Tennessee Tech University


Tennessee Tech University - Cookeville, TN

Sherry Binkley named Ambassador of the Month for September

Attention, open in a new window. PrintE-mail

thumb_Sherry_BinkleySherry Binkley, an admissions and records clerk, promptly helped someone resolve a problem with their university record.

"Ms. Binkly responded promptly when I asked about a problem with my transcript," said Cynthia Bryant, assistant director of the TTU Counseling Center. "She quickly determined a problem with Banner and set out to make the correction."

"Not only was my transcript re-sent with the correction, she sent a letter of explanation to clear up my concern," Bryant said. "Sherry presented quality service and represented TTU in a positive way."

Binkley has been with the university since December 2002.

Ambassador nomination forms are available from TTU’s Human Resource Services or by visiting www.tntech.edu/hr.


Donna Wallis named Ambassador of the Month for August

Attention, open in a new window. PrintE-mail

thumb_DonnaWallis_WebDonna Wallis, a buyer in Purchasing, helped a university department secure a software licensing agreement after years of prior work on the agreement had failed.

"Our department had been trying to purchase very critical software needed for our senior-level students for almost two years," said nominator Becky Asher, Department of Chemical Engineering. "We were very frustrated with the lack of customer service from the [software] company.

"This problem became Donna's at the first of this year. Donna jumped right in to get this taken care of," Asher continued.

After much work, the licensing agreement was signed this summer and the software was ready for the fall semester.

"I am not sure this would be possible without Donna's above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty attitude," Asher said.

Wallis has been with the university since April 2009.

Ambassador nomination forms are available from TTU’s Human Resource Services or by visiting www.tntech.edu/hr.


ChE students earn international, national attention for department

Attention, open in a new window. PrintE-mail

thumb_TTU10465-006Two Tennessee Tech University students have broadened the profile of the university’s chemical engineering program by winning prestigious national awards.

Doctoral student Jennifer Pascal and post-doctoral student Derick Weis took advantage of international and national competitive awards to showcase their research, which both say is a testament to the learning/research environment in their department.

“Jennifer and Derick are among our top students in terms of the quality of research they conduct under the guidance and mentorship of their professors,” said Francis Otuonye, TTU’s associate vice president for research and graduate studies. “The synergy between teaching and research is a strong attribute of our programs.”

Pascal won the 2010 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Separations Division Graduate Student Award, a highly competitive award with a global request for nominations.

A highly productive student with numerous presentations at national meetings and several published papers, Pascal won based on her peer-review paper explaining how to improve separation efficiency in the development of new pharmaceuticals.

“In addition, Jennifer’s models are effective to study protein-modification by either chemical or nano-engineered particle contamination, an area related to environmental-proteomics of great interest for our Center for the Management, Utilization and Protection of Water Resources,” said Pedro Arce, chemical engineering department chairperson.

“With this improvement, we can help shorten the time a clinical diagnosis takes, in some cases from weeks to a day,” said Pascal.

“We use analytical mathematical modeling to find the optimal separation times for biomolecules,” she said. “No other group has been able to achieve that so far.”

Pascal says in the several years she has studied at TTU, she’s seen the department almost triple in size and its students become very active in competitive national conference situations.

“We do have a good reputation,” Pascal said. “And we do just fine against nationally recognized programs. For example, I have presented side by side with students from MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern, to name a few.”

Pascal also says Arce, her adviser, pushes faculty to be better facilitators using his award-winning Hi-PeLE concept as a template that encourages faculty/student interaction. She says that freshmen who come to visit the department during orientation immediately become excited.

“No one else has this environment,” said Pascal, who holds a certificate of Distinction in Major, a program initiated by the chemical engineering department to attract undergraduates to research. She is also a Graduate Diversity Fellow in a program administered by TTU’s Office of Research.

Weis, who has earned three degrees through the department, says you can just look at national and regional awards list and see how many TTU chemical engineering students, undergraduate and graduate, are succeeding. He is a product of a new BS-MS Fast Track program in the department.

“We’re right up there,” said Weiss. “I think you can look at the growth of the undergraduate department and see that research opportunities are really attractive to students.”

Weis speaks from experience. He’s won two National Science Foundation awards: a spot in the International Research Fellowship Program in Fall 2010 and a place in the East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes Fellowship in June 2009.

This fall, the IRFP will take him to Australia, where he spent last summer in collaborative research, to further his work presented in the project  “Computer-Aided Molecular Design of Ionic Liquids for the Pretreatment of Cellulose.”

“Cellulose is an abundant, renewable resource available from plants that can be turned into ethanol and help replace fossil fuels,” said Weis.

“Currently, the cost of cellulose is too high for practical consideration,” he explained. “Environmentally friendly solvents, know as ionic liquids, have been identified for a pretreatment step in the production of cellulosic ethanol as a way to reduce the cost by making it easier for enzymes to break down biomass into fermentable sugars.”

Weis says his work focuses on designing compounds on a computer before they get to the lab to save time and money by knowing the signatures before time-consuming lab work takes place.

Weis has worked with faculty member Don Visco since his undergraduate days in the area of ionic liquids as a way to reduce the cost of biofuels.

“Using Dr. Visco’s computer-aided design we’ve made strides in learning about the synthesis and characterization of these liquids.”

He says the growth he’s seen in the program can be largely attributed to each faculty member having an almost 50/50 balance of teaching and research.

“Dr. Visco always makes time for students,” said Weis. “He works with a combination of different styles, lecture and active learning.”

“Jennifer and Derick’s successes are a great testimonial that students do not necessarily have to move to other universities to become successful in graduate school,” said Arce. “This is a misconception used by some colleagues.

“In fact, with the ‘global or flat world’ of possibilities many research-oriented universities are recruiting their own students, a trend that our department has found very successful.”


Volunteers still needed for Fall Fun Fest

Attention, open in a new window. PrintE-mail

TTU will be coordinating the skate park and the inflatable activities for kids at the Fall Fun Fest again this year.  This is the 3rd annual collaboration with TTU and CityScape on the Fall Fun Fest, which will be held Sept. 10-11.  It is a huge community event that lots of families from Cookeville and the surrounding towns enjoy.  We need volunteers for numerous tasks. If you would like to volunteer for this fun event, contact us ASAP.  Michelle Huddleston @ 931.372.6120 (leave a message) or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Learn more about Fall Fun Fest at http://www.fallfunfest.com/.


Arce advocates new kind of engineer with new learning environment

Attention, open in a new window. PrintE-mail

thumb_ArceIn Pedro Arce’s High Performance Learning Environment engineering classroom, students talk a lot, share information, build on others’ ideas and create new ideas that often fail. But is that any way to educate an engineer?

Absolutely, says Arce, Tennessee Tech University’s chemical engineering department chairperson and advocate for creating a new kind of engineer—creative, innovative and an entrepreneur—who can help solve the world’s grand challenges.

As part of the annual meeting of the Engineering Research Centers Association of the National Science Foundation, Arce gave an invited keynote presentation on his award winning “High Performance Learning Environment, Hi-PeLE.” Arce was selected to describe what is perceived by many as one of the best current practices in engineering education to develop creative and innovative engineers for the 21st Century.

“Our country needs engineers who can help solve the societal challenges we face,” said Arce. “The National Engineering Academy has identified a group of grand challenges where most likely a different kind of engineer would be needed.

“What a Hi-PeLE does is produce an engineer who is less of a conductor and more of a composer. Instead of being an individual that basically maintains and implements the score as written, the new type of engineer will be willing and able to change the score, or even better, write new partitures.”

Recently the U.S. National Academy of Engineering convened experts from around the world, some of the most accomplished engineers and scientists of their generation, at the request of NSF. The panel outlined 14 grand challenges facing the world, including making solar energy economical, providing access to clean water, engineering better medicines, reverse engineering the brain and preventing nuclear terror.

“The characteristics related to the innovation and creativity need to address these challenges are exactly opposite to those used in training and educating the future engineers in the majority of engineering schools today,” said Arce.

"We need engineers who are able to immediately impact the economy with new and more efficient technology. The knowledge economy needs to be replaced by a creative economy,” he continued.

He explained the typical engineering classroom rewards solo playing, individual credit and one right answer. He says the environment, which relies heavily on lectures, is stressful to many and boring to most, and discourages communication.

“A great way to kill innovation and creativity in the future engineers is to tell them there is only one solution for a given problem and that solution comes from the instructor.

“The new environment is based on a simple but powerful principle: Every time that an instructor-based explanation is replaced by a student-based activity, we are bringing an effective learning environment to the students,” Arce said.

This process put the students in the driving seat of creativity and innovation and promotes a composer-style engineer as opposed to the usual conductor-type, he explained. This principle puts the students at the center stage of the learning process and removes the instructor from there to a position as a facilitator of learning

The Hi-PeLE approach necessitates the engagement of all members of a group, says Jeff Thompson, chemical engineering graduate student.

“The success of the group is necessarily dependent upon the ideas and evaluations of each member,” said Thompson. “Therefore, the most successful groups will be the ones who have both spent time thinking about the problem at hand and have provided one or more potential solutions based upon their analysis.”

While this is typical of active and collaborative learning, Hi-PeLE goes beyond to promote innovation and creativity as part of the vital components of the new engineer. In addition to using learning and documentation cycles, Hi-PeLE places students in a team-based environment with functions carefully identified in order to produce innovation. An algorithmic sequence, a new mathematical procedure or an experimental prototype have been used as outcomes.

Arce says the most effective learning environments involve like-minded people who share ideas and don’t care who gets individual credit. They work in a "Group's Genius Mode" where the individual engineer is critically integrated as part of a team and where failure has a new dimension as a catalyst of innovation and not as a penalization of success.

“The most creative people are the ones who fail the most,” he said. “Creativity is inefficient; it takes time and involves a small series of insights to reach a successful solution.

“What is important in the development of the successful engineer for the creative economy is more about the process and less about the product; it’s more critical thinking and less about the exact number from the equation.

“Quoting a colleague, we want students to realize that two plus two is not just four, we want them to realize that it is addition!”

How does Hi-PeLE play to students and instructors? It has been systematically developed and applied in numerous engineering programs in the United States and in Argentina for high school students. It’s becoming an effective technique for the STEM disciplines that promotes a new, innovative and creative approach for the future engineer.

“Engineering is a dynamic profession that encompasses a broad spectrum of technical fields making it an attractive discipline to a wide variety of students with diverse learning styles,” David Huddleston, TTU’s College of Engineering dean, said. “Throughout his career, Dr. Arce has worked to develop and refine engaging learning techniques that can make STEM education appealing to a larger segment of our students.

“Within the framework of creativity and innovation, he extends the tradition of excellence in engineering education that remains a hallmark of our College of Engineering,” Huddleston said.

Chemical engineering professor Don Visco says the approach inspires him to push forward with the technique.

“Seeing the departmental chairperson push the traditional boundaries of instruction through his Hi-PeLE approach has been a sort of invitation to me to explore novel approaches in my own courses,” said Visco. “He is leading by example in the classroom.”

Arce says two challenges are the transformation of the culture in students and in the re-training of the instructors.

“My experience is that, after some initial resistance, students learn the high benefits of the methodology and they are willing to try, and the traditional instructors are one of the richest pools to be transformed into effective facilitators,” said Arce. “Newcomers are usually very enthusiastic about the technique and they champion it immediately.”


Page 5 of 13

Return to Normal View