Monthly Archives: November 2011

Evolution, Fall 2011: Security/defense research and the rise of women in engineering at A&T

Evolution, the N.C. A&T research magazine, Fall 2011 editionBiometrics — how can science better use behavioral and physical traits to more effectively identify individuals?

Head mounted displays — giving the soldier in the field real-time tactical information, but how much information is too much?

These are two of the research areas at N.C. A&T in the field of homeland security and national defense.  The fall edition of Evolution, A&T’s research magazine, features reports on these projects, along with articles on brain tumor research, teaching green building practices to produce sustainable careers, and creating a new program in food defense and protection.

The new issue also contains a report on A&T’s remarkable success in producing female engineering graduates and the remarkable female faculty members who inspire them.  Changing social demographics, parental guidance, strong mentors and a supportive environment are coming together to change the face of engineering at A&T.

Evolution is distributed electronically on campus.  The print edition of the magazine is distributed primarily off campus.  The redesigned website for the Division of Research and Economic Development, coming in late January, will include a new online format for the magazine.

N.C. A&T ranked highly in engineering graduates and several other undergraduate disciplines

Diverse magazine's Top 100 Degree Producers logoEngineering isn’t the only discipline in which N.C. A&T leads the nation in awarding bachelor’s degrees to African Americans. The university is also first in two other disciplines, second in two and in the top 12 in seven more. It ranks second in the total number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans, up from third last year.

Diverse: Issues in Higher Education ranks the “Top 100 Degree Producers” each year, based on the universities’ reports to the U.S. Department of Education. This year’s lists reflect figures for the 2009-10 academic year.

This year’s rankings for A&T undergraduate degree programs:

  • 1st: Engineering; engineering technologies and engineering-related fields; and parks, recreation, leisure and fitness studies.
  • 2nd: Communication, journalism, and related programs; and marketing.
  • 3rd: Agriculture, agriculture operations, and related sciences.
  • 5th: Accounting and related services; visual and performing arts.
  • 8th: Psychology.
  • 9th: Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities.
  • 11th: Family and consumer sciences/human sciences.
  • 12th: Computer and information sciences and support services.

In overall bachelor’s degree totals for African Americans, the university ranks second to the online University of Phoenix.  A&T passed Florida A&M University this year, as FAMU fell to third with a 12 percent drop in total bachelor’s degrees to African Americans.

The rest of the top 10:

Phoenix, Ashford and AmericanIntercontinental — which are entirely online or have large online programs — all posted dramatic increases in bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans.

JSNN building complete; tours to be given Dec. 8

The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) building at Gateway University Research Park
The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) building at Gateway University Research Park south campus.

Construction of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering building has been completed (on time and on budget!). The building is located in the Gateway University Research Park south campus at 2907 East Lee Street.

A public open house is scheduled for Thursday December 8, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will include tours of the facility.  Visitors will be able to get a look at several labs, including the CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment, the cleanroom, the Genomics Lab, the Nuclear Magentic Resonance Lab, and the Thermochemistry Lab.

The grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the building will be held on Wednesday December 7.  Speakers at the invitation-only event will include state government and academic leaders, including Gov. Bev Perdue, UNC President Tom Ross and the chancellors of N.C. A&T and UNC, Dr. Harold Martin and Dr. Linda Brady, respectively.  The school is operated by the two universities.

From ‘Red Terror’ prison to White House honor

Last week, the White House announced that Dr. Solomon Bililign is one of this year’s recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (as reported here).  Bililign is known at N.C. A&T as a physics professor and director of the NOAA Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center, but there’s much more to his life.  Today, the Ethiopian-American news web site Tadias profiles him:

“When Physicist Solomon Bililign was a young teacher imprisoned in Ethiopia during the ‘Red Terror’ era, he never imagined that he would one day receive a Presidential Award in the United States.”

An economist on Thanksgiving Day shopping and other excesses of holiday-season retailing

A dollar sign with a Santa hat perched on it.The giant retail chains will be further eroding the boundary between Thanksgiving Day and “Black Friday” again this year, continuing a gradual expansion of a “race to the bottom,” in the view of Mark Burkey, associate professor of economics at N.C. A&T.  On his blog he writes:

“This is a general case of a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ or ‘race to the bottom.’  Stores believe that if they don’t do it, everyone else will, and they will lose out.  They also believe that even if everyone else doesn’t, they will win by being first.  We are seeing the same kind of leap-frogging in the presidential primaries — we all agree that this is the wrong outcome, but individual, selfish behavior makes it rational for individuals, but irrational for the collective result.”

If it all sounds like just another holiday aggravation for consumers, Dr. Burkey explains why it doesn’t seem like such a good idea for retailers, either in a blog post well worth reading.

Bililign receives presidential mentoring honor

Dr. Solomon Bililign


Dr. Solomon Bililign, N.C. A&T physics professor, has been named a winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.  The award will be presented to Dr. Bililgn, eight other individuals and eight organizations at the White House later this year.

“The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, awarded by the White House to individuals and organizations, recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields,” the White House said. “By offering their expertise and encouragement, mentors help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers while ensuring that tomorrow’s innovators reflect and benefit from the diverse talent of the United States.”

Dr. Bililign is director of the NOAA Interdisciplinary Scientific Environmental Technology Cooperative Science Center, a consortium of eight universities that conducts collaborative research with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  A&T is the lead university in the group.

Dr. Bililign is a fellow of the National Institute of Aeronautics.  He has taught at A&T since 1993.  He is a native of Ethiopia.

The N.C. A&T grant of the month for October: Nano iron vs. contamination, hog manure odor

The Sponsored Funding Report for October:

N.C. A&T received 23 grants totaling $5.65 million in October.  That total includes supplemental funding for two major research projects, the Center for Aviation Safety ($785,000 from NASA) and the Center for Advanced Studies in Identity Sciences ($485,000 from the Army Research Office).

One highlight of October’s s funding was a grant worth $299, 928 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to Dr. Muchha Reddy of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design.

The project:  Remediation of Contaminated Soils and Water and Swine Manure Odor Reduction Using Nano Size Iron Particles

The issue: The contamination of soil and water renders them unfit for human use as well as animal and plant dependence.

Abstract: Several forms of Fe have been tested to reduce and remove chromates. Zero-valent iron (ZVI) particles are effective in the remediation purpose. The approach in solving the above said problem is unique as we synthesize the metal powders using liquid polyols such as ethylene glycol under microwave hydrothermal conditions. Microwaves have been used to synthesize ceramics and metal powders. The process is eco-friendly and low input demanding, yielding high purity metal particles.

Remediation of contaminated soils and water using nano metal particles synthesized in this fashion is an innovation in itself. Another novel approach in this project is the application of ZVI particles to swine manure to reduce NH 3 emissions from composting there by eliminating the foul odor. This will encourage establishment of more swine units to help small farmers and at the same time eliminate the taboo of applying swine manure to crops. Nano particles will be synthesized using microwave system (MARS 5). Synthesized nano particles will be characterized using XRD (X-ray diffraction), SEM (Scanning electron microscopy), and TEM (Transmission electron microscopy) to establish their phase formation.

Performance is evaluated through lab and field studies by measuring contaminant levels at different stages of the remediation process. Contaminated soil and water samples collected will be analyzed for contaminant level before treating with the nano particles and reanalyzed for the same contaminants after the treatment period. Comparing the analysis results will help in determining the effectiveness of the nano particles. ZVI particles will be mixed with swine manure to reduce the offensive odor and to monitor gaseous (odor) emissions different treatment levels and control samplers will be setup with periodic measurements taken for data collection and analysis.

The complete list of grants received in October (xlsx file).

Social and Behavioral Sciences Workshop

Dr. Mark Weiss of the NSF speaks at the Social and Behavioral Sciences Workshop

Dr. Mark Weiss, director of the NSF Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences Division, speaks at the Social and Behavioral Sciences Workshop this morning in Coltrane Hall. N.C. A&T's third such event drew a capacity crowd of 50 researchers from A&T and other local universities.

CERT holds second green energy conference

Cover of program for Second International Conference on Green and Sustainable TechnologyEnergy researchers from around the world will gather at the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro on Monday and Tuesday for the Second International Conference on Green and Sustainable Technology. (Here’s the program.)

The event is organized by A&T’s Center for Energy Research and Technology.

Plenary speakers will include James C.  Dalton, Chief of the Engineering and Construction Community of Practice, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Markus Buehler of the Center for Materials Science and Engineering and Center for Computational Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Anthony Roper, Deputy Secretary, North Carolina Department of Transportation; Volker Hartkopf, director of the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics at Carnegie Mellon University; and Joshua Kneifel, economist with the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Researchers from a number of U.S. institutions and from Australia, Germany, India, Iran, Nigeria, Poland, and Turkey will present research papers.

The conference is sponsored by N.C. A&T, Advanced Energy, Lockheed Martin, the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Progress Energy, and the Proximity Hotel.

BEACON Day: Evolution in action at A&T

Friday is BEACON Day at N.C. A&T, the annual event spotlighting the work under way in support of the university’s interdisciplinary team on the NSF’s huge “evolution in action” research program.  The event will include presentations by A&T faculty members and colleagues from Michigan State University (BEACON lead institution), the University of Idaho, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Washington.  The daylong event will be held in the Fort IRC, Room 410.  Faculty members, graduate students and undergraduates interested in attending grad school in the BEACON disciplines are encouraged to attend.

The BEACON Day agenda (PDF).