics for Breast Cancer Survivors https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/kuhn-develops-patent-pending-process-to-create-comfortable-prosthetics-for-breast-cancer-survivors/ Thu, 14 Dec 2023 12:30:35 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207876 University of Connecticut Professor of Biomedical Engineering Liisa Kuhn credits Willy Wonka’s Everlasting Gobstopper for inspiring her work on designing bone grafts, growth plate repair gel—and most recently—breast prosthetics.

“The Gobstopper candy has all these layers, and each layer lets them experience a different course of a meal,” says Kuhn, who has a dual appointment with the School of Dental Medicine and the College of Engineering. “Similarly, in my own research, I’m working with multilayered structures that provide timed release of multiple factors to improve bone and cartilage healing.”

Professor of Biomedical Engineering Liisa Kuhn
Professor of Biomedical Engineering Liisa Kuhn is director of the Beekley Lab for Biosymmetrix.

Now in her 22nd year at UConn, Kuhn is directing the Beekley Lab for Biosymmetrix, where she’s developing a patent-pending process for using a 3D bioprinter to “print” personalized breast prosthetics for cancer survivors. The multi-layered structure of the prosthetic will improve the quality and comfort of people’s lives after breast cancer.

Kuhn came up with the idea for the breast prosthetic when her colleague Jan Figueroa, administrative program assistant at UConn Health, underwent a unilateral mastectomy following a battle with breast cancer. Figueroa chose not to undergo reconstructive surgery for an implant and opted for a non-implanted breast prosthetic instead.

“I was offered two choices of prosthetics. Both were uncomfortable, moved all over, were never symmetrical, did not breathe, and did not form to my body,” Figueroa recalls. “I told Liisa what I was going through with a shop my insurance carrier recommended, and how I was treated.”

Kuhn listened.

“I thought – I can do something about that. I’m in the School of Dental Medicine and I know dentists are taking digital images of patients’ teeth and using computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing to create a crown, sized exactly to the exact shape and size needed,” she says. “So why couldn’t we apply the same idea and create customized prosthetics?”

Kuhn learned to take 3D photos of a woman’s chest and worked with a CAD designer to convert the images to a file that could be 3D printed. Those with a single mastectomy, such as Figueroa, would have their remaining breast scanned while in a bra and digitized and “mirror imaged” in the software against the surgery side, producing a 3D model that fits perfectly against her chest with the correct size.

3D bioprinting is used by several faculty members at UConn Health for creating small pieces of cartilage, liver, or heart, but Kuhn needed something much larger to 3D print breast prosthetics.  Oncologists Dr. Susan Tannenbaum and Dr. Christina Stevenson from the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Dean of the College of Engineering supported Kuhn’s application to the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative, and it was funded in 2021, resulting in the purchase of a specialized, four-foot-tall bioprinter platform to benefit the patients of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Unlike a regular 3D printer that fabricates objects using a solid plastic filament, the bioprinter extrudes an elastomer gel that results in a lightweight, flexible, and porous product with an open cell foam design. She coined the name of the process “Biosymmetrix.”

And Figueroa received the first Biosymmetrix prosthetic. “With a few modifications, Dr. Kuhn’s prosthetics are shaping up—no pun intended—to give all of us breast cancer survivors back our confidence to wear clothing we could not prior to this,” she says. “Now, I can comfortably wear a t-shirt or anything I was told I should forget on doing.”

“With a few modifications, Dr. Kuhn’s prosthetics are shaping up—no pun intended—to give all of us breast cancer survivors back our confidence to wear clothing we could not prior to this. Now, I can comfortably wear a t-shirt or anything I was told I should forget on doing.” — Jan Figueroa, cancer survivor

Since completing Figueroa’s prosthetic, more than 80 women have requested a customized breast prosthetic from Kuhn’s lab, however she’s only been able to provide one for 14 women so far.

As Kuhn has learned through “thousands of failed attempts,” depositing the thin elastomer with an intricate lattice-like pattern with 200-some layers, has deemed difficult. Like a hot glue gun, the gel often doesn’t stay in a unform size, and any build-up can cause blobs of unwanted filament. In addition, a single print can take eight hours to complete.

“We are helping the bioprinter company to optimize their robot arm’s capabilities because the technology for large format gel printing is not fully developed, and that’s why it’s not being done by others throughout the world, yet,” she acknowledges.

Professor Kuhn shows the difference between a standard, non-implanted breast prosthetic and her 3D printed model. (Lab photos courtesy of UConn Today)

Once the process is perfected, Kuhn hopes to establish a 3D printing “farm” and catch up on the backlog of orders.

“Dr. Kuhn cared about me as a person, not such a test subject, and she heard me,” Figueroa says. “We became not just two people who worked in the same building, but I like to say, friends. Liisa is now part of my group that took me from diagnosis, to treatment, to surgery, to giving me back confidence and self-esteem.”

Kuhn, whose other research interests focus on drug delivery and bone regeneration, including developing customized bone grafts with controlled drug release to rejuvenate bone healing in older women, hopes the prosthetics are another way to help women live more comfortable lives.

“Women’s positive response to the prosthetics makes all the hard work worthwhile,” Kuhn says. “I feel so lucky to have found a meaningful way to use my engineering skills to help these women.”

 

Watch a video about Kuhn’s process.

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Engineering a Strong Pint https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/engineering-a-strong-pint/ Mon, 11 Dec 2023 18:50:03 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207772 Chemical engineers monitor temperature, pH, volumes, pump speeds, and valves. They carefully select and tweak ingredients, picking a particular mix of water, lactic acid, potassium hydroxide and the like. 

But for nine students in UConn’s Chemical and Biomolecular department’s Introduction to Brewery Engineering course, adding malt, hops, and yeast takes the mixture up a notch. 

Brewing is a classic example of the chemical engineering process, with chemical engineers being “process” engineers to improve brewing procedures and create delicious beer. 

Brewing involves malt extraction, hops addition, and fermentation, requiring knowledge in reaction engineering, separations, heat transfer, and process control. 

The course launched three years ago by Jennifer Pascal, associate professor in residence of chemical and biomolecular engineering and associate department head. 

“Modern brewers are chemical engineers through-and-through,” Pascal says. “From sanitizing equipment to carbonating the final product and the packaging process, brewing is an intricate science involving a multitude of engineering concepts. Brewing is not for the faint of heart, or the casual ‘grab-a-pint-after-work’ drinker.” 

UConn Engineering student Hailey Tam.
UConn Engineering student Hailey Tam portions out beer ingredients at Kinsman Brewing Co. (Nathan Oldham/UConn School of Business).

Senior Design 

The course is part of the capstone UConn Engineering Senior Design project. During Senior Design, students work hand in hand with faculty and industry sponsors, crafting solutions for real-world problems or opportunities in manufacturing, hospitality, sustainable energies, construction trades, healthcare and more. 

The year-long projects conclude with Senior Design Demonstration Day at the end of April in Gampel Pavilion, which is a chance for students to showcase their project findings to faculty, families, sponsors, alumni, and friends. 

In 2022 and 2023 demonstrations, student teams introduced design elements to improve sustainability in a pilot-scale brewery.  

These updates include integrating UConn’s reclaimed water facility into the process, carbon dioxide capture from fermentation, and updated risk assessment. 

The team identified potential hazards in the pilot-scale brewery and created a risk assessment tool and standard operating procedure.  

These efforts provide UConn with a foundation to launch a pilot-scale brewery where students can learn the fundamentals of fermentation science, hence, the beginning of UConn Brewing Innovation. 

This year, students worked on their first commercially available beer. BrewConn is being sold this month at the Kinsman Brewing Co. in Southington. Students debuted the double dry hopped hazy IPA in a UConn Foundation event late last month. 

The semester was a challenge for students, with even bigger goals for 2024. 

“Moving forward I believe the biggest challenge will be dissecting the beer brewing process to fully understand its chemical reactions, applying the engineering concepts to achieve our goals,” says chemical engineering and Spanish dual major Riquelmy Torres ‘25. Torres is part of the five-year Engineering Spanish Program and will study abroad in Spain later next year. 

Other students are looking forward to creating different types of beer, like Hailey Tam ‘25, a chemical engineering major with a minor in materials science and engineering. 

“The most challenging part has been trying to see what we can implement to make the beer non-alcoholic and something that is feasible for Kinsmen to use in their brewery,” Tam says. “We have a few ideas that we are going to try out next semester. Hopefully one will work and Kinsmen can use it.” 

Riquelmy Torres, Jennifer Pascal and Hailey Tam.
Riquelmy Torres, Jennifer Pascal and Hailey Tam at Kinsmen Brewing Co. (Christopher LaRosa/ UConn College of Engineering).

College of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian applauds the students for their interesting and appealing capstone projects. 

“Craft brewing is a very strong industry,” Kazerounian says. “There is no shortage for opportunity in the food and beverage fields, and this high-quality beer is proof that our students make true impact in any career they pursue.” 

Engineering Undergraduate Program Administrator Monica Bullock, who also oversees the logistical operations of Senior Design Demonstration Day, says that Connecticut is poised to be epicenter of the craft brewery trade in the nation. 

“Our state is home to fantastic breweries and small neighborhood pop-ups,” Bullock says. “Connecticut has led this effort for years, and it’s exciting to see our students securing this prestigious identity for our state. We are very proud of them and look forward to seeing their continued impact in the industry.”

UConn Brewing Innovation 

UConn Brewing Innovation is an interdisciplinary initiative led by the College of Engineering, School of Business, and College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. In 2022, Pascal joined with Engineering’s Director of Technical Services Peter Menard and Business’s executive director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Jennifer Mathieu in ideation sessions with Greenhouse Studios. 

UConn is strongly positioned to support the brewing industry from farm-to-pint,” says Menard, who has homebrewed for more than two decades. “I’m looking forward to helping support the local businesses that are essential to Connecticut’s economy, while helping our students strengthen their understanding of engineering.” 

Riquelmy Torres at Kinsmen Brewing Co. (Natham Oldham/UConn School of Business).

Other team leaders of UConn Brewing Innovation include Rachel Ayers of the School of Business, Peter Fulton of the College of Engineering, and Sydney Everhart of the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources. 

Chemical Engineering’s Different Flavors 

UConn’s chemical and biomolecular engineering students graduate and innovate in varied fields. Traditionally, chemical engineers have a stronghold in the oil and gas field. However, as students, faculty and staff imbibe this month in a student-created beer, opportunities like UConn Brewing Innovation show that that may no longer be the case. 

“Chemical engineers study reactions and mixing, marrying ingredients to create a finished product that helps people live, work and play,” says Associate Professor, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, and Castleman Term Professor in Engineering Innovation Daniel Burkey. “It’s tough to think about a better example of those concepts than in brewing or distilling. Cheers to these innovative students and the faculty and staff that are opening doors to them.” 

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Key Events Push QuantumCT Forward https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/key-events-push-quantumct-forward/ Mon, 11 Dec 2023 12:15:35 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207498 QuantumCT – the multifaceted, collaborative effort to establish the state as a leader in quantum technologies – is stirring ambitions to transform Connecticut’s economy and workforce.

UConn and Yale are leading the initiative, which is designed to establish the state as the nation’s leader in developing quantum technologies for use in real-world applications. As planning continues, the universities are hosting events to draw stakeholders together to explore how to leverage the coming quantum revolution to achieve transformative and equitable economic opportunity.

“If we are successful in becoming the nation’s quantum accelerator, the ramifications are enormous,” says Pamir Alpay, UConn’s vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship and the co-lead on the project. “We will help improve the speed of computers and strengthen network security, as well as make navigation more precise. We will see leaps forward in medical imaging and high-tech manufacturing, and we will be able to apply quantum principles to many more disciplines.”

Pamir Seminar
UConn vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship Pamir Alpay briefs on the status of the QuantumCT initiative.

In November, UConn hosted members of the initiative’s leadership and implementation teams, as well as corporate partners and community stakeholders, to align goals and participate in a panel on the implications of quantum technologies for Connecticut. The event included a session on building diversity, equity, and inclusion within the QuantumCT initiative itself and into the opportunities that could be created.

“Success with QuantumCT would mean a new industry in the state – an industry that would bring new businesses to Connecticut and affect so many of us at so many levels,” says Michael DiDonato, UConn’s project manager for the initiative. “It will create opportunities for trades workers such as electricians and plumbers, it will create new jobs like cryogenic techs or quantum networking admins, it will strengthen our economy and give us all something to be extremely proud of.”

On Thursday, Dec. 14, the UConn Graduate Business Learning Center in Hartford will host a seminar on the potential of quantum technology. The event includes breakout sessions on applications in the healthcare, manufacturing, and finance sectors, along with the skillsets required for success. Notable speakers include UConn President Radenka Maric, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Yale vice provost for research Michael Crair, and Alpay.

The November event and upcoming December seminar mark notable steps for QuantumCT as the project builds steam toward establishing partnerships and initiatives around quantum technology based economic development.

QuantumCT has built a complex and extensive network of partners, hailing from Connecticut’s education, science, industrial, governmental, and community sectors. In May, NSF awarded the consortium a prestigious $1 million development award to develop plans for a “Regional Innovations Engine,” which aims build an innovation ecosystem in Connecticut focused on quantum technologies. The award also makes the team eligible to submit a proposal for a $160 million grant to turn Connecticut into the nation’s accelerator for quantum technologies.

The planning encompasses all sectors that stand to be impacted by the economic revitalization spurred through quantum technology acceleration.

Stated as simply as possible, UConn Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology Rachel O’Neill defines quantum as using subatomic space or particles to advance technology. The impact and improvements could be shared among Connecticut’s top innovators and create new employment opportunities across industries such as defense, pharmaceuticals, energy, and finance.

Quantum is also central to the research pursuits across several disciplines among UConn faculty and students. It is a science prominent in many of the University’s research priorities, including cryptography, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and software development. More than a dozen researchers are involved in QuantumCT, such as members of the College of Engineering, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Technology Commercialization Services wing of the UConn research enterprise.

“There is plenty of room for QuantumCT to grow and many more variables for us to coordinate, but progress has been significant to this point,” Alpay says. “As we make connections and fortify our network, we build opportunities for research in the quantum landscape.”

More information on Quantum-CT is available at quantumct.org.

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Microalgae for Poultry Nutrition: UConn Researchers Receive NSF Future Manufacturing Grant https://today.uconn.edu/2023/12/microalgae-for-poultry-nutrition-uconn-researchers-receive-nsf-future-manufacturing-grant/ Mon, 04 Dec 2023 12:00:59 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207231 A team of UConn researchers is developing a natural alternative to produce an essential amino acid used in poultry feed with support from a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Future Manufacturing initiative.

The team is led by Mingyu Qiao, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Department of Nutritional Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The team includes three faculty members from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering: Yu Lei, centennial professor, Yongku Cho, associate professor and Burcu Beykal, assistant professor; and two other faculty members within CAHNR: Yangchao Luo, associate professor of nutritional sciences, and Rigoberto Lopez, professor of agricultural and resources economics.

This project is also in collaboration with Patrick Heidkamp, professor of environment, geography, and marine sciences at Southern Connecticut State University.

This marks the first time UConn has received this grant and is Qiao’s first grant since joining the UConn faculty earlier this year.

The group will develop a novel biomanufacturing technique to produce an essential amino acid called methionine (Met).

Met is an essential amino acid for many animals, including humans. Poultry, which is are the focus of this study, use methionine to grow feathers. Chickens with a Met deficiency are too skinny for market and produce low-quality eggs. Critically, animals cannot produce Met themselves, so they need to get it from their diet.

Most Met supplements are produced using petrochemicals. This means existing Met supplements cannot be fed to organic chickens. It is the only dietary supplement for poultry which does not yet have an affordable organic alternative, creating the need for a sustainable solution. Currently, the only option is to bio-ferment met which costs approximate $43 per kilogram. The method Qiao’s group is proposing would only cost $6 per kilogram.

Qiao’s team is using edible microalgae, a nutrient-dense superfood in its own right, to produce Met organically. Using something that is already edible eliminates the need for further modification to turn it into feed for chickens or other animals, making it a cost-effective solution as well.

“It is a carbon neutral, or even carbon negative process for producing methionine,” Qiao says. “Overall, the entire process is very environmentally friendly.”

Like plants, microalgae can use sunlight to produce nutrients, including Met. However, using photosynthesis alone is a very slow process that produces relatively little Met. Microorganisms, on the other hand, can grow much more quickly, but this is an expensive and carbon-intensive process. Microalgae combines the best of plants and microorganisms to produce Met quickly and sustainably.

“Microalgae combines the advantages of being able to grow very fast but it can also use sunlight without using an organic carbon source or carbon feedstock,” Qiao says.

Scientists have already been able to extract six other amino acids from microalgae for poultry feeds making it a particularly good candidate.

Qiao’s team will develop a prototype for a photobioreactor which can be implemented in greenhouses across the state. This novel biomanufacturing method will allow the microalgae to use sunlight during the day to produce Met and carbon sources at night.

“During the day it will kind of act as a plant and at night it will act as a microorganism,” Qiao says.

They will also develop an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model to determine, essentially, when the algae should act like a plant and when it should act like a microorganism based on the availability of sunlight or other essential nutrients to minimize costs. The AI model will automatically calculate how much of a given resource, like sugar, is needed to optimize Met production.

This seed grant will allow Qiao and his team to collect preliminary data and develop prototypes of the photobioreactor and AI model, preparing them for future grant applications to advance this work.

The grant will also include workshops for underrepresented high school and community college students to help prepare them to enter the biomanufacturing workforce in collaboration with Southern Connecticut State University.

“In order to develop a future biomanufacturing industry in this area you need to have workforce,” Qiao says. “Hopefully we can use this opportunity make a more equitable society or community. Because in the end it will benefit society as a whole.”

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After Semester-Long Development, Student-Created ‘BrewConn’ Beer Debuts with Glowing Reviews https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/after-semester-long-development-student-created-brewconn-beer-debuts-with-glowing-reviews/ Thu, 30 Nov 2023 12:31:39 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207434 The University of Connecticut unveiled an inaugural, student-created beer on Tuesday, with a celebration that drew more than 350 alumni, friends, and other brewmasters, all eager to sample BrewConn, a double dry hopped hazy IPA.

The event, at Kinsmen Brewing Co. in Southington, capped off a semester of hard work for nine students, mostly chemical engineering majors, who learned the craft of brewing, literally from the ground up.

A pyramid of newly produced cans of BrewConn beer.
(Christopher Larosa / UConn College of Engineering)

Jordan Aeschlimann ‘24, of Simsbury, dreams of owning her own brewery. She is studying fermentation science, an individualized major. The Introduction to Brewery Engineering course offered her the chance to expand her perspective.

“My Dad has homebrewed for years and I helped him when I was growing up,’’ says Aeschlimann, who has also interned at a brewery on Cape Cod. “I really enjoyed the opportunity to ask so many questions to experts to help further my knowledge and understanding of brewing and the industry.’’

After trying the new beer on Tuesday night, Aeschlimann was pleased.

“It’s really good! There’s a good amount of hops, but it isn’t too bitter,’’ she says. “I was nervous to try it, but I’m happy with the way it came out. We nailed it, definitely!’’

UConn Brewing Innovation Initiative Begins

While celebrating the success of the students, the event also kicked off a new initiative called UConn Brewing Innovation. The initiative unites the College of Engineering, The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, and the School of Business in a shared educational and service mission.

The organizers plan to expand academic courses in the brewing process, provide scholarships and mentorship to cultivate talent in the industry, conduct research that will serve local breweries and farms, and provide collaboration and outreach for the 130-member strong Connecticut craft-brewing industry.

“UConn is perfectly positioned to launch an initiative to support the brewing industry with our expertise in agriculture, engineering and business,’’ says Jennifer Mathieu, executive director of the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the School of Business. “This multidisciplinary hub can provide transformative experiences from ‘farm to pint’ serving both students and the community. It is an exciting opportunity.’’

‘They’ve All Learned a New Skill’

For the past three years, engineering professor Jennifer Pascal, the associate department head in chemical and biomolecular engineering, has been offering a brewing course to allow senior chemical engineering students to apply their knowledge. They gained hands-on experience in brewing beer using homebrew scale equipment and kits.

This year, the capstone course expanded, by offering trips to Smokedown Hops Farm in Sharon, Thrall Family Malt in Windsor, and two visits at the Kinsmen Brewing to learn about processing and canning. Pascal says this has been a great experience both for those planning careers in craft brewing, and for those seeking other endeavors, because of the real-world skills they’ve learned.

“Many chemical engineers work in the food and beverage industry,’’ Pascal says. “Chemical engineers are ‘process’ engineers and brewing beer involves optimizing processes and ways to improve them, all relevant skills in an assortment of industries.’’

A student with a UConn shirt stirs a combination of milled grains and warm water in a large brewery vat.
Hailey Tam ’24 (ENG) stirs the mash – stirring the mash – a mixture of milled grains and warm water – that goes into making the new BrewConn beer (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

In 2022, Pascal and Peter Menard, an avid homebrewer and director of technical services at the College of Engineering, submitted a proposal for an expanded program to Greenhouse Studios, a UConn educational think-tank. That’s how they joined forces with Mathieu, who brings expertise in entrepreneurship. Together they began strategizing UConn Brewing Innovation.

College of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian attended Tuesday’s event and says he is delighted for the students.

“What a senior design project; what a way to end your studies,’’ he said, joking that he feels his own capstone project, which involved smashing cans for recycling, didn’t have the same appeal.

“We’re committed to shaping new methodologies for chemical and biomolecular engineering research and curricula,’’ he says. “Under professor Pascal’s leadership, faculty are developing next-generation technologies for a product people have enjoyed for centuries. This engineering discipline proves that innovation is always possible, even for something as tried-and-true as brewing.’’

‘We Rely on and Help Each Other All the Time’

Although Connecticut didn’t invent craft brewing, most of the 130 breweries in the state are Connecticut originals, and the establishments support and encourage each other, says Bob Bartholomew, operations manager at Kinsmen.

“We rely on and help each other all the time,’’ he says. “I’m glad we have a relationship with UConn and can be part of its brewing program and share our knowledge about how to brew great beer.’’

He says he appreciated the students, who asked probing questions about operational efficiency and why ingredients are added at certain stages. “They helped make the process better,’’ he says.

Mathieu says the UConn students and their supporters are deeply appreciative of the team at Kinsmen and hope to partner with them, and other breweries, in the future.

BrewConn is a limited-release beer. Any leftover supply will be canned or available in the Kinsmen tap room. Although UConn has offered signature beer at athletic events, this was the first student-created product to be sold publicly.

BrewConn Well Received by Patrons

Tuesday night’s event, hosted as part of the UConn Foundation’s 1881 Series, was designed to engage alumni, and others in the industry, to generate partnerships and consider next-steps in developing UConn Brewing Innovation.

Alum William Kelsey ’16, ’19 (CANHR) says the beer tasted great, but he was equally impressed by the venture.

Faculty members and students stand in a brewery and listen to the brewer discuss varieties of hops.
UConn students and faculty listen as Kinsmen operations manager Bob Bartholomew discusses the impact of hops varieties on beer flavor (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

“I think it is a cool idea and I like that UConn is innovating and allowing students to brew beer,’’ he says. “I think it is fascinating.’’

He was joined at the event by a table filled with friends and says the UConn Foundation’s 1881 Series changed his tastes. “We weren’t beer snobs until we came to these events!,’’ he says. “I think the beer community will be very welcoming toward these students. UConn is such a strong name. If you say it is UConn-brewed beer, people will be interested in it.’’

Andy Iverson ‘06, an assistant manager in UConn Dining Services, is a member of the UConn Brewing Innovation Advisory Board.

“I knew BrewConn was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be that good!,’’ he said after sampling it. “I’ve traveled to many breweries, and I always felt that UConn was the Napa Valley of beer. These students nailed it! I think there’s a huge interest in craft beer in New England and it hasn’t slowed down. Wouldn’t it be great if UConn was known for basketball, ice cream—and beer?’’

CAHNR Dean Indrajeet Chaubey wouldn’t object at all. Merging UConn’s world-class education with agricultural research and innovation is the ultimate accomplishment.

“Initiatives like UConn Brewing Innovation are at the heart of CAHNR’s mission,’’ he says. “As the foundation of UConn’s land grant and thanks to our expertise in plant science, agriculture, food science and health, we are committed to helping students and business grow together in this exciting industry.’’

The initiative also appeals to UConn School of Business Dean John A. Elliott because it touches on entrepreneurship, innovation, and talent development, all touchstones of the business program.

“Connecticut has a proud history of innovation, and this initiative is an opportunity for students to test their ‘real world’ knowledge and participate in the economic growth of our state,’’ he says. “I predict a continuing success that will engage students from across the campus.’’

‘It’s Interesting How Beer… Brings People Together’

Kanisha Desai ‘24 (ENG), of Rocky Hill, took the brewing engineering course because she wanted to learn more about brewing non-alcoholic beer. She wants to be able to help small breweries create non-alcoholic beer, whose popularity is expected to double by 2030.

Desai is applying to master’s degree programs in pharmacy and biotech. She plans to pursue an MBA and eventually work as a process consultant.

“I feel like beer brewing is a great chance to see chemical engineering in a real-life, tangible industry and discover how ideas and production work on a big scale,’’ she says. “How many people can say they worked on a beer-brewing process in college?’’

She particularly enjoyed visiting the hops farm, run by the head of immunology at Yale.

A student in shadow holds a glass of beer in the light.
Cameron Hubbard ’24 (ENG) examines a hazy IPA (Nathan Oldham / UConn School of Business).

“It’s interesting how beer, of all things, brings people together—doctors, engineers, brew masters,’’ she says. “I think this collaboration is a great way to bring students into chemical engineering and offer them the experience to work in an industry they could pursue.’’

For Aeschlimann the experience has been impactful.

“I was able to learn more about Kinsmen’s brewing process in detail and taste certain unique beers. Having interned at another brewery, it was interesting to see how different breweries run their operation,’’ she says.

“I think the appeal for me is the atmosphere at a craft brewery,’’ Aeschlimann  says. “Each one has a unique vibe and atmosphere that makes them, well, them. Trying new brews appeals to many people. There is so much you can create now, using different flavor compounds. It’s a science, but also an art.’’

“I definitely think this program was worthwhile. When I tell people about it, many have said if they’d known about it, they would have joined,’’ she says. “I think the program will draw people to UConn. I think having a UConn beer, particularly a student-brewed beer, will make people say, ‘Wait! This is really cool.’”

“With the UConn name, it’s a great way to get students more interested in the beer scene,’’ she says. “I have friends who said, ‘There’s more beer than just Bud Light?’’’

 

If you are interested in learning more or donating to this initiative please visit: https://brewing.initiative.uconn.edu. The initiative also includes merchandise, which can be viewed at https://collegethread.com/collections/uconn-brewing-innovation

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Biomedical Engineers Expand Skillsets Through Clinical Program https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/biomedical-engineers-expand-skillsets-through-clinical-program/ Mon, 27 Nov 2023 12:15:58 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=206743 During her junior year, biomedical engineering major Danielle McGeary ’07 (ENG) felt unsure about her post-UConn plans. The self-proclaimed extrovert knew her ideal work environment would involve surrounding herself with people, not being confined to a laboratory or desk.  While researching her options, McGeary attended a presentation about the role clinical engineers play—working alongside doctors and nurses to make hospitals safer and more efficient.  

“From that presentation on, I knew that was exactly the subset of biomedical engineering that I wanted to pursue,” she says.  

McGeary then applied to UConn’s Clinical Engineering Internship Program, which immerses students in the practice of clinical engineering. Students complete 10 graduate level engineering courses (or seven plus a thesis) and work for two academic years—supported by a full tuition waiver and stipend—as a clinical engineering intern in a hospital where they perform typical clinical engineering responsibilities.  

“There’s no other program like this in the country,” says David Kaputa, associate professor in residence of biomedical engineering and director of the Clinical Engineering Internship Program. “There are programs in healthcare technology management, but none have a two-year internship like we have at UConn. We’re giving them real world experience while they work towards a master’s degree.” 

Clinical Engineering Internship Program

Danielle McGeary '07 (ENG), '09 MS
Danielle McGeary ’07 (ENG), ’09 MS completed her clinical engineering internship at Hartford Hospital while earning a Master of Science degree in biomedical engineering at UConn.

Clinical engineering students not only graduate with a M.S. in biomedical engineering, but they possess more than 1,500 hours of clinical engineering experience, two years of academic coursework, and extensive exposure to the healthcare environment and the challenges clinical engineering departments face on a regular basis.  

In the past 15 years, over 150 students have graduated from the specialized program; 24 are currently enrolled.  

During their internship, students may participate in technology assessment research, product evaluations including human factors engineering analysis, medical device networking, electronic medical record data integration, incident investigation, power quality analysis, healthcare technology quality improvement, among other duties. Students also attend a weeklong  “internship meetings” at UConn Storrs once a semester to share stories about their experiences, listen to an expert speak about a clinical engineering issue and to participate in educational activities.  

McGeary completed her internship at Hartford Hospital under the direction of Amato DeRosa, system director of information technology and biomedical engineering. “I am incredibly grateful for his leadership and guidance throughout my tenure there. I certainly would not be where I am in my career without him and his team’s willingness to mentor and train me,” McGeary says.  

The internship led directly to a career. Hartford Hospital hired McGeary full time as a clinical engineer, where she stayed for five more years. While there, she provided technical support and education to clinicians and physicians for many core technologies and medical devices and functioned as a medical equipment planner for multimillion dollar construction projects. She also worked alongside information technology experts to ensure the hospital’s equipment is cybersecure and that patient data was integrated with medical software so critical health data was easily accessible to patients and clinicians.  

After leaving Hartford Hospital, McGeary worked as a clinical engineering manager for Aramark Healthcare Technologies and director of clinical engineering for the Boston and Bedford, Massachusetts VA Healthcare Systems. In 2018, she became the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation’s (AAMI) first Vice President of Healthcare Technology Management. In 2020, the UConn College of Engineering elected her to the Academy of Distinguished Engineers. 

“I am forever grateful for the Clinical Engineering Program, as I could not imagine doing anything else,” McGeary says. “The career is rewarding, and you get to see the direct impact of medical instrumentation and technology on patients every single day. You really feel like you are making a difference in the lives of those and the families of those who are most vulnerable. And every day is different.” 

CAEE Master of Engineering in Clinical Engineering Program

Ben Graham (MEng ’21)
Ben Graham ’21 MS is the first graduate of the Center for Advanced Engineering Education’s Master of Engineering in Clinical Engineering Program. This 100% remote, part-time degree path is offered for those already working in the clinical engineering field.

While the internship program is one way to obtain a M.S., the College of Engineering’s Center for Advanced Engineering Education (CAEE) also offers a 100% remote, part-time degree path for those already working in the clinical engineering field. These students take 30 credit hours of courses while working toward earning a Master of Engineering (MENG) in biomedical engineering with a clinical engineering concentration.   

Students in this program, which was established in 2017, are already expected to have a B.S. in engineering and be employed in a hospital environment.  

“Since these students are already working in the field, there is no need for an internship, so the emphasis is on coursework. An advanced degree can potentially help them get promotions or help them get hired into upper-level management positions in clinical engineering,” Kaputa says.

Among the clinical engineering course options for both programs are BME 5030: Human Error and Medical Device Accidents; BME 5050: Engineering Problems in Hospitals; BME 5070: Clinical Engineering Systems; BME 5080: Medical Device Cybersecurity and others. 

Ben Graham ’21 MS is the first graduate of the CAEE’s Master of Engineering in Clinical Engineering Program.  He enrolled while working as a contract clinical engineer for the Defense Health Agency in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

“I was working on a certification in Clinical Engineering (CCE) and had several IT certifications at the time but felt that a master’s degree would give me more opportunities to advance,” Graham says. “I was fortunate to have worked with several alumni of the UConn program while working at the DHA who had great things to say about their experience.” 

While a student, Graham joined Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States as a clinical systems engineer. And upon completing his MENG degree, Graham was promoted to a senior clinical systems engineer, supporting KP hospitals across the nation.  

“UConn is well known for its clinical engineering program and, even having been working in the field for a few years, I found that the program helped me to challenge myself to learn more,” he says. 

 History of Clinical Engineering at UConn

UConn’s current clinical engineering program was started in 1975 by Joseph Bronzino, a professor of biomedical engineering at Trinity College. In the 1980s, Bronzino moved the program to the Hartford Graduate Center—which was later named Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute—and in 1996, he transitioned the program to UConn under the sponsorship of Professor John Enderle. Enderle, who founded UConn’s biomedical engineering program for undergraduates (BME) in 2001, hired Frank Painter, adjunct professor of biomedical engineering two years later to run the Clinical Engineering Program for graduate students. Painter served as the program’s director until 2020, designing and teaching all clinical engineering-specific courses. Painter continues to teach the graduate course BME 5030: Human Error and Medical Device Accidents today.

“Bronzino came up with the idea that he could put biomedical engineering graduate students in local hospitals as interns and they would work with the people who acquire and manage heath care technology,” Painter says. “He started out placing two or three students a year at Hartford Hospital, Saint Francis, and UConn Health, and they took biomedical engineering courses— whatever was available at the time—and the program began to grow and expand.” 

By 2015, students could intern at hospitals in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and that same year, the program added its first “remote” hospital in Los Angeles.  

“This started the transition from teaching the courses on campus to also offering synchronous distance learning services,” Kaputa says. “The students in New England would come to Storrs for classes and meetings, and we’d video broadcast to Los Angeles. Now, with help from UConn’s CETL (Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning), we have designed the program to be entirely online allowing flexibility for our students while maintaining the same educational standards students experienced in the in-person format.”

Now, in 2023, the program is taught by eight instructors, including Painter and Kaputa, and offers internship programs at 15 hospitals in seven different states including Boston Children’s Hospital, Hartford Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, VA North Texas Healthcare System and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Activity at these major medical institutions involves an in-depth exposure to all clinical engineering activities.  

Those who apply for the program aren’t necessarily UConn alumni, or biomedical engineering majors; and approximately 70% are women.  

“We do have some interns that came from other engineering degrees, but they all share a desire to be in the Clinical Engineering field,” Kaputa says. “Because our program is so unique, we’re on everybody’s radar, and right now we have students [who graduated] from universities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Colorado participating in the internship program.”  

“The real heroes in this program are the clinical engineering directors in the hospitals who support the internships and the students’ activities,” Painter says. “They take the student under their wing and teach them, send them to committee and vendor meetings, and engage and nurture the student completely. They’re the ones teaching them on the job and it takes a little nerve to do that. This is what makes UConn’s internship program so unique.” 

While the majority of graduates are employed in clinical engineering departments in hospitals, Kaputa explained that others choose different paths: working with service organizations, equipment planning firms, medical equipment manufacturers in clinical technology management, technology support, quality and design roles or as biomedical engineers in other related areas. 

“Health care technology management professionals and clinical engineers work directly with medical devices on the front lines of health care every day. They fix equipment when it is not functioning properly, check equipment periodically to ensure it is safe, and work with doctors and nurses to help select new technology to best serve the patient’s need,” McGeary says. “I would recommend the program and the field in general to anyone who loves technology, IT, or has a strong interest in health care. It’s an extremely rewarding career, as no two days are alike, and you get to see so much different technologies and how it all functions together to make hospitals work and keep patients safe.” 

 

More information on applying to the Clinical Engineering Internship Program is online here.  

More information on applying to the CAEE’s Master of Engineering Biomedical Engineering online program is online here.  

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The Present, Past, and Future of UConn’s College of Engineering  https://today.uconn.edu/2023/11/the-present-past-and-future-of-uconns-college-of-engineering/ Sun, 26 Nov 2023 13:45:21 +0000 https://today.uconn.edu/?p=207296 This November, the former School of Engineering at UConn is celebrating a new milestone with the designation of being renamed the College of Engineering (CoE). In this article we look back at, and to the future of, the College’s 140-plus year history of producing highly educated graduates who bolster Connecticut’s high-tech economy.  

Present Day 

The College of Engineering currently offers instruction to more than 3,600 undergraduates, 900 graduate students, and 600 students enrolled in professional education programs through the new Center for Advanced Engineering Education. Undergraduates may pursue majors in 14 different disciplines from biomedical, computer, civil, electrical, environmental, and mechanical engineering to robotics, data science and materials science and engineering.  

In 2023, more than 1,000 students received degrees from the CoE, with 66% of all graduates working in Connecticut. This, combined with the more than $68 million in total research expenditures and $800,000 in scholarship funds awarded, contributes to UConn being ranked No. 26 of public universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report 

“The College of Engineering is a cornerstone of academic excellence, groundbreaking research, and impactful community and industry engagement,” said Dean of Engineering and Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kazem Kazerounian. “We’re extremely proud of the high-quality engineering education that UConn provides to our students.” 

student in Science 1 lab
Steiny Duong ’24 is an undergraduate researcher in the Material Dynamics and Electron Microscopy Lab in Science 1 where he works with MSE Professor Mark Aindow on materials characterization utilizing various techniques with an emphasis on electron microscopy. (Photo by Christopher LaRosa)

While elevating the former School of Engineering to the College of Engineering, the Board of Trustees also approved two internal changes: the Department of Computer Science and Engineering is now the School of Computing; and the Department of Mechanical Engineering is now the School of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Manufacturing Engineering to better reflect the educational options offered under those fields.  

Kazerounian, who has taught engineering classes at UConn for 39 years, noted that the new name will help enhance its visibility among peer institutions, streamline operations, encourage specializations, and promote excellence within the affiliated programs, centers, and institutes 

“It also provides the flexibility needed to support future growth and innovation in education, research, and community engagement,” Kazerounian wrote. “Becoming a College aligns with the aspirations of our faculty and sets the stage for our continued growth and success.”  

The College of Engineering currently employs 147 tenured and tenure-track faculty including President Radenka Maric and 35 teaching faculty, 61 deanery and academic staff members, and 29 research support employees. 

Prominent ENG alumni include Priceline.com co-founder T. Scott Case ’92; NASA astronauts Rick Mastracchio ’82 and Franklin Chang-Diaz ’73; retired vice president of DuPont and president of Chemours Mark Vergnano ’86; Savant Systems CEO Bob Madonna ’82; Exxon Mobile Corp. retired vice president of engineering and research Robert Mastracchio ’64, ’66 MS; former CEO of GE Energy John Krenicki ’84, and many more. 

“As higher education evolves, and the diversity and size of our programs increase, it has become clear that this transition is timely and essential for our continued growth and success,” Kazerounian said.  

Read more in this UConn Today article 

 

Looking Back 

According to the book, A History of Engineering Education at the University of Connecticut: 1881-1995, edited by Professor Emeritus Winthrop Hilding, “some phase of engineering has been offered” since the founding of the University in 1881.   

The Storrs Agriculture School, which UConn was first named, offered courses in surveying, mechanical drawing, physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and by 1901, the School instituted a two-year course in mechanic arts.   

The first four-year curriculum, leading to a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, began in 1916. Three years later, the School established the Division of Mechanical Engineering with John Fitts—a member of the Class of 1897—leading the program as the first engineering professor and dean.  

agriculture engineering class in 1950
Students work on farming equipment in a 1950s agriculture engineering class. (Photo courtesy of UConn’s Archives & Special Collections)

In 1935, the Division of Mechanical Engineering became the Division of Engineering, offering options in courses in civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, and in 1940, the Division was renamed The School of Engineering, offering a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE) from the newly named University of Connecticut.  

In A History of Engineering Education, Hilding notes that the first 60 years (1881-1940) of engineering instruction “progresses at an exceeding slow pace” with only five students graduating with a degree in 1939. But even amid the Great Depression, and since 1940, “progress and development of the School of Engineering into one of the top-ranked institutions in the nation has been remarkable,” he wrote.  

Among the early alumni were Daniel Noble ’29, chairman of Motorola Radio Corp.’s Science Advisory Board, and John Hawkins ’38, who assisted with the design of the Hubble space telescope.  

By 1941, the School of Engineering offered fully accredited Bachelor of Science programs in civil engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. The first Master of Science degrees in all three fields were awarded in 1943, and the first Ph.Ds in 1962-64. 

The school of Engineering hit another growth spurt in the 1950-70s with the establishment of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1959; Aerospace Engineering Department in 1963; a Biological (later Biomedical) Engineering program in 1965; the Department of Metallurgy in 1967, and the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department in 1974. By the 1990s, UConn’s School of Engineering was awarding almost half of all engineering degrees in the state.  

Initially, engineering courses were taught in the basement of the old Whitney Hall on N. Eagleville Road, across from the portico of the Storrs Congregational Church. This building is no longer standing. According to Hilding, two dozen students were enrolled in the early 1900s where they had access to a drafting room, machines, and woodworking shops.   

In 1920, the program outgrew Whitney Hall, and the Division moved to the 10,000-square-foot Mechanic Arts Building, which would become engineering’s first ‘official’ home. This structure is currently occupied by the Islamic Center on N. Eagleville Road.  

Nineteen years later, the School of Engineering moved to a newly completed, 48,776-square-foot building known as Engineering I, which was renamed the Francis L. Castleman, Jr. Building in 1970 after the late dean who died in office.  

In 1957, the Engineering II Building was completed and included a Computer Center on the second floor, utilizing an IBM 1620 machine.  

In 1968, the Engineering III Building opened, followed by the Materials Science Building in 1970, the United Technologies Engineering Building in 1987, the Longley Building in 1991, and the Information Technologies Engineering Building in the early 2000s.

engineering surveying in 1950
Storrs Agriculture School, which UConn was first named, offered courses in surveying (later surveying engineering) as early as 1901. (Photo courtesy of UConn’s Archives & Special Collections)

In 2014, UConn began its Next Generation Connecticut (NextGenCT) initiative to significantly expand the University’s educational and research work in STEM fields. With engineering enrollment doubling, UConn opened the Engineering and Science Building in 2018, and the Science 1 building in 2023 to help alleviate engineering programs busting at the seams. In addition, the Innovation Partnership Building opened in 2018 at the UConn Tech Park, fostering industry-academic partnerships for research, innovation technology commercialization and job growth for the State of Connecticut. 

The Institute of Materials Science and the Materials Science and Engineering Department moved to the new, state-of-the-art Science 1 building this year after spending 50 years in the north wing of the Edward V. Gant Science Complex. 

“Collectively, this is a profound improvement which will absolutely improve the quality of the undergraduate experience, dramatically improve materials education for our undergraduates and graduates, and make us even more of a destination for industry and other worldwide collaborators,” said MSE Department Head and Professor Bryan Huey said. 

Back to the Future 

To ensure continued growth in the College of Engineering, Kazerounian wants to focus on three major pillars: Developing successful students, maintaining research excellence, and contributing to the economic output and development in the state of Connecticut. 

“Through investment in campus resources, a focus on entrepreneurial ventures, a strong connection with industry partners, and a drive to innovate, the College has been very successful at advancing our three pillars; and giving the State of Connecticut a strong return on its investment,” he said in his Dean’s Message. “Connecticut and its engineering community look to UConn Engineering for leadership, intellectual capital, and outstanding graduates who will ensure the economic future of our state.” 

Looking forward, the CoE aims to develop the next generation of creative and innovative engineers and bold technological solutions needed to address the grand challenges facing our society and the planet in the 21st century. Faculty are looking to achieve national and international recognition for transformative research in the key areas of manufacturing and materials; biomedical engineering and systems genomics; sustainability; complex systems engineering and resilient infrastructure; data science and cybersecurity; and engineering education, diversity and inclusion, and innovation and entrepreneurship.  

science 1 building
The Science 1 Building is one of the largest projects in the Next Generation Connecticut initiative, which was announced in 2013 to significantly expand UConn’s educational and research work in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.). Science 1 is the CoE’s newest facility, opening in June 2023. (Photo by Peter Morenus)

In addition, the CoE’s goals are to: 

  • Increase and improve graduate student applicant pool of domestic and international students  
  • Increase the number of high-impact scientific research/publications (e.g., Nature, Science, PNAS, and other highly impactful publication venues)  
  • Increase number of graduate students funded by scholarships 
  • Increase number of PhD students moving on to faculty positions  
  • Work with UConn Admissions and the Foundation to explore new sources of highly qualified students and identify scholarship opportunities that make it possible for those students to “Choose UConn,” with a goal of reaching gender parity in incoming classes by 2026  
  • Increase programs and initiatives to support a diverse, inclusive, equitable and life-transformative culture within the school and beyond  
  • Enhance public perception of engineering in the state and region  
  • Evolve existing and develop new experiential and life-transformational engineering education opportunities, which will instill a culture of lifelong learning  

“It’s incredible to think how far we’ve come in 142 years,” said Associate Dean Daniel Burkey, Castleman Term Professor in Engineering Innovation. “As we reflect on the milestones, it is evident that the College of Engineering has become a beacon of inspiration for aspiring engineers and a hub for groundbreaking research. The institution has flourished into a dynamic and forward-thinking community that prepares students for the challenges of the future.”  

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