Liu recognized with Faculty Award

Congratulations to University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Cynthia Furse and materials science and engineering chair Feng Liu for receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award, respectively.

Both were recognized with the campus-wide honors during the 150th annual University of Utah Commencement as well as the College of Engineering’s convocation on May 3.

Feng Liu — Distinguished Scholarly and Creative Research Award

Since joining University of Utah in 2000, Prof. Feng Liu has developed into one of the world’s leading experts in the fields of surface science and epitaxial growth of thin films, and the theory of nanostructures, graphene and topological materials. He won the prestigious Senior Humboldt Award in 2008 citing: “His work pioneered our understanding of the atomistic mechanisms underlying epitaxial growth of thin films and semiconductor nanostructures.” In 2011, Prof. Liu was elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, based on: “His contribution to theory of nanostructures and strain-induced nanoscale Self-assembly.” “In recent years, he pioneered the fields of organic and surface-based topological materials,” said one nominator. “Prof. Liu has been running an active and well-funded research program which has become one of the largest in the College of Engineering (the group reached 20 people at one point). His research has been steadily supported by federal agencies (DOE, NSF and DOD), the State of Utah and industry. He is among the few people who has been simultaneously funded for two separate DOE-BES core programs, ‘Materials Synthesis and Processing’ and ‘Physical behavior of Materials’ (funded continuously so far for 20 years with an annual budget of $300K).”

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2019 COE Convocation

The 2019 University of Utah College of Engineering convocation is once again upon us, and it will be an exciting time for graduates who will move on to the next phase of their lives. Congratulations to all!

Click here for information about convocation, which will be held Friday, May 3, at 7 p.m. at the Jon Huntsman Event Center. Check-in begins at 5:30 p.m., and the procession begins at 6:40 p.m. For those family members who cannot attend the event, go to the college’s main website at www.coe.utah.edu to view a live stream.

*** Please note: If you are walking, please be aware that this program is scheduled to end around 8:45 p.m. Out of respect for others who have worked so hard for this day, all graduates are expected to remain seated until the end of the program. Travel and dinner plans should be made accordingly.

COE Rises in Rankings

The University of Utah’s College of Engineering continues to rise as one of the nation’s most respected engineering institutions, according to U.S. News & World Report, whose rankings of graduate schools was released March 12. According to the 2020 rankings, the U College of Engineering’s overall graduate program jumped three spots to No. 55.

Meanwhile, chemical engineering’s graduate program rose five spots to 56th, civil engineering climbed two spots to 65th, mechanical engineering moved up one spot to 65th, and materials science and engineering had the largest gain with seven spots to 57th.

The rankings are based on a series of scores from surveys with deans, corporate recruiters, employers and company contacts, as well as GRE test scores from master’s and doctoral students, acceptance rates, faculty-to-student ratios, research expenditures, doctoral degrees awarded and more.

The college also has ranked high in other areas. According to the latest ASEE Databook, the College of Engineering is ranked 29th in the country in total tenure-track faculty, 36th in research expenditures, and 40th in doctoral degrees awarded.

The U’s College of Engineering has experienced tremendous growth in the last two decades with research expenditures rising 280 percent since 2002 (with $95 million in engineering-related expenditures in 2018) and the number of Ph.D. graduates rising 193 percent. Tenure track faculty has also grown with 192 faculty members in 2018, a 73-percent increase since 2002.

U Celebrates Research Milestone

Due to the extraordinary efforts of faculty, students and administrators from colleges and departments across campus, the U celebrated its biggest year in research funding ever—$515 million was awarded to projects addressing a wide range of issues, from non-opioid painkillers to geothermal energy in Utah.

Scholarly activity is also on the rise—members of the U family won more awards, received more citations, attended more conferences and published more books and journal articles than last year.

The Vice President for Research’s Office premiered “What One U can Do,” a video honoring the research community’s outstanding accomplishments during the State of the U address on Jan. 7 by President Ruth V. Watkins.

Click below to see the new video where you’ll spot many people and places from the College of Engineering.

WAX ON

University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has created a new ski wax that not only has caught the eye of recreationists but also of Popular Science magazine.

The well-known science and technology magazine just named Bates’ Phantom ski wax for its 31st annual Best of What’s New award in the recreation category. The magazine listed the 100 greatest technological innovations for the year in categories including aerospace, gadgets, cars and security devices.

The Phantom wax, developed by Bates last year for Salt Lake City-based ski company, DPS Skis, involves a special formulation of polymers that can be applied to skis only once, eliminating the need for additional applications like regular ski wax.

To read more click here.

MINTEER NAMED AAAS FELLOW

University of Utah materials science and engineering professor Shelley Minteer was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), it was announced Nov. 28. Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.

She is one of two U professors to receive the honor this year. The association also named chemistry professor Glenn Prestwich. Both are among 416 newly-elected Fellows.

Minteer was elected for “fundamental and applied contributions to electrochemistry, including electrocatalytic cascades and natural and artificial metabolons for biofuel cells.”

Minteer’s career has focused on using nature as an inspiration and solution to chemistry problems. Her work has resulted in 17 issued patents and over 300 peer-reviewed publications in using biology as inspiration for biosensing, energy storage, energy conversion, and electrosynthesis.

To read more click here.

Corning Executive, U Engineering Graduate Passes

David A. Duke, a University of Utah College of Engineering graduate, former chief technology officer with Corning Inc. and an inductee in the National Academy of Engineering, passed away Monday, Oct. 9, of natural causes. He was 81.

Duke graduated with a bachelor’s in geology and geophysics in 1957, and a master’s and doctorate in geological engineering in 1959 and 1962, respectively, and was a fierce supporter of the U’s College of Engineering throughout his career. He was a member of the College’s Engineering National Advisory Council for 13 years and was a generous benefactor, providing financial support for the construction of the Warnock Engineering Building as well as for the David A. and Hanne J. Duke Scholarship in Materials Science and Engineering.

“David Duke was an engineering giant whose inventions and leadership had a huge impact on people’s quality of life in areas ranging from dinnerware to optical communications and air quality,” said Richard B. Brown, dean of the U’s College of Engineering. “He was recognized as a global technology leader, and honored with the highest awards given in the engineering profession. I appreciate his remarkable vision, judgement and support as a member of my National Advisory Council.”

Duke was born and raised in Salt Lake City and attended East High School before enrolling at the University of Utah in 1953. Upon graduation, he started working for Corning as a research scientist, a company he would stay with for 34 years. During that time, he was awarded 10 patents, most for Corelle dinnerware. During his tenure with the company, he attended Harvard Business School’s Professional Management Development program and then was put in charge of several of Corning’s businesses, including those involving science products, Radomes, catalytic converter substrates, and telecommunications/optical waveguides. In 1988, he was elected vice chairman and chief technical officer of Corning and was a member of its board of directors. He retired from the company in 1996 and was living in Park City with his wife, Hanne.

He accepted the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore on behalf of Corning, and he later received the Earle B. Barnes Award in Chemical Research Management by the American Chemical Society. He was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering in 1992.

During his career, he served tirelessly for others, mentoring colleagues at work, counseling families through his work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and encouraging youth to pursue their professional goals. Away from work, Duke served as an LDS branch president and bishop in Elmira, N.Y., and was president of the South Africa, Durban LDS Mission from 1998 to 2001.

Duke is survived by his wife of 62 years, Hanne; their four children, Katherine (Robert) Shumway, Michael, Deborah (Gregg) Winn and John (Cessily) Duke; 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A public viewing will be held Friday, Oct. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the LDS Olympus Stake Center, 2675 E. 4430 South, Salt Lake City. A funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 14 at 10 a.m. at the LDS Park City Stake Center, 2300 Monitor Dr., Park City. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at http://give.lds.org/pef or to the David & Hanne Duke Scholarship Fund at the University of Utah College of Engineering at https://umarket.utah.edu/ugive/level4.php?catid=82.

Joshua Winger named COE Outstanding Teaching Assistant

The 2017 University of Utah College of Engineering staff, teaching and service awards were handed out Aug. 18 during the annual fall faculty meeting. Congratulations to all of the recipients of this year’s awards — including Materials Science and Engineering student Joshua Winger as this year’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant.

Joshua Winger, Materials Science and Engineering

It takes a rare combination of not only intelligence but selflessness to be a great teaching assistant. Josh Winger in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is one of those TA’s.

Just look and the student comments written about Josh, which read like Yelp reviews for a 5-star restaurant: “He went above and beyond the responsibility of a TA. By far the best one I have ever had,” wrote one student. “Josh was a very intelligent, very kind teacher’s assistant. He is always willing to help any person about any questions and about any subject.”

Lastly, the professor he worked for, Taylor Sparks, has only the highest praise for Josh: “He goes way above the duties of his job to try and help students out. He is a credit to our institution . . . and I can’t imagine a more deserving recipient.”

To read the complete list of this year’s winners click here.

College Launches New Entrepreneurship Certificate

If an engineer is going to successfully commercialize his or her technology so it can be used by millions of people, it takes a certain amount of business acumen to make it work. The problem is a lot of engineers just delegate that half of the work to executives with MBAs.

But there is a lot engineers can learn about the world of business to help them navigate the muddy waters of patents and partnerships. That’s why the University of Utah College of Engineering along with the U’s Eccles School of Business have developed a new Engineering Entrepreneurship Certificate designed to give engineering students the fundamentals necessary to start a business and function in the corporate world. The certificate is college-wide and can be taken by any engineering major.

For more information about the certificate, go to entrepreneurship.coe.utah.edu.

“By not knowing what it takes or the costs and the obstacles involved in business, that can be a significant impediment to something that’s a really good idea,” said University of Utah electrical and computer engineering department chair, Gianluca Lazzi, who also is the program director for the certificate. “By providing the students with the skills and knowledge necessary — from finance, to marketing, to operations and strategy — they can be prepared and avoid several of the pitfalls that come up when people try to start an enterprise.”

The undergraduate certificate requires 20 credit hours, and some courses counted toward an engineering degree can be counted for the certificate. It can be taken as an undergraduate or graduate (a graduate student needs only 15 credit hours to complete the certificate).

Some of the courses include Engineering Entrepreneurship, Launching Technology Ventures, Technical Communications, and Intellectual Property and Business Law. While formal applications are not necessary, prospective students are encouraged to contact the program advisor, Alec Down (alec.down@utah.edu), for guidance.

Lazzi and U College of Engineering Dean Richard B. Brown came up with the idea of the certificate so future engineers can more easily understand what it takes to successfully commercialize their research.

“These courses can help them so they can understand the language, read financial statements and not just rely on someone else for those things,” Lazzi said.

Another advantage with the certificate is that these courses are geared specifically for engineers, he added.

“There is an advantage when your colleagues in the courses are like-minded,” he said. “You form in teams and work directly on engineering projects that can enrich them with business knowledge. It’s an extension of what our students are already doing here but we really beef it up with elements important for translating it all into commercialization.”

Making a Better Biodegradable Pad

Each year, nearly 20 billion sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into North American landfills every year, and it takes centuries for them to biodegrade inside plastic bags, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School report. Additionally, it requires high amounts of fossil fuel energy to produce the plastic for these products, resulting in a large carbon footprint.

But a team of students led by University of Utah materials science and engineering assistant professor (lecturer) Jeff Bates has developed a new, 100-percent biodegradable feminine maxi pad that is made of all natural materials and is much thinner and more comfortable than other similar products.

The SHERO Pad uses a processed form of algae as its super-absorbent ingredient, which is then covered with cotton and the same material that makes up tea bags. The result is a maxi pad that is effective, comfortable to wear and can break down anywhere from 45 days to six months.

“This is novel in comparison to other biodegradable options out there for pads,” said Amber Barron, a University of Utah junior in materials science and engineering who is on the team of four students. “Most are really bulky because they don’t have a superabsorbent layer.”

The need for something like the SHERO Pad originally came from SHEVA, a nonprofit advocacy group for women and girls in Guatemala, which turned to Bates because it was looking for a sustainable solution for feminine hygiene waste. One of Bates’ area of research is in hydrogels, which are water-absorbing polymers.

“In Guatemala, there’s no public sanitation system. All the rivers are black because they are so polluted,” Bates says. “So there really is a genuine need for people in Guatemala to have biodegradable options.”

Part of Bates’ solution came one night while feeding his 5-year-old daughter.

“One day we were eating dinner with white rice, and my daughter spilled it all over the floor,” he says about that night two years ago. “The next morning, when I was cleaning it up, it was all dry and crusted. I drove to work and thought, ‘What was it about rice that does that?’”

That question of how rice hydrates and dehydrates began a two-year process of searching for the right natural materials for the feminine pad, which included testing with different leaves, such as banana leaves, and forms of cotton.

Bates, Barron and the rest of the team — which includes sophomore students, Sarai Patterson, Ashlea Patterson and Ali Dibble — ultimately developed the SHERO Pad, which is made up of four layers: An outer layer of raw cotton similar to a tea bag to repel liquid, a transfer layer of organic cotton to absorb the liquid and pull it from the outer layer, the super-absorbent layer made of agarose gel (a polymer from brown algae), and a final layer made of a corn-based material that keeps the moisture inside and prevents leakage.

While there are other similar sustainable feminine pads on the market today, they either use a hydrogel that is not 100 percent biodegradable or they use thicker layers of natural cotton that are uncomfortable to wear, Barron says. Another advantage to the SHERO Pad is that it can easily be manufactured in smaller villages using locally sourced materials and without sophisticated tools, just common presses and grinding stones, Bates says.

While the team originally developed the SHERO Pad for users in developing countries such as Guatemala, Bates and the students also will start selling the product in the U.S. for environmentally conscious women. A working prototype has been produced, and they have launched a startup company based in Bountiful, Utah. They hope to have products in Guatemala and on U.S. store shelves within a year.