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McFarlane Named ADVANCE Professor, Giving Faculty Candidates Independent View

Picture of Dr. Nicole McFarlaneWhen candidates are brought in for interviews during the process of filling faculty positions, they can have questions about the campus that they might soon call home that they might not feel at ease asking the formal search committee.

The Tickle College of Engineering is creating a new position to be a neutral party, someone outside the official hiring group as a way to solve that problem by giving candidates an outlet to get answers to questions that matter to them, but that they might not feel appropriate asking a group determining whether they would get the job.

The TCE ADVANCE Professorship will allow candidates to have personal interaction with someone to answer questions about topics such as campus climate, leave policies and benefits, or issues surrounding inclusivity, religion, or family matters.

Associate Professor Nicole McFarlane of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will be the first TCE Advance Professor, and she is already looking forward to the role.

“I am pleased to be taking on this new responsibility and in helping faculty candidates gain a better understanding of what is going on here in the college and at UT. Choosing whether or not to join a university defines a faculty member for years or even decades, so it is important that people know what they need to about their potential academic home.”
—Nicole McFarlane

In the new position, McFarlane will work with UT’s Adaptations for a Sustainable Climate of Excellence and Diversity (ASCEND) program to develop resources and information for prospective faculty candidates to help inform them on the college and what kind of career they might expect at UT.

The new professorship is part of a larger initiative that the college is undertaking to promote a more diverse and inclusive faculty, something the National Science Foundation has been keen on taking on around STEM-related areas.

The NSF began the “ADVANCE: Organizational Change for Gender Equity in STEM Academic Professions,” in 2001 as a way to begin help recruit, retain, and encourage women in STEM-related fields, and has expanded its goals and outreach in the years since.

Like other groups, agencies, and universities, the NSF understands that increased diversity leads to an growth in the number of perspectives being brought to bear on a problem, improving chances for better outcomes and breakthroughs.

Picture of Dr. Michela Taufer at the SC19 Conference in Denver

EECS Professor Pens Article on SC19 Conference Keynote Speaker, Mars Rover Scientist

This month, EECS Dongarra Professor Michela Taufer is serving as Conference Chair for the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis (SC19) on November 17–22 in Denver, Colorado.

She has just written an article about the conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Squyres. Dr. Squyres and his NASA teammates led the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rover programs from 2004 to 2018.

Read the article

EECS Professor’s Research Team Working to Create Ultra-Fast Electric Vehicle Charger

Picture of a module allowing for development of a 500 kilowatt DC fast charger for electric vehicles, made by WolfspeedDr. Kevin Bai, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and his research team are working with Ford Motor Company and Wolfspeed to design a 1-megawatt ultra-fast charger for electric vehicles. Wolfspeed is the power and radio frequency segment of North Carolina-based Cree, a manufacturer of LED lighting and components.

According to an article on the website Talk, Business & Politics, “The new device is expected to charge electric vehicle batteries in about four minutes, similar to the amount of time one might spend at a gas station and much faster than some of the fastest electric car chargers on the market, such as the Tesla Supercharger, which requires about 30 minutes for a charge.” The project is led by Wolfspeed and sponsored by ARPA-E. Dr. Bai’s research team will provide the control strategy and simulation design for the project.

Read more about this project

EECS Professor to chair the 2021 IEEE International Future Energy Challenge

Picture of Dr. Hua "Kevin" BaiDr. Kevin Bai, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has been selected to chair the 2021 IEEE International Future Energy Challenge, to be hosted by CURENT.

The goal of the Challenge is to design a solar-powered microgrid using the CURENT hardware test bed. Eventually, eight student teams will be invited to CURENT in July 2021 for the final competition. The competition is sponsored by 3 IEEE societies: PES, PELS, IAS. Congratulations, Dr. Bai!

For more information about the Challenge, please visit

Boo in the Courtyard 2019

On Halloween, the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science competed against other Tickle College of Engineering departments in the annual Boo in the Courtyard costume contest.  This year’s theme was “At The Movies.”  Despite stiff competition from the creepy and kooky “Addams Family,” “101 Dalmatians,” Bollywood dancers from the movie “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham” and “Teen Wolf,” EECS emerged victorious with its “Toy Story” costume theme and brought home the first-place trophy!

Picture of Dr. Michela Taufer at the SC19 Conference in Denver

Five UT Centers at SC19 Conference

Five computational science research centers from the University of Tennessee—the Bredesen Center, the Global Computing Laboratory, the Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, the Innovative Computing Laboratory, and Chattanooga’s SimCenter—will represent the University at this year’s International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis (SC19) on November 17–22 in Denver, Colorado.

In modern science, computational modeling and simulation using high-performance computing (HPC) represents a new branch of scientific methodology, known broadly as “computational science,” that now sits alongside traditional theory and experiment. Computational science is accelerating things like drug development and energy research and enabling scientists to tackle problems that were simply intractable without HPC.

For its part, the University of Tennessee has a decades-long history in HPC and computational science and in supporting computational science research centers throughout its campuses. In addition, the University’s own Prof. Michela Taufer is serving as Conference Chair for SC19, which will bring together over 10,000 scientists, engineers, and industry leaders to share new insights and ideas and nurture essential collaborations in the field.


The Bredesen Center offers one of the world’s leading interdisciplinary PhD programs in Data Science and Engineering (DSE) by bringing together students and researchers from the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Bredesen Center distinguishes itself from traditional PhD programs by allowing students to create customized PhD experiences working on interdisciplinary projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy as well as other government agencies. DSE students have access to world-class computing expertise and resources at the university and at ORNL—including ORNL’s Summit supercomputer. A large array of other ORNL facilities generate unique scientific data sets and enable cutting-edge research in computational and data sciences. DSE focus areas include life and health sciences, materials science, advanced manufacturing, national security, transportation, urban systems, and environmental sciences. The Bredesen Center also offers an interdisciplinary doctorate in Energy Science and Engineering.


The Global Computing Laboratory, part of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and headed by Prof. Michela Taufer (also SC19 Conference Chair), focuses on various aspects of HPC and its use in application science. The lab is engaged in the design and testing of efficient computational algorithms and adaptive scheduling policies for scientific computing on GPUs, cloud computing, and volunteer computing. Interdisciplinary research with scientists and engineers in fields such as chemistry and chemical engineering, pharmaceutical sciences, seismology, and mathematics is at the core of the lab’s activities and philosophy.


The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences, headed by Prof. Anthony Mezzacappa, is a joint venture between the University of Tennessee and ORNL. Founded in 1991, JICS’s mission is to advance scientific discovery and to educate the next generation of researchers in the application of computational modeling and simulation. JICS brings to bear the vast resources available to it through its academic, industrial, and research partnerships on some of the most challenging scientific and engineering problems—those in computational mathematics, chemistry, fluid dynamics, materials science, physics, and beyond.


The Innovative Computing Laboratory, founded by Prof. Jack Dongarra in 1989, is a large computer science research and development group situated in the heart of the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus. The lab’s mission is to ensure that the University of Tennessee is a world leader in advanced high-performance and scientific computing through research, education, and collaboration. Specializing in numerical linear algebra, distributed computing, and performance analysis and benchmarking, the lab employs over fifty researchers, students, and staff, and has earned many accolades, including four R&D 100 awards.


The SimCenter, headed by Prof. Tony Skjellum, is a research incubator at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) for interdisciplinary work with a foundation in HPC, modeling and simulation, data analytics, and machine learning. The SimCenter helps faculty and students at all levels advance their research and learning in a variety of fields including biology, computer science, mathematics, energy, the environment, smart cities, aerospace, and advanced materials. SimCenter is also UTC’s core facility for advanced computing and network infrastructure and offers HPC and Virtual Private Cloud Resources for faculty and outside collaborators undertaking computing and big data problems across a spectrum of disciplines. One of the center’s goals is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration in computational sciences and engineering by providing meeting space, making connections among faculty, and offering proposal development and other research support.

Picture of Electrical Engineering student Jordan Sangid in a lab in the Min H. Kao Building, with his amplifier, amplifier circuit and other equipment

Amplified Frequencies: Jordan Sangid rocks the analog road from power chords to power research

By Randall Brown

Jordan Sangid’s path to analog signal processing research began in a different kind of “lab” from those in the Min Kao building, but just a few blocks away.

Sangid earned his first bachelor’s degree, in history with a religious studies minor, while also working as the live-sound engineer/bartender/manager at the Longbranch Saloon. This legendary, now-defunct bar and music venue was near campus on Cumberland Avenue, a.k.a. “The Strip.”

“I really liked working around music and meeting interesting people every night,” he said. “I thought that’s what I was going to do for a living, and that the history degree was just something I had on my résumé for when I was ready for the next level—whatever that was.”

The next level sneaked up on him via infrastructure needs specific to music halls. After many a weekend of rowdy rock’n’roll shows, he was left with a pile of broken microphone and speaker cables.

“The first couple of times we took the cables to Rik’s Music to be fixed, but it was too expensive and took too much time to get them back,” said Sangid. “I was gifted a $10 Radio Shack soldering iron by the owner of the bar, John Stockman, and my life was changed.”

He worked with electronics wiz John Stembridge, known around Knoxville as “The Sound Doctor,” to beef up the venue’s sound system, but grew more frustrated as ongoing problems grew bigger than he could fix on his own.

“I started taking night classes at Pellissippi State Community College to learn more about electronics and hoped to save the bar some money,” said Sangid.

He soon found himself at UT working towards a second bachelor’s degree. He gravitated toward the field of analog electronics and took classes with Benjamin Blalock, the Blalock-Kennedy-Pierce Professor in the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“Professor Blalock recruited me as an undergraduate research assistant to assist with printed circuit board (PCB) design and assembly,” said Sangid. “PCB design became my specialty and I’ve given direct assistance on nearly every PCB that has come through our lab since I’ve been here.”

Picture of an analog amplifier circuit, made by Electrical Engineering graduate student Jordan Sangid

Close-up of an analog amplifier circuit made by Jordan Sanger.

He forged ahead into graduate studies. Blalock invited him to join his research team and pointed him toward the CURENT research center and the Department of Energy’s Wide Bandgap Traineeship, a fellowship for graduate students in power electronics. Sangid designed a GaN Class D Audio Amplifier as a Master’s thesis project within that traineeship.

“I participated as much as I could in CURENT activities to show the appreciation I had for the generous fellowship,” said Sangid. “For my two years, I served as the Chief of Professional Development in the CURENT Student Leadership Council and organized multiple events and seminars.”

His ongoing participation earned him notice as a 2019 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant and his scholarship earned him a Bodenheimer Fellowship—a pair of accolades that a younger Sangid would not have expected.

“I was a big joker in high school and didn’t really try that hard,” he recalled. “I was always told that I wasn’t very good at math and science and I should probably study something else, so I did.”

He overcame those doubts, though, and has no regrets for his pre-engineering years.

“History was awesome,” he said. “It was like constant story time and I learned tons of Jeopardy facts.”

Sangid ultimately hopes that a career in analog electronics engineering helps him retain portions of his “rock’n’roll lifestyle.”

“My end goal has always been to have a job where I don’t have to wear a tie,” he said. “The more advanced degree you have in analog electronics, the less formal you have to dress. I’m targeting Crocs-with-socks now.”

Systers Members Reflect on Their Experiences at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration

Picture of Lydia San George, Farnaz Foroughian and Ava Hedayatipour at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando

Lydia San George, Farnaz Foroughian and Ava Hedayatipour at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

Ria Patel at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando

Ria Patel at the 2019 Grace Hopper Celebration in Orlando, Florida.

Two weeks ago, five members of Systers: Women In EECS@UTK attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing- Ava Hedayatipour, Farnaz Foroughian, Ria Patel, Lydia San George and Sirajum Munira.  The conference was held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida and more than 25,000 people were in attendance.  Ria Patel, Ava Hedayatipour and Farnaz Foroughian share their thoughts on the experience.

Ria Patel

GHC was nothing like I have ever experienced before! This is an experience that every woman in technology should have the chance to have. I spoke to several companies about what they did and what internships they have for undergrads in computer science. Although most companies were looking for juniors and seniors to fulfill their roles, I still managed to get an offer! I am currently going to work as a Software Engineer Intern. As well as speaking to many companies at the career fair, I attended some guest speaker sessions that featured topics such as being a minority woman in tech leadership, being a CEO of your own company, etc. I managed to gain many contacts with influential women in the field of computer science as well as other students from schools around the world! Overall, I would definitely recommend going to GHC in order to network with many people in the industry as well as get your name out there!

Ava Hedayatipour

In the first week of October, I went to Grace Hopper Celebration 2019 by Systers sponsorship. I was exhilarated that I got the chance to attend the best conferences that focus on providing professional development for women in engineering, with more than 20 thousand attendees. The highlight of Grace Hopper is always the opening keynote. With a few thousands of women cheering and hearing inspiring stories from the inspiring women, there is an incredible vibe going on. During the conference, there was a career fair going on in the main hall, where I experienced the latest technologies, tools, and services from the top companies in the industry. I was able to talk to representatives from big names in electrical engineering like Xilin, Cisco, IBM, Qualcomm, Apple, Amazon, Texas Instrument and Oracle. Among many useful sessions and talks in course of three days, I enjoyed the most the two sessions that I chaired, one about using technology in fashion and the other one a panel of experts in academia and industry that talked about the future of Artificial Intelligence. The after-hours of the conference are always comforting and chill, connecting with different people in company parties and catching up with friends that you have not seen for a long time, make every day of Grace Hopper pretty unforgettable. It was wonderful to talk to the people at both the Science & Technology. I am sure I benefited from the diverse perspective I witnessed at the conference. I will practices exchanging new ideas and methods that I learn, share my experience and try to empower women in my department. Most importantly, I encourage everyone to experience Grace Hopper 2020!

Farnaz Foroughian

It was the first time I was attending GHC and it was amazing to see over 25,000 women in tech from all over the world gathering in one place. Of course there were long lines everywhere and in those lines I could talk to many girls in EE or CS. This great event gave me the opportunity to see many pioneer women in different fields in technology and computing and they inspired me. I also attended several great sessions I had registered for.

Moreover, by visiting the career fair and talking to the people from many companies, research labs, and universities I could distribute my resume and also got updated on the latest technologies.

To me the most important part was networking and talking to incredible people who had lots of great ideas. I also could make friends from other universities like Oxford.

Besides, I had lots of fun with other girls by attending the events and parties of big companies like Google, Intel, and etc. at nights.

Picture of UT Engineering students at Greenwich Observatory during the Engineering In London Experience

Come to the Study Abroad Fair and Learn About the Engineering In London Program

The Fall 2019 CIE Study Abroad Fair will be on Wednesday, October 2 from 1pm to 4pm in the Student Union, Ballrooms A, B, and C.

Stop by the Tickle College of Engineering table to find out more about the 2020 Engineering in London (EIL) study abroad program directed by Dr. Mike Berry.

In past years, students in the EIL program have toured the City of London, as well as visiting such places as the Royal Maritime Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Observatory, the London Eye, the Royal Institution and Michael Faraday Laboratory, the Globe Theater, Buckingham Palace, the London Water and Steam Museum, and Bletchley Park, where Alan Turing and his colleagues broke the naval Enigma code during World War II.

All EIL students take ECE 301, Circuits, and ME 331, Thermodynamics in London and earn 6 credit hours of technical elective credits toward their major. They also work on various projects, such as building a prototype crosswalk emulator using an Arduino kit.

Among the most cited benefits of studying abroad are: increased self-confidence, increased maturity, enhanced interest in academic study, improved problem-solving skills, reinforced commitment to foreign language study, enhanced understanding of one’s own cultural values and biases, new career direction, and improved employability.

The EIL program cost will remain at $4,999 (excludes some meals and airfare). COSC majors can use both ECE 301 and ME 331 as upper-division technical electives for the degree and the Hope Scholarship can be used to cover tuition during Summer Session I (EIL 2020 runs from May 29 to June 27, 2020). Also, a CompEng/EE major can enroll in the program and receive COSC 493 credit (instead of ECE 301) for TAing the ECE 301 the course in London.

Deadlines for EIL applications:
#1: November 14, 2019 with notification of acceptance by November 22, 2019.
#2: February 01, 2020 with notification of acceptance by February 07, 2020.

For more information and to enroll, please visit

Visit the Engineering in London blog at:

See the Engineering in London video trailer at:

Picture of Dr. Catherine Schuman

ORNL researcher, UT EECS alumna receives DOE early career funding award

Seven Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers representing a range of scientific disciplines have received Department of Energy’s Office of Science Early Career Research Program awards.

The Early Career Research Program, now in its tenth year, supports the development of individual research programs of outstanding scientists early in their careers and stimulates research careers in the disciplines supported by the DOE Office of Science.

“Supporting our nation’s most talented and creative researchers in their early career years is crucial to building America’s scientific workforce and sustaining America’s culture of innovation,” said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.  “We congratulate these young researchers on their significant accomplishments to date and look forward to their achievements in the years ahead.”

Catherine Schuman, who works in ORNL’s Computer Science and Mathematics Division, received funding for her proposal, “Learning to Learn: Designing Novel Neuromorphic Algorithms with Machine Learning,” from the Office of Science Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.

The project will use machine learning and high-performance computing to automatically create new algorithms that will enable real-time continuous learning for neuromorphic systems, which are novel, energy efficient computing systems inspired by biological neural networks. The work aims to provide a path forward for using neuromorphic computers for real-time adaptive machine learning-based analysis of scientific data.

Catherine Schuman is a Research Scientist in Computational Data Analytics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  She received her doctorate in computer science from the University of Tennessee in 2015, where she completed her dissertation on the use of evolutionary algorithms to train spiking neural networks for neuromorphic systems.  She is continuing her study of models and algorithms for neuromorphic computing, as well as other topics in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as part of her work at ORNL.  Catherine is also an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, where she, along with four other professors at UT, leads a neuromorphic research team made up of more than 25 faculty members, graduate student researchers, and undergraduate student researchers.

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