On the right track

TravisDuncanYes, it’s an old company. It’s been a fixture in the transportation industry since Abraham Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 to create a transcontinental railroad. But that doesn’t mean Union Pacific is out-of-date.

“Most people look at us and think, ‘You’re a railroad, you must use a lot of old technology,’” says Travis Duncan, BAdm’08, IST’08. “And while it’s true that Union Pacific has been around for 150 years, we are a leader in developing and applying cutting-edge technology in transportation.”

The nation’s largest railroad covers 23 states across the western two-thirds of the United States and employs about 45,000 people.

Based in Omaha, Neb., Duncan is manager of “MyUP,” Union Pacific’s internal company portal. “It’s a place where our various departments (operations, marketing, sales, etc.) have access to the information and applications they need to do their jobs. Our goal is to be a one-stop shop that brings together what they need on a daily basis,” he says.

“Because MyUP touches all departments, I get to interact with a lot of people throughout the company and learn about all the different pieces of the business,” he says.

Duncan says he was initially drawn to UP because of its technology aspect, not from a fascination with trains as many other employees have. But he’s a fan now. “I’ve developed a real appreciation for trains since I’ve been with Union Pacific,” he says. “We get things from one place to another in ways trucks just can’t. A single train can carry as much as 300 trucks can. And we’re really efficient too, with less impact to the environment.”

Union Pacific moves freight, not people, but Duncan plans to get out in the field soon and take a ride on one of the trains himself.

He encourages new graduates and others to consider Union Pacific for a career. “A lot of baby boomers will be retiring in the next few years, creating tremendous career opportunities for younger employees,” he says.

“It’s the diversity in both the technology and people that makes Union Pacific a fun, challenging and rewarding place to work,” he says.

Beyond mining

LaylandWatsonBy the time Layland Watson left Rolla in 1996, he knew how to drive a haul truck, design a mine, and work in open pit copper mines and underground coal mines — tasks a mining engineer would normally expect to have acquired after some time on the job.

“I truly believe the co-op opportunities in Rolla prepare you to go to work,” Watson says. “You work a regular schedule and it prepares you for real life. It gives you instant credibility with prospective employers.”

With four co-ops under his belt, Watson, MinE’96, joined 3M as a process engineer for an open-pit quarry in Little Rock, Ark. The facility produced roofing granules — the small, coated pieces of rock found on roofing shingles.

People don’t always associate 3M with mining, but the company was founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co., Watson says.

Mining has been part of Watson’s whole life. He was born in a gold-mining town in Western Australia and grew up in Rolla under the watchful eye of his father, former metallurgical engineering chair John Watson.

After leaving Arkansas, Watson worked at a number of 3M facilities across the United States. While working as a product manager at a multi-technology plant in Cumberland, Wis., he was asked to help lead the micro-finishing film business. He enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and spent every Friday and Saturday night in class for two straight years to earn his MBA.

“I was in Cumberland for three years before I left to work at the headquarters in St. Paul,” Watson says. “It was a project management assignment, known within the company as a black belt position that let me lead projects for Scotch Brite products and window films. I then went on to a plant manager role in Northern California at an optical film manufacturing facility.”

Today, Watson is the plant manager at a facility in Decatur, Ala. The plant manufactures specialty resins and films that serve as the base for many finished products.

“The great thing about 3M is we’re so diverse that even a guy in mining engineering can advance,” Watson says. “You aren’t pigeonholed. You can progress to be what you want to be.”

League of Super Miners: A Homecoming of Heroic Proportions

SuperMinersSummoning all Super Miners to return! Reunite! Reconnect! In Rolla!

Like our miraculous Miner metals, silver and gold, the peculiar, preternatural powers of Miners past and present were forged in the furnace of perseverance and persistence. Now, we’re calling on you to join hundreds of your fellow Miners in Rolla this fall to rediscover the source of your super power. The greater our numbers, the stronger our powers. Join us for a Homecoming of Heroic Proportions and come meet our heroes!

Alumni Achievement
•  Col. John Pierre Powell, AE’87, president, PAMCO Investments Corp.
•  LeRoy E. Thompson, CE’56, MS CE’65, retired principal and vice president, C3TS, and emeritus professor, Florida International University

Alumni Merit
•  Kathryn A. Walker, MS EMgt’82, managing director, OPENAIR Ventures

Robert V. Wolf Alumni Service
•  Bradley H. Hornburg, CE’69, CEO, Landmark Contract Management Inc.

Distinguished Young Alumni
•  Daniel P. Ellis, CE’99, vice president, Crafton Tull and Associates
•  Karlynn Sievers, Engl’96, LSci’96, physician and clinical assistant professor, University of Wyoming

Frank H. Mackaman Alumni Volunteer Service
•  Jerry D. Parsons, CE’70, retired materials engineer, Illinois Department of Transportation

Class of 1942 Excellence in Teaching
•   Jennifer Pattershall, assistant professor of psychological science at Missouri S&T

* Illustrations by Dave Bryant

 

University of Missouri Legislative Day 2013

On April 3, Missouri S&T alumni and friends visited with lawmakers in Jefferson City to garner support for the four-campus University of Missouri System as part of Legislative Day at the Capitol. Attendees included:
Jim Foil, CE’74; Dan O’Sullivan, Phil’82; Matt Coco, CE’66; Bob Bay, CE’49; and Michael McMenus, LSci’81. Missouri S&T representatives included: Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader, Darlene Ramsay, Katie Jackson, Nancy Zamazanuk, Katie Machovsky, Steve Tupper, Eric Bohannan, Edna Grover-Bisker, Glenn Morrison, Matt Limmer, Randy Stoll and Mike Bassett.

Giant forces in super-strong nanomaterials

GaoandYang

Jie Gao (left) and Xiaodong Yang report that a new class of nanoscale slot waveguides pack 100 to 1,000 times more transverse optical force than conventional silicon slot waveguides.

In a study that could lead to advances in the emerging fields of optical computing and nanomaterials, Jie Gao and Xiaodong Yang, both assistant professors of mechanical engineering, report that a new class of nanoscale slot waveguides pack 100 to 1,000 times more transverse optical force than conventional silicon slot waveguides.

The findings, which were published in the Sept. 24 issue of the journal Optics Express, could lead to advances in developing optical computers, sensors or lasers.

Gao and Yang describe the unusual optical and mechanical properties of nanometer-scale metal-dielectric structures called metamaterials. Using computers, they simulated nanometer-scale models of metamaterial slot waveguides, which are structures designed to channel beams of light from one area to another. Waveguides function like tiny filaments or the wires of an integrated circuit, but on a much smaller scale.

For their study, the Missouri S&T researchers simulated slot waveguides made of layered structures of silver and a dielectric material arranged like the alternating bread and meat in a club sandwich. A nanometer — visible only with the aid of a high-power electron microscope — is one billionth of a meter, and some nanomaterials are only a few atoms in size.

Gao and Yang simulated what would happen with modeled identical waveguides stacked with a tiny air gap between them. They then measured the transverse optical force between the waveguides. Optical force refers to the way beams of light can be made to attract or repel each other, as magnets do.

They found that “the transverse optical forces in slot waveguides of hyperbolic metamaterials can be more than two orders of magnitude stronger than that in conventional dielectric slot waveguides.” For this reason, Gao and Yang describe the magnitude as “giant” in the title of their Optics Express article, “Giant transverse optical forces in nanoscale slot waveguides of hyperbolic metamaterials.”

Extreme bug boosts biofuel production

MelanieMormile

Dylan Courtney, a senior in chemical engineering, helped microbiologist Melanie Mormile patent a process to improve biofuel production using bacteria.

Using a microbe that thrives in extreme conditions, Melanie Mormile patented a process that could streamline biofuel production, making it less costly and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.

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Aerospace team rockets to a win

AerospaceDespite crashing its first plane during testing, Missouri S&T’s Advanced Aero Vehicle Group won the Society of Automotive Engineer’s 2013 Aero Design East competition. Sponsored by Lockheed Martin, the competition was held in Texas in March at the Fort Worth Thunderbirds Flying Field.

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Remote controlled bridge monitoring

Octacopter

Computer engineering sophomore Chris Seto controls this “multicopter,” designed to inspect bridges safely and efficiently by remote control.

The current method of inspecting bridges for structural damage is labor-intensive and, in some instances, dangerous to all involved. But Zhaozheng Yin is developing a safer, more efficient solution dubbed the “multicopter.”

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Mapping the route to student success

BobBuehlerA group of Missouri S&T students is helping Garmin International Inc. develop new GPS products and technologies through an internship program at a new software engineering facility established on campus last fall.

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Profs on TV for $1,000, Alex

IleneMorganProfs on TV for $1,000, Alex

It took three tries, but Ilene Morgan finally succeeded in landing a spot on the game show Jeopardy! in 2012.

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