SECCM Newsletter

Welcome to the Spring 2024 Edition of the SECCM Newsletter

Roger Williams University  

SECCM News: The Newsletter of the School of Engineering, Computing, and Construction Management

SPRING 2024    

WELCOME! Welcome to the spring 2024 newsletter of the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction Management (SECCM) at Roger Williams University (RWU)! In this edition, you’ll learn about current happenings in the School as well as some of the achievements of our SECCM faculty members during the fall semester of 2023.  You’ll also get to know more about one of our Computer Science faculty members, a Construction Management alumna, and three of our current undergraduate students.  

As we continue to celebrate the 2020 opening of the Bready Applied Learning Laboratory, this edition of our newsletter also shines a spotlight on the Construction Management ‘BIM Lab.’  You’ll also hear about some exciting research being done by some of our amazing students under the guidance of our electrical engineering faculty.  

I also hope you enjoy reading about the newly reinstated student Green Building and Sustainable Construction (GBSC) Club and their activities.  Efforts to reinvigorate GBSC were spearheaded by our newest full-time, tenure-track faculty member, Dr. Shay Kurzinski. I hope you all received and read with interest our fall 2023 newsletter, in which we introduced Computer Science alumnus Jason Giroux.  If you are a dog lover like I am, you probably noticed that his photo included two dogs.  To follow suit, my photo in this edition includes my family’s Australian shepherd, Godric Griffindog (Harry Potter fans, IYKYK).  The first thing I do every morning (except when it’s raining – Godric is a diva and won’t go outside if it is raining) is take Godric on a one-mile walk around my neighborhood.  It’s often dark at this time of morning (I get up early), sometimes I don’t see a single car, and most of the time, the only other life Godric and I see are deer and rabbits.  These walks are when I think – without the worry of getting to my next appointment or crossing something off my to-do list.  On one of my recent walks, I thought about what makes SECCM and RWU so special – and the main thing I thought of was the relationship between our faculty and our students.  I have had a more-than-twenty-year career as an academic, and I observe that the interaction of faculty and students is deeper here than at any other institution of which I have been a part.  

SECCM faculty and current students, keep up the great work!  SECCM alumni, please reach out to touch base with some of your favorite faculty members to say hello and check in.  We want to know how you are and what you are doing with your career. Trust me, it will certainly make your faculty member’s day! As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments — I’m always available by phone or electronic mail (401-254-3498,

May you and yours stay safe and well.  Enjoy the upcoming summer – I hope you’ll find some time to relax! 

With warmest regards, Rob  Dean Griffin

Recent News

The fall semester of 2023 was as busy as ever for the students, faculty members, and staff of SECCM.  While we continued the day-to-day delivery of courses and research and extracurricular activities, we also have several highlights that we wish to share. 


Electrical engineering faculty members Dr. Ahmet Akosman and Dr. Allison Marn have been working tirelessly to secure funding to support student research while continuing to perform their service activities and deliver their courses.  Last year, each submitted successful proposals to the National Institute of Health Rhode Island Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (NIH RI INBRE) program!  These grants will support our undergraduate students in performing cutting-edge research that will impact and improve our world – key aspects of the SECCM strategic plan.  Dr. Akosman’s project focuses on developing Terahertz (THz) bio-sensors tailored for early cancer detection using negative curvature fiber topologies, promising advancements in diagnostics and treatment strategies.  Dr. Marn’s project investigates the novel design of an interferometric THz imaging system to explore the complexities of skin cancer behavior, offering insights into diagnostics and disease progression. To support this work, SECCM and RWU re-purposed a conference room in the original Engineering building (SE) into a research laboratory over the transition from fall to spring semester.  The faculty members aim to utilize the laboratory space as a hub for interdisciplinary collaboration in the biomedical, chemical, and environmental applications of ultrafast optical and THz photonics fields. Through the NIH RI INBRE support, the laboratory will be equipped with certified workstations, spectrum analyzers, THz spectrometers, sources and detectors, and optical tables. Drs. Akosman and Marn expressed their enthusiasm for the new developments: “We are thrilled about our new laboratory space since it will enable us to explore the cutting-edge scientific research projects in the field of optics and THz photonics.  Moreover, it allows us to involve our students more actively, providing them with hands-on research experience and fostering a collaborative environment where curiosity sparks innovation, and together, we can push the boundaries of scientific exploration.”  Students from the research groups of Drs. Akosman and Marn in the new laboratory space. 

Meet some of our fantastic students

Get to know some of our top-notch students!   

Construction Management

Olivia Ahlborg   
MAJOR: Construction Management 
MINOR/CORE: Business/Sustainability 
YEAR: Senior, graduating 2024 
HOMETOWN: Warwick, Rhode Island 
LONG TERM CAREER GOALS: To build sustainably for a better Rhode Island while leading the next generation of Construction Managers through teaching and community engagement 
POST-GRADUATION PLANS: Working with Shawmut Design and Construction in Providence, RI 
FINISH THE QUOTE: I CHOSE RWU BECAUSE… of the Construction Management program and the support it offers for excelling as a young professional.    


Tyler Zanini   
MAJOR: Environmental Engineering 
MINOR: Mathematics YEAR: Senior, graduating 2024 
HOMETOWN: Hopkinton, MA 
MOST IMPORTANT EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES: Being a captain of the men’s lacrosse team 
LONG TERM CAREER GOALS: I have recently passed the FE exam and plan to pursue my PE license in the next 5 years. With my PE, I wish to integrate more environmentally conscious solutions to create a more sustainable future. 
POST-GRADUATION PLANS: I have accepted a position at CDM Smith as an environmental engineer 1 at their Providence office, where the majority of my work will focus on stormwater and drinking water. 
FINISH THE QUOTE: I CHOSE RWU BECAUSE… of its great engineering program, size, and location. I loved how the class size was small enough that you could form close relationships with your professors and the program allows you to get a taste of all engineering disciplines before declaring your own.  

Recent Philanthopy

We are pleased to announce two anonymous gifts to the Construction Management program.  The first was a one-time gift in the amount of $20,000 and allowed the program to support additional student travel to participate in competitions and to present research results at conferences.  The second is a $100,000 endowment, the annual payout from which will support student competition teams.  Thank you to the generous donors – we could not do all of the fantastic things we do without the support of alumni, friends, parents, and industrial partners of our programs.  Construction Management students in the field.  

Accredidation Efforts

SECCM is proud to have all three of our Bachelor of Science programs accredited by external agencies.  In the case of Construction Management, the agency is the American Council for Construction Education (ACCE); for both Engineering and Computer Science, it is the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).  The faculty and staff worked diligently to prepare for accreditation team visits to campus in October 2023.  The Construction Management program received word that our program has been reaccredited for a full seven years. We expect similar news from ABET for Computer Science and Engineering this summer! 

Faculty News

Our faculty members continue to shine in their various endeavors. Read on for a brief overview of some of their accomplishments during the fall semester and summer of 2023.  

Ahmet Akosman (ENGR) is grateful to have been selected as the professor of the fall 2023 semester by the SECCM students! 

Chunyan Bai (COMSC) was a member of the ABET/CAC accreditation team for an international visit in Saudi Arabia during the fall of 2023, a process that involved six months of interaction with a vastly different culture. 

Janet Baldwin (ENGR) advised a senior design group that presented their poster at the New England Water Environment Association annual conference in Boston. The project entitled “Evaluation and Removal Plan of the Shad Factory Dam” was well received by attendees.  Several of our Engineering alumni were in attendance, including Kara McSweeney Falise ’02, Amy Anderson ’05, and Kate Bort Edwards ’04. 

Maija Benitz (ENGR) and Li-Ling Yang (RWU Professor of Education) received a grant from the South Coast Wind Fund of the South Coast Community Foundation to support the 5th year of the KidWind Community Engagement Project in partnership with the Bristol-Warren Regional School District.  The funding allowed the faculty members to hire ten (!) research assistants for the Spring 2024 project! 

Jon Gomes (CNST) worked as the construction advisor for the RWU Architecture Freedom by Design student club.  The group is currently in the design stage for a new toll house building for the Bristol town sports complex; the house was designed to represent Bristol’s founding year through various structural and architectural components.  What a great example of community engagement!  (Construction began this spring.) 

Lillian Jeznach (ENGR) and collaborators submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation to support the continuation of work at RWU focusing on microplastics in Narragansett Bay in partnership with other local universities. Fingers crossed! 

Pamela Judge (ENGR) instructed Engineering Economics (ENGR 335) for the first time.  She revised the course to increase opportunities for students to improve their public speaking skills.  Student teams presented PowerPoint talks on interesting topics such as intellectual property, spreadsheet software development, and planned obsolescence. 

Shay Kurzinski (CNST) had a paper accepted in November for The American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference.  The work focuses on the Fall 2023 offering of CNST 201L (first semester, second year) and its deliverable method, which changed from conventional laboratory reports to Procore submittals for the first time.  The instructors conducted a quasi-experiment via a questionnaire survey to collect the students’ feedback about their experience with using Procore compared to what they previously delivered as laboratory reports for CNST 200L (second semester, first year). 

Jung Hyun Lee (CNST) is pleased to share that Bryce Riccitelli, a current junior in the Construction Management program, co-authored a new journal paper titled “Evolvement of Excusable Delay Clauses in Government Contracts since the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Published in the ASCE Journal of Legal Affairs and Dispute Resolution in Engineering and Construction (LADR), the research also was presented at the ASCE LADR workshop held last fall in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Allison Marn (ENGR) continued work, along with three students, on skin cancer detection using THz radiation, funded by RI-INBRE.  Work from this project was presented at the IEEE Photonics conference in November 2023. 

Nicole Martino (ENGR) is applying as the principal investigator to a project solicited by the RIDOT to investigate chip-sealed pavement rideability.  The research will include engineering and non-engineering students.  She is also applying to a project solicited by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program as a sub-contractor; this work will investigate numerical modeling of chloride content in concrete and its response to ground penetrating radar. 

William Palm (ENGR) redesigned ENGR 442 - Biomechanics - to be textbook-optional.  Students will utilize a mix of open educational resources and primary scientific literature to develop their critical reading skills and prepare for lifelong learning. 

Anthony Ruocco (COMSC) chaired an ABET team that visited another institution in the fall semester. 

Matthew Stein (ENGR) continues to coach the RWU Ultimate Frisbee team, which has been quite successful of late and includes several SECCM students. 

Gordon Stewart (ENGR) attended the North American Wind Energy Academy (NAWEA) WindTech Conference hosted by University of Colorado Boulder at the end of October 2023.  He presented his work “Convergence of Floating Wind Farm Fatigue Loads due to Simulation Length.”  In addition, as the conference was during Halloween, he built a semi-submersible floating platform costume in the hotel and won the impromptu costume contest.  More details are available in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory newsletter

Charles Thomas (ENGR) enjoyed his sabbatical thinking about bubbles in ice, becoming less of a novice at doing CFD with SolidWorks, and learning other flow simulation software.  He also made time for a personal trip with some of his family to Scotland.  Pro tip: if you are ever in Edinburgh and forget Maxwell’s Equations, go to 55° 57’ 14.082” N, 3° 11’ 40.05” W. 

Gökhan Çelik (Associate Dean, CNST) published a manuscript titled “The Impact of Digital Twins on the Evolution of Intelligent Manufacturing and Industry 4.0” in Advances in Computational Intelligence. 

Rob Griffin (Dean, ENGR) attended the annual conference of the American Association for Aerosol Research in Portland, OR; he has missed this conference only twice since his first time attending in 1998.  The first time was for his wedding in 1999, and the second was for the birth of his daughter in 2005!  

Dr. Chunyan Bai - Faculty Spotlight

We continue our faculty spotlight segment with a focus on Dr. Chunyan ‘Yannie’ Bai from the Computer Science program, who has been at RWU since 2004. Congratulations, Dr. Bai, on 20 years of service! 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a historical city of China called Xi’an, which is the starting point of the Silk Road and home to the Terracotta Army.  

Where did you get your degrees?

I got my BE of Computer Communications from Xidian University in China and MS and PhD of Computer Science from University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

What other jobs have you held?

Teaching/research is my one and only full-time job. 

What’s the last book you read for fun?

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin, a touching and heartwarming read about friendship and finding new paths. It was chosen for the 2024 One Book One Town Read Together by the town of Sharon MA where I live.

What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I took a surfing summer camp together with one of my sons, who was 11 years old at the time.

Why did you want to be a professor?

I like college campuses, and I knew I would love spending time with my students, as well as enjoying the scholarly freedom that balances my life and matches my preferences. 

Why RWU?

RWU provides opportunities and flexibilities for both faculty and students to continuously grow.  The water view through my office window is great too. 

What classes are you teaching?

COMSC110 & Lab – Introduction to Computer Science COMSC360 – Mobile App Programming COMSC420 – Principles of Operating Systems COMSC440 – Compiler Design and Implementations 

What are you working on (in addition to your already heavy teaching load)?

I’m currently working on a research project about enhancing the security and copyright compliance in music streaming services.

Danielle Crafford ‘08 - Alumni Spotlight

If you have news to share or would like to be featured in our alumni news section, contact Dean Griffin.  Here, we spotlight Danielle Crafford, Construction Management, who has flourished since graduating from RWU.  She is currently the chair of the Construction Management Professional Advisory Board.  

Did you have a double major beyond CM?

I achieved a BS in CM, and a minor in Business 

Did you have a minor/core beyond business?

My core concentration was Graphic Design. I was able to use those talents to design the CM Club logo for t-shirt sales. 

Were you a part of any extracurricular activities, both related to SECCM and not?

Yes, I worked in the Facilities Department throughout the year learning about Mechanical and Controls on campus and also worked as an intern for Gilbane Building Company. I was on the Dive Team, the CM Club President, and Captain of the Design Build Team. Wow, that sounds like a lot now that I think back.

What was your favorite course and why?

My favorite courses were Plans and Specs and Surveying. Partly because of the professors teaching them, but mostly because I could actually apply what I was learning in the field during my internships. 

What is your current position?

I am currently a General Superintendent for Gilbane Building Company.   WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF YOUR JOB? My favorite part of the job is organizing and coordinating sometimes upwards of 200 people to move in a succinct direction to accomplish a common goal. But ultimately, my truly favorite part, is walking the Owner through their new building on turnover day. Seeing their smile is extremely rewarding.  WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER GOALS? That’s a great question! I am open to see where this life takes me.

Why did you choose RWU?

I chose RWU because it felt like a family atmosphere, in a beautiful location, close to home.

What advice for current SECCM students do you have (both for CM students and in general)?

Say yes to those opportunities, if you’re scared to say yes, you know you’re about to grow in an incredible way. 

Why did you agree to be on the CMPAB? Why did you decide to take a leadership role?

I applied to be on the CMPAB because I wanted to give back to the CM community and provide support where the students, professors, and school needed it most. I was voted in as Chair in 2022 and wanted to make meaningful change in a positive direction; by becoming the first female Chair, I wanted to ensure that our Board is a reflection of where our industry is headed and we are taking the steps needed to put the right people in the right seats at the table. 

Any other interesting bits of information you’d like to share?

If you’re interested in making meaningful change, that can positively impact the students of the CM program, I encourage you to purchase tickets to our Annual CM Dinner on May 3rd and our first-ever CM Golf Tournament this Fall. Be on the lookout for a Save the Date.  


Those of you who graduated in 2019 or earlier and have been back to campus likely noticed the new (opened in January 2020) Richard Bready Applied Learning Laboratories (or SECCM Labs Building -SELB).  One of the gems of campus, SELB houses teaching and research facilities for all SECCM programs.  Many thanks to the generous donors who supported the design and construction of the SELB. In case you have been unable to visit in person, we would like to give you some insight into some specific aspects of the building. Last time, we highlighted the laboratory in which Fluid Mechanics is demonstrated using a hands-on approach.  Here, we focus on SELB 304, the Construction Management Emerging Technologies Laboratory, also affectionately called the BIM Lab.  We gratefully acknowledge the anonymous donors who funded its creation. The room is a state-of-the-art space dedicated to the exploration and application of emerging construction technologies in our curriculum. It is equipped with an immersive display, a highlight feature consisting of twenty-four 55-inch displays arranged in a 4x6 configuration. Powered by a high-end computer for model development and rendering, the immersive display is designed to bring project information to life, allowing for a depth of visualization not feasible in regular classroom environments.  This setup supports a variety of interactive experiences, including full-scale project walkthroughs and simulations, mirroring of Virtual Reality headset images, exploration of three-dimensional content, and collaborative simultaneous content sharing from multiple computers. The impact of the immersive display in the Emerging Technology Laboratory on the Construction Management program is profound.  In an industry that deals directly with the physical world on a grand scale, the ability to visualize data effectively is vital.  This immersive environment facilitates the creation of detailed, small-scale models of projects, significantly enhancing the interaction with complex project information.  It integrates seamlessly with Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Virtual Reality technologies, enabling detailed project reviews, virtual job site walkthroughs, and remote collaboration within a shared environment.  Specifically, in the context of education, such as surveying courses, the immersive display proves invaluable.  It enables the presentation of high-resolution maps, topographical images, and surveying data in a manner that is engaging and accessible to students, enhancing their understanding of complex concepts through visual clarity.  This encourages active participation, fosters collaboration among students, and improves their spatial understanding and interpretation skills.   

Green Building and Sustainable Construction Club - Student Club Spotlight

Our students are involved in many extra- and co-curricular activities across campus – from athletics to the arts to service and beyond.  We host a large number (14!) of SECCM-specific clubs that focus generally on the professional development of and opportunities for our student body. Here we spotlight the newly reinstated GBSC, which focuses, as the name implies, on understanding and use of green building and sustainable practices in the construction industry. They held their first event in fall and hosted new Public Health assistant professor Dr. Jacob Bueno de Mesquita, who spoke on public health as a driver of building decarbonization. 

“I was excited to join the GBSC because of its mission to promote sustainability and green building practices. I believe that these are practices that will be critical for the future of building.  Being able to be a part of something that I see will be needed in the future is rewarding for me. I plan on using these practices learned from not only the club but also from the classes that I am in for my career as it will only be better for us. This is something that I plan on using as I am in the field. Taking on a leadership role I felt was important to help make a difference and start a club that can be a big driver to making that change. Additionally, being on the E-board, I can help guide the club in the right direction and work towards the goals as well as inspire others to be a part of a change for the future.” — Danny Wilson, CM class of 2025 Current Vice-President and incoming club President   

Social Media Activity

We invite you to follow us on X - @DeanRobGriffin and @Go_khan, as well as the X of RWU and the Construction Management program: @myRWU and @RWUCM.  Connect with us on LinkedIn, too.  Keep an eye on our webpage ( for new content!  In addition, we have launched a SECCM Instagram feed (@RWUSECCM) and Facebook page. 


Are you looking for more ways to support SECCM?  In addition to the traditional ‘annual fund gift,’ there are numerous opportunities to contribute to SECCM. Consider hiring our students for internships, externships, or full-time employment, presenting to one of our student clubs or courses, or becoming a mentor. Sponsoring a field trip, research project or a student competition team, or joining one of our Professional Advisory Boards are also impactful ways to contribute.  If you’re unsure where to begin, please contact Dean Griffin. Your continued support and engagement are integral to SECCM’s ongoing success and innovation. 

Thank you for being part of our vibrant community!