Page 42 - Engineering Penn State Magazine: Fall/Winter 2020
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  Penn State alumnus leads effort to restore the Chesapeake
by Jamie Oberdick
Dana Aunkst, armed with his Penn State chemical engineering degree, has taken on the biggest challenge of his career so far: restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) named Aunkst as the new director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO). As director, Aunkst strategically plans and coordinates activities for restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Watersheds act as catchalls for stormwater runoff from all land areas that enters creeks and rivers as it makes its way to the estuary. This runoff also delivers sediment, phosphorous, and nitrogen to the bay.
That’s a major problem, especially considering that the Chesapeake watershed is home to more than 3,600 species of fish, plants, and animals, and it encompasses thousands of rivers, streams, and creeks. Eventually, the stormwater runoff results
in the creation of “dead zones”—areas in the water with low oxygen caused by excessive nutrients.
“Actions taken by the CBPO partners at the federal, state,
and local levels have made a significant and positive impact,” he said. “However, significant challenges, including changing environmental conditions and other stressors linked to the growing population and climate change could adversely impact the pace of restoration of both the Chesapeake and the rivers and streams that feed it.”
“My Penn State degree in chemical engineering prepared me for a career in solving complex problems.”
According to Aunkst, Penn State is a critical component of his ability to take on this project.
“My Penn State degree in chemical engineering prepared me for a career in solving complex problems,” he said. “Whether those challenges were related to the science of protecting the environment or the development of policies and strategies for implementation of sound solutions, my engineering degree provided me with the foundation that continues to allow me to be successful as I advance in my career.” n
  Engineering alumnus’ decades-old work has stood the test of time
by Miranda Buckheit
As an industrial engineering graduate student in the late 1970s, Muhammad Nawaz was deep into collecting relevant literature to prove an idea
for his minor thesis project. He didn’t expect it would continue to resonate nearly four decades later.
To date, Nawaz has accumulated nearly 2,400 citations for his thesis on how to organize an order of tasks, or
“The heuristic was well ahead of its time,” said Soundar Kumara, Allen E. Pearce and Allen M. Pearce Professor
of Industrial Engineering. “This is truly a remarkable achievement. Faculty may not get 2,400 citations for all their publications in their career.”
From 1979 to 1980, Nawaz worked tirelessly as a graduate student on his project under the supervision of former professors of industrial engineering E. Emory Enscore Jr.
and Inyong Ham. The theory in his paper is popularly known as the “NEH algorithm” for Nawaz, Enscore, and Ham. In addition to the high citation count, the algorithm has become a research topic itself with numerous articles dissecting the practical method.
From jobs in manufacturing plants, aircrafts waiting for landing clearance, customer orders in fast-food restaurants, and programs to be executed within a computer, Nawaz’s work has proven to be useful across fields and disciplines. n
 jobs, for maximum efficiency. His work, titled “A Heuristic Algorithm for the m-Machine, n-Job Flow-shop Sequencing Problem,” led to the creation of a widely used research algorithm. Nawaz, who graduated from Penn State in 1980 with a master of engineering degree, was recently recognized by both the editors of Omega, the International Journal of Management Science, and the directors of Elsevier for his high citation count.

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