Graduate Profile: Alex Asare

Alex Asare

In the spotlight this week is our other graduate: Alex Asare.

Alex is graduating with a degree in computer science with a minor in mathematics. His future plans include a position as a software engineer, but will settle for world domination if the opportunity presents itself. 

A fun fact about Alex is that he made money off of Dogecoin. His advice to incoming students is “It’s okay to change your mind and your major. Just keep trying!”

Congratulations and good luck in the future, Alex!

Rube Goldberg – man and machine

Rube Goldberg with a contraption

Rube Goldberg was born Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg in 1883 in San Francisco. He started drawing through tracing illustrations at four years old. Encouraged by his father, Goldberg attended U.C. Berkeley, graduating in 1904 with a degree in Engineering. His first job was with the City of San Francisco, creating maps of sewers and water lines. He stayed in this position for six months, when he started at the San Francisco Chronicle where he started his career as a cartoonist. In 1907 he moved to New York City where he joined the New York Evening Mail as a sports cartoonist. One year later, Goldberg published his first commercial success: a comic strip called “Foolish Questions.” A few years later, the newspaper was syndicated, giving his comics a larger readership and making him the most popular cartoonist in the United States. He would go on to create several other comic strips, including “Mike and Ike (They Look Alike),” “Telephonies,” and his most famous comic “The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts, A.K.,” which ran from 1929-1931. While Goldberg started creating inventions in his cartoons in 1912, it was in the “Professor” comics where they were most prominent. We encourage you to explore the gallery on the official Rube Goldberg website! Goldberg would continue working until his retirement in 1963. Over his lifetime it is estimated that he drew over 50,000 comics.

But what is a Rube Goldberg machine? According to the official Rube Goldberg website, Goldberg is “the only person ever to be listed in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an adjective.” That definition is “accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply. . . also: characterized by such complex needs.” Goldberg developed his flair for dramatic and outlandish machines after observing his engineering colleagues and noting that a project or task was often made more difficult than necessary. Wallace of the Wallace and Gromit franchise often creates his own complicated Goldberg-esque machines, although in the United Kingdom they are known as “Heath Robinson” machines.

In 1949, two fraternities at Purdue University held the first Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. In 1989, the competition went national, and in 1996, a high school division was added. In the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, each machine must complete the prescribed task in between 20 and 75 steps. Today’s national contests are held by Rube Goldberg Inc., which is currently run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George. 

We are holding our own Rube Goldberg Competition this weekend here at the College of Engineering. If you want to see the machines in action, stop by to see the judging of the machines on Sunday, April 24th from 1-2 pm. 

Study in the Stacks

We’re coming to the end of the semester, which means that you might be looking for a new place to study. We have several options here for you!

Need to get that group project done? Come on in! You may be surprised to know that you don’t need to be silent in the library. Come in any time during our open hours, and you can use any of our spaces. On our main floor you can stop in and use our tables or computers anytime – no reservation needed! 

If you need a little more privacy for solo or group work, you can reserve one of our two Pods. You can fit 4-5 people in each room, and easily share content from your phone or computer onto the screen with the Solstice device (details on how to do that are in that link). Last year, our Pods were reserved 1,606 times! 

If independent quiet study is more your style, head downstairs where you will find several options. You can study at a  desk (also known as a carrel), in front of an “aquarium” or “fireplace,” in a comfy chair or beanbag. 

The Creative Space is also a fantastic place to study, but we’ll take an up-close look at that tomorrow!

Resources at your fingertips

Did you know that with your University of Iowa ID you have access to over 3,000 electronic journals and 400 databases? One of the most powerful tools to further your research is access to InfoHawk+ and our online resources. You can find them in several different ways.

1. InfoHawk+ Search for anything like you would normally search on any search engine. When you get the page of results, you can use the drop down menu on the right side of the search bar. You can then go to “Refine my results” on the left side of the screen and select the “Full Text Online” box. You then have a list of articles and books you can access from your computer! 

2. When you visit the Engineering Library website you’ll find our “Selected Resources” section right under the InfoHawk+ search bar. This section is really great if you’re looking for a standard, patent, journal, or database.

3. Not sure where to start? Try out our specially designed guides by department, found at the bottom of our homepage. Your librarians have handpicked resources for each department, providing you with places to get started.

We can’t resist a good countdown, so here are our top five most accessed online databases:

5. SAE Digital Library

4. ASCE Research Library

3. AccessEngineering

2. ACM Digital Library

1. IEEE Xplore Digital Library

Still not sure what resource is best for your project? Get in touch! You can get in touch with your librarians by visiting our homepage. Contact information can be found in the menu on the right hand side of the page, or just click here. You can call, email, chat, or text us. We’re here and ready to help!

What are our engineers reading?

It’s National Library Week! First celebrated by the American Library Association in 1958, NLW is a way for libraries to highlight and encourage the use of their services and spaces – so we’re doing the same thing! We’re starting up with the thing with you might expect from a library: books. 

Located on the lower floor of the library, the Engineering Library has approximately 45,000 books here for easy access, with an additional 105,000 available offsite at the library annex that you can order to pick up at the library desk. Last year we had 774 checkouts of physical books from our stacks. Here’s a look at what some of the most popular books here at the library, based on how many times they have been checked out. We’ve removed items that are on course reserve, since they are outliers.

#3 is a tie between Microelectronics: circuit analysis and design by Donald A. Neamen and Introduction to Communication Systems by Upamanyu Madhow, both with 4 checkouts


#2 with 5 checkouts is Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainability edited by Geoffrey Lawrence, Kristen Lyons, and Tabatha Wallington

#1 is Chemical Process Safety: fundamentals with applications by Daniel A. Crowl and Joseph F. Louvar with 18 checkouts! 

Come on in and see what we have in store – you may be surprised what you’ll find! 

Sharon Tinker

Sharon Tinker

Sharon Tinker was born in 1958 in the small town of Manchester, IA. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a homemaker. During her childhood, she was a very active participant in her local 4H club, learning about a range of topics from food safety to photography. When asked in elementary school what she wanted to be when she grew up she said that she was interested in becoming a schoolteacher, a cowgirl, or a nun. Tinker graduated from West Delaware High School in 1976.  

She chose to attend the University of Iowa to pursue a degree in chemical engineering. She excelled during her time here, being on the Dean’s List her sophomore year. She also participated in several activities including Associated Students of Engineering, the Engineering Open House Committee, the Society of Women Engineers, and the University of Iowa Radiation Protection Committee. When she graduated in 1980 she was interested in finding a management position with special interests in process engineering, production, research, and development.  

After graduation, Tinker found a job as a Performance Chemicals Engineer at Exxon. She has stayed with that company, moving from Texas, to Louisiana, and all the way to Singapore as part of her many assignments. She has been recognized for her accomplishments, receiving many awards including the ExxonMobil Chemical Responsible Care Award, the ExxonMobil Chemical Global Manufacturing Award, and the Young Engineer of the Year Award from the Texas Society of Professional Engineers. She has stayed connected with the University of Iowa, establishing the Sharon K. Tinker Process Safety Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, which is currently held by C. Allan Guymon. She was inducted into the College of Engineering’s Distinguished Engineering Alumni in August of 2020.  


Works Cited

Sharon Tinker papers, Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.-a). Sharon K. Tinker Process Safety Professorship in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.-b). Sharon Tinker. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (2016, November 30). Engineering Alumna Tinker to Receive Dean’s Award for Distinguished Service. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.

Margaret S. Petersen

Margaret S. Petersen

Professor Margaret S. Petersen was born in Rock Island, Illinois in 1920. After graduating from high school, she started at Augustana College in her home town in 1938, but eventually transitioned to taking classes part-time in evening school. In 1942, she joined the Army Corps of Engineers as a draftsman for the Rock Island District. In December of that year, she was became one of ten draftsmen who were chosen to work on the Three Locks Project in Panama. While in Panama, she saved money to return to school full time, and also met Irene Miller, a fellow draftsman who would become her lifelong friend. (The pictures below are from their senior book in 1947)

Margaret Petersen
Irene Miller

After returning to the States, Margaret and Irene started at the University of Iowa. They were among the first women to graduate from the College of Engineering and both earned degrees in Civil Engineering in February of 1947. Still working for the Army Corps of Engineers, Petersen moved to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where she worked on the Mississippi Basin Model. She returned to the University a few years later and earn an M.S. in Mechanics and Hydraulics in 1953. She would remain with the Army Corps of Engineers for many years, moving around the country on different assignments, including projects on the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas Rivers. 

In 1980, Petersen joined the faculty of Arizona State University as a visiting associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. During her time there she worked to develop several graduate courses, and wrote the textbook River Engineering. Petersen was appointed as an Emerita Associate Professor in 1991, but did not completely retire from teaching until 1997. Throughout her career she received many awards and recognitions including the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Hunter Rouse Hydraulic Engineering Award and the Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. The Environmental and Water Resources Institute also established the Margaret Petersen Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in her honor.  

Sources Cited

In Memoriam: Margaret Petersen, P.E., F.ASCE, Hon.D.WRE. (2018, September 12). Civil and Architectural Engineering and Mechanics | The University of Arizona.

Sacramento District Army Corps of Engineers. (2013, March 4). Pioneering woman engineer leaves adventurous, enduring legacy.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Prof. Margaret S. Petersen. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.


Dr. Kook-Wha Koh

Dr. Kook-Wha Koh

This week we are featuring successful chemical engineer and entrepreneur Dr. Kook-Wha Koh. Born in Korea, Kook-Wha studied Chemical Engineering at Seoul National University. She and her childhood sweetheart Kwang-Kuk Koh came to the US in 1965 to further their study in chemical engineering at the University of Iowa. They chose Iowa because of their interest in membrane separations, which was being pioneered at the time by department chair Karl Kammermeyer. Kook-Wha earned her PhD in Chemical  Engineering in 1970 with her thesis “Crystallinity and Denisty in Permeation of Carbon Dioxide and water Vapor through Polymers.” Following their time at Iowa, the Drs. Koh moved down to Texas where Kook-Wha completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University where she worked with heart surgery pioneer Michael DeBakey on his work with artificial hearts. 

After Texas the Koh’s moved to Detroit where Kook-Wha established Chrysan Industries in 1977, headquartered in Plymouth, MI. Chrysan (which is the Korean word for chrysanthemum) is a global supplier of automotive, industrial, and aerospace lubricants and specialty chemicals. In 1980 the company was  awarded its first patent – #4,218,329 – in metalworking fluid technology. The company also holds patents metalworking fluid technology, “formulated cutting oils, and synthetic coolants.” The company supplies to General Motors and Ford, and exports and distributes their products in Asia, Africa and South America. 

Kook-Wha has now retired, and she and her husband spend their time traveling. They have the goal of visiting all of National Geographic’s 50 places everyone should see in their lifetime. They also use their retirement to “promote and ensure equal opportunities for minority business enterprises and women-owned businesses.”

Works Cited

Chrysan Industries. (n.d.). Chrysan Industries, Inc. Global Supplier of Automotive Lubricants and Specialty Chemicals.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Drs. Kwang-Kuk and Kook-Wha Koh. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.

Captain Luther H. Smith

Capt. Luther H. Smith

Luther H. Smith was born in Des Moines, September 27, 1920, and grew up in a loving family with eight siblings. He knew he loved flying from a very young age. When he was 11 years old, he and his brother found $5 in a field. He convinced his brother to use their newfound fortune to pay a pilot to take them on a flight. After this, he would walk 5 miles to and from the airport where he would do odd jobs for anyone who needed it, and hope that they would take him on a flight in appreciation. 

In 1938, Smith enrolled at the University of Iowa, where he studied mechanical engineering. The United States had not yet joined World War II, but at that point it was clear that a large number of pilots would be needed in the near future. As a result, Civilian Pilot Training Programs were established on campuses across the country in 1939. Smith knew that at that point, the U.S. military did not allow African Americans to serve as pilots, but he was determined to be prepared. He joined the Civilian Pilot Training Program and earned his pilot’s license in 1940. He was on of the first Black Americans do to so. 

After joining WWII, the military changed their tune, and allowed Black men to serve as pilots, and in 1942, Smith would enlist in the Army Air Corps in September 1942 and become one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. He served in the 332nd Fighter Group of the 302nd Fighter Squadron. Smith joined the war effort in Europe in January of 1944, based out of Italy. By October of that year, he had flown 133 missions.

Smith and his brother Howard on a military base in Italy, 1944.

On October 13, 1944, Smith’s plane, a P-47 Mustang, was hit during an escort mission over Yugoslavia. He would later say of that day “I flew 133 missions. On the last one, I didn’t make it back. It was Friday the 13th. It was my lucky day – I’m still alive.” He was able to bail out of the plane, but fell through trees, and landed on a branch, fracturing his hip. he was captured as a Prisoner of War and taken to a military hospital. Soon after, he was moved to Stalag XVIII-A, a prisoner of war camp in southern Austria. He would remain a POW for seven months, and was liberated in early May of 1945. At the time of his rescue, he weight only 70 pounds. He returned to the States, where his recovery and rehabilitation would take an additional 2 years and require 18 surgeries. He would be left with lifelong health issues. In 1947, Smith retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Captain. He was the recipient of many medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters, the Prisoner of War Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Purple Heart, and the WWII Victory Medal. 

Smith returned to Iowa City and completed his Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering in 1950. He moved to Schenectady, NY to take a job with General Electric, where he would also be active in the local chapter of the NAACP. He later accepted a position with the company that moved him and his wife to Philadelphia, PA where he earned a Masters degree in Metallurgical Engineering from Penn State. Smith would work for GE for 37 years. He held two U.S. Patents on dynamic sealing devices in aircraft, regularly published technical papers, and worked on projects with the U.S. Air Force, NASA, and U.S. Navy Submarine Command.

In 2000, he began speaking publicly about his time in the war, including about the impact of racial inequality in the military. He accompanied president Bill Clinton on a trip to Europe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. In 2006, Tuskegee University awarded him with an honorary doctorate. He was part of the Architect-Engineer Evaluation Jury for the National World War II Memorial in Washington. In 2007 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service as part of the Tuskegee Airmen. Captain Smith passed away in 2009 at the age of 89 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Works Cited:

American Air Museum in Britain. (n.d.). Luther H Smith | American Air Museum in Britain.

CAF Rise Above. (2018, October 17). Luther H. Smith.

Iowa Aviation Museum. (n.d.). Luther H. Smith – Iowa Aviation Museum.

Saylor, T. (2005, February 18). Oral History Project World War II Years, 1941–1946 – Luther Smith, Jr. DigitalCommons@CSP.

University of Iowa College of Engineering. (n.d.). Luther H. Smith. College of Engineering – The University of Iowa.

University of Iowa Libraries. (n.d.). UI Collection Guides -Civilian Pilot Training Program Records, 1942–1944.