2014 Year-End Message from Dean Leo Kempel

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December 22, 2014

Dear faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends of the College of Engineering,

Leo Kempel - Happy Holidays 2014

As another hectic year draws to a close, it is a fitting time to slow down for a moment to reflect on our collective achievements and our outlook for the coming year. I’d like to thank each of you in the MSU Engineering family for the incredible work, dedication and commitment that you’ve shown year in and year out.  I am honored to have been selected as your new dean this year, and to have the opportunity to work with this extraordinary community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, university and industry partners as we head into the future together.

This is an exciting time in our college. Our new Bio Engineering Facility, scheduled to open in late 2015, will launch our expansion in biomedical research. The facility has already been recognized for its economic development potential by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce.  At the same time, we are building on a solid foundation of innovation across the college and expanding our efforts in automotive, energy, health, the environment, materials, as well as computational science and engineering, and data science and engineering.  

A new Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) was approved by the MSU Board of Trustees in October. This will be the first new academic department in the College of Engineering since the Department of Computer Science and Engineering was established in 1969.  The new department becomes effective Jan. 1, 2015, opening the door for collaborative health care related research between the college and rest of campus.

 Over the past year we welcomed and educated a record number of new students. Among MSU’s record-breaking enrollment of more than 50,000 students this fall were nearly 1,400 new freshmen in the College of Engineering – the largest entering class of freshmen in more than 25 years. Among the new freshmen class were about 260 women – one of the largest groups of women to enter the college in decades. 

 While enrollment is strong, we continue to pursue numerous opportunities to increase the diversity and quality of new students drawn to engineering at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

  • MSU was awarded $1.5 million from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to expand efforts for students in science to learn effectively, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. The College of Engineering will share the funds with other MSU colleges across campus.
  • In 2014, six new undergraduate students from Africa joined the eight MasterCard Scholars already enrolled in the College of Engineering in 2013.  The MasterCard Foundation Scholars program awarded $45 million to MSU over nine years to provide educational access to young people who are from economically disadvantaged communities and have academic talent and leadership potential.
  • We continue to expand our efforts in promotingscience, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to young students through summer programs, engagement with youth groups throughout the year, and robotics competitions. Among its STEM-promoting activities, MSU hosted the Michigan VEX Robotics State Championship in February and saw one of its winning teams, the Haslett VEX Raptors from Haslett High School, go on to win the top award at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif. The team (which incidentally included my daughter, Hannah) beat out 430 teams from 27 countries and brought home the VEX Robotics World Championship Excellence Award.

 We live in a world that is becoming more interdependent and technologically connected, with great opportunity to grow economies, expand knowledge, and improve the quality of life collaboratively. It is a world in which challenges to health, security, the environment, and myriad other issues across the ocean affect us all.  We must seek out ways for addressing these borderless challenges and opportunities through international cooperation.

  • In March, the College of Engineering, together with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, collaborated to create the Academy for Global Engagement, focusing on developing the next generation of researchers with strong international engagements. 
  • The Center for Spartan Engineering coordinated its first international corporate tour to China in June, giving eight students from the MSU College of Engineering and Eli Broad College of Business hands-on experiences in international corporations and the global marketplace. 
  • A growing number of students have become engaged internationally, not only through Study Abroad, international tours and the like, but also through service-learning activities. Students from the ME 491 Humanitarian Engineering class built a bicycle-powered thresher to assist Guatemalan farmers. Our Engineers Without Borders (EWB) students traveled to Tanzania  to supervise the construction of a well water distribution system at the Mabibo Lutheran External Church in Dar es Salaam, and helped design composting latrines for El Balsamar, El Salvador. Closer to home, they rolled up their sleeves and dug into a construction project in Tennessee’s scenic Citico Creek Wilderness as part of their “alternative spring break” and waded into the Red Cedar River on campus for spring cleanup.

In academic programming that connects concepts and research to practice, we marked the 20th anniversary of the MSU College of Engineering Design Day in April. This twice-yearly event features the innovation and technical skills of undergraduate students from throughout the college. We also brought together more than 220 College of Engineering graduate students to showcase their research at the Engineering Graduate Research Symposium in the MSU Breslin Center in March.

In 2014, we also said goodbye to director of Applied Engineering Sciences Jon Sticklen and his wife, Peggy. Jon retired from MSU after 27 years to become the chair of Engineering Fundamentals at Michigan Technological University in August.

Research achievements in the past year are too numerous to list here. It is, however, appropriate to mention just a few of the new and expanding research initiatives in 2014 that strengthen our focus areas:

  • MSU will be a partner in a new $148 million Department of Defense advanced manufacturing institute concentrating on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing.  The institute will be built in Detroit’s Corktown, and is expected to bring as many as 10,000 new manufacturing jobs to the region.
  • As the Ebola virus draws the world’s attention, assistant professor of biosystems engineering Jade Mitchell is using a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop better tools to measure the human health risk from microbes and to train researchers around the nation in their use.
  • A $694,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will help Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Sciences researchers Jason Nicholas, Thomas Bieler, and Yue Qi to advance brazing alloys for solid oxide fuel cells.
  • Anil Jain, University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, is developing a fingerprint-based recognition method to track vaccination schedules for infants and toddlers to save more lives.
  • Technology developed by Steve Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, will aid in manure management by processing cow manure into biomass and water that is clean enough for livestock to drink.
  • A $500,000 National Science Foundation grant is funding the development of a water sensor that will jump and stride across contaminated water to aid environmental monitoring. The research is a collaboration of Matt Mutka, professor and chair of computer science and engineering, and Li Xiao, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

All of our successes to date are leading us on a path toward an even more extraordinary future.  To fully realize our potential to address areas of critical importance and develop students with a deep understanding of complex issues, we need more support than ever before. On October 24, the MSU community came together to mark the beginning of the public phase of the university’s largest fundraising effort ever. Empower Extraordinary: The Campaign for Michigan State University hopes to raise $1.5 billion to power the university’s future success. The College of Engineering seeks to raise $80 million in the Empower Extraordinary campaign. We will achieve this goal with a mix of annual funds and critically needed endowment support such as these gifts from 2014:

  • A $2.5 million gift from Dave and Denise Lamp will support STEM scholarships and research in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.  The college will use $2 million to establish the David L. and Denise M. Lamp Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering and direct the remaining $500,000 to enhance a scholarship fund previously created by the Lamp family. Dave Lamp earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from MSU in 1980.
  • Dennis P. Nyquist, professor emeritus of electrical and computer engineering, has made a $1 million planned estate gift, to establish a professorship in electromagnetics at MSU.  The Nyquist Professorship in Electromagnetics is in conjunction with two previous donations: the Lucille P. Nyquist Memorial Endowed Electrical Engineering Graduate Fellowship fund that honors his late mother, and the Dennis P. Nyquist Electromagnetic Research Discretionary Endowment Fund.
  • Jack and Dottie Withrow have established the Withrow Endowed Graduate Fellowship in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. MSU’s newest academic department will receive a $500,000 gift to be used to attract some of the country’s most talented graduate students in biomedical engineering. Jack Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from MSU in 1954 and an MBA in 1971. Dottie Withrow earned a bachelor’s degree in speech therapy and elementary education from MSU in 1955 and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland University.
  • Doug Zongker, senior software engineer at Google and a 1996 alumnus in computer science, has made a $2 million planned estate gift to the College of Engineering. The Zongker Endowment will establish the first endowed chair of computer science at MSU.

 A more complete listing of our collective achievements in 2014 is available online, here

I look forward to leading the College of Engineering as we continue to grow in size and stature to become the fastest rising college of engineering in the nation.  Thank you for everything you do to move us forward. 

Happy holidays!
Dean Kempel signature
Leo Kempel, Dean


P.S.: Please enjoy our Holiday video card wishing you and yours the best in the coming year. 



Holiday Wishes 2014

From the MSU College of Engineering   

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