Meet the German Exchange Students

Hello Captains! I hope Finals Week is treating you decently, and if not, hang in there! We’re almost through! This is going to be the last post of the semester, so I hope it’s a good one! I wanted to introduce to you the German exchange students that we’ve been hosting this semester from Rosenheim, Germany. I got to interview two of them about their experience here at CNU.

(L-R): Anton Gasteiger,  Dominik Frank, and Andreas Riedner

(L-R): Anton Gasteiger, Dominik Frank, and Andreas Riedner

1. What classes are you taking this semester?

Andreas: We are taking the Artificial Intelligence class with Prof. Hibler (CPSC 471), the Communication 2 class (CPSC 611) with Prof. Riedl and the Physics 401/501 class with Prof. Gore.

2. Which classes do you enjoy the most?

Andreas: Hard to tell. All 3 of them have their pros (and some few cons) for me. If I would have to choose, I would choose Dr. Riedl’s class, as he is a very relaxed professor and I’m also doing pretty good there.
Dominik: PHYS 501

3. Are the classes different here at CNU than what you’re used to back home?

Andreas: Yes, very different. Here, the number of students per class is definitely lower, the interaction between professors and students much better (in Germany, some professors enter the classroom and just start to write on the board until the class ends. No questions, no discussions, no nothing) and of course, here, you have a lot more chances to work on your grade for a class. We don’t have any midterms or graded homework in Germany. We just have our one final exam. So you have only one shot to succeed or fail. Plus, attending classes is not mandatory in Germany. Therefore, you sometimes end up going to no classes for a tired professor at all and just start to prepare for the final exam a bit earlier.
Dominik: Sure they are! I am totally not used to the homework assignments! Other than that, it is pretty much the same style of classes/learning.

4. How do you like the professors here?

Andreas: I really like all 3 professors we have, although they are completely different in their way of teaching. But here on CNU, compared to our German universities, the distance between students and professors is much smaller and the relationship much friendlier. Playing soccer with a professor after class or inviting him to a bar is not that usual in Germany.
Dominik: Very enthusiastic and really care about the students (office hours…)

5. Do you have any plans after graduation?

Andreas: Not yet. I’ll first write my master thesis in spring/summer 2015. I’m not a friend of making too many plans for the future. Life doesn’t work that way and I just love being surprised in good and bad ways.
Dominik: Work as an electrical engineer.

6. What will you tell your friends about your trip when you go home?

Andreas: That I loved it. That Americans are just as awesome as we are :) at least those Americans I met. But that there are also a lot of well known prejudices about that country that have been confirmed during my stay. I will motivate everyone to go there and enjoy the states as it is a enjoyable place. But in the end, going back home will be the best part of the trip, at least for me, as Bavaria is the best place in the world for me.
Dominik: Everything! All about what I experienced here while my stay, the culture, the people, the university, the sights!

7. Have you traveled outside of campus much?

Andreas: Not yet. We have been to Washington D.C. of course and made some weekend trips to Virginia Beach, Richmond, the Outer Banks and some other places around Newport News. But we’ll be in New York the Thanksgiving week and our last 2 weeks we’ll spend in Florida for Christmas.
Dominik: Yes. I’ve been to Williamsburg, Richmond, Outer Banks and plan to go to New York City over the Thanksgiving break and a trip to Florida/Key West after the finals.

8. What is the night life like here compared to in Germany?

Andreas: Let’s not talk about the night life in Newport News. It obviously is non-existent. Of course you can still go to Virginia Beach or to some house parties off campus, but we are just used to better options. Also, the bars here close very very early. In Germany, you have those special clubs and bars that just don’t close at all over the weekend. You could literally enter the Club on Friday evening and leave it on Monday morning. Of course, those clubs are an extreme example. But also in general, the nightlife lasts much longer in Germany and is much bigger. In Rosenheim, Munich and Salzburg you just have thousands of options every weekend.
Dominik: The night life is quite different. Your bars and clubs close already at 2am while in Germany you can party all night.

Student-Faculty Research

Hi Captains! This semester, several research projects are being conducted by students and faculty. One such project is Cara Villareal’s and Rachel Wolf’s research with Professor Keith Perkins involving a 3-D model of a person and an Xbox Kinect. I got to ask Rachel a few questions about the project so far.

(L-R): Prof. Perkins, Cara Villareal, Rachel Wolf

(L-R): Prof. Perkins, Cara Villareal, Rachel Wolf

What is your research about?

Our research involves using a 3-D model of a person and an Xbox Kinect. We put the model through software that will then be able to calculate the perimeter of any part of the body to within one-inch accuracy. For clarity’s sake, say you have a 3-D model of a person and wish to take their waist measurement – the software we’re developing will/can do that. When running the software, the model is viewable to the user and a purple line indicates where the measurement is being taken.

How long have you been working on it?

We started at the beginning of this semester, so it’s been roughly three months.

What got you interested in the topic of this research?

Cara and myself had to find something to do for our Computer Science capstone. I asked Prof. Perkins for ideas and he provided a list. This one sounded the best, so we kind of just winged it upon first starting.

Would you consider it to be successful so far?

Definitely. We can take mostly accurate measurements throughout the span of the body. Our original project only required us to be able to take a single measurement.

What do you like best about working on this project?

It’s different than a lot of other computer science projects that I’ve had to do in the past. You can actually see the progress of your work visually and I think it has potential to be a useful product someday. The plan is to use it for avatar rendering, which will allow a user to try on clothes from online vendors to see how they look and then buy them using their particular measurements.

Electrical Engineering Program

EEYou may have seen an article in the Captain’s Log detailing our new Electrical Engineering program. And if you haven’t seen it, guess what! We have a new Electrical Engineering program! Starting in 2016, CNU will offer classes for the new EE major.

A degree in Electrical Engineering from CNU will provide you with:

  • Laboratory experience – both in our own lab facilities and those of high-tech Hampton Roads companies.
  • A study of traditional electrical engineering areas: circuits, electronics, digital systems, control and communication
  • Specialization in either digital systems, control and instrumentation, or communication and signal processing
  • Effective oral and written communication skills

“Electrical Engineering is a perfect fit for our department as it nicely complements our existing programs. With the department’s program lineup now including Physics, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Information Systems and Information Science, students with a general interest in our area can now come to CNU, explore the various options, and then pick exactly the major that they like best. I think with this addition of Electrical Engineering CNU has become one of the best places to study engineering and applied sciences in Virginia and beyond.” — Dr. Anton Riedl, Department Chair

Look out for future Pizza My Mind sessions that will spotlight companies offering internships and other opportunities to grow in the Electrical Engineering field. If you have any questions about the program or the requirements for the major, come talk to Dr. Riedl!


Luter Open House

Good afternoon, Captains! Welcome to Fall!

As you know, last weekend was Family Weekend and one of the events taking place to kick off the weekend was the Luter Open House. Last Friday from 3-5 pm, prospective students, parents, and alumni filled Luter to check out our newest academic building, enjoy refreshments, and see what’s been going on in our beloved PCSE department.

Shelly Fitzgerald, BOSH Global Systems with Dr. Anton Riedl (Bosh was a financial support of the UAS Competition)

Shelly Fitzgerald, BOSH Global Systems with Dr. Anton Riedl (Bosh was a financial support of the UAS Competition)

Department Chair Dr. Anton Riedl started the event with a introduction followed by President Trible with his heart-warming welcome speech. Afterwards, several awards were presented to outstanding members of the science and technology community, including one to John Rivers who is the Director of Advanced Concepts – Force Application Center for Innovation at Lockheed Martin.

John Rivers, Director, Advanced Concepts - Force Application Center for Innovation, Lockheed Martin accepting award from Nigel Armstrong, Team member of CNU's Unmanned Aeriel Systems Team.

John Rivers, Director, Advanced Concepts – Force Application Center for Innovation, Lockheed Martin accepting award from Nigel Armstrong, Team member of CNU’s Unmanned Aeriel Systems Team.

After the greetings and speeches, guests were free to wander about Luter classrooms where different organizations had set up exhibits and displays to showcase their work.

Luter 306:

Physics Fun Park with Dr. Fersch and Dr. Monaghan

Luter 322:

Meet NAO and Create, your friendly neighborhood robots with Amanda Lee and Dr. Flores

Taming Zeus – Analyzing malware in a controlled environment with Kyle Hannah and Dr. Gianvecchio

Dr. Steven Gianvecchio with Graduate student, Kyle Hannah and two prospective CNU students

Dr. Steven Gianvecchio with Graduate student, Kyle Hannah and two prospective CNU students

Unmanned Aerial Systems Lab and Competition Team with Nigel Armstrong, Khiry Brothers, Davis Catherman, David Kroell, Austin Suhler, James Tobin, Deonte White, and Dr. Riedl

IEEE Hardware Competition Team with Nathan Typanski and Rachel Wolf

Senior, Computer Engineering major Rachel Wolf with two CNU freshman.

Senior, Computer Engineering major Rachel Wolf with two CNU freshman.

Luter 323:

Center for Innovation in Science Education with Clare Crawford, Megan Troxel, Dr. Lambert

Information Science and Information Systems with Prof. Koehl

Clean up your data – Data mining meets fuzzy logic with Matthew Rutherford and Dr. Wang

Application of DSSS in the Ferguson Center with Christopher Hewitt

Artificial Neural Networks with Dr. Zhang

Luter 327:

3D Scientific Visualization Lab with Dr. Heddle

Augmented and Virtual Reality with April Alexander, Dr. Flores, Malcolm Jones, Gerald McAlister, Jess Wooten, and Prof. Perkins

Luter 335:

Media Lab with Chris Webb and Dr. Siochi

Luter 339:

Electrical Engineering with Dr. Backens

Arduinos and Nano-Devices with Dr. Gerousis

Non-Destructive Testing with Dr. Selim

Luter 342:

Space Science Lab with Susannah Darling, Justin Denno, Amanda Friedericks, Caroline McElhenny, and Dr. DeJong

X-Ray Optics and General Relativity with Dr. Gore

Luter 345:

High-Speed Data Acquisition Lab  with Christian Davison, Kyle Hesse, Mitchell Kerver, Anthony Losada, and Dr. Brash

Senior, Kyle Hesse with Keith Fox, HR Technical Recruiter, Ferguson Enterprises

Senior, Kyle Hesse with Keith Fox, HR Technical Recruiter, Ferguson Enterprises

A very special thanks goes out to the PCSE students who donated their time to volunteer at this event: Adam Brakman, Bethany Burress, Courtney Duquette, David Hamblin, Brandi Holland, Stephen Michaelis, Jordan Schmuckler, Timothy Stelter, Juan Vallejo, and Zachary Whitten. Y’all are great!




New Professors for Fall 2014

Hello Captains! Now that we’re four weeks into the semester, y’all should be fully integrated into the class-study-play schedule right? Good! Along with a fabulous new class of freshman, we also have two new professors in the PCSE department this semester: Dr. Jonathan Backens and Dr. Peter Monaghan. I got to talk with both of them to see how they liked CNU so far!

Dr. Backens

IMG_1632What does he teach? Dr. Backens teaches two sections of Engineering Design (ENGR 121) and Intro to Electric Circuits Lab (ENGR 211L).

Which subject is his favorite? Engineering Design, because it’s a beginner course and he is able to present engineering formally, including the pros and cons of the field. He enjoys talking about what it means to be engineer and that he can shape how students feel about the field.

How has he liked CNU so far? A lot! Dr. Backens is actually an alumnus of CNU; he graduated as a CS/CE major in 2004. He is impressed with how the department has grown and how the university has developed. It is especially exciting to come back to his old university as a professor.

What about the PCSE department? The faculty has been very welcoming; they are approachable, they promote collaboration and give plenty of advice for working with students and doing research.

How has it been working with the students so far? The freshman are especially enthusiastic about the engineering field which is encouraging to see. They care more about the paycheck, they are genuinely interested.

Where has he worked prior to CNU? Dr. Backens did his graduate work at ODU and was a full-time lecturer there as well. He also worked four years overseas in Botswana and Zambia for a nonprofit organization that provided rural ICT development. This involved connecting hospitals to the internet and providing training for employees.

What is he most looking forward to this year? He’s most looking forward to connecting with students. He is a third generation teacher in his family. Also launching the new Electrical Engineering major and building the program “from scratch.”

Dr. Monaghan


What does he teach? Dr. Monaghan teaches two sections of Physics 201.

How has he liked CNU so far? He is very impressed with the campus, buildings, facilities. The Lab spaces in particular are very well thought out and well stocked. Good space for working with students.

What about the PCSE department? The PCSE faculty is welcoming and very helpful in settling into the department. Dr. Fersch, in particular, has been helpful in setting up the 201 course and staying on track.

How has it been working with the students so far? So far he has had good interactions with the students both within the classroom and in office hours. It is easy to tell the more enthusiastic students because they respond more in class and and visit during office hours.

Where has he worked prior to CNU? Dr. Monaghan came to the US from Belfast, Ireland 15 years ago to go to grad school at MIT. He came to the Newport News area in 2002 to do his thesis research at Jefferson Lab. In 2008 he graduated and worked at Hampton University on full time research, including one project based in Japan.

What is he most looking forward to this year? He is most looking forward to setting up the research lab to work with students. He is also looking forward to the challenge of teaching the course; receiving constant feedback from students and challenging them to excel in class.


“And We’re Back!”

IMG_4252Welcome back, Captains! Hope you had a fantastic summer break! Hope also that the first week of school treated you well!

Here in the PCSE department, we lost no time in getting started! Pizza My Mind started up again this past Thursday with some new faculty, new events, and new opportunities to get involved on campus. Oh, you missed it? Don’t worry! Here’s what happened!

First, we met Dr. Jonathan Backens, our new engineering professor for the brand-new Electrical Engineering program starting this semester, as well as a new Physics professor by the name of Dr. Peter Monaghan. If you’re in either of their classes, let us know how it goes!


Don’t forget that Pizza My Mind counts for extra credit for any PCSE class! All you have to do is sign in when you arrive.

Mike Henle from the Career Center gave us a brief preview of some upcoming events to mark on your calendars. September 16th is networking workshop geared specifically towards introverts. Anyone who finds career fairs daunting (I certainly do!) should consider attending the workshop.

Speaking of career fairs, the next one is on October 1st. Dust off your nice slacks (or pencil skirt) and padfolio and come talk with employers about job and internship opportunities.


Representatives from some of the science clubs and societies stood up to introduce themselves, including:

  • Sigma Pi Sigma – The Physics Honor Society (available to all Physics majors)
  • Upsilon Pi Epsilon – The Computer Science Fraternity (available to Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Information Systems majors)
  • ACM – a club dedicated to the software side of computer engineering (which, incidentally, is hosting a Career Panel on September 12th, don’t miss that!)
  • IEEE – focused more on engineering
  • SPS – a gathering for Physics-minded people
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition Team – which speaks for itself


Dr. Riedl also mentioned that if you have any ideas for new clubs on campus, don’t be shy! Bring ‘em on down!

Some more upcoming dates are:

  • 24th September: Women of PCSE Luncheon – for more information about that, see Dr. Lambert
  • 26th September: PCSE Department Open House – bring your families to see what the department is all about!

Beef up your college experience with a study abroad trip to Glasgow (all majors) or Rosenheim, Germany (CE & EE). Or consider faculty/student research. Several of our professors offer projects at places like NSF REU, the National Institute of Aerospace, Jefferson Lab, and NASA.

There are also several service opportunities (yes, you heard right, PLP students!) working at STEM day, robotics, tutoring, and teaching programming. Ask Dr. Lambert for more information!

Well, that’s all for now, folks! Have a great semester and keep checking the blog for more news!

Save the Date!

Save the date Friday, May 9 at 3:30 p.m. for the Class of 2014 Student Awards and Recognition Ceremony taking place in Freeman Center 201. The ceremony honors our graduating students for their excellence in academics, leadership and service.

Distinguished PCSE alumni and the PCSE Advisory Board members will be invited to honor and celebrate with our students and their families. This year’s ceremony will include awarding of certificates to our outstanding
students, a surprise alumni guest speaker, and the announcement of PCSE 2014-2015 scholarship recipients.

In addition to the graduating seniors, all PCSE students (and their families) who have been inducted to Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the International Computer Science Honor Society and Sigma Pi Sigma, the Physics Honor Society are welcome to attend.

PCSE Advisory Board


Hey-o Captains! 

Do you see these lovely people up there? They serve on the PCSE Advisory Board, which gathered on Friday, January 31, 2014 for a super-secret (not really) and super-exciting meeting, lunch included! After viewing the latest CNU admissions video, the board got down to business, discussing topics such as PCSE programs, student and faculty research, student outbound success programs and continued learning opportunities for our beloved graduates. It’s safe to say they’ve got some exciting things planned for us! But keep it on the down-low… it’s super-secret! (not really)

Official Board Roster

Name: Suzanne Beckstoffer Title: Director of Process and Tools Company:  Newport News Shipbuilding

 Name: Nee-Yin Chou Title:  President & CEO Company:  CW Optics, Inc.

 Name: Michael Felbinger Title: Vice President Project Implementation Company: Swisslog Logistics Inc.

 Name: Christopher Hewitt Title:  Software Developer Company: Jefferson Lab

Name: Robert F. Hodson Title:  Chief Engineer, Game Changing Development Program Company:  NASA

 Name:  Clifford Mahair Title: Software Engineer Company: Northrop Grumman

Name: Monte Robinson Title:  President Company:  Robinson Engineering, Inc.


New Professor Part 2


Those of you who take CPSC 250 have already met our new professor in the PCSE department Dr. Steven Gianvecchio. If you haven’t met him, he also teaches CPSC 502 – graduate students have that to look forward to – and an independent study course on botnet detection.

Before coming to the heavily-columned campus on CNU, Dr. Gianvecchio worked as a cyber-security researcher at the MITRE Corporation, a federally-funded research and development center. He was a project lead and principal investigator on projects that detected botnets and advanced persistent threats.

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t!) a botnet is a network of computers infected with malicious software that criminals can use to send  out spam, spread viruses, attack computers and servers, and other such nefarious deeds.

Dr. Gianvecchio says he is enjoying the CNU community. “The faculty are very talented, and enjoy teaching and working with students. The students are smart, and are enthusiastic about the subject matter and enjoy learning.” Way to go CNU for impressing the professor!

Signing Day 2014


Hiya Captains! As you may (or may not) know, February 4th was Sophomore Signing Day! Eighty-eight students declared a PCSE major and were welcomed into the department with a shiny new pen, a button, and a cool PCSE lanyard.

Dr. Riedl was there to shake the hands of all the newcomers as well as Dr. Flores, Professor Perkins, Dr. Lambert, Dr. Collins, Professor Cole, and Dr. Gerousis.

Congratulations sophomores and welcome aboard!