Newsletter, November 1, 2019
Faculty are an important resource for a college, playing critical roles in the education of our students both in and out of the classroom, conducting scholarly activity, and providing vital service to the institution, the community, and the profession. They determine a college’s reputation and help attract talented students.
In consideration of the influence past faculty have had to positively impact the history and trajectory of our institution, the Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) College of Science wants to permanently honor the legacy of the professors who positively impacted the lives of our students by recognizing them as Iconic Professors. Honorees will be selected from nominations by departments and alumni within the college.
“It is my honor and privilege to announce that the first three individuals to be recognized as iconic professors are the late Professor Meredith James Cox and Drs. Sanford Logan Jones and John L. Meisenheimer Sr. They will be formally recognized in April 2020,” said Dr. Tom Otieno, dean of the College of Science. "Each of them had a long and distinguished career at EKU."
Professor Cox, a native of Cave City in Barren County, KY, taught at EKU from 1924 to 1966. He served 18 months during World War I with the meteorological section, serving in this country and in Europe. Among the highlights of his career at EKU were his service as chair of the Department of Chemistry for more than four decades, development of the pre-medical program, and ten years of service as a sponsor for the pre-medical students’ Caduceus Club.
Dr. Jones grew up in Perry County, KY, and served his country during World War II as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army 15th Air Force, 455th Bombardment Group from 1944-1945. He taught at EKU from 1961 and served as the chair of the Department of Biological Sciences from 1979 until his retirement in 1992. As a faculty member and chair, he fostered an atmosphere of cooperation and collegiate interaction. He was especially committed to premedical education and worked tirelessly to assist students interested in medical or dental school.
Dr. Meisenheimer Sr. grew up in the small village of West Salem, IL. In 1954 he was commissioned in the Air Force and entered the Air Force Weather Officers School at the University of Chicago. After receiving his certification in meteorology, he was assigned to the Weather Detachment at Patrick AFB, FL, and was a launch weather officer at Cape Canaveral, FL. He taught chemistry at EKU from 1963 to 1999. He authored 14 scientific publications and received several EKU teaching excellence awards. As a premedical advisor, he sponsored the Caduceus Club and sat on the executive committee of the Rural Kentucky Medical Scholarship Fund. He was honored as a Kentucky Colonel in 1967 and an EKU Foundation professor in 1994.
The College of Science, in coordination with the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement, constructed a way to recognize these individuals. These professors will be honored by naming a prominent space in the science building after each of them. While honoring these exemplary professors who transformed the lives of our students, it is also an opportunity for their former students, other alumni, and friends of EKU to help recognize their contributions to education by making a gift to the College of Science Endowment for Faculty Success Fund which has been established to support the next generation of iconic professors.
These gifts will provide a reliable source, in perpetuity, of enhanced support for faculty professional development, research, and tools for effective and innovative teaching.
If you would like to make a gift or pledge today and challenge our current and future faculty to become successful professors who change lives the way your own life was changed, visit https://www.alumni.eku.edu/s/1763/index.aspx?sid=1763&pgid=1779&gid=2&cid=4113&ecid=4113&post_id=0.
Data is driving almost every industry in the world and is transforming the way the entire world does business. In this technological world, data is collected on everything from an individual’s favorite color, politics, buying habits and so much more. In going about our daily lives, we have all become sources of data.
So what happens to the data collected? Data Scientists are hired to analyze and project patterns, which can aid in making decisions in a variety of areas such as policy development, business, politics, and education. Forbes magazine and Glassdoor list data scientists as one of the fastest growing job opportunities available today.
Our faculty continually evaluate the curriculum for currency and relevancy, responding to students’ and societal needs through curriculum revision and development. Therefore, in view of the abovementioned developments in the area or data analytics, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics developed a new university certificate program in Applied Data Science. The program is being offered to students for the first time this semester (Fall 2019).
The rapid increase in large, complex data sets has resulted in a great demand for professionals who are trained to manage and analyze them. Data scientists must use their expertise in statistics and computer science and link with social science disciplines to form predictive models. This interdisciplinary field is gaining in popularity, with new programs appearing to tackle the shortage of job applicants in the field.
Dr. Lisa Kay, a professor of statistics, was instrumental in bringing the new curriculum to the College of Science. In 2017, Dr. Kay, with the help from Dr. George Cobb, the 2011 Vernon Wilson Endowed Chair, hosted a Data Science Symposium at Eastern Kentucky University. There was a high level of interest at the symposium. The faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics recognized this interest and moved forward with a proposal to offer an Applied Data Science Certificate. Dr. Kay states, “The certificate provides our students with the opportunity to develop the interdisciplinary skills they need for today’s data-intensive careers.”
The new certificate highlights the interdisciplinary aspects of data analytics by including courses in mathematics and statistics, computer science, and a choice of two additional courses selected from the areas of anthropology and sociology, biology and environmental health sciences, computer information systems, computer science, government, geosciences, or psychology.
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics is well-positioned to implement this new program, as the department is one of only two undergraduate statistics programs in the state of Kentucky. The department has five Ph.D. statisticians, three of whom recently completed a short course in data mining, which strengthens the program.
The certificate, when paired with other degree programs, can enhance job opportunities across the board.
If observing celestial bodies or conducting astronomy research appeals to you, then the EKU Department of Physics and Astronomy Observatory may interest you. Dr. Marco Ciocca, a professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, received a grant from the EKU Foundation Board in 2006 for the construction of the small astronomical observatory. The construction was completed in 2008.
The observatory is located on EKU’s south campus, away from existing structures, to minimize light pollution from city lights and university buildings. The observatory is beside the astronomy deck, which is used by astronomy students in the department to perform two observational laboratory activities, using telescopes and binoculars. Over the years, with further grants from internal and external agencies, the observatory is now equipped with state-of-the-art equipment (telescope and camera) and can be controlled remotely and can be run in full robotic mode.
The observatory consists of two rooms. The first room is insulated against the elements (a “warm” room) and houses the computer used to control the telescope. In this room a network interface allows connection, via a fiber optic cable, to the campus network and the Internet. The other room is equipped with a roll-off roof, controllable remotely, and houses a large telescope with its mount.
The facility is rather unique for a couple of reasons. First, it is located close to campus but far enough away from city lights to allow delicate measurements of star light intensity. Second, due to the complete robotic nature of the mount and the roll-off roof, it is possible to run the telescope without the need of an operator at the computer in the “warm” room.
“A winter night in the middle of a field in 15 ºF temperature is not a comfortable place to be,” Dr. Ciocca said. “Fortunately, my students and I can operate the telescope (and open the roof!) at any time and from anywhere in the world with an internet connection when the atmospheric conditions are suitable for observation. Robotic, in this context, means that once the observation session has been initiated, constant supervision is no longer needed.”
Dr. Ciocca continued, “Through sensors detecting clouds and rain, and even power failures, the robotic system can detect these problems and, through an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), it will place the telescope and telescope mount in a ‘safe’ position and will close the roof without the need of operator intervention. If a sudden storm were to come overhead, the observatory is safe!"
The observatory enables our faculty and students to conduct astronomy research. Light captured by the telescope is collected by a CCD camera. Before reaching the camera, star light passes through filters of predetermined characteristics, thus allowing for the determination of the properties of the star from where the light originated, a process called photometry.
According to Dr. Ciocca, “Photometry is used to determine if the star is a variable one, that is, if its light emission is not constant. If the star is variable with a regular period of recurrence, then one can measure its period. These properties can then be used to deduce the distance of the particular star under study from Earth. Variable stars are, in a nutshell, tools to measure the size of the galaxy and the universe.”
Given the light capturing capabilities of the telescope and the camera (basically, a “light bucket” coupled with the eyes of “owl”), variations of light intensity from very dim (and hence very far) stars can be determined.
As an example, the figure below shows the starlight variation of a star named ASASSN-V J230412.75+581956.3. It is a variable star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. The data shown were collected by Dr. Ciocca and his students in the summer of 2018, and enabled them to conclude that this star is actually a binary star, that is, a pair of stars so close as to be seen a single star, but rotating rapidly around each other and thus creating light variation. These stars rotate around each other once every 16.17 hours. Pretty fast!
Beyond research, Dr. Ciocca points out that “Sometimes it is nice to be able to use the telescope for taking ‘real pictures’. The telescope is capable, in fact, of taking ‘pleasant’ images of objects in the night sky that are not visible to the naked eye because of their dimness.”
In order to obtain a ‘pleasant image,’ all the stars and other objects captured in the image need to be carefully preserved using special filters. This is in contrast to photometry which involves the measurements of light from only one star. The process of acquisition of these images is similar to the one used to acquire data of the type shown previously, but using different filters in the camera. These filters are designed to reproduce the full gamut of colors present in astronomical object but not visible to the naked eyes due to their dimness. Further, more care is needed to produce a pleasant image: photometry involves the measurements of light from ONE star. In “pretty pictures” all the stars and other objects captured in the image need to be carefully preserved.
These images have proven to be strong tools to highlight the activities of the department: many were published on the departmental Facebook page, others are adorning the hallways around the department and two were donated to the library. Everyone likes an astronomical image and these types of images can be strong tools for highlighting the activities of the department in a variety of media.
“The most rewarding part of my job as a department chair is the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people. Our students are very talented, and each one is talented in his or her special way. Working with them and watching them flourish is the most fulfilling part of my job.”
Dr. Ka-Wing Wong has been the chair of the Department of Computer Science at EKU since 2007. Originally from Hong Kong, Dr. Wong received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in computer science from Middle Tennessee State University. He then went on to earn his Ph.D., also in computer science, from Kansas State University in 1990. He came to EKU as an assistant professor in 1990, in what was then Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science. He moved up through the ranks to an associate professor in 1995 and to a professor in 2000.
Throughout his career at EKU, Dr. Wong has engaged students in his scholarly pursuits. “I work with students as much as possible. I try to work with them on research projects in the areas they are specially gifted. These research areas include functional programming, artificial intelligence, robotics, data science, algorithms design, game design, visual novel design, and web design. I am currently working with a student on genetic programming neural network design.”
Under Dr. Wong’s leadership, the Department of Computer Science has witnessed significant accomplishments: the number of computer science students increased from 100 to 400, a B.S. degree program in Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity was established, and a partnership with Kentucky State Police which includes a digital forensics investigation lab in the Memorial Science Building on EKU’s Richmond campus was created. The B.S. degree program in computer science has also been expanded to include several new concentrations for students to choose from, such as Interactive Multimedia, and Artificial Intelligence in Data Science.
The department has also been able to maintain accreditation of the B.S. in Computer Science (general concentration) and the B.S. in Digital Forensics & Cybersecurity degree programs. The former is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the latter by the Forensic Science Education Program Accreditation Commission (FEPAC).
Dr. Wong’s leadership skills are further evidenced by many more accomplishments. He has worked to enhance student engagement by supporting the creation of the Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity Institute, the Gaming Institute, the Machine Learning Deep Learning Lab, the Computer Science Living Learning Community, and the Computer Science Alumni Board. He also established the EKU Computing Job Fair & Mentor Connect and the EKU Computing Symposium, and has organized and hosted the Annual Association for Computing Machinery Southeast Conference in 2018 and the Vector Conference since 2016, both on the Richmond campus.
“I am thankful to have the support from the college, Information Technology, Facilities Management, Conferencing and Events, the university community, students, alumni, and friends outside the University for helping me to achieve these goals. I am blessed with a dream team of faculty, staff, and students that work tirelessly to support our learning community. I would like to thank everyone for their contributions,” said Wong.
"Dr. Wong is a natural leader who works well with both colleagues and students. His research into the future of computer science has led to new concentrations within our computer science program and a new program in digital forensics and cybersecurity. The new additions have given students more options in computer science and resulted in the department's increased student enrollment in recent years," commented Dr. Kuang-Nan Chang, professor in the Department of Computer Science.
Dr. Wong speaks fondly of EKU and the sense of community we have here. Early in his career his mentor, Dr. Bill Janeway, mentored him along his journey. For the first few months, Dr. David Fields and Dr. Don Ryoti took him out to dinner every weekend in order to introduce him to the area and to make him feel welcome. He also had an office mate, Dr. Chongkye Rhee, who still teaches in the department today, support and help him through his transition as a new faculty member. “My transition to EKU could not have been better. I am thankful to have had so many people helping me throughout my career. The lessons I learned then allowed me to do my part in helping others now,” said Dr. Wong.
Being a department chair is not an easy job. According to Dr. Wong, “The most challenging part of my job as a department chair is to handle the many balancing acts I’m presented with each day. Resources will always be limited, but there are so many priorities. At the end of the day, the department has to move forward. There are so many opportunities out there and trying to take advantage of them with limited resources is difficult.”
Overall, Dr. Wong finds his role as a department chair rewarding, “The most rewarding part of my job as a department chair is the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people. Our students are very talented, and each one is talented in his or her special way. Working with them and watching them flourish is the most fulfilling part of my job. Also, I deeply appreciate the collaboration with people within and outside the university community. I am very honored to have the opportunity to work side by side with them to bring forth fruitful results.”
At age 33, Mr. Daniel Draper is a non-traditional student from Williamsburg, Kentucky. He is seeking a B.S. degree in geology with a minor in land survey and a certificate in geographic information science (GIS).
Mr. Draper is the son of a 3rd generation coal miner who went back to school in his thirties to obtain a degree in education and is now a high school teacher in Middlesboro, Kentucky. His mother is employed at Firestone Industrial Products Plan in Williamsburg.
After high school, he attended EKU for one semester but got busy with work responsibilites and did not return. He found jobs working as a tool salesman and a carpenter, but he always wanted to finish a university-level degree. “I always tried to be a decent student, but I didn’t complete my degree when I was younger,” said Mr. Draper.
During the summer of 2017, Mr. Draper’s interest in Daniel Boone led him to retrace this historic figure’s steps through Kentucky. He also bought a boat that summer and spent a lot of time on the water. When he decided to return to EKU to finish his degree, these experiences, the fact that his dad was a coal miner, and a bit of research regarding job growth statistics, led him to seek a degree in geology. “I wanted higher wages, travel opportunities, and the ability to do intellectual work,” said Mr. Draper.
Mr. Draper has been the recipient of the Booth Scholarship for Science and Mathematics for the last three semesters. He is working on two research projects with Dr. Jonathan Malzone, an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences, and also works part-time as a security guard. “Mr. Draper is a quick learner and a creative problem solver. I have been impressed by how fast he picked up scientific programming to conduct his research and how he used it to make new conclusions about groundwater flow in Kentucky,” remarked Dr. Malzone.
Mr. Draper’s secret to keeping up with all of his many commitments is time management. “Time management is the biggest skill I have mastered. I use calendars and checklists like never before and I somehow meet all the deadlines that come at me,” he said.
Dr. Melissa Dieckmann, chair of the Department of Geosciences had this to say about Mr. Draper. “Mr. Draper is a remarkable student for many reasons. He truly defines how EKU is a school of opportunity. Mr. Draper is extremely talented, but circumstances in his early life prevented him from pursuing a college education immediately after high school. Through hard work, responsible financial habits, and perseverance, Mr. Draper was able to save enough money to pursue his dream of a college education at EKU. Because of the generosity of Dr. Gary and Jane Booth, Mr. Draper now has support for his college education based on his academic talent. Mr. Draper makes the most of his opportunities at EKU by participating in professional activities offered by the department and working on multiple research projects, including a collaborative project with the Kentucky Geological Survey’s Earth Analysis Research Laboratory. Mr. Draper has had to fight for every opportunity that he received, but he never loses hope and he is always grateful for the opportunities he has.”
When asked what he likes most about EKU, Mr. Draper replied, “I enjoy the small class sizes, my positive interactions with other students and my professors, and the beautiful campus. I also like the Science Building. I brag about it to everyone. It has such nice labs and I am very impressed by all the technology in the building.”
Mr. Draper’s advice to students is that they need to realize that college is both hard work and a juggling act. He remarked, “Its hard work, but it is a different kind of work than back-breaking labor or dead-end jobs. There are chances to be creative again; to use your mind and talents. It is also a juggling act. There are many irons in the fire and you must find a way to take care of all the tasks for that day.” He continued, “There will be many days spent walking across campus going from office to office, looking for the right person to sign a form or something. You must anticipate that it can be a complicated process with FAFSA and parking and employment, etc. and manage your time appropriately.” Mr. Draper firmly believes that there is nothing better than the sense of accomplishment when you put all the pieces together successfully.
After he graduates from EKU, Mr. Draper would like to attend graduate school. “I would like to be an expert on something. [I’m] not sure on exactly what yet, but I would like to do something that will help Kentucky do better.”
In his free time, Mr. Draper enjoys spending time with friends and family and grilling out.
“I think undergraduate research is one of the most valuable experiences when competing for opportunities post-graduation and that value does not get communicated to undergraduates often enough.”-Dr. Avery Scherer
Dr. Avery Scherer graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology (aquatics option) in 2012 and from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi with Ph.D. degree in marine biology in 2017.
After completing her doctorate, she lived in Mexico for nine months after winning a Fulbright Grant to conduct research on behavioral plasticity in lionfish at El Colegio de la Frontera Sur-Chetumal in the southern Yucatan peninsula.
She then worked for seven months as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, investigating the responses of endemic native fish communities following large scale removals of invasive species.
Dr. Scherer currently works as an ecologist at an environmental consulting company, Cramer Fish Sciences, in West Sacramento, CA. Her office focuses on restoring degraded rivers to support salmonid fisheries, primarily Chinook salmon and steelhead. Dr. Scherer explained her work, “Cramer is very focused on scientific validation of restoration projects to inform adaptive management practices, so I get to design lots of interesting work to study how the ecology of these systems affects the outcomes of the restoration we do. For example, in the spring we piloted a predation tethering study to assess how predation pressure on juvenile salmon varies between the main river channel and the off channel habitat we’ve restored, which is hypothesized to provide refuge from large bodied piscivores. We paired these studies with video monitoring to identify what predators present a risk to salmon in these habitats and how predation interactions differ between native and invasive species.”
When asked to comment on her fondest memories of EKU, Dr. Scherer had plenty to share. “I loved my time at Eastern. It felt like a perfect balance of the benefits of larger universities and the community feel of the smaller schools I looked at. I got a lot of confused questions when, already knowing I wanted to work in marine and aquatic biology, I decided to go to an inland school, but I am so glad I did. The biology education I got at EKU was excellent, largely due to the amazing faculty who are passionate about their students. I was able to have real relationships with them because I wasn’t one of hundreds. I still connect with several of the faculty I worked closely with.”
In addition to personal interactions, she found many other benefits to attending EKU, “The assistance I got through targeted tuition, scholarships, and the honors program meant I had resources to use for additional experiences like study abroad and summer internships. My ability to engage in all these extra opportunities enriched my college experience and prepared me for my next steps in ways I can’t overemphasize.”
As she explained, receiving scholarships contributed immensely to her success, “It was incredibly valuable to me to have these scholarships because the burden of my education on my family was so much less than it would have been otherwise. This was especially true later in my program; my dad was diagnosed with ALS my junior year and passed away the winter of my senior year. I have no idea what my plan would have been at that point if my education wasn’t all but covered by these programs.”
Dr. Scherer was also able to reflect on her undergraduate research experience. “I think undergraduate research is one of the most valuable experiences when competing for opportunities post-graduation and that value does not get communicated to undergraduates often enough. Even having done a couple of research experiences during my bachelor’s, I was caught off-guard with how much of a difference it made. I was so grateful when applying for graduate positions that I had that experience on my CV. That I had carried a project (my honors undergraduate thesis) from planning through data collection and presentation into preparing a manuscript was incredibly valuable for preparing me to advance in my career path.”
Dr. Scherer advises students aspiring to major in ecology that science is an amazing but competitive field. For most of early career ecologists today, the career path doesn’t look anything like it did even five years ago. “I never imagined I’d be working in California streams at a consulting firm when I started as a freshman at EKU,” she said.
She urged current students to be prepared to work hard, to make time for the other parts of life that are important, and to be open to new paths they many have never considered. “The field is changing rapidly, which can mean less of a clear roadmap for a career than might make you comfortable, but it also means there are a lot of new and exciting ways to contribute to our understanding of the planet and how we interact with it.”
Dr. Scherer was born in Louisville, KY, and grew up just across the river in Jeffersonville, IN, and appreciates the unwavering support of her family, “My family has always been incredibly supportive of me and my science dreams. My parents’ love of scuba diving was how my little landlocked self was first introduced to how amazing life under the (water's) surface is. It is hard, when your career always takes you far from home, but my family members are my biggest cheerleaders and are always happy to come explore whatever new area I’ve landed in. I can’t imagine overcoming all the challenges over the years without their support.”
“I started working before first grade selling vegetables in the market place in my hometown. Then, I started selling popsicles, then fish and bananas. I was a shoeshine boy in high school going door to door.”- Dr. Lindy Espina Dejarme
Dr. Lindy Espina Dejarme was born in Buenavista Agusan Del Norte in the Republic of the Philippines. He obtained a B.S. degree in chemistry from Mindanao State University in 1980, a M.S. degree in analytical chemistry from Bucknell University in 1989, and a Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from Purdue University in 1993.
Dr. Dejarme took advantage of every opportunity to expand his knowledge and skills beyond chemistry. This included self-study of engineering topics such as unit operations, engineering thermodynamics and mass balance, as well as taking formal courses in physics and electronics. These experiences allowed him to developed strong skills in diagnosis and repair of analytical instrumentation and other electronic gadgets.
He then secured employment with Battelle Memorial Institute as a Research Leader. As a scientist, he has developed analytical methods for the analysis and detection of chemical warfare agents, biological warfare agents, small molecule and protein-based toxins, illegal drugs, and explosives. With his physics and engineering background, he designed and built analytical instrumentation and laboratory tools, and modified a Boeing 737.
In 2014, Battelle assigned Dr. Dejarme to work at the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant (BGCAPP) in Richmond, Kentucky, as the senior chemist to the multi-billion dollar plant designed to destroy chemical warfare agents H, GB and VX. He developed the analytical methods for GB and VX to verify the process of destruction of these agents at BGCAPP is viable.
The journey to the top was not an easy one. Indeed, Dr. Dejarme’s work history began even before he started formal schooling. “I started working before first grade selling vegetables in the market place in my hometown. Then, I started selling popcicles, then fish and bananas. I was a shoeshine boy in high school going door to door. I was a Collier Books salesman in college. I did not like selling and I did not like school.”
Dr. Dejarme’s early hawking experiences have contributed to his success as a scientist. “My first job after college was teaching physics and chemistry at the university level in the Philippines. Since I started working at Battelle, I use the academic training I have and my selling experience as a kid to tackle any problem that comes my way. As a scientist, I do sell my ideas, yes, I still do selling and love every minute of it.”
Dr. Dejarme is among ten distinguished individuals serving on the Dean’s Development Cabinet in EKU’s College of Science. His engagement with EKU began when he visited EKU as a representative of Battelle. “The enthusiasm of the faculty and staff for their students’ education and the energy associated with it bit me,” he explained.
Sadly, Dr. Dejarme recently lost his wife of over thirty years, B. Elaine Siomko Dejarme, to illness. They have one son Luke Edward Dejarme, who is a graduate of Norwich University, a private military university in Vermont.