ECU professors receive national recognition

Two engineering professors at East Carolina University have received national recognition for their work in the areas of diversity and management.

Dr. Evelyn Brown

Dr. Evelyn Brown

Dr. Evelyn Brown has received the “INSIGHT into Diversity” 2015 Inspiring Women in STEM award while Dr. Gene Dixon won the Bernard R. Sarchet Award from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Brown is one of 100 women recognized by the higher education magazine for achievements that encourage and inspire women to consider careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM. The magazine will be published in September.

Brown is a charter member of the STEM Girls steering committee, a member of the FIRST Robotics board of directors and faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Engineering Honor Society and Engineering Ambassadors. Brown was the primary investigator on a National Science Foundation grant that secured $540,000 in merit and need-based scholarships for the engineering department. She has spent numerous hours recruiting for the engineering department.

LaKesha Alston Forbes, associate provost of equity and diversity at ECU, nominated Brown for the award with input from Dr. David White, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology.

“Dr. Brown was one of our first hires in engineering and serves as a tremendous role model for our female engineering students and junior faculty,” White said. “She is a great advocate for diversity, particularly in STEM, and she is a tireless supporter of her passionate work for diversity in the STEM fields.”

Brown said she is honored to have been nominated by ECU for the award. “I’m also hopeful that this national recognition will bring attention to ECU and the many good things being accomplished by dedicated faculty in our department, college and university,” she said.

Dr. Gene Dixon

Dr. Gene Dixon

Dixon received a national award named after Bernard R. Sarchet, a founding member and first national president of the American Society for Engineering Management.

The prestigious award is given to an individual who has made significant contributions to the profession and to the engineering management division of the American Society for Engineering Education.

Dixon, who has been at ECU for nine years, oversees all capstone projects required for engineering majors in their senior year. Students work in teams to complete a yearlong project for a local business or industry.

Dixon works closely with industry partners to ensure that ECU students get work experience, leadership and entrepreneurial skills before they graduate. He also helps develop internship and cooperative work opportunities for engineering majors and has written multiple articles and presented at national and international conferences.

“Gene has applied his knowledge of engineering management in his scholarship and his teaching, and we are very fortunate to have him as a colleague,” said Dr. Hayden Griffin, chair of the engineering department at ECU.



Gudivada named computer science chair

Dr. Venkat N. Gudivada has been named chairman of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Technology at East Carolina University effective July 1.



Gudivada is an educator, researcher and industry practitioner with more than 30 years of experience in data management, information retrieval, machine learning, image and natural language processing, cognitive and high performance computing and personalized eLearning.

Gudivada joins ECU after serving as interim chair and professor of computer science at Marshall University. He previously worked at the University of Michigan, University of Missouri-Rolla (now Missouri University of Science and Technology) and Ohio University. He has extensive financial industry work experience as well.

He has experience developing innovative academic programs, courses and curricula and is proficient in continuous academic quality improvement and program accreditation. He has developed successful approaches to student recruitment, mentoring, engagement and retention. He also has expertise in online course development and delivery, and has won awards for teaching and research.

Gudivada has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles about his nationally-funded research on search engine optimization, data management systems and big data. He has served on program committees of numerous computer science conferences, delivered keynote presentations at international conferences and served as a guest editor for IEEE Computer Society.

He received doctoral and masters’ degrees in computer science from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He earned a master’s degree in civil/structural engineering from Texas Tech University and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from JNT University.

Dr. David White, dean of the ECU College of Engineering and Technology, thanked Dr. Karl Abrahamson for his leadership and service during the nearly five years that he served as interim department chair.


ECU student becomes Red Hat Certified Engineer

ECU junior Benjamin Tillett-Wakeley has passed requirements to become a Red Hat Certified Engineer.



A former film theory major, Benjamin Tillett-Wakeley transferred in fall 2013 into ECU’s information and computer technology program in technology systems in the College of Engineering and Technology.

In December, Tillett-Wakeley became a Red Hat Certified Engineer, which according to the Red Hat website, indicates that he “possesses the additional skills, knowledge, and abilities required of a senior system administrator responsible for Red Hat Enterprises Linux systems.”

Red Hat, based in Raleigh, is a multinational software company providing open-source software products.

Tillett-Wakeley said his interest in Linux, an open computer operating system, inspired him to sit for the certification exam. “The RHCE is a widely-recognized Linux certification and it will benefit me when applying to jobs that require knowledge of Linux,” he said. “The exam was difficult, but I was well-prepared. It’s a bit trickier than other certifications because it’s entirely lab based.”

Tillett-Wakeley is from Kitty Hawk.

“Film-making will always be an interest of mine, but I realized I wanted something that would provide a more stable career,” Tillett-Wakeley said. “I chose ECU because it offers solid courses at a great value. The ICT curriculum is well-designed and offers the types of courses I wanted.”


ECU College of Engineering and Technology student, instructor win national award

Pictured at the award event are industry partner Shixiong Shang of Nephos6, ECU senior Dustin Stocks, ECU instructor John Pickard, and Dr. Ciprian Popoviciu, founder and CEO of Nephos6, based in Raleigh.

Pictured at the award event are industry partner Shixiong Shang of Nephos6, ECU senior Dustin Stocks, ECU instructor John Pickard, and Dr. Ciprian Popoviciu, founder and CEO of Nephos6, based in Raleigh.

Dustin Stocks, an information and computer technology major at East Carolina University, and ECU instructor John Pickard recently won the Academic Innovations award at the North American IPv6 Summit in Denver, Colorado.

Pickard, who teaches in the Department of Technology Systems in the College of Engineering and Technology, and Stocks presented research and findings from what started as a collaborative class project at ECU with industry partner, Nephos6.

Pickard uses industry partners in his courses because “direct industry engagement in the classroom creates a mutually beneficial relationship between students, industry, and academia,” he said.

Stocks and ECU classmate Ryan Hammond worked with Nephos6, a cloud technology firm in Raleigh whose founder and CEO, Dr. Ciprian Popoviciu, has supported the ICT program for many years.

The project researched the effectiveness of 263 government agency websites that have enabled the new Internet Protocol version 6, commonly referred to as IPv6. The original IPv6 transition timeline set by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has not been met by many federal government agencies.

Under the direction of Pickard and Popoviciu, the ECU students evaluated the government websites by using v6Sonar, a cloud based monitoring service developed by Nephos6. “This is important, valuable and actionable data that helps organizations make their IPv6 transition effective,” Popoviciu said.

Stocks, a former Marine, said his military experience helped to prepare him for his education. “The military taught me how to set a goal, and achieve that goal with efficiency and effectiveness. Learning how to set goals and prioritize tasks has been the key to succeeding this far with this project, and college in general,” Stocks said.

Networking with industry representatives at the summit boosted his confidence in securing a job after graduation in May, he said. “Seeing the application of what I’m learning in the classroom and being able to see the big picture and how it fits in context with my education is important,” Stocks said. “The biggest thing I took away from this experience is how important it is to not do anything half way but do everything to your full potential.”

The award was given because of the outstanding work that Stocks continued after meeting the requirement of the class project. There is likely future research associated with this project based on the favorable response of the summit attendees, Pickard said.


Engineering Student Receives Scholarship



Byron Anderson, a senior engineering student, has been awarded the Ronald C. Harrell Engineering Scholarship from the North Carolina Society of Engineers. Anderson, who is completing a double concentration in mechanical and industrial engineering, is from Wilson.

Each year, the NCSE awards a $2,000 scholarship to a student enrolled in engineering or engineering technology at one of five universities in North Carolina. A student must show financial need, good citizenship and strong academic merit. The scholarship honors Harrell, who was an outstanding NCSE member, former president and district director of the society.

Anderson decided to attend ECU because it was close to home and the engineering program was “rapidly growing,” he said. “My experience at ECU has been good,” Anderson said. “It was not only accumulated in the classroom. Faculty members help students grow as a person. I am not the person that I once was and I owe a lot of that to the engineering department.”


Undergraduate student research programs wrap up

The ECU College of Engineering and Technology hosted 10-week research experiences for undergraduate this summer, completing the program in early August. Above, participants learn about presenting research in a poster session. (Contributed photo)

The ECU College of Engineering and Technology hosted 10-week research experiences for undergraduates this summer, completing the program in early August. Pictured above, participants learned about presenting research in a poster session. (Contributed photo)

By Margaret Turner
ECU College of Engineering and Technology

Undergraduate students from East Carolina University and more than 10 other universities spent the summer learning about research practices in the College of Engineering and Technology.

The ECU departments of computer science and engineering each hosted a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates, or REU, which ended Aug. 1. The programs were funded by grants offered through the National Science Foundation.

Eleven students participated in the computer science REU titled “Software Testing:  Foundations, Applications, and Tools.” Students selected their own research topics, which included developing and testing a neural network-based spam-detection system, collecting and analyzing data from a social network system, building a dynamic program analysis prototype and testing mobile computing systems.

Students also attended seminars with guest speakers such as ECU computer science associate professor Dr. Ronnie Smith, who discussed frontiers in artificial intelligence, Dr. Mary Farwell, interim assistant vice chancellor and director of undergraduate research, who offered advice on undergraduate research, and Dr. Ernest Marshburn, director of research development, who provided information on graduate fellowship programs. Students took field trips to the Brody School of Medicine’s robotics research and training center and the biomedical laser lab in the physics department.

Delaney Rhodes, a rising senior at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia, said she and Kevin Kulp, also from Georgia College, heard about the program from a former REU student who attended last year’s summer program at ECU. “I feel more prepared for graduate school,” said Kulp, who plans to pursue a graduate degree after graduation in May. Rhodes and Kulp said they enjoyed meeting other students and being on a large campus.

Engineering hosted eight students from seven different universities, including two ECU students for the REU titled “Biomedical Engineering in Simulation, Imaging, and Modeling.” Dr. Stephanie George, ECU assistant professor of engineering, and Dr. Zac Domire, ECU associate professor of kinesiology, collaborated on the NSF grant to fund the program.

Student research projects included testing viscosity and velocity related to nanofiber production, developing predictors of bone geometry in physically active populations and exploring modeling and simulation in biomedical applications.

“The goal of the REU program is to provide experiences that students may not have at their home institutions, to increase their interest and knowledge in graduate school, while also promoting diversity at this level,” George said. “Student summer research experiences will help to create a competitive graduate school application.”

The department of engineering was recently approved to offer its first graduate degree program, a master’s in biomedical engineering, beginning this fall.

Participants were treated to an ice cream social and attended several lunch seminars where topics included how to apply to graduate school, what to expect at a research conference and how to compose a scientific poster.


ECU engineering student awarded SMART scholarship

An East Carolina University junior is one of approximately 150 engineering students nationwide to receive a prestigious scholarship.



Jacob Swink of Roanoke Rapids was awarded the Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) scholarship by the American Society for Engineering Education and the U.S. Department of Defense. Approximately 1,900 applications were received.

The scholarship was established to support both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It aims to increase the number of civilian scientists and engineers who work in national defense laboratories, according to the scholarship website.

The scholarship will cover Swink’s full tuition and books through the completion of his engineering degree at ECU – an estimated value of more than $14,700. It also will pay for a graduate degree program should he choose to pursue one. The award includes a $35,000 stipend each year, as well as a summer internship and post-graduation employment with Fleet Readiness Center East, the engineering support group for marine and naval aircraft, at Marine Corps Air Station – Cherry Point.

Swink believes he was selected because of his relatively high GPA and summer work experience. He also is an Eagle Scout. “I was asked multiple questions about that, and the interviewers expressed what a great accomplishment that was,” he said.

Swink was accepted into multiple engineering programs but chose ECU because of its size. “My engineering classes have no more than 30 students in them, and I enjoy the attention the professor gives each student,” he said.

Swink is the son of David and Nina Swink. His mother has a master’s degree in math from ECU.

ECU’s engineering program, established 10 years ago, has 520 students enrolled and resides in the College of Engineering and Technology.

For more information about the SMART scholarship program, visit or to learn more about the ECU engineering program, visit


Capstone projects provide a way to give back to the community

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Greenville Boys and Girls Club. (Contributed photo)

As part of their capstone project, ECU students assist with technology at the Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County. (Contributed photo)

By Margaret Turner
College of Engineering and Technology

Students in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology helped revamp information technology systems and make process improvements for two Pitt County agencies dedicated to improving the lives of children.

The Boys and Girls Club of Pitt County, and the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center in the Brody School of Medicine hosted senior capstone teams in the 2013-2014 year.

A capstone project is an assignment that serves as a student’s culminating academic experience, resulting in a final product, presentation or performance. The term means “high point” or “crowning achievement.”

The projects are designed to encourage students to think critically, solve problems, conduct research and develop oral communication, public speaking, teamwork and planning skills. At ECU, the capstone project often has been a way to connect and support the university’s strategic initiatives of leadership, service and economic prosperity in eastern North Carolina.

Senior information and computer technology students Richard Everhart, Ben McKinzie, Trevor Dildy, Daniel Pennington and Lindsey Esslinger worked at the Boys and Girls Club in Winterville. Misty Marston, director of the Boys and Girls Club, identified technological areas that needed improvement to help the organization continue to grow and provide services to more Pitt County children.

Some of the technology needs included faster infrastructure, increased reliability, secure access to files and remote access for leaders who may be traveling or working from another site. The upgrades allow for a more stable information technology platform.

“Knowing the project was going to benefit such a worthy cause gave it more of a purpose than just completing a job,” Everhart said. “We got a chance to see how hard the staff at the club works and how passionate they are about improving the lives of children they work with.”

Engineering students Bobby Cox, William Gurkin, and Patricia Pigg completed another community project at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy Center, which provides child-centered and comprehensive services by experts in the field of child abuse.

Many parents scheduled for initial evaluation failed to show up, thus missing out on the help they needed and filling appointment slots other patients might have taken. The students developed new reminder systems and processes designed to decrease the number of missed appointments. As a result, there has been a significant drop in missed appointments, which will allow more children to be seen on an annual basis.

“The engineering students were the best group of student learners I have supervised in my ten years at ECU,” said Julie Gill, TEDI BEAR director and capstone supervisor. “I have no doubt of the significant positive impact this project will have for improving our ability to serve abused children in our region.”

Dr. Charles Lesko, assistant professor of information and computer technology, mentors each capstone team in his department. “One of the biggest challenges to any capstone program is finding projects with meaning and value,” he said. “I challenge the students to find projects to work on that will add value both to their education as well as to others. It’s a tremendous feeling when you can take the skills you have learned at the college and impact the lives of others.”

In 2007, information and computer technology and engineering began requiring yearlong capstone projects for senior students. The information and computer technology program is housed within the technology systems department. Both departments reside in the College of Engineering and Technology. Most departments in the college require an internship or capstone project, or provide opportunities for both.





Center for Sustainability Announces 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member

Dr. Scott Curtis, associate professor in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, has been selected for the 2013-2014 Outstanding Affiliate Faculty Member of the Year Award for the Center for Sustainability. The Center for Sustainability is housed in the College of Engineering and Technology at ECU.



Since 2008, Curtis has contributed to both the Center’s research and outreach activities and to the learning experiences of the students pursuing the master’s in sustainable tourism.

As the faculty lead in the Climate, Weather and Tourism Initiative, Curtis co-hosted the first Southeast U.S. Regional workshop for tourism businesses, researchers and policy-makers, chaired a master’s thesis addressing information use in decision-making by tourism businesses and conducted a focus group of tourism business owners in Beaufort, North Carolina on the effects of weather on tourism products and services.

Curtis received his bachelor’s in environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and then received his master’s and doctorate in atmospheric and oceanic sciences from the University of Wisconsin. His research areas include climate variability and smallholder farming in the Caribbean, climate, weather, and tourism and coastal storms.

Curtis co-authored the “Climate, Weather and Tourism: Bridging Science and Practice” publication, has presented at six conferences on behalf of the Center, developed the Seasonal Weather and Tourism Dispatch and contributed to the National Climate Assessment- Southeast Climate Consortium report. He participates in a wide range of Center- and student-sponsored events.

– Margaret Turner