Geoffrey Orsak

Faculty in the News: April 13, 2010

Geoffrey Orsak, Dean, Lyle School of Engineering, discussed his involvement with a new project designed to reach promising minority students in local high schools with Cheryl Hall of The Dallas Morning News for a column that appeared April 7, 2010.

Jim Quick, Dean, Research and Graduate Studies and professor in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College, discussed the potential threat of volcanic activity to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for an article that appeared in Defense News April 5, 2010.

Students tackle global problems in Lyle School competition

Engineering studentsStudents will team up to solve problems ranging from hunger and poverty to climate change and disaster preparedness through a new annual design competition established by SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

The Innovation Competition, funded by Dallas-based Carr LLP, will bring together the thinkers, mentors, facilities and processes necessary for dynamic innovation needed to solve humanity’s problems. It will be hosted by the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education‘s Innovation Gymnasium – which is also home to the Lyle School’s Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab in the Lyle School.

“Good ideas come from everywhere,” says Dr. Nathan Huntoon (’06), director of the Innovation Competition. “Each of us has unique experiences and perspectives on the world. These perspectives, more than technical understanding, can often provide the inspiration for ideas that change the world.

“With this competition we are hoping to solicit the good ideas from all our students, and then partner them with people who can help turn that idea into reality.”

Students from all fields of study at SMU are invited to enter the competition. The organizers have future plans to involve students at other colleges and universities.

The deadline for written proposals is April 5, 2010. The teams with the top 5 written proposals will be asked to make oral presentations on April 30, after which two finalists will be announced.

The top two proposals will receive $2,000 each to build a prototype. Engineering students will join each of the two competing teams and will work throughout the summer to build a prototype in the Innovation Gymnasium.

At the end of the summer, a panel of industry and academic judges will evaluate the final prototypes and award the winning team a $1,000 cash prize.

“The Lyle School challenges its students to explore practical innovation, or what we call applied creativity,” says Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “To teach innovation, we must be innovative ourselves, and strive to provide rich, challenging, and interactive experiences that stretch the boundaries of traditional education.”

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Learn more at the Innovation Competition homepage
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New engineering institute to develop solutions for global poor

Hunt Institute for Engineering and HumanityPairing technological innovation with business collaboration to improve conditions for the global poor is the driving force behind the new Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity in SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Gifts totaling $5 million from Hunter and Stephanie Hunt, William T. and Gay F. Solomon, Bobby B. Lyle and others will establish the institute and initially create two endowed professorships to support a unique, interdisciplinary approach to delivering basic technology to the impoverished.

Jeffrey Talley, chair of the Lyle School’s Environmental and Civil Engineering Department and a U.S. Army Reserve general, will be the founding director of the institute, which is to be housed in the new Caruth Hall upon its completion in early spring.

“The Institute for Engineering and Humanity will accelerate the ability of the Lyle School of Engineering to serve as a magnet for the kind of students and researchers who seek solutions to societal challenges,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are very grateful for the generosity of these donors, whose passion for improving the lives of others matches SMU’s commitment to global leadership.”

The institute strategy begins with the understanding that small-scale innovations already exist to solve many problems in poor communities, while others need to be modified to fit specific geographic and cultural needs. Safe, affordable and sustainable housing will top the Institute’s project list, as well as ready access to clean water and sanitation; functional roads and transportation systems, and clean, reliable energy. The institute will create innovative approaches to easing poverty by encouraging markets for its ultra low-cost solutions, based on the principle that sustainable business models are more likely to accelerate global development than traditional approaches.

The institute’s major components will include the following:

  • an easily accessible library of existing technological solutions that are certified and ready for widespread dissemination and use
  • a global database of regional technology gaps that need to be bridged to meet specific needs
  • research and development of new ultra low-cost technologies involving SMU faculty, students and industry partners
  • field testing and scaling of new products to ensure low manufacturing costs, durability, easy maintenance, and minimal impact on the environment
  • assistance to businesses that will manufacture and maintain these technologies

“This will be no easy challenge,” said Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “To make basic technology globally available at a price the poorest of the poor can afford requires a radical rethinking of centuries of engineering practice. How many solutions have remained on the drawing board because they were too costly for communities that need them? How many have failed because they could not be locally repaired and maintained?”

It’s going to take talented, motivated engineers to identify solutions for alleviating poverty, Orsak said, adding that the success of this new institute can have a profound impact on people who struggle just to survive with dignity.

The Lyle School’s partnership with the renowned Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® will provide proven innovation methodologies to support the institute’s research and development efforts. The institute’s approach to finding affordable solutions also will include national and international competitions and incentives, particularly targeted to students.

Hunter and Stephanie HuntThe engineering school will begin an international search for a scholar who has broad experience in developing technologies and infrastructure for emerging economies to become the William T. and Gay F. Solomon Endowed Professor in Engineering and Global Development. Institute director Talley will hold the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Professor in Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship.

With three billion people in the world living on $2 a day or less, institute donors Hunter and Stephanie Hunt (left) believe global poverty is one of the most pressing problems of our time. “There has been a great deal of financial and commercial innovation in helping the impoverished, but there has been little technical and engineering innovation; we hope to fill that void,” Stephanie Hunt said. “This new institute will take a creative but pragmatic approach to an immense challenge,” Hunter Hunt added.

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Al Armendariz named to Environmental Protection Agency

Al ArmendarizAl Armendariz, SMU associate professor of environmental and civil engineering, is President Barack Obama‘s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Region 6, which includes Texas – the nation’s largest producer of industrial air pollution – and four other southwestern states.

“I look forward to working closely with Al Armendariz on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in region 6 and across the nation,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who announced the appointment. “At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I’m thrilled that Al will be part of our leadership team at EPA. He will certainly play an instrumental role in our Agency’s mission to protect our health and the environment.”

Regional EPA administrators promote state and local environmental protection efforts and serve as a liaison between Jackson and state and local government officials. Armendariz takes the helm at Region 6 at a time when the EPA has made it clear that Texas pollution enforcement standards are not high enough and must meet federal Clean Air Act requirements followed by other states.

“I think it’s fair to say that the new administration, the President and Lisa Jackson have put EPA on a new course to better protect the environment and I’m happy to be part of the team,” Armendariz said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to the regulated industries and the environmental groups and the politicians that what EPA is doing now is a big departure from what EPA has been doing for a number of years. It’s an exciting time.”

Region 6 includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, as well as 66 Indian tribes. While on leave, Armendariz will retain his appointment with SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

“We are thrilled that Al Armendariz’ work in improving our living and working environments has been recognized by the President and EPA Administrator,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the Lyle School. “Al is an extraordinarily talented, insightful and balanced engineer who will make a significant contribution to our nation and region.”

“I am very excited and I’m looking forward to joining the administration,” Armendariz said. “I’ve greatly enjoyed being at SMU. It’s been a fantastic place to work and I’ve had the support of Dean Orsak and Dr. (R. Gerald) Turner for all my activities. It’s been a great place to teach and do research, and I look forward to continuing my association with SMU for years to come.”

Armendariz joined SMU in 2002 after receiving his Ph.D in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. He worked as a research assistant at the MIT Center for Global Change Science at their Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory in Massachusetts, and at the Radian Corporation in North Carolina as a chemical engineer, before joining the SMU faculty. He also spent a summer on special assignment to EPA’s Dallas office as an environmental scientist.

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Faculty in the News: Aug. 25, 2009

Geoff Orsak on KERA's 'Think'Nathan Cortez, Dedman School of Law, discussed the legal implications of insurers offering overseas networks for cheaper health and dental care with USA Today Aug. 24, 2009.

Matt Wilson, Political Science, took part in an online discussion of the mutual engagement between science and religion in the Dallas Morning News‘ Texas Faith blog Aug. 24, 2009. He also participated in a Texas Faith conversation on the connection between religion and politics with Theology Dean William Lawrence and Maguire Professor of Ethics Robin Lovin Aug. 18, 2009.

Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College, talked about how the end of the Angolan civil war has affected the search for dinosaur fossils in that country with Yahoo! News Aug. 21, 2009.

Geoffrey Orsak (above), Dean, Lyle School of Engineering, took part in a discussion about whether the design controversy around the Trinity toll road project can be solved by good engineering on KERA Channel 13’s “Think” Aug. 14, 2009.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, moderated a town hall debate on health care that included Texas Congressional representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) and Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) at Cityplace Conference Center Aug. 17, 2009. It was one of the few meetings nationwide where a Democrat and Republican have appeared together. Coverage appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Aug. 18, 2009.

Army Reserve general to chair Environmental & Civil Engineering

Jeffrey Talley with Gen. David PetraeusJeffrey Talley (at right in photo), just selected for his second star (Major General) in the U.S. Army Reserve and lauded for his recent work in the “engineering battle for Baghdad,” is joining SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering as chair of the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering and Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship.

Talley recently completed a year of service as Baghdad Provincial Engineer under Gen. David Petraeus, where he commanded more than 4,000 engineers and soldiers in the 926th Engineer Brigade. Talley is credited with developing a military and policy strategy widely referred to as “engineering the peace” that aims to reduce violence in destabilized communities by rapidly rebuilding infrastructure, schools and hospitals. His work is credited with reducing violence and terrorism in the militia stronghold of Sadr City in Baghdad, and he was awarded two Bronze Stars – one for his efforts in rebuilding Baghdad, and the other for meritorious achievement in combat during the January planning and execution of security operations for the Baghdad provincial elections.

Solving the community’s most basic problems delivered an important message that supporting the official government of Iraq would result in a better life for Sadr City families, Talley said in December, near the end of his tour of duty. “You are showing them there is another option besides the militia,” Talley said.

Lyle School Dean Geoffrey Orsak said Talley will put flesh and bones on the philosophy Orsak drums into his SMU students – that engineers have both the power and responsibility to change lives.

“My work has really been about service to others,” Talley said. “In the case of Iraq, specifically, it was in recognizing that engineers and scientists play a unique role in providing peace and hope. Within the Lyle School of Engineering we can link scholarship, leadership and service to others locally, nationally and globally. I think that fits really well, not only with the Dean’s vision for the school, but also with the vision of other great leaders in Dallas and the nation.”

“Jeff Talley is simply one of the best and most influential engineers in the country,” Orsak said. “He is a true engineering leader, a great scholar and educator, and a real national hero. We are so pleased that he will be heading the Lyle School of Engineering’s Environmental and Civil Engineering Department. I fully expect that he will accomplish absolutely remarkable things here in Texas and at SMU.”

Talley joins the Lyle School from the University of Notre Dame, where he is associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and geological sciences. He is also visiting scholar and professor at Ireland’s National Centre for Sensor Research at Dublin City University. Talley’s research focuses on the environmental processes and treatment of contaminated surface water, groundwater, soil and sediment. Talley has graduate degrees in religious studies, history and philosophy in addition to engineering. He received his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Talley attended Louisiana State University on an ROTC scholarship and was commissioned into the Army Corps of Engineers when he graduated in 1981. He has been a member of the U.S. Army Reserve since 1992 and was awarded his first Bronze Star in 2003 for engineering work in Kuwait and Iraq.

(Above, Jeffrey Talley (at right in photo) talks with Gen. David Petraeus as they walk through Baghdad’s Sadr City in June 2008, when Petraeus was commanding general of the multi-national force in Iraq.)

Skunk Works® director to speak at SMU

Frank CappuccioInnovation is a tough concept to define and even harder to teach. But Lockheed Martin’s legendary Skunk Works®, where the fastest military jets are born in secret, is sharing its name and formula for innovation with SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Frank Cappuccio, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and Skunk Works® director, will deliver the program’s inaugural lecture at 3:30 p.m. March 18, 2009 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. Cappuccio will speak “Creating an Environment For Innovation” to mark the beginning of this unique partnership. Online registration is available for this free lecture.

The SMU/Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Program is the first university program anywhere to teach the storied approach to problem solving behind aviation marvels like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. SMU students will not design airplanes – but they will learn the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® method of tackling daunting problems in small teams under high-pressure deadlines.

Every SMU engineering graduate will experience the Skunk Works® program, starting with the incorporation of philosophy and case studies in undergraduate coursework. Lockheed Martin will rotate Skunk Works® engineers through the SMU program as visiting mentors and lecturers. But the best student opportunities for learning engineering innovation will come from varying degrees of immersion into Skunk Works® lab research, ranging from a project lasting a week or two between terms to an intensive, semester-long assignment for senior-level students working on a challenging problem.

“What we want to do is apply the philosophy of the Skunk Works®, which is imbedded in founder Kelly Johnson‘s 14 different principles,” says Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “The key is doing things quickly. In today’s world doing things quickly is very important. If you take too long, you lose out.”

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Research Spotlight: SMU to collaborate on defense research

Cogs in a systemSMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering will serve as a designated research collaborator in the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC), the first University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to focus on challenging systems engineering issues facing the DoD and related defense industries.

Simply speaking, systems engineering studies how things are done and finds ways to do them better, from how a computer is made and linked to other computers to how food is grown, collected and delivered to your table.

With Jerrell Stracener as lead senior researcher, the school will participate as part of a prestigious consortium of 18-leading collaborator universities and research centers throughout the United States, led by Stevens Institute of Technology, with the University of Southern California serving as its principal collaborator.

“As a key partner in this national consortium, we are pleased to have the opportunity to expand our contributions to this country in systems engineering education and research through the linkage of the Lyle Systems Engineering Program with SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and its one of a kind Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab,” says Geoffrey Orsak, engineering dean.

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Tune In: SMU to open lab modeled on legendary Skunk Works®

SMU Engineering Dean Geoffrey OrsakSMU’s Lyle School of Engineering will open a laboratory modeled after a Lockheed Martin research center that ranks among the most innovative in the world. The University’s Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab will open in December 2009 and will emulate the “flat management” style forged by Lockheed’s original Skunk Works® plant in Palmdale, California. Faculty members will work with students as team members rather than bosses, says Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak (right). The school’s partnership with Lockheed is part of a plan to educate more qualified engineers to fill current and anticipated shortages.

Read coverage from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Dean Orsak discusses the Lyle School of Engineering’s new initiatives audio
Remarks by Maj. Gen. Al Joersz (Ret.) of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Program audio
Learn more about the Skunk Works®

SMU names School of Engineering, launches new initiatives

Bobby B. LyleSMU has named its 83-year-old School of Engineering in honor of Bobby B. Lyle, a Dallas entrepreneur and industry leader who has been instrumental in shaping the direction and growing prominence of the school. The School of Engineering had been the only unnamed school at SMU.

“Over the past several years, Bobby Lyle has spent countless hours helping to chart a course that will position the school for national leadership in American higher education,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “In recognition of his leadership, we are honored today to name the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at SMU. No one in the history of the School of Engineering has brought more dedication, support and commitment to its permanent development than has Dr. Lyle. With the naming of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, we are confirming our commitment to leadership in engineering education and securing the school’s bright and promising future.”

Lyle has served as an SMU trustee for 20 years. As a member of the Engineering Executive Board, he has worked with Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak and the faculty to introduce several new major initiatives expanding the school’s focus on technology leadership, engineering activism and social responsibility. As an SMU trustee, Dr. Lyle serves on the University Audit Committee; Executive Committee; Academic Policy, Planning and Management Committee; Compensation Committee; and as chair of the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Among the new initiatives announced at the ceremony, SMU is establishing the Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab at the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. Through this partnership with Lockheed Martin, SMU will be the first university in the nation to create and host a Skunk Works® Lab. The lab will be modeled closely on the iconic and top-secret California research and development facility created by Lockheed Martin to solve the “toughest technology problems facing this country,” Orsak said.

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