Non-traditional UAH student achieves academic goals – with honors

Deanna Nicholas

Next month, psychology major Deanna Nicholas will graduate with honors from UAH. It's a milestone anyone would be proud of, but for Nichols, it takes on an even greater significance given the many obstacles she has faced along the way.

So it was with great excitement – and more than a little nervousness – that Nicholas presented her Honors thesis entitled Poverty, Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Homicide in the U.S. to a rapt audience at this past week's Honors Lecture Series.

As for what's next for the West Palm Beach, Fla., native, Nicholas says she's already applying to graduate schools to earn her master's in social work. And if past performance is any indicator, there's no doubt she'll soon be helping other women like her realize their own amazing achievements.


UAH nursing student gains valuable experience volunteering, performing community service

Ashley Craig

"Volunteering and community service has helped me to grow as a person. Volunteering helps you to see how fortunate you are and how the smallest act of kindness you perform for someone can have such a major impact on them," said Ashley Craig, a senior nursing student attending UAH College of Nursing.

Craig graduates from UAH on Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m., in the Propst Arena Von Braun Center. Approximately 802 students will participate in the Spring Commencement Ceremony (about 578 undergraduate degrees, 197 master's degrees, and 27 DNP/PhD degrees will be awarded).

An honors student throughout high school, Ashley graduated with an advanced academic diploma in May 2010 from Pleasant Grove High School (part of the Birmingham metropolitan area). While attending high school Ashley walked a tightrope — successfully balancing her academic studies while assuming challenging student leadership roles.


Kenneth E. Harwell, former UAH vice president of research dies

Kenneth Edwin Harwell

Kenneth Edwin Harwell, former UAH senior vice president for research and associate provost, died on Friday, April 4, in Nashville. He was 77.

Dr. Harwell began his tenure at UAH in 1989. He led the university's research efforts for more than 10 years. While at UAH, Harwell contributed to the formation of the Global Hydrology and Climate Center, the Space Science and Technology Alliance, and supervised over 15 research centers and institutes.

Following his retirement from UAH, Harwell was appointed the first chief scientist of the Air Force Research Laboratory organization where he served for two years leading the establishment of future national investments of the U.S. Air Force. Harwell also served as Director of Defense Laboratory Programs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense continuing his contributions to national investments in research, engineering, and science.

He was a registered professional engineer in Alabama, a Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and a Distinguished Engineering Fellow at the University of Alabama. He was also recognized with the 1981 General H.H. Arnold Award from the AIAA Tennessee section and both the 1991 Holger Toftoy Award and 1997 Professional of the Year Award from the AIAA Alabama/Mississippi Section. He is the author of numerous research publications and holds two patents. Harwell's work and leadership have also been recognized by resolutions of the State of Alabama Legislature and the State of Tennessee Senate.

Dr. Harwell is survived by his wife, Dr. Sharon Hilton Harwell; one son,  Kenneth Hilton Harwell; and two daughters, Kathryn McLeroy, and Karen Harwell.


UAH alumnus is making people Smarter Every Day

Destin Sandlin

Teaching may be the noblest profession, but for Destin Sandlin, it is also an excuse to light cigarettes with a laser, fire an AK-47 underwater, and get leaf-cutter ants to carry a sign. That's because Sandlin is the host of Smarter Every Day (SED), a YouTube series that seeks to make science accessible – and interesting – to the average person.

"People think I make videos about things that I already understand because I'm so smart, but they're wrong because I'm not smart!" says Sandlin, whose videos regularly log hundreds of thousands of views. "And that's the point of the videos – they're a voyage of discovery for me as well."

And indeed, discovery has long been Sandlin's passion. Some might even say it's in his blood, given his own grandfather's interest in the world around him. "Granddaddy didn't have a set of encyclopedias at his house," he says, "so he would come over to our house, sit on the floor, and read ours."

Sandlin's father, meanwhile, would often challenge his son to take a closer look at everyday things. "We used to play a game called 'Do you know?' where my dad would ask me questions like, 'Why are leaves green?'" he says. "He knew a lot of the answers, but when he didn't, we'd look them up."

So it's no surprise Sandlin ended up majoring in mechanical engineering in college, before earning a master's in aerospace engineering from UAH. "I've always known I was going to be some type of engineer," he says.


UAH instructor releases new jazz CD

Ken Watters

The Watters/Felts Project may have just released their first, eponymous CD from Summit Records this month, but the story of this popular local jazz band really begins three years ago, during one of Ken Watters' Tuesday evening jam sessions at Bandito Burrito.

That's when vocalist Ingrid Felts, already well known on the south Alabama music scene, signed up to sing "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" with the band. "It's a very hard song, but she killed it," says Watters. "I knew right then that she and I needed to start a band together."

And they did, adding Keith Taylor, Abe Becker, Darrell Tibbs, and Marcus Pope. "I knew the right players for this group," says Watters. "Darrell is the best percussionist I know, Keith brings a certain maturity level to the band, Abe is one of my very favorite upright bass players, and Marcus is a high-energy drummer."

Their first gig was at Roberts Recital Hall at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, where Watters and Taylor both serve as instructors in the Department of Music. "They have a wonderful piano and the sound in the room is really good," he says. "And it seats 215 people, which seemed like a safe number to start a band's career with."

As their audiences grew, so did their venues. And little by little, the band began to save money with plans to eventually record a CD. "We were thinking of doing it ourselves," says Watters, who has released six previous CDs. "But I sent a couple of tracks to my label, Summit Records, just for kicks and they liked them."


Symposium inducts Dr. Suzy Young into order

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Dr. Suzy Young, director of The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Office of Proposal Development, was named to the Order of Prometheus during the recent Pathfinder Chapter Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium in Huntsville, Ala.

"I am very honored to be a member of this group and receive this award," Dr. Young said." Membership in the Order of Prometheus represents the highest ideals, aspirations and accomplishments resident to the aerospace community.

"My work in unmanned systems began many years ago," said Dr. Young. "I knew then and I know now that they are valuable assets to our nation in both military and civil/commercial applications. Even more important is the dedicated community that supports the development of these systems and contributes to the education of our next generation for continued excellence in engineering and design."


Wade top graduate research assistant in College of Science


Ryan Wade, a doctoral candidate from the Mississippi Gulf coast who is in Alabama studying snowstorms, has been named the top graduate research assistant in The University of Alabama in Huntsville's College of Science for 2014.

While his dissertation research is in profiling winter storms, the UAH severe weather and radar group where he is based is more of an "all hands on deck" group when there is severe and hazardous weather to be studied, he said.

Since arriving at UAH in 2009, Wade has tracked and studied snow storms from the Great Lakes to New Market, set up instrumentation and gathered data from hurricanes, and helped gather and analyze data on several severe weather events, including the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak.


Vermont polymath finds intellectual fulfillment at UAH

Casey Calamaio

Since his formative years in the small town of East Burke, Vt., Casey Calamaio has amassed quite a few interests, including aviation, environmental sciences, and cartography.

But even more impressive, he's been able to turn those interests into the foundation of his research as both an undergraduate and a graduate Earth System Science major at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

Calamaio's specialty is geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing using model aviation as an aerial observation platform. "A powerful cartography tool," he says he was first introduced to it as a freshman majoring in aerospace engineering.

"It was part of an elective course called 'Collapse of Civilization' with Dr. Tom Sever, and I instantly wanted to know everything about it!" he says. By the following year, he'd changed his major and began working as a student researcher in UAH's National Space Science and Technology Center.

And while at that job, Calamaio was offered the chance to participate in UAH's annual research and study abroad program in Panama. "Dr. [Rob] Griffin asked if I'd be interested in helping the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to catalog aerial photos of the Panama Canal taken from the 1920s to the 1980s," says Calamaio, an amateur pilot and former Civil Air Patrol member. "I said, Absolutely!"


App developer – and UAH alumna – asks ‘Are You Squared?’

Are You Squared?

If you had to guess what Charlotte Ellett, co-founder of game development company C63 Industries, majored in at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, you might go with computer science. What you probably wouldn't go with is what Ellett actually chose – philosophy and political science.

"At that time, I was interested in being a writer, and I had a liberal arts scholarship," says the Hollywood, Ala. native. Computers, and computer programming, was something Ellett pursued on the side, first as a hobby and then later as a website programmer and developer for organizations like HudsonAlpha.

It was only at the suggestion of her longtime friend Jesse W. Schirmer, C63 Industries fellow co-founder and a full-time employee at Curse, that she began to consider making a career out of development. "We started working on a game that people were interested in, but we needed to start a company to sell," says Ellett. "So we said let's do it!"

And they have. Now, Ellett and Schirmer are about to release their very first game, Pixel: ru² (Are You Squared). "Pixel is a platform puzzle game, so you're jumping on platforms but you also have concepts like changing the gravity," she says, adding that other features include a drag-and-drop level editor with a logic engine, shooter mechanics based on color theory, and a stereoscopic 3D mode for devices like the Oculus Rift.


UAH researcher wins top award in nuclear survivability


Dr. William A. Seidler, a senior research scientist at the UAH Research Institute, has been awarded the Peter Haas Award by the Hardened Electronics and Radiation Technology (HEART) Conference for his contributions to the nuclear survivability of military systems.

The Peter Haas Award was developed by the HEART Conference in 1990 to recognize individuals "who have demonstrated outstanding and innovative technical contributions or leadership in the successful development of U.S. hardened military and space systems." The HEART Conference is the premier government conference for the dissemination of restricted information on nuclear radiation effects on electronic systems.

Peter Haas was a pioneer in the field of nuclear weapons effects beginning in the mid 1950s. He proposed and conducted some of the landmark experiments on nuclear effects on electronic systems at the Nevada and Pacific Nuclear Test Sites. After joining the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1965, Mr. Haas rose to the position of deputy director of science and technology, where he was a strong advocate for nuclear weapons effects testing.