Nevada Engineering Spring 2021

Engineers make a world of difference in the fight against COVID-19

Nevada Engineering | Spring 2021

The stories of the students and faculty in the College of Engineering who are making a world of difference through their research, outreach and service.

Greetings from Dean Manos Maragakis

Manos Maragakis wearing face mask at podium
College of Engineering Dean Manos Maragakis speaking during the virtual opening ceremony for the new William N. Pennington Engineering Building. Adapting to a virtual format for this August 25 event was one of many ways the College adjusted during this unprecedented year.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. In the year that followed, every facet of life has been touched by the pandemic, from the way we work to the way we eat, where we live and how we share traditions with our loved ones. To say nothing of how we teach and learn.

In the midst of the ensuing uncertainty and fear, I was proud of the immediate response of the members of the College of Engineering. Within days, they began harnessing their skills and resources to help in the unprecedented fight. They used 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment for distribution in our hospitals and care facilities. They discovered new ways to deliver a globally competitive computer science and engineering education, and as a result, we continued to provide our students with opportunities to pursue world-changing research.

In this issue of Nevada Engineering, we highlight the many projects from the College that helped us understand and address the challenges of COVID-19. From wastewater analysis to determine the spread of the virus to novel machine learning approaches to predict its future proliferation, from tests for the virus that provide results within 30 seconds to the development of new techniques to sanitize surfaces, the research our students and faculty produced in the last year will have a lasting impact.

The research produced in the past year, though, is only part of the story. In this year unlike any other, I am grateful to every person in the College. Through their hard work and dedication, we have not only adapted but thrived. We took our advising online, offered tutoring through Zoom, continued to support K-12 students through our outreach programs, connected students with employers through virtual career fairs, delivered our Innovation Day to showcase senior projects online, and most of all, maintained the engineering spirit that drives innovation and creativity to solve the most difficult and pressing problems. Every person had to find new ways to contribute in all areas of our operations, and their successes are countless. As a result, for the second year in a row, all of our ranking-eligible graduate programs were ranked by U.S. News & World Report, and for the tenth year in a row, the College itself was ranked.

As we look forward to a brighter day, it is apparent that the College of Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno has been strengthened by this challenge. We have maintained our breadth of research, our high standard of scholarship and our personalized world-class mentorship. In fact, in this challenging year, we have had enough good news to share with the world to distribute two issues of the magazine—a first for us. I am deeply impressed but not at all surprised by the response of our students, faculty and staff. This issue of the magazine reflects their commitment to the future and their ability to overcome any obstacle they may face.


Manos Maragakis
Dean, College of Engineering
University of Nevada, Reno

Two people seated at table with SNC banner in background

Sierra Nevada Corporation forgoes holiday and year-end meetings, donates to College of Engineering

Donations were made based on Sierra Nevada Corporation employee recommendations.

Janet Napolitano

Janet Napolitano discusses DHS during COVID-19 at College of Engineering's 2020 Distinguished Lecture Series

The former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security described the current challenges facing the country and offered a hopeful closing remark.

Spring Internship & Career Fair

To abide by social distance guidelines, the Spring 2021 College of Engineering Internship & Career Fair went virtual. On Thursday February 25,  47 employers connected with 454 students through 642 one-on-one meetings.  Hosted by the College of Engineering's Career Services, the semiannual event is designed to help students transition from the University to fulfilling careers. 

Dean Manos Maragakis

“The members of the College of Engineering have responded to the coronavirus pandemic with the singular goal of securing the health of the members of our global community.”

College of Engineering fights COVID


NSF-funded research will improve reliability and efficiency of sensor networks

Field data networks for scientific research and service, such as this ALERTWildfire camera system in the Lake Tahoe watershed, are an area of rapid growth fueled by Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. Photo by Scotty Strachan, UNR Office of Information Technology, Nevada Seismological Laboratory, and ALERTWildfire.

Wide-Area Networks
Three workers setting up a roadside LiDAR sensor

New roadside LiDAR sensors help build a safer transportation infrastructure

Engineering researchers have expanded a network of LiDAR sensors to improve traffic efficiency, reduce accidents and facilitate the use of autonomous vehicles.

Four people in building with windows behind them

New tool allows computer scientists to support life scientists

Department of Computer Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Tin Nguyen and his lab have developed software to help life scientists efficiently analyze single-cell data using machine learning.

Solar panels in the desert.

Collaborative research project with NV Energy gets assistance from University professors

Professors Hanif Livani and Mohammed Ben-Idris of the electrical engineering department will participate.

Floris van Breugel

Floris van Breugel awarded prestigious Air Force Research Laboratory grant

Van Breugel is one of 36 scientists to receive $450,000 through the Air Force's Young Investigator Research Program (YIP) from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR).

Students working on a cardboard box

CREATE program welcomes second cohort, celebrates successful first year

The NSF-funded program aims to recruit, retain and engage academically talented engineering students through scholarships and academic support services.

Socially distanced individuals in the Honor Court

GAANN welcomes first cohort of fellows for fall 2020

The Graduate Assistantship in Areas of National Need program in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomed its first cohort this fall.

Person in small lab with computer

Postdoctoral researcher wins international 3-minute thesis video competition

Before receiving her Ph.D. in civil engineering in August, Elif Ecem Baş developed a machine learning algorithm that improves cyber-physical seismic hybrid simulations.

Alexander Goldman and Zachary Wolff

Materials Science and Engineering undergraduates earn prestigious scholarships

Zachary Wolff and Alexander Goldman have earned scholarships from the TMS Society, a national organization that awards only ten scholarships annually.

Sara Davis

Computer Science student Sara Davis wins Intel SWE Scholarship for engineering research

Sara Davis, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science Engineering, received a scholarship from the Society of Women Engineers for her research in reducing bias in AI systems.

Dean Manos Maragakis

"The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education R1 (or very high research activity) designation is reserved for the highest level of research activity at doctoral institutions. . . . The College of Engineering played a leading role in the University's efforts to attain R1 status, and I want to thank all of our dedicated faculty, students and staff for their significant contributions."



Allan Romero in graduation regalia

Annual Celebration

Each year, our Annual Celebration recognizes the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. We couldn't be prouder of the dedicated members of our community, like Fall 2020 Senior Scholar Allan Romero.

Meet the Honorees

Through my work as an engineer, I hope to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis [MS] through genetic engineering. My dad has MS. He is my biggest inspiration to become an engineer, and I want to help others with MS.

Victoria Defilippi

President, Society of Women Engineers

Victoria Defilippi
Kelsey Scalaro

Krishna Pagilla elected ASCE Fellow

Krishna Pagilla

The election honors Pagilla’s more than 25 years of experience

After receiving his Ph.D. in environmental engineering from University of California, Berkeley in 1994, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Chair Krishna Pagilla has embarked on a career that, to date, has resulted in more than 200 publications and more than $10 million in research grant funding. Most recently, he received an award of $1.8 million to study COVID-19 prevalence through wastewater surveillance.

In recognition of these accomplishments, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has elected him as a fellow. The honor is given to only 3 percent of its membership of 150,000 engineering professionals. About the honor, Pagilla said, “Being a civil and environmental engineer, this recognition by ASCE as a Fellow is a proud moment in my career. I hope it adds to the visibility of the CEE department and the University as having as many top-rated faculty in the nation as we do.”

Kelly Cross named one of 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America

In January, Cell Mentor listed Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering Kelly Cross as one of the 1,000 Inspiring Black Scientists in America. 

Of the recognition, Cross said, “It is an honor to be recognized with so many other outstanding Black scholars, and I hope we continue to be an inspiration to young scholars. This generation needs to see scientists and engineers that are relatable. For example, young aspiring scholars need visible examples that look like them and have life experience similar to theirs to know it is possible to one day make this list or even better make Black scientists so common in academia that this list is not necessary. These examples can be normalized by embedding them within the culture and technical curriculum.” 

Kelly Cross

International Women's Day

Alumnae & Alianza

As part of Alianza's celebration of Women's History Month, three of our alumnae shared their experiences as women in engineering.

Sierra Gonzales

Michelle Falcon Mujica

Share your news!

Our alumni make headlines everywhere they go, and we love sharing their stories.

Submit your alumni news
2 people graduating on the quad


Our students, faculty, staff and alumni keep making headlines. Check back often.

College of Engineering and its programs make 2021 U.S. News and World Report rankings

For the second year in a row, the College of Engineering and all of the ranking-eligible graduate engineering programs housed within it received rankings.

Engineering Rankings
Sesh Commuri standing in front of RTDensity booth at trade show.

Rubber hits the road for RTDensity

Electrical Engineering Professor Sesh Commuri’s road construction tool goes to market

Head shot of keynote speaker Derek Beenfeldt

Interested in a bioengineering career?

Learn about the bioengineering field at March 30 event

Four men standing on an outdoor stairwell in front of the Pennington Engineering Building.

Power on

New testing instrument, only one of its kind in Nevada, allows College of Engineering to expand research into power grids


The College of Engineering gratefully acknowledges the support of Nevada Today and Nevada Silver & Blue in making these stories possible. Special thanks to Mike Wolterbeek, Karl Fendelander, Jane Tors, Moses Achoka, Sarah Strang, Isaac Hoops and Nikki Moylan.

Corporate Partners

The Corporate Partners program at the College of Engineering of the University of Nevada, Reno brings together a select group of companies and firms to collaborate with engineering and computer science educators, researchers and students. The mission of the program is to generate interactions between the College and the Corporate Partners that bridge the gap between theory and practice and bring a competitive edge to the College of Engineering, the partners, the region, the state and the nation.

The College of Engineering is proud to partner with the following companies.

Baker Hughes, a GE company, logo
ClickBond logo
Haws logo

Learn more

For more information about the program, please contact Flynn Ginty at or (775) 682-7696.

Engineering Corporate Partners

Lumos & Associates logo
Nevada National Security Site managed and operated by Mission Support and Test Services
Logo for Sierra Nevada Corporation reading Electronic Systems and Integration, Innovative and Agile Technology Solutions

Nevada Engineering masthead logo

Contact Nevada Engineering

Submit inquiries to Chris Moran at