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Filtering by Category: Research

Yanfei Liu

Communications and Marketing


It’s like something out of science fiction.

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Yanfei Liu is at the forefront of a new era in automatons with her research into robots that can adapt to their environment by literally changing their shape to respond to different needs.

These advances could completely change how we use and employ robots in everything from sports and entertainment to rescue missions and crisis scenarios.

Robots in Disguise

Liu builds and researches robots—all kinds of robots.

Her research focuses specifically on two types: mobile robots, which use different physical methods to traverse and react to different types of terrain, and modular robots, which have changeable and reconfigurable structures. Liu is then able to test how different robotic builds respond to different environments and needs.

“In different scenarios, these robots can be reconfigured into different shapes,” Liu explains. “It could resemble a snake at first, but it could also use wheels.”

One of Liu’s current projects is a modular robot equipped with a sensor, used to perceive and adapt to its surroundings. Based on the intelligence it gathers, the robot can automatically change into different configurations.

Modular robots could have a dramatic impact in crisis situations like rescue missions.

“If the robot has to go through a tube and enter an open space, a typical wheeled robot would just be too big to fit. But you can break them and put them in a long, worm-like configuration to get through the tunnel, and then change it into a regular wheeled robot once they’re on the other side. They can move faster and get the job done easier.”

Liu is interested in finding ways to improve robotic mobility while boosting the quality of their interactions with their human counterparts—but she and her team of student researchers don’t quite stop there.

“One of the projects we’ve done was to try to develop a robotics pet for dogs, so they could have interactive toys to play with.”

Raised in the Lab

In addition to her research, Liu teaches engineering to students at every level in the College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science, ranging from introductory courses on the fundamentals of engineering to graduate-level courses in robotics.

She’s currently developing tech electives for seniors in the engineering program to learn more about robotics and automation.

Involving students, both graduate-level and undergraduate-level, in her research is important to Liu, because it’s all about connections—especially when you spend so much of your time poring over circuit boards in a lab.

“Students can apply to different projects, and a coordinator will put them in the right project for their background and interests,” Liu says.

This kind of hands-on experiential learning often leads to networking opportunities for students with regional and national industry partners, turning their work in the IPFW labs into real prospects for a career after graduation.

Closing the Loop

One of Liu’s favorite things about teaching at IPFW is her ability to connect with students.

“We have a small student body,” she says. “They have a close relationship with their professors. Most of the courses that we offer at the junior level and above have 15 students. You actually know them well enough to guide them through the important steps in their studies, and even their professional career.”

Because Liu and other professors have opportunities to get to know students so well, she is able to recommend them for experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom.

“Hiring companies usually will come to us if they have a project in mind,” she explains. “They want to have a group of senior students work on it, because it’s beneficial to us and to them. The company doesn’t have to hire professional engineers, which costs a lot of money, and our students get real industrial experience.”

Many of Liu’s students land internships in local industries, beginning in their sophomore or junior year. The projects they work on during their internships will also typically count toward their coursework.

Liu’s students have found internship and career opportunities with industry leaders like Franklin Electric, Regal-Beloit, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Exelis.


Among their many accomplishments, Liu and her students had an opportunity to compete in the RoboCup Project.

RoboCup is an organization that works to stimulate interest in robotics and artificial intelligence by staging competitions between soccer-playing robots.

“We worked together to build a team of robots to play in the RoboCup competition,” Liu recalls. “We spent three years developing robots capable of competing.”

“Our role is to provide the hardware aspect, like sensors,” she explains. “If they’re building a robot that doesn’t have any sensors, there’s no way they can give it artificial intelligence. The robot would be blind—you’re trying to have him go over unknown places without sensing any information. He wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Liu’s background in modular robotics capable of perceiving and adapting to their environment played a critical role in developing robots that were able to bend it like Beckham.


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Zafar Nazarov

Communications and Marketing


Knowledge is known to take you places—and for one professor and his students, that phrase takes a turn to the literal.

Meet IPFW Assistant Professor of Economics Zafar Nazarov, who recently took a group of students to Cuba in order to get a firsthand look at the Central American country’s economy and how it might be changing now that their relations with the United States are also in the process of changing.

“Any theory can be hard to swallow,” Nazarov says, “but if you can make it more applied and reflect the importance of the theory on the individuals who are learning it, while understanding the constraints they’re facing, then you’re able to combine those problems with the theories you’re teaching. Then the students will be more engaged in the learning process.”


After receiving his doctorate from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Nazarov spent two years in a fellowship and then took a job at the disability institute in Cornell University. After three years of research, Nazarov turned his attention to teaching.

“I had the opportunity to teach at Cornell and then I learned about an open position at IPFW,” he says. “I applied and, in the end, I was lucky to be chosen and invited to this institution. I’ve found it to be an interesting experience.”

That was three years ago—Nazarov just finished up his sixth semester teaching everything from micro- and macroeconomics to public finance and health economics at IPFW. He also had the recent opportunity to take a class on a trip to Cuba.

“I agreed because Cuba is on the verge of transitioning from one system to another and I grew up in the Soviet Union, which had a similar system in the past as Cuba does today,” he explains. “I had a good understanding about Cuba’s initial position and, using the experience of other Soviet Union republics, I had this understanding where Cuba might go. It might end up in state capitalism, market capitalism, or something else—so I tried to teach students that this is how they start and that we could try to project where they will end, and what will change the path they’re on.”

The trip to Cuba allowed Nazarov’s students to understand the differences between institutions and systems they’re living in and the system just 90 miles from the U.S. coast—they interacted with Cuban residents and tried to understand the constraints they’re facing based on the differences in their country’s system.

“That’s a simulation type of approach,” Nazarov says, “while at the same time, engaging them in learning some theoretical aspect. I was very pleased with the trip. It was very educational and showed me a good example that happiness is not only about the formation of capital.”

After visiting three different regions of Cuba, he and his students were both impacted by both the system differences and the enduring happiness of the people who—despite their economic constraints—stayed positive. Nazarov mentions that the students all took turns in noticing and pointing out, “They look very happy.” 

Seeing the class material in a real-life setting made their studies come alive for the students, who tend to lean more toward the straightforward approach to education.

“The IPFW student body is different from the other institutions,” he says. “I was a graduate student at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and I had a little bit of teaching experience at Cornell—I see that the students at IPFW are more practical and looking for more practical answers. That makes it fun sometimes for a teacher—challenging, but fun.”


“My main intellectual contribution is in the area of health economics and labor economics where the two intersect,” Nazarov explains. “I am very interested in topics such as disability and factors associated with the increase of participation in disability programs in the United States. I also have papers on hot topics such as childhood obesity.”

One of the classes Nazarov teaches is health economics, to which he takes a different approach than most instructors.

“When I was a student, I took a lot of health economics courses, but they were mostly theoretical,” he recalls. “The students lost interest at some point because if you only discuss theoretical aspects without backing your implications with empirical findings, most students have to be very motivated to continue and grasp all the theories from different models. What I’ve done differently in my class is I’ve introduced the empirical part.

I ask students to make their hands dirty with the data.

“I ask students to make their hands dirty with the data. I provide them with representative samples of Americans such as the health retirement survey, which gives them information about the random sample of Americans over the age of 50. I also give them the current population survey, which consists of some health-related questions. I ask them to empirically investigate these things using whatever theoretical relationship we’re studying at the time to see whether or not there’s an empirical basis for the theoretical implications.”

Nazarov normally has 10-15 students per class—sometimes as many as 20, as is the case with his health economics class this past semester. He’s constantly changing the structure of the class to meet student demand.

“If you see some students are actually taking that class because of their target—if they’re looking to apply for medical schools, for example, I add topics like why people want to be doctors or what the return investment is on being a doctor,” he says. “Then after the class, the students can ask themselves if they still want to take this career path based on what they studied.”

One aspect of teaching at IPFW that is important to Nazarov is to make the students see the value in the effort and time they’re spending in his class. He stays mindful of his students having lives outside his classroom and does his best to make what can sometimes be a struggle through higher education worth it to them.

“You try to engage them and show them the benefits of the education they’re getting,” he says. “Like, ‘Yes, this is theory.’ ‘Yes, it’s a bit flat in the book, but let me pitch this a different way for you and then maybe you’ll see the importance of it in your daily life.’ That’s what I’m always trying to do—bring the theory. They (theories) become interesting depending on the teacher’s ability to pitch them to the students.”


Regardless of whether something is “only a theory” or is particular to Cuba’s economic system, the knowledge base has a definite impact on society at large and shapes communities around us—even our own.

“My kids are enrolled in sports, for example,” Nazarov says. “You meet with the parents, you socialize with them, and you discuss with them news about currency, tuition, the healthcare market, and you learn that people don’t really have a good understanding about the system. You can shape and then answer their questions. With neighbors, you engage in similar intellectual discussions. It would be good to reduce the gap between what is happening in reality and what people know. Then we could reduce the gap between getting informed about healthcare and making a decision.”

Locally, Nazarov receives a number of calls from different firms—including one conversation with a company that sells software for hospitals that had questions about an internal rate of return on their product. He’s also recently talked to a regional orthopedics company about an ongoing evaluation of their company’s system. Moving forward, Nazarov is planning to continue research, teaching, and his projects—and hopes there may be a similar class trip opportunity in the future.

I’m still learning.

“I’m proud of these past seven years—I’m still learning,” he says. “Every time I get acceptance from a peer review journal it feels like a productivity boost. At the same time, from a teaching perspective after your first two or three semesters, you get emails from students saying, ‘Thank you very much. I do remember how you taught us that concept and it turns out that it’s very useful.’ It turns out that students do see the importance of certain concepts through personal experience later on that they started in school. It makes you want to work harder in order to ultimately give them more.”

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Jay Jackson

Communications and Marketing


In a world seemingly fueled by social prejudice and knee-jerk reactions, it’s reasonable to start asking why we act the way we do.

IPFW Professor of Psychology Jay Jackson has been asking this question for a long time—in relation to both global human-driven events and our day-to-day interactions.

“The work that I do and what others do in psychology is called basic research or theoretical research,” Jackson says. “What we’re doing is searching for new knowledge. Our job is to discover things that no one has ever discovered before. It’s testing abstract, theoretical principles and asking how different abstract constructs relate to one another.”


Originally from Indianapolis, Jackson grew up in what’s now a suburbia—when he lived there, the area was relatively rural.

He started out at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) as an undergraduate. Jackson was initially a business major until he discovered that he wasn’t particularly interested in the field—what he really loved were his psychology classes.

“I switched majors to psychology after that,” Jackson says. “I also loved anthropology. I love learning about new cultures and the whole field of anthropology is still very exciting to me—so I minored in anthropology.”

Those experiences turned out to be crucial.

Jackson actually surprised himself during college—he hadn’t thought he would be very skilled in the academic world because he hadn’t been the best student in high school. That all changed for him in his new university environment, so much so that he continued on to graduate school.

“The Osgood Laboratory for Cross-Cultural Research was being run by Dr. Oliver Tzeng at that time and that was a really important experience for me,” he says. “I also got experience working on a volunteer basis in a psychiatric hospital because, at one point, I thought maybe I wanted to go into the clinical side of things. Those experiences turned out to be crucial because I ended up loving the lab work and not so much the clinical work.”

Jackson earned a master’s degree at IUPUI in applied social psychology with a focus on interethnic relationships, child neglect and abuse issues, and a few other related topics. He went on to Purdue West Lafayette to get his doctorate in experimental social psychology and then landed his first job in the field in Glenville, W. Va., where he primarily taught college classes. He also met his future wife there.

“She’s a developmental psychologist,” he shares. “We were the only two psychologists on campus, so we ended up striking up some conversations and one thing led to another—we ended up getting married. We ended up going to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for a year after that.”

Ultimately, the couple wanted to get back to the Midwest to be situated closer to their families. Jackson applied for and received a position at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, as did his wife a year after. Jackson has now been at IPFW for 18 years.

“It’s been a real blessing and a great community to live in. It’s a great university,” he says. “I’ve seen it grow quite a bit along with our family—we have a couple of kids now. It’s just been really good.”


“In psychology, there are two general domains,” Jackson says. “One is the basic theoretical domain and the other one is the applied domain.”

By training, Jackson is a social psychologist. His area of expertise is understanding how people behave, think, and react emotionally to social situations—primarily involving other people.

“I teach a variety of classes,” he says. “I teach the history of psychology. I teach introductory methods in personality in social psychology. I conduct research in a variety of areas, but I’m primarily interested in intergroup relations. That’s how people from different groups perceive each other, behave towards each other, and have thoughts about each other.”

One branch of Jackson’s research touches on intergroup bias, which is how group memberships influence our perceptions of other people and actions towards them. Intergroup contact theory indicates that as two people from two different groups (racial, religious, or otherwise) meet and get to know each other better in a positive way, the probability increases that their attitudes toward the group each person represents will be more favorable than they were before. 

Our job is to discover things that no one has ever discovered before.

During Jackson’s doctorate years at Purdue he got a lot of experience conducting lab research on scenarios like these—including those that focused on group dynamics, intergroup perceptions, and social dilemmas.

“This has been well-established in literally hundreds of studies now,” he says. “There have been three meta analyses conducted on the contact hypothesis. What we’re doing in our lab is trying to identify some of the conditions and attributes people have that lead them to have favorable intergroup contact experiences. For example, we’re looking particularly closely at the variables of openness and agreeableness in new experiences. People are high on this trait and tend to be naturally curious. They have a great tolerance for ambiguity and they’re culturally interested in trying new things.”


The Department of Psychology’s program for students who are interested in research is always expanding the experiences students can gain from multiple labs and projects during their academic career. Jackson’s research assistants came from that program and show a great deal of motivation when the right research project comes along.

“I guide them through the research project,” he explains. “They usually develop a proposal and I review the proposal and give them feedback. We work together on developing the rationale—you have to have a good theoretical rationale before developing the stimulus materials. Then once the stimulus materials are developed and the rationale is set, we’re able to run some pilot tests. They are very involved and have the opportunity to present their research at the IPFW Research Symposium every year.”

The university has been consistently supportive of the department—either through travel funding for professional conference trips, funds for laboratory space, or from a number of other outlets the department needs to do their best work. Moving forward, Jackson hopes to continue this level of research and start getting more answers to their questions.

 “I am most proud of my students,” Jackson says. “It’s a joy to work with them—especially the students who have become my research assistants and whom I get to know so well. We have some of the most fantastic students you can imagine. They’re hardworking and motivated. They’re bright and they keep me on my toes because they ask so many good questions and are so enthusiastic about it. They’re a joy to work with, and I’m proud of the way they represent my lab at conferences and how they represent the department and the university.”

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Steven Stevenson

Communications and Marketing


It’s not rocket science—it’s chemistry. Which is arguably even more complex.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Steven Stevenson breaks down lessons as well as he breaks down chemical bonds—he’s well-known around campus for including students in his research projects and for being a great professor, too.

“I’m a new molecule chaser,” Stevenson says. “We like to make new molecules, which have possible application areas like medical agents, pharmaceuticals, and MRI contrast agents. If you take the structure of some of these new molecules and put other metal atoms inside this cage, you can ultimately make photovoltaic devices out of these molecules. There are uses.”


Stevenson was hired by IPFW in 2011 to complete three types of duties—teaching, research, and service.

“My research area is the production, separation, and purification of new molecule structures so that we can investigate, publish, and write up grant proposals based on the findings,” he says. “In doing that, we can take our students to conferences, mentor undergrad students, and help build their careers and their curriculum vitae—then those who want to get into graduate, medical, or pharmacy school can have undergraduate research to supplement their degrees.”

For the service aspect of the position, Stevenson does internal and external service—the internal comes at the university, Department of Chemistry, and the College of Arts and Sciences levels, and the external extends to proposals for granting foundations such as the National Science Foundation and reviewing to-be-published journal articles sent from editors in the field. All of this makes IPFW more visible to the field and community at large.

“Back in 2010 and 2011, I applied for many different kinds of jobs,” he says. “I applied at some large Ph.D. schools. I applied to some smaller, historical teaching institutions. I applied for a department head position at another school, so I had covered small schools and big schools. I had several possibilities when I traveled to IPFW. I came up to Fort Wayne—and I’d never been to Indiana. I could really see myself being here during the interview. IPFW really impressed me.

“The reason why I chose this place—as corny as it sounds—is because I thought that I could make a difference here.”


“At IPFW, given the wider array of work that we do, we don’t have the infrastructure and the instruments and the postdocs and the graduate students,” Stevenson explains. “I collaborate with other scientists for application development. What I do is make new molecules. With instruments in the lab—the mass spectrometer, this high-performance liquid chromatograph—we are able to find new molecules.

“There are a hundred different kinds, different sizes of these cages—some are small, some are large, some have one atom inside, some have four atoms, some of them have three… You have at least a hundred different kinds of compounds. You might see a new peak or recognize a new molecule there that hasn’t been reported yet. Then you really need to isolate it, prove what the structure is—which usually means getting about a milligram or two of material purified—and then send it to a collaborator to get an x-ray crystal structure, which is a three-dimensional arrangement of atoms, and you can prove that what you think you have really is.”

Half of Stevenson’s work is separation science and half is making the material, itself. The research focus is a large draw for undergraduate students in need of research opportunities, who may not have even considered that their research work during college would involve constructing and detecting new molecular particles—and his students are not the only ones who are impressed.

We’re known as a predominant teaching institution, which is a type the National Science Foundation likes to have doing research.

“I’ve been blessed with multiple National Science Foundation grants based on the work of these undergraduate research students and the publications that they do,” he says. “They like to fund different types of universities. We’re known as a predominant teaching institution, which is a type the National Science Foundation likes to have doing research. If you do a lot of research and you mentor undergraduate students and they go on to graduate school, there is value in that.”


Stevenson’s student researchers are not just recruited from his classes—they literally just show up at his door from time to time.

“One of my better research students who worked in my lab for two years met one of my undergraduate researchers in class. She came up to the fourth floor and said, ‘Hey, I hear about some stuff that you’re doing—I want in. Do you have a spot for me?’ I was like, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ Sometimes they just come unsolicited to the doorstep.”

Now that he teaches predominantly freshmen, most of the students he meets are 18 or 19—this can be good for him and for them as well, as they can get three or four years of research and experience in their academic career at IPFW alone.

“Other people also have a degree, so to make yourself different, you can do research and have some publications and research opportunities in addition to that degree,” Stevenson explains. “That being said, I can pay students or students can do things as volunteers—or they can sign up for an undergraduate research class. Most of my students are volunteers and they’re willing to see the value of résumé building.”

Stevenson admits that his team building strategy is different than many of his colleagues—most faculty will specifically select students who are majoring in their field. Only one out of his five student researchers is a chemistry major—the other four come from the geology, psychology, nursing, and engineering departments.

“I have opportunities to provide research experience beyond just a department,” Stevenson explains. “I try to build my research group around humble, nice, and intelligent people. It doesn’t matter to me what their major is because I can train them and teach them, and—if they’re humble and nice—then they’re more amenable toward training.

“People continue to say, ‘How in the world do you get all that research done?’ I say, ‘Well, we have some smart people at IPFW.’ We really do.”


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John Licato

Valerie Gough


We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the idea of artificial intelligence—whether that familiarity comes from the Hollywood boom of science fiction films with an AI focus or the latest sassy response from Siri gone viral depends on your interests.

However, that’s what most of us have in relation to the integration of AI into our daily lives—interest. IPFW Assistant Professor of Computer Science John Licato has made it an integral part of his occupation.

“Humans, at their best, have this ability to simultaneously reason using concepts and reasoning about those concepts. This gives us sort of a flexibility of reasoning that we don’t see in any computer systems—even the most advanced,” Licato says. “I want to figure out how to get computers and robots to reason in that way.”



Licato started off as many computer science enthusiasts do—he wanted to be a video game programmer.

“I wanted to program the physics and then the AI, which is what got me involved in AI research—I just loved it,” he explains.

Now teaching courses primarily in AI machine learning, Licato spends a lot of his time building up his lab and researching AI and robotics with his students. He guides a team of 10–15 undergraduate and graduate students though research exercises, managing the workflow and ensuring that communication stays open so goals can be met.

“I was looking for a place that could really benefit from an AI program. If you think about the advances that we’ve seen in AI just in the past couple of years, manufacturing and food service industries are already benefiting from robots. We’ve have advances in fraud detection algorithms that can benefit insurance and healthcare industries.

Fort Wayne and this region are centers for all those industries, so this region is really poised to benefit from all these advances in AI.

“As it happens, Fort Wayne and this region are centers for all those industries, so this region is really poised to benefit from all these advances in AI. That makes IPFW, I think, an ideal place to do this research.”


Licato’s research is AI in general, but his specialty is what the experts refer to as cognitive robotics and human level reasoning. There are some things that humans can do that are still outside the realm of possibility for computers, such as the ability to reason from moral and ethical standpoints and to feel empathy. Licato strives to understand why that gap still exists and to see if he can bridge it in a practical way.

“If we think about the kinds of things that humans can do that robots still can’t—for example, I mentioned how we reason and have empathy for each other—we can come up with explanations and arguments for phenomena that we observe. I think—like it or not—we’re in an age where we’re starting to see things like the military deploying automated drones in combat situations. We’re seeing systems like Watson in healthcare environments. When these robots and systems are deployed—and a lot of them already have been—I think we wouldn’t want them to be completely amoral or unethical.

At minimum, we want them to to have at least some understanding of this human notion of common sense.

“At minimum, we want them to to have at least some understanding of this human notion of common sense.”

Licato approaches all of his courses in a similar way—with the belief that computer science is a very applied field, there is a lot of theory involved, and the learning becomes more concrete when the theory is applied to a hands-on project.

“What I tell the philosophers is, if you don’t know how to write it in code, then maybe you don’t understand the concept that well. I give [the students] a lot of chances to really implement things and use that in their learning experience. I try to get them involved in research as well, because I think that it really helps add to their overall understanding of what they’re dealing with.”

Licato tries to recruit some of his researchers from the classes he teaches and issued a general call for interest as well. The students selected—both from his class and who responded to the call—exhibited high motivation and, according to Licato, ended up being some of the best students to work with.

“They don’t say ‘no’ to challenges. They’re able to go a little farther, I think. We’ve already had three students within the past year that have gotten into internships—in part because of the research they were able to do here.”


This year, Licato and his student researchers have been doing sizable foundational work for the road ahead.

“The question becomes how to do these things. It’s not an easy question to answer and that’s why I think this research is very important.”

Licato and his team have been in talks with some industries in conjunction with IPFW. Recently, they met with the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership to understand how they could help better satisfy training needs in the region.

“IPFW has been very helpful. I’ve been working with Information Technology Services and they set up a private network just for our lab so we could have our robot communicate by WiFi as it moves throughout the building. Just the fact that we’ve been given this lab space is something that’s been extremely helpful. Everything you see here—the lab, the programed robots—all of it is a direct result of how hardworking the students are and the freedom they’ve been given.

“This is something that the students do—not because they have to for course credit or anything like that—because they’re proud of their research and they want to be able to give back to the community. The fact that we have the opportunity to do all of this is something that I’m proud of.”


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Michelle Drouin

Communications and Marketing

One Unread Notification

Snapchat. Yik Yak. Grindr. Tinder. Kik. And yes, even Facebook.

In the era of social media, where privacy is sometimes just an afterthought, how we choose to express ourselves is almost as important as what we’re actually saying. Countless new apps and communications platforms have sprung up to enable users to connect, share, and talk—and sometimes, do a lot more.

Associate Professor of Psychology Michelle Drouin is a leading expert on the ways new and emerging technologies impact, shape, and redefine communication within all kinds of interpersonal relationships. 

Drouin discusses research methods during a student research exhibit on campus.

Drouin discusses research methods during a student research exhibit on campus.

Her research into how sexting affects romantic relationships and the development of sexual identity in adolescents and young adults has caught national attention in recent years. Drouin and her research have been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, ABC News, Parenting magazine, and many others.

What is “Sexting”?

Sexting—a portmanteau of “sex” and “texting”—is when someone uses text messages, photos, videos, or other content sent from a mobile device to flirt with someone else.

Given the ubiquitous nature of smart phones capable of sending and receiving multimedia from anywhere at any time, a growing number of people—adolescents and young adults especially—have taken to flirting textually.

Drouin is a leading expert on how social media impacts relationships, especially among teens and adolescents.

Drouin is a leading expert on how social media impacts relationships, especially among teens and adolescents.

According to a 2014 study, 24 percent of high-school aged students and 33 percent of college students have, at some point in their lives, sent a nude or semi-nude photo of himself or herself to another person.

Its popularity has raised a number of concerns, especially among parents, about how to deal with privacy, exposure, and sexuality in an always-on, always-connected world.

What the Behavior Suggests 

Drouin is especially interested in the ways in which sexting behaviors may be indicative of psychological affectations, including insecurities and avoidant or anxious attachments among romantic couples.

Her research suggests that there may be a connection in an individual’s sexting behaviors and how they may approach a romantic or sexual relationship in a broader sense.

Drouin is also interested in using her research to explore the impact sexting has on identity and sexual development in adolescents and young adults. She believes that this research can help young people understand the role sexting plays in shaping their identities and also help them avoid the risks associated with sexting.

Helping Young People Make Responsible Choices

I think it’s our responsibility to start educating our children on responsible use of our technology and I would love to play a larger role in that.
— Michelle Drouin

One way Drouin has ensured her research is understood and actualized by younger audiences has been to get her students involved. She frequently invites IPFW psychology majors to help conduct research into the psychological correlates and behaviors associated with social media use in interpersonal relationships.

Student researchers join Drouin in analyzing and interpreting how technology shapes our relationships.

Student researchers join Drouin in analyzing and interpreting how technology shapes our relationships.

Along with understanding the behaviors of those who engage in sexting, Drouin is interested in capitalizing on that research to help young people make responsible choices—not only when it comes to sexting, but with regard to their “digital footprint” in a broader sense.

Helping teenagers and young adults understand how to responsibly use social media is a key goal for her future endeavors here at IPFW.

Program Snapshot: Department of Psychology

Be mindful. In the Department of Psychology, discover the study of behavior, thought, and intelligence. Join a research project, collaborate on a conference paper, or explore current issues in mental health and wellness. We graduate counselors, researchers, and more. Our programs include psychobiology, clinical research, social psychology, and research methods. Learn more.

Beomjin Kim

Communications and Marketing

The Art of Data

Understanding complex sets of data sometimes requires more than what numbers alone can demonstrate. To truly engage with vast and intricate amounts of data, we need to be able to visualize what it means—and in some cases, to reach out and touch it.

IPFW Professor of Computer Science Beomjin Kim’s game-changing research into information visualization and computer graphics is making that possible.

Kim and a student discuss the hardware necessary to render information in a 3-D space.

Kim and a student discuss the hardware necessary to render information in a 3-D space.

Computational Perception

Kim’s research is in part focused on how to process and visualize data for analytics, consumption, and manipulation.

By finding new ways to take a given set of data and render it through computer modeling and animation, Kim is helping researchers discover new ways to convert alphanumeric data across a wide variety of fields into something they can see with their own eyes.

By presenting that kind of information to the user through visualization, the user can easily evaluate or analyze huge amounts of data.
— Beomjin Kim

Visualization of data helps researchers parse, compartmentalize, and understand the data they are manipulating.

Kim hopes his research into the application of computer graphics and modeling in data manipulation will help fellow researchers grasp entire sets of data more easily, setting up for further breakthroughs in medical technologies, engineering, defense, gaming, and more.

Professor Kim and his students demonstrate the capabilities of medical imaging.

Professor Kim and his students demonstrate the capabilities of medical imaging.

Data in High Definition

Drilling down further into data visualization, Kim is also heavily invested in advancements of image quality.

Everyone—from top-level researchers to end-user consumers—benefits from these advances in visual fidelity, which allow for sharper and more detailed renderings of information.

The same advances in imaging quality that allow for better cameras in our smartphones and increasingly jaw-dropping graphics in computer games also create profound opportunities for industries vital to our wellbeing—including medical and surgical simulations and training.

National Recognition

Kim is also director of the Information Analytics and Visualization Center, one of IPFW’s renowned Centers of Excellence.

The center, which specializes in 3-D vision technology research, has received funding from the National Science Foundation in recognition of its groundbreaking work.

To receive funding, Kim and his researchers used computer imaging to generate the scene of an actual battlefield in a 3-D space down to the smallest details—including complex terrains, artillery locations, and resource allocation.

Kim's research has the potential to fundamentally alter how we view, create, and process information.

Kim's research has the potential to fundamentally alter how we view, create, and process information.

By projecting that information visually, a commander would be better equipped to assess and understand the situation on the ground and in the air more quickly.

The practical application of Kim’s research for defense technologies is almost limitless.

Sharing the Space

But while Kim’s research has garnered a great deal of attention from investors, partners, and industry leaders, he notes that one of his favorite things about teaching and researching at IPFW is his ability to involve students.

Some of our students need more challenge beyond the classroom. They are interested in doing research.
— Beomjin Kim

Kim finds motivation and inspiration in the eagerness of his students to get involved in his research, which can then evolve into career opportunities after graduation.

Program Snapshot: Department of Computer Science

Revolutionize how people and technology work and play together. Explore software design, programming languages, computer architecture, and more with a degree in computer science. We graduate programmers, hardware specialists, network administrators, and more. Our program includes software engineering, programming, computer graphics, and database systems. Learn more.

Elizabeth Thompson

Communications and Marketing

Reimagining Imaging

Imagine a new way to see your own mind.

Professor of Electrical Engineering Elizabeth Thompson is at the forefront of new imaging technologies used to analyze and interpret the electric and magnetic signals our brains produce.

These advances, Thompson hopes, can be used to understand, evaluate, and perhaps even treat disorders and afflictions of the brain—and potentially save countless lives.

Professor Thompson meets with a group of her students.

Professor Thompson meets with a group of her students.

Magnetism of the Mind

Thompson worked extensively in functional magnetic resonance before moving into magnetoenceophalography (MEG), a rapidly emerging technology that measures the magnetic field emitted by the brain.

MEG is similar to the more familiar electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a test that detects electrical activity in the brain. Analyzing magnetic brainwaves offers an entirely new perspective on the brain’s activities—and new ways for medical professionals to help their patients.

Of particular interest to Thompson is analyzing the brainwaves of those suffering from epilepsy. Currently, when an individual experiences an epileptic seizure, he or she may have to undergo an invasive surgical procedure so that doctors can pinpoint the source of the trouble.

Thompson hopes that her research into MEG scans can help medical professionals locate the source of the seizures before going through with dangerous medical procedures.

Sharing the Knowledge

Thompson’s research is breaking new ground in medical imaging and analysis, and she’s sharing that knowledge with the next generation of engineers and healthcare professionals—her students.

Students at IPFW have an advantage over students at a larger university in that we are very engaged with them—we know them.
— Elizabeth Thompson

Thompson works closely with her students to ensure they have access to hands-on research projects and experiences, as well as invaluable connections with regional and national industry leaders.

Professor Thompson reviews a student's work.

Professor Thompson reviews a student's work.

We’ve had some outstanding senior design projects and many of them are industry sponsored, industry proposed. They do such a good job on their senior design projects. Very, very impressive.
— Elizabeth Thompson

Cross-Discipline Advances

Thompson is using her extensive background in electrical engineering to outfit medical providers with new ways of helping and treating their patients.

There is so much you can do with engineering. So many different things, and so many areas you can pursue. You really can find something where you feel like you’re making an impact and a difference.
— Elizabeth Thompson

She also encourages her students to find new, innovative applications for their technical, industrial, and design knowledge. She believes in the real impact their discoveries and insights in engineering can make across professions and industries.

PROGRAM SNAPSHOT: Department of Engineering

Transform your future. The Department of Engineering finds new ways to solve everyday problems and offers you opportunities to learn hands-on with the latest advancements in design and industry. We graduate builders, designers, leaders, and more. Our programs include civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Learn more. 

Abdullah Eroglu

Communications and Marketing

The Challenge of Innovation

Amid stacks of transistors, looping knots of wires, and the hum of imagination at work, IPFW Professor of Electrical Engineering Abdullah Eroglu is reaching for a worthy goal: to innovate his field.

Gaining a leading edge in electrical engineering has never been so critical, when the smallest discovery could spark industry-changing advancements in telecommunications, informatics, medical imaging, and consumer electronics.

Innovation is happening, and it’s happening faster every year.

“Part of the challenge in this field for everyone is to be innovative,” Eroglu says. “What we need to do is come up with a method that is more efficient.”

More than the Sum of Its Parts

Eroglu’s research is grounded in applied electromagnetics, from component-level to system-level design. In particular, he is interested in how to integrate components into a better system—in other words, how to make the whole more than the sum of its parts.

As part of an applied electromagnetics research group, Eroglu established a research laboratory on campus, used to study applied electromagnetics in depth and provide access to hands-on experiential learning to engineering students.

“In that laboratory, we’re designing components that you’re using in your cell phones, television equipment, and any [other] electronic equipment, “he explains. “You’re seeing inductors, load capacitors, combiners.”

It is here that Eroglu, his fellow researchers, and his students create, design, and test new patented prototypes.

Professor Eroglu demonstrates the production of a prototype in his engineering laboratory.

Professor Eroglu demonstrates the production of a prototype in his engineering laboratory.

We have a laser prototyping machine that enables us to prototype very fine thicknesses, anywhere from 2 mils to maybe 150 mils, with no problem.
— Abdullah Eroglu

Handing Off the Tools

“I think one of the great advantages we have [at IPFW] is the small classroom environment, because [it] helps us engage students one-to-one,” says Eroglu. “That helps us to know our students better.”

Outfitting his engineering students with the tools they need to be successful in the industry is a primary concern for Eroglu. Because electrical engineering can be such a tactile, hands-on field, he focuses on applied, project-based teaching to give his students real experience before they graduate.

“I actually assign projects,” he says. “So I teach the theory in the class, and then I assign them the project that will enable them to use some of the analytical skills that they learned. The laboratory is a good tool for them.”

Students then gain experience using simulation tools in Eroglu’s lab, including 2-D and 3-D electromagnetic simulators, nonlinear circuit simulators, and simulators for the parasitics of electronic circuit boards.

Equipped for Success

When Eroglu’s students leave his classroom and laboratory, they are equipped to succeed in a challenging and dynamic industry.

Professor Eroglu reviews a student's work with a remote controlled car.

Professor Eroglu reviews a student's work with a remote controlled car.

“These companies, especially here, are looking for engineers who are really equipped, who know simulation, how to use these simulation tools to design the components or systems,” Eroglu explains.

Along with technical know-how, many of Eroglu’s students graduate with a patent to their name from their time working with their professor on innovations in the laboratory—certainly a jolt to their résumé.


Transform your future. The Department of Engineering finds new ways to solve everyday problems and offers you opportunities to learn hands-on with the latest advancements in design and industry. We graduate builders, designers, leaders, and more. Our programs include civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Learn more. 

Punya Nachappa

Communications and Marketing

Save Our Soybeans

What does agriculture look like under a microscope?

Assistant Professor of Biology Punya Nachappa is finding out. Nachappa studies interactions between insects, diseases, and plant life at the molecular level to help regional farmers protect their fields.

Combatting a New Strain

Nachappa’s research is focused on soybean aphids and soybean thrips, which are tiny bugs known to transmit diseases to crops right here in Indiana. One of the diseases Nachappa is currently studying is a brand-new strain of soybean virus—so new, in fact, that it only surfaced within the last decade.

Assistant Professor of Biology Punya Nachappa demonstrates her research to a student assistant.

Assistant Professor of Biology Punya Nachappa demonstrates her research to a student assistant.

This particular strain has been devastating soybean crops throughout the north-central Midwestern states, including in Indiana. Nachappa is at the forefront of the research needed by farmers to control and prevent its spread.

Traditionally, farmers employ pesticides to combat the spread of disease among their crops. However, insects can develop resistances to pesticides, rendering them ineffective and counterproductive. Nachappa hopes that by understanding these diseases and the insects that carry them at the molecular level, she can find new and innovative responses to them.

Ecological Consequences

Nachappa’s research also investigates how large-scale environmental conditions impact insect behavior and fecundity, along with crop production and yield.

Utilizing gene expression and transcriptomic analysis, Nachappa is able to better understand how aphids and thrips, and the pathogens they carry and transmit, are affecting farmers’ yields—and hopefully, how to prevent serious ecological and agricultural consequences.

If you didn’t have scientists working on these issues, there’s no way growers are going to know about it.
— Punya Nachappa
Professor Nachappa is studying a brand new soybean viral disease in her labs.

Professor Nachappa is studying a brand new soybean viral disease in her labs.

Partnerships with Industry

Nachappa’s research is partially funded through a partnership with the Indiana Soybean Alliance. As part of this program, she has opportunities to interact directly with regional soybean growers and present her research to those who need it most.

This partnership has propelled Nachappa’s research to national attention.

Having this regional support has helped me gain leverage at the national level in getting USDA grants.
— Punya Nachappa

A Full Laboratory

Nachappa makes a special effort to include students in her research. She’s quick to describe the opportunities for students to get involved and join her in her labs, noting that IPFW’s small class sizes allow students to approach her after class and ask to be part of her research.

It’s incredible, the amount of great research that’s going on here where students can get involved.
— Punya Nachappa
Professor Nachappa welcomes student research assistants to join in her work.

Professor Nachappa welcomes student research assistants to join in her work.


What does life look like under the microscope? In the Department of Biology, you will have rich opportunities to work closely with faculty in research environments and laboratories. Study the science of life the way it should be—up close and personal. We graduate scientists, pharmacists, ecologists, and more. Our programs include biology, medical technology, ecology and evolutionary biology, pre-forestry, pre-agriculture, pre-veterinary, and pre-pharmacy. Learn more.

Andres Montenegro

Communications and Marketing

Augmented Reality: Where Art and Technology Collide

There’s a new kind of magic happening in the Visual Communication and Design studios of the IPFW campus.

Assistant Professor of Computer Animation Andres Montenegro is using his decades of experience in modeling and animation to change the way we interact with art, technology, data, and stories. His research into augmented reality and haptic technologies has the potential to completely upend the distinction between what’s real and what’s imagined.

Augmented reality allows stories to leap up off the page and into our hands.

Augmented reality allows stories to leap up off the page and into our hands.

Your Everyday Life. Plus a Little More.

Augmented reality works by superimposing digital images or animation over a view of a physical environment—for example, showing turn-by-turn directions superimposed on the road ahead of you or the yellow line of a first down on a football field. These images augment or supplement the world we can already see, granting us greater insight or perspective than our eyes alone can see.

Augmented reality is sort of like virtual reality, except instead of simulating an environment these technologies build upon the one we already live in.

The real-world applications are almost limitless. Imagine if your surgeon could monitor your vitals without breaking eye contact with the incision; if your front windshield displayed traffic data for the journey ahead; if you could reach inside your tablet and touch the information you’re viewing.

Haptic technology responds to the human touch.

Haptic technology responds to the human touch.


If this sounds like a faraway future, it’s not.

The smartphone in your pocket is already capable of instantly translating signs and road markers through its camera. Gamers have reached whole new levels of immersion and interactivity through consumer products like Microsoft’s Kinect and the upcoming Oculus Rift headset. And with the release and adoption of new personal electronic devices—such as Google Glass or the Apple Watch—the ways with which we view, perceive, organize, and react to data are constantly evolving.

Industry giants like Apple, Microsoft, and Google are investing millions of dollars into R&D to find and hone new applications for augmented reality in our homes, offices, and pockets.

This is a fully immersive, but at the same time interactive, narrative.
— Andres Montenegro
Professor Montenegro demonstrates how computer modeling and animation can recreate environments.

Professor Montenegro demonstrates how computer modeling and animation can recreate environments.

Coming into Contact with our Stories.

Montenegro’s research is focused on bringing stories to life through haptic technologies—bringing the narrative up off the page and “into” the audience’s hands.

This kind of tactile storytelling has incredible implications well beyond entertainment purposes; Montenegro is particularly interested in partnering with regional and community business leaders to find creative implementations for his work.

Reducing the distance between our physical world and the worlds we create—even in an age when so much of ourselves are kept behind touchscreen glass—could profoundly reshape how we live, work, and play.

And IPFW Professor Andres Montenegro is right at the forefront of this revolution, encouraging us to reach out and touch what used to seem impossible.


It takes a skilled eye and a steady hand to design jaw-dropping print and digital assets. The Department of Visual Communication and Design can help you find exciting new applications for your unique sense of style. We graduate designers, artists, photographers, and more. Our programs include graphic design, imaging and photography, modeling and animation, and interior design. Learn more