Pratt School of Engineering at Duke

dean'soffice.Memo from the Dean 4/23/07

Dear Members of the Pratt Community:

Our Board of Visitors met Friday and Saturday for its annual spring meeting, and it was very productive. We’re very fortunate to have such a talented and experienced group willing to devote a lot of their valuable time to our School. We discussed a number of topics important to Pratt but perhaps the most exciting is progress toward our new EXCEL facility. It is a key part of our new Strategic Plan to provide integrated undergraduate lecture, laboratory and design experiences, hence the name “Experiential and Collaborative Environment for Learning (EXCEL).”

We’re now looking at a facility of some 120,000 gross square feet, which includes 30,000 square feet for computer science and computer engineering. The bulk of the building will support Pratt’s education initiatives and research. This is beyond the dreaming stage -- it’s a real project. As Charlie Davidson, co-chair of the BOV Building/Infrastructure Committee, said: “It’s reality, it’s needed, and it’s endorsed by the University.”

The University plans to interview architectural firms within the next few weeks. After we obtain the necessary approvals, it will probably take a year to design and plan the facility and 20 months to build it. We don’t know as yet what EXCEL will look like, but it has been decided that it will be located between Hudson and the LSRC.

Saturday was also a good day for volunteering. More than 70 volunteers, many of them Pratt students, spent the day assembling ultra-low-cost phototherapy lights designed to treat jaundice. The light technology was developed by Vijay Anand, MEM ’06, who won last year’s Engineering World Health CUREs nonprofit business competition. Over the past year, EWH has worked with BME graduate student Jon Kuniholm’s company, Tackle Design, to optimize the device design and begin distribution to needy clinics in developing countries. This weekend’s building project generated such a buzz that Rep. David Price and Durham Mayor Bill Bell made an unscheduled visit to Tackle Design after they got wind of it. Read more about the day at: <>.

And Saturday evening we held our annual Engineering Alumni Council awards ceremony. I am pleased to report that Blake S. Wilson E’74 was honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Scott D. Olson E’91 was honored with the Distinguished Young Alumnus Award, and our own Henry Petroski, the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering, was honored with a Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the engineering community and Duke University.

We also honored several outstanding faculty with Distinguished Faculty Awards. Kathryn R. Nightingale, assistant professor of BME, received the Klein Family Distinguished Teaching Award. David J. Brady, Addy Family Professor of ECE, received the Stansell Family Distinguished Research Award. Joseph C. Nadeau, associate CEE professor of the practice, received the Lois and John L. Imhoff Distinguished Teaching Award. Earl H. Dowell, William Holland Hall Professor of MEMS, received the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research. And George A. Truskey, professor and chair of BME, received the Capers and Marion McDonald Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising.

We have a lot of other news as well.

I am appointing ECE Professor April Brown Senior Associate Dean for Research effective July 1 when Professor Rob Clark takes over the helm of MEMS. Professor Brown will facilitate cross-disciplinary research group and center activity, assist in identifying and tracking funding opportunities for faculty, students and staff, and coordinate the activities of the graduate programs across the school. She brings to the position experience as chairperson of ECE and, before coming to Duke, she was associate dean at Georgia Tech and executive assistant for the president of Georgia Tech. She is an author or coauthor of over 250 publications/presentations and is a Fellow of the IEEE, and she has served on numerous committees and editorial boards. We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber in this important position.

Adrian Bejan, J.A. Jones Professor of MEMS, has organized the second Constructal Theory of Social Dynamics Workshop today and Tuesday in Schiciano B of the Fitzpatrick Center. The workshop runs from 8:30 to 5 p.m. today and everyone is invited. It brings together social scientists and engineers to develop a predictive theory of social organization. Specific talks include: "Constructal View of the Scaling Laws of Street Networks - the Dynamics Behind Geometry”; "Majority Discrimination against a Minority: The Analogue of Heat Radiation" and "Canine Constructal Theory: Do Dogs Optimize Globally or Locally?"

BME graduate student Lawrence M. Boyd has been selected to receive one of three Dean's Awards for Excellence in Mentoring. This is the time first time graduate students have been honored for mentoring.

BME Professor Mort Friedman has been asked to serve as one of the two group leaders on organ-specific mechanics at a Summit of Experts in Biomechanics, to be held in Keystone, Colo. in June. The meeting, under the auspices of the U.S. National Committee for Biomechanics, will bring 50 invitees to Keystone to identify new pathways for biomechanics research and applications for the next decade.

The deadline is Friday, April 27, for proposals for grants funded by the Lord Foundation endowment to foster innovative, hands-on experiences for undergraduates to build engineering projects in and out of the classroom, and in cross-disciplinary research. Selection criteria include the quality of the proposed hands-on experience; the impact on the engineering experience of our undergraduates; and the ability to leverage other resources. It is anticipated that six awards of up to $15,000 will be made. Proposals, which should be limited to three pages, should be submitted to Senior Associate Dean Judge Carr (305 Teer, Box 90271). Successful proposals will be announced by June 25.

In last week’s memo, we reported on the Pratt winners of the Duke Start-Up Challenge. We have more good news. A team of MEM students called ImaGyn won the $100,000 CURES competition that was held in conjunction with the Start-Up Challenge. CURES is, of course, a business plan competition for groups developing technology-based social ventures. The ImaGyn team members are Theoderick Tam, Ram Balasubramanian, Adnan Haider, Gauravjit Singh and Wynn Xiao Wu. They are developing a portable colposcope that can be used for timely screening and prevention of cervical cancer in developing countries.

Steve Noneman, a project manager at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center for the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite Mission visited Pratt Friday to give Duke’s newly formed AIAA student chapter a founding plaque. Noneman is the regiuonal director for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Chapter president Stephen Clark, a junior in MEMS, helped organize a pizza luncheon for undergrads, grad students and faculty working in the aeronautics field.

Please note that the CIEMAS deionized water loop will be shut down Friday and Saturday, Aoril 27-28, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. The Facilities Management Department will be performing preventive maintenance and no DI water will be available during this time. Contact Randy Orange with any questions at 919-201-9504 or

There will be an information session from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday in Schiciano A for faculty, staff, and students interested in learning about DukeCapture and DukeStream. This should be of particular interest to faculty because Lectopia (part of DukeCapture) will be a primary topic. Lectopia, the core component of DukeCapture, is an enterprise tool that automates the process of scheduling, recording, and publishing classes and events. Pratt Multimedia Specialist Marc Sperber will conduct the session.

Many of the members of our Board of Visitors saw the Duke men’s lacrosse team beat Army, 11-5, Saturday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium. The No. 3-ranked Blue Devils, winners of six straight, improved to 11-2 while the 19th-ranked Black Knights fell to 6-6. Ed Douglas, who graduated from Pratt last May, is a team co-captain.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson


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