By March 17, the day before the university switched to remote classes, Case Quad was uncharacteristically still. Most students had packed up and departed. Many staff and faculty were already working from home. A message pinned to a bulletin board near Tomlinson Hall captured the mood of an emptying campus: “Be Well Everybody.”
A physics first
Kyle Crowley’s dissertation represented his success at isolating ultra-thin layers of 2D oxides to study their electrical properties. But that’s not what enshrined him in CWRU history. On March 26, he became the first person from the Department of Physics to defend a dissertation remotely. Classmate Jaghit Sinhu repeated the feat the next day.
In a time of social distancing and remote learning, students are Zooming into everything, including their dissertation defenses.
New bridge builder
This May, Nsisong Udosen became the first CWRU student to graduate with a major in Human-Computer Interaction — a mix of engineering, data science and business management. She’s off to Chicago to join Google’s sales team, but the former president of the Case chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers sees wide applications for her skill set.
“I hope I can use it to help people,” she said. “The world is powered by technology now. With automation, we can forget feelings. I think I can bring both sides together.”
Hot shot from Coldwater
Almost lost in spring’s grim news was the fact that the Spartan basketball team finished the season with a winning record, 13-12 — thanks to a big assist from Cole Frilling. The freshman aerospace engineering major from Coldwater, Ohio, led all CWRU scorers with a 14.9 points-per-game average.
Cole was named Rookie of the Year for the Great Lakes Region, the first player in the program’s history to earn that honor.
MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland knew it would see a surge of patients as the coronavirus pandemic peaked. So did tech entrepreneur Miguel Zubizarreta ’90. The former CTO of Hyland Software surprised the hospital system with a $1 million gift announced March 31.
Justin Gallo, MetroHealth’s vice president of supply-chain management, said the money would buy respirator masks, ventilators and other lifesaving supplies. “This is an incredible windfall, at a time when we most need it.”
Daniel Lacks, PhD, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, felt a desire to get outside — and pull the Case community with him. His virtual 5K on March 22 attracted more than 50 runners from 16 states.
“I wanted to do something to bring people together and help us all feel like we are still part of a community,” he said.
Charley Knox has been a fixture at the Science Fiction Marathon of the CWRU Film Society since its founding in 1975. The associate professor of astronomy was back in the projection booth Jan. 17 for the 45th anniversary, arranging reels and musing about the endurance of a film festival that makes room for alumni with sleeping bags.
“Now it’s a shared experience. That’s part of the allure,” Knox said. “I’m not the only one who’s been to all of them.”
Maybe not. But he’s arguably the fan who would be missed the most.
Case hardened and proud of it
NASA astronaut Don Thomas ’77, PhD, knew just how to connect with his audience at the Engineers Week Reception Feb. 17, where he delivered the keynote address. After four Space Shuttle missions and more than 17 million miles in space, he said, his bachelor’s degree in physics remains a crowning achievement.
“This was the hardest thing I did in life — graduate from Case,” he said. “But, boy, did it train me.”