S&T offers new flexible degree

In January, S&T began offering a new bachelor of arts degree in multidisciplinary studies. Designed for flexibility, the program lets students customize their education while taking advantage of the university’s emphasis on engineering, science,
technology and liberal arts.

Through Missouri S&T’s newest degree program, a student interested in ecology could combine coursework in geology, biology and mining engineering. A student interested in an education career could combine business and economics with teacher certification.

The program uses only existing faculty and funding and is expected to attract 32 full-time students and seven part-time students within five years.

Silver STARS for S&T

S&T’s dedication to environmental sustainability and stewardship paid off this fall with a “silver” rating in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS). S&T is one of 103 universities in the nation to achieve the silver
STARS designation.

STARS is a national program developed by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to help colleges and universities measure their environmental and other sustainability efforts. Participants report achievements in the areas of education and research, operations, and planning administration and engagement.

STARS also offers bronze, gold and platinum designations. Only 37 universities have achieved a gold rating. No institution has attained a platinum rating.

How many engineers does it take to change an LED bulb?

Suzanna Long is helping MoDOT develop a schedule for replacing LED bulbs in the state’s traffic signals.

A group of S&T researchers led by Suzanna Long, assistant professor of engineering management and systems engineering, is working with the Missouri Department of Transportation to measure the intensity of LED traffic lights.

Light-emitting diodes or LEDs have replaced standard bulbs in many of the nation’s traffic lights. Even though they’re brighter than standard bulbs and have a longer life, knowing when to replace them is a guessing game, Long says.

While working with MoDOT on a data-driven replacement schedule for LEDs, her team created a laser-guided device to measure LED intensity from the side of the road at night instead of requiring technicians to physically check traffic lights using a bucket truck.

The project, named one of the 2012 “Sweet 16” High Value Research Projects by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, appeared in the Engineering Management Journal’s special issue on transportation management last September.

Working with Long are Mariesa Crow, the Fred W. Finley Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering; Abhijit Gosavi and Ruwen Qin, assistant professors of engineering management and systems engineering; and C.H. Wu, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Matt O’Keefe: memorable mentor

Walk into Straumanis-James Hall and the building’s relaxed atmosphere may be the first thing you notice. The building is home to the Materials Research Center and its director, Matt O’Keefe, MetE’85.

O’Keefe, who is known for his friendliness and accessibility, will tell you he didn’t set the building’s tone — that he’s just trying to maintain what Bill James (professor emeritus of chemistry and a namesake of the building) created when he started the MRC back in 1964. James, who turned 90 in September, still has an office down the hall from O’Keefe’s.

But O’Keefe’s influence is undeniable. He’s been a popular professor at S&T since 1999, receiving several teaching awards along the way. He has a genuine concern for his students’ success, both in his department and in the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity, where he serves as faculty advisor.

Rick Szevery, MetE’02, a senior engineer with ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, is grateful for O’Keefe’s mentorship.

“Dr. O’Keefe’s conversational teaching style and quirky sense of humor made his classes very enjoyable and memorable,” Szevery says. “He organized the course information in a way that made it easier to comprehend than in my other courses. And he was always positive and helpful. I really valued his advice and our conversations.”

O’Keefe was born and reared in Rolla, the son of the late Thomas J. O’Keefe, Curators’ Professor emeritus of metallurgical engineering. The younger O’Keefe took graduate courses while working for AT&T Bell Laboratories in Allentown, Pa., and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign while working for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

Although he’s laid back, he’s no pushover and is honest with students. “Students don’t always appreciate or like what I have to say,” he says. “But sometimes it’s what they need to hear.”

Letter from the editor: Megan Kean-O’Brien, MS TComm’12

Dear Fellow Alumni:

Fans of The Simpsons may have noticed some familiar clothing on Lisa during the episode that aired on Nov. 11, 2012.

In that episode, Bart Simpson’s more intellectual younger sister wore a “University of Missouri at Rolla” shirt while playing online poker with the college savings her dad, Homer, had socked away. It made us wonder what kind of a student Lisa would be if she attended Missouri S&T.

Wikipedia describes the middle Simpson child as “highly intelligent” (with an IQ of 159), spiritual, idealistic and “notably more concerned with world affairs than her life in Springfield,” her mythical hometown. Armed with that information, our admissions staff, many of whom are fans of the show, predicted Lisa’s career as a Miner.

  • Major: environmental engineering and psychology
  • Activities: jazz band, theater, research, film series, athletics
  • Student organizations:  Women in Engineering, French Club, Engineers Without Borders

Of course, Lisa Simpson is just a fictional character, but Missouri S&T has thousands of other real-life students with fascinating real-life stories. Each one is different. While all of them strive to uphold the Miner tradition of excellence, and many exceed that high standard, there is no such thing as a stereotypical S&T student.

Miners excel in a broad spectrum of activities and interests. Some are athletes. Others are members of student design teams. Some are involved in research that can change the lives of people around the world. Others focus on serving their local communities. Many combine these activities and more.

In this issue, we’ll introduce you to a few of today’s real-life students. Keep an eye on them. They, like so many of their fellow Miners, are going places.

Q&A: Did you ever pull a prank in college?

Were hard-working, nose-to-the-grindstone Missouri S&T alumni all work and no play during college? We don’t think so. We’ve heard tales of students leading a calf to the third floor of the Rolla Building, constructing a brick wall across Pine Street and burning an outhouse on campus. We wanted to hear more of those stories, so we asked.

Yeah, they’ve tried to get me to incriminate myself before. It’s not going to happen.
Jeff Spencer, CSci’93, Rolla, Mo.

To this day, I will testify that I know nothing about who disabled the elevators in TJ Hall. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
Patrick Williams, CE’11, Helena, Ark.

There might be stickers on hard-to-reach places around campus. Some are in plain sight and were still there as of February 2012 when I was last there. Some are probably in official press pictures. Good luck finding them, and to whoever put them there.
Scott Frazier, EE’09, Rochester Hills, Mich.

The final in the 1997 Intro to Programming C++ involved debugging an application. Simple things like finding compile time errors and logic errors and fixing them. The lab probably had about 40 students in it. One student had created a program to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on delay. You loaded it off of your 3.5-inch floppy disk, ran the program (which loaded it into memory), popped out the floppy and were out of the room before it went off. He passed out several copies the week before the final. My guess is almost half of the class had a copy of this program. I stayed until almost the end of the final, sitting in the back row listening as more and more PCs played out the song in all its 8-bit glory.
Nate Taylor, EE’00, Omaha

We repeatedly painted the Mu back on the rock at the Sigma Chi annex after they had the big “Burning the Mu” party. The Mu was dropped after getting their charter. We even went in camouflage with war paint. They tried to catch us, but it never worked. It was great fun. I was even dating a Sigma Chi and they were clueless. The sorority girls were not on the suspect list.
Cheri Mohan-Schmitt, ME’87, St. Louis

It is a tradition for the pledges of Sigma Phi Epsilon to drag the large rock in their front yard to another fraternity so their members would have to drag it back. In 1994, the students at the fraternity where the rock ended up rented a jack hammer and made the rock easier to carry back to Sig Ep. I’m not Greek, but I had some great friends in the Sig Ep house. When I asked them if they were going to replace it, of course their answer was “yes.” Their minds going wild with the size of rock they wanted to get. But then after a bit of estimation of what they could actually haul, they realized their goal was out of reach because no one in the house had a large enough truck to move a three-ton granite boulder. I said, “You find the rock, I’ll haul it.” I worked for Poe’s Gas, which had a truck equipped with a hydraulic boom for hauling propane tanks. One of the guys got permission to take a large red granite boulder from the Experimental Mine. I secured the truck from Gordon Poe, who had only one request, “Just don’t flip my truck over.” I delivered the rock the Saturday before finals week during the fraternity’s traditional senior round of golf. As soon as the rock was on the ground, someone shouted, “Let’s move it!” Those of us that loaded the rock knew this was nearly impossible, but we sat back and watched them try. The rock was sitting on edge and after a few minutes of grunting, it did roll over to a larger flat with a loud thud. I don’t think that rock moved for several semesters because of its extreme weight.

Another time, during the spring of 1997, the old IBM system in the computer lab was going away and all the 1-inch reel-to-reel tapes would all be obsolete. Dax Sparks, AE’96, ME’96, and I were working in the operations and equipment room on weekend shifts. We stockpiled about 80 of those reels and then unwound them and stuffed the mess into Charlie Irwin’s office one Sunday night. (Irwin is a retired supervisor of computing and information services, now known as IT.) His office was on the edge of the room and the walls were all glass. The tape filled the room to about chest height with his desk, chair and computers still inside.
Brian Call, ME’97, MS EMch’99,
Dunlap, Ill.

Lady Miner volleyball player named Academic All-American of the Year

Jennifer Costello, a senior in chemical engineering from St. Louis, is the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year award winner for Division II volleyball as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

Costello is the third player and first female in school history to earn the award. Costello was also named Great Lakes Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year for volleyball. She is the first S&T volleyball player to earn the title and the fifth in school history.

Costello also earned first team honors last season. She has been named to the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference first team twice and has been named an Academic All-GLVC selection three times. She has won the M-Club Scholar Athlete Award for the last three years.

This past season Costello helped lead the Miners to their second-straight GLVC West Division title and to the semifinals of the conference tournament. She finished her career with 4,361 set assists, 923 digs, 444.5 points scored, 270 kills, 182 total blocks and 80 service aces.

Unwrapping mummy fascination

Public “unwrappings” of real mummified human remains — performed by both showmen and scientists as early as the 1600s — may have objectified exotic Egyptian artifacts. But they were also scientific investigations that revealed medical and
historical information about ancient life, says Kathleen Sheppard, assistant professor of history and political science.

Sheppard’s paper on 20th century Egyptologist Margaret Murray, the first woman to publicly unwrap a mummy, was published in the December issue of the journal Science in Context. She says Murray’s work is “poised between spectacle and science, drawing morbid public interest while also producing ground-breaking scientific work that continues to this day. These types of spectacles were highly engaging shows in which people were, to a certain degree, educated about different aspects of science both by showmen and scientists.”

Many Egyptologists focused on either “Egyptomania,” the fascination with all things Egypt, or “Egyptology,” the scientific study of Egyptian life, Sheppard says. But Murray combined the two, involving the public in scientific inquiry while at the same time correcting popular misconceptions.

“Murray tried to get the public to see that mummies weren’t magical, they were just preserved human remains to be studied and learned from,” Sheppard says. “In other words, rather than trying to separate the ’mania’ from the ‘ology,’ she wanted to bring reason and understanding to the mania.”

40 years of public radio history

Wayne Bledsoe, longtime host of “Bluegrass for a Saturday Night” and general manager of KMST, is helping the station celebrate 40 years on the air waves.

On Aug. 1, 1973, “Bluegrass for a Saturday Night” introduced area radio listeners to what would become an institution in public radio. Since then, KMST has broadcast an eclectic mix of music and NPR news and garnered a worldwide following.

Known then as KUMR, the station was on the air as early as 1963 as KMSM. At that time it was affiliated with the campus’ student radio station. When National Public Radio was formed in 1970, the University of Missouri System created radio stations at each of its four campuses.

The first locally produced show KMST aired, “Bluegrass for a Saturday Night,” was born of necessity, says General Manager Wayne Bledsoe.

“Bluegrass was virtually the only form of music we had enough LPs of to run an hour-long show,” he says. Those LPs — which will soon become history thanks to digital music broadcasts —  were donated from KMST’s sister station KBIA in Columbia.

Bledsoe joined the S&T faculty as an assistant professor of history and political science in 1968 and retired as professor and chair of the department in 2002. But he has been around KMST from the start, first as a volunteer, then as a contributing writer to the station’s program guide. In 1979 he took over the reins of the station’s flagship bluegrass program.

When the university announced plans to change its name to Missouri S&T in 2007, a small California radio station called KMST was in the process of going out of business.

“We timed it just right,” Bledsoe says. The FCC approved the transfer of the KMST call letters on July 16, 2007, making the radio station the first official harbinger of the name change.

KMST broadcasts at 88.5 FM in Rolla, Mo., and 96.3 FM in Lebanon, Mo., and livestreams its programming at kmst.org. Thanks to the Internet, KMST has contributing members in 47 states and 41 countries.

Professional degrees

Missouri S&T awarded six honorary professional degrees during commencement ceremonies in December. The degrees recognize the following graduates for professional achievement:

  • C. Dennis Croessmann, NucE’81, of Edgewood, N.M., chief of staff for the chief technology officer at Sandia National Laboratories
  • Thomas M. DeGonia II, Hist’93, of Olney, Md., a state and federal court litigator
  • Dale  W. Leidy Sr., ME’61, of Moreland, Ga., retired technical director at Owens-Illinois Inc.
  • Robert E. Low, of Springfield, Mo., president of Prime Inc.
  • Jeffrey W. Sheets, ChE’80, of Houston, vice president of finance and chief financial officer for ConocoPhillips
  • Bryan A. Stirrat, CE’67, of Diamond Bar, Calif., president of Tetra Tech — BAS.