St_Thomas Engineer 2023




elcome to the 2023 issue of St. Thomas Engineer! It has been another year marked by incredible accomplishments and commitment to the engineering educational experience at St. Thomas. I have always said that our greatest achievement in building this young School of Engineering has been the dynamic, resilient team we have assembled who bring so much of themselves to work every day. There is always more to come with our faculty and staff in terms of innovation around St. Thomas Engineering.

The bright lights on our horizon are now getting bigger and taller. We are deep into the construction phase of the four-story, $110 million Schoenecker Center supporting engineering, arts and the sciences. The new facility is scheduled to open next spring. The building will increase classroom, lab and collaboration space in the School of Engineering by nearly 70%, while advancing innovative programming at the intersection of all the STEAM disciplines. We continue to lead the campuswide effort to support students transferring from Minnesota’s two-year college system. Over the past two years, we have been awarded nearly $4 million in funding to support scholarships and programming to onboard these students. In the past year, research funding to engage students in our labs has eclipsed last year’s record high. And we continue to develop new programs and lab capabilities to engage our students at every level of their experience. Our senior design students even practiced empathic engineering in Peru to help improve conditions for farmers. As one of the youngest engineering programs in the nation, we are building something truly special here in Minnesota. At the heart of this effort is the evolution of a national model of how to engage students from the first-year experience to the Senior Design Clinic, and then continue their growth through our professional master’s degree programs. Excellence in design and discovery requires reliance on the questioning mindset fostered by a liberal arts education, teamwork, hands-on skills and a rigorous technical education that are brought together here at St. Thomas. Our St. Thomas Engineer magazine is just a snapshot of what is going on at the University of St. Thomas’ School of Engineering. I encourage you to drop us a line, follow us on LinkedIn or just plan a visit. We would love to give you a sense of the energy of our students, our faculty and the business community that surround us. And with our University of St. Thomas Engineering team, there is always more to come. Cheers, Don

Dr. Don Weinkauf Dean, School of Engineering

With commitments to best practices ranging from female faculty representation to student veterans to sustainability, the University of St. Thomas and its School of Engineering consistently are recognized for excellence. recognition EARNING WELL-DESERVED


Spring 2023


Published by the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105 (651) 962-5750 The University of St. Thomas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.




Changing the World One Global Engineering Experience at a Time 6 Faculty Research 8 Building Unique Student Experiences 10



Marketing Director Kelli Steidle Director of Communications Sheree R. Curry Editor Brant Skogrand Art Director John Mau Photographers Mark Brown Liam James Doyle Julia Lindell University Archives

Senior Design Clinic Students Generate Industry Solutions





Take an Electric Ride


From Experience to Insight: Creating Global Competence Earth Has a Fever: University of St. Thomas Scientist Measures Global Temperature





Contributors Bryce Butzer Doug Dunston Wendy Gustafson





Ann Kenne Tiffany Ling Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman Abraham Swee Don Weinkauf Student Assistant Madison Liebl Front cover Turn to Page 6 to learn more about global programs.

The University of St. Thomas is an equal opportunity educator and employer. St. Thomas does not unlawfully discriminate, in any of its programs or activities, on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, family status, disability, age, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, membership or activity in a local commission, genetic information or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.


Page 4



F or most tourists, a visit to the South American Andes wouldn’t be complete without a journey to Peru’s prized Machu Picchu. The former home of the innovative Incas, Machu Picchu is a stunning sight to behold, what with its ancient circular terraces built for farming and breathtaking mountainous views. For University of St. Thomas engineering students the sight is also an incredible teaching moment, one that deeply connects them to the farmers who still steward the land today. Michael Miller ’20 , a mechanical engineering graduate, remembers those breathtaking views fondly, and he emphasizes that at nearly 10,000 feet, they truly are breathtaking. Miller spent the summer of 2019 embedded in the Sacred Valley as part of the School

of Engineering Senior Design Clinic, tackling a tricky problem alongside fellow St. Thomas students and the farmers of the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development. At the root of the problem: quinoa. For thousands of years quinoa has been cultivated by Andean farmers, but recently, the plant’s popularity has skyrocketed around the globe. While the increased demand has been more than welcome, overplanting can decimate the nutrient-rich soil used to grow it. Miller and his team were tasked with creating a chipper of sorts that could break down the plant’s long, tall stalks and return those nutrients to the soil. “This wasn’t just some class. And it wasn’t just a check mark for credits,” Miller said. “We were able to really live amongst the people and work alongside them, speak to them about what kind of innovation

we could provide, and design something of impact.” To make a successful chipper, Miller’s team took many different issues into consideration, from the uneven mountainous terrain to manufacturing materials readily available in rural Peru. At the end of the day, Miller says understanding and connecting with his Andean clients was key. “It takes a lot of vulnerability to truly understand somebody and design something they need,” Miller said. “Yes, it also takes technical skills that we learned at St. Thomas, but here we learned what that connection could create, and we watched it materialize right in front of us.” Forty-five percent of St. Thomas engineering students study abroad, a number that greatly outpaces most other educational institutions. Boosting interest is an impressive list of life-changing

global experiences, curated for their potential to put students in the heart of hands-on learning. The Senior Design Clinic, which regularly sends teams to Peru and Jordan, is just one example. The Engineers for World Health program sends students to repair hospital equipment in countries like Rwanda, Tanzania and Guatemala. And students can spend an entire year in Germany, earning a dual German and engineering degree. “Exposing students firsthand to a culture that is different than their own, immersing them in it, having them design something for people different than themselves, it both addresses the engineering side of things, but also the whole- person aspect of embracing different cultures and people,” said Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman , an associate professor of mechanical engineering and adviser for

many of the Peru teams. Nelson-Cheeseman points out that simply taking a class abroad is not the motivation behind these programs. Instead, leaders work to create partnerships that can truly facilitate life-changing experiences – many of which have taken years of development as staff search for the right opportunities to enable immersive learning. “Finding the right partner on the ground in those countries is key,” Nelson-Cheeseman said. “We also have to make sure we are not spreading ourselves too thin, making sure that the experiences that we are offering have the impact and serve the mission we’re out to achieve.” The mission to serve the farmers of the Andes has turned into growing career aspirations for St. Thomas alumnus Michael Miller, who is now in graduate school at Colorado

School of Mines preparing for a career in orthopedics and medical device design. “There’s a lot of overlap with the kind of empathic engineering I experienced in the Sacred Valley and the art of creating medical devices,” Miller said. “It’s simple, I’m making something for somebody,

and I want my device to really improve their quality of life.”

At the end of the day, that makes Professor Nelson-Cheeseman proud. “These experiences definitely make them a much better engineer,” Nelson-Cheeseman said. “But it also extends beyond. And many of them can integrate what they learned, especially that understanding and appreciation for the complexities of the world, into their life back here in Minnesota.” n

Page 6

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 7


WHY : To improve therapies for patients today, development and testing is critical. Improving existing therapies can enhance our capabilities to maintain a healthy state in people’s bodies.

Tom Secord Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering THE NEXT, NEXT- GENERATION Brittany Nelson- Cheeseman Associate Professor Mechanical Engineering 3D PRINTING MAGNETIC ELASTOMERS FOR SOFT ROBOTIC BIOMEDICAL APPLICATIONS Heather Orser Assistant Professor Electrical and Computer Engineering ADVANCING NEUROSCIENCE: ELECTRONICS FOR A BETTER FUTURE

WHAT: Research to overcome technological challenges that exist in medical devices. This includes making more efficient mechanisms using resonance, developing energy harvesting systems that adapt to varying conditions, making more accurate test methods for medical devices, and designing devices that enable scientific work. WHAT: Magnetic elastomers can be guided inside the body by external magnetic tools, allowing complex navigation control to get them to key areas in the body remotely. This research is looking at how the performance (magneto action) is influenced by the way the magnetic elastomers are 3D-printed and the material used. WHAT: Improving interactions between the nervous system and electronics to support investigation and treatment of neural diseases (e.g., Parkinson’s, essential tremor, dystonia, incontinence, sleep apnea) while finding ways to improve accessibility with less expensive designs.

HOW: Looking at capabilities of sensing circuits and how to improve them, while also looking at stimulation and exploring better and less expensive stimulators that can change neuron behavior.

IMPACT: For University of St. Thomas students, it provides them with hands-on opportunity and exposure to standard tools of industry, circuit design, and development of systems.

For researchers, it is helping to improve accessibility (user friendliness, availability). For industry, evaluating their devices can lead to potential new use models.

HOW: Exploring different flexible composite materials with magnetic properties, but all from the same polymer family, we are utilizing 3D printing of these materials to explore enhanced functionality/performance.

WHY: In the medical device realm, the ideas and technologies that my research develops hold promise for both future products and future scientific research. The local medical device industry would be interested in tunable resonance energy harvesting research because it holds the promise of less reliance on battery technology. Our work in mitral valve WHY: There’s been a fork in dialogue research where dialogue systems have either progressed toward long open-ended chat (no specific task other than having a conversation and imitating human conversation) or short task-oriented dialogues like Alexa and Siri. This space of large language models (neural network models) is very influential and WHY: Interventions in the body are a key area of research, with applications like enabling targeted drug delivery and remotely performing complex motions at the point of contact to acoustic shielding. Utilizing 3D printing is a unique approach to enhance functionality and performance.

IMPACT: For undergraduate students, they are given a chance to work hands-on on research in the lab, publish their own journal articles (which is very unusual at the undergraduate level) and present their work at national conferences.

Innovative surgical interventions can be enabled and enhanced by biomedical companies and doctors.

IMPACT: The ultimate mission of my work is to positively change lives through medical technology. Much of the work we are doing at St. Thomas is next, next-generation technology – aiming to go one step beyond current performance.

HOW: The general approach is to focus on advanced and novel mechatronic system development, situating the research at the inflection point between advanced industrial research and purely scientific inquiry.

motion simulation could enable better replacement heart valve devices and more rapid assurances of device safety. Our peers in science and medicine are also interested in our current research because it can enable the discovery of new cellular level physiology and the development of new wound healing therapies.


Abe Kazemzadeh Assistant Professor Software Engineering and Data Science AT THE INTERSECTION OF HUMAN EMOTIONS AND COMPUTERS

IMPACT: One hypothesis outcome is

WHAT: Affective computing, the study and development of systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process and simulate “human affects.”

HOW: Using a 20 questions game, human versus computer – guessing which emotion, based on open-ended (not fixed) questions back and forth, we are collecting data that will help to build a model that enables computers to identify human emotions and create a dialog agent (chatbot) that can talk about human emotions.

important for improving language capabilities in describing emotions, and while the application is speculative, and more conceptual at this point, it could enable things like automated therapists.

that emotionally aware computer interfaces will improve human- computer interaction. Another big-picture hypothesis outcome is that human emotions are not just emotional behavior, but they are theoretical entities that we can talk about, so they may have language- and culture- specific features.

Page 8

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 9



Left: The Iversen High Bay will be a 5,000-square-foot facility for large-scale engineering testing and demonstration. Below: Construction work continues on the Schoenecker Center STEAM complex on south campus.

Bay as well as the Robotics and Automation Laboratory.


IVERSEN HIGH BAY A generous gift commitment from the Alfred A. Iversen and Family Foundation is supporting the construction of a state-of-the-art high bay facility. Upon completion, the Iversen High Bay will be a 5,000-square-foot facility for large-scale engineering testing and demonstration where undergraduate students attending the University of St. Thomas will have the unique opportunity to experience hands- on experimentation as part of their regular curriculum. The Iversen High Bay will be equipped with a reaction wall and floor, hydraulic actuators capable of up to 200,000 pounds of force in all three principal axes, and a large open area for construction material preparation and fabrication. The space will accommodate large- scale testing of structural systems and provide opportunities to demonstrate the behavior of various structural components, such as reinforced concrete and steel beams. Creative and curious opportunities abound; the high bay was designed to be an engineer’s “sandbox” for experiential learning and contextualization of theoretical curriculum. “We are grateful to Al Iversen and his family for helping to usher in

T hanks to the support of generous donors, the student experience at the Schoenecker Center will be second to none when the new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) complex opens in 2024. Specific Schoenecker Center areas supported by donors announced so far include the Iversen High

” We are grateful to Al Iversen and his family for helping to usher in a new era of engineering right here in the heart of St. Paul.

a new era of engineering right here in the heart of St. Paul,” said Don Weinkauf , dean of the School of Engineering. “We are literally building something truly special here in Minnesota and this facility will help support innovation in structural engineering around the world.” ROBOTICS AND AUTOMATION LABORATORY Henry and Angelena Blattner’s Foundation 94 committed $1 million to help support the construction of a new facility to house multiple robotic arms within the Schoenecker Center. Upon completion, the new Robotics and Automation Laboratory will be a 900-square-foot facility for robotics and automation research, in addition to hands-on experiential learning for all undergraduate and graduate students attending the School of Engineering. It will be essential to creating new avenues for industrial collaboration and research in the growing fields of advanced manufacturing. “Hands-on robotics research and lab experiences are foundational

components of engineering education at St. Thomas,” Weinkauf said. “Through this gift, combined with generous support from our corporate partners, students will feel an immediate impact on their experience.” Thanks to this gift from Foundation 94, St. Thomas students and faculty will have access to state-of-the-art automation technology, including two six-axis robotic arms – one that is geared toward high-speed and high-load industrial applications and another that is used for collaborative tasks with nearby human operators. In addition to tackling pressing robotics research questions involving machine vision, part manipulation and assembly,

this advanced technology will enable large-scale manufacturing automation and process development projects focused on specific industrial applications, such as medical devices. “St. Thomas already boasts impressive engineering facilities; we are pleased to be able to donate to the new Schoenecker Center and for the opportunities it will provide to current and future Tommies,” the Blattner family said. n

Page 10

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 11

Founding Faculty

Faculty Profile


EXPLORING NEW WAYS TO PROVIDE CLEAN, SAFE WATER Assistant Professor Sara Mollamohammada joined the University of St. Thomas as the newest member of the civil engineering faculty, and she is on a mission to help find easy, accessible ways to provide clean, safe water in remote and rural areas. WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH ARE YOU DOING? My research is primarily focused on using algae as an efficient alternative technology to remove contaminants of environmental concern from water and wastewater. This process will lower the health risks associated with the presence of contaminants in water and will produce valuable biomass which can be used as a source of green energy. The development of such a system starts from using the ideal conditions in the lab, followed by using actual water and wastewater samples. WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR WATER RESOURCES ENGINEERING COME FROM? As an undergraduate student, I found environmental engineering to be very interesting and decided to pursue a career within that field. When I got involved in water treatment troubleshooting and designing, I found a higher calling. Over time, I have been involved with Engineers Without Borders, an organization that visits developing countries to help with various civil engineering projects (water, building, etc.). Within this organization, I learned about the need these developing countries have for water treatment plants in remote areas. We are fortunate to have clean drinking water and often take it for granted. There are many places in the world, especially in more rural areas, that do not have access to safe water. This sparked my passion to bring forth positive contributions within this field. WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY? I love teaching! My philosophy has always been that if you can engage your students, they will fall in love with the subject and remarkable things can come from that! I like to mix things up in my classroom: hands-on projects, guest speakers and field trips whenever possible. When you provide students with real-world, hands-on experiences and opportunities, they start seeing possibilities and become curious learners. n

The School of Engineering owes its success today to the innovative founders. Learn about the individuals who contributed to the longevity and strength of the school.


She developed the curriculum for the Graduate Programs in Software in 1984 in consultation

Zimmerman designed a program to supply a comprehensive view of manufacturing to students without an undergraduate engineering degree. He was recognized with the university’s Distinguished Service Award in 2005 as an “outspoken and untiring advocate for the need to revitalize industry” in the U.S. JOHN POVOLNY A 1947 graduate

While still an undergraduate, Stephen Nachtsheim helped design and propose the Quantitative Methods

with industry professionals. The program stressed managerial and technical skills. When the program opened in 1985, it was one of only four of its kind in the nation. Upon her retirement in 2003, Folz received the university’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognized her contributions to building the program to its stature today as a top leading graduate data science and software program. FRED ZIMMERMAN Fred Zimmerman joined the St.

and Computer Science (QMCS) program at St. Thomas – the first computer science major at a Minnesota liberal arts college. After his graduation in 1967, Nachtsheim served for six years as St. Thomas’ director of campus computing – even while teaching courses in this new major. His background in database management later led to a distinguished career at Intel. Nachtsheim became a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees in 2002 and was recognized with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009. BERNICE FOLZ Bernice Folz joined the St. Thomas QMCS faculty in 1978 after a successful career working for IBM and Unisys and teaching at several colleges and universities.

of the College of St. Thomas, John Povolny retired from a 38-year career at 3M in 1986 after rising to the

level of divisional vice president. Immediately after his retirement, Povolny became a consultant for the new Manufacturing Systems Engineering master’s program at St. Thomas. Over the next 30 years, Povolny served on the School of Engineering faculty at St. Thomas in many roles from coordinator for the MSE program’s satellite campus in Hutchinson, Minnesota, to the associate director of graduate engineering. Until recent years, he was also a member of the School of Engineering’s Board of Governors. n

Thomas faculty in 1985 to establish and direct the Graduate Programs in Manufacturing

Systems Engineering. Building on his experience in executive leadership for companies such as IBM, Control Data, National Computer Systems and Computool,

Page 12

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 13

Senior Design Clinic


The School of Engineering Senior Design Clinic challenges students to create novel solutions to engineering problems posed by industry and community partners. This course is a critical component of the St. Thomas engineering curriculum as it requires student teams to engage hands-on with real-world design problems and to gain skills in professionalism, communication and project management, all while applying their engineering knowledge. Projects are selected from a broad range of partners to match varying student interest, from multinational corporations looking for fresh ideas to entrepreneurial ventures hoping to take a prototype to the next level.


RAMSEY COUNTY ROADWAY RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT Students are partnering with Ramsey County Public Works in the reconstruction of Eustis Street in the city of Lauderdale. This project design will include a new pavement section and lane configuration, redeveloping the corridor to include connectivity for pedestrians, and reimagining a nearby storm water treatment asset. This will be the first project Ramsey County has undertaken to include students in the active design of one of its roadways. SOUND SOURCE LOCATION DEVICE Persons who are hard of hearing or have one-sided hearing loss have difficulty locating a target conversation in their environment. The student team is working with Mayo Clinic engineers on a first level proof of principle device that can determine sound direction, provide a means of visualizing the direction of arrival, and can provide audio enhancements to allow users to follow, see and join the conversation. OFF-AXIS TESTER FOR OPTICAL FILMS A team of students is designing a test device to quantify image quality when window tint films are illuminated by various light sources at a variety of incidence angles. The objective is to correlate the results with customer feedback, which may help in the development of future products at 3M. The design includes integration of many systems.

The School of Engineering actively seeks new industry partners and projects for collaboration with our Senior Design Clinic students. If you know of a company that may be interested in learning about how it can become involved, please have representatives contact Tiffany Ling at

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 15


Undergraduate Profile



NSF CAREER AWARD FOR MICROGRID RESEARCH Dr. Mahmoud Kabalan , assistant professor and the director of the St. Thomas Center for Microgrid Research, was recently awarded a five-year grant from the National Science Foundation that will help advance microgrid research and expand student opportunities. The $529,000 Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award will support Kabalan’s work to increase the reliability, security and resiliency of the electric power grid via the use of microgrids. The CAREER award is one of the NSF’s most prestigious awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as

HOMETOWN: Forest Lake, Minnesota

MAJOR: Electrical engineering

WHAT ARE SOME WORDS YOU WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF? Curious. Thoughtful. Kindhearted. Determined. Honest. A bit impulsive. WHAT MADE YOU INTERESTED IN AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING DEGREE? I’ve always enjoyed math and science and liked the idea of applying theoretical knowledge to real-life problems. I chose electrical engineering because the world is increasingly implementing more electrical systems and connected devices. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT ENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS? Hands down my favorite part of engineering at St. Thomas has been forming strong relationships with my professors. I’m constantly impressed by their depth of knowledge and am so grateful they make themselves so readily available to students. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR SENIOR DESIGN PROJECT IN PERU. It was an amazing experience. We designed a solar- powered water pumping system to bring water to the farming community to drive stronger crop growth. A highlight was digging the well and installing the water pump we designed. It was so exciting to see water coming out of the tubing nearly 90 meters up the mountain!

academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization. This is the first NSF CAREER Award for St. Thomas’ School of Engineering. “This award provides a strong foundation for me to grow as a teacher-scholar and empowers me to create a truly unique educational experience for my students,” Kabalan said. “The outcomes of this award will get us one step closer to a more resilient and reliable electric grid.” The Center for Microgrid Research at St. Thomas is one of just a handful of premier research and educational facilities of its kind in North America.

Kabalan’s research will bring transformative change to how microgrids are designed and operated by addressing the gap between theoretical studies and real-world applications. The broader impacts of the research include an improved method to design and operate microgrids, which would reduce implementation costs. By reducing costs, microgrids can be deployed faster in both developing and developed nations. This would quicken the electrification of historically marginalized communities and improve grid resiliency, robustness and sustainability.


Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum . The School of Engineering has received $300,000 to develop the Graduate Certificate in Advanced Manufacturing. The funding comes through Third Wave Systems, a Minneapolis-St. Paul company that is a global leader in machining optimization software, as part of a larger grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory. Sustainability Design and Sustainable Engineering. The School of Engineering has recently received grant funding for the development of graduate courses in sustainability, such as: Sustainable Design, Sustainable Energy Production, and Engineering Life Cycle Analysis.


It affirmed I have a heart for working in places where I can really get to know the people I’m working with and where there is a need to solve problems in unconventional ways. I learned I thrive in situations where I am stretched to try new things, and that there is beauty in the different ways other cultures carry out their lives. n

Page 16



G raduate students in the School of Engineering’s EV Market and Technologies course get an up- close-and-personal look at the latest vehicles to hit dealer lots. The EV show is the brainchild of EV educator

years – it’s an excellent machine – but it’s not very efficient,” Kukkonen said. The difference between technologies is stark. Gas motors run around 15% to 25% fuel efficiency, while electric motors usually hit more than 85% efficiency. “That’s what the change is about – we will be able to power our driving using much less energy and still have exactly the same or even better driving experience,” Kukkonen said. That driving experience is something Kukkonen ensures all his students feel firsthand. Participants in the annual EV show get a chance

and course instructor, Jukka Kukkonen . “The whole shift that is happening in

transportation right now is pretty complicated,” Kukkonen said. “What we are trying to do is … understand how we are here, why is this all happening, and where are we going so that our students can then decide if they want to learn more… and figure out their new career options.” The EV show is just one part of an extensive class centered solely around the key areas of the electric vehicle market. Students learn about smart charging technologies, charging infrastructure, and the latest models to hit the market. And there is plenty to learn in such a fast-changing industry. An automotive engineer by training, Kukkonen has been fascinated with electric vehicles for decades. He founded Shift2Electric in 2010, an EV market consulting and training company. Since then he’s worked with utility companies, dealers and consumers … all in an effort to champion the move from gas to electric. “When you look at the internal combustion engine we have been using for the last 100

to drive multiple different EV models. “My job has to do with (electrical) grid

modernization and I work at a company that sells market software,” School of Engineering graduate student Ophelia Loree said. “As time moves forward, a lot of that is going to be how can the grid handle chargers and EVs put on to it.” Loree is thankful for a course that is designed to incorporate the latest EV technologies. “This is nothing like many of my other courses, where we are looking at theory,” Loree said. “It’s been so much more real world … we’re learning about technology that is coming out right now.” EV Market and Technologies is offered each fall. And as electric vehicles grow their share in the marketplace, Kukkonen believes the course will only become more important. “Right now, most of our students are electrical engineers, but it’s very useful for a wide variety of students,” Kukkonen said. “The whole market is changing so fast, understanding is key.” n

Story and photos by ABRAHAM SWEE

That’s what the change is about – we will be able to power our driving using much less energy and still have exactly the same or an even better driving experience.

Scan this QR code to watch a video featuring Jukka Kukkonen and students in the EV Market and Technologies course.

Page 18


Undergraduate Profile



HOMETOWN: Dayton, Minnesota

MAJOR: Civil engineering

PAST WORK EXPERIENCE? As a “nuke” (nickname for those trained to operate a Navy nuclear power plant), I was stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I was a nuclear chemist and radiological specialist for a submarine. After three years, I oversaw nuclear water chemistry, the reactor, and its other seven supporting water systems, in addition to the radiological monitoring/controls for a billion-dollar warship. HOW DID THE MILITARY PREPARE YOU FOR GOING BACK TO SCHOOL? Becoming a student again in my late 30s was not easy. I’ve overcome many obstacles within the Navy and my personal life. This has helped me realize the potential I have and has given me a high level of confidence to know I can do anything I set my mind to, even going back to college. HOW DID YOU NAVIGATE THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS AS A VETERAN? St. Thomas has been very helpful and supportive, their dedication to both personal and financial resources for veterans is amazing. St. Thomas being a Yellow Ribbon School meant I was able to attend and succeed with their financial help. WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS HAS HAD ON YOUR ASPIRATIONS? Being an adult in my 30s, I’m juggling more responsibilities than an average student. St. Thomas has shown compassion and flexibility that allows me to help my family and enables my academic success. After graduation, I’d like to get into a consulting role for civil engineering projects, and St. Thomas has played a significant role in advancing me toward my goal. n


Professor Dr. Manjeet Rege, left, and Adjunct Professor and Innovation Fellow Dan Yarmoluk, right, collaborate on the “All Things Data” podcast.

A chair professorship Dr. Manjeet Rege has been established by a university in Hyderabad, India, to honor his outstanding academic contributions in the field of software. The Manjeet Rege Professor of Data Science and AI is the highest academic honor from Woxsen University that will serve as a catalyst to inspire further research and collaborations in the field. named after University of St. Thomas Professor

Rege is chair and professor of the Department of Software

together leading data scientists, technologists, business model experts and futurists to discuss strategies to utilize, harness and deploy data science, data-driven strategies and enable digital transformation.

Engineering and Data Science as well as director of the Center for Applied Artificial Intelligence at the University of St. Thomas. He is an author, mentor, thought leader and frequent public speaker on data science strategy, machine learning, and artificial intelligence technologies. He is also the co-host of the “All Things Data” podcast that brings

Page 20

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 21



NEW GRADUATE CERTIFICATES IN FULL STACK DEVELOPMENT, DATA ANALYTICS, AND ADVANCED MANUFACTURING The School of Engineering now offers three new certificates for graduate students. In Full Stack Development , students will gain expertise in front-end and back-end web development, with courses in programming, software engineering basics, and database and server management. Data Analytics students will gain skills in basic Python programming and learn database management as well as data analysis and visualization. Advanced Manufacturing offers hands-on experience with industry software and analytical tools to design and improve manufacturing processes. NEW BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING MINOR OFFERED A new minor in biomedical engineering is now available at the School of Engineering. Students are given the opportunity to dive into medical device design, manufacturing and various manufacturing processes. This 16-credit minor can be easily added on to an engineering major for students who wish to go into graduate school for the medical device industry or those wanting to gain more expertise in the intersection of science and engineering. Scan the QR code to find out more information on the new minor in biomedical engineering.

GOOGLE GRANT AND HIGH-PROFILE PARTNERSHIPS FOR PLAYFUL LEARNING LAB T he School of Engineering’s Playful Learning Lab (PLL) has Metro Deaf School,” said School of Engineering Professor Dr. AnnMarie Thomas , who is director of the Playful Learning Lab and co-founder of the Center for Engineering Education.


Eileen Youds, Wei Moline and Nnamdi Njoku have joined the School of Engineering’s Board of Governors. “Eileen, Wei and Nnamdi are the leaders in our community who will inspire us to get better at our work to develop a transformative engineering educational experience for our students,” School of Engineering Dean Don Weinkauf said. “We look forward to their insightful leadership to guide us in our mission to develop well-rounded engineers, driven by purpose.” Eileen Youds Eileen Youds, CIO of Global Infrastructure Partners, is a visionary executive leader known for transforming cultures and teams to drive sustainable global growth. She has driven businesses through start-up, turnaround, rapid growth, corporate entrepreneurial shifts, mergers and acquisitions and market tangencies. Wei Moline Wei Moline, president of 3M Closure and Masking, area vice president of Greater China Area, and MD of 3M China, has significant B2B experience in reshaping businesses to accelerate growth through portfolio management, drive-focused innovation, talent development and operational execution. She has extensive experience in industrial material science, consumer, electronics and health care. Nnamdi Njoku Nnamdi Njoku, senior vice president of the Neuromodulation Operating Unit at Medtronic, is passionate about harnessing the power of people and technology to improve health care access and solve unmet medical needs. An experienced business leader with global operating experience at multinational health care and medical technology companies, Njoku currently leads an approximately $2 billion business focused on harnessing the power of neuromodulation to treat conditions like pain and movement disorders.

the Playful Learning Lab through a collaboration for Dass’ book, The Colors We Share , whose story “questions our concepts of race and the limited words we use to describe our skin.” Educational lessons with video content that accompany the book were developed with help from the Playful Learning Lab. Maggie Stout ’22 , who directed filming for the project, stated, “… with Angélica’s curriculum, I hope that it teaches young kids that it’s not race that defines you. It’s all these other aspects, like your culture, your hobbies, your family – there’s just so much more to people than the color of their skin.”

had a busy year. This past summer, the Playful Learning Lab received a $110,000 grant from Google to expand participation in K-12 computer science education. The grant will also provide stipends to teachers at the Metro Deaf School, which is a charter school in St. Paul that is collaborating with the Playful Learning Lab. “Teachers are my heroes, so thanks to this grant we’re able to compensate teachers for the extra work that it takes to train and to learn these different programming languages and robotics tools, and then create custom class exercises and lesson plans that they’ll bring to

The lab was also named a 2022-24 participant in the Scratch Education Collaborative, an initiative that supports worldwide organizations in teaching and use of creative coding. Scratch is a programming language often used as an introduction to coding and is known for being beginner-friendly. More recently, the Playful Learning Lab has been teaching the language with students and teachers at the Metro Deaf School with American Sign Language Scratch tutorials. Photographer Angélica Dass has also partnered with Thomas and

Page 22

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 23





T he University of St. Thomas School of Engineering is working toward a more diverse experience for our students and faculty: EXPOSURE OF STUDENTS TO RELATABLE ROLE MODELS The number of female faculty in engineering has steadily increased, and St. Thomas ranks in the Top 20 in the nation by ASEE for institutions with the highest percentage of tenured and tenure-track female faculty.

CREATING A CULTURE THAT ENCOURAGES INCLUSION OF WOMEN The School of Engineering provides financial and organizational support for groups such as Society of Women Engineers (SWE) that may help expand the image of the engineering profession, and inspire women to achieve their full potential engineering careers.

FREE DAY CAMPS ALLOW MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS TO EXPLORE THE FIELD OF ENGINEERING St. Thomas offers an introduction to the exciting world of science, technology and engineering for girls in sixth and eighth grade. The Science, Technology and Engineering Preview Summer Program (STEPS) are free daylong engineering “camps” meant to ignite an interest in STEM and give girls an opportunity to engineer, create and connect with engineering faculty.

Photos by Kelli Steidle

T he University of St. Thomas School of Engineering’s annual “Meet the Engineers”

to convince employers to talk to me because they already want to and they’re seeking me out instead of the other way around.” Other students are also getting offers, even first-year students, such as civil engineering major Ian Hensley . “To me, the reverse career fair created a better atmosphere for students (than traditional career fairs). I felt more like they wanted to talk to me since they came up to me and showed an interest, so I felt more wanted. I got many internship offers,” he said.

Potential employers sign up in advance, so they can look at students’ resumes online before they attend. This gives employers the ability to seek out the skill sets they are looking for and cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Companies represented included 3M, Boston Scientific, Coloplast, Graco, Minnesota Department of Transportation and Polaris. Mechanical engineering major Claire Bentfield received several internship offers within the first week after the career fair as well as follow- up emails from every employer she met. “I love the logistics of a reverse career fair,” she said. “The best part was having the opportunity to speak with employers in a relatively relaxed setting. I don’t feel like I have

Reverse Career Fair attracted 160 engineering students this academic year. They spent a fall afternoon speaking to more than 170 company representatives from a variety of engineering industries who were looking to find interns and future employees. This event, which brings together talented St. Thomas students with employers, is a career fair in reverse – the students are stationed at tables, and employers come to them. “The practice in preparing material, advertising myself, and being interviewed was by far the most valuable part of the event,” said Luke Freimuth , a first-year mechanical engineering major.

Page 24

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 25


Climate Change

From Experience to Insight




How can engineers learn to navigate an interconnected work world, where differing communication and conflict styles constantly present themselves? Even within a single team, productive communication cannot be taken for granted. And when working to deliver the fruits of engineering design to clients and customers, how many of the challenges comprise communication obstacles as well as technical ones? For example, how does one decipher

what would be the best design solution for rural Andean farmers who have very different priorities than typical Americans? The international programs the School of Engineering creates for our students allow those who select them to practice both directions of communication with clients: listening as well as speaking, reading as well as writing. And they situate this practice in an intercultural context, where surprises and inadvertent missteps are highlighted for the students in Technicolor. Because it is not “business as usual,” these experiences engage their curiosity and lead them to ask how they might apply their learned lessons in the future, with their next clients. However, as is sometimes said about study abroad programs, “going is not knowing.” Simply traveling and experiencing different cultures does not automatically translate into actionable skill development toward future interactions. This is why the School of Engineering intentionally scaffolds the international programs with wraparound learning modules expressly created to build intercultural competence. In particular, students receive country-specific cultural context preparation by locals from the region before leaving and work through a comprehensive Global Competence Certificate program. This program is designed to help them increase both their awareness and skills in dealing with difference in all shapes and forms, engaging them before, during, and after their international experience. n Dr. Doug Dunston, DMA, is the KEEN program coordinator. Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman is an associate professor and director of materials science and engineering.

University of St. Thomas School of Engineering Professor Dr. John Abraham , along with 23 colleagues from 16 institutions around the world, published a climate change study Jan. 11, 2023, in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences. They found that 2022 was a record year for our planet’s temperature – Earth continues to heat as global warming continues unabated. Their measurements show that the rate of warming has actually accelerated. The heat is enormous – equivalent to the energy from five Hiroshima atomic bombs being detonated every second, day and night, of every day, for the entire year. The researchers collected hundreds of thousands of temperature measurements made around the world’s oceans, from the surface to 2,000 meters (more than a mile) of depth. Very sophisticated thermometers were used; some were attached to robots that automatically moved through the ocean waters. Why measure the oceans? It turns out that the oceans hold almost all the excess heat on planet Earth. In fact, more than 90% of global warming heat ends up in the oceans. So, to understand what is happening to our planet, look to the oceans, because global warming is really ocean warming.

Abraham said not to

Increasing heat in the world’s ocean

become too discouraged. The U.S. and other countries are starting to take action to handle climate change. Costs for wind and solar energy

have fallen so rapidly that we can now power our homes and other buildings more cheaply with renewable energy than with fossil fuels. Electric cars are increasing as people witness their excellent performance and very low cost of operation. And St. Thomas is training future scientists and engineers to bring clean energy solutions to our communities. “We are entering a time period where we have real solutions to this problem,” Abraham said. “Now you can save money and the environment at the same time. Who can be against that? The clean energy economy also requires a highly skilled workforce. St. Thomas is training that workforce today, for the jobs of the future.” n

In the Global Summers program, student design teams travel to Peru (above) or Jordan and live in homestays for seven to eight weeks. There, they dive into better understanding the context and background around their engineering project with the local community and begin working toward possible solutions. In the engineering and German dual degree program, students build a robust repertoire of international experiences, including a semester studying abroad in Germany and two separate internships in the U.S. and Germany for a German company.

Page 26

St. Thomas Engineer 2023 Page 27

Page 1 Page 2-3 Page 4-5 Page 6-7 Page 8-9 Page 10-11 Page 12-13 Page 14-15 Page 16-17 Page 18-19 Page 20-21 Page 22-23 Page 24-25 Page 26-27 Page 28

Powered by