Archive for September 2014

New Professors for Fall 2014

Hello Captains! Now that we’re four weeks into the semester, y’all should be fully integrated into the class-study-play schedule right? Good! Along with a fabulous new class of freshman, we also have two new professors in the PCSE department this semester: Dr. Jonathan Backens and Dr. Peter Monaghan. I got to talk with both of them to see how they liked CNU so far!

Dr. Backens

IMG_1632What does he teach? Dr. Backens teaches two sections of Engineering Design (ENGR 121) and Intro to Electric Circuits Lab (ENGR 211L).

Which subject is his favorite? Engineering Design, because it’s a beginner course and he is able to present engineering formally, including the pros and cons of the field. He enjoys talking about what it means to be engineer and that he can shape how students feel about the field.

How has he liked CNU so far? A lot! Dr. Backens is actually an alumnus of CNU; he graduated as a CS/CE major in 2004. He is impressed with how the department has grown and how the university has developed. It is especially exciting to come back to his old university as a professor.

What about the PCSE department? The faculty has been very welcoming; they are approachable, they promote collaboration and give plenty of advice for working with students and doing research.

How has it been working with the students so far? The freshman are especially enthusiastic about the engineering field which is encouraging to see. They care more about the paycheck, they are genuinely interested.

Where has he worked prior to CNU? Dr. Backens did his graduate work at ODU and was a full-time lecturer there as well. He also worked four years overseas in Botswana and Zambia for a nonprofit organization that provided rural ICT development. This involved connecting hospitals to the internet and providing training for employees.

What is he most looking forward to this year? He’s most looking forward to connecting with students. He is a third generation teacher in his family. Also launching the new Electrical Engineering major and building the program “from scratch.”

Dr. Monaghan


What does he teach? Dr. Monaghan teaches two sections of Physics 201.

How has he liked CNU so far? He is very impressed with the campus, buildings, facilities. The Lab spaces in particular are very well thought out and well stocked. Good space for working with students.

What about the PCSE department? The PCSE faculty is welcoming and very helpful in settling into the department. Dr. Fersch, in particular, has been helpful in setting up the 201 course and staying on track.

How has it been working with the students so far? So far he has had good interactions with the students both within the classroom and in office hours. It is easy to tell the more enthusiastic students because they respond more in class and and visit during office hours.

Where has he worked prior to CNU? Dr. Monaghan came to the US from Belfast, Ireland 15 years ago to go to grad school at MIT. He came to the Newport News area in 2002 to do his thesis research at Jefferson Lab. In 2008 he graduated and worked at Hampton University on full time research, including one project based in Japan.

What is he most looking forward to this year? He is most looking forward to setting up the research lab to work with students. He is also looking forward to the challenge of teaching the course; receiving constant feedback from students and challenging them to excel in class.


“And We’re Back!”

IMG_4252Welcome back, Captains! Hope you had a fantastic summer break! Hope also that the first week of school treated you well!

Here in the PCSE department, we lost no time in getting started! Pizza My Mind started up again this past Thursday with some new faculty, new events, and new opportunities to get involved on campus. Oh, you missed it? Don’t worry! Here’s what happened!

First, we met Dr. Jonathan Backens, our new engineering professor for the brand-new Electrical Engineering program starting this semester, as well as a new Physics professor by the name of Dr. Peter Monaghan. If you’re in either of their classes, let us know how it goes!


Don’t forget that Pizza My Mind counts for extra credit for any PCSE class! All you have to do is sign in when you arrive.

Mike Henle from the Career Center gave us a brief preview of some upcoming events to mark on your calendars. September 16th is networking workshop geared specifically towards introverts. Anyone who finds career fairs daunting (I certainly do!) should consider attending the workshop.

Speaking of career fairs, the next one is on October 1st. Dust off your nice slacks (or pencil skirt) and padfolio and come talk with employers about job and internship opportunities.


Representatives from some of the science clubs and societies stood up to introduce themselves, including:

  • Sigma Pi Sigma – The Physics Honor Society (available to all Physics majors)
  • Upsilon Pi Epsilon – The Computer Science Fraternity (available to Computer Science, Computer Engineering, and Information Systems majors)
  • ACM – a club dedicated to the software side of computer engineering (which, incidentally, is hosting a Career Panel on September 12th, don’t miss that!)
  • IEEE – focused more on engineering
  • SPS – a gathering for Physics-minded people
  • Unmanned Aerial Systems Competition Team – which speaks for itself


Dr. Riedl also mentioned that if you have any ideas for new clubs on campus, don’t be shy! Bring ‘em on down!

Some more upcoming dates are:

  • 24th September: Women of PCSE Luncheon – for more information about that, see Dr. Lambert
  • 26th September: PCSE Department Open House – bring your families to see what the department is all about!

Beef up your college experience with a study abroad trip to Glasgow (all majors) or Rosenheim, Germany (CE & EE). Or consider faculty/student research. Several of our professors offer projects at places like NSF REU, the National Institute of Aerospace, Jefferson Lab, and NASA.

There are also several service opportunities (yes, you heard right, PLP students!) working at STEM day, robotics, tutoring, and teaching programming. Ask Dr. Lambert for more information!

Well, that’s all for now, folks! Have a great semester and keep checking the blog for more news!