Lawmakers Fund Engineering Initiative


The Utah Technology Council, joined by Utah’s high tech industry and the state’s eight engineering and computer science programs has secured $4 million in ongoing funds from the Utah State legislature to continue to fund the Engineering Initiative.

Since the 2015 appropriation, the funding of this initiative has added 657 additional engineering and computer science graduates per year in the statewide system—more than double the 250 promised in that appropriations request.   

Despite this astounding increase, thousands of jobs remain unfilled, hindering industry growth and expansion. However, thanks to this increase in funding, the initiative will address this critical issue by:

  • Recruiting more faculty in high demand disciplines.
  • Building capacity by creating more class sections and developing online alternatives.
  • Boosting retention through academic advising and career counseling.
  • Strengthening outreach to women and underrepresented minorities.

Richard Nelson, President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council stated, “The technology community genuinely appreciates the governor and legislative leaders for their vital role in strengthening Utah’s economy by continually investing in this proven program.”  Nelson continued, “We are responding to the dramatic needs of our industry.  Creating an outstanding, well-educated workforce to feed into these high paying jobs is a win-win for Utah taxpayers as it increases taxable income, diversifies the economy, and stimulates additional economic growth.”

In addition to the UTC, 81 technology companies statewide endorsed the Request for Appropriation led by Representative Val Peterson and supported by legislative leadership.  

Richard Brown, Dean of Engineering at the University of Utah commented, “As the technology industry and Utah legislature continue to come together there is limitless potential for Utah’s economy.” Brown continued, “This funding will make an incredible difference in boosting capacity at engineering programs statewide.” — Utah Technology Council

Piece of Mind


With just an inexpensive micro-thin surgical needle and laser light, University of Utah engineers have discovered a minimally invasive, inexpensive way to take high-resolution pictures of an animal brain, a process that also could lead to a much less invasive method for humans.

A team led by University of Utah electrical and computer engineering associate professor Rajesh Menon has now proven the process works on mice for the benefit of medical researchers studying neurological disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and aggression. Menon and his team have been working with the U. of U.’s renowned Nobel-winning researcher, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Human Genetics Mario Capecchi, and Jason Shepherd, assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy.

The group has documented its process in a paper titled, “Deep-brain imaging via epifluorescence Computational Cannula Microscopy,” in the latest issue of Scientific Reports. The paper’s lead author is doctoral student Ganghun Kim.

The process, called “computational cannula microscopy,” involves taking a needle about a quarter-millimeter in diameter and inserting it into the brain. Laser light shines through the needle and into the brain, illuminating certain cells “like a flashlight,” Menon says. In the case of mice, researchers genetically modify the animals so that only the cells they want to see glow under this laser light.

The light from the glowing cells then is captured by the needle and recorded by a standard camera. The captured light is run through a sophisticated algorithm developed by Menon and his team, which assembles the scattered light waves into a 2D or potentially, even a 3D picture.

Typically, researchers must surgically take a sample of the animal’s brain to examine the cells under a microscope, or they use an endoscope that can be anywhere from 10 to 100 times thicker than a needle.

“That’s very damaging,” Menon says of previous methods of examining the brain. “What we have done is to take a surgical needle that’s really tiny and easily put it into the brain as deep as we want and see very clear high-resolution images. This technique is particularly useful for looking deep inside the brain where other techniques fail.”

Now that the process has been proven to work in animals, Menon believes it can potentially be developed for human patients, creating a simpler, less expensive and invasive method than endoscopes.

“Although its much more complex from a regulatory standpoint, it can be done in humans, and not just in the brain, but for other organs as well,” he says. “But our motivation for this project right now is to look inside the brain of the mouse and further develop the technique to understand fundamental neuroscience in the mouse brain.”

 The paper’s co-authors include doctoral student Kyle Jenks and postdoctoral researchers Naveen Nagarajan and Elissa Pastuzyn. The paper can be viewed here.

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Alec Down Wins Excellence in Advising Award


Congratulations to Alec Down, electrical and computer engineering’s undergraduate academic advisor, who is this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Advising award from the National Academic Advising Association.

Down received the award for Advisor of the Year in Region 10, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

He received his B.A. at Brigham Young University, then continued his studies at Duke University. He received his master’s in education from the University of Utah this year. Prior to becoming an academic advisor in the College of Engineering in 2015, Down was a graduate student coordinator at Duke University, and an advisor in the Full-time MBA program at the University of Utah.

Down was also recently appointed to the Editorial Board for a three-year term for the National Academic Advising Association’s NACADA Journal. As an advisor in the Department of Electrical and Computer, he advises more than 600 undergraduate engineering students in all aspects of their programs.

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Computer engineering program gains in annual U.S. News college rankings

Warnock Engineering Building



The U’s computer engineering program was ranked number 38 in “America’s Best Grad Schools 2014,” published by U.S. News and World Report, up nine spots from last year.

Five years ago, 48 undergraduates were in the program; now, 95 students are majoring in computer engineering.

The University of Utah’s College of Engineering also moved up, gaining five spots to earn the number 59 rank in the nation.

The 2014 edition of the “Best Colleges” guidebook is available online.

Read this full press release in the U News Center.

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Computer engineering director featured in 2013 research report

Prof. Ken Stevens, director of the computer engineering program and professor of electrical and computer engineering, was featured in the College of Engineering’s 2013 research report.

Prof. Stevens’ research in asynchronous design, a technique that changes the way timing works on a computer chip, was highlighted alongside seven other faculty from around the college. The annual publication features the diverse and interdisciplinary research happening at the University of Utah.

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Read more in the 2013 Research Report