SOE Engineer Magazine_Sept 2022 update




I t has been another year marked by incredible accomplishments and commitment in the School of Engineering. The extended impact of the pandemic has tested the core of our faculty, staff and students. I have always said that our greatest accomplishment in building this young School of Engineering has been the dynamic team we have assembled who bring so much of themselves to work every day. This could not have been more true than how it has played out over the past two years. At every twist and turn in our journey, the staff, faculty, and students would get up, dust themselves off and move forward. There are some bright lights at the end of the pandemic tunnel. In one of the biggest announcements in our school’s history, the university will break ground this May on the $110 million Schoenecker Center in an effort to support engineering, arts, math and the sciences. 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. As you will see in these pages, there are some other bright lights. The past year has also seen significant advances in enrollment and programming. This year, we recorded the highest undergraduate engineering enrollment in our history. In 2021, we led the campuswide effort to facilitate ease of transfer from Minnesota’s two-year college system and were awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support scholarships and programming to onboard those transfer students.

And to top it off, this year also marked our highest annual level of research awards, aided significantly by a $5.4 million award to expand our Center for Microgrid Research. 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. 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 shows a snapshot of what is going on here. I encourage you to drop us a line, follow us on LinkedIn or visit; we’d love to give you a sense of the energy of today’s students and faculty, and how they collaborate with the business community that surrounds us. Cheers, Don

Dr. Don Weinkauf Dean, School of Engineering


ATION for a brighter future


Spring 2022


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.

Breaking Ground on a New Era for Engineering


$1.5 Million NSF Grant Readies STEM Transfer Students Senior Design Clinic Students Generate Industry Solutions At the Intersection of Race and Transportation Graduate Programs in Software: Innovation, Leadership and Graduates



Marketing Director Kelli Steidle Director of Communications Sheree R. Curry Editor Brant Skogrand Designer Carol Garner Photographers Mark Brown Liam James Doyle




Embracing the Three C’s for Student Success


Introducing Provost Eddy Rojas


Contributors Emilie Dozer Doug Dunston Solomon Gustavo Chih Lai Tiffany Ling Bhabani Misra Don Weinkauf Student Assistant Jamie Tjornehoj Front cover Turn to Page 8 to learn more about the Schoenecker Center.


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.

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NEW $5.4 million grant PROPELS MICROGRID RESEARCH A $2.1 million grant from the Xcel Energy Renewable Development Account kick-started the Center for Microgrid Research at St. Thomas. Now the university hopes to leverage its receipt of that grant, plus a $5.4 million investment from the state of Minnesota, to obtain $10 million to $15 million in federal research grants over the next five to 10 years. The Center for Microgrid Research is one of the only student-driven microgrid research facilities in the nation. At the center, Tommies help develop technology and are trained to shape the evolution of energy in the face of climate change.

Photo of electrical engineering major Rachel Pietsch by Liam James Doyle

St. Thomas Engineer 2022 Page 7




S t. Thomas breaks ground in May on the Schoenecker state-of-the-art complex that aims to transform south campus by adding a world-class STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) complex targeted to open in 2024. The building will feature five levels of modular, multipurpose spaces and wide corridors and is expected to add more than 130,000 square feet of facilities to the university. Center, a $110 million Housing three academic areas (arts, engineering and sciences),

it will include the emerging media newsroom, studios and classrooms, science and engineering labs and offices; an art gallery; a 250-seat choral rehearsal and performance space; an instrumental rehearsal space and storage; St. Thomas’ Centers for Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Water Justice; visitor lobbies, café and community spaces. “This will be the first building of its kind in the Twin Cities that will be welcoming to all in serving both our students and the community in STEM and arts education, ultimately inspiring

and educating a diversity of ‘principled, creative problem- solving leaders’ who will fuel the talent pipeline for Minnesota and beyond,” Vice President for University Advancement Erik Thurman said. The planned addition will allow St. Thomas to further recruit, retain and support women, Black, Indigenous, and people of color in STEAM fields, said President Julie Sullivan . “The best way to do that is by breaking down silos, focusing on collaborative, interdisciplinary education, and incorporating diverse viewpoints.”

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THE ATRIUM “The hub of most activity is actually outside of the

classroom. It’s in the hallways, it’s in the collaboration hubs, it’s in these bridges that connect all of the disciplines,” Dean Weinkauf said.

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A s one of the youngest engineering programs in the nation, we are building something truly special here in Minnesota.

ADVANCED SQUARE FOOTAGE DEDICATED TO ENGINEERING The Schoenecker Center will provide more than 60,000 square feet of new labs, classrooms, offices, and collaboration spaces transforming how the School of Engineering collaborates with partners across campus and educates students in engineering. The design of the space will increase the agility of the engineering department for course offerings and allow for more experiments in areas such as sustainability, robotics, and energy. The high bay (pictured above) will be an area for complex large-scale experimental research, student demonstrations that supplement conceptual lecture content, and student engineering design competitions. This space will provide a facility where students can see the scales in action, work with the materials as they behave in their built environment and gain an appreciation, through hands-on work, of the implications of their design choices.

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COLLABORATIVE ENVIRONMENT WITH MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES, INCLUDING COMMUNICATION AND THE ARTS Designed with input from various corporate industry partners, the center will foster more collaboration among students who otherwise may not have worked together in a typical university setting. The facility is built to be adaptable and ready for use in several different conditions, flexible enough to continue to evolve as further emerging technologies are implemented, and supportive of student collaborations and research across campus. The community spaces may host local K-12 schools, community gatherings and STEM and music partnerships. “When you pull together these different fields, you can tell different stories, you can invent new things,” said AnnMarie Thomas, a professor of engineering and entrepreneurship and director of the Playful Learning Lab.

STUDENT-CENTERED DESIGN The Schoenecker Center’s open floor design will put learning on display, which, in addition to the complex’s flexible collaboration spaces, will help students to grow their appreciation of other disciplines. Setting up our students to thrive in an increasingly globalized world, where employers want culturally competent workers who can appreciate and navigate diverse stories and viewpoints, is critical.

Scan this QR code to see “Introducing the Schoenecker Center”

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T he scholarship program will be funded by a nearly $1.5 million grant awarded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S-STEM) Program. The six-year grant will fold into the school’s APEX Project: Engineering a Transfer-Friendly Experience initiative. The award will fund scholarships to 31 unique full-time students who are pursuing bachelor’s degrees in civil, computer, electrical or mechanical engineering. “Admitting transfer students to the School of Engineering is a way to cultivate diversity in the program, from first-generation college students to underserved populations, as well as the nontraditional student,” said Dr. Kundan Nepal , a principal investigator who co-wrote the grant application with fellow faculty members Dr. Katherine Acton, Dr. Jenny Holte and Dr. Deb Besser .

To reach potential scholars, the School of Engineering closely partners with several area community colleges, including Anoka-Ramsey Community College, Century College, Inver Hills Community College, Normandale Community College


Academically talented engineering students with demonstrated financial need who are considering a transfer to the School of Engineering at University of St. Thomas have an opportunity to receive $10,000 per academic year for up to three years thanks to an expanded scholarship opportunity that started accepting applications this spring for fall 2022 enrollment.

and Saint Paul College. Mechanical engineering

student Ryan Van Domelen , who previously transferred to St. Thomas under the existing APEX project, said, “The transfer scholarship made St. Thomas cheaper for me than the other

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Faculty and engineering transfer students participate in ice breakers and team building on south campus in St. Paul.


schools I was looking at. St. Thomas also offers a variety of other scholarships that further reduces my tuition.” But the reasons extend beyond affordability as to why St. Thomas is an ideal choice for Van Domelen, who went to welding school out of high school and then worked manual labor jobs for a few years. “I knew that I had my best educational experiences in smaller classes, where I was able to be actively involved during lecture,” he said.

“The vast majority of my classes at St. Thomas have been fewer than 35 students and professors design lectures to be engaging.” The NSF S-STEM grant will allow the School of Engineering to increase its support programming and activities targeting transfer students. Funding will also go toward a new summer bridge course, monthly seminars to boost skills, and faculty, peer, and industry mentoring.

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Alumni Profile


For women and people of color: People may look at you differently because of your gender, because of your race, because of your accent. You need to see yourself as an intelligent individual who is going to contribute to the table. Don’t ever let external barriers become internal barriers — nobody else can bring you down. When people discriminate against you, don’t be afraid to speak out. Don’t easily give up. Prove you can do it. For success: I never wanted to climb the ladder. I always try to be the best version of me. My main three things I want to share with people: Take ownership. Whenever people give you a task, big or small, you have to take the opportunity to master your own craft. Take initiative . How will people know you are more capable? Finally, build the relationship and make meaningful connections with others – it is too easy to be isolated in today’s world.

role, she spearheaded the 2015 launch of the first completely digital mortgage experience. Linglong He joined the Rocket family of brands in 1996 as a software engineer, two years after obtaining a master’s degree in software engineering from the University of St. Thomas. HER WORDS OF ADVICE For business leaders: Technology is an asset, not an expense. I think a lot of business leaders are starting to understand this. The CIO and CTO need to be at the table because technology is central to business. Your team members will be inspired to do more if they feel they don’t have to live in a box. You have to not only treat it as an investment, but you also have to make sure you’re investing in emerging, cutting- edge technology.


It’s not easy to climb the ladder to the C-suite of a publicly traded company as a woman of color in the male-dominated fintech industry, but Linglong He has seized a top rung as chief leadership advisor of Rocket Central. She has been shaking up the technology industry for more than

20 years at one of the nation’s largest personal finance and

consumer service brands: Rocket Companies. Fortune ranked Rocket as No. 5 among its 2021 “100 Best Companies to Work For.” This St. Thomas alumna previously served from 2010-21 as chief information officer at sister company Quicken Loans, now called Rocket Mortgage. In that

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New Faculty



Civil engineering professor Mohsen Tahmasebi Nasab, right, works with junior William Elskamp to conduct research, measuring the absorption of water in frozen ground along the East Mississippi River Parkway in St. Paul.

WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY? 1. B e a good mentor: The guidance and wisdom of various teachers and mentors paved the way for me. I do my best to play the role that my mentors played in my life for my advisees. 2.Make the subject matter fun and interactive: One of my passions is to demystify the theory behind equations, concepts, and design approaches using different analogies, everyday objects, and creating fun easy-to-understand short videos. 3. Learn from failure: My goal is to create a learning culture in the classroom that allows room for failure and encourages failure as a powerful tool, a steppingstone to success.

Assistant Professor Mohsen Tahmasebi Nasab joined St. Thomas as the newest member of the civil engineering faculty, and he is on a mission to help students find their passion and to design experiential, interdisciplinary, and holistic learning experiences in water resources engineering. WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH ARE YOU DOING? My research is primarily focused on understanding how long-term land use changes, climate change, and other hydro-topographical factors will impact our environment and, thus, how to manage water resources effectively. One of my current research projects is about frozen soil and how water infiltrates into soil that has gone through multiple freeze-thaw cycles. This

research will help design a soil medium that allows infiltration even when the ground is frozen, alleviating some early spring urban floods. WHERE DID YOUR PASSION FOR WATER RESOURCES ENGINEERING COME FROM? My passion for water resources engineering comes from living in Russia and learning about the Moskva River. Observing the seasonal variations of the streamflow and learning about the crucial role of water in different countries and communities sparked the passion that led me to pursue water resources engineering. There is a holistic and multidimensional nature to water resources engineering and management that makes it a unique field of study.

Scan this QR code and check out Nasab’s YouTube channel, where he showcases short videos summarizing the fundamentals of water resources management.

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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

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Senior Design Clinic

The 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.


LANDFILL GAS REMEDIATION AND REUSE Managing gas from decomposing waste in landfills is critical for safety and the environment. Students are working with Burns & McDonnell to design a landfill gas remediation system to address gas migration and reuse the landfill gas for an alternative energy project. WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY FOR HEALTH MONITORING AND DIAGNOSTIC PURPOSES Students are involved in designing a smart bra with optical sensors for cancer detection in partnership with Holovisions in Minneapolis. This bra may enable early detection of breast cancer without the exposure to ionizing radiation and the discomfort/pain of current imaging techniques. NORTH MINNESOTA COMMUNITY RESILIENCY HUB Students are working with Renewable Energy Partners on the largest community-based microgrid project in the state. The team will provide recommendations on how to support power optimization using battery backups and switched loads, a first step in the journey toward a resilient power grid.

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A Conversation about Advancement of AI in Medical Imaging Analysis


AI is changing the landscape in almost every field. During the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Bioinformatics and Biomedicine, Dr. Chih Lai (right), professor of Graduate Programs in Software, and his colleagues presented their recent research on the effects of AI on fish embryo development and its implications for medical imaging analysis. St. Thomas Engineer spoke with Lai, and a research assistant on the project, Akhil Ambekar ’20 (left) MS in data science. Ambekar is now an AI health fellow at Duke University.

How are you using data science to further research knowledge in medical image analysis? Chih Lai: My AI research team, together with scientists from Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany and University of Barcelona in Spain, used AI to study the toxicity impact to embryonic development due to pharmacological treatment. With AI, we were able to analyze a larger number of scenarios (a total of 4,080 scenarios – eight different organs, 15 different chemicals, two different exposure times and 17 concentration levels) and increased the image precision, showing subtle morphological changes.*

What is the future of AI in medical imaging analysis? Lai: Increasingly, toxicity/ pharmaceutical research is

Akhil Ambekar: The imaging techniques and the deep learning methods learned while working on the fish embryo and toxicity project played a major role in my transition from a research assistant at University of St. Thomas to an AI health fellow at Duke University. What I learned was extremely relevant to what is currently being used in the real world. Now at Duke, I am currently working on several exciting projects made possible due to artificial intelligence. One project is focused on automating the process of identifying scarred regions in the kidneys. There is both diagnostic and prognostic relevance to identifying these scarred regions, but without a deep learning model, this can be time-consuming, and have limited accuracy and reproducibility of observations.

combining traditional data analysis with AI technology because AI can recognize and detect the areas more likely to lead to fruitful results without brute force trial and error. While AI is not a replacement for human experts, technology is advancing medical imaging analysis, helping accelerate our understanding of toxic impacts to fish embryos. * Parts of the system developed by the team in automating this analysis process have been published and released to the toxicology/biology community under the GNU license.

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Undergraduate Profile


AND GERMAN Name: Mary Murphy ‘24

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota Major/minor: Double major in mechanical engineering and German Describe yourself in three words: Helpful, determined and wry Why dual degree engineering-German? In high school, I studied Latin and participated on the robotics team. Both experiences were transformative, and I wanted to keep up with both in college. However, majoring in Latin is not the most practical language pairing with engineering, so I switched to German. The international internship also sounded like an amazing opportunity. One thing you are looking forward to in Germany? I am looking forward to little weekend trips while I am there. I am planning to use the year as an excuse to travel all around Europe and meet people from all over the continent. Best thing about the engineering program at St. Thomas? I appreciate all the hands-on labs we get to do for our degrees. It is so unique that we have so many resources open to us for personal use down in the machine and wood shops. What are you researching? I recently started a project with Dr. Thomas Shephard observing the viscosity and drying patterns of paints with additives. Sometimes when I describe this project to people, they understand it as I am just watching paint dry. But it is more of a cool art project where we use marbling techniques with the paint and hope it dries with the proper texture. Favorite engineering class so far? I loved my Mechanics of Materials class! I enjoyed the subject matter and found it applicable to the everyday world, but most of all I found my professor to be engaging and able to explain the subject matter in a very concise and clear way. What is the biggest myth about being a woman in engineering? I think that a common misconception is that women in engineering lack balance between their academic and social lives. I find this to be untrue because most of the female engineers I know are a lot of fun and wicked smart.

St. Thomas Engineer 2022 Page 19




Photo by Mark Brown

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Educational Leadership Professor Dr. Aura Wharton-Beck, left, and Engineering Professor Dr. Rita Lederle stand together at the Rondo Commemorative Plaza in St. Paul. The historic Rondo neighborhood of St. Paul serves as one of many topics within a curriculum created by the two professors exploring the intersection of race and transportation.

In discussing the intersection of race and transportation, the class studied St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, a majority Black community, largely demolished by the construction of Interstate 94 between 1956-68. Lederle said it’s important to look at what happened to the Rondo community, and similar situations, from multiple perspectives. “From one standpoint it’s really easy to vilify the engineers,” she said. “For the longest time engineers were not trained to think about people at all. You could just be told to design a highway bridge and you would have zero information about the community it was in. Some decisions are motivated by

engineering concerns, but there are multiple stories on all sides of the issue.” Wharton-Beck echoed this sentiment in talking about the relevance the course has for students. “Dr. Lederle has her engineering lens, I’m bringing the arts and literature into the conversation, along with our passion for equity and social justice, to teach a class on something that’s relevant to both our disciplines,” said Wharton-Beck. “It is important to look at how, in America, our racist policies continue to affect racial minorities to this day,” said Samantha Nordmark ‘21 , a member of ROTC who graduated as a commissioned officer in the Air Force.

Nordmark said the honors seminar has given her a new perspective. “After taking this class I’m going to be able to look at neighborhoods through a different lens,” she said. “I will look at a neighborhood and ask what is the population? What is the demographic? What is the history and how did it become the way it is? What is still oppressing certain groups of people and how can we combat that? The class stimulates so much agency and thinking outside of your own perspective. For me being a white female, I have a lot of privilege but I’m going to use my privilege and my agency to make something happen in the government and be an ally.”

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Higher Education



Perhaps more importantly, we are changing how we see education, expanding on the four-year degree model. We cannot assume that education ends there. Our students want more: They want to know they can return to upskill or retool a skill set completely. They want to be leaders and innovators as well, bringing these new tools and skills back to the workplace and community. If it’s our duty to help students and community members prepare for a better career, or even a completely new one, then we must meet them where they are. For example, scheduling classes in the evening or on the weekends, limiting campus commutes to once a week, encouraging local companies to provide on-site training and experience – whatever we can do to increase convenience for our learners. The organizing principles behind this new approach to education are based in community, not just looking at the student experience

but determining how the university can help the workforce needs of our region. To that end, the University of St. Thomas has incorporated online programs and developed nuanced short courses and professional development programs, all of which are based on our conversations at various levels in a wide variety of industries. In Minnesota, we’re fortunate to have 18 Fortune 500 companies, and we work hard to understand their needs so that we can prepare our students to fulfill them. That’s why many of our students have secured employment prior to their graduation date. The fast pace of change means that the future belongs to those institutions that are nimble enough to stay in front of change and help define what will be next in education. We are creating an innovation ecosystem for our community and region – one that is deliberately innovative. We are creating the future of education.

N ot long ago, students could simply complete a college degree and find work for the rest of their lives. But today, industry is evolving rapidly — especially engineering and technology. Now every one of us needs to retool and learn new skills about every four to five years. How do we do that? How should we mold an innovation ecosystem to meet this need? Of course, within our degree programs, we are updating course offerings and degree certificates to reflect the needs of both industries and students – graduate and undergraduate alike. We ensure that content is relevant and stays that way. Many times, within our universities, we try to teach the same things year after year, but in today’s environment we reevaluate what we offer on a yearly basis.

School of Engineering students engage with industry professionals during the Meet the Engineers reverse career fair event in the James B. Woulfe Alumni Hall in the Anderson Student Center in St. Paul.

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Undergraduate Profile


Hometown: Born in Ethiopia and moved to the Twin Cities with his family at age 3. Favorite pastime: As part of the St. Thomas Rocket Team club, I like to gaze upon the launched rockets as they soar into the heavens. What has been the impact St. Thomas has had on your aspirations? My parents originally wanted me to be a doctor, but after transferring to St. Thomas’ School of Engineering in 2020 for mechanical engineering, the connections, curriculum and professors are what helped me see where I wanted to go. How were your student connections? The biggest thing that contributed to connecting with other students was being a lab assistant for two different labs and working tool crib where students can check out tools they need for projects. The repeated interactions allowed for familiarity and having shared challenges helped strengthen that bond. How would you describe your professors? The professors are very personable. At the end of your degree, you are friends with your professors. They know you by name. When you walk down the hall and say, “‘Hey, Dr. Whoever,’ some of them are like, ‘Don’t call me ‘doctor.’”

What did you enjoy the most at St. Thomas?

I definitely enjoyed the small class sizes and being able to interact with professors and trusting that the professors know what they are talking about and are going to teach it well. Engineering is a hard major. Their goal isn’t to get 20% of the class to drop out. That’s not what’s going on here. St. Thomas wants you to do well, wants you to graduate and wants you to be good at your job.

For his senior design project, Mamo worked with nonprofit Seeds Feeds on a project to grow produce year-round. Story by Solomon Gustavo; photo by Mark Brown.


NESTLED AGAINST THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER AND THE URBAN LANDSCAPE OF ST. PAUL, THE O’SHAUGHNESSY SCIENCE HALL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS HOUSES THE SOFTWARE ENGINEERING AND DATA SCIENCE PROGRAM, WHICH GENERATES INNOVATION, LEADERSHIP AND — OF COURSE — GRADUATES. Producing 4,000 graduates since its 1985 inception, the program has seen many alumni work for the area’s economic drivers such as 3M, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Cargill, Mayo Clinic and Target. Here, an industry- academia partnership creates software professionals with the know-how to lead within some of the most sophisticated and fast-moving companies on the planet. The program has grown over the years to cover a wide spectrum of software professional interests and today there are four master’s degrees (Data Science, Software Engineering, Software Management, and Information Technology) and eight graduate certificates (Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Business Analysis, Data Management, Digital Transformation, Embedded Systems, Healthcare Analytics and Internet of Things).



Accepts first class, comprising 52 students


Won Award of Excellence for the Advancement of Technology Education from the Minnesota Software Association (now the Minnesota Technology Association)


Offered cohort master’s degree in Software Engineering to corporate employees


Over 900 students enrolled in graduate programs


First Certificate of Computer Security started


Creation of Strategic Advisory Board with 14 CIO executives MS in Software Management program started Five-year programs with undergraduate computer science started First Certificate of Business Analysis created



Graduate Programs in Software joins St. Thomas School of Engineering


MS in Information Technology started Certificate in Big Data started


MS in Data Science started


Center of Excellence for Big Data established


Offered cohort Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Analytics programs on-site at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Certificate in Artificial Intelligence and Certificate of Internet of Things started



Center for Applied AI established


Certificate in Digital Transformation started

4,000 alumni strong


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Professor Thomas at the Falling Walls Science Summet in Berlin.

OK Go Sandbox, a collaboration between the rock band OK Go and St. Thomas’ Playful Learning Lab (PLL), was one of 20 winners of Falling Walls Science Engage while vying for the prestigious Science Breakthrough of the Year award at the international Falling Walls Science Summit 2021 in Berlin. School of Engineering Professor AnnMarie Thomas , who is director of the Playful Learning Lab and co-founder of the Center for Engineering Education, was in Berlin for the honor. ENGINEERING PROJECT WINS INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE AWARD

A project led by Playful Learning Lab students, OK Go Sandbox is a collection of videos and interactive online tools that help kids and families explore STEM and more through the music and education videos of OK Go. The project, the only entry from the continental U.S. to win in the Science Engagement category, engages thousands of kids and teachers with interactive, web-based lessons. “It was an incredible honor to represent the Playful Learning Lab’s OK Go Sandbox project in Berlin, and for our work to be alongside such amazing projects from around the world,” said Thomas. “I am incredibly proud of the PLL undergraduates who have made this project a reality.” OK GO Sandbox was one of 189 applications from 80 countries reviewed by the Falling Walls Foundation. The conference is held annually on Nov. 9, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The list of winning ideas included a citizen science project for groundwater monitoring, an educational radio show to promote infant vaccination, art workshops for mental health awareness, a novel concept integrating science and languages, mobile STEM stations traveling between communities, a state- of-the-art application merging video games and science trivia and others.

Playful Learning Lab student Kristina Harmann, right, talks with OK Go Sandbox Art in Space winner Alexandra Slabakis in the create[space] in the Anderson Student Center in St. Paul.

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Graduate Programs in Software now offers a Graduate Certificate in Digital Transformation. The curriculum has been designed so that a student graduating with this certificate will be proficient in information technology (IT) delivery, operations, software engineering concepts, and the engineering and design of IT infrastructure focusing on cloud-scale distributed systems and modern DevOps practices.

This program focuses on real-world implementation challenges faced by IT organizations and prepares individuals to meet the growing demand from IT industries for professionals skilled in digital transformation. Students will primarily learn by doing and gain hands-on experience with several widely adopted IT platforms. Find out more information on the new Graduate Certificate in Digital Transformation at software.stthomas. edu/degree/certificates/digital-transformation/ .


Undergraduate civil engineering student Mohamud (Abdi) Abdimuhsin has been awarded the Charles Pankow Foundation Fellowship from the American Concrete Institute (ACI). This prestigious national fellowship is one for which both graduate and undergraduate students compete. The fellowship also comes with an educational stipend as well as other recognition, opportunities and mentorship. Abdimuhsin is an undergraduate research assistant at St. Thomas. REVERSE CAREER FAIR ATTRACTS 200 INDUSTRY PARTNERS Every fall, School of Engineering hosts a reverse career fair, “Meet the Engineers,” where industry partners come to the student. This annual event is the ideal place to find full-time employees or interns for engineering positions. For more information on the Meet the Engineers Career Fair, visit engineering/mte.

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Embracing the

CURIOSITY Understand the broader world. Look toward the future. Explore multiple perspectives.

Three C’s


In the satirical song “Wernher von Braun,” Tom Lehrer sang, “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department! says Wernher von Braun.” Lehrer’s satirical songs, including the one about aerospace engineer von Braun, have startled, delighted and tipped off balance generations of listeners. Sometimes when we laugh, however, it’s due to our recognition that there’s a deeper aspect of reality being highlighted that may be worth our attention. The School of Engineering faculty has been exploring the

CONNECTIONS Think outside the box. Place old ideas in new contexts. Gain insights.

CREATING VALUE Seek opportunities. Understand stakeholders. Have a positive impact.

interconnections of student skill sets and mindset over the past several years as part of its work with KEEN, the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network. A few interlocking concepts that have served us well in this endeavor go by the shorthand of the “3 C’s”: curiosity, connections and creating value. Not surprisingly, these concepts also provide clues to how we want our students to embrace the development of their own character, discovering ways to recognize and make ethical choices that can align well with the University of St. Thomas mission, “All for the Common Good.”

The Three C’s:

For the second year in a row, a School of Engineering student was voted the Tommie Award winner by students, faculty and staff. Electrical engineering major Kevyn Perkins ’22 was recognized as a senior who best represents the ideals of St. Thomas Aquinas through scholarship, leadership and campus involvement. Perkins has successfully balanced a challenging academic schedule with campus involvement during his time at St. Thomas. He’s president of the Black Empowerment Student Alliance, been both an Ignite Research Scholar and a Ciresi Walburn Scholar, served as the student liaison to the Board of Trustees and member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Perkins plans to work in the medical device industry and pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering. ENGINEERING STUDENT KEVYN PERKINS ’22 RECEIVES TOP STUDENT AWARD

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University of St. Thomas Provost Dr. Eddy Rojas has had a few higher education roles in his life. They all began when, as a first-generation college student, he studied for a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in his home country of Costa Rica. With a thirst for learning, he continued his education in the U.S., obtaining multiple advanced degrees in engineering, economics, psychology of leadership and higher education. But who he is today circles back to his first year as an undergraduate student. “I recognize that I am a better engineer because of that year of liberal arts education, but most importantly I am also a better person because of it,” he said. “The best solutions to our problems in society are not coming from one particular discipline, but from multiple disciplines.” Rojas well understands the value of diversity. Before coming to St. Thomas in 2021, he served seven years as dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Dayton. In Ohio, he appointed the first female associate dean in more than 20

years, the first female department chair and the first female endowed chair. Two-thirds of the new faculty he hired were from historically underrepresented groups and during his tenure at Dayton, the school also tripled the number of undergraduate students from underrepresented groups. “I am passionate about serving people, especially those from marginalized groups,” he said. Rojas has made it his mission to help increase diversity at St. Thomas. He knows it takes more than recruitment; success also means retention. He particularly supports the School of Engineering’s partnership with five local community colleges to bring bachelor’s degree-seeking transfer students to St. Thomas. “How wonderful it is to reach out to the community through partnerships and bringing nontraditional students through the pipeline,” he said. “The goal is to shoot for having engineers who are representative of the entire population because engineering serves the entire population.”

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School of Engineering 2115 Summit Avenue, OSS 100 St. Paul, Minnesota 55105-1096

SCOTT RUSSELL PORTER , a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, is an eight-year veteran of the Marine Corps. He served on active duty for five years and as a reservist for three years as an MV-22 Osprey airframes mechanic and aerial observer. He juggles many duties, including a part-time internship at Graco; working with the St. Thomas veterans club to support other veteran students successfully transition to university life; and now enjoying fatherhood to a one-year-old daughter. “St. Thomas was a great fit for me – small class sizes, a highly rated engineering school, professors who are there for me and I made connections to an internship that I intend to turn into a full-time job.”

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