Faculty Faction: Jason Zapka

zapka1Jason Zapka is a lifelong Penguin. He began his journey as a Penguin in his undergraduate career, where he was in the University Scholars Program. Then, he came back as a grad student. Now he’s a full-time faculty member, using the knowledge he learned as a Penguin to teach first year engineering students and serving as an adviser for Tau Beta Pi.

“The material is pretty much the same [as when I was an undergrad,]” Zapka said. “But once you work [in the field] you learn a totally different way to learn and analyze things.”

After he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, Zapka went on earn his master’s degree and to gain 15 years of experience working in heavy industry steel mills working on process automation and project management. In 2006, he started his own consulting company, but was asked to help out with a few classes at YSU. In 2007, Zapka became a part-time faculty member.

“I liked interacting with the kids, and I think I add something to them because I had practical experience, and I have been out in the field,” he said. “They have questions like, ‘Well, what was the job really like? What did you do? What did you learn?’ I kind of enjoy that aspect of it.”

Zapka wants to use his years of experience as a tool to aid his teaching. He referred to gaining experience in the field as an evolution process.

“[It’s] unlike the university environment where you have this book that you’re following, and you’re stuck to a curriculum of one thing that is a layer on a layer that is building this foundation of knowledge,” he said. “[In the work world,] you have to take the way that you were taught to understand things and then turn that into some way of making good decisions. … Once you have to work, you realize the world is bigger than just the material you’re training with.”

Zapka said that he hopes he helps other students realize the big picture, saying that engineering is not just “that one problem in your area,” but that the problem is something that everyone is experiencing.

As for his goals, Zapka said that he hopes he just helps students learn.

“I look forward to those days five or six years from now when a student comes back to me and says, ‘You know, you really helped me make a good decision,’ or ‘I think you’ve made a positive impact.’ That would be the best thing to have.”

Faculty Faction: Dr. Thomas Madsen

madsenDr. Thomas Madsen does more than just teach mathematics, he lives it. That same passion he has for math is the same passion he brings to teaching our STEMians.

“I love math, and it’s nice to have a job where all you have to do is talk about math,” Dr. Madsen joked.

From an early age, Dr. Madsen had always wanted to involve math in his life. He recollected the first time he realized that he loved mathematics. Around the third or fourth grade his teachers started to teach the class about square roots. Dr. Madsen did not decide that math was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life until early high school. Becoming a mathematics professor, though, is a little different.

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Faculty Faction: Doug Genna

For Doug Genna, a new assistant professor of organic chemistry, the love of chemistry ???????????????????????????????didn’t come early on.

“When I went to college, I actually didn’t want to be a chemist. I did not like chemistry in high school, and I did not like general chemistry,” he said.

Doug started out as a biology major, but quickly realized that that wasn’t where he wanted to be. In order to fulfill the requirements for his major, he had to take a year of general chemistry and a year of organic chemistry before entering his biology classes.

“When I was taking organic [chemistry], I really started to enjoy it,” Doug said. “When you actually get into [organic chemistry], it’s actually a lot of reasoning and logic problems, and once you understand a certain set of rules you can reason through anything, even if you haven’t seen it before, and that’s really what I like about the most: the problem solving.”

­One of the things he said he loves about YSU the most is the mixture of teaching and research.

“It’s not like a big research university where there’s so much stress on doing research — although I love doing it — the pressure to produce is so ridiculous. Here, it’s much more low pressure and [you get to] research what you want and engage the students,” Doug said.

For his research, Doug is working on making metal organic frameworks, which he described as a hybrid of an inorganic metal and organic materials that polymerize to make three-dimensional, cage-like structures. The focus point of his research is to figure out how those structures are made, since the structure’s synthesis is not understood. Along with the creation of the structures, Doug is also attempting to do different chemical reactions inside the cages.

Another thing Doug said he loved about YSU is that the chemistry program is comparable to larger research institutions.

“We have a very good chemistry program. Not even just for a small school. We have really state-of-the-art instrumentation. For students who are doing student research they get a lot of hands-on experience with using state-of-the-art equipment that some big schools don’t even have,” he said.

Doug said he has good relationships with his students, which is something that was difficult to achieve when he was at larger institutions.

“That’s been the fun thing about teaching this semester. I have scheduled office hours, but students come in all the time, and working with students has really been fun,” he said.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Nguyet “Moon” Nguyen

With the start of a new academic year comes new faces. Nguyet Nguyen is one of those new faces, but she isn’t a freshman. Dr. Nguyen is a new assistant professor in the Mathematics Department and is excited to see new students who are eager to learn.

Dr. Nguyen graduated this past summer with her Ph.D. from Florida State University where she helped as a teaching assistant. Her love for mathematics didn’t start with her bachelor’s degree from Hanoi National University of Education in Hanoi, Vietnam; it started much earlier than that.

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Faculty Faction: Dr. Donald Priour!

priour_donaldOver this last academic year, YSU STEM has made it a point to introduce you to as many of our new faculty as we can. Some of them are new to teaching, but some of them are not. Professors, like Dr. Donald Priour, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department, have taught classes before, but YSU holds something different for them.

Dr. Priour, who grew up in Kerrville, Texas, has been passionate about physics for as long as he can remember, but he counts his first real beginnings in the field as the first paper he had published 15 years ago. He graduated from Rice University with a degree in Physics, and earned his master’s degree and PhD in Physics from Princeton University.

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Faculty Faction: Dr. Snjezana “Snow” Balaz

Ward Beecher Hall can be a little difficult to navigate, but the more you explore, the more treasures you will find. Tucked away on the first floor are Dr. Snjezana “Snow” Balaz and her new Surface Science Lab.

Dr. Balaz, who is originally from Zagreb, Croatia, started at YSU last fall. During her short time on campus so far, she has acquired new equipment, set up a new lab, and has taught various classes, which is a lot to do in such a short amount of time!  Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Dr. Holly Martin

Over the last semester you may have seen a new face in the Chemical Engineering Department. This year, the department added Dr. Holly Martin as an assistant professor to research and teach at all levels of YSU STEM students.

Dr. Martin, who is originally from Mobile, Alabama, earned her bachelor’s degree in engineering, with a minor in microbiology, from Mississippi State University. She also earned her Ph.D. at Mississippi State University, where her teaching career began as a graduate student.  She then completed two years of post-doctoral studies with the Chemical Engineering department, before joining the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS). Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Dr. Suresh Sharma

Originally from Nepal, Dr. Suresh Sharma, a new assistant professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has travelled a long way to become a part of the YSU STEM College. Dr. Sharma brings to YSU STEM a different approach to teaching along with his passion in hydraulic design, fluid mechanics, water resources engineering, and surface water quality modeling.

“Students are really eager,” says Dr. Sharma, “They are enthusiastic to learn.”

He received his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and his master’s degree in Water Resources Engineering from Tribhuwan University Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Lin Sun

Photo_LinSun_2Over the course of the last few months, our new faculty has been teaching and introducing themselves around the different departments. Dr. Lin Sun, an assistant professor in electrical and computer engineering, joined YSU over the summer in hopes of introducing state-of-the-art electromagnetic modeling techniques to her students.

Dr. Sun received her bachelor and master degrees from Tsinghua University in electrical engineering, and she earned her PhD at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, with postdoctoral work at Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Dr. Feng Yu

Feng-Yu-in-picThis year, the YSU STEM faculty has gained new members in several different areas of study. The Computer Science and Information Systems Department has a new face among them. Dr. Feng Yu brings the department new implementations and lots of new perspective.

Dr. Yu, originally from northeast China, graduated from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale with his PhD in computer science.  At YSU, his research interest will focus on database query optimization, big data, cloud computing, and data mining. Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Dr. Covis Linkous

Dr. Linkous and Stephen RhodenYoungstown State University has often been a place for people to come and make their hopes and wishes a reality. One such person is Dr. Clovis Linkous, STEM College professor of Material Science.

Dr. Linkous chose YSU College of STEM and the Chemistry Department five years ago. After working as research faculty at the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida for many years, Dr. Linkous realized that he wanted to teach as well. YSU was the perfect opportunity for him to do the teaching he wanted and to work with graduate students and their research.

Dr. Linkous earned a bachelor’s degree at Purdue University, majoring in both Physics and Chemistry. He then went on to achieve his doctorate at Michigan State University in Chemistry. Much of his thesis work was performed at the University of Arizona, Tucson.   Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Carol Lamb

Carol LambCarol Lamb, associate professor of civil and construction engineering technology, teaches structural analysis and design, as well as construction and project management. She is also currently the faculty advisor for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the secretary for the Academic Senate.

Carol began her journey as an engineer at YSU in Civil Engineering Technology. After her bachelors, she earned her masters degree in Engineering Management. Carol is now pursuing her PhD in management with a focus in engineering.

Carol started working at YSU because of the encouragement of her professors, in the fall of 2005. Previously, she worked as an assistant bridge engineer with the Trumbull County Engineers’ Office.

Carol hopes to pass on encouragement and knowledge to her students just as her professors did for her. She enjoys having the class time to interact with her students. Continue reading

Faculty Faction: Dr. Michael Butcher

Dr. Michael T. Butcher

Youngstown State University collects all sorts of people as students, faculty, and professors. Each of these people has something specific and unique to offer the community and the university. Dr. Michael Butcher, assistant professor of anatomy and physiology, has been an essential part of the research initiative in the Department of Biological Sciences for the last five years.

Michael feels at home in the Biological Sciences department; the position is what brought him to the Youngstown area.

“The Department of Biological Sciences was a good fit for me and they were very supportive of my research program,” Michael says.

Dr. Butcher studied Continue reading

Kerry Meyers, Ph.D.- Faculty Faction


Youngstown State University is privileged to have Dr. Kerry Meyers on the faculty this year.Kerry brings passion, fun, and learning to the job of “First-Year Engineering Director.

Dr. Meyers earned her bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue. She continued with her masters in Mechanical Engineering at Oakland University in Michigan. Returning to Purdue, Kerry earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education. For her Ph.D. Kerry did research in student engagement and engineering identity (who goes into engineering, who stays in engineering, and why?).

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Faculty Faction: Colleen McLean

colleenmcleanNew to the College of STEM’s faculty is Colleen McLean, assistant professor of Geological and Environmental Sciences. The Bazetta native started in the spring of 2009 with a term position. When the opportunity for a faculty tenure position became available, Colleen was happy to be selected.

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, with a minor in chemistry, at YSU. McLean moved on to Kent State University for her Master of Science in Geology. At Michigan State University, she earned her doctorate in Environmental Geoscience and completed an additional specialization in Environmental Science Policy.

McLean’s research focus is aqueous and environmental geochemistry.  She likes to investigate the impacts of water quality, and she studies historic ecological conditions using geochemical and biological archives in sediment cores.

“Biological indicators, such as fossil diatoms and ostracodes, reflect the water chemistry and climate conditions at the time they were living,” McLean explained. Quantifying these parameters makes it possible to reconstruct environments from the past. “Understanding the past environmental response can help us make predictions for the future,” she continued.CM2012

When she isn’t collecting core samples or doing research, she is at home with her children. As a mother and professor, she understands the importance of teaching her kids about global environmental issues. She has passed down her love of science to them.

Colleen likes to talk to YSU students about their ideas, but what she loves most about the students is that they are motivated and fun. They are good at giving her updates on environmental news stories at the start of class. McLean likes the reciprocal learning from her students that comes from their common interests.

McLean co-advises the STEM Leadership Society and participates with student groups in the department of Geological and Environmental Sciences. She was also involved with the Sustainable Institute for Teachers. McLean would like to see a YSU student chapter of the Friends of the Mahoning River on campus as well as activities for high school students to experience geology and environmental science related to local causes.

This year at YSU, there is a new minor in Natural Gas and Water Resources. McLean is excited about the new minor because of the opportunities for teaching and research, especially with water quality and quantity issues.  CM2012b

Most recently, Colleen McLean has published an article in a Past Global Changes Newsletter, “Integrated Paleoscience for Sustainable Management”. Her article, assessing anthropogenic impacts in a Great Lakes watershed using paleolimnology, can be found by clicking here.