June 30, 2023 : By Ted Allen - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University’s School of Engineering held its second Graduate Student Creationeering Conference on June 20 at the Center for Engineering Research & Education (CERE), with Research Professor Emeritus Dr. John Baumgartner delivering the keynote speech.
After launching in 2020, LUSE’s graduate program has expanded rapidly, graduating three Ph.D. students and several master’s degree students over the past three years and enrolling nearly 50 graduate students this fall. At the conference, 14 of those students presented research at CERE on topics such as computational fluid dynamics, predictive models for energy production and electric vehicles, and cybersecurity for small modular nuclear reactors.
“’Creationeering’ is so broad, it refers to the interface between business and engineering and is focused on design,” said Dr. Diana Schwerha, chair of the Computer, Electrical, and Industrial and Systems Engineering departments who organized the conference. “We consider God the perfect engineer and we look for inspiration for our research efforts from God’s creative processes all around us.”
She said the purpose of the annual conference is to give graduate students the opportunity to present their research and receive constructive feedback from their peers and faculty members.
“It provides a really great day of scholarship and fellowship,” Schwerha said. “A lot of times, students work very independently. We would like to (encourage) collaboration. Everyone got to learn about other peoples’ research and ask questions and learn new research methods. What is the end purpose? What are the students learning that they can apply in the field?”
Among the students presenting was Rob Kacinski, a second-year Ph.D. student advised by mechanical engineering professor Dr. Wayne Strasser. He discussed the same cutting-edge research in the fields of thermal and fluid engineering that earned him “best paper” honors at the American Society of Thermal and Fluids Engineers (ASTFE) Conference, held March 26-29 at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md.
“The paper is looking at some of the potential benefits from new types of non-invasive respiratory therapy,” Kacinski said, crediting Strasser for assisting him in furthering his research, which can be applied through therapy methodologies to treat symptoms of COVID-19 in patients.
“Computational models were used to investigate internal mixing characteristics in the human upper airway,” Strasser said. “Different patient scenarios were tested to see how the effectiveness of each therapy was impacted, specifically concerning CO2 (carbon dioxide) clearance from the upper airway.”
Other presenters included graduate students advised by School of Engineering Dean Dr. Mark Horstemeyer in research focused on brain injuries and using mechanical engineering principles to produce helmets that would prevent them; students advised by Dr. Schwerha that focused mainly on energy-related topics; and others advised by Dr. Heechen Cho, who mostly modeled earth processes.
“The research expertise of the faculty members and the research being done by their graduate students was clearer this year, and it will continue to develop,” Schwerha said. “Presentations were of a very high quality, from students who have done the research and were able to share what they’re doing and get feedback from the audience, all in a low-key atmosphere and really supportive environment.”
Last summer’s first graduate research conference was held in July in conjunction with the Creative Research Society Conference in the Montview Alumni Ballroom, with Dr. Andy McIntosh and Dr. Stuart Burgess, a former Liberty adjunct professor, serving as the keynote speakers.