Robert Altenkirch is selected president of The University of Alabama in Huntsville


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Sept. 21, 2011) - Robert A. Altenkirch, president of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), has been chosen to lead The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System voted unanimously for his appointment in a meeting today on the UAHuntsville campus. 

With extensive expertise in combustion and microgravity research, Dr. Altenkirch was the principal investigator on 10 space shuttle experiments and has close ties to the astrophysics and solar physics communities. NJIT is recognized for breakthrough research in those disciplines and operates the Big Bear (California) Solar Observatory in addition to a dedicated array of solar radio telescopes at the Owens Valley (California) Radio Observatory. During his nine-year tenure at NJIT, he led improvements in the quality of student life, emphasized private fundraising and alumni relations, and strengthened the recruitment of high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds.

"Dr. Altenkirch brings a vast amount of knowledge and experience in areas that are crucial to UAHuntsville and the city's continued growth," said UA System Trustee Finis St. John IV, who chaired the Presidential search committee. "Filling the position of president was the Board of Trustees' highest priority. We believe Bob Altenkirch is a strong leader who will be great for this university, the community and the state of Alabama."

UA System Chancellor Malcolm Portera said Altenkirch's leadership skills, his focus on student success and ability to strengthen research are an excellent fit for UAHuntsville.

"From the outset of this search process, we surveyed the entire faculty, staff and student body to hear what they were looking for in UAHuntsville's next president," Dr. Portera said. "This is a very special place with rare opportunities for growth. Dr. Altenkirch's background is an ideal match for the interests of this campus, and in this city. I an extremely proud to recommend him as UAHuntsville's sixth president."

Since Dr. Altenkirch became NJIT president in 2002, the campus' research program has doubled in size, and ranked among the 25 fastest-growing research programs in the nation.

Under Dr. Altenkirch's leadership, the university has made significant investments in new research facilities to give students the competitive edge necessary in today's global high-tech marketplace. NJIT is ranked in the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report, and fall 2011 enrollment is 9,500, a record for that university.

During his tenure at NJIT, contract and grant awards increased more than 100 percent, and the endowment's corpus has grown more than 60 percent.

Dr. Altenkirch previously served as Vice President for Research at Mississippi State University (1998-2002), where he is credited with building the foundation for unparalleled growth in MSU's research program. Before his arrival, science and engineering expenditures, as reported to the National Science Foundation (NSF), totaled $84 million. For 2010, MSU's NSF-reported expenditures reached $215 million.

He was Dean of Engineering at MSU (1988-1995) when the NSF awarded the institution the Engineering Research Center (ERC) designation. The ERC has become a nationally prominent center for computational fluid dynamics research and applications. While at MSU, Dr. Altenkirch helped lead development of the Thad Cochran Science Park, a multi-tenant incubator facility, and was instrumental in securing a $1 billion Nissan investment for the state.

Dr. Altenkirch earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University, an M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue. He and his wife Beth have two adult children.


For more information,

contact Kellee Reinhart

University of Alabama System Office



Ray Garner

UAHuntsville COE names two new faculty

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (September 22, 2011) - The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) College of Engineering (COE) Dean Dr. Shankar Mahalingam recently announced the following faculty appointments: Dr. D. Keith Hollingsworth, Professor and Chair of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE); and Dr. Sarma L. Rani, assistant professor of MAE.

Dr. Keith Hollingsworth

Before joining UAHuntsville, Hollingsworth was associate professor and associate chair of mechanical engineering and director of MECE graduate studies program at The University of Houston (UH). He also served as associate professor of the biomedical engineering program.

His years of teaching, largely in an undergraduate laboratory setting, have been recognized with three college teaching awards. Specifically, he was the recipient of the Faculty Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research. At UH he graduated a total of 35 research students at the Ph.D., masters and honors thesis levels.

Hollingsworth's research interests span several areas of thermal science including boiling and two-phase flows, turbulent convection, liquid crystal thermography, and biomedical heat transfer. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a recipient of the Herbert Allen Award from the South-Texas Section of ASME for "outstanding technical achievement by an engineer 35 years of age or younger."

Hollingsworth received his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Carolina State University.

Dr. Sarma L. Rani

Sarma L. Rani joins the COE faculty from Huntsville's CFD Research Corporation. His research areas include large eddy simulations and direct numerical simulations of turbulent flows, particle-laden turbulent flows, analytical and computational modeling of combustion instabilities, and radiative heat transfer.

He obtained his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, in Pilani, India. Rani obtained a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station. And, he received his Ph.D., in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rani equally carried out post-doctoral research at Cornell University. At both institutions his research focus was on direct numerical and large eddy simulations of particle-laden turbulent flows.

For more information 
Joyce Anderson-Maples, (256) 874-2101">

Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship awarded to UAHuntsville senior

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Sept. 15, 2011) - The first Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship was presented to The University of Alabama in Huntsville biology student David Gray this week.

memorial scholarship

in the photo, left to right: Adam Hott, Ph.D., representing the Partnership for Biotechnology Research; Debra Moriarity, Ph.D., chair of the UAHuntsville Biological Sciences Department; David Gray, UAHuntsville senior and recipient of the Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship; and Leland Cseke, Ph.D., UAHuntsville biology professor.

Gray, a senior and non-traditional student at age 32, should receive his bachelor's degree this spring. According to Leland Cseke, Ph.D., a professor at UAHuntsville specializing in plant molecular biology, Gray has an independent way of thinking about science.

"He clearly sees links between science disciplines," said Cseke, "and that prompts him to explore new ways of doing things." Cseke noted that Gray's curiosity led him to uncover and correct mistakes in accepted genomic sequencing data. Cseke, who nominated Gray for the scholarship, added that the biology senior is highly self-motivated while also being a team player who has helped to advance a community gardens program.

The scholarship was made possible through funds donated by the family of Gopi Podila, Ph.D., former professor and chair of the UAHuntsville Biological Sciences Department. The memorial scholarship salutes Podila's dedication to the educational advancement of students in the biological sciences.

Each year, the biological sciences faculty at UAHuntsville will identify a deserving undergraduate student to receive the $1,000 scholarship. Selection is based on academic performance, service to the department and a demonstrated interest in biological research. Individuals who wish to contribute to the Gopi Podila Memorial Scholarship Fund should contact the Partnership for Biotechnology Research at

For more information,
contact Ray Garner

Rocket City Rednecks

UAHuntsville alums front & center on National Geographic reality series

rocket rednecks lgHUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Sept. 12, 2011)

Go ahead. Call Travis Taylor a redneck. He will consider it a compliment.

 The term "redneck" originated from resourceful, hard-working sharecroppers who did whatever was necessary to keep the family fed, according to Taylor, a physicist/ engineer/astronomer/rocket enthusiast alumnus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Taylor holds four degrees from the university and is working toward a fifth.

So when it came time to name the National Geographic Channel reality series in which he, his family and friends star this fall, "Rocket City Rednecks" sounded great to him.

"I thought it would be really cool to do a fast-paced, funny, exciting, entertaining show about science," said Taylor, 43, who is also the author of a dozen science fiction novels. "We are going to educate the world on what redneck really means."

Taylor wrote the proposal for the show, bought a video camera and asked his wife to record the weekend-at-the-farm antics of the five "backwoods brainiacs." (That's National Geographic's terminology.)

DomeWithin days, Flight 33 Productions signed on to shoot the series.

"Most Americans think that just 'cause we talk with a Southern drawl and we drink sweet tea, I guess they think we must be idiots," says Taylor's nephew, 23-year-old Michael Taylor, in a trailer promoting 'Rocket City Rednecks.'

But everyone in the ensemble "has nothing less than a genius IQ," Taylor said. Viewers tuning in to the show - which premiers at 8 p.m., Sept. 28 - will see the cast fire off a rocket fueled with homemade moonshine; bomb-proof a pickup truck with beer cans, plywood and spray foam; and build an Iron Man suit, which allows Taylor to pick up a 150-pound keg ...with one hand.

Travis is used to being in front of the camera, serving as a science expert for the History Channel's production of "The Universe."

"It's in our contract that we're allowed to drink while filming the show," said Taylor, who currently works for the Space and Missile Defense Command.

The premise is that the cast - which also includes his father, Charles Taylor, brother-in-law Dr. Pete Erbach, and childhood best buddy Greg "Rog" Jones - confronts a new problem each week. Over the course of a weekend, they solve it, and the process is compressed into 22 minutes of air time.

"This is a project that the government would spend 10 years and $100 million on," Taylor says in a trailer. "Us, we've got one weekend and five pretty dang smart rednecks."

Taylor holds a master's degree in astronomy from University of Western Sydney (Australia) as well as master's degrees in physics and aerospace engineering and a doctorate in optical science from UAHuntsville. He is currently working on a second doctorate in aerospace systems engineering.

It was while he was doing graduate course work in Huntsville that the Decatur native met Pete Erbach, and the two PhD's ended up marrying sisters.

"That sounds kind of redneck, too, doesn't it?" said Taylor, who has already been featured in History Channel series "Life After People" and "The Universe."

Fifteen of 20 episodes have already been filmed at Taylor's father's shop in Somerville. And having his father, who was a machinist for Wernher von Braun, involved in the project was a must.

Group Field"Dad did rocket science during the day and plowed behind his mules in the evening," Taylor said. "Von Braun and several others from Pennemunde would give him blueprints and he'd figure out how to build whatever they needed.

"And now here we are, cutting metal and building things that go 'boom.' We think Von Braun would be proud."

Taylor said he has come up with 200 project ideas for the show, "which will last us about 10 years," but no one knows how long this redneck ride with last.

"I hope everyone watching the show has as much fun as we had making it," said Erbach, a senior scientist at Polaris Sensor Technologies who holds bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in physics from UAHuntsville.

"Literally, we are having a blast."

Upcoming Episodes

Sept. 28: Bomb-Proof My Pick-Up and Moonshine Rocket Fuel
Oct. 5: Junkyard Iron Man and 20,000 Kegs Under the Sea
Oct. 12: Hillbilly Armageddon and Rednecks on the Red Planet
Oct. 19: Close Encounters of the Redneck Kind
Oct. 26: Backwoods Spy Satellite and Redneck Power


UAHuntsville’s Lori Lioce elected chair of ANA political action committee

lioceb 0

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (August 22, 2011) - Lori Lioce, assistant professor of nursing at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) College of Nursing, was recently elected as chairperson of the American Nurses Association's Political Action Committee.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) Political Action Committee (PAC) works to raise funds from members and supports candidates for federal office who have demonstrated their belief in the organization's legislative agenda. ANA-PAC board officers are elected to serve a one-year term. The new board, under the direction of Dr. Lori Lioce will establish the presidential endorsement task force and has set a goal of raising one million dollars for the 2011-2012-election cycle.

Lioce is the simulation coordinator and assistant professor at the UAHuntsville College of Nursing. Her clinical experience as a nurse practitioner includes family practice and emergency nursing and medicine.

She practices as a family nurse practitioner at the Huntsville Hospital Emergency Department. Lioce's educational and research interest involves, high-fidelity simulation, nursing policy, NP scope of practice barriers, advocacy, and legislation.

Lioce holds professional memberships in the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, North Alabama Nurse Practitioner Faculty, Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Honor Society, Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Society, Alabama State Nurses Association, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioner and the American College of Nurse Practitioner.

She earned a masters' degree in nursing administration and post-masters' family nurse practitioner certificate at UAHuntsville, and a doctor of nursing practice at Samford University.

Lioce completed a four-year term on the ANA Congress on Nursing Practice and Economics (CNPE) in 2010 and serves as the immediate past president for the Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama. Lioce has served as vice-chair of the ANA-PAC Board of Trustees since 2008.

For more information 
Joyce Anderson-Maples, (256) 824-2101" target="_self">

UAHuntsville’s Louise O’Keefe receives outstanding regional nurse practitioner award

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (August 17, 2011) - University of Alabama in Huntsville's (UAHuntsville) Louise C. O'Keefe, recently received the 2011-2012 Outstanding Regional Nurse Practitioner Award for North Alabama. The award was presented to O'Keefe by The Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama (NPAA).

louise o_keefe

O'Keefe is the director of the UAHuntsville Faculty and Staff Clinic, and a clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing. She has been a member of the nursing faculty since 2006.

Her clinical expertise includes occupational health, NP emergency department and family practice, diabetes education and acute care nursing. O'Keefe's teaching responsibilities at the College of Nursing include health assessment, health assessment for the practicing professional nurse and nursing care of adults with alteration in health.

O'Keefe's clinical research interests involve occupational health and diabetes. Her publications include "Autonomy in Practice: Are Nurse Practitioner Students Being Prepared for Reality?" Advanced Practice Quarterly. She holds professional memberships in the American Association of Diabetes Educators, North Alabama Nurse Practitioner Association, National Association of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, Southern Nursing Research Association, and the American Association of Occupational Health Nursing.

O'Keefe earned an associate's degree in nursing from Prince George's Community College (Largo, Md.), and undergraduate and graduate degrees in nursing from George Mason University (Fairfax, Va.). She is currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at The University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Alabama seeks to improve access to safe, high-quality, cost-effective health care for Alabama's citizens. Nurse Practitioners are advanced practice nurses who provide health care services similar to those of a physician.

For more information 
Joyce Anderson-Maples, (256) 824-2101

Engineering dean announces new appointments

HUNTSVILLE, ALA. (August 11, 2011) - The University of Alabama (UAHuntsville) is pleased to announce that Dr. Emil Jovanov and Dr. Jennifer English, have been named to associate dean posts within the College of Engineering.

Dr. Shankar Mahalingam, dean of the College of Engineering (COE), recently made the announcement. ""Drs. Richard Wyskida and Sherri Messimer have provided outstanding service as Associate Deans in the College of Engineering over the last several years. The College looks forward to their continued contributions in research, teaching and service as members of the faculty in the Industrial Systems Engineering and Engineering Management Department," Mahalingam said.

Dr. Emil Jovanov

Dr. Emil Jovanov is the new associate dean for Graduate Education and Research. His appointment was effective July 1. He is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.

He received his Dipl. Ing., MSc, and Ph.D. from the University of Belgrade. His areas of research expertise include real-time and embedded systems, wearable health monitoring, biomedical signal processing, and ubiquitous and mobile computing. He has over 25 years experience in the development and implementation of application specific hardware, software, and systems.

Jovanov is a senior member of IEEE, member of IEEE EMBS Technical Committee on Wearable Biomedical Sensors and Systems, corresponding member of the IEEE Medical Technology Policy Committee (MTPC), and serves as associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine and IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Circuits and Systems, and as a member of Editorial Board of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.

He has given 40 invited talks and has an impressive record of over 150 peer reviewed publications. Jovanov was awarded the 2010 UAHuntsville College of Engineering Outstanding Faculty Award. 

emil jovanov                 jennifer english

Dr. Jennifer English

The College of Engineering is also pleased to announce that Dr. Jennifer English will serve as the new associate dean for Undergraduate Affairs. Her appointment became effective this fall.

She is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. She received her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech in May of 2000, and joined the ECE department faculty that same year. Her research interest is rooted in Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) including MEMS fabrication development for micro sensors, wireless sensing in extreme environments, physical health monitoring of mechanical structures, MEMS devices for physically uncloneable functions for information security and MEMS reliability.

English holds several patents with co-investigators including one held jointly with NASA on a MEMS Long Translation Actuator and one with Georgia Tech Research Corporation that has been licensed by a promising bio-medical company in Atlanta.

She has an impressive record of extramural funding, having received over $2 million in research as PI or co-PI from several funding agencies including NASA, DOD, NSF, and AMRDEC and has published in scholarly journals including IEEE and the Institute of Physics. In 2004, English was recognized as the Outstanding Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering. She has been honored with the SGA most outstanding teacher award in the College of Engineering in 2004 and in 2006. English received the UAH Foundation Teaching Award in 2005. 

For more information 
Joyce Anderson-Maples, (256) 824-2101

Joe Vallely named UAHuntsville Asst. VP of Corporate Relations

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (July 18, 2011) - Joe Vallely has been named Assistant Vice President of Corporate Relations by The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

joe vallely_web

Vallely has been the director of economic development for the city of Huntsville since 1998, and played a crucial role in numerous public/private negotiations and capital investments in Huntsville. His duties also included the coordination of Huntsville's economic development activities and the strategic use of local government resources to enhance the city's economic future through capital investments.

"Joe Vallely is a valuable addition to our Advancement team because of his knowledge of the Huntsville community, as well as his experience in successfully negotiating public/private partnerships," said Interim University Advancement Vice President Ray Pinner. "The expertise that he brings to our campus will strengthen the university's relationships with the local business community."

"UAHuntsville is an essential partner in cooperative research and economic development for our nation, and I am honored to be appointed," Vallely said. "I look forward to forging beneficial partnerships with the university, businesses and our graduates. Advancement of UAHuntsville is critical to our future. The university is uniquely positioned to not only prepare this nation's future workforce, but to partner with industry on and off campus every day."

His background also includes serving as district director for former Congressman Bud Cramer, and director of governmental relations for the city of Huntsville. Vallely was a news anchor for a Huntsville TV station early in his career.

For more information, 
contact Ray Garner 

Leading expert in systems engineering design process to join UAHuntsville Center for System Studies

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (July 12, 2011) – Dr. Paul Collopy, internationally recognized leader in the design process for complex systems, will join the Center for System Studies at The University of Alabama in Huntsville as Deputy Director.

Collopy will be responsible for growing and managing the center’s diverse research portfolio and innovative partnerships with industry, academia, government, and non-profit organizations. In addition to overseeing the daily operations, he will also support the creation of the center’s first affiliated Ph.D. class.

 “We are very fortunate to have Paul as part of our team at the Center for System Studies,” said Mike Griffin, director for the center. “His unique expertise and leadership will help the center realize its mission of creating a vibrant community of systems thinkers dedicated to advancing the practice of systems engineering.”

Collopy brings to UAHuntsville more than 20 years experience in the development of the design process for large systems. He most recently served as the executive director of the Value-Driven Design Institute, a non-profit research and education institute dedicated to developing new approaches to the design of complex systems. He is also the co-founder of DFM Consulting, which develops value-centric design methods, value models, and cost models to support complex product design and technology management. The company’s clients include Boeing, GE, Lockheed Martin, and several government agencies and offices.  

Contact: Laurie Provin
Office: 256-824-4419

UAHuntsville alumnus Paul Ruffin recipient of prestigious Presidential Meritorious Rank Award

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (July 11, 2011) — The U.S. Department of State has announced that University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAHuntsville) alumnus Paul B. Ruffin (’82 MS, ’86 PhD) received the prestigious 2010 Presidential Meritorious Rank Award, approved by President Barack Obama, for his accomplishments and service as a research scientist in the Department of the Army.
Ruffin and other meritorious award recipients from across the nation were honored by the Senior Executives Association at the group’s 26th annual black tie Distinguished Rank Awards Banquet on Wednesday, June 29 at the Pentagon. The Senior Executives Association is a professional organization for career federal executives.  
As a senior research scientist at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Center at Redstone Arsenal, he provides technical leadership and direction for research and development programs in the Micro- and Nano-scale technology area to achieve improvements in system performance over military environments, reduction in weapons components size and cost, and enhanced reliability.
Ruffin’s research in fiber optics, Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS), and nanotechnology has resulted in seven patent awards, four book chapters, and numerous peer-reviewed journal articles. His latest patent “Nano Smart Needle for Precision Sensing and Treatment that Promotes Healing in Living Tissue,” revealed a noninvasive technique for treating cancer patients. He is the co-editor of a textbook Fiber Optics Sensors: Second Edition. 
In July 2003, Ruffin was promoted to the highest rank for a research scientist – senior research scientist achievable in government service, making him the first African-American to ever attain such status in the Army. Ruffin earned a master’s and Ph.D., in physics from UAHuntsville. He also received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Alabama A&M University. 
Ruffin, who is a member of the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, has received numerous prestigious awards, including the 2011 Black Engineer of the Year STEM Minorities in Research Science's (MiRS) Professional Achievement Emerald Award, the Army Research and Development Achievement Award from the Secretary of the Army in 2003, Black Engineer of the Year: Special Recognition, Technologist of the Year Award 2011, Top Ten Army Materiel Command Personnel of the Year Award, Material Acquisition/ Technology Award from the American Defense Preparedness Association, Recognition for a Canadian Patent, and many other prestigious awards.
Each year, the President recognizes and celebrates a small group of career senior executives and senior career employees with the Presidential Rank Award. Recipients of this prestigious award are strong leaders, professionals, and scientists who achieve results and consistently demonstrate strength, integrity, industry, and a relentless commitment to excellence in public service.
Award winners are chosen through a rigorous selection process. Their agency heads, evaluated by boards comprised of private citizens, and approved by the President, nominates them. The evaluation criteria focus on leadership and results.
As a Meritorious Rank Award recipient, Ruffin will receive 20 percent of his rate of annual basic pay. All award recipients will receive a framed certificate signed by the President.
For more information
Joyce Anderson-Maples, (256) 824-2101