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Robert Van Woesik, Ph.D.

Biology Bloke

Dr. Robert Van Woesik received his Ph.D. from down under at James Cook University in Australia. He is a professor of biological sciences and his area of expertise concentrates on ecology and management of coral reef communities. It’s no wonder that he was drawn to coral reef research considering the Great Barrier Reef was in his own backyard.  His research has brought him to some of the most diverse and beautifully stunning reefs around the world, including the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Thanks to his travels and passion, he has written more than 100 scholarly research articles on coral reef ecosystems. Most recently, Dr. Woesik and his students have spent their research examining past events in the coral ecosystem historic timeline to gain insight on how corals will fare through future climate change.  Dr. Woesik and his students plan to use their research to help protect the Great Barrier Reef, as well as reefs around the world, so they can be enjoyed for many generations to come.

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Christian Sonnenberg, Ph.D.

Systems Informant

Dr. Christian Sonnenberg is the Assistant Dean of Online Programs for the College of Business and an Assistant Professor in Information Systems. He earned his B.S., M.S. in Software Engineering, and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Florida Institute of Technology. Dr. Sonnenberg is passionate about introducing students early to technology in the business environment. Each year, he runs the Student Innovation Challenge, a hands-on competition that explores the use of technology for rapid prototyping, programming apps, and product design. Business freshmen create innovative concepts with the use of Raspberry Pis and present their prototypes to compete for cash awards. In his classes, Dr. Sonnenberg engages students in a variety of high demand, extremely marketable business technologies, such as PTC and SAP, and has also been instrumental in incorporating these tools into the online curriculum. Previous to joining Florida Tech, Dr. Sonnenberg worked as a software engineer for over ten years at Harris Corporation where he worked in a number of areas including directional wireless networks, cellular interrogation systems, and satellite image processing applications.

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Jian Du, Ph.D.

Modeling Mathematician

Dr. Jian Du received his M.S. and Ph.D. from Stony Brook University in Applied Mathematics. His research focuses on developing realistic models and efficient computational algorithms to study complicated problems in biological fluid dynamics, such as blood clotting and locomotion of microorganisms. Dr. Du's research is currently funded by the Focused Research Group Grant from National Science Foundation, one of the most competitive and prestigious grants at NSF. Additionally, Dr. Du focuses on imparting his passion for research on his students. For example, Dr. Du serves as the mentor for students in the NSF-funded REU program at Florida Tech. These students have presented their work at prestigious conferences, including the Joint Mathematics Meeting, which is the largest mathematics conference in the world. In his computational math courses, Dr. Du continues to make real-world connections for students. His major goal is to help students experience the combination of the beauty of math and the power of computing, in hopes that they will be inspired to use these skills in their own research or practical applications. 

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Kunal Mitra, Ph.D.

LASER Leader

Dr. Kunal Mitra, who received his B.S. degree from Jadvpur University in Calcutta, India and Ph.D. from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, is a Professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.  Dr. Mitra’s research interests include the interaction of short pulse lasers with scattering absorbing media such as tissues, ocean water and clouds. The applications include optical tomography for detection of tumors in tissue for early lung cancer detection as well as landmine detection in shallow waters. His research has led to a patent for on in-office laser-based skin cancer detection and treatment system, which may be used in doctor’s offices or specialty imaging centers.  Dr. Mitra also has an interest in various energy systems and applications such as the study of solar collectors and Photovoltaic systems.

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Carlos E. Otero, Ph.D.

Computer Systems Expert

Dr. Carlos E. Otero is Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Before joining Florida Tech, he spent time as faculty at the University of South Florida and University of Virginia systems. He also has over 15 years of private industry experience in defense computer systems, including satellite communications, command and control, wireless security, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other advanced systems. His research interests include a broad range of topics in computer and communication systems, with particular emphasis on algorithm design, performance evaluation, and optimization of systems. He has authored one university textbook and over 70 scientific peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Otero teaches courses in wireless, computer systems, and software/hardware design. He is a strong proponent of practical hands-on learning with focus on industry-need-driven problems. When students enter his classrooms, they can expect to build hardware/software systems that interface with sensors, actuators, or a whole host of other components; build systems that communicate wirelessly; or implement algorithms frequently found in intelligent systems. 

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Stephen Wood, Ph.D.

Oceanic Mastermind

Dr. Stephen Wood oversees the ocean engineering program in the Department of Marine and Environmental Systems. An experienced mechanical and ocean engineering field researcher, he has worked as a marine research specialist at the University of Rhode Island and in the research laboratories of Hewlett Packard studying plastic injection-molding. Dr. Wood has also worked for Steag MicroTech in Pliezhausen, Germany, where he led a group that programmed software for robotic wet processing tools. Today, he teaches ocean engineering, hydroacoustics, fluid mechanics and underwater robotics. His research interests include autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) technology, specifically the areas of navigation, path planning and control, using neural networks, fuzzy logic, artificial intelligence and expert systems. Dr. Wood and his students have worked on a wing wave generator, remotely controlled hovercraft and remotely operated sea crawler. He takes great honor in the student’s achievements and looks forward to growing the marine and environmental program at Florida Tech. Dr. Wood received his Ph.D. from Oregon State University.

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Julia Grimwade, Ph.D.

DNA Diva

Dr. Julia Grimwade, who received her B.A. degree from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. from State University of New York, Buffalo is a professor and chair of Florida Tech's Premedical Biology program, as well as the advisor for all premedical programs on campus. Dr. Grimwade and her students spend most of their time in the lab studying DNA replication in bacteria trying to identify the fundamental mechanisms involved with cell growth to better understand growth in all organisms on the planet. These insights could lead to developing more novel antibiotics. Her research, published in several journals, continues to expand the knowledge base for molecular biology, including DNA replication and bacterial growth regulation. With fellow professor Dr. Alan Leonard, Dr. Grimwade has secured more than $1 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health, enabling Florida Tech students to continue world class research.

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Julie Moore, M.S.

Aviation Ambassador

Professor Julie Moore earned her M.S. in Environmental Studies from Green Mountain College and her B.S. in Human Factors from the US Air Force Academy.  She is currently an Assistant Professor of Aviation Science in the College of Aeronautics, where she teaches aeronautics, advanced aircraft systems and unmanned aerial systems.  In addition to teaching at Florida Tech, Professor Moore is a Major in the US Air Force Reserves.  She has trained fighter pilots across the Air Force on adversary systems and tactics, specializing in infra-red systems, and she has over 1500 hours of jet time, serving in both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle. Professor Moore enjoys bringing her experiences in military aviation to her classes, tying real life examples to concepts in aviation. For example, she flew an F-16C into the Melbourne International Airport, which allowed her students to see, in person, many of the same systems discussed in class. Her current research interests involve using unmanned aerial systems for environmental monitoring and conservation.

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Matthew Ruane, Ph.D.

Global Educator

Dr. Matthew Ruane received his B.A. in History & Political Science from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, his M.A. and most of the work for a Ph.D. (ABD) in History from the University of Delaware, and his Ph.D. in Higher Education & Policy Studies from the University of Central Florida. His research is equally wide-ranging, from pirates to WW1 doctors, as well as on the role of foundations in higher education. Dr. Ruane teaches many different courses from western mythology to military history, along with the western civilization and U.S. history surveys. Dr. Ruane, according to one of his students “talks WITH his students, not AT them, (thus) keeping them engaged,” ensuring that they “always receive the important information and understand why it is significant.” A graduate of two East-West Center “Infusing Institutes,” Dr. Ruane has begun to infuse Chinese, Japanese and South Asian topics and issues into his existing courses to provide students with a more global perspective to their education. 

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Andy Knight, Ph.D.

Knight of the Periodic Table

Andy Knight received his B.S. and Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is currently an associate professor of chemistry with a keen interest in inorganic chemistry as it relates to multiple disciplines including catalysis and organic synthesis, nanoscale and layered materials, medicinal chemistry, molecular biology, biodefense and green chemistry. Knight was awarded a nearly $1 million contract from the Naval Research Laboratory to study chemical warfare compounds. His research is helping protect the U.S and its interests from weapons of mass destruction. Knight and his students often present their findings at local and national meetings and are encouraged to co-author scientific papers. Whenever possible, he tries to involve his students at every stage of the research process from experimental design through proofing manuscripts prior to appearing in print. His students learn everything from lab work and report writing, to working within a team and presenting their findings to an audience.

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Patrick Converse, Ph.D.

Motivation Researcher

Dr. Patrick Converse received his B.A. from the State University of New York at Fredonia and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He is currently an associate professor of industrial/organizational psychology. Dr. Converse teaches classes at the undergraduate and graduate level in research methods and statistics, theories of personality, personnel selection, organizational training, and work motivation. Dr. Converse and his students conduct research in the areas of personnel selection and work motivation. In selection, they study the use of personality assessments in hiring contexts, focusing on applicant faking on these measures and what can be done to reduce faking. In motivation, their work focuses on motivational traits and self-regulation process that influence decisions and performance in achievement contexts. Dr. Converse also regularly collaborates with students on applied work for a range of clients including local organizations, government agencies, and international companies in areas such as job analysis, selection, and training.

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Darby Proctor, Ph.D.

Primate Whisperer

Dr. Darby Proctor earned her Ph.D. from Georgia State University and is now an Assistant Professor in psychology at Florida Tech. She teaches classes for the undergraduate animal behavior concentration in psychology, as well as statistics and research methods. Her research interests are in comparative psychology – studying other species, primarily nonhuman primates, to learn about the evolutionary roots of human behavior and cognition. She is particularly interested in determining whether other primates share the human penchant for making economic decisions that go against their own self-interests. She spent a decade working with our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, before coming to Florida Tech. Her lab is now based at the Brevard Zoo where she continues to study behavior and cognition in primates and is now also looking into wellness in other species. You may see members of her lab collecting data if you visit Brevard Zoo. Dr. Proctor applies the scientific method to teaching as well as research. Based on empirical research, she frequently experiments with new teaching methods to improve student outcomes. 

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David Wilder, Ph.D.

Behavior Analyst

Dr. David Wilder is a Professor in the School of Behavior Analysis. He teaches courses in Research Design, Behavioral Assessment and Organizational Behavior Management. Dr. Wilder is involved in cutting-edge research as well as provides behavioral consultation services to individuals and organizations. In his courses, students can expect to be challenged while learning the latest techniques in research design, behavioral assessment, and behavioral interventions. He provides direct supervision as his students work with clients. This hands-on feedback enables students to become experts in applying behavior analysis in a real-world environment. Outside of his teaching and research commitments, Dr. Wilder is an active member of the ABA community, currently as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. In the past he served as the Associate Editor for the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and on the editorial boards of three additional professional journals. Dr. Wilder is a former President of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis and the Organizational Behavior Management Network. This year, he received an award for outstanding scientific contributions to behavior analysis from the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis. 

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David Weldon, MD.

Biomedical Physician

Dr. Weldon is a physician and practices Internal Medicine part time. He moved to Melbourne in 1987 when he got out of the US Army. In 1994, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives where he represented Florida’s 15th Congressional District in Congress for 14 years. He joined the faculty, here at FIT, in 2012. Each fall, Dr. Weldon teaches Biomedical Engineering for Global Health, a healthcare international survey course that includes twice monthly opportunities for students to rotate through area clinics and hospitals to get first-hand experience in healthcare delivery. In the spring he teaches Biomedical Applications in Physiology which covers topics in anatomy, physiology, and the use of technology in medical practice. In this course, students will also rotate through some of the area clinics and hospitals. Dr. Weldon’s desire is for all students to gain exposure and knowledge that extends beyond textbooks and the classroom to better prepare them for careers in the real world.

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Jonathan Whitlow, Ph.D.

Chemical Engineer

Dr. Jonathan Whitlow received his PhD in Chemical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 1989 and began his teaching career at Florida Tech that same year. He also has a MS degree in Chemical Engineering from Vanderbilt and a BS degree in Chemical Engineering from Virginia Tech. Although he teaches courses in Chemical Engineering, his primary focus includes courses in process controls and senior level capstone design projects. Each of these courses requires a deep understanding of application software, which can only be accomplished through hands-on experience with both the software and the computer. Dr. Whitlow teaches his students to solve problems in the lab utilizing a step-by-step approach that includes the experience of solving similar problems. His teaching philosophy is that students not only learn through practice and feedback from the instructor but also from each other. His students are encouraged to share their knowledge and experience with their classmates, creating an atmosphere of success for all students. When students teach others how things are done, it enhances the own learning experience. 

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Michael Freund, Ph.D.

Electrochemistry Expert

Dr. Freund’s research involves fundamental electrochemistry and its application in sensing, electronics and energy conversion. His academic career has included positions at Lehigh University, the Beckman Institute at Caltech and the University of Manitoba where he was Professor and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair. During his career, he has developed an educational approach that exposes students at all levels to hands on research in the laboratory that prepares them for strong, independent careers in science and engineering. In this manner, he has trained over 55 students and researchers in his laboratory who have gone on to careers in industry, government laboratories and academia. The research by Dr. Freund and his group members has resulted in innovative discoveries including the development of one of the first sensor arrays modeled after the mammalian olfactory system; the development of unique conducting polymer sugar sensors; and the introduction of new membranes for artificial photosynthesis. This work has appeared in over 100 articles, has been cited nearly 3,000 times and has resulted in 27 issued US patents. 

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Alan Leonard, Ph.D.

Microbial Growth Guru

Dr. Alan Leonard is a professor of Biological Sciences and received his Ph.D. from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York. He is interested in the genetic regulation of cell growth and the complex molecular machinery that is required. His NIH-funded research is strongly focused on the control of bacterial chromosome replication, a mechanism that is similar in all types of cells. Understanding these regulators is not only a basic goal for cell biologists, but the studies in bacteria may lead to the identification of new targets and designs for antibiotics. Dr. Leonard teaches a general undergraduate course in Microbiology, as well as graduate courses in Cancer biology, Microbial biotechnology, and Prokaryotic cell growth regulation. His goals for the undergraduate course are to make students aware that microbes impact every aspect of their lives, and to share his fascination with these organisms in hands-on lab classes and lectures that are both informative and entertaining. Dr. Leonard’s research students have the opportunity to present their work at scientific conferences and are co-authors on manuscripts.

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Gabriella Baika, Ph.D.

Romantic Linguist

Dr. Gabriella Baika is an Associate Professor of French and Italian. After studies at different European institutions in Romania, France and Italy, she received a doctoral degree in Romance Languages from the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on the medieval moral theories in France and Italy as reflected in the literature in Old French and Old Italian texts. She has published articles in many prestigious international journals. Her book, titled The Rose and Geryon: The Poetics of Fraud and Violence in Jean de Meun and Dante, was published in 2014 by the Catholic University of America Press. Professor Baika is currently teaching French and Italian languages, and Western Civilization (Ancient and Medieval). In her classes, she aims at stimulating her students’ curiosity and enthusiasm not just for the linguistic systems, but also for the cultural contexts (history, art, society, and current events) of France and Italy.

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Albert Bleakley, Ph.D.

Brilliant Builder

Dr. Bleakley received his bachelor of science degree from West Point, his master’s in civil engineering from MIT and his Ph.D., also in civil engineering, from Florida Institute of Technology. As an Army Corps of Engineers officer for 30 years, he has managed design and construction contracts in countries all over the world. He has also overseen environmental clean-ups, earthquake, hurricane, and flood disaster recovery including New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. Dr. Bleakley was instrumental in helping to develop the Construction Management program here at FIT. He and the other construction management faculty use over 100 years of combined industry experience to bring real-life examples, case studies, and projects to the classroom. He has enjoyed his career in construction management and wants his students to enjoy learning about it, too! Expect to be engaged his classroom with demonstrations, interactive questions, in-class problems, and group discussion. Be prepared to take interesting field trips to construction sites where students experience the work and get to talk with industry professionals on the job. Our construction management degree produces students into effective leaders in the construction industry!

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Geoffrey Swain, Ph.D.

Marine Whiz

Dr. Geoffrey Swain, who received his Ph.D. from Southampton University, UK, is a professor of oceanography and ocean engineering. With a background in oceanography and marine biology materials engineering, he teaches courses on marine corrosion, the protection of marine materials, engineering materials, introduction to ocean engineering and application of marine materials. Dr. Swain frequently consults fundamentals of offshore engineering with industry, state and federal agencies in the fields of corrosion and biofouling control. Prior to joining Florida Tech, he worked in the North Sea oil industry conducting corrosion and biofouling surveys on offshore structures. He also has extensive experience with designing and implementing hydrographic and marine resources studies. He truly brings a creative viewpoint to Florida Tech's oceanography program.

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