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Points of Pride Newsletter: February 2010

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Dean's Message

One of my primary goals as dean is to encourage our extended community of current and past students, faculty, and staff to feel the pride in accomplishment that our college deserves. To that end, the college is in the process of creating a new web page to celebrate our rich history at the College of Engineering. We have already begun gathering historical articles about the college that will eventually serve as an archives of our achievements and an informal history of the place. I am inviting all of you to contribute to this history. The first item on the new web site will be a publication called “Great Moments in Engineering Education,” which was printed in 1997 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the college. This document outlined some early history of the institution from its founding in 1947 to approximately 1975. Send an electronic file of college history to Charlie Creekmore at
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Alums: Send us your success stories about the College of Engineering
Please send success stories to College Editor Charlie Creekmore at

“Exploratorium” Will Spawn Student Brainstorms
Recently a team of students in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department (MIE) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst designed and built an invention that would wow any dog owner. It’s a sort of dog-operated fetch-o-matic. The machine hurls a ball and is then re-triggered each time the canine retrieves it and drops it in a funnel. MIE Head Donald Fisher uses this example to demonstrate the kind of clever idea that needs a place to incubate within a warm and welcoming space, where his students can gather, connect, brainstorm, and collaborate. Such a space, which Fisher is calling an Exploratorium, is actually in the works and is scheduled to come online in September of 2010. The Exploratorium will be an approximately $150,000, 2,500-square-foot home base for MIE students in the ELab building on campus. Link to Web Site for Making a Gift to Exploratorium.
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Peer Learning Inspires Peerless Teaching
When the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recently introduced an innovative concept in which student volunteers teach their peers about technical subjects near and dear to their hearts, nobody knew for sure what the response would be. It’s remarkable, then, that within days after the seven voluntary courses were announced, 58 participants signed up. Make that number 59, if you count the robot named Emma5 being designed and constructed in one of the classes. The program is called the M5 Experimental College, nicknamed M5exco and pronounced “Mexco.” Read More »

ICE Trains New Breed of Leonardo de Vinci
What would happen if Leonardo de Vinci, the prototype of the Renaissance person, were alive today? He would probably be a cellular engineer. Cellular engineering is the new frontier in applied biology that integrates research across disciplines such as animal science, biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, microbiology, physics, and polymer science. Within the Institute for Cellular Engineering (ICE) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, more than 34 faculty members and 40 graduate students from 11 departments and interdisciplinary graduate programs across campus are busy creating a new breed of Leonardo. Read More »

Reckhow Featured on Maine Public Broadcasting Network
David Reckhow, a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was featured prominently on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network talking about trace elements of pharmaceuticals such as estrogen, which is increasingly found in fresh water ponds near developed areas. The compounds are believed to be the cause of gender changes found in some of New England’s amphibians and frogs. The pharmaceuticals are also being found in small amounts in drinking water supplies. Professor Reckhow is among the most influential researchers studying rivers and ponds across the Northeast for traces of pharmaceuticals – not just from dumping, but from human waste. These findings have raised concerns about whether pharmaceuticals are getting into drinking water. Read More »

New Scholarship Supports Returning Vets
A new scholarship endowment set up by alumnus Robert Hagerty (Industrial Engineering ‘74), the president of the Polycom company of Pleasanton, California, has been set up to support undergraduate students in the College of Engineering who are veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan. The Robert C. Hagerty Scholarship will be awarded annually to students in the college who are veterans of the U.S. military and whose service includes a posting in Iraq or Afghanistan. The award can also be made to the child of a veteran who meets the above criteria. This year the Hagerty Scholarship has been awarded to civil engineering majors William Nichols and Andrew Jordan. Read More »

Forbes Interviewed on Public Radio
Neil Forbes of the Chemical Engineering Department was interviewed by local public radio station WFCR on December 11 about the delivery and trigger system he has developed to place TRAIL, a cancer-fighting protein, directly into solid tumors and to activate it on cue. Forbes engineered a non-toxic kind of Salmonella bacteria that can use its own self-propulsion system to venture deep into tumors and manufacture the powerful anti-cancer drug. In laboratory testing, the new therapy, when combined with radiation treatment, delivered what Forbes calls a “double whammy” that swelled the 30-day survival rate of mice with breast cancer from 0 percent to 100 percent. Read More »

Gao Named as an IEEE Fellow
Professor Lixin Gao of our Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has been notified that she is receiving the honorary title of Fellow from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers “for contributions to inter-domain internet protocol network routing.” Professor Gao is the recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 1999, and she was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow from 2003 to 2005. Her research deals with: enhancing the stability and scalability of internet routing; scalable quality-of-service control for the next generation internet; providing interactive VOD services in multicast networks; continuous media proxy services in wide-area networks; and internet infrastructure security. Read More »

Baker Appears on Research Channel
Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department is one of four researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst on the cutting edge of global warming science who were interviewed in a series on the Research Channel. Baker, Julie Brigham-Grette and Raymond Bradley of the Geosciences Department, and Duncan Irschick of the Biology Department were featured in the National Science Foundation-sponsored series, “To What Degree? What Science is Telling Us About Climate Change,” which aired on the Research Channel from January 7 through 23. Read More »

Schaubert Makes “Most Read” List
An article by lead author Daniel Schaubert, the director of the Advanced Sensor and Communications Antennas research center in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, was rated third best on the top-ten list of “most read” online articles in the Microwave Journal for 2009. The article – “State-of-the-Art Antenna Technology: The 2008 Antenna Applications Symposium,” written by Schaubert, Jennifer Bernhard from the University of Illinois, Robert Mailloux of the US Air Force Research Laboratory, and W. Devereux Palmer of the US Army Research Office – was the cover story in the January 2009 issue of the journal. The Microwave Journal is not an academic journal, but one of the oldest and most respected trade publications in the field. Read More »

Student Tests Polymer Capsules for Curing Diabetes
Talk about precocious! A senior chemical engineering major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a vital cog on a research team working toward the successful treatment of diabetes and other killer diseases. Worcester resident Meenal Datta is performing key experiments on polymer capsules engineered to carry insulin-producing pancreas cells for implanting in type 1 diabetics. This procedure would inject or implant encapsulated, insulin-secreting, islets of Langerhans cells to treat the disease. The technique would be as effective as, but much safer than, a pancreas transplant, because the capsules would allow the islet cells inside to secrete insulin into the diabetic patient’s system and yet protect the encapsulated cells from attack by the immune system. Read More »

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