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UWyo Magazine
University of Wyoming
Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

UWyo Magazine

January 2015 | Vol. 16, No. 2

Engineers Without Borders is completely student run, with ongoing projects in Kenya and Guatemala.

Engineers Without Borders is completely student run, with ongoing projects in Kenya and Guatemala.

Experience of a Lifetime

Students and faculty from the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science share the recipe for an outstanding education.

By Micaela Myers

The University of Wyoming College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) offers an exceptional undergraduate education, featuring hands-on learning and research, caring and accomplished faculty, an active campus life and affordability.

To capitalize on this success, expanded excellence in undergraduate education became a pillar of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative underway at UW (click here to learn more about the initiative). Here, UW’s current and former students share what excellence means to them.


Affordability & Scholarships

Long recognized for its excellent value, CEAS added Undergraduate Excellence Scholarships to attract more top students, including those from out of state. These merit-based scholarships include $6,000 a year renewable for four years—for a total of $24,000. In the first two years of the program, 48 scholarships will be awarded annually, with the number increasing from there.

The scholars program already attracts top students such as Bethany Orrick of Forney, Texas, who planned on attending college in Texas before receiving the scholarship. “I got a letter from CEAS that changed everything,” she says. “Within a couple days I had arranged a flight and was off to visit the campus.

I was blown away, as nearly every hope was exceeded. Until then, only private university campuses had met my expectations. UW has an amazing engineering program, a beautiful campus, friendly people everywhere I looked, and was—ultimately—the most cost effective.”

Orrick, who entered UW in fall 2014, plans to major in both architectural engineering and environment and natural resources. “I hope to develop sustainable structures in the future,” she says.

Steve Barrett, CEAS associate dean for academic programs, says that the scholars program is just one of many potential scholarships for incoming students, including approximately $500,000 available through endowments and a new program that adds to the Trustees’ Scholars Award with funding for a computer and travel.


Faculty & Academics

For many, the accessible and caring faculty set UW apart. “One of the best parts of UW is the faculty because the professors here are so devoted to not only teaching us but oftentimes mentoring us,” says Anita Khannikova of Kazakhstan, who received her bachelor’s from UW in petroleum engineering with honors and is now pursuing her master’s here.

She adds, “The professors in the petroleum department make you think critically and pursue more than you think you can accomplish, which is the most valuable experience you can get out of college.”

Vladimir Alvarado, associate department head of chemical and petroleum engineering, says, “I think we have an informal open-door policy that gives students access to the faculty. We advise the students directly. If you look around the nation, [many colleges] tend to assign the advising to people hired to do that task—that creates a bit of a disconnect. Here, we engage the students directly.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better student experience than what I received at UW,” says Benjamin Vetter, a design engineer for Bobcat Co. in Bismarck, N.D., who received his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in May 2014. “There were countless times as a student I knocked on a faculty member’s door outside of their office hours, and they never hesitated to drop whatever was on their agenda to help answer my questions.”

“I really love the fact that faculty in our department are so approachable,” says Trevor James, who grew up in Torrington and Laramie, Wyo., majored in electrical and computer engineering, and is pursuing his master’s in electrical engineering. “Our class sizes aren’t huge, so you get that personal attention.”

Barrett says programs such as Student Success Services and free engineering tutoring also support students. “We have a number of programs to attract students to come here and ensure that once they come here, they remain successful.”


Hands-on Learning & Research

“The research faculty offer a window for the students to see other aspects of how engineering is evolving,” Alvarado says. “I think that direct window is facilitated by access to the faculty.”

“All the faculty are very active in a variety of things,” says David Bagley, department head of chemical and petroleum engineering. “Students have the opportunity to work in the latest on enhanced oil recovery or unconventional reservoirs, coal conversion and gas-to-liquids research. In our biological engineering program, which is really starting to take off, there are a lot good opportunities for students who are interested in a variety of research projects.”

Chemical engineering student Paige Fischer of Arvada, Colo., who is now working toward her master’s degree, says, “There is ample funding for undergraduate research provided through INBRE and EPSCoR in my experience. The faculty is willing to work with undergraduates who show interest in research and help them on to master’s or doctorate programs if that is their ambition.”

“I participated in an EPSCoR research opportunity my first year,” says Margaret Kimble, who received her bachelor’s and master’s in civil engineering and is now an engineer with GEI Consultants Inc. in Denver. “I got to work on the redesign of a theater rigging system—a wonderful learning experience that opened general design and machining practices to me. I don’t know of many schools that open this kind of opportunity to freshmen.”

“In the summer of 2013, I got involved in undergraduate research,” James says. “My senior design project was developing a target tracking vision system for mobile robots.” James is continuing that research as a graduate student, hoping the target tracking and 3-D vision can help create robots to assist with remote physical therapy. He works with the mobile ad-hoc networking research group, which also helps recruit future students by presenting at Discovery Days and to high school students.

Corporate partnerships create new opportunities for UW students as well, such as the Encana Integrated Simulation Data Center, where students work in teams and have direct access to industry software; the Hess Digital Rock Physics Laboratory; and the new WPX Drilling Simulator Teaching Lab.

“There are other facilities being developed at the Energy Innovation Center, the new Enzi STEM Facility, and further down the road the Engineering Building expansion and renovation,” Alvarado says. (Click here for more information on the new facilities.)

“We’re excited to work more closely with industry, whether it’s internships or seminars,” Bagley adds.  


Student Engagement

“I fell in love with the people, the campus and the atmosphere,” Khannikova says. “I feel at home when I am in Laramie.”

There are more than 250 recognized student organizations at UW, and CEAS is home to more than two dozen professional societies and engineering organizations. “I encourage every first-year student I see to participate in them,” Bagley says, adding that they offer great networking and professional development.

Kimble participated in several student societies, as well as studying urban resilience in disaster-prone areas abroad at the University of Iceland. “UW offers so many different and fantastic opportunities for the students—I dare say there is something for everyone,” she says.

Engineers Without Borders is yet another of those opportunities. “It’s completely student run,” Barrett says. “The ongoing projects include building a school in Kenya and a water supply for a town in Guatemala.”


Future Engineers

Another facet of the Tier-1 Engineering Initiative is a focus on K–14 partnerships, which fosters a pipeline for future engineers. “I think it’s really clear that you’ve got to get kids interested in science, math and engineering when they’re younger, especially if you’re trying to improve the diversity of your student body,” Bagley says.

“A lot of the K–14 initiatives we’re working on involve visiting younger grades to show them what engineers and computer scientists do, and how fun it is,” Barrett says. Students in the engineering societies help with these projects, including demonstrations in their hometown schools.

Bagley says female role models such as Lamia Goual, associate professor for the School of Energy Resources, will also help attract more women to the field.


Foundation for Success

As new students enter CEAS, they can expect a solid foundation. “Because of the experience I had in class, I was able to start working immediately,” Kimble says.

“My experience at UW was excellent,” says Thomas Botts, who graduated with his degree in civil engineering in ’77 and serves as co-chair of the Wyoming Governor’s Energy, Engineering, STEM Integration Task Force. The retired executive vice president of global manufacturing for Royal Dutch Shell, Botts currently serves as a board director for EnPro Industries Inc. and Wood Group. “As I think back, that’s really one of the reasons I’m involved with the task force and the Tier-1 dream is because the foundation that I got from UW and the engineering program helped set me on a course for a pretty successful career. I got to go around the world and do things I never dreamed I would do.”

Women in Engineering

Petroleum engineering student Anita Khannikova performs research in Associate Professor Vladimir Alvarado's lab.

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Dept. 3226
1000 East University Ave.
Laramie, WY 82071-2000
Phone: 307-766-2379
TTY: 307-766-6729
Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu

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