The magazine of the Case Alumni Association
at the Case School of Engineering

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NewsBytes: Bite-sized news from Case

@2020 Case Alumnus Magazine
Case Alumni Association, Inc.
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Joy for the world

On July 1, Joy Ward, PhD, began her tenure as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  She arrived from the University of Kansas bearing skills that are expected to serve the college and the planet well in the years ahead. In addition to being an academic leader, she’s an accomplished climate change scientist.

Go Army!

Nigerian-born Sonia Ezenwajiaku credits her interest in prosthetics for steering her into chemistry and biomedical engineering. She thinks the U.S. Army can help her to make science a career.  In June, she was featured in the Army Times for using ROTC to become a commissioned officer and serve her new country. 

Being a reservist in the Army Corps of Engineers will help her to earn her biomedical engineering degree at Case, she told the newspaper. “I’m just really grateful for taking that route and being open to it and I feel like others should be, too,” she said.

STEM evangelist

Former Microsoft COO Robert Herbold, MS ’66, Ph.D. ’68, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Case Western Reserve at May commencement—and not only for past achievements. Through the Herbold Foundation, he helps provide scholarships and mentoring to students pursuing science and engineering degrees.

One to watch

Haojia Li knew she wanted to be either a singer or a scientist. Lucky for us, she chose science. As a PhD student in biomedical engineering, Li has been making progress diagnosing breast cancer with artificial intelligence.  This summer, Crain’s Cleveland Business named her to its list of “20 in their Twenties” to watch.

Professor forever

In 1991, Hunter Peckham helped establish the Cleveland Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) Center, a collaboration of Case Western Reserve, the

Cleveland VA Medical Center and the MetroHealth System. “If you’re going to do something important,” he later said, “you have to be able to build partnerships.”

When he retired this year from the Department of Biomedical Engineering after an illustrious, decades-long career, the university made him a partner forever. Peckham was named Distinguished University Professor Emeritus.

Channeling Coach Sudek

Ilissa Hamilton ’20 was an ace on the mound for the nationally ranked Spartans this year while earning a perfect 4.0 in biomedical engineering. Before graduating in May, she received one more shining honor: The Bill Sudeck Outstanding Student-Athlete Award for exemplifying the best of a CWRU athlete.

Now she’s in a new ballpark, working as a product development engineer for Stryker.

A Plum for Uptown

Many were saddened when University Circle’s full-service grocery, Constantino’s Market, closed early in the pandemic. Softening the loss is news that Plum Market Kitchen plans to open in the Uptown space in January.

The Detroit-based chain, featuring lots of natural foods and grab-and-go options, has been carving out a niche in college towns. The Uptown Plum will be Ohio’s first.

Silent spring

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.

Lifesaving gift

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.”

Pied piper

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.

SyFy guy

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.”

Bindel the builder

As a project executive for the Gilbane Building Company, Scott Bindel ’04, MEM ’05, has had quite an impact on the built environment in Greater Cleveland. His projects include Goodyear’s world headquarters, University Hospitals’ Seidman Cancer Center and the dazzling expansion of the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

No wonder Crain’s Cleveland Business named the civil engineer to its 2020 list of “40 under 40” to watch.

Testing well

In his State of the University address in December, interim President Scott Cowen described a year of challenge, loss and disappointment. But he also cited a key success rate that has helped to keep school open. 

Testing found that less than 1.6% percent of CWRU students contracted the coronavirus during fall semester, a tribute to their adherence to masking and other pandemic protocols. 

“I am proud of how our community readily accepted and affirmed our community commitment, a pledge to think for the good of their neighbor, their health and their community,” Cowen wrote.

Ahoy, engineer

Remote learning was a handy option for many this past semester, but essential for Lt. Ciera McCrary. The master’s student in biomedical engineering was on a ship at sea when the pandemic struck. 

Despite limited and unstable Internet aboard the USS Howard, McCrary was able to continue her studies. She credits understanding and flexible Case professors, who helped smooth her sail into a new career. McCrary, a surface warfare officer, plans to become an engineer when she transitions to civilian life.

Lifelong trailblazer

In October, Diana Essock ’75 became president of ASM International, the world’s largest association of materials engineers and scientists. She’s only the third woman to serve as ASM president in 107 years, but pioneering status befits her. Essock, who runs the consultancy Metamark Inc., was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

New thinkboxer

James McGuffin-Cawley, PhD ’84, has held many titles at Case — professor, department chair, interim dean — but this year he assumed his most enterprising role yet. He’s the new faculty director of Sears think[box]. 

McGuffin-Cawley thinks the innovation center shined during the coronavirus outbreak, as its staff designed new devices and manufacturing techniques for badly-needed medical equipment. Now he hopes to build upon that success, in part, by working more closely with industry partners to see concepts become products. Stay tuned.

A tech star is born

Matt Crowley ’08 was welcomed into the 2020 class of TechStars Chicago, one of the nation’s leading startup accelerators. He’s working with Weatherhead alumnus Bill Wichert to build Signal Cortex, a company they hope will transform workplace communications, starting in airports. 

The pair entered the 13-week accelerator program in November. They’ll leave with $120,000 in pre-seed funding and a business plan to pitch to investors in the new year.

Everybody’s mom

One of the pleasures of dropping by the DELPP office off the lobby of Nord Hall was encountering department assistant Bonnie Worthy, who always had a warm smile and earnest guidance for anyone who seemed to need it.

Bonnie retired in January after 31 years at CWRU. Asked by The Daily what she’ll miss most, she said: “The parents that I have had the pleasure of telling, ‘You can feel comfortable leaving your child here at CWRU; I am the parent for your child being away from home.’”

And the Emmy goes to…

Computer engineer Peter Litwinowicz ’85 and his company, RE:Vision Effects, were honored at the Television Academy’s 72nd Engineering Emmy Awards, held online in October. His team received an Engineering Emmy for introducing optical flow-based postproduction video tools widely adopted in the television industry. 

It’s not his first time in the spotlight. Litwinowicz, a leading developer of visual effects, won a Scientific and Technical Academy Award, an Oscar, in 2007.

@2020 Case Alumnus Magazine
Case Alumni Association, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Stay connected.
follow us on social media.