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FALL 2008
VOL. 35, NO. 1

Mark your calendars for Friday, Oct. 16, 2009, when the Badgers play the Hawkeyes.




Way to Go/Way to Grow:
College of Engineering spring appreciation celebration

In May, college faculty and staff mingled at our annual appreciation celebration and, at a special ceremony, congratulated the following award recipients. This year, our event theme was “Way to Go/Way to Grow!”. To create a buzz for the event, we challenged faculty and staff to guess whose baby pictures we displayed. We revealed their “grown-up” identities at the celebration.

2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration

2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration

2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration
2008 spring appreciation celebration

Giri Venkataramanan

The Benjamin Smith Reynolds Award for Excellence in Teaching
Giri Venkataramanan

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Giri Venkataramanan believes that learning involves doing. A hallmark of his classes is the balance of instructional material with practical application. Within his project-based pedagogy, his students gain hands-on experience building products from battery chargers to wind turbines. On evaluations, students describe his courses as “a pleasure,” “a class that really makes you think like an engineer,” and “the most practical, applicable course I’ve ever taken.”

In addition to practical projects, he is known for his knowledgeable, fluent and engaging lectures—which he typically delivers without having to refer to notes, even in a 75-minute class.

A colleague who assessed Venkataramanan’s teaching said, “I was struck by his mastery of both the course content and the instructional materials.” Unimpressed with available textbooks, he prepares notes in the form of technical papers to complement his lectures.

Students on campus and off know they always can find help and advice from the man they call “Professor Giri.” He is remarkably invested in his students, quick to respond to E-mail, and available to help any student who seeks it. He also makes a special effort to interact with distance-learning students, videotaping all his lectures for off-campus pupils.

Venkataramanan is a member of the electrical and computer engineering curriculum committee, was a member of the UW-Madison provost’s committee on evaluating and developing campus-wide guidelines for resources for teaching and learning excellence, and has given more than 40 presentations and workshops about interdisciplinary teaching.

While on a recent sabbatical, Venkataramanan participated in wind-turbine-building projects in rural areas of four countries. His experiences inspired him to develop curriculum that allows students to explore community-based sustainable energy solutions. In spring 2007, he taught a section of Introduction to Engineering (InterEgr 160) that focused on small-scale wind turbines. Students in the course not only learned about the engineering principles of wind energy but also built wind turbines. Such coursework is the beginning of a movement toward a Certificate in Engineering for Energy Sustainability, an initiative that Venkataramanan is spearheading.

“I think that these projects can be seen as a new application of the Wisconsin Idea to integrate research, teaching and outreach in energy conversion in a way that can attract and energize students to use engineering to change lives,” says a colleague. “I think that Giri is opening up a new context for engineering education that realizes and renews the traditions of our university.”

Rolf Reitz

The Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication
Rolf D. Reitz

Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering

With pioneering contributions that span both experimental and computational studies, Rolf Reitz is a world leader in modeling liquid sprays. As a result of his contributions, researchers in academia and industry have made significant advances in internal combustion engine design and performance.

In research of fuel-injected engines, the complexity of fuel-spray behavior and the sheer number of variables—fuel-injection speed, drop size, air flow, drop velocity, and others—restricts researchers’ ability to fully understand the physics of the process. Yet, this very understanding plays an important role in increasing engine efficiency and decreasing emissions. At UW-Madison, Reitz and colleagues focus heavily on diesel engines through the Engine Research Center.

Informed by his experimental research, Reitz has developed computer models that have enabled researchers worldwide to more reliably predict spray behavior. His 1982 paper, “Mechanism of atomization of liquid jets” (authored with Princeton University Mechanical Engineering Professor Frediano Bracco), established a mathematical framework for capturing the physics of liquid spray atomization. It remains the standard reference used to describe diesel spray atomization.

Five years later, Reitz and Ramachandra Diwakar of General Motors Research Laboratories authored the paper, “Structure of high-pressure fuel sprays,” which introduced the element of drop breakup and significantly improved the reliability and accuracy of spray modeling. However, near-nozzle conditions affect diesel spray modeling and Reitz’s 1998 paper, “Modeling the effects of fuel spray characteristics on diesel engine combustion and emissions,” with then-graduate student Mark Patterson, provides extensive refinements to his earlier computational fluid dynamics model. This latest model was key to useful and accurate results.

Aided by his models, Reitz has pioneered the use of computational fluid dynamics to understand basic physical processes and practical methods for reducing emissions and improving fuel economy. “Professor Reitz’s spray modeling approach has quickly gained a worldwide acceptance as a robust modeling approach for atomization and sprays,” says a colleague. “A testimony of the quality of his work is demonstrated by the fact that all commercial computational fluid dynamics software, as well as all open-source computational fluid dynamics software used for modeling two-phase, chemically reactive flows have incorporated Professor Reitz’s spray modeling approach.”

Greg Nellis

James G. Woodburn Award for Excellence in Teaching
Gregory F. Nellis

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Since joining the College of Engineering in 2001, Greg Nellis has built a reputation as a respected cryogenics researcher. However, his true passion is teaching.

He is a leader in incorporating modern software-based analysis tools into the undergraduate curriculum. He has co-organized several workshops on using Engineering Equation Solver (EES), and his use of EES, MATLAB and Maple software in both his undergraduate and graduate courses allows students to explore complex, real-world problems within thermodynamics and heat transfer. In the absence of a heat transfer textbook that employs software tools, he and Mechanical Engineering Professor Sanford Klein are writing one, scheduled for publication in 2009.

Nellis also overhauled the courses he teaches by writing his own comprehensive notes and homework problem sets, with an emphasis on applied problems and practical solutions. His goal is to galvanize his students to learn. In his lectures, he uses familiar examples, such as contact lenses or icy windshields, to illustrate complex principles.

Says one colleague, “He is the epitome of well-organized and efficient when it comes to course management. When I look for a model of how to design, organize and execute a course, I always think first of Professor Nellis.”

The first time Nellis taught Engineering Measurements Laboratory (ME 368), a required course, he re-wrote the entire manual and replaced the traditional prescriptive projects with open-ended experiments he developed himself—all in the span of one winter break.

With his self-designed homework, efficient lectures, technology use and his commitment to quickly replying to student queries at any time of day (or night), Nellis has turned some of the most dreaded courses in the mechanical engineering curriculum into the highest-evaluated the department has ever offered. In their evaluations, his students consistently assert, “The best class I have ever taken,” “The best teacher I have ever had,” “My favorite class,” and “Give this man a raise!”

“I completed Professor Nellis’ course with the skills and confidence that I could approach real heat transfer problems, apply a range of techniques, and be confident about the level of precision of my solution,” says a former student. “There is little greater an educator can give to those who plan to make a career in solving and understanding technical problems.”

Nellis previously received a 2006 Pi Tau Sigma distinguished professor award and a 2007 Polygon award for teaching.

James Blanchard

Harvey Spangler Award for Technology-Enhanced Instruction
James P. Blanchard

Professor of Engineering Physics

An interactive teacher, James (Jake) Blanchard uses technology to engage students on campus and around the world.

After he joined the UW-Madison faculty in 1988, Blanchard began using a new method for teaching computing. Rather than emphasize writing and debugging compiled programs, he taught advanced mathematical software such as Maple and MATLAB to help students understand how they can best use it to solve realistic engineering problems. He developed the course Engineering Problem Solving I (NEEP 271) to help students learn to use this software. In addition, he transformed the course from primarily a lecture-based course into an interactive learning experience in which he speaks briefly and then allows students to solve problems cooperatively. Ultimately, this course (and a related course in civil and environmental engineering) prompted computer sciences faculty to develop a similar course for other engineering departments.

Blanchard also developed an advanced version of NEEP 271 that could be delivered effectively over the Internet to students in the Master of Engineering in Professional Practice (MEPP) program. Since its inception in 1995, he has been involved extensively in the nationally recognized distance-learning program. He was a member of the program planning committee, helped to design the curriculum, serves on the MEPP admissions committee, and teaches in the program. More than 200 students have taken his course, Engineering Problem Solving with Computers (EPD 470). “Jake’s balanced teaching approach reinforced the fundamentals while allowing each student the ability to technically drill deeper in areas that directly impacted our professional work discipline,” says an MEPP alumnus.

To develop EPD 470 for engaging online delivery, Blanchard and other MEPP faculty and staff used such technologies as “Moodle” for course management, “LiveMeeting” for web conferences, “Camtasia” for taped mini-lectures, and “Docushare” for file management. He also created short videos to help market MEPP and has uploaded some of them to the popular video-sharing website YouTube.

As director of the college Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) unit, his contributions included improving CAE facilities; increasing the number of information-technology staff, and expanding student access to engineering software. Says a colleague: “Through his leadership and the innovative efforts he has initiated in technology-enhanced instruction, Jake has already had a positive instructional influence on thousands of students on our campus—and that influence will extend to many thousands more in coming years.”

Kelly Burton

The Bollinger Academic Staff Distinguished Achievement Award
Kelly R. Burton

Senior Student Services Coordinator,
Graduate Engineering Research Scholars

From before they enroll at UW-Madison to beyond their graduation, Kelly Burton strives to create a positive, personal experience for underrepresented minority graduate students in the College of Engineering.

Burton joined the college in 1999 to implement GERS, the Graduate Engineering Scholars Program. Based on Rice University Professor Richard Tapia’s mentorship model, GERS began as a five-year pilot program with the UW-Madison Graduate School. Its goals were to increase underrepresented minority enrollment in and graduation rates from graduate programs within the college. “When I ask a chemical engineer from Puerto Rico or a black mechanical engineer from Tennessee what motivates them to come to Madison, they often respond that, although it is the merit of our departments that drew them to UW-Madison, it is the feeling that they would be cared for and belong to a community that made them feel like they could live in Madison,” says a student. “None of that exists without Kelly.”

Burton recruits students, tracks their applications, and connects them with a faculty member whose research interests match their own. Before the students arrive on campus, Burton ensures they have funding for the duration of their degree program. Through lectures, workshops, social events and regular group meetings, she demonstrates her commitment to the emotional, physical and mental well-being of each student. “Kelly has helped to foster a tightly knit, supportive community among the GERS students that erases feelings of isolation that many diversity students encounter,” says a former student. “As a result, diversity students are more likely to complete their graduate studies at UW-Madison.”

Under Burton, GERS is accomplishing its initial goals. In the college, enrollment of underrepresented minority graduate students increased from 18 in fall 1999 to 51 students in fall 2005; from 2000 through December 2007, 32 students earned MS degrees and 19 students earned PhD degrees. Of those PhD recipients, four accepted faculty positions, two are postdoctoral fellows, and 13 are working in industry, government agencies or at national labs. The Graduate School has promoted the GERS model to other UW-Madison schools and colleges; as a result, the College of Letters & Science, School of Education, and jointly the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and the School of Medicine & Public Health have worked with Burton to establish similar programs. Says a colleague: “She knows the field of diversity not only in theory, but in practice, and not only in her head, but in her heart and on the ground as well.”

Diane Lange

Classified Staff Distinguished Achievement Award
Diane L. Lange

University Services Program Associate B,
Engineering Professional Development

Each day, for more than 30 years as a program associate with the Department of Engineering Professional Development, Diane Lange has focused on meeting people’s needs.

Since joining EPD in 1977, Lange has supported almost 2,000 continuing education courses and worked with more than 20 program directors. When a program director schedules a course, the arrangements fall to Lange. She works closely with the speakers, interacting with them daily to set up transport and lodging, put together course materials such as brochures and handouts, and make sure the classroom is outfitted with any resources and technology the speaker needs.

Working under the pressure of planning numerous conferences, Lange has built a reputation for helpfulness and professionalism. She demonstrates patience and efficiency when handling varied needs and unexpected glitches. Her resourcefulness and unflappable demeanor ensure a positive experience for program directors, conference organizers and participants.

“Diane exhibits considerable flexibility, coordination skill, and persuasiveness in tasks such as soliciting information, arranging schedules, and obtaining course materials from these on-the-go, heavily committed individuals—a testament to her personal skills,” says a colleague.

Lange’s consistent efficiency is even more impressive given the changes in technology over the past 31 years. What began as a job of working with typewriters and parcel post has become a juggling act of digital media, E-mail and fax. According to Lange, “The change is what keeps it interesting.”

Although she enjoys the challenge, a large part of Lange’s motivation comes from pride in representing UW-Madison and the College of Engineering. As a liaison between staff and faculty in the college and outside speakers and course participants, she feels a strong sense of responsibility. “If I do a good job, it’s a good reflection on the department,” she says.

And the image she reflects is stellar. “Diane epitomizes the professionalism, organization, and effectiveness required in a position which extensively interacts with the outside community,” says one speaker. “Diane has been an essential contributor to the success of the conferences sponsored by the College of Engineering.”

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