CMS Newsletter

UCO Math & Sciences
From the Desk of the Dean | February 2017

Dear CMS Alumni and Friends,

Greetings from the College of Mathematics and Science! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and this finds you well.

Everyone in CMS is very excited about the groundbreaking for the UCO Interdisciplinary STEM Teaching and Research Center (STEM Building) on February 10, 2017. The UCO STEM building is the first new academic building since 1997. It is the brainchild of former CMS deans Dr. John Barthell and Dr. Charlotte Simmons. The building is expected to be completed in fall 2018. This new, modern building will provide education and research space for faculty and students in the College of Mathematics and Science and the Forensic Science Institute. The STEM Building will become the home for the Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Education and Research (CIBER), the Center for Research and Education in Interdisciplinary Computation (CREIC), and additional research laboratories for forensic science and applied mathematics. Additionally, the building will house teaching laboratories in cell and developmental biology, genetics, biomedical engineering, and nursing simulation as well as transformative learning classrooms. Faculty and students from different departments will work side by side in these research laboratories on interdisciplinary research projects. Cross pollination of ideas from all STEM disciplines will occur in this new building. The STEM building will provide the College of Mathematics and Science the needed resources to fulfill the mission of UCO as a metropolitan university, particularly in providing the leadership and the workforce in STEM fields. We will keep you posted on its progress.

Wei R. Chen, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Mathematics and Science

Department of Biology

Biology Professor teaching and doing research at the University of Botswana

Dr. Christopher Butler, who joined UCO’s faculty in 2005, has received a prestigious Fulbright Scholar grant to teach and conduct research at the University of Botswana in Africa for the 2016-17 academic year.

Dr. Butler is currently based out of the University of Botswana where he is teaching courses in biological statistics and geographic information systems as well as conducting collaborative research on the effects of climate change on birds in southern Africa. 

In addition to his teaching and research responsibilities, Dr. Butler plans to develop a course in international applied ecology that will be taught simultaneously at Central and the University of Botswana. He plans to continue offering the course following his return to the U.S. The goal is to foster virtual teamwork between students at each university and develop internationally conscious, cooperative scientists.

Biology Graduate Student Conducting Research in Grand Cayman

Graduate student Kinsey Tedford is conducting research on the Population Structure and Reproductive Migration of Land Crabs on Grand Cayman Island. Crab populations at two study sites are being surveyed to estimate current land crab densities through counting burrows and active crabs along transects. Crabs are also captured to record biological characteristics to determine the population’s age structure, peak spawning periods, and seasonal reproductive patterns. While there this past summer, Ms.Tedford also served as an intern with the Cayman Department of Environment and had numerous opportunities to gain a diversity of experiences, including studying green iguanas, sea turtles, reef corals, lionfish, queen conchs and leading educational tours.  The Cayman DoE were so impressed with Ms. Tedford’s skills and work ethic, that they offered her another summer internship and invited her back in 2017 to collect additional data about the island’s land crab populations. Ultimately, the data Ms. Tedford collects for her thesis will be used to better understand the ecology of land crabs and develop a management plan for the Cayman Islands populations.

In 2016, she received the Students Choice Presentation Award at the Sigma Xi annual meeting for her presentation on the research she has been conducting on the land crab populations on Grand Cayman. Her research has been featured on Grand Cayman television, she is a co-author on three publications and several more will come in the near future.  Upon completion of her MS degree at UCO, Ms. Tedford intends to pursue a PhD, continuing to focus on invertebrates (especially crustaceans) and conservation ecology.

Department of Chemistry

Dr. Sanjeewa Gamagedara Joins the UCO Faculty

I was passionate about Analytical Chemistry from the beginning due to its interdisciplinary nature and the use of cutting-edge instrumentation to solve real world problems. The main goal of my research is to apply analytical chemistry techniques for the betterment of human health. My research focuses on the investigation of biomarkers for non-invasive early diagnosis of cancer. I also have research expertise in environmental analysis and pharmaceutical analysis.

I received my BS (Hons) degree in Chemistry from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka where I worked as an assistant lecturer. Then I moved to Rolla, Missouri to pursue my PhD in Analytical Chemistry at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T). I graduated with my PhD and worked as a pharmaceutical scientist at Analytical Research Laboratories, Oklahoma City and also as an adjunct instructor OSU-OKC. I was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Hartwick College in New York for nearly three years where I taught Analytical and General Chemistry courses and successfully conducted undergraduate senior thesis research projects through collaborating with industrial partners. I received the Freedman Award for Student – Faculty Collaborative Research (2014) from Hartwick College.

When I first came to UCO, I was impressed by the availability of analytical instrumentation and how the instruments are utilized in undergraduate chemistry education. My teaching philosophy is based on a “student-focused active learning approach” which goes hand in hand with UCO’s transformative learning initiative. Currently I’m teaching the Quantitative Analysis lecture and lab classes. Dr. Bowen and I incorporated research-based projects into the Quantitative Analysis laboratory class. Every UCO student is working hard to complete their higher education and each student has a unique story. I try to connect with my students both inside and outside of the classroom and inspire them to achieve their goals.

I’m planning to continue my research projects with undergraduate scholars in addition to collaborating with other faculty members at UCO. I get support for my research from the Chemistry Department and the CURE-STEM program. I appreciate the support I’m getting from my colleagues and I look forward to playing my role in order to have a positive impact on the UCO community. 

Department of Computer Science
Mary Ozor Wins OK-LSAMP Award
Mary Ozor holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and is pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at UCO. In June 2016, Mary received the OK-LSAMP (Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation) scholarship which supports her undergraduate scholarly activities. Mary has since worked under the guidance of Dr. Gang Qian on projects related to pattern recognition and machine learning. On September 24, 2016, Mary presented her work at the 22nd Annual OK-LSAMP Research Symposium in Stillwater. The work was titled “Performance Comparison of Common Classifier Algorithms Using the MNIST Database” and it focused on common classification algorithms studied in the area of machine learning, including nearest neighbor, decision tree, random forests, and naïve Bayes. Mary compared the accuracy of the classification algorithms for the application of hand-written digit recognition and reported her findings. Due to her outstanding performance, Mary won the 1st-Place Non-Life Science Poster Award in the symposium. Mary is also a recipient of the Jan Douglas Scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year. She continues her research with Dr. Qian and is currently working on applying artificial neural networks and deep learning technology to handwritten digit recognition.

Department of Engineering Physics

Dr. Morshed Khandaker and his students present papers at ASME Meeting
Dr. Khandaker, with his graduate student Harsha Jamadagni and undergraduate student Lokesh Dhanasekaran, presented nanotechnology research at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2016 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE) conference in Phoenix, Arizona from November 11-17, 2016. Three research papers were presented at the conference in the area of in vivo and in vitro mechanical characterization of electrospun nanofiber coated biomedical implants.

Department of Funeral Service
Meet Funeral Service's Lucinda Dickson
My name is Lucia Dickinson and I was raised in Jones, Oklahoma. I have been part of the funeral service program since 2009 and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Funeral Service with a minor in Psychology in 2011. During my time here at UCO I was involved with Sigma Phi Sigma and was even a public relations officer. After passing the national board exams, I worked as a funeral director and eventually advanced to a location manager and then general manager over three funeral homes and a cemetery. I am considered by others to be a “bulldog of a funeral director” because I strive to see that every family’s need is met accordingly and go beyond what is expected. The expectation for apprentices was no different. As a funeral director, I trained multiple apprentices as well as other employees, and also served as a preceptor to UCO practicum students as they prepared for graduation. Now that I am teaching at UCO, my goals and expectations have not changed. The benefit of teaching is that I am now privileged to work with more than just one student at a time. My goal for my students is to prepare them as much as possible in a classroom setting before graduation. By giving them real life scenarios and sharing personal experiences they will be better prepared. At the end of their college career the only thing that should separate them from being an educated and confident funeral director is their degree and license. I have enjoyed teaching ever since I was young, and am excited to be part of the UCO family and assist students with both their educational and professional careers. My passion and dedication to each student is what makes me stand out.

Department of Mathematics and statistics

ACT Prep Program Assisting Low-Income Students
Over the past academic year, Dr. Britney Hopkins (Mathematics and Statistics) collaborated with the Center for Conscience in Action and the Sustainable Science Academy to create and run an ACT prep program that assisted low-income students from Douglass Mid-High School. The program offered weekly tutoring sessions focused on the mathematics portion of the ACT. UCO student researchers Daniel Brumley, Jacintha Lawrence, Mary Nevener and Natalie Schnell worked one-on-one with high school students to design and implement individualized study plans tailored to the specific student needs under the advisement of Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Kristi Karber. This project was funded by UCO’s Community Matching grant and offered calculators to students as well as funding for ACT exams. The student researchers worked with a total of 10 students providing them with a transformative learning experience beyond what one can teach in the classroom. They got a glimpse of the impacts of economic disparity. UCO student Daniel Brumley captures this in a statement about his experience working as a tutor for the ACT Prep Program: "For me, the program has highlighted the importance of a strong and well-resourced community in an individual's success. I don't think that the students we work with struggle because they come from low-income families; they struggle because they come from impoverished communities."

Department of Nursing
Dr. Barbara Arnold: Seasoned Faculty in Nursing

Dr. Barbara Arnold is a seasoned faculty member at UCO. Her clinical specialty is Adult Medical-Surgical and Intensive Care Nursing. Many students over the years have benefited from her expertise in these areas as well as her expertise in teaching.

Dr. Arnold is a UCO alumna, having graduated with a bachelor's degree in Nursing. She also has a master’s in Nursing from the University of Oklahoma. In December of 2014, Dr. Arnold completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership, Higher Education at Oklahoma State University. She was promoted to assistant professor at that time and awarded tenure in 2016.

Dr. Arnold has a particular interest in Service Learning and how it affects the professional practice of nurses. This interest formed the basis of her doctoral dissertation. The Department of Nursing, both students and faculty, are fortunate to have Dr. Arnold on our team.

RN to MS Nursing Program

Beginning in the fall of 2016, the UCO Department of Nursing started an innovative program to better serve the Associate Registered Nurses in our state. We realized that the goal of many of our RN to BS candidates was not to simply obtain a bachelor’s degree, but to continue on to a master’s degree. This program will streamline and accelerate that process. Using the example of our colleagues in Engineering and Physics, we are allowing them to use nine hours of credit that will count toward both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

One of our students pursuing this option is Edith Chukwu. Ms. Chukwu is from Nigeria and received her nursing education there. She holds certificates in both General Nursing and Midwifery, and is licensed as a Registered Nurse and Midwife in Nigeria. She is also licensed as a Registered Nurse in Oklahoma. Ms. Chukwu started the RN-BS portion of the program in the fall. She is scheduled to graduate in May of 2017 and will continue through the master’s program.

This program will allow nurses with an associate's degree to accelerate their progress to a master’s degree and open up a variety of career opportunities. In 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report on the future of nursing and one of the key recommendations was increasing the number of nurses with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This program is a step in that direction.

CMS Alumni Spotlight
Terry Tanner '66

Terry Tanner was born in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. His family moved to Oklahoma City when he was five years old. He attended public schools in Oklahoma City and graduated from Northeast Junior-Senior High School in 1958. Terry was soon married and started attending UCO (Central State College at the time) in 1959, majoring in Chemistry. The first few years he was a part-time student because he worked full time to support his growing family. His last year of classes was hectic as he was working full time at Tinker AFB and carrying a full load in order to graduate. His favorite class was Advanced Inorganic Chemistry that met at 7 a.m., usually in the student coffee shop. Terry graduated in 1966 with a B.S. in Chemistry with minors in both Mathematics and English.

After graduating, Terry was hired by DuPont Chemical Company to work in a nylon manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He worked in quality control and was known as a “string chaser” in the Yarn Barn. He ensured that the product met specifications before it could be shipped. A year was enough and he moved on to the Hanford Site where he worked in the nuclear field for various contractors, which was what he wanted to do since he was about ten years old. During the 10 years Terry worked in the nuclear field, he co-authored nearly 30 research papers and reported to the Department of Energy, which managed the site. Terry continued with Hanford for another four years. He worked as a shift supervisor in one of the chemical analysis labs for another contractor. He analyzed highly radioactive products and the waste from the plutonium processing labs. Terry applied to IAEA in Vienna. He accepted a job as a Nuclear Safeguards Inspector on a two-year contract. He chose to return to the US and continue his work with Hanford with another contractor. But after working a few months he determined that working for IAEA was much more interesting and returned to Vienna in 1984 until he retired in 2000.

Terry’s advice for students entering UCO is to have goals. "Do your best to achieve those goals. The light at the end of the tunnel can seem an infinite distance away. But if you persevere that light will brighten and one day you will pop out of that tunnel," Terry said.

Terry currently lives in western Washington and enjoys playing golf year round. In his spare time, he does volunteer work.

A Message from Tara Simmons, Development Manager
At CMS our Goal is to help our students inside and outside of the classroom. Scholarships are a fundamental need but it doesn’t stop there. We want to ensure the students have options when life’s everyday challenges pop up. We have a new fund that has been created for those uncertain times, The Heisenberg Uncertainty Fund. Students may apply for an emergency award to help get them to class and through the semester. Please join CMS in supporting our students; one dollar can be the difference in getting a student to campus or having them drop out.

Please visit and make an impact today.

Tara Simmons 

Center for Wildlife Forensic Science and Conservation Studies

To address evolving wildlife protection and environmental conservation issues and challenges, Central has recently established the Center for Wildlife Forensic Science and Conservation Studies (C-FACS). The new Center is a multi-disciplinary collaboration between the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute and the College of Mathematics and Science that will provide strong educational, research and outreach opportunities for students with interests in natural resource conservation and forensic science. C-FACS hosts a diverse cadre of faculty and staff who possess internationally recognized expertise in disciplines ranging from wildlife biology, conservation ecology, forensic science, criminal investigation and justice programs. Existing cooperative, multi-disciplinary relationships between the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute, the College of Mathematics and Science, and extramural agencies, organizations, and corporate stakeholders provide a highly successful template for collaborative research, education, consultation and community service.

For further information and details concerning the UCO Center for Wildlife Forensic Science and Conservation Studies contact C-FACS Co-Directors: Dr. Wayne Lord at or (405) 974-6911 or Dr. Chad King at or (405) 974-5777.  Visit the C-FACS website at

A Message from Sigma Phi Sigma Officer Amber Milliron

Sigma Phi Sigma is a national funeral service fraternity devoted to enhancing the education of funeral service professionals. The Gamma Chapter received formal recognition on the University of Central Oklahoma campus on October 22, 1970.  We hold monthly meetings to stay in touch with the student body as well as to plan for future field trips, community outreach prospects, and give the students an opportunity to voice their opinions.

Our Mission Statement:
1. Promote professionalism by providing opportunities for the development of leadership and climates for exchange of professional concepts, ethics and ideals. 
2. Educate the public concerning the funeral profession and increase the public’s appreciation of the profession by advocating participation in community service projects. 
3. Encourage fellowship between students, faculty and business entities. 
4. Aid students in their academic endeavors through educational opportunities, speakers or other tools with the goal of exceeding National and/or State Board Exam(s) standards. 
5. Provide members various tools to advance their career goals and to assist them in securing a position with a funeral service provider. 

This semester, the officers of Sigma Phi Sigma have helped with the fall 2016 job fair held in the Nigh University Center here on campus. This gave us an opportunity to speak and educate high school students on what it means to be in the funeral service profession as well as how gratifying it is to serve the community. We answered all their questions in regards to funeral service. Furthermore, we educated them on the requirements of the degree and what type of degree they would receive should they choose funeral service. This helped them to understand all the career paths available to them upon graduation. 

I also had an opportunity to speak with our new students in orientation class in regards to study habits, class schedules and online tools that would make their transition from high school to college easier. As Sigma Phi Sigma officers, we pride ourselves with being involved with our student body. Our officers this year are mainly seniors, which is a great benefit to our members as we can help them establish a good strategy to succeed in graduating from the program. 

The UCO student body is now recognized as District 7 of the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association. This is a great opportunity for funeral professionals and students alike. This provides the owners and operators of Oklahoma funeral homes to establish and maintain communication with the student body, so that both parties benefit from the apprentice requirements that have been established through civil administration and statute. This affords countless opportunities to work together to provide students with the necessary training and skills they need to succeed in the profession and to establish long lasting relationships.

We are happy to announce that we will be participating in the Oklahoma Funeral Directors Association convention this year. This will provide a great opportunity for us as students to network and gain knowledge of new technology in the industry or new ideas for memorialization for the families we will be serving once we have completed licensure. 

Spring Calendar of Events
IGINITE the future of Central STEM
Groundbreaking for the new UCO Interdisciplinary STEM Teaching and Research Center begins at 3 p.m. on Friday, February 10, 2017. The ceremony will take place inside the Forensic Science Institute Rotunda. RSVP to Tara Simmons by February 5 at or by calling (405) 974-3781.

Deadline for CMS and Foundation Scholarship Applications
The deadline for students to apply for CMS and Foundation Scholarships is 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 15. The website is
2017 Oklahoma Regional Science Fair
The 2017 Oklahoma Regional Science Fair will be held on Tuesday, February 21 in the Nigh University Center Ballrooms. An estimated 300 middle and high school students are expected to compete.
The 4th Annual CIBER Mini Symposium
The 4th Annual CIBER Mini Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, 2017 in the Howell Hall Atrium.
CMS Spring 2017 Seminar Series
Pikas Under Fire: American Pika Ecology and Behavior in a Time of Global Change will be the topic of Dr. Johanna Varner's talk at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 30 in Howell Hall, Room 201. Please join us!

CMS Spring 2017 Seminar Series
UCO Computer Science alumnus, Mr. James K. Purpura, CCM, director of Weather Forecasting for WeatherExtreme Ltd. will be speaking at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 20 in Howell Hall, Room 201.
UCO Alumni & Friends
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(405) 974-2779

University of Central Oklahoma Development
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