2011 · STORIES
by Susan Lassetter on December 04, 2011
When good things happen, people tend to take notice. At least that's the case with the Bagley College of Engineering. As the college has grown and evolved, it has attracted more attention and with it new opportunities for its faculty, students and alumni.
Among those opportunities were chances for career advancement that, over the course of two years, lured away several BCoE department heads.
"It's difficult to lose proven leaders, but the fact that they are so highly sought after speaks highly of our faculty and administrators," Dean Sarah Rajala said. "It's always a challenge to replace so many people in such a short time, but we've been fortunate to have a talented pool of candidates to draw from."
To fill vacancies in five departments, the college conducted national searches to find new leaders whose passion for their fields could help further the college's goals and continue the development of their departments.
"The past few years have been challenging because of the financial constraints, faculty retirements and student growth. It appears that we have turned a corner and that's a great thing," Rajala explained. "Now we can start exploring new ways to accommodate our growth and we need strong leaders to help take us into the future."
Those tapped for new leadership opportunities include: Pasquale Cinnella, aerospace engineering; Steve Daniewicz, mechanical engineering; Jason Keith, chemical engineering; Jonathan Pote, agricultural and biological engineering; and Donna Reese, computer science and engineering.
"I know that the new leadership will bring new energy and ideas to the college," Rajala said. "I look forward to working with them to achieve our vision and goals for the college."
Pasquale "PC" Cinnella has more than 20 years of experience as an educator in the college of engineering.
He replaced Anthony Vizzini, who in 2009 became dean of Western Michigan University's College of Engineering and Applied Science. Cinnella served as the interim leader for two years giving him a firm grasp of what the job entails.
"I love all the aspects of this job, especially being able to help students and ensure that we continue to provide quality education," Cinnella said.
The National Science Foundation ranks MSU's department of aerospace engineering 10th in research expenditures among similar departments at public universities nationwide. The undergraduate program is ranked 84th nationally by U.S. News and World Report. Cinnella plans to continue to move up in the rankings despite being faced with tight budgets.
"We have an excellent undergraduate program and we need to make sure its quality isn't effected by lean budgets," Cinnella explained. " I also want to continue to grow our research program through increased collaboration with the university's research centers, and put an increased focus on graduate education and our new distance program."
Cinnella holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Bari, Italy, and a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
He came to Mississippi State in 1990 as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering. After six years, he was named associate professor and ultimately earned full professorship in 2003. Prior to coming to State, Cinnella served as a research associate in the department of aerospace and ocean engineering at Virginia Tech.
His research interests include computational fluid dynamics, thermodynamics and engineering mechanics among others. His work has been published in numerous academic publications including those produced by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
"Being chosen for this leadership position is an exciting and extremely rewarding experience," Cinnella said. "I have been part of the MSU family for a very long time. We have been pushing the boundaries of new knowledge in engineering and applied sciences, while ensuring excellence in our educational mission and I look forward to the rest of my career here."
As the largest department within the college, Steve Daniewicz believes mechanical engineering is in a position to get back to basics.
"We've had a lot of growth in the past few years. We want to continue to grow, but we also need to catch our breath and make sure we have a solid foundation that we can continue to build on," Daniewicz said.
Daniewicz has served as the interim department head since Louay Chamra, now dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Oakland University in Michigan, stepped down from the post in 2009. In that time, he has had ample opportunity to evaluate the needs of the department and the approximately 600 students enrolled in its programs.
"I would like to renew our focus on hands-on education. We've always done a good job with that, but our laboratory facilities need to be bolstered through improved physical spaces and equipment," Daniewicz explained. "This would allow us to make better use of labs in our curriculum and expose more students to what they teach."
Daniewicz joined the Mississippi State faculty in 1994 as an assistant professor. Since that time he has worked his way up the faculty ranks becoming a full professor in 2004. He has also served the department as graduate coordinator and a member of the curriculum review committee.
As a researcher, Daniewicz's work focuses on fatigue and fracture mechanics and has earned funding from the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and the Department of Energy among others. He has twice earned an MSU Hearin Professor award, which recognizes outstanding teaching and research. He currently serves as an executive member of the ASTM International committee E-08 on fatigue and fracture.
He holds a bachelor's degree in welding engineering technology from Arizona State University. He earned master's and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University in welding engineering and mechanical engineering respectively
Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering
Jason Keith says that a 2004 visit to the Dave C. Swalm School of Chemical Engineering made a lasting impression. Now, as its new director, he plans to make sure that the rest of the chemical engineering community sees what he saw during his first visit to Mississippi State.
"When I visited MSU for a seminar, I was really impressed by the faculty, facilities and atmosphere of the chemical engineering department. I'm looking forward to now being a part of the school," Keith said.
Keith officially joined the BCoE on Aug. 1. He replaced Mark White, who served as director from 2006 until his retirement in 2010.
Keith explained that the BCoE's chemical engineering undergraduate program is the strongest in the Southeast and that the graduate program has a lot of potential for growth. To capitalize on this, he plans to increase graduate recruitment within the region, and to increase the school's visibility through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and a more frequently updated website. In addition, he will be involved in organizing large proposal efforts both inside and outside of the school to enhance its research and educational missions.
"Web sites are the old way to communicate. We will continue to update its content, but we also want to branch into Facebook and Twitter to communicate more informally and more frequently to let our alumni, industrial friends and academic colleagues know of our successes," Keith said.
Keith earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, with minors in mathematics and chemistry, from the University of Akron in 1995. In 2000, he completed a chemical engineering doctoral degree at the University of Notre Dame. That same year, he joined the faculty of Michigan Technological University as an assistant professor. He earned tenure and promotion to associate professor in 2006, and full professor status in 2011.
His research uses mathematical modeling to improve air quality and energy efficiency through the applied fields of reactor design and alternative energy. Keith has also spent time studying, evaluating and implementing faculty development programs. He is an active member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and the American Society for Engineering Education.
Agricultural and Biological Engineering
In his 26 years at Mississippi State, Jonathan Pote has had the opportunity to serve in many leadership positions. He says he is excited to now have the opportunity to help lead a "young" department of agricultural and biological engineering into maturity.
"There are a lot of excellent faculty in the department, a lot of people who have tenure ahead of them, and I look forward to seeing them through the process," Pote said.
Pote had served as interim department head since 2010 when Bill Batchelor left the position to become dean of the College of Agriculture at Auburn University.
"I think the timing was perfect," Pote said. "I've held many leadership positions at the university, but at this point in my career I am glad to be back at the departmental level so I can work closely with the faculty and students."
Among Pote's goals are finding ways to accommodate the department's growing enrollment and increase diversity among research sponsors.
"We have the highest retention rate of any engineering major, so even though we have a new building we are already outgrowing it. We need more space and new faculty positions," Pote explained. "We also need to make sure that all of our funding isn't coming from one source. We have great research potential and we need to tap into all federal, state and industry funding opportunities."
Since being named a full professor in 1994, Pote has served the university in a number of administrative roles including associate vice president for research and economic development, interim vice president for research, director of the Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute, and most recently, associate director of the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.
His research focuses on water chemistry, quality, management and conservation, as well as aquaculture and environmental planning. He holds two patents for agricultural equipment.
Pote earned a doctorate degree in agricultural engineering from the University of Arkansas. He holds a master's degree in environmental and water resources engineering from Oregon State University and a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hendrix College.
Computer Science and Engineering
As associate dean for academics and administration, Donna Reese spent the last six years helping the BCoE develop a diverse and well-prepared student population. Now, she is focusing these strategies specifically for the needs of the department of computer science and engineering.
Reese officially assumed the role of department head in July after serving in the interim since Rayford Vaughn, now associate vice president for research, stepped down in May 2010.
"I'm looking forward to being back in my discipline, and working more closely with the students and the faculty, who are so energetic and enthusiastic about what is going on," Reese said.
She explained that there is a lot of nationally recognized research underway in the department and she hopes to find ways to better integrate those projects with other activities in the college and the university's research centers.
"It would give us the opportunity to multiply our effects because we could pool our resources and strengthen our programs," she said.
Reese said she also plans to reach out to underrepresented groups to show them what computer science has to offer.
"I think computer science is a couple of years behind the other engineering disciplines as far as reaching out to underrepresented groups," Reese explained. "We need to get these students engaged and show them how computer science can have an impact on people's lives."
Reese was first introduced to Mississippi State as a visiting assistant professor in 1989. She served for several years as the system software thrust leader for MSU's National Science Foundation funded Engineering Research Center. Since that time, she has held several positions including being named a professor in 2003 and serving as undergraduate coordinator for her department.
Her teaching and research interests in recent years have focused on broadening participation in computing and retention of students in science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines. She has been recognized by Mississippi State and national organizations for her dedication to students earning awards for mentoring and advising.
Reese earned a bachelor's degree in computer science from Louisiana Tech University, and master's and doctoral degrees in the same field from Texas A&M University.