AME Welcomes Five New Faculty Members

We are very happy to welcome five new faculty members to the AME family.

Iman Ghamarian (Materials)

 Dr. Ghamarian was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan before joining OU. He received his Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2017, M.S. from the University of North Texas in 2012, and B.S. from the Sharif University of Technology in 2010, all in Materials Science and Engineering. His cross-disciplinary research activities have focused on understanding and engineering the forward and backward relationships between processing, microstructures, and mechanical properties in high-performance structural alloys. To explore these relationships, he integrates advanced characterization techniques with data analytics approaches and physical metallurgy principles. Dr. Ghamarian has more than 30 publications about developing structural alloys in peer-reviewed journals, including several papers in Acta Materialia and Physical Review Letters. He was one of two recipients of the college of engineering Master/Doctoral Fellowship award.

Erkan Kayacan (Unmanned Systems)


Dr. Kayacan will be joining us in Spring 2022 from the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering at the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia where he is currently an Assistant Professor in Mechatronics. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium.  Prior to UQ, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher with the Delft University of Technology, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research interests center around control theory, artificial intelligence, and real- time optimization, with a particular emphasis on foundational theory and the experimental realization of robotic and autonomous systems. Dr Kayacan is a recipient of the Best Systems Paper Award at Robotics: Science and Systems (RSS) in 2018.

Hiroshi Ozawa (Hypersonics)

Dr. Hiroshi Ozawa comes to AME from Japan, where he was an Associate Professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Tokyo Metropolitan University (TMU). He received his Ph.D in 2010 in the Department of Aerospace Engineering from Nagoya University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Yoshiaki Nakamura. From 2010 to 2013, he was a Postdoctoral scholar under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Klaus Hannemann at DLR, head of Spacecraft Department, Göttingen. Since 2013, he has been a faculty member at TMU. His research interests lie in the experimental high-speed aerothermodynamics using high-speed wind tunnels with optical flow diagnostics.

Bin Xu (Propulsion)

Dr. Bin Xu joins us from the Department of Automotive Engineering, Clemson University, where he has been serving as a Research Assistant Professor since March 2020. Prior to that, Dr. Xu was a Research Scientist at the Stanford University. Dr. Xu received his B.S. degree from Hunan University China in 2013, Ph.D. from Clemson University in 2017, both in Automotive Engineering. Dr. Xu’s research focus on propulsion system modeling and control, particularly in the areas of physics-based and data-driven modeling, control, and fuel efficiency optimization. Over the past 4 years, Dr. Xu has published 31 peer-reviewed articles including 13 first-authored journal articles and his research have been cited 337 times in Google Scholar. Dr. Xu is the Guest Editor of SAE International Journal of Electrified Vehicles and a Review Editor of Frontiers in Energy Research. Additionally, Dr. Xu serves as the reviewer for 10+ journals in energy and transportation fields, such as Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Applied Energy, and IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Dong Zhang (Sustainable Energy)

Dr. Dong Zhang is currently a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.  He received his Ph.D. and M.S. degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA, in 2020 and 2016, respectively, all in systems and control engineering. He also earned his B.S. degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, in 2015, in Civil and Environmental Engineering. He was also awarded a double B.S. degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China, in 2015. His current research interests include dynamical system estimation and controls, optimization, machine learning, renewable energy systems, energy storage, and advanced Lithium-Ion battery management systems. Dr. Zhang is a recipient of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Energy System Best Paper Award at 2020 American Control Conference (ACC) and 2020 Dynamic Systems and Control Conference (DSCC), and the UC Berkeley College of Engineering Block Grant Fellowship.


We are very excited to welcome these new members of our team, and wish each of them success in the years ahead!


The Sooner Rover Team Finds Success at the University Rover Challenge

Founded in 2015, the Sooner Rover Team usually competes in the Mars Society’s University Rover Challenge each year. This includes the 2016 National Institute of Aerospace RASC-AL Robo-Ops competition in Houston, which they won!  This year however, the URC Finals were cancelled due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Luckily, with many teams anxious to test their capabilities and showcase their hard work, the URC staff developed a special event called the Virtual University Rover Challenge 2021. The challenge took place June 3-6 and allowed the competing teams to build the URC courses on their own campuses and to live stream their rover’s progress on the course. The live streaming also allowed for both the team competitions to be judged remotely and for fans across the globe to view the Challenge as it happened.

There were originally 88 teams competing in the URC, but only 55 submitted System Acceptance Review packages (SAR). Because of COVID, there was a lower number of teams than usual this year. The SAR is a video and paper submission that is scored as the first part of the competition. Only 36 teams were invited to finals and of those, only 13 from five countries were able to compete in the virtual finals. There were three missions in the Virtual University Rover Challenge; the Equipment Servicing Mission, the Autonomous Navigation Mission, and the Extreme Retrieval and Delivery Mission.

Unfortunately, the Sooner Rover Team ran into a few issues during the virtual challenge. The rover’s back left wheel motor seized up an hour before competition while the team was in a testing phase, so the wheel motor had to be left unpowered during the competition which made driving difficult. Also, the wiring was a little unreliable so the team had to take a few penalties to fix that mid-competition. But despite all this adversity, the team did a great job! The Sooner Rover Team received 9th place on both the Equipment Servicing and Extreme Retrieval and Delivery missions, and they tied for 4th place on the Autonomous Navigation Mission!

Congratulations to the Sooner Rover Team for their successful year and we wish them the best in the upcoming year!

You can watch the Sooner Rover Team’s System Acceptance Review (SAR) below:




Sooner Racing Team Has Top Ten at FSAE Nevada 2021!

The Sooner Racing Team (SRT) had a successful competition at Formula SAE Nevada, an engineering design competition for undergraduate and graduate students. Formula SAE is a student design competition organized by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The concept behind FSAE is that a fictional manufacturing company has contracted a design team to develop a small Formula-style race car. The prototype race car is to be evaluated for its potential as a production item. The target marketing group for the race car is the non-professional weekend autocross racer. Each student team designs, builds and tests a prototype based on a series of rules whose purpose is both to ensure onsite event operations and promote problem solving.

The competition took place from June 15th through to the 19th in blisteringly hot conditions at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. At one point the temperature reached 117 degrees, and the surface of the track was recorded at around 140 degrees! There were 4 drivers representing the OU Sooner Racing Team, each doing 2 events. Tony Macaluso and Callen Koiner handled the autocross and endurance, while their teammates, Sierra Martinez and Isaac Fernald, handled acceleration and skid pad portions. There were 40 internal combustion teams registered for FSAE Nevada. Of those 40 teams, SRT finished 8th overall. In addition to their overall finish, they placed 2nd in both endurance and in fuel efficiency. With their 8th place finish, SRT finished in the top ten for the first time in more than a decade!

Congratulations, Sooner Racing Team! We are proud of your hard work and performance!

For more information on the Sooner Racing Team, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, or check out their Facebook page!

Crimson Skies

Crimson Skies is the University of Oklahoma’s DBF team that designs, fabricates, and tests a remote controlled aircraft for the AIAA Design, Build, Fly competition. The competition is an annual event hosted by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in which teams from across the globe compete by designing an unmanned, electric, remotely controlled aircraft to demonstrate flight capabilities that best meet the specified mission profile. 

The missions are different every year, which gives the students the opportunity for a new perspective and a chance to innovate in their design. This year, they were tasked with designing a vehicle which was capable of delivering a large payload of sensors. The remote controlled vehicle had to be capable of deploying one of these sensors while in flight, activating an LED pattern on the sensor, recover the sensor back into the aircraft again, and finally performing a successful landing. The individual sensors weighed 0.14 pounds and the aircraft was capable of carrying 35 sensors in total. The team had an overall emphasis on design simplicity but also an understanding that success relied on preparation for the unexpected. This viewpoint resulted in a very robust aircraft made primarily of foam-board to help absorb impact energy rather than spreading it to vital components. This decision had the added benefit of the foam-board being easily repaired with simple tools and materials and low overall weight. In this year’s competition, the maximum weight-limit of the aircraft was 55 pounds but Crimson Skies managed to keep their plane’s weight down to just 19.9 pounds in its heaviest configuration! The team also managed to keep their aircraft to 199.8 watt-hours of energy, just shy of the 200 watt-hour competition limit.

In 2020-21, DBF team was led by Dr. Thomas Hays, their faculty advisor, who played a crucial role in the team’s success. Dr. Hays helped guide the team to an understanding of the AIAA rules, the process of producing a competitive aircraft, and most importantly, by providing his experience with previous Crimson Skies teams. The team was also led by the Team Captain, Naimul Islam, as well as four sub team leads: Thomas Nilles, the chief engineer; Simon Dempsey, whose focus was on Aerodynamics; Adam Henning, who directed Propulsion design; and Blake Raybern, who led Computer Aided Design. During the design phase, the team had a peak of 21 engineering students on the team. The team also received the support and leadership of many OU alumni who volunteered their time to guide the team to a more reliable aircraft and a better understanding of the DBF competition.


In this year’s Design Build Fly Competition, Crimson Skies placed 13th out of 92 teams! This is a fantastic finish for the team, especially during a year that presented several COVID-19 related challenges that included a limit on the number of people that could work on the aircraft at one time. The team was able to achieve this success through the hard work and flexibility of every team member who went above and beyond to meet deadlines and produce results. 

For more information about the DBF Crimson Skies team, check out their Facebook page!



Congratulations to Our 2021 Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering Graduates!

This semester we were able to resume in person graduation ceremonies. We want to celebrate each of our AME graduate’s success and wish them the best in their future endeavors!

2021 Masters of Science Degree Recipients

Tess Hartog
Luke Hudson
Paolo Acosta Mogollon
Stephanie Prado Carbonell
Robert Rucker
Brad Woolery

2021 Aerospace Engineering Bachelor of Science Degree Recipients 

Brandon M. Bargas
Kirsten N. Baxter
Luke W. Capehart
Dwight C. Caras
Eric D. Davidson
Simon J. Dempsey
Andrew R. Derryberry
David T. Dowdell
Burlon L. Giles
Nicholas W. Gruber
Adam C. Henning
Nathan W. Herring
Naimul Islam
Taylor R. Jovanovich
Jackson R. Kirby
Callen P. Koiner
Harold Nguyen
Tu T. Nguyen
Thomas M. Nilles
Caleb W. Olson
Zachary S. Randall
Blake D. Raybern
Westley S. Schubert
Robinson M. Shin
Tyler Swisher
Mitchell N. Tompkins
Steven D. Trellis
Faith E. Weber
Vincent G. Webster
Alex S. Zhang
Jun C. Zhang

2021 Mechanical Engineering Bachelor of Science Degree Recipients 

Ishmael Adotey
Travis W. Amstutz
Mohit S. Asnani
Bryce A. Barker
Benjamin W. Basden
Olivier A. Bebine
Caleb M. Bo
Timothy A. Braddy
William S. Callaway
Jaron W. Carvel
Patrick J. Castleberry
Andrew J. Cawley
Austin W. Chan
Eric Chavez
Sarah N. Ciccaglione
Alexander W. Cole
Edvin A. Coyoy Lopez
Aaron T. Craig
Kaamil M. Din
Kevin T. Doe
Harrison S. Dunlap
Martin Elder
Lauren E. Evans
Ariana N. Gannon
Jordan A. Givens
James B. Glock
Preston M. Godinich
Tyler L. Goehler
Nathan C. Grandstaff
Taylor R. Groves
James J. Hardiman
Katie P. Hastings
Hutch T. Helbig
Daniel C. Henry
Clare E. Hillshafer
Duncan G. Hilton
Paige N. Hobart
Hunter B. Hodges
George Huang
Luke T. Hudson
Ifeanyi E. Ijioma
Preston L. Johnson
Ryan R. Johnson
Cory B. Jones
Kiwon Kang
Bryce K. Kanon
Adam C. Kantner
Iain D. Kennedy
Scott M. King
Kevin A. Knop
Hunter M. Lau
Christopher L. Letson
Matthew Llano
Dylan P. Lloyd
Seth D. Long
Adrian E. Lopez
Trey Masri
David C. Mattax
Julian K. Mendiola
Corbin Joel B. Milchesky
Stuart B. Miller
Seapehi Molise
Ryan J. Myers
Caleb G. Nettles
Narcisse Ngole Ngando
Brian R. Nguyen
Tai T. Nguyen
Tobi T. Nguyen
John E. Perry
John H. Pham
Hannah C. Reiners
Jake A. Reynolds
Manuel A. Santiago
Sierra A. Seale
Stephanie C. Sheldon
MaKenzie B. Standridge
Brian R. Strub
Edgar P. Tita
Brady C. VanDyken
Alexander M. Varner
James G. Ware
Samantha M. Williams
Nathan J. Woo
Bradley D. Woolery
Yang Xu
Dongfang Zhao

AME Alumni Highlights: Dr. Ozgur Pulat and Victor Tran

AME is delighted to have such talented Alumni who continue to make us proud after graduation. This month, we’re highlighting Dr. Ozgur Pulat, who graduated with his Ph.D. from OU in 2007, and Victor Tran, who received his undergraduate and graduate degree from OU.

Ozgur Pulat, PhD

Current Position:  Engineering Manager, Projects
Business Line:  Subsea Production Systems
Group:  Control Systems
Company:  Schlumberger
Location:  Celle, Germany

I manage a team of Lead Engineers who deliver subsea production control systems to oil companies like BP, Chevron, Total, etc.  My career began in February of 2007 after I graduated from OU with my Ph.D.  I started as a design engineer in new product development, then led an emerging technology project to develop a production reservoir power generation device for completion systems.  I earned two US patents from this work and moved on to become a team leader, then a project manager, and now an engineering manager.  During my career, I have always emphasized proficiency in both technical skills and maintaining strong people skills.  I believe this is what has allowed me to grow in my career and find success in the various positions I have held. During my undergraduate years at OU, I became very fond of learning and research.  I spent 2 years as an undergraduate research assistant for Dr. Sutton working on the OU supergas product researching alternative fuels.  My love for Fluid Mechanics was found during my first course with Dr. Parthasarathy and grew into my research focus for my Ph.D.  Along the way, I made many friends with whom I still speak today.  I was also involved in the Engineering Club and the Formula Team.

During graduate school, I graciously accepted a GAANN fellowship working on research topics in the area of energy.  My fellowship led me to teach multiple courses like Engineering Dynamics, Fluid Thermal Lab, Fluid Mechanics Lab, and Solid Mechanics Lab.  I believe this is where my passion for teaching and leading first began.  This experience gave me the confidence to know that I could lead and teach people.  This confidence has brought me to where I am today.

One of my favorite memories as an OU student was attending the football games and the Engineers weeks that we used to celebrate.  All the fun culminated in the “Fluid Mechanics Lab” where we would celebrate with our fellow students and teachers.  It really was a great experience.

My graduate degree has really helped me in my career progression.  Working on a graduate research topic required me to learn how to take a complex problem, break it down into smaller problems, and educate myself on the topic.  Additionally, it taught me how to regularly communicate progress to my stakeholders, and communicate confidence in my progress and results.  All of these key lessons have served me very well in my career where I am constantly challenged with new topics that I may not know anything about technology.  Additionally, my graduate degree has given me a profile within my company where people know that I have these skills as I have been able to conduct independent research during my graduate education.  This gives people the confidence in knowing I have the right profile to be trusted with complex problems that are of high priority to my organization.

Victor Tran
Current Position: ISS Flight Controller

Undergraduate and Graduate Experience: BS and MS in Aerospace Engineering.

I started out as an engineer in Flight Test for Boeing. After a couple of years, I transitioned to my current job here at NASA at the Johnson Space Center, where I’ve been for the last six years. In my current role, I support real-time operations in the Mission Control Center (MCC) and mission planning for the International Space Station (ISS) program.

There are a lot of people that can be an expert in something, but not many can clearly and efficiently communicate their thoughts and ideas. My experiences in obtaining my master’s degree allowed me to further develop my critical thinking and communication skills. This has helped me throughout my career, as I’ve built upon these skills, to ensure mission success for any projects I’ve worked on or lead. This has provided me with more opportunities for growth professionally and personally.

One of my favorite memories at OU is getting Sam Bradford’s autograph my freshman year in the South Oval.

Learning doesn’t end when you are done with school. Always be driven to continue to learn and apply that knowledge to the improvement of your team and yourself. And no matter what task you’re given, give it your best effort and be open to feedback.

Dr. Bin Xu Gives Seminar Over Physics-based/ Data-driven Diesel Engine Waste Heat Recovery and Hybrid Vehicle Propulsion System Energy Management for Fuel Efficiency Improvement

Dr. Bin Xu, a Research Assistant Professor for the Department of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University, gave a seminar on Monday, March 8 over “Physics-based/ Data-driven Diesel Engine Waste Heat Recovery and Hybrid Vehicle Propulsion System Energy Management for Fuel Efficiency Improvement.”

Abstract: For internal combustion engines, the engine efficiency is generally below 40% for gasoline engines and 50% for diesel engines. For a heavy-duty diesel engine, around 40-60% of energy is wasted as heat via exhaust gas, EGR cooler, and coolant. Waste heat recovery (WHR) techniques have the potential to achieve the fuel economy and emission reduction goals for its mature technology and high efficiency. Conventional modeling and power analysis in WHR system focus on static engine operating conditions, whereas engine experiences torque variation even at highway conditions. To overcome the research gaps in dynamic modeling, control and optimization over highly transient engine operating conditions, a series of systematic modeling, control, optimization and experimental validation work are conducted to understand the characteristics of the WHR system and maximize the waste energy recovery. According to dyno test result, 3% absolute break thermal efficiency improvement is achieved in a 13L diesel engine with the developed WHR system.

The automotive industry is in the pace of reforming from petroleum-dependent to renewable energy-dependent for better sustainability and environmental friendly goals. Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) is the first step towards the propulsion system electrification. With a given vehicle hardware, one key factor affecting the fuel consumption is the energy management of the engine and the electric motor, which could lead to 20% fuel consumption variation. Conventional energy management strategies (EMS) are either rule-based or model-based. Rule-based EMS lacks optimization and leaves large room for fuel saving. Model-based EMS like model predictive control depends on reduced order models, which require long time to build for the complex vehicle propulsion system and sacrifice model accuracy for short computation time. Model- free reinforcement learning (RL) based EMS is proposed to address the optimization concern of rule-based methods and reduced order model development concern of model-based methods. Parametric study is conducted to interpret the RL state/ action/ reward selection and their impact on fuel economy, which is supported by value functions and policy maps. An ensemble RL framework is proposed to integrate RL with conventional EMS methods for better fuel economy. Moreover, two warm start methods are proposed to reduce the learning time of RL as much as 68%.

Bio: Bin Xu joined the Department of Automotive Engineering, Clemson University in March 2020 as a Research Assistant Professor. Prior to coming to Clemson, Dr. Xu was a Research Scientist at the Stanford University. Dr. Xu received his B.S. degree from Hunan University China in 2013, Ph.D. from Clemson University in 2017, both in Automotive Engineering. Dr. Xu’s research focus on propulsion system modeling and control, particularly in the areas of physics-based and data-driven modeling, control, and fuel efficiency optimization. Over the past 4 years, Dr. Xu has published 31 peer-reviewed articles including 13 first-authored journal articles and his research have been cited 337 times in Google Scholar. Dr. Xu is the Guest Editor of SAE International Journal of Electrified Vehicles and a Review Editor of Frontiers in Energy Research. Additionally, Dr. Xu serves as the reviewer for 10+ journals in energy and transportation fields, such as Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Applied Energy, and IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.


Dr. Elham Mirkoohi Gives Seminar Over Process Prediction and Optimization of Metals Additive Manufacturing

On March 5, Dr. Elham Mikoohi gave a presentation on, “Process Prediction and Optimization of Metals Additive Manufacturing.” Dr. Mikoohi is a postdoctoral scholar research associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.

Abstract: In the past few years, the second wave of digital manufacturing – additive manufacturing– has received a technological breakthrough. Although additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the way products are produced, the process prediction and optimization of additive manufacturing have not yet been in a place where the parts can be manufactured with high quality and performance, and it currently involves lots of trial and errors which would take months or even years to come up with the desired part performance with millions of dollars investments. To break through the technology bottlenecks, accurate and high computationally efficient frameworks are required to simulate the multi-physics aspects of additive manufacturing processes. In this seminar, Dr. Mirkoohi will present her research efforts focused on the development of low-cost physics-based computational framework to predict the key additive manufacturing attributes including temperature field, thermal stress distribution, residual stress distribution, and the microstructural evolution to be derived as explicit functions of the metal powder starting properties and additive manufacturing process parameters. She will show how these physics-based computational models can cooperatively work together in a small fraction of the time needed for finite element simulation or full-physics simulation. In addition, she will present a combined physics-based machine learning platform that is developed to assess the process maps to guide the process parameters in achieving desired part performance.

Bio: Elham Mirkoohi is a postdoctoral scholar research associate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, working with Professor Surya Kalidindi and Professor Aaron Stebner. She is also the executive coordinator of Novelis Innovation Hub at Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was advised by Professor Steven Liang and Professor Hamid Garmestani, and B.Sc. and M.Sc. from University of Tehran and Oregon State University, respectively. Elham worked at Tesla Motors and the Boeing Company as a research intern and research assistant, respectively. Elham Mirkoohi’s convergence research spans mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, and computer science. Her cross-disciplinary research focuses on modeling, monitoring, control, and optimization of precision manufacturing. She has authored more than 25 Journal and conference papers in top-ranked Journals and conferences in the field of advanced manufacturing. She also serves as a program committee of several conferences and as a reviewer for more than 15 Journals and conferences in her field.


Dr. Rong Gan Recognized by OU on International Women and Girls in STEM Day

AME’s Dr. Rong Gan was recognized by OU on International Women and Girls in STEM Day. The full article can be found below or through this link: Congratulations Dr. Gan!

Rong Zhu Gan is a Presidential Research Professor and the Charles E. Foster Chair in the Gallogly College of Engineering, Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Her current research is supported by the Department of Defense and explores blast exposure hearing loss.

Supported by a $2.5 million DoD grant to understand blast-induced hearing loss by using biomedical measurement, her team developed the first 3D computational model to predict the blast wave transmission outside into the cochlear. A current grant extends that work to explore a cure for blast-induced hearing loss by using a leading diabetes drug that has the potential to recovery sensory auditory damage.

Gan has two patents currently under review, adding to two previous patent awards. One of the patents being reviewed is for use of the diabetes drug to treat trauma-induced hearing loss; the other is for mid-ear reconstruction using a 3D printer that can print soft and hard tissue.

Rong Gan Portrait

She said she likes the challenge of studying hearing and her work has made others take notice, including being asked to serve on the DoD’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. The CDMRP aims to advance medical and scientific research and fill research gaps by funding high-impact, high-risk and high-gain projects that other agencies may not venture to fund.

“Hearing is a challenge,” Gan said. “Also hearing is more close to the patient, to the benefit of society. It is not the pure, basic research. We are close to real society…I am very honored to be a part of the CDMRP panel to determine this funding.”

Gan’s research success is made all the more impressive by the perseverance that presided it.

Born in Wuhan, China, Gan’s educational opportunities were limited during the Cultural Revolution in China. She trained as a mechanical engineer and worked at a car manufacturing company from 1968 to 1978. With the end of the Cultural Revolution, she went back to school to pursue a graduate education, changing her area of study from mechanical engineering to biomechanics.

“In 1978, I met the father of biomechanics or biomedical engineering, YC Fung from the U.S., when he visited Huazhong University of Science and Technology,” she said. “Since then, I was YC Fung’s student.”

Yuan-Cheng “Bert” Fung was an American bioengineer, regarded as a founding figure of bioengineering, tissue engineering, and the “Founder of Modern Biomechanics.”

In 1983, Fung hosted the first U.S., China and Japan biomechanics conference at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan. Gan was a master’s student at the time and reported her first scientific paper during that meeting.

She wanted to study with Fung in his lab at U.C. San Diego, but didn’t have the English language skills to pass the entrance exam. Instead, she used Russian as her foreign language to complete a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Alberta Edmonton, Canada.

Fung and Gan crossed paths again in 1988 at a conference in Ottawa, where he introduced her to his former student, Michael Yen, who had started a biomedical engineering program at the University of Memphis. Gan completed her doctorate in biomedical engineering from the University of Memphis in 1992.

“My Ph.D. is in pulmonary blood flow in the lung biomechanics,” she said. “That was YC Fung’s direction. Later on, after my short postdoctoral period in New Mexico, I came to Oklahoma in 1995, totally changing my direction into hearing and the auditory system. I came to Oklahoma to be the director for hearing implantable devices at the Hough Ear Institute.”

Gan helped gain the institute’s first FDA-approved mid-ear implantable device.

In 1998, OU received a Special Opportunity Award to develop a biomedical engineering program, the first program of its kind in the region. Gan became the first biomedical engineering faculty member at OU. It began as a graduate program in 2003 and expanded to an undergraduate degree in 2016.

“You can see in my training how broad my background was. YC Fung is my mentor,” Gan said. “He introduced me to these new fields, biomechanics and biomedical engineering. He was the first advisory board member for (OU’s) biomedical engineering.”

Gan now pays that mentorship forward with students in her own lab.

“I always get very good students from the biomedical engineering department, and I love to teach and to mentor students,” she said. “In any lab, if you want to be successful, you must look for new direction. No matter your skin color or where you come from, you have to work hard. You must build your motivation for the science…you love the discussion, the discovery, to solve the unknown questions. I believe motivation is very important and finding a good mentor.”

She adds that a good professor is responsible for providing guidance to show students what is important, but a student’s success depends on their own motivation.

“Any success depends on yourself,” she said. “No matter what environment, persevere, work hard. If you really want to jump into science and technology, you need to have experience.”

AME Alumni Highlights: Dr. Amber Walker and Tayera Ellis

AME is delighted to have such talented Alumni who continue to make us proud after graduation. This week, we’re highlighting Dr. Amber Walker, who attended graduate school in 2010, and Tayera Ellis, who received her aerospace engineering degree in 2018.

Amber Walker, PhD

I’m currently in-between positions.  I just concluded a 3.5-year tour as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and will soon be taking up a position leading Autonomous Systems strategy at Raytheon BBN.

I have had a varied career between active duty military service and my academic pursuits.  As an Army officer, I’ve served as a communications officer and operations researcher in between degrees at Oxford and OU.  I have designed and taught engineering curriculum at the United States Military Academy and advised undergraduate research, served in technical workforce development roles (recruitment and training), and most recently held a position as a Research and Development Program Manager responsible for the cost, schedule, and technical achievement of a portfolio of military defense projects – primarily aligned to the US Army – at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. I was responsible for defining problems, creating the means by which to solve them with large and small businesses alike, and overseeing the accomplishments of those performers for the life of the project.  I’ve done this with advanced missile systems and rockets, ground vehicles, novel human interfaces, self-reconfigurable modular robotics, and more.

I did my undergraduate degree at West Point in Mechanical/Aeronautical Engineering.  I had a number of unique and rewarding experiences there including a capstone project, flight laboratories aboard both Cessna fixed wing and Huey rotary wing platforms, trips to Cape Canaveral, and more.  In 2004 I was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and began my two-year journey at Oxford, which was a much different experience than US-based graduate school. I took no courses, but instead worked for 20 months on a dissertation and viva related to ‘Fast Crack Propagation in Ductile Metals.’  I primarily investigated how we could use empirical evidence to improve finite element models to support the validation and testing of two metal alloys for Rolls Royce (civil air) and BMW (automobiles).  Finally, I had the opportunity to return to graduate school at OU in 2010 where I shifted my focus away from solid mechanics and into Human-Robot Interaction. I made this move following my experience as a military officer deployed to Iraq having watched the Army struggle to fully adopt a new radio system.  While technically more capable, the system suffered from poor user interface design and inspired me to focus on user-centered design, which I applied to robotics under Professor David Miller.  That really started my pivot into autonomous systems and advanced ground robots as well as wearables and I’m still passionate about creating technology that is intuitive, useful, and performance-enhancing.

Both of my graduate degrees have been paramount to achieving my professional goals and my growth as a leader in the field of autonomous systems and mechanical engineering.  I credit them with the ability to clearly communicate difficult technical subjects, both in writing and verbally, as well as exposing me to problems and solutions across multiple topic areas.  It’s amazing how often my experience from a machine shop (G-code) or design of experiments is called upon!  Further, I’ve really treasured the friends and colleagues with whom I’ve been able to work and the network of brilliant people that I can call upon.

Some of my favorite memories I have as an OU student include cleaning out the lab and then heading to Pepe’s for Mexican food (which is still way better in Oklahoma than in DC), stealing a parking space from Tai, any football game, and all the snow days!!  I think my first January back we were only on campus for 5 days 🙂

I had my first child while at OU, and it shows…he’s a HUGE Sooner football fan.  It is possible, with the right partner, to have meaningful academic and professional success while building a family and enjoying a work/life balance. It’s not always easy, and it does require commitment, but it is possible.  I’m encouraged to see more and more men and women finding a balance that suits their personal goals.

Tayera Ellis

I currently serve as a Test Director for space environmental tests. This role includes test planning, coordinating, and providing engineering modifications to test facilities. I brief and train test subjects, including astronauts, in the operation of test systems and training with the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU).

I have a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, Class of 2018. I was a 4-time NASA intern, and Stress Engineering Intern for Spirit AeroSystems.

As an engineer in the industry, I don’t use much of the technical portion of my engineering degree, however, I do continue to use the skills I developed for studying and learning. Getting an aerospace engineering degree took patience and persistence, and many challenges in my career also take the same virtues.

My favorite memory as an OU Student was graduation.

It’s important for students to keep moving forward. Although classes are tough and highly technical, once you are working as an engineer in the industry, you will have opportunities to continue learning on the job and gain knowledge from other engineers with 20+ years of experience. Don’t give up, because the outcome is worth all the hard work!