Pictured above – Muhammad  Ismail, assistant professor of computer science, speaks at the Wings Up 100 event.

Cookeville – For the fourth year in a row, Tennessee Tech University honored the top faculty members on campus who brought in at least $100,000 in external funding for research in the previous academic year. At this year’s Wings Up 100 awards on the lawn of Walton Park, President Phil Oldham and members of the Board of Trustees honored 36 faculty members who, combined, had secured $17,944,988 for Tech student research.

“It is quite the undertaking to commit to securing grant funding,” said Martha Howard, professor of curriculum and instruction, who received the largest amount of funding at Tech this past academic year. “There is quite a lot of work involved that is equally rewarding and taxing. The grants are complex, in that we hire a large team of folks to support the scope of work, then lead them along the journey. The work we conduct with children and their families is of the most rewarding kind. I am happy to be part of such amazing teams who do such meaningful work.”

Howard received a total of $3,011,879 for the College of Education. The funding agencies included the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), the Department of Human Services.

The DIDD funds aided in creation of two agencies serving young children and families in Tennessee. The first, the BRIDGES Early Intervention Resource Agency provides Developmental Therapy for children birth to age three in the Upper Cumberland area who are eligible for services through Tennessee’s Early Intervention System. The second is the Milestones Evaluation Agency (with Amy Callender, PhD, co-executive director) which serves the entire Middle Tennessee area.

The Milestones team of evaluators administers norm-referenced, standardized assessment to help determine eligibility for early intervention for young children and their families. The Child Care Stabilization and the Tennessee State Pre-Kindergarten Initiative, funded by the Department of Human Services, allowed for financial supports for the Tennessee Tech Child Development Lab along with the collaboration to provide high-quality pre-kindergarten services.

“None of this work would be possible without the help of those in human resources, grant accounting, information technology systems, College of Education colleagues, the office of research, and the many, many dedicated individuals who enact the scope of work funded by the grants,” said Howard. “It takes all of us working together to take on such dreams. I am glad to be a part of these amazing projects!”

Kevin Liska, executive director of the College of Business, received the second largest dollar amount in grants – $2,215,430 for iCube, a space on campus dedicated to innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship efforts.

This funding came from the National Safety Council, the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security.

The projects it helped fund included an app that collects nationwide data from car seat installations and allows manufacturers to engineer life-saving product changes based on customer use, marketing solutions to the opioid crisis and resulting state-wide educational infrastructure, as well as state-wide traffic safety media campaigns.

“iCube is all about opportunity,” Liska said. “The organizations and leaders we work with on local, state and national projects give us the opportunity to apply our talent to societal impact challenges, as well as the opportunity to find new talent from star students across all colleges on campus.”

As an example of the impact of iCube on Tech students, Liska pointed out a student who started in his advertising class and because of her dedication and drive to succeed, went on to an internship with iCube. She was able to work on various projects, including marketing materials for an augmented reality experience displaying the impacts of smoking on an unborn baby, as well as a statewide, multi-campus recruiting project with the Tennessee Bankers Association.

“(She) has since been hired full-time as an iCube leader in traffic safety marketing, mentoring new students to continue the cycle of engagement and opportunity to enact real change,” Liska said. “As we move forward creating and implementing innovative solutions to traditional problems, we incorporate traditional academic research opportunities as we engage faculty members to strengthen the programs we run and the grants we acquire. Our goal at iCube is to maximize every opportunity we are given to benefit our clients, communities, students and our campus as a whole.”

The full list of those honored includes:

  • Martha Howard , Curriculum & Instruction
  • Kevin Liska, iCube
  • Rory Roberts, Mechanical Engineering
  • Melinda Anderson, Human Ecology
  • Mark Rogers, Coop Fisheries Unit
  • Bradley Cohen, Biology
  • Susmit Shannigrahi, Computer Science
  • Shelia Hurley, Nursing
  • Michael Rogers, Computer Science
  • Michael Aikens, TCRI
  • Justin Murdock, Biology
  • Ethan Languri, Mechanical Engineering
  • Satish Mahajan, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Mohamed Mahmoud, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Pingen Chen, Mechanical Engineering
  • Sheikh Ghafoor, Computer Science
  • Jesse Carrick, Chemistry
  • Dennis Duncan, Agriculture
  • Duckbong Kim, Manufacturing & Engineering Tech
  • Ahmadreza Vaselbehagh, Mechanical Engineering
  • Jennifer Meadows, Curriculum & Instruction
  • Amanda Rosenberger, Coop Fisheries Unit
  • Ismail Fidan, Manufacturing & Engineering Tech
  • Melissa Geist, Nursing
  • Ann Hellman, Nursing
  • Julie Baker, Associate Dean’s Office
  • Amanda Powell, iCube
  • Ali Alouani, Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Julie Pharr, Economics, Finance & Marketing
  • Christopher Wilson, Basic Engineering
  • Joseph Biernacki, Chemical Engineering
  • Maanak Gupta, Computer Science
  • Craig Henderson, Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Harry Ingle, Student Success Center
  • Muhammad Ismail, Computer Science
  • Ryan Matthews, Decision & Sciences Management

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