Faculty Faction: Joshua Blackann

Mr. BlackannMr. Joshua Blackann is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology at YSU. He is originally from the Austintown area. He received a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from YSU and then used his degree in the workforce for several years before coming back to YSU to complete his Master’s degree in 2011.

His first industry job was at Canfield Connector in Boardman, Ohio.  His main job was to integrate micro-controllers so the company could stop using various discrete parts to create their products. Blackann worked at Canfield Connector for five years before he was hired at Turning Technologies in downtown Youngstown. Here, he helped develop clickers for academic uses and audience responses. Blackann designed the electronics for the clickers and also helped develop the software that made them operate. After working at Turning Technologies, Blackann found an open teaching position at YSU and was hired.

Blackann decided to teach at YSU because of his own experience as a student and how hands-on the engineering technology program currently is. When he was in the electrical engineering program, he saw that there was not much focus on micro-controllers and he felt as though they have increasing importance in his field. Blackann wanted more students to learn about them and he wanted to be able to convey the knowledge and experience he obtained from his years in the workforce to his students.

Currently, Blackann is teaching Electronics 2, where students learn about various electrical components, and Microprocessor Technology, where students learn about coding.

“I feel very welcome at YSU. My fellow colleagues have been very helpful when it comes to content for my courses and advice for tests and lectures,” said Blackann.

Students may contact Mr. Blackann by emailing him at jablackann@ysu.edu or visit him in his office.

In his free time, Blackann enjoys various outdoor activities like snowboarding, biking, and running. Running helps him deal with stress and shut off his brain from the work day and relax.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Coskun Bayrak

Dr. Coskun BayrakWith great excitement, we would like to introduce the new Chairperson of the Computer Science and Information Systems Department, Dr. Coskun Bayrak.

Dr. Bayrak has a unique background. He was born in Gumushane, Turkey but was raised in Trabzon, Turkey. Geographically, Trabzon is in the northeastern part of Turkey on the coast of the Black Sea.

Dr. Bayrak finished his high school education in Turkey and completed his degrees at Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, Slippery Rock University, Texas Tech University, and Southern Methodist University. Even though he attended several universities, he kept a common interest in Computer Science, leading to each of his degrees reflecting that interest.

Dr. Bayrak first started teaching at the University of Texas at Dallas. He then progressed to teach at Benedict College in South Carolina, Troy University in Alabama, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and now Youngstown State University.

“After so many years in academia as a research-intensive faculty, coordinator, and chair, it was time to put the knowledge and experience to good use,” said Dr. Bayrak. “I felt like it was time to take advantage of the opportunity at YSU where I could pay back to society.”

As the new Department Chair for CSIS, Dr. Bayrak hopes to make the existing CSIS programs amongst the best in the state. He wants to provide selective educational environments where students can be trained to excel in the real world. He would also like to strengthen undergraduate and masters programs in CSIS and create PhD programs as well.

“I want to develop a competitive, fruitful learning environment and an efficient work environment to CSIS students and faculty in the department,” said Dr. Bayrak. “I would also like to address issues on campus with timely communication and resource management.”

In his short time at YSU, Dr. Bayrak has already made a tremendous impact. He oversees an independent study course and mentors six students within the Choose Ohio First program. He is also working on two grant proposals for NSF and NIH. In addition to these tasks, he keeps a busy schedule with his collaborations with the Honors program, STEM program, and International Affairs Office. He is also adamantly pushing to build relations with local industry, forming an advisory board, and working with area high schools to create stronger relationships with them.

“It has been only 4 months, but I feel like I have been here for 4 years,” said Dr. Bayrak. “I love the atmosphere and the people I work and interact with.”

In his free time, Dr. Bayrak said that he loves to read, write, plant, restore, play soccer, and go fishing. What an awesome man!

Want to meet with Dr. Bayrak? Students may schedule an appointment to meet with him, or stop by every Friday from 12:00pm-1:00pm where they can “Meet the Department Chair” and ask him any questions they may have. He also has an open-door policy, so if students can catch him, Dr. Bayrak encourages that they come to him with any questions or concerns. His office is in Meshel Hall, Room 339A. He is also reachable by email at cbayrak@ysu.edu or by phone via 330-941-3134.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Richard Deschenes

Dr. DeschenesDr. Richard Deschenes is an Assistant Professor in the Civil/Environmental and Chemical Engineering Department. He graduated with his Bachelors, Masters, and PhD degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. He was born in New Hampshire but later moved to Maine for 4 years, and then moved to Arkansas for 10 years before coming to Ohio.

This is Dr. Deschenes first university teaching experience. “I have always been interested in teaching and academia,” said Dr. Deschenes. “I felt that YSU had that perfect balance of research and teaching for me.”

He enjoys that YSU does not stress research as heavily as many other big-name colleges in the country. Dr. Deschenes wants to focus on teaching in his first few years at YSU. He is excited to get to interact more with his students because of our smaller class sizes. He wants to promote more practicality in his courses, especially in lower level courses where the students usually do not have the opportunity to be hands-on.

“I believe that having more practical classes will help students to build a strong foundation for their future,” said Dr. Deschenes.

He also plans to begin his research in concrete durability and structural engineering. With that being said, he also wants to apply for research grants, both public and private, so that he can provide funding to his student researchers.

This semester, Dr. Deschenes is teaching Statics for engineering students as well as Structural Analysis 1 and its Lab. In the spring, he will be teaching Statics again, but will move forward to teaching Strength of Materials Lab and Structural Analysis 2.

In the future, Dr. Deschenes wants to get involved with the Higher Learning Commission accreditation at YSU and to stay involved in the university while also maintaining ABET accreditation for the Civil Engineering Department. He also wants to potentially co-advise the YSU Student Chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) with the department head, Dr. Islam. He then plans to help establish a student chapter of the American Concrete Institute (ACI) here at YSU.

Dr. Deschenes spends his free time jogging and hiking. He also enjoys cheering on the New England Patriots and the Boston Red Sox. He has 9 siblings, 8 of which are younger than him. And, he’s not the only civil engineer in his family! Two of his siblings are also civil engineers. Isn’t that cool?

To reach Dr. Deschenes, you can email him at radeschenes@ysu.edu, or visit him during his office hours from 9:30am to 11:15am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Biomedical Research Series: Dr. Chet Cooper

Dr. Chet Cooper

Within the Department of Biological Sciences at Youngstown State University, there are many areas of research being explored by faculty and students alike. In a monthly series, we will highlight faculty research that covers various aspects of biomedical efforts from DNA to bacteria, fungi, and more.


Dr. Chet Cooper is a Professor of Biological Sciences at YSU. He holds a BS degree in Biology from Pitt-Johnstown. He earned his Master and PhD in Microbiology from the University of Texas.

Dr. Cooper researches a fungus that effects AIDS patients in Southeast Asia. The fungus cannot be found in soil or vegetation but it is known that it affects bamboo rats and humans. The only way a human can be infected by this fungus is by traveling to Southeast Asia and being HIV positive. The fungus is breathed in and can live in the body for several years before symptoms are observed.

The fungus, Talaromyces marneffei, was first discovered in the 1950s and brought to greater attention in the 1970s and 1980s when the AIDS epidemic occurred in Thailand. In some places in this country, up to 30% of AIDS patients contracted the fungal disease.

The fungi start attacking a person with AIDS by first giving the patient pneumonia. The infection then will spread to the skin, giving the patient skin lesions. After that, the infection will spread to the organs of the body and can be 100% fatal if it is not treated.

Dr. Cooper started researching fungi in graduate school. His first position out of graduate school was in a state health department in New York. He became familiar with different types of fungi through that position. Soon after, Dr. Cooper was asked to study how this fungus that attacks AIDS patients reacts to anti-fungal agents. His colleague from Thailand worked with him, and his research has progressed since.

“There are only 4-5 labs that study this around the entire world,” said Dr. Cooper. “People come from different countries to earn their PhD at YSU and work in the lab with this fungus.”

“There are several anti-fungal drugs that can be used to treat people who contract the fungus,” said Dr. Cooper. “But we are seeing more and more people experience side-effects and resistance to the drugs.”

At room temperature, the fungi grow filamentously. When the fungi are in the body, it is a single-celled organism that takes the form of a yeast. Dr. Cooper has recently been focusing on genes that could potentially be linked to the yeast phase of the fungus.

“A great co-worker of mine, Dr. Min, developed a software package for the entire genome of fungus,” said Dr. Cooper. “It will tell you the gene products that are pushed out of the cell.”

This software found 538 tentative genes that could potentially be connected to the fungi.

“It is also very important to know that fungi get their nutrition by sending enzymes out of the cell, digesting the substance, and absorbing,” said Dr. Cooper.

Undergraduate students that work with Dr. Cooper are developing a method using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to identify genes and see a particular gene is on the list of 538 tentative genes. They have used a different form of PCR to see if the genes were specifically expressed in the yeast phase or both the yeast and room temperature phases. The purpose of this was to find solely the corresponding yeast phase genes. It turns out that they found genes that were like this.

This gives evidence that those types of genes are being expressed.  In a future study, Dr. Cooper and his undergraduate students will grow the fungus in the yeast phase and examine it for the proteins produced. If they find the same types of protein in the fungi it will prove the gene is associated with it.

Ultimately, Dr. Cooper wants to determine the genes and proteins that are produced by the pathogenic form, which can lead to treatments and potential cures for this fungus and many others.

Some people who contract the fungus go into remission following initial treatment. However, they must take an antifungal drug for the rest of their lives because the fungi take hold in their immune system. If the drug is not taken, the person will become sick again because the body will not attack its own immune system.


To contact Dr. Cooper about his research, you can email him at crcooper01@ysu.edu.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Christopher Arntsen

Dr. ArntsenDr. Christopher Arntsen is an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at YSU. He holds a BS degree in both Math and Chemistry from the University of Connecticut. He continued to graduate school at UCLA where he obtained a PhD in Chemistry.

At his time at UCLA, Dr. Arntsen was a TA in the Chemistry department. Following the completion of his PhD, Dr. Arntsen taught at the UCLA extension for one semester.

“I loved the idea of being able to teach and do research,” said Dr. Arntsen. “I really felt that YSU had a great mix of both.”

Dr. Arntsen is currently teaching General Chemistry I and the Physical Chemistry Lab. As a researcher, Dr. Arntsen is a theoretical chemist, meaning he deals with computation and theoretical calculations. Once he gets more settled at YSU, he would love to investigate the bandgap modulation of solar cell perovskites. He wants to study what makes them efficient solar cells and find ways to apply his findings to future research.

“I think science education is on the verge of changing to a more project and discovery-based learning,” said Dr. Arntsen. “It’s important for students to learn hands-on skills. I really want to implement more project-based learning in my classes. It would be beneficial for students in higher level classes to have more open-ended projects.”

“I have noticed that the atmosphere at YSU is very friendly, vibrant, and energetic,” said Dr. Arntsen. “I have really enjoyed it in the short time that I’ve been here.”

In the future, Dr. Arntsen wants to get involved with the YSU Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“I am an enthusiastic Celtics fan,” said Dr. Arntsen. “I will be enthusiastically rooting against the Cavs this year!”

To contact Dr. Arntsen, you can find him at office location in Ward Beecher 5034 on Mondays and Tuesdays from 1:30-2:30 and Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30-7:30. You can also email Dr. Arntsen at carntsen@ysu.edu.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Kevin Disotell

Dr. Kevin Disotell

Dr. Kevin Disotell is an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at YSU. He holds a BS and PhD in Aeronautical & Astronautical l Engineering from The Ohio State University, with the primary focus of aerodynamics.

“While I was a doctoral candidate at Ohio State, I served as an instructor for a technical elective—helicopter aerodynamics—which was my first teaching experience in the classroom,” said Disotell. “It was also a good experience to balance teaching and research duties.”

After his experiences at OSU, Dr. Disotell began his career in the aerospace industry. He was able to contribute to programs and research efforts at NASA.

“I came to YSU from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Langley was established as our nation’s first civilian aeronautics laboratory, and it was an honor to be part of the 100th anniversary of the center’s opening this year,” said Disotell. “So many amazing achievements in aerospace history have roots at Langley. Having also worked in product development at Ford Motor Company in Michigan, I feel quite fortunate to have been part of such iconic organizations with tremendous histories.”

Dr. Disotell knew that giving college-level students the backgrounds for an aerospace degree would allow them to also experience what he had. Dr. Disotell’s interests in teaching at YSU arose because he could contribute to quality degree programs while also helping YSU to be a national model for public education value. Having been raised in Boardman, Disotell knew how important the university was to the area, so he wanted to be part of the university’s momentum.

“I look forward to creating an integrated teaching and research space in the fluid mechanics laboratory of Moser Hall,” said Disotell. “A key piece of this transformation is a new research-grade wind tunnel that we will build alongside our instructional tunnels. Being in a state of aviation pioneers and in the middle of our country’s Fluid Power Belt, it is important that we offer excellent training in fluid mechanics.”

This semester you can see Dr. Disotell if you are part of the mechanical engineering program or if you are taking Thermodynamics I or Fluid Dynamics.

In his short time here, Dr. Disotell has already started to make an impact at YSU. He has been involved in the effort to create a new student branch for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) on campus. This new student organization will open new doors for students with career interests in the aerospace field. The organization will work to provide its members professional connections. You can read more about the AIAA branch here.

Dr. Disotell has also expressed an urge to improve several components on campus for YSU engineering students.

“One of my goals is to help expand quality research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students with our work in the laboratory,” said Disotell. “Getting hands-on experience helps drive innovation and will prepare our students to enter the workforce in the aerospace sector, which continues to see global growth in economic value and manufacturing output. Ohio is a leading supplier to the aerospace industry.”

It is great to know that Dr. Disotell is aiming for the stars here at YSU.

“My favorite pastime is baseball. An ancestor of mine, Gene Desautels, played professional baseball as a catcher around the time of WWII,” said Disotell. “He was teammates with the famous hitter Ted Williams in Boston, and also played for Cleveland among other teams.”

Doesn’t Dr. Disotell sound like an amazing professor? For more information about AIAA or to contact Dr. Disotell for any reason, you can email him at kjdisotell@ysu.edu. Due to renovations, Dr. Disotell has a temporary office in Moser Hall 1460. His office will change after the second-floor updates are completed.

Faculty Faction: Dr. Eric MacDonald

Eric MacDonald
photo credit: YSU News Center

Dr. Eric MacDonald is a professor of electrical engineering and YSU’s Friedman Chair in Engineering. He holds a BS, MS, and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

He worked as a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso for 15 years after leaving industry as a chip designer. He created microprocessors for products including computers and game systems and he worked for companies like IBM and Motorola.

In 2003, Dr. MacDonald teamed up with a mechanical engineer at UTEP to experiment with the mixing of 3D printing and electronics, which was almost unheard of at that time.

“So you could make a ball that’s a circuit board for instance, or you could make a prosthetic hand,” said Dr. MacDonald. “We ended up getting a lot of interest from NASA and the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the intelligence community even.”

He had strong ties to Youngstown before he even considered coming here to teach.

“In 2011, President Obama in his State of the Union address basically said that he was going to invest in manufacturing by setting up institutes, the first of which was additive manufacturing… and it came to Youngstown,” said Dr. MacDonald.

A grant from this institute based in Youngstown brought him and Dr. Brett Conner together for collaboration.

Dr. MacDonald was very interested in coming to Youngstown through a recent endowment. He is now the first Morris and Phyllis Friedman Chair in Engineering at Youngstown State University.

He plans to continue his hands-on research with 3D printing and electronics while also incorporating Youngstown’s history of metal manufacturing.

Last semester, Dr. MacDonald published a paper in the journal Science along with former colleague Ryan Wicker of UTEP. Science is a highly prestigious magazine and it is very difficult to be accepted for publication.

A frequent traveler, Dr. MacDonald has been to many different countries all over the world. Even so, he still thinks Ohio is a beautiful place to live.

Faculty Faction: Stefan Moldovan

Dr. Stefan MoldovanDr. Moldovan has been teaching mechanical engineering at Youngstown State University for about two years.

Originally from Romania, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Polytechnic University of Bucharest, both in aerospace engineering. He then earned his PhD in mechanical engineering from Akron.

“They offered me a scholarship for a PhD, and I didn’t know what Ohio was all about with all this crazy weather,” said Dr. Moldovan.

Despite the foreign environment, he decided to stay in Ohio—after graduating, he taught in Akron and then came to Youngstown to continue teaching.

Dr. Moldovan certainly didn’t plan to teach while he was pursuing his engineering degrees.

“It was funny because actually I wasn’t thinking to teach,” he said. “I wanted to go into research and industry, but as a professor you get to do research anyway. I kind of like it now that I’m doing it. It surprised me; I didn’t think I was going to like it as much.”

Coming from an engineering background Dr. Moldovan hopes to continue to improve teaching and to grow into a strong professor here at YSU.

When he’s not teaching classes or working on research, you can find him out rock climbing or mountain biking if the weather is nice.

Faculty Faction: John Martin

John Martin, assiJohn Martinstant professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology, is a lifelong penguin. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering at Youngstown State University.

He has worked in the industry for companies such as WCI Steel, Webco Industries, Ajax TOCCO Magnethermic, PMC Colinet, and RMS/Steelastic.

Martin said that if he ever got the chance to teach at YSU that he would, and that opportunity came to him last fall semester.

“It was something that I had in the back of my mind,” He said. “I came from industry, so that was kind of what I had always planned on doing, and if the opportunity ever arose that I could teach [at YSU], I wanted to; I just didn’t know if that was going to be a possibility.”

Martin said he hopes to be a big influence on his students so that one day they will look back and remember that he helped them to really understand the fundamentals of engineering and use it to their full potential.

Besides using his expertise to teach students about mechanical engineering technology, he has also been researching classroom instruction techniques.

“Right now, I’m doing research in engineering education,” Martin said. “I am currently evaluating different instructional methods in the classroom; for instance, the effectiveness of simultaneously presenting a software program while teaching a new mathematical concept versus sequentially presenting the software program and the concept.  My goal is to better understand how these methods effect learners in an engineering classroom to ultimately improve student learning.”

He also thinks that STEM is the perfect place to be if you want to be a part of the large diversity of both students and faculty on campus.

“I like the interaction with the students. I like meeting all the different people and personalities. There’s a lot more human contact teaching in STEM than there is in most industry jobs,” he said.

Faculty Faction: Joe Sanson

LiJoe Sansonke some of our other professors, Joe Sanson, an assistant professor of civil and construction engineering technology, is a lifelong Penguin.

Sanson received both his bachelor’s and master’s of engineering in civil and environmental engineering at YSU. He’s been an instructor at YSU for six years, but was just recently named to a tenure-track position.

As a professor, Sanson said he likes to emulate Dr. Scott Martin, who taught Sanson during his time as an undergrad and a graduate student.

“Dr. Martin — he just recently retired — had a big effect on my career at YSU,” Sanson said. “I had him in undergrad; I had him through my master’s, and I try to mimic my classroom instruction on how Dr. Martin did it. I thought he was one of the best professors I ever had.”

Sanson said that he hopes students remember that he expected a lot out of them, because hard work is what ultimately leads to success, which is how Sanson said he remembers Dr. Martin.

“I think it’s good for the students that we carry that tradition of rigorous coursework,” Sanson said.

With the switch from an instructor to a tenure-track professor, Sanson has begun working on research involving epoxy for parking decks.

“Right now I’m working for Simon products. They have [an epoxy product] that they want to use in parking decks,” Sanson said. “When a beam in a parking deck cracks, they have epoxy that they can inject into this crack. They have me doing some testing to make sure that it works and to make sure it fits the specs for different jobs.”

To test the epoxy, Sanson has plans of building beams similar to those in parking decks, cracking it, ejecting it with the epoxy, and then loading it up with weight to see how the strength of the beam handles extra weight. Once these lab tests are finished, the epoxy will be tested in real-life situations. Currently, Sanson is waiting on approval from YSU to try to epoxy on the decks around campus.

Faculty Faction: Jai Jung

20150921_103237_This semester YSU STEM welcomed Dr. Jai Jung as an assistant professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

Dr. Jung joins our STEM faculty after finishing his time at Virginia Tech and the University of Waterloo, Canada, as a post-doctoral research fellow and associate where he researched trenchless technology and sustainable infrastructure management.

“Because of our existing underground infrastructure, underground utility infrastructures, including drinking water, wastewater, oil and gas lines in the United States, are deteriorating very fast and became a major problem for the governments,” Dr. Jung said. “I would like to improve and renovate our underground infrastructure, and I see a lot of opportunities in this area. That’s why I’m in a Geotechnical Engineering field.”

Dr. Jung said that eventually he would be like to be known as one of the best underground infrastructurer researchers, and he is doing some impressive research projects even though he just began his time at YSU.

“I am working on the watertight non-metal manhole system, which is designed to eliminate unwanted flows at the manhole cover and chimney area to minimize pavement degradation and sinkage around the manhole,” Dr. Jung said. “The results of this study will be used to develop further understanding of pavement degradation due to cyclic loads around manholes, investigate the effect of soil in sanitary sewer systems, and carry out life-cycle cost analysis for manhole cover system and pavement.”

The second project he’s working on is nondestructive testing for structure.

“The main objective of this project is to improve the interpretation of nondestructive condition assessment techniques for pipelines using acoustic signal processing technology,” Dr. Jung said. “Current acoustic fiber optic (AFO) monitoring can supply a pipe owner with sufficient warning to avoid a pipeline failure only when the information supplied by AFO is used to initiate an emergency pipeline shutdown fairly quickly.”

Dr. Jung said that the purpose of this research is to further research acoustic signal processing to advance the practical use of the AFO technology for water and wastewater pipeline condition assessment.

“An ultimate objective of this research is to build a foundation for integrating wire break detection, leak detection, and wall thickness detection analyses into one single interpretation system,” he said. “Utilizing these three capabilities in one interpretation system is a promising approach for pipeline nondestructive condition assessment technology.”

When Dr. Jung isn’t working to become one of the best underground infrastructure researchers, he’s unwinding on the golf course. He particularly liked Mill Creek’s course.

“I searched the web and found that parks in Youngstown, including Mill Creek Park, are one of the best in northeast,” Dr. Jung said. “I learned golf two years ago, and I am still a beginner.”

Faculty Faction: Lin Sun

Normally we use the Faculty Faction to introduce STEMians to our new faculty. This month, however, we’re doing things a little different. We wanted to take a break from introducing our new faculty to focus on our amazing existing faculty.

LinSunLin Sun, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, is entering her third year of teaching at YSU, and is working on some great research, including developing numerical electromagnetic methods.

Before becoming a Penguin, Dr. Sun received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Tsinghua University in Beijing. She received her Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then worked at Schlumberger-Doll Research. She said she wanted to find an academic job after working with industry for three years so she could bring knowledge she learned while working into the classroom and to students, while also having some time to do research that interests her.

Dr. Sun’s research mainly focuses on electromagnetic fields, but she said teaching different courses has given her a better and deeper understanding of problems in different areas and allows her to connect them together.

She has developed different numerical methods in the past, and wants to continue to work on that.

“Many complicated electromagnetic problems rely on software design. I want to help to solve these problems by developing these numerical electromagnetic methods,” Dr. Sun said. “For example, we can transfer the design of magnet or coils to software design. By developing the numerical methods, it can help to solve different problems in MRI systems. I am very interested in helping to understand the complicated systems using electromagnetic theory.”

Dr. Sun said the best part about teaching at YSU is seeing her students go into the workforce.

“I taught the junior class when I came here,” Dr. Sun said. “They graduated in May and started to work in different areas. It is a very good feeling to see students being able to work independently after learning here.”

Faculty Faction: Dr. Lucy Kerns

Lucy[1]Dr. Lucy Kerns joined the YSU Math Department as an assistant professor at the beginning of the fall 2014 semester. Before that, she was a part time professor at the university for seven years.

Dr. Kerns came from China to pursue her graduate degrees in statistics. Originally, she was an accounting major, but found more success in securing an assistantship as a stats major.

Dr. Kerns met her husband, Dr. Jay Kerns, while in graduate school. After he got his job at YSU, she soon followed. She said that the faculty and staff at YSU are very friendly, and the students are very hardworking.

“Teaching is a rewarding experience. When students come to me and say that something finally makes sense to them and that they can use what I taught them, it’s very rewarding to me,” Dr. Kerns said. ”

In Spring 2015, Dr. Kerns launched a new service to the university, the Mathematical and Statistical Consulting Center, along with Dr. Tom Wakefield. This service is for faculty and students working on research projects, and is the first of its kind for YSU. In the short time since its launch, Dr. Kerns has already helped many people who have said they wished this service was available a long time ago.

Dr. Kerns’ research focuses on areas such as confidence bands, logistic regression, drug stability studies, and range regression. She has already published some papers and has submitted a few more which are under review.

Outside of YSU, Dr. Kerns volunteers her time teaching Chinese at a Methodist church in Poland.

Faculty Faction: Tony Vercellino

Dr. Tony Vercellino, assistant professor of Civil Engineering, didn’t originally want to teach.

“Ten years ago if you asked me if I would be teaching at a university, I would have said you’re out of your mind,” he said.

But luckily for us STEMians, he changed his mind.

“I [thought I] was just going to be an engineer working with construction, and then I did the consulting stuff, found out it wasn’t my cup of tea, went back to school, got the opportunity to teach and found out I really liked it,” Vercellino said. “I guess you could say I kind of fell into it. I like being able to teach and being able to interact with the students and watch the ideas click whenever you explain something well in the classroom.”

He said he likes the small-school feel of the university, and that’s what made YSU appealing to him.

“I came from a big research university and that atmosphere was too research focused compared to what I want to do. It’s easy to lose touch with students at such a big university,” Vercellino said.

One of his main goals is to build a successful research program and further the name of the university. He said he wants to help build the program to be well-rounded so the students that do want to come here can get a broad environmental background as a part of their civil engineering degree.

He hasn’t started research yet, but Vercellino said he is looking to get into oil and gas research as well as broaden his research background in water and wastewater treatment. He is currently putting together a research article about the uptake of micropollutants in agriculture due to wastewater reuse, and will be serving as a professional mentor to the YSU chapter of Engineers Without Borders.

When he’s not in the classroom, you can find him refereeing ice hockey in his spare time or rooting for his favorite teams, the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Blues.

Faculty Faction: Jason Zapka

Jason Zapka

Jason 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.”