Student Profile: Q&A with Jawanza Bassue

Jawanza Bassue is a junior aerospace engineering major from Basseterre, a town in the small Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis.  Apart from his studies, Jawanza is a photographer whose work has been featured in a National Geographic publication. He is a student photographer for OU Information Technology where he takes pictures across campus.  Many of the beautiful photos you see in AME publications are his work. 

How did you hear about OU’s Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering program?

I stumbled on to OU’s Design Build Fly team successes.  I jumped at the chance to be at an institution that did fun competitions and was nationally recognized for all of its engineering programs.

Why did you choose OU?

I tell everyone that it’s great to grow up on a beautiful Caribbean island but, until you’re challenged outside of your comfort zone, your character growth is limited.  I looked forward to a challenge and a great place to explore. Haven’t regretted or my decision once since.

What makes you want to be an AE major?

Besides my love for science and technology, I’ve always had a passion for flight, travel and airplanes. I dabbled with the idea of becoming a professional pilot, but I realized that someday I would love to be a part of the team that had “the next great engineering  idea.”  Being able to create something on the level of Boeing’s 787 was my motivation. In the end, art and science, coupled with my passion for design and flight made Aerospace Engineering seem like the perfect avenue to explore.

What do you want to do when you finish your degree?

I hope to land a design or customer interaction job for a major (or minor) aircraft manufacturer or part supplier.  My dream job would see me interacting with a customer with unique needs or specifications for an aeronautic application then being a part of the team that designs the components of a great new aircraft.

I have already decided I will use my new-found knowledge in the education system back in my homeland, encouraging younger students to consider a degree in engineering. Another thought I’ve had is if I have the energy and/or finances available, I’d love to expand my undergraduate degree into a graduate research project. I dream big.

How has your photography helped you to connect to OU and AME?

I have been able to interact with the people who really make OU tick behind the scenes. From meeting the likes of Sarah Warren at AME to being on first-name basis with President Boren and the lovable Clarke Stroud, university vice president for student affairs and dean of students – I think I have shed lots of photographic cheer to hundreds of staff and students at OU.

At AME however, I get the unique chance to see what other students are doing for capstone projects, witness groundbreaking graduate research and get the inside scoop on available opportunities.  I’ve become a regular site around the engineering buildings, wielding my almighty camera gear.

Do you hope to merge your photography and engineering in your career?

Yes. I hope to use my artistic talents to bring something unique to the engineering circle.  It’s not every day an employer gets to hire a young engineer who just happens to be a semi-professional and accomplished photographer who has good business and marketing sense.

What advice do you have someone who has a skill outside of engineering that they want to continue developing while a student?

Find a way to use the school to your advantage. Target people around OU who you see every day that can help you take your skill from hobby, to a successful business or enrich your engineering degree. In the end, employers seem to be looking for the engineer with a difference.

What is your favorite picture you’ve taken of the OU campus?

My night shot of the Bizzell Library done in a High Dynamic Range (HDR) my freshman year.

OU Library

Bizzell Library, photo by Jawanza Bassue

What is your favorite picture you’ve ever taken of a person or of people?

During Carnival season in my home country of St. Kitts I took this black and white portrait of a “Rasta-man” (possibly of the Rastafarian religion). It has always been my favorite just because of the strong features of his face, his hair, and the way he tells the story of a lifetime with his eyes.

Rasta Man, photo by Jawanza Bassue


Inside AME: The AME Shop

Today we welcome guest blogger Billy Mays, AME Shop Supervisor.

One of the most popular labs at AME is the AME Shop.  Facilitated by shop personnel Billy Mays and Greg Williams, the AME Shop not only provides students with hands-on engineering experience, but also supports AME’s teaching labs, class projects, capstone projects, faculty research initiatives and competitive teams.   

Billy and Greg

Billy Mays (L) and Greg Williams (R) run the AME Shop.

By Billy Mays

We at the AME Machine Shop invite AME students to stop by and learn more about us.

The AME Shop is a fully functional machine shop with a diversified group of equipment: manual lathes, manual mills, welding equipment, sheet metal equipment, a CNC lathe, mills and router, and other supporting equipment.

We help students take their projects from computational simulations to a finished product, while creating hands-on, project-based learning opportunities for you.  We want to get to know more about you and your projects.

When students work with us, they have a safety net of experts standing by to help if they run into trouble, and we train students with the necessary safety and operation of the equipment they will use for building projects.

Students who make use of the AME Shop during their time at AME graduate with a greater understanding of the design processes and have experience with manufacturing.  Their project completion times from computer to product are generally shorter, and once they start a job, their time between training and becoming a productive engineer is less.

Along with working with students, the AME Shop supports experimental projects for undergraduates and graduates students, class room projects, senior capstone projects, graduate research projects, faculty research, and AME’s four competitive teams – Design/Build/Fly, Sooner Off-Road, Sooner Powered Vehicle and Sooner Racing Team.

We help with everything from design challenges and equipment capabilities, material procurement, to the necessary cutters and tooling needed to successfully complete the project.  We also help with a test run of the project.

The AME machine shop is truly a student use shop.

Students and alumni, let us know how working in the AME Shop has impacted your work as an engineer!


Students in Dr. Siddique's Pre- Capstone course test their projects in the AME Shop.

Dr. Gollahalli Named AIAA Fellow

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics recently announced that S.R. Gollahalli, AME professor, Lesch Centennial Chair and former AME director, was selected to become an AIAA Fellow in 2012. He will be honored at a Gala in Washington, DC later this year.

This distinction, among the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an aerospace professional, places Gollahalli in a small and elite group of aerospace professionals throughout the world selected for their notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences, or technology of aeronautics and astronautics.

“Sub Gollahalli is a wonderful ambassador for the engineering profession and the OU College of Engineering. His technical expertise in the field of combustion is vital to aerospace propulsion systems. He led the School of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering during a very important period of research, teaching and technology innovation. His students are in many technical and managerial leadership positions around the world,” said Tom Landers, dean of the College of Engineering.

Gollahalli came to the University of Oklahoma in 1976. He is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of energy and combustion, and from 2001-2009, he served two consecutive terms as AME director.

In 1991, Gollahalli was named a fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Among his notable achievements are the 2005 George Westinghouse Gold medal by ASME for his life time contributions to the power area, and the 2001 Energy Systems Award from AIAA for distinguished contributions to education, research, professional service and advancement of the field of energy and combustion. He is also a recipient of the university’s top teaching award.

Dr. Gollahalli in his combustion lab

In his role as a full-time teacher for 45 years, Gollahalli has mentored 80 graduate students and dozens of undergraduate students in his research lab. He has also mentored several post-doctoral fellows and junior faculty members involving them in his research.

“Dr. Gollahalli taught me not only combustion, but how to be a responsible researcher. Whatever success I have is because he trained me,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso who studied under Gollahalli for his master’s and doctorate degrees.

Dr. Gollahalli remains a favorite professor at AME, and continues to influence the field of combustion, clean energy and power, while also influencing the lives of his students.

AME Student Attends Engineering Entrepreneurship Trip in Austin, Texas

By Maryam SabeghiAustin Trip

I am a senior studying mechanical engineering. In the past years I focused on my classes and grades. Although being a top student is a dream come true, just as important is being prepared to step into a company or business and use my academic knowledge.

This semester I was honored to be an Entrepreneurship Austin trip attendee along with 15 other students who were either business or engineering majors. This trip was four days long and arranged by the College of Business and the College of Engineering. In this trip, we visited many companies, some well-known such as Dell, IBM and National Instruments and other small, but magnificent companies like AcademicWorks, TVA Medical and Blue Avocado. This trip helped me to not only find my role models for my future career planning, but also improve my self-confidence as a female engineer.

“I realized that engineering and business are tied into one another. Many engineers who hold top positions in big companies have great knowledge of marketing, business and financing.”

The most important question I had before going to this trip was, how did these people got to where they are now?  Most of the company owners told us that they started from scratch and failed a couple of times before they got to where they are now.

We were invited to the house of Mike McConnell, president of Jones Energy. He introduced us the book, Who Moved My Cheese.

“If you want to be successful in business, you have to like change,” said Mike. He told us how he failed in his career, but he did not give up and started over again.

This to me is a true success and passion, where you do not give up, even though you have failed badly and lost everything. In another visit to AcademicWork, the co-founders were four young engineers and businessmen. They described the first place where they started their company.  It was very small and mice ran all over the place, and even then, the founders were kicked out and had to start over. I learned that I can be one of them if I am passionate about what I do. Nothing should stop me, not even an old office with mice running all over it, or even lack of money.

As a female engineer, I have always wondered how to become successful and hold high positions in companies. I met very successful women who are great leaders and who motivated me to be one.  Blue Avocado was founded and is led by three women.  The company makes bags from recycled plastic bags. These businesswomen started the company and grew it to perfection. I also met an entrepreneur female, Carrie Arsenault, who established her company, Accountability Resources, which was ranked the top five in the Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work. She is successful and a great mother of two. Anyone would be proud to see these passionate and successful businesswomen and engineers who have transformed the characteristics of women in society.  Being confident, determined, willing to try, fail, and try again are factors that they all emphasized as important bridge to success.

Phil Gilbert, IBM vice president of business process & decision management, told the female students, “We need more female engineers, we need you here.”

I learned a lot in this trip and I was proud to attend as a mechanical engineering student.

I would like to thank Dr. Farrokh Mistree for nominating me and the College of Engineering committee, Mr. Brooks and Mrs. Hughes, who selected me to be part of this trip. It was a great experiment for me and I will never forget it.



AME Taking Entries for Outstanding Student Awards

Attention AME Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors: It’s time to recognize some of AME’s top students!

Every year AME gives six Outstanding Student Awards, honoring one AE and one ME student from the sophomore class, the junior class and the senior class.  Recipients will be selected based on scholastic achievement and additional activities.

All award recipients will be invited to a luncheon in April with AME’s Board of Advisors where they will be honored for their achievements and given a cash award.  The recipients of the  Outstanding Senior Awards will also be recognized during the Campus Award Ceremony on March 30, 2012.

The application is due by 5 p.m. on Friday, February 17, 2012, to Sarah Warren in Felgar Hall 219.


  • One-page essay about yourself
  • One-page resume (include your current mailing address AND your parents’ address, as you will both be notified by mail if you receive an award).
  • Copy of your latest unofficial transcript
  • Completed talent release form

If you have any additional questions, contact Sarah Warren or Suzi Skinner.

Good luck!


Fundamentals of Engineering Exam Information & Sign-Up Day

Don’t forget, the deadline to sign up for the FE Exam is this Wednesday! 

AME reimburses the $50 exam fee* for all AE and ME students who pass the FE Exam, so if you are interested in someday obtaining your PE license, we encourage you to take the FE exam while you are still a student!
*The AME reimburses the $50 exam fee, but not the $50 application fee.

Check out the information below:

Staff members of the State Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers & Land Surveyors will answer questions & assist you in filling out your application forms for the April 14 FE Examination.

When: Wed., January 25, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
Where:  Carson, 1st floor lobby

What to bring:
•    $50 check or money order made out to Ok State Board of PE & LS
•    Typewritten Completed application from the website (
mail your application to our office at:
State Board of PE & LS, 201 NE 27th St., Room 120, Oklahoma City, OK  73105

Who Qualifies:
•    Students with 90 hours towards their engineering or related science degree

General Exam Info:
•    Cut-off date for receiving applications – Feb. 1
•    Exam Date –  Saturday, April 14, OU Campus

For more information, email


Here’s to You, Dr. Bert

Dr. Bert
Dr. Bert and many other former and current faculty members and friends joined in the festivities of Dr. Bert’s induction into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.
Seated – (L-R) Billy Crynes, CoE professor emeritus and Maurice Rasmussen and AME professor emeritus
Standing – (L-R) John Fagan, ECE professor and former recipient; Ken Barnes, AME alumnus and Board of Advisor member; Tom Love, AME professor emeritus and former AME director; Davis Egle, AME professor emeritus and former AME director; Charles W. Bert III, AME professor emeritus and recipient; John Francis, professor emeritus and Board of Advisor member; Faramarz Gordaninejad – a former student of Dr. Bert who is a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Congratulations to AME emeritus faculty Charles Bert who was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society.

Bert taught at AME for 41 years and directed its School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering for a combined 11 years.  He retired from OU in 2004.

Charles B. Bert is known internationally for his contributions to the field of mechanics with a special emphasis in the analysis, design and manufacture of composite materials.  He is the recipient of the highest recognition for research at the University of Oklahoma –  the George Lynn Cross Research Professorship.

His contributions to the profession have been recognized by his being elected to the grade of Fellow of seven major professional organizations:  American Academy of Mechanics, American Society for the Advancement of Science, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society for Experimental Mechanics, the American Society of Composites and the Society of Engineering Science.

Bert has published one monograph, 13 book chapters and 205 full-length, refereed articles in archival journals.  He has graduated 26  doctoral students and 40 students with masters degrees.  He has developed several new courses for both undergraduate and graduate students, and served with distinction as the director of the School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.

If you have any well wishes for Dr. Bert, please post them as a comment and we will pass them along to him.


Dr. Bert. Picture taken in 2001.

Fall 2011 Featured Alum: Q&A with Aaron Beese Bachelor’s of Science, Mechanical Engineering, 2003

Aaron and Laura touring Northwest Oklahoma

Aaron Beese’s sense of adventure has paved the way for a life of adventure within the field of mechanical engineering. While an honors student at AME, Beese helped found AME’s first Human Powered Vehicle team and created a single-wheeled bicycle cargo trailer that accompanied him on a bicycle trip from Virginia to Alaska for his honors thesis.

In 2009, after a year of marriage, Beese and his wife, Laura (Music Education, 2005), quit their jobs and began the adventure of a lifetime: a trek on a semi-recumbent tandem bicycle to the centroid, or geographic center, of every state in the United States. With a few states still to go, they’ve now settled down in Oregon, where Beese is a design engineer for Burley Design.

How did your education at AME help you to be successful in your career?

The biggest contributors were the opportunities I had for hands-on design projects.  The Honors College allowed me to create my own thesis project that combined my passions for engineering, cycling, and travel.  For this project I designed and built a single-wheeled bicycle cargo trailer, which I then used after graduation to bicycle from Virginia to Alaska.  The design and analysis aspect of this project was made possible by the exceptional CAD/FEA courses taught by Dr. Chang, while Billy Mays and the machine shop guys gave extensive guidance during the fabrication of the trailer.  The Honors College allowed me to present my work to others and covered all project expenses through their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.

For my senior capstone project, I was again able to tailor my education according to my interests.  AME allowed a group of us to create our own capstone project by starting OU’s first ever team to compete in the ASME Human Powered Vehicle competition.  We had an outstanding team of hard-working and creative engineers, and we managed to place first nationally in the utility category as a first-year team.  This project was most comprehensive, most challenging and most fun work I did during my undergraduate education.  I believe at least two of my former HPV teammates have also found jobs in the bicycle industry.

These two practical projects that encompassed the entire design and production process have been immeasurably helpful in both obtaining engineering work in the bicycle industry and in the daily execution of my job.

Why did you choose OU to pursue your degree?

Having grown up just outside of Norman, I had been a Sooner fan from the beginning.  Yet when it came time to choose a university, I was excited by the prospect of living and studying in a new part of the country.  In the end, however, the National Scholars Office at OU was extremely effective at recruitment, and the offer OU extends to National Merit Scholars was unbeatable.  The years since have given me no reason to doubt that decision, and in fact many of the incredible experiences I have had since graduation would likely have been impossible had I chosen to attend a school that would have left me saddled with a mountain of student debt.  Attending a high-value university like OU with great scholarship opportunities opened the door for my bicycle trip to Alaska, my year of working in Nepal for a non-profit designing bridges, and my fifty state bicycle tour with my wife.


Beese pic 5

At Kentucky Falls, Oregon.


Most newlyweds don’t quit their jobs and ride a tandem bike to all 50 states.  Tell us about that trip.

The idea to bicycle to the exact geographic center of each of the fifty states evolved slowly.  The idea got rolling after I read an article in Backpacker magazine about “highpointing,” which is the goal to hike/climb to the highest point in each of the fifty states.  I liked the idea of a journey that would allow me to see all fifty states, yet even though I love hiking and the mountains, I wasn’t sure that highpointing was for me.  My first bike tour (Virginia to Alaska after graduation) had shown me that some of the best parts of traveling are the spontaneous and authentic interactions you have with people along the way.  This is especially true of bicycle touring, since people often invite you into their homes.  I also wasn’t sure that the highest point was necessarily the best way to get a feel for a state I’d never been to, since I knew that Oklahoma’s high point (Black Mesa) was just a few miles from the northwestern most point in the state and looked much more like New Mexico than the rest of Oklahoma.  So I came up with the idea of the geographic center—this would force me to go all the way through each state and not merely tap my toe in the corner and check it off the list.  It would also give a very precise, if arbitrary destination within each state that would take me to someplace that most people would never think to consider as a “travel destination”.

Shortly after I had the idea for this trip, I met Laura, who would later become my wife.  She was excited (and scared) by the trip, and after a year of marriage, working, and saving, we set off on our tandem bicycle.  Now, 45 states and 17,000 miles later, we feel like we’ve experienced more together in a few years than many people do in a lifetime.  Many times, our quest for the geographic center took us into the lives of the people who lived or worked at the center.  In Missouri and Kansas, the center was on a farm that had been in one family for over a century; in both places we met four generations of the family who still lived and worked the farm.  Rhode Island was the only state (so far) whose center was indoors: it was inside a small independent music store, where we spent several hour chatting with the owner and his wife.  In Delaware, the family living nearest to the center invited us to stay all day so that we could take part in their large family crab bake that evening; in the morning, they took us to the nearby plant where space suits and blimps are made.  In the west, many centers were in remote places that took us far off the beaten tourist tracks and into beautiful mountains and deserts.  In short—the trip took us to innumerable places that one could never predict or plan for, but were nonetheless interesting and surprising.

The Beese's first day in Hawaii, leis and all.


You stayed with an OU engineering alum on their farm in Hawaii?  What was that like?

Our plan was for a two year journey, with two breaks during the winters.  This was both a concession to both climate (didn’t want to ride during the winter), and finances (by working during our breaks, the trip would pay for itself).  With all fifty states to choose from, Hawaii was a no-brainer as a place to spend the first winter.   A few months before beginning the trip, I saw an alumni profile in the COE Alumni magazine about a PE alumna named Claire Wilson who ran a coffee farm on the big island of Hawaii, having retiring from a career in the petroleum industry.  I emailed her out of the blue, telling her about our planned journey and our desire to spend a winter working in Hawaii.  If I recall correctly, the first words of her reply were, “Oh, to be young again!  Your trip sounds wonderful…”  (Not that Claire was “old”: she single-handedly ran a successful coffee, macadamia nut, and vanilla bean farm, all of which required considerable manual labor.)  After some correspondence, Claire agreed to employ Laura and me part-time on her farm, picking coffee.  She also quite generously allowed us to live in the farm’s original house, where the green coffee beans were also stored in a humidity-controlled store room.

It was both Laura’s and my first time to Hawaii, so to be able to spend four months there, working part-time, snorkeling and exploring part-time, was incredible.   Both of our parents were also able to make their first trips to Hawaii to visit us (and the islands), which was a wonderful treat.  These months on the big island stand as one of the most special parts of our trip, and it was all made possible by the connections created through the COE alumni publications and the generosity of a fellow alumnus.


How did you land your current job?

Even before meeting, Laura and I both had thought that Oregon sounded like a place we might like to live someday, so when we had to pick a place to spend our second winter break of our bike trip, it was a natural choice.  We thought that Eugene might be a good fit, since it seemed to be Oregon’s analog to Norman: similar size and home to the state’s flagship university.  At one point I somehow stumbled across a job opening at Burley Design (the leading maker of bicycle trailers, based in Eugene) that stopped me in my tracks because the fit seemed so perfect.  Even though the coming bicycle trip meant that I could not accept a job there for two years, I sent them a resume anyway.  In a few days, I got a call from the Product Development Manager, and we proceeded to have a long conversation (he had also trekked in Nepal, done an Ironman, and bicycled cross-country), despite my up-front explanation that I could not accept the job due to the forthcoming bicycle trip.  We agreed to keep in touch and keep my resume on file, just in case.

We proceeded on our bike trip and did indeed stop in Eugene for our second winter break.  A month later I got a call from Burley asking me to interview, even though they had no idea I was already living in Eugene.  Long story short, Laura and I loved Eugene and our jobs, so when spring came, we decided to stay in Eugene and finish the remainder of our quest (only 6 states left at that point) piece-wise on our vacations.  We have been here nearly three years now, still love Oregon, and just finished up cycling California this summer (now just five states left!)

Riding through the rolling pastureland of Virginia's Piedmont region.


How have your diverse experiences helped you be better at your job?

I think my diverse experiences have helped me more as a person than as an employee, but they have also helped my resume stand out when applying for jobs and have acted as a great springboard for lively stories during job interviews!


What advice would you give to an AME student who has interests that he or she is trying to tie into engineering?

I think the most important thing is to take a proactive role in shaping your own education.  The degree curriculum is a framework, but your education will be much richer if you fill it out and make it your own.  Figure out what you’re interested in, decide what you want to do with those interests, create a plan for how you could integrate your interests with your education, and pitch your plan to the appropriate member of the faculty or administration.  In my experience, the people at OU were eager to allow students to tailor their studies towards their interests, and if you can propose a plan, they are happy to help you find a way to implement that plan.

Beese 4

Riding U.S. 2 along Lake Michigan in the Upper Peninsula