PULLMAN, Wash. — The College of Engineering and Architecture at Washington State University announced the names of its outstanding students, faculty and staff members at its annual convocation ceremony last week.
The award winners include Shulin Chen, Outstanding Research Faculty; William F. Cofer; Outstanding Teaching Faculty; Jennifer A. Grega, Outstanding Sophomore; Katie Blomster, Outstanding Junior; Joel LeBret, Outstanding Senior; and Shafique Khan, Outstanding Teaching Assistant. Staff Excellence Awards went to Gayle Landeen, the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, and Robert “Kurt” Hutchinson, the College of Engineering and Architecture Shops. Employee of the Year honors were given to Abby Coleman from the College of Engineering and Architecture and the Center for Multiphase Environmental Research.
Chen, associate director of the Northwest Bioproduct Research Institute and associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, came to WSU in 1995. His research focuses on ways to protect the environment from pollution caused by agricultural operations. He has made significant research advances in the past five years in animal waste management, watershed assessment and aquaculture engineering. Chen’s watershed assessment research has been in conjunction with conservation districts that can use the data produced to formulate better policies for protecting the water. Animal waste management has become increasingly important in the Pacific Northwest with attention to being given to water quality and as cities expand into areas that have been rural. Chen has helped develop ways for agricultural producers to reduce animal waste leaving their farms, often by using constructed wetlands, without adding substantially to their costs of production. His aquaculture research has reduced pollution by developing techniques to minimize the amount of nitrogen in fish feed, the primary pollutant from aquaculture, and by improving recirculating water systems that do not flush excess water into rivers and streams.
“Dr. Chen has been addressing critical engineering research issues with devotion, dedication and tremendous success,’’ Gustavo Barbosa-Canovas, acting chair in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, said. “There is no question his superb work in these areas has had a decisive impact for the region and the university. The impact of his work is worldwide.’’
In the past five years, Chen has published 21 papers in prestigious refereed journals, four book chapters and more than 30 proceedings, conference papers and published abstracts. He has seven articles and two book chapters in press. He and his colleagues have brought in nearly $4 million in grants. He has also filed two patent applications. In 2002, he was named a Kellogg Fellow. Chen holds a doctoral degree from Cornell University.
Cofer, assistant/associate professor for civil and environmental engineering, joined the WSU faculty 15 years ago after working as a professional scientist, researcher and consulting engineer in structural engineering and analysis. In civil engineering, Cofer teaches courses in mechanics of materials, including introduction to structural engineering, advanced mechanics of materials, computer methods of structural analysis, finite elements, advanced finite elements, and mechanics of structural engineering. He serves as a major adviser to one doctoral and two graduate students and advises about 30 undergraduates — more than any other faculty member in the department. He also is the undergraduate program coordinator for the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, where he coordinates internships and participates in numerous recruitment and outreach activities. He also has served as chair of the Faculty Senate and is active with the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Two years ago, Cofer participated in the A. D. Welliver Faculty Summer Fellowship sponsored by the Boeing Co. He was one of 12 faculty members selected nationwide and the first WSU professor to receive the fellowship. The fellowship allowed university faculty members to spend eight weeks observing Boeing Co. engineering work and learning about current industry practices. With this knowledge, he has worked to reshape his undergraduate curriculum to better reflect the practice of engineering in industry.
He is also known for his enthusiastic teaching style and his excitement for his subjects resonates through his lectures, which, in turn, keeps students interested and involved. His lectures are well organized, and he is easily approachable. “I have stopped by his office several times, and he is always eager to talk to students, regardless of whether or not it is during his office hours,” said one nominator.
Cofer has a doctoral degree from Georgia Institute of Technology. His research expertise is in finite element development and applications, and he has published more than 55 articles on topics in structural engineering and analysis.
Grega, a bioengineering major and Chehalis native, has won numerous honors and awards. She has been named a member of Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, which recently nominated her to be a delegate to the 2003 international mission on engineering in China. As a freshman, she was a member of the President’s Honor Roll and was a Mortar Board Outstanding Freshman Scholar. Her activities range from being a rabbit fitting and showing instructor, and 4-H leader to playing in a church bell choir. On campus, she has served as a Student Alumni Connection member and as a member of the Ambassadors and Fundraising committees. She has also been active as a government member and house manager at Stevens Hall.
Blomster, a native of Bellingham, is studying computer engineering. She was named the College of Engineering and Architecture’s outstanding sophomore in 2002 and has received numerous scholarships during her time at WSU, including one from the Boeing Co. and AT&T Corp. She served as a resident education adviser for the 2002-2003 academic year and as an officer for the WSU chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. In 2001, she was an assistant for the BRIDGE program, a five-day CEA event that helps incoming women and minority students successfully begin their college experience. She has also participated in Research Experience for Undergraduates. She participates in a number of activities from intramural tennis to water skiing and was a counselor at a water skiing camp for high school students.
LeBret, a Spokane native, is majoring in materials science engineering. He has won numerous honors and awards, including Outstanding Sophomore and Outstanding Senior in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in 2000 and 2003. In 2002, he won first place in a student paper competition for the American Society of Materials and first place in the optical microscopy photography contest. He has worked to encourage students to attend WSU by visiting chemistry and physics classes in Spokane area high schools, introducing students to materials science and performing scientific demonstrations. LeBret works as a research assistant for the mechanical and materials engineering school and has given lab tours and demonstrations for students visiting campus. He has authored papers that were published in refereed journals and professional proceedings, including an electron microscopy study of tin whisker growth that was published in the Journal of Materials Research. After completing a master’s degree next spring, he plans to use his electron microscopy skills working in the electronic materials field. His hobbies include weightlifting and wrestling, movie prop replication and costuming.
Khan, a native of Lahore, Pakistan, is a teaching fellow in mechanical and materials engineering. The competitive program allows highly qualified doctoral students to teach undergraduate cours
es under the direction of a faculty mentor. As part of this program, Khan taught ME 212 (Dynamics) last summer and fall and is teaching it again this semester. His teaching evaluations from students are favorable, with comments that his lectures are well organized, and he provides time outside of class to help students. He also maintains a well-organized Web site. In addition to his excellent teaching, Khan is also an accomplished researcher and received the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Research Excellence Award in 2001. He also has published conference papers and articles in refereed journals.
“His academic record is better than many beginning faculty members, and he already has an impressive publication record,’’ said M. Grant Norton, associate professor in engineering. “His success as a teaching assistant and fellow has not come at the expense of his research productivity.”
Landeen, staff member for MME, is described by her nominators as highly efficient, conscientious and thorough, and her attitude at work is said to be positive and ethical, with some of her activities earning her “miracle worker” status, said one colleague. Another commented on her attitude as a great team player and how she inspires those under her supervision by holding everyone to the “highest of expectations,” yet motivating them with patience and lots of constructive and positive feedback. The faculty in MME is also appreciative of the skill and efficiency with which Landeen conducts her work. “Gayle represents all that is best in an employee and in a human being,” said one faculty member.
Hutchinson, from the College of Engineering and Architecture Shops, has worked in the engineering shops for 17 years. His nominators noted his craftsmanship, multi-tasking abilities, dedication and willingness to assist students and faculty who come to the shop with questions and requests. “Kurt is one of the best all around machinists and craftsmen that they have ever had the pleasure to work with,” said one colleague. Another noted that Hutchinson spends a lot of time finding ways to make improvements on how the shop does solid modeling design, and that he is “constantly trying to improve the efficiency of the way we design and manufacture the various research equipment that we are assigned.” Several faculty members also voiced their heartfelt appreciation for the mastery, creativity and extra effort with which he approaches his projects. On faculty member said that he “…always walk the extra mile with a smile, putting in extra time and working hard to meet schedules.”
Coleman, from the College of Engineering and Architecture and the Center for Multiphase Environmental Research, was especially recognized for her conscientiousness, organization, and efficiency in her work, and her friendly and courteous interactions with others. “She has a knock-your-socks-off work ethic!” said one colleague. Another observed that it is common to see her late in the evening as she finishes up important project for investigators. The faculty also appreciates Coleman’s contributions, noting that, through her interactions with CMER collaborators, she “…projected the image of a high quality research institution.”