News | Powering the New Engineer News from Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida Wed, 18 Mar 2020 18:22:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gator100 celebrates the world’s “Fastest Growing Gator Companies” and honors UF Engineering alumnus Scott Pressly with the Pinnacle Award. Tue, 03 Mar 2020 13:48:04 +0000 Scott Pressly, Pinnacle Award

Scott Pressly, 2020 S. Clark Butler Pinnacle Awardee

Recognized as one of the country’s leading franchise investors, Pressly’s career includes over 25 years of venture capital, brand management and franchise expertise. Using his signature Franchise Accelerator Model, he has helped entrepreneurs create dominant franchise brands such as Schlotzsky’s Deli, Fastsigns, and Cinnabon. Most recently, he led the transformation of Tropical Smoothie Café from a small, regional concept to one of the nation’s hottest franchise brands with over 850 locations.

Pressly is currently the founder of 10 Point Capital, a private equity firm supporting entrepreneurs to expand their concepts. Previously, he was the co-founder of BIP Capital, one of the most active venture capital firms in the Southeast, and a partner at Roark Capital Group; he also held leadership roles with The Walt Disney Company and Dow Chemical.

Pressly received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1990 from the University of Florida, graduating with high honors, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1995. “Throughout my career, I have drawn on the critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills developed in my chemical engineering classes,” Pressly said. “Whether contemplating a new investment or developing a competitive strategy to dominate the market, I will be forever grateful for my experience and education from the University of Florida.”

The S. Clark Butler Pinnacle Award recognizes an established business leader who has demonstrated success in his/her industry. The recipient is an entrepreneur who has shown sustained excellence and leadership. He/she is, or has recently been, a significant company leader, entrepreneurial and innovative in spirit, and has matriculated at the University of Florida. The vision for the S. Clark Butler Pinnacle Award was inspired by Roy H. Lambert Sr. to honor his friend S. Clark Butler, a leading entrepreneur in Gainesville. The award embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship and reinforces the vitality of the contributions of S. Clark Butler in the life of the local community and the University of Florida.

Rod Rogers, BSISE ’87, served as this year’s special guest speaker at the Gator100 Awards Dinner. Rogers, a prior Gator100 honoree,  has more than 30 years in the technology services industry. He is recognized as a successful serial entrepreneur and expert technologist, known for his leadership contributions in the realization of two back-to-back “unicorns” – startups that achieve billion-dollar valuations. Today, Rod operates as a founding partner of the Blue Lagoon Companies. Blue Lagoon, through its various entities, develops, advises and invests in disruptive technology start-ups and next-generation technology companies.

Engineering Awardees

Alumni from the University of Florida have created and guided some of the most innovative and profitable businesses in the nation and the world. Each year, the UF Alumni Association, in partnership with the UF Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center recognizes these amazing entrepreneurs with the Gator100 at a ceremony held on the main UF campus in Gainesville.

Congratulations to our talented Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering alumni who made the 2020 list for leading one of the world’s Fastest Growing Gator Companies!

No. 7 – ShalePro Energy Services, LLC

  • William Johnson
  • 1985 B.S. Electrical Engineering
  • William Johnson, president and CEO of ShalePro Energy Services, LLC, is a senior executive with 30+ years of diversified market experience in the engineering, construction, and field services industries. ShalePro Energy Services is headquartered in the metro-Pittsburgh area, heart of the Marcellus/Utica Shale Basin, where it provides best-in-class services to the production and midstream sectors of the ever-growing oil and natural gas industry. Johnson holds an engineering degree with honors from the University of Florida, completed the advanced business management program at Wharton, and is a registered professional engineer in multiple states.

No. 8 – Feathr, Inc.

  • Aidan Augustin
  • Industrial & Systems Engineering Alumnus
  • Aidan Augustin was an industrial and systems engineering student at UF when he first attended a national networking event. Determined to improve on the way attendees engage with each other through technology and innovation, he and his roommate founded and developed Feathr. Today, more than 500 associations and event organizers use Feathr to market thousands of events, initiatives, and member programs to more than one hundred million customers around the world. Augustin supports the Gainesville community through his positions as chairman of the board of startupGNV, a non-profit focused on growing and supporting the Greater Gainesville tech/startup ecosystem, and as a board member of the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce.

No. 22 – Verdex Construction, LLC

  • Rex B. Kirby, Jr.
  • 1980 B.S. Civil Engineering
  • Rex Kirby, a 35+-year veteran of the construction industry, is the founder and president of Verdex Construction, LLC, located in Palm Beach, Florida. The company is involved in pre-construction concepts, construction management, design/build, general contracting, tenant improvements and special projects. Kirby is a licensed professional engineer and certified general contractor in the state of Florida. Verdex has received numerous awards from industry organizations, and Kirby is currently president of the board of HomeSafe, a South Florida organization focused on helping abused and abandoned children.

No. 34 – Tellus

  • Christopher Pernicano
  • 1989 B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 1993 M.E. Environmental Engineering, 1993 MBA Finance/Economics
  • Chris Pernicano has more than 20 years of experience in the finance technology space across all aspects of small and medium company operation. He is the chief operating officer at Tellus, a leading provider of mobile care delivery, Electronic Visit Verification (eVV) and claims processing technology designed especially for the home health and long-term care markets. In 1996, Pernicano co-founded his first startup, and by 2000, he had co-founded his second, a SaaS-based technology startup that would eventually become the second largest of its kind in the country. He transitioned to Tellus in 2017.

No. 35 – Engineered Design Services LLC

  • Craig McKenzie
  • BSAGE 2005 Engineering
  • Craig McKenzie is the President and CEO of Engineered Design Services LLC and has 12 years of engineering experience, with over 300 projects completed to date. His diverse experience includes all disciplines of civil engineering, with a specialization in surface and groundwater hydrology. The combination of these skills has been used successfully to provide engineering services to mining, power, commercial, and governmental clients. Engineered Design Services is a leading full-service engineering and construction management firm, offering its services nationwide to a wide variety of utility, municipal, and industrial clients. Utility scale electrical engineering, hydrology, civil engineering, and building system designs are just a few of the services provided.

No. 43 – Protean Design Group, Inc.

  • Kimberly C. Horlander
  • 1989 B.S. Civil Engineering
  • Kimberly Horlander is a founding principal and president of Protean Design Group, Inc., a multi-disciplined civil engineering consulting firm with expertise in transportation, traffic, and lighting. While Horlander’s main expertise is in the structural design of highway bridges, retaining walls and miscellaneous structures, she is also experienced in the areas of traffic and storm water engineering. As a member of both ASCE and FES, Horlander has served in leadership roles on numerous committees during her career, including Engineers Week (Chairman) and Engineering Management Forum (President).
  • Scott Horlander
  • 1988 B.S. Civil Engineering
  • Scott Horlander, vice-president/chief business officer and principal of Protean Design Group, Inc., has a broad range of experience, spanning more than 22 years, including roadway design, traffic engineering and traffic studies, highway lighting and drainage design. As a member of ASCE, FES and ASHE, he has served in various leadership and involvement roles.
  • David Reed
  • 1989 B.S. Civil Engineering
  • As vice-president/chief operations officer for Protean Design Group, as well as a principal in the company, David Reed offers clients more than 20 years of highway engineering experience, ranging from minor intersection improvements to complex interchange design. In addition to his extensive technical experience, Reed has been an active member of various technical societies including ASCE and FES.

No. 51 – OpenJAUS, LLC

  • Daniel Kent
  • 2006 M.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2007 Ph. D. Mechanical Engineering
  • Dr. Daniel Kent is a robotics engineer and president of OpenJAUS. He has been a member of the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) working group since 2004 and currently holds the position as the Chair for the Environment Sensing and World Modeling task group under the SAE’s Unmanned Systems standards division (AS-4). In this role, Dr. Kent was the document sponsor of the JAUS Environment Sensing Service Set (AS6060). OpenJAUS is designed for software developers that want to use JAUS without needing to know the low-level details of the standard itself.
  • Thomas Galluzzo
  • 2006 M.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2006 Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering
  • Dr. Thomas Galluzzo is a robotics engineer and vice-president of OpenJAUS. In 2006 Galluzzo co-founded OpenJAUS, a leading software implementation of the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) that is used worldwide. He has led the development of OpenJAUS architecture and implementation, as well as advancement of the JAUS standard itself. Dr. Galluzzo was the document sponsor for the published JAUS Mobility Service Set (AS6009) standard.
  • Nicholas Johnson
  • 2010 M.S. Electrical and Computer Engineering, 2010 Ph.D. Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Dr. Nicholas Johnson leads OpenJAUS’ focus on developing software to facilitate interoperability between robotic systems and is the company’s chief technology officer. He has served on the JAUS working group, helping to develop a standard for communication between unmanned systems and has over 10 years of experience working on numerous ground vehicles and software frameworks using this standard. He also has over 15 years of experience in software development ranging from low-level embedded devices to user facing applications and high-level algorithms.


  • Mark Lowery
  • 1990 B.S. Mechanical Engineering
  • Mark Lowery founded JAX Refrigeration in 2010, after more than two decades in the refrigeration and HVAC industry. He is licensed in more than 40 States and provinces for professional engineering and contracting and is an active member of ASHRAE, IIAR, NCEES and RETA. As president of JAX Refrigeration, he has established a charitable foundation, JAXCares, helping support inspiring individuals and charitable organizations through fundraising and events. JAXCares has contributed to more than 30 civic, charitable and educational organizations.

No. 65 – Securifera, Inc.

  • Ryan Wincey
  • 2012 M.S. Computer Engineering
  • Ryan Wincey is the founder and president of Securifera, Inc., in Irvine, California. Securifera assesses the network security posture of its clients over long term red team engagements, through tasks that include open-source intelligence gathering, email phishing, vulnerability research, exploit development, scripting (Python, Ruby, Powershell, VBScript, Bash), remote administration tool development, and network operations using commonly used security tools (Metasploit, Nmap, Maltego, Canvas, Kali). Wincey previously worked as a senior red team specialist at Blizzard Entertainment, a premier developer and publisher of entertainment software.

No. 66 – LeadingAgile, LLC

  • Mike Cottmeyer
  • 1990 B.S. Computer Engineering
  • Mike Cottmeyer, CEO of LeadingAgile, LLC, serves as his company’s resident champion of core agile values and principles. He is a thought leader and industry disrupter in the field of enterprise-focused agile transformation. Cottmeyer has given back to the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering by serving as the Entrepreneur in Residence from May 2016 to the present. In this role, he works with college faculty and student entrepreneurs to help them become more innovative and successful in starting, operating, and managing companies. Cottmeyer holds many certifications, including Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Project Management Professional (PMP), PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and DSDM Certified Agile Project Leader (DSDM APL).


  • Jess Fronckowiak
  • 2000 B. S. Civil Engineering
  • Jess Fronckowiak founded J2 Solutions, Inc., in 2002 and has transitioned it from a one-man start-up to a full-service, self-performing, design-build, construction management firm, servicing the entire state of Florida. His company has won numerous awards, including Business of the Year, Contractor of the Year and induction into the prestigious “BIG-50 Remodeling Contractors” from Remodeling Magazine. Today, as president of J2 Solutions, Inc., Fronckowiak splits his time between commercial business development and strategic planning.
  • David Fouche
  • 2001 B. S. Civil Engineering, 2002 M.E. Civil Engineering
  • David Fouche is co-owner and executive vice president of J2 Solutions, Inc., with the vision of growing the firm into a premier commercial contracting company. Fouche’s experience and knowledge in Health Care operations allowed him to earn the distinction of Certified Health Care Constructor (CHC) by the American Hospital Association. His current duties include leading the operations of the company, as well as all Health Care projects within acute care hospitals all over the state of Florida.

No. 74 – Southeast Forensic Consultants, LLC

  • Andrew Cherepon
  • 2010 B.S. Mechanical Engineering
  • Andrew Cherepon is a licensed Professional Engineer specializing in accident reconstruction and forensic engineering at Southeast Forensic Consultants, LLC, a multi-disciplinary consulting firm that specializes in forensic engineering and safety consulting. Cherepon has trained in accident reconstruction, forensic engineering, safety engineering, human factors, traffic engineering, and more. He is recognized by the Accreditation Commission for Traffic Accident Reconstruction (ACTAR) and is a Walkway Auditor Certificate Holder (WACH).

No. 78 – Mainstay Salire, LLC

  • Craig LeGrande
  • 1991 B.S. Electrical Engineering
  • Craig LeGrande is the founder and CEO of Mainstay, starting the company over 15 years ago to help high technology companies succeed by quantifying and communicating the business value of their solutions. LeGrande achieved his Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering with a specialty in semiconductor physics from the University of Florida and his MBA from Dartmouth. Mainstay provides value-based sales and marketing solutions to Enterprise B2B companies including the high tech industry, healthcare and financial services. LeGrande recently authored the best-selling book Competing for Customers with Jeb Dasteel, chief customer officer of Oracle, and Amir Hartman, co-founder of Mainstay.

No. 96 – Campbell Spellicy Engineering, Inc.

  • Kevin Spellicy
  • 2009 B.S. Mechanical Engineering
  • Kevin Spellicy serves as principal engineer and president of Campbell Spellicy Engineering, Inc., overseeing all firm operations. Campbell Spellicy Engineering is a full-service mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering firm specializing in commercial, educational, and institutional construction projects. Away from the office, Spellicy and his family enjoy visiting the Gainesville area’s many parks, springs, hiking trails, museums, and attending Gator sporting events. Spellicy is also a very active community leader and volunteer, serving on multiple local non-profit boards, providing tutoring for Project Youthbuild students, and serving as a mentor through the Take Stock in Children program.
Celebrating Black History Month with UF Engineers Tue, 25 Feb 2020 14:42:10 +0000 As we celebrate Black History Month, the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering celebrates our black faculty who perform outstanding research, mentor our students and serve as role models for the rising engineers of tomorrow.

We would like to recognize these faculty:

Department of Chemical Engineering:

Carl Denard, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor
  • Research areas include protein therapeutics, synthetic biology, biocatalysis, and bioengineering.

Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering:

Christina Gardner-McCune, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor
  • Research areas include computer science education, educational technologies, and human-centered computing.

Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D.

  • The Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor and CISE Department Chair
  • Research areas include human-centered computing, user experience and accessibility, electronic voting systems, culturally relevant computing, brain-computer interaction, and broadening participation in computing.

Kyla McMullen, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor
  • Research areas include human-centered computing focused on 3D audio utilizing signal processing, sonifying information and environments using 3D audio, and augmentation of assistive technology for persons with visual impairments using 3D audio.

Sanethia Thomas, Ph.D.

  • Lecturer
  • Research areas include educational technologies, human-centered computing and sports management.

Corey Toler-Franklin, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor
  • Research areas include computer vision and related topics in computer graphics; 3D acquisition and appearance modeling; multispectral imaging; imaging spectroscopy; machine learning and matching; and non-photorealistic rendering.

Byron Williams, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include information security, application security, security analytics & metrics, and secure software development.

Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering:

Damon Woodard, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include biometrics, applied machine learning, pattern recognition, image analysis, computer vision, and data science.

Janise McNair, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include wireless and mobile networking, next generation wireless systems, and medium access control protocols.

Christophe Bobda, Ph.D.

  • Professor
  • Research areas include embedded vision, embedded systems, reconfigurable computing, computer architecture, cybersecurity, and system-level design.

Department of Materials Science & Engineering:

Josephine Allen, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor and Genzyme Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Research areas include stem cell engineering, directed stem cell differentiation, cell materials interactions, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

Erika Moore, Ph.D.

  • Holder of the Rhines Rising Star Larry Hench Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering
  • Research areas include biomaterials, cell-material interactions, immune engineering, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.

Michele Manuel, Ph.D.

  • Professor and Department Chair, Rolf E. Hummel Professor of Electronic Materials
  • Research areas include thermodynamics, kinetics, materials design, metallurgy mechanical behavior, composites, metallic biomaterials, and nuclear materials.

Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering:

Curtis R. Taylor, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs
  • Research areas include nanomechanics, nanotechnology, solid mechanics, and engineering education.

Norman G. Fitz-Coy, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include dynamics and control of multibody systems, game theory, orbital dynamics, and flight mechanics.

Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment:

Jean-Claude Bonzongo, Ph.D.

  • Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences
  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include water systems and environmental nanotechnology.

David Mazyck, Ph.D.

  • Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences
  • Professor
  • Research areas include water systems, air resources, engineering education and environmental nanotechnology.

David Prevatt, Ph.D.

  • Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering
  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include structural engineering, wind engineering, structural load paths and natural hazards.

Denise Simmons, Ph.D.​

  • Department of Civil & Coastal Engineering
  • Associate Professor 
  • Research area includes workforce development in sustainable construction engineering.

J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering:

Lakiesha Williams, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Research areas include traumatic brain injury, soft tissue mechanics, bio-inspired design and materials characterization.
Feathr, UF Engineering Alumnus-Founded Startup, Soars Into 2020 With $11M Investment Boost Tue, 04 Feb 2020 20:39:54 +0000 Aidan Augustin, Co-Founder and President, Feathr

Feathr, a digital marketing platform built specifically for the needs of associations and event organizers, has closed a Series B financing totaling more than $11 million. Aidan Augustin was an industrial and systems engineering student at UF when he attended a national networking event and was determined to improve on the way attendees engage with each other through technology and innovation. He and his roommate founded and developed Feathr. Today, more than 500 associations and event organizers—from global market leaders such as Informa to regional organizations such as the Texas Society of Association Executives—use Feathr to market thousands of events, initiatives, and member programs to more than one hundred million customers around the world.

While still at the University of Florida, Aidan was mentored by the Michael Durham Director of the Engineering Innovation Institute Erik Sander in a project titled, “Innovation in Human Connectivity via the Internet.”

For the full story on Feathr’s latest growth, see

Autonomous Shuttle Ready for Passengers Tue, 04 Feb 2020 14:36:11 +0000 The autonomous shuttle in downtown Gainesville.GAINESVILLE, Florida – Starting Feb. 3, Gainesville residents will be able to board an autonomous shuttle for test rides between downtown Gainesville and the University of Florida campus. The shuttle will be operated by the City of Gainesville’s Regional Transit System (RTS) and has been funded by the Florida Department of Transportation.

The pilot project is part of the I-STREET real-world testbed, a partnership between the University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI), the Florida Department of Transportation, and the City of Gainesville. The testbed provides unique opportunities for testing transportation technologies and allows innovative research to be developed and deployed throughout the city and the UF roadway network.

The autonomous shuttle will operate on a daily fixed route along SE 2nd Ave. between the parking garage on SW 2nd St. and UF Innovate│The Hub from 8 a.m. to noon and again between 3 -7 p.m. Funding from the Florida Department of Transportation will allow all passengers to ride the shuttle free of charge.

Because the shuttle is still in its testing phase, an operator will be on board in the event an override of the controls becomes necessary. The shuttle will operate until June 30, 2020. The UFTI, a unit of the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, will be conducting an evaluation study, funded by UF, to document traveler experiences and behaviors.

To learn more about UFTI and I-STREET, visit

Florida Teachers get Excited about STEM Education Fri, 31 Jan 2020 13:43:59 +0000

Nancy J. Ruzycki, Ph.D. leads session at UF Professional Development Workshop for STEM Teachers

Nancy J. Ruzycki, Ph.D. leads session at UF Professional Development Workshop for STEM Teachers

UF leads with innovative processes to stimulate effective new teaching methods for K-12 educators

Near the end of December 2019, the Florida Talent Development Council released a report outlining the path forward for workforce development in the state. Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted the importance of the report, saying, “Ensuring that Floridians are prepared for the jobs in the 21st century is critical to the future success of our great state.” The University of Florida has already set plans in motion to help accomplish this goal.

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering is using a $5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to teach K-9 educators how to use sensors and probes as a means of collecting and analyzing data in order to build core concept models for students. Known as the EQuIPD program, which stands for Engaged Quality Instruction through Professional Development, it provides services and coaching to 100 “intervention” teachers in 11 school districts.

Teachers in the program are learning to use process mapping for concept models, as well as system thinking, to enhance students’ science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) awareness and empower them to pursue engineering careers. The modeling and process mapping help clarify the overall course goals for students. Technology use via sensors and probes supports the development of the model through hands-on, inquiry-based activities in a collaborative setting.

These concepts were fully explored among a group of Florida teachers in a daylong professional development workshop organized by Nancy J. Ruzycki, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Laboratories, Department of Materials Science & Engineering, who is the principal investigator for the grant. The workshop was attended by teachers in the EQuIPD program as well as other teachers from around the state who are interested in improving their skills in teaching STEM concepts.

Multiple industry partners played important roles in the sessions. Educational representatives from the companies led some of the hands-on sessions, demonstrating data collection and analysis using software available to K-12 class levels. “The Texas Instruments TI Rover activity was good. It brings a hands-on component to the math. I can see my students using the scientific calculators that way and really enjoying it,” said Wayne Robertson, high school Algebra instructor, Pine View School in Sarasota.

Teachers learning how to implement STEM in the classroom

Teachers learning how to implement STEM in the classroom

Carlos Fernandez, a member of the Microsoft® Modern Workplace Team for US Education, highlighted his company’s efforts, stating, “Computer science is something that rolls into all subject areas of education. We are working very closely with the Florida Department of Education, where computer science is now a major focus in the state of Florida. Teachers and students are a key priority for our company right now, and we understand the value and importance of professional development, especially around STEM; so we are very excited to be here today.” Microsoft has provided support to the EQuIPD grant to help create a collaborative online workspace for teachers and students to use through their Microsoft Teams product.

Numerous successful outcomes from the EQuIPD program have already been noted and catalogued. Teachers have reported strong engagement with students and increased system thinking from as early as first and second grades. Dr. Ruzycki commented on this success, “The University of Florida is the premier land grant Institution in the state of Florida, and for over 150 years it has provided education to Florida students; it only makes sense for the university to be a leader in the professional development and support of K-12 teachers across the state.”

The EQuIPD program is now in the second year since its inception. The program also involves 150 control teachers, who have access to information but will not receive the coaching until year 3 of the grant project, when the intervention teachers will then train them in a “train-the-trainer” model. It is believed that the trained teachers can then become coaches for their peers and continue the momentum of influencing STEM education with effective innovation and technology within the state of Florida.

“Thank you so much for allowing me to participate in yesterday’s EQuIPD workshop. It was phenomenal,” said Katie Payne, a teacher at Keystone Heights High School in Clay County. “This was my first session, and I left feeling like a kid on Christmas Day. The engineering students [who spoke during lunch] were so impressive and the opportunities provided with this grant are so exciting.” Although Keystone Heights is not participating in the current EQuIPD program, the daylong workshop gave teachers from this high school and others in the area the opportunity to learn about new teaching models and see what can be accomplished.

UF Engineer Testifies Before U.S. House Committee about Election Security Wed, 22 Jan 2020 19:22:54 +0000

Juan E. Gilbert, Ph.D., The Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Professor, testified as an expert witness regarding election security during a hearing by the House Administration Committee earlier this month. Dr. Gilbert, who has been conducting research on elections for more than 15 years and who was one of two academics asked to testify, shared his expertise in voting system security, accessibility and usability.

Dr. Gilbert, chair of the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, shared with the Committee some key recommendations from the 2018 National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine consensus report titled, “Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy.” He was a member of the committee that authored the report.

“In the academies report, we recommended that we have a national center to do research around [securing elections],” he said. “That is a necessity.”

In 2003, Dr. Gilbert and his research team developed the “first open-source universal design” voting system that accommodates persons with and without disabilities and provides a paper printout of the ballot. His design preempts the separate-but-equal connotation of asking only persons with disabilities to use a ballot-marking device.

“If we were to design these machines so they’re only used by people with disabilities, an adversary finds that as a happy day because all they have to do is target a specific group,” he said. “Universal design, meaning more people using those machines, gives you greater security. The likelihood of catching errors increases as a result of that.”

Dr. Gilbert also addressed the issue of voter verification as a primary means of enhancing election security. He emphasized that recent studies did not find that voters could not verify their ballots, only that they did not and that simply reminding voters to take this step increased verification by as much as 70%. Gilbert announced that later this year his team at the University of Florida will introduce a “transparent voting machine” that addresses the issues of verification by all users, further enhancing election security.

“Securing the Vote” was the result of a two-year National Academies’ study conducted by experts from elections administration and policy, cybersecurity, accessibility, and law. Over the course of the study, the committee reviewed extensive background materials. It also held five meetings where invited experts spoke to the committee about a range of topics including voter registration, voting accessibility, voting technologies and market impediments to technological innovation, cybersecurity, post-election audits, and the education and training of election workers.

The Academies’ report recommended that elections be conducted using human-readable paper ballots. It said that these ballots could be marked by hand or by machine, using a ballot-marking device and that they may be counted by hand or by machine, using an optical scanner.

“Currently, there is no known way to secure a digital ballot. At this time, any election that does not employ paper ballots cannot be secured,” Dr. Gilbert said. “Therefore, the report recommended that Internet voting, and specifically the electronic return of marked ballots, should not be used at this time.”

House Administration Committee Chairperson Zoe Lofgren commended Dr. Gilbert on the presentation of the report’s findings and the excellent work done by the National Academies. She noted that the report was “the guts of what we ended up putting in our SAFE [Securing America’s Federal Elections] Act that’s now pending in the Senate.”

Dr. Gilbert concluded in his testimony that, “As a nation, we have the capacity to build an elections system for the future, but doing so requires focused attention from citizens; federal, state, and local governments; election administrators, and innovators in the academy and industry. It also requires a commitment of appropriate resources.

“Representative democracy only works if all eligible citizens can participate in elections and be confident that their ballots have been accurately cast, counted, and tabulated.”

UF online programs see new gains in 2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings Tue, 14 Jan 2020 16:05:30 +0000

#15 in online engineering graduate educationJanuary 14, 2019

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida online degree programs saw new gains in the 2020 U.S. News & World report rankings released today.

UF was recognized for maintaining its leadership role among the best online graduate programs, as the university’s online graduate engineering program climbed one spot and is tied for No. 15.

“I am pleased to see UF continue its excellent performance in the U.S. News online rankings list. It reflects the outstanding work being done by our faculty and staff and demonstrates that our students and the state of Florida overall are receiving a tremendous return on investment. UF Online in particular has been on a meteoric trajectory since it was created just six years ago,” UF Provost Joe Glover said.

UF Online Graduate Engineering Program Overview –

The UF EDGE program uses combined classrooms, with distance students participating in the same courses as campus students and having access to the same content. High-quality lecture videos are available online the same day of the live instruction on campus. UF EDGE faculty are the same research-active instructors for campus-based graduate students. UF EDGE brings a high-quality and affordable Masters degree education to students worldwide with full online delivery and no campus visits required.

UF Online Ranked No. 4 Among Nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs Tue, 14 Jan 2020 15:44:31 +0000

UF Online Ranked No. 4The University of Florida sets a new standard as a modern research university with national recognition for both traditional classroom programs and online pathways. UF Online, UF’s online undergraduate experience, has now risen to No. 4 in the country for best online bachelor’s programs according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings.

With foresight and investment from the State of Florida, UF has been able to launch a fully online set of bachelor’s programs delivered by UF’s award-winning faculty. The program serves just over 4,000 undergraduates and offers 25 UF degree programs. Now at No. 4, it’s time to stand up and holler because the Gator Nation is showing the country what’s possible when it focuses on expansive access through academic excellence via more versatile learning formats and programs.

USNWR Veteran's BadgeAlso announced today, U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 rankings recognize UF Online as the No. 2 online bachelor’s program in the country for our veterans. This separate list of rankings by U.S. News recognizes universities that provide excellent online education paired with robust support for student veterans and active duty service members. Through UF Online, students have access to UF’s renowned faculty and degree programs but also the UF Collegiate Veterans Success Center, Office of Student Veteran Success, and Collegiate Veterans Society—wherever their orders take them. View our full profile on the list for veterans here.

With the rise to #4 in the nation for online bachelor’s, UF Online moves up and above the longstanding online programs at Arizona State University and Penn State World Campus. The rise to No. 4 can be attributed to UF Online’s success in categories such as: average class size (29), affordable tuition, faculty credentials, selective admissions, technologies and services available to students (ranked No. 1 nationally), the low debt of graduates, and the strong academic outcomes of UF Online students, including high student retention and degree completion.

“All UF Online programs are taught by our campus faculty, with affordable tuition and fees, and our online Gators earn the very same degrees as their residential peers. This model is unique in the country and I’m so proud to see it recognized by U.S. News in 2020 as a top approach to online learning,” said Evangeline Tsibris Cummings, Assistant Provost and Director of UF Online.

UF Online is made possible by 10 colleges and hundreds of faculty, academic advisors, and staff, all working to deliver hundreds of online courses to thousands of online students each semester. Launched just six years ago, UF Online has celebrated the graduation of over 2,000 Gators. The online undergraduate degree in computer science is the largest UF Online program.

Review the rankings for the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs on the U.S. News site. Read more details about UF Online in its U.S. News profile. Visit the UF Online web page for more information, including how to apply by the summer application deadline of February 3 and fall application deadline of May 4, 2020.

View the full story at UF Online.

A Look Back at Top Stories from 2019 Mon, 23 Dec 2019 21:28:05 +0000
Young faculty win top honors

UF engineering faculty received prestigious awards this year. Domenic Forte (ECE), Maitane Olabarrieta (ESSIE) and Aysegul Gunduz (BME) garnered Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) that include a trip to the White House. Three young investigators won awards for innovating security – Ryan Houim (MAE), Kyle Hartig (MSE), and Yier Jin (ECE). Six researchers received NSF Early Career Awards – Antarpreet Jutla (ESSIE), Kyla McMullen (CISE), Alexander Grenning (ChemE), Blanka Sharma (BME), Denise Simmons (ESSIE) and David Hibbitts (ChemE).


  • Olabarrieta Receives the PECASE Award

  • Gunduz receives Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

  • New UF Engineering Faculty Win Young Investigator Awards For Innovating U.S. Security

  • UF Engineer Uses 3D Audio Rendering and Perception to Aid Firefighters

  • UF Biomedical Engineer Pursues Understanding of Natural Killer Cells

  • Hibbitts Receives Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

In the spotlight this year

Engineering alumni gained acknowledgement and acclaim in 2019, including Linda Parker Hudson (ISE), who was elected to the National Academy of Engineers and NVIDIA founder Chris Malachowsky (ECE) who was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame.

  • UF Alumna Linda Parker Hudson Elected to National Academy of Engineering

  • NVIDIA Founder Chris Malachowsky Inducted Into Florida Inventors Hall Of Fame

Engineering for better healthcare

From biomedical engineering to mechanical engineering, UF faculty completed ground-breaking research in the healthcare field this year.


  • UF Research Team Aims to Reduce Cost of Drug Development Using 3D-Printed Living Tissues

  • UF Engineer makes  Breakthrough in insulin regulation pathway

Safer, Smarter, Better – Innovations that transform the future

The use of AI is leading to innovations for safer roadways and intersections; coastal and environmental engineers are developing ways to create resilient coastal communities.

  • UF Engineer Leads Collaboration for Safer Roadways

  • iCoast- A Multidisciplinary Approach to Creating Resilient Coastal Communities

Engineering College Growth

The Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering added a new department in 2019 to study and enhance engineering education.

  • UF Adds Fully Dedicated Engineering Education Department to Engineering College

Students shine in design competitions

Teamwork among students and with experienced faculty brought many wins to UF this year, most notably the 2019 Engineering Deans’ Cup.

  • University of Florida wins 2019 Engineering Deans’ Cup

  • UF-SIT Team Takes First in Pwny Race at NYU’s CSAW Competition

  • Team GatorWings Takes First Place in DARPA SC2

To see more stories from 2019 about faculty, students and alumni, visit the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering web site news page “Powering the New Engineer”.

Hibbitts Receives Prestigious NSF CAREER Award Thu, 19 Dec 2019 13:31:59 +0000