college of engineering

School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science names new head

CORVALLIS, Ore. – V. John Mathews, an expert in biomedical signal and information processing with a track record for growing research funding and student enrollment, has been selected as the new head of the Oregon State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Mathews comes to Oregon State after 30 years with the University of Utah, where he has been a professor since 1995 and served as chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for four years. Under his leadership, the department's research funding tripled, the state-funded departmental budget grew more than 40 percent, three advanced teaching laboratories were created with industry funding, the number of graduate students nearly doubled and the undergraduate student enrollment increased by 50 percent.

"We're excited to have Professor Mathews join Oregon State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,” said Scott Ashford, dean of OSU’s College of Engineering. “His leadership will build on the school's national reputation as a center of teaching and research excellence and innovation.

“We also will grow the school’s unique approach to collaboration with industry and our college's growing emphasis on precision health and bioengineering,"

Mathews said he is committed to help create a strategic vision and sustain an environment within the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science that attracts and retains the highest-quality faculty, students and staff.

"Great faculty members bring about great teaching, research and relationships with industry – all of which raises a school's reputation, draws top students and produces successful graduates, who not only contribute to industry and society, but who also ultimately give back to the school in powerful and positive ways,” Mathews said.

Mathews' research is in nonlinear and adaptive signal processing and the application of signal processing techniques in audio and communication systems, biomedical engineering and structural health management.

His research has led to development of tools for understanding the evolution of the placental circulation system and relationships between maternal and fetal circulation systems. These tools include a system for early detection of preeclampsia, a disease that affects between six and eight percent of all pregnant women and is one of the major causes of maternal and fetal death.

Research by Mathews' group at the University of Utah is also focused on the functional electrical stimulation of nerve fibers to evoke motor activity in patients with diseases of the central nervous system and neural prosthetic controllers for patients with limb loss.

Mathews has published more than 150 technical papers and is the inventor on seven patents.

He was elected as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2002 for contributions to the theory and application of nonlinear and adaptive filtering, and has held numerous leadership positions with the IEEE Signal Processing Society, including vice president of finance and vice president of conferences, dating back to 2003.

Mathews holds master's and doctoral degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Iowa, and a bachelor's of engineering in electronics and communication engineering from the University of Madras, India.


Steve Clark, 541-737-4875 or steve.clark@oregonstate.edu

Concrete expert to head Civil and Construction Engineering

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A leading researcher in the development of more durable and sustainable concrete has been named the head of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University.

Jason Weiss most recently was the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering at Purdue University, and director of the Pankow Materials Laboratories. At OSU, he will direct the Kiewit Center for Infrastructure and Transportation Research and hold the Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in Engineering.

Weiss is an expert in reducing the potential for cracking in concrete, predicting the service life for concrete pavements and reinforced concrete structures, improving the durability of concrete pavements and structures, and developing improved practices for making concrete more sustainable.

At Purdue, Weiss also explored new educational methods, such as experiential learning, new delivery methods for teaching, peer instruction, specialized graduate short courses, and Internet-based lectures to facilitate continuing education. He is developing specialized course modules in internal curing, service life and sustainability for construction materials.

"My vision as head of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State is to create a welcoming culture that enables faculty, staff and students to succeed in all aspects of the creation, synthesis and transmission of knowledge," Weiss said.

Weiss has authored more than 135 peer-reviewed journal articles and is recipient of the National Science Foundation Career Award and multiple honors in the concrete, construction and engineering fields. He also received 10 awards for teaching and advising at Purdue, including the university’s highest undergraduate teaching honor.

"We're excited to have Jason join our rapidly growing engineering community here at Oregon State," said Scott Ashford, dean of the College of Engineering and the former head of the School of Civil and Construction Engineering. "He brings an excellent combination of research and teaching skills, as well as a visionary approach to leadership."

Media Contact: 

Jason Weiss, 541-737-1885

OSU Open Source Lab improves infrastructure, services

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Open Source Lab in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University has significantly upgraded the FTP service used by the open source software community and increased its download speeds by 900 percent.

This service can now handle millions of additional download requests per day, and serves as a critical link in the distribution of open-source software around the world.

With recent improvements, the lab increased the combined download speed to 30 gigabytes per second, and storage capacity to 9 terabytes, a 50 percent increase over what was previously available. Other performance improvements include a 100 percent increase in peak hard disk throughput, and a 60 percent increased capacity in web traffic.

“We’re on the leading edge,” said Lance Albertson, director of the laboratory. “We’re the only group providing this service using machines with the POWER8 architecture. This upgrade has already been noticed by many of our hosted projects due to the improved speed.”

This cluster, which has locations in New York City, Chicago and Corvallis, Ore., hosts 85 open source software projects, whose users rely on this service to download applications and patches.

The content is mirrored to three servers so that it provides the fastest and most reliable service possible. Users include system administrators from around the world keeping Linux servers up to date, and end-users downloading the latest version of applications such as LibreOffice or Inkscape. In the coming months, the lab plans to open up the service to more projects.

IBM donated the three new servers that made the recent upgrade possible. Additional industry partners for the project included TDS Telecom and Google.

“The OSL has provided hosting services that have been key to our Apache, Power and Open software development programs for many years,” said Keith Brown, director of IBM Systems Technical Strategy & Product Security. “We're continuing to build on that partnership.”

In addition to providing open-source services to the community, the OSL provides Oregon State students with hands-on training in open source development.

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098


Engineering initiatives to make education more inclusive, relevant

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University College of Engineering has been selected to participate in two National Science Foundation initiatives to significantly change engineering education and foster a more inclusive culture of underrepresented minorities and women.

One of the initiatives is part of a multiyear national effort to substantially improve and broaden engineering and computer science education, in order to “revolutionize engineering departments.”

With a five-year, $2 million grant, one of only six of its type in the nation, the OSU School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering plans to substantially change its curriculum to make courses more realistic, consequential, and relevant to the lives of students and embracing of different cultures.

“Many engineering students in the U.S. are still educated using traditional methods developed over many decades,” said Jim Sweeney, professor and head of the school. “What they learn can unintentionally be removed from the context of their lives, identities and future careers as working engineers.”

This results, Sweeney said, in talented students who often leave the profession.

OSU will explore education that better incorporates both curricular and real-world experiences. Problem-based learning, cultural inclusion, and consequential work will hopefully improve the student experience and aid retention, recruitment and graduate numbers. Curricular redesign will take place through nine sophomore and junior-level fundamental engineering classes taken by all chemical engineers, bioengineers, and environmental engineers.

“Students will be able to tie the content in the classroom to the rest of their lives,” Sweeney said. “Our graduates will be dramatically better prepared to apply their knowledge to whatever unpredictable challenges face our society in the years to come.”

In a second NSF-sponsored initiative, the OSU School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering will be one of just five engineering programs in the nation to participate in a new program to increase diversity and foster an inclusive culture for underrepresented minorities and women in mechanical engineering.

The project aims to advance understanding and the experiences of mechanical engineering faculty, staff and students who have been underrepresented in the past. It will study the impact of stereotypes and the process of change-planning and goal-setting in an academic environment.

“Many of the efforts at improving diversity of students in mechanical engineering programs have hit a wall,” said Robert Stone, professor and head of the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering. “There’s a 10-15 percent range nationally for those who identify as female. This program is looking to break through that, and make sure that all of the ways that a mechanical engineering degree can be used to make the world a better place are clearly promoted and included in our curriculum.”

For instance, Stone said, at OSU that includes a humanitarian engineering minor that includes courses on how to understand low-resource environments and communities, and then utilize engineering principles to provide appropriate solutions to the local problems.

“It’s ultimately about making sure all potential students know that they can use mechanical engineering to do good in the world,” he said.

Successful initiatives in these programs are expected to be scaled up for broader national application, officials said. A key goal is to tear down cultural barriers for both students and faculty and create future engineers from all sectors of society.

Story By: 

James Sweeney, 541-737-3769

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OSU student programmers impact highway safety

CORVALLIS, Ore. – An initiative begun 10 years ago by the Oregon Department of Transportation to involve Oregon State University students in innovative software development has grown over the years to include nearly 50 projects, some of which are helping to reduce accidents and save lives.

The initial project involved creating a software system to dispatch road crews from their four centers around the state.

“By automating processes with the dispatch software, we have improved the response to calls by five minutes,” said Lynn Cartwright, project delivery manager for Intelligent Transportation Systems at ODOT. “The work the students have done is saving lives.”

Giving students practical and impactful experiences was one of the reasons ODOT chose Oregon State for their projects. Cartwright said she also hopes it will better expose students to the many job opportunities in state government. In her department, more than 50 percent of employees are eligible to retire in five years.

Other projects that have improved highway safety include RealTime signs that give information on travel time on Oregon Highway 217, and signs at Multnomah Falls that warn visitors if the parking lot is full.

Phillip Carter, a computer science student, said a favorite project was one that retrieved information about a crash site to help ODOT dispatchers. The software can, for example, determine if the site is on a county or state road, which changes who is notified of the crash. A simple click on a map displays information from multiple data sources.

Carter, a graduate this year, said this work allowed him to stay on campus and continue to take classes rather than move elsewhere for an internship which would have delayed his graduation date. He said the specific knowledge he gained with products such as Visual Studio helped him land his job with Microsoft, which he will start this summer.

Mark Clements has watched the partnership with ODOT grow and develop over the years in his position as a manager with the Software Development Group in the Center for Applied Software and Systems at Oregon State, formerly known as the Business Solutions Group. 

“It’s been valuable for both sides,” Clements said. “On our side it's a great source of real-world learning opportunities for the students. And ODOT has benefited from the creativity that the students provide by having an outside perspective.”

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098


Mark Clements, 541-737-9530

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OSU professor wins national mentorship award

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Margaret Burnett, a professor of computer science at Oregon State University, has won a national award for her leadership in encouraging women and minorities to pursue computer science.

The National Center for Women and Information Technology awarded Burnett the Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award at the 2015 NCWIT Summit on Women and IT.

The award honors her achievements in providing outstanding mentorship – 100 percent of her research students have graduated with degrees in computer science or information technology, and 59 percent have gone on to graduate school. About half have been members of underrepresented groups, such as females and ethnic minority groups.

Burnett started her career in 1971 when there were few female computer scientists. She was the first woman hired into management at a 13,000-employee complex of Procter & Gamble, and one of the first two females hired as tenure-track faculty in computer science at OSU. Throughout her career as a professor she has involved undergraduates in her nationally recognized research on human aspects of software development.

Most of her undergraduates are co-authors on at least one conference or journal paper. Several of her students went on to receive fellowships from Google, the National Science Foundation, and the National Physical Sciences Consortium, and one became a Rhodes Scholar finalist.

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098, Rachel.robertson@oregonstate.edu


Margaret Burnett, 541-737-2539, burnett@eecs.oregonstate.edu

Earthquake preparations need to start now, OSU dean advises federal officials

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Developing the resilience to withstand a massive earthquake along the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia Subduction Zone is the responsibility of public agencies, private businesses and individuals, and that work should be under way now, Oregon State University’s Scott Ashford advised Congressional leaders this week in Washington, D.C.

“It will take 50 years for us to prepare for this impending earthquake,” Scott Ashford, Kearney Professor and dean of the OSU College of Engineering, said in testimony this week before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.

“The time to act is before you have the earthquake. Everybody needs to take some responsibility and start preparing now.”

Earthquake preparation – or lack thereof – is not an issue unique to Oregon, Ashford noted – 42 U.S. states have significant earthquake faults. Recent research on the New Madrid Fault Line indicates the risk of earthquakes is much higher than previously thought in this major seismic zone that spans seven states, including Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi.

“In Alaska, Hawaii and California, you don’t have to convince people there is a risk of earthquakes, but we haven’t had much earthquake activity in the Midwest, so preparedness is not a top-of-mind concern for residents in this region,” said Ashford, an international expert who has studied the impact of subduction zone earthquakes in much of the Pacific Rim, including the devastating 2011 quake in Japan.

The focus of the Congressional hearing was planning and preparing for seismic hazards in the Pacific Northwest. The region is vulnerable to the threat of a mega, 9.0-magnitude earthquake, which could significantly damage roads, bridges, buildings, sewers, gas and water lines, electrical system and more across the region.

Ashford urged the committee to support three federal initiatives:

  • Investments in more resilient transportation networks that will be critical to rescue, relief, and recovery efforts following a natural disaster, and required for the economy to recover following an earthquake
  • Partnerships with states to require seismic resilience of federally regulated utilities that transport liquid fuel through pipelines and that supply the majority of a state’s population such as in Oregon
  • Investments in applied research to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used most effectively as private companies, the public, and local, state and federal agencies work to improve resilience to an eventual massive earthquake.

Business and governmental leaders in Oregon have begun to prepare for a mega-quake. The Oregon Resilience Plan, which was completed in early 2013, outlines more than 140 recommendations to reduce risk and improve recovery from a massive earthquake and tsunami that is anticipated on the Cascadia Subduction Zone. In 2014, the Governor’s Task Force on Resilience Plan Implementation, chaired by Ashford, submitted to the Oregon legislature a comprehensive program to save lives, mitigate damage and prepare for a costly, life-threatening disaster that is seen as both catastrophic and inevitable.

“The house subcommittee wanted to know what our task force had learned in Oregon through the Oregon Resilience Plan project and how our recommendations can serve as models to help other states,” Ashford said.

Oregon State has also established the Cascadia Lifelines Program, a research initiative to help improve critical infrastructure performance during an anticipated major earthquake. Partners in the program include public agencies and private utilities such as Portland General Electric and Northwest Natural Gas.

“The agencies are working collectively on this issue,” Ashford said. “Orchestrating the actions, agendas and investments in research of different stakeholders is a big step in the right direction.”

More research is needed to determine how best to identify and mitigate problems stemming from a massive earthquake.

“OSU research helps quantify the risks and determine how, in Oregon, we can address those risks,” Ashford said. “We can’t simply replace all of our existing infrastructure. We may need to find ways to retrofit, replace or repair things quickly after an earthquake.”

One thing individuals can do is establish an emergency plan and keep on hand enough provisions such as food, water and medicine to survive up to 14 days without outside aid. In a major quake, many roads will likely be inaccessible and power could be out for weeks or longer, Ashford said.

“People are going to be on their own a lot longer than previously thought,” he said. 

A video of Ashford’s testimony at the congressional hearing is available online: http://1.usa.gov/1JY4EUt. A written transcript is also available: http://1.usa.gov/1PxuENx.

Story By: 

Scott Ashford, 541-737-4934, scott.ashford@oregonstate.edu

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Scott Ashford

New energy sensors at OSU will test local electric grid

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A new energy test bed using cutting-edge sensor technology has been located at Oregon State University, designed to gain a better understanding of the local electric grid.

The Bonneville Power Administration awarded a $350,000 grant to develop a system that will provide a detailed analysis of load composition and power use. The project should help accommodate new types of load demands and new sources of renewable energy, such as wind and wave energy, while averting blackouts.

The sensors, called phasor measurement units or “synchrophasors,” can take voltage and current measurements 60 times a second, compared to standard sensors that take measurements every two to four seconds. All data will be time-stamped and synchronized with a common clock, allowing researchers to track electrical spikes and other anomalies throughout the grid.

A better understanding of these anomalies could eventually lead to a “smart grid” that can automatically detect blackout warning signs and disconnect portions of the grid to protect critical loads.

“These synchrophasors will allow us to develop better load models,” said Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez, an OSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and leader of this project. “Currently, our cascading power outage analysis assumes the campus load to be like a giant toaster – a big resistor that doesn’t change over time – but reality is much more complex.

“We won’t be able to have accurate models until we have a better understanding of the load composition and time-varying demands.”

Three of the synchrophasors have already been installed, and a total of seven will measure a variety of load types. The campus locations for the sensors include the Energy Center, the Salmon Disease Lab, Snell Hall, the photovoltaic array on Campus Way, and the Wallace Energy Systems and Renewables Facility. Two off-campus locations include a platinum foundry in Albany, and one near Newport at the future wave energy testing center, in collaboration with Consumers Power and Central Lincoln PUD.

In addition to the research benefits, the project will allow OSU students to learn about the advanced technology. Graduate students involved in the installation and management of the system are getting hands-on experiences with the all the steps in the chain, from connecting the current transformer to data management and machine learning, which incorporates both electrical engineering and computer science.

“Our students will really have an advantage by being exposed to this technology and having the opportunity to work directly with the local utility companies,” Cotilla-Sanchez said.

In addition to the local utilities, the project involves collaborators from the BPA, OSU Facilities Services, OSU Information Services, and the College of Engineering information technology department.

Media Contact: 

Rachel Robertson, 541-737-7098


Eduardo Cotilla-Sanchez, 541-737- 8926

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Professional workshop to explore surging interest in the “Internet of Things”

PORTLAND, Ore. – A workshop on May 14-15 in Portland will bring together representatives from industry, universities, federal laboratories and state economic agencies to explore the manufacturing of “Smart Goods,” which are future products that underlie the “Internet of Things” and reflect a growing societal trend.

The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is being organized by Oregon State University, along with four other regional university partners.

Topics of discussion will include the needs of users, developers and manufacturers of state-of-the-art smart goods, which possess wireless sensors and actuators to interact with cloud computing and allow better decision making or autonomous response.

The event will be at the Embassy Suites Downtown Portland. More information on the program, registration fees, speakers and topics can be found online at http://pnwsmartgoodsmfg.com

In the first wave of the internet, about one billion devices were interconnected, and smart phones and tablets brought another two billion devices. However, experts say that as many as 50 billion embedded and internet-connected devices - smart light bulbs, utility meters and autonomous vehicles - are projected to be on the Internet by the end of this decade.

Some of these goods may require small wireless sensors with logic chips having very low power consumption, challenging conventional wisdom about semiconductor design and manufacturing.

Speakers at the workshop include industry leaders that use and develop manufacturing technologies for the next generation of smart goods.  Presentations will address some of the challenges for both large and small companies in developing smart goods with increased levels of performance at lower cost.

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Brian Paul, 541-737-7320

Initiative to make OSU a national leader in construction safety research

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The College of Engineering at Oregon State University is developing one of the leading facilities in the world to improve safety for construction workers and the general public.

A $1 million grant announced today from Knife River Corporation and MDU Construction Services Group will help support creation of this laboratory, which will be called the MDU Resources Group Construction Safety Laboratory, officials said.

“This lab establishes us as the principal national facility for construction and transportation safety research and education,” said Scott Ashford, the dean and Kearney Professor of Engineering at the OSU College of Engineering.

“We’re delighted to partner with Knife River and MDU Construction Services Group on this critically important project,” Ashford said. “These two companies are industry leaders in safety, and their commitment to our program will allow us to further advance processes and technologies that will help to better prevent workplace injuries.”

When complete, the lab will have two components to create a virtual construction environment that replicates real-world jobsites. An interactive, high-definition projection system will allow multiple users to conduct sample work operations without actually putting workers at risk for injury. And a connected driving simulator will help evaluate driver and worker actions as vehicles pass through a work zone.

“This project provides a virtual environment where industry and academia can work together on real-world solutions,” said Jeff Thiede, president and CEO of MDU Construction Services Group.

The lab will also expand and enhance an initiative begun several years ago at OSU to yield major improvements in worker safety by emphasizing “prevention through design.” This concept emphasizes safety consideration at the very design stage to make buildings, bridges, roadways and other structures safer both to build and to maintain.

“There’s a long history in the construction industry of architects and design engineers leaving construction safety up to the builder or contractor, saying it wasn’t really the designer’s concern,” said John Gambatese, an OSU professor of civil engineering, leader in this new movement and a national expert in construction design and safety.

“Some of this dates historically to the separation between owner, architect, contractor, maintenance and construction worker,” Gambatese said. “There are also legal and liability issues. But there are many ways we can improve construction safety with this approach.”

OSU researchers and other experts eventually see construction safety, both in design and job-site activities, as becoming one component of “green” construction concepts, and adding a social aspect to the idea of sustainability. Based in part on OSU research, the U.S. Green Building Council recently added a pilot “prevention through design” credit to their rating system for sustainable buildings.

This emphasis on safety is needed, OSU researchers said. Construction is a traditionally dangerous profession, with such risks as falls from an elevated height, electrocution, trench cave-ins, and many lesser workplace injuries.

The new laboratory at OSU will be able to simulate some of these situations on the jobsite, helping to identify safer ways to work while also studying improved productivity and minimizing costs, officials said.

Story By: 

Scott Ashford, 541-737-5232

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