CoE News Briefs June 2019

Lyash, MEM ’84, Named President of Tennessee Valley Authority

Jeff Lyash
Jeffrey Lyash ’84

Drexel College of Engineering alumnus Jeffrey Lyash, MEM ’84, has been named president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an  $11 billion federal corporation and one of the nation’s most important energy agencies. Lyash, 57, was the president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation, Inc. of Canada prior to being named to the TVA.

At TVA, he will succeed William D. Johnson, who has been at the helm since 2013.

Lyash was formerly president of CB&I Power, and executive vice president of energy supply for Duke Energy. He began his career in the utility industry in 1981, joining Progress Energy in 1993 where he held a wide range of management and executive roles that gave him extensive corporate and operations leadership experience, according to a TVA press release.

Lyash has also worked for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), holding senior technical and management positions throughout the northeast United States and in Washington, DC. He is currently chair of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an international non-profit organization for public interest energy and environmental research.

“I am excited about the opportunity to lead TVA, an organization with a great sense of purpose not only to provide reliable, low-cost energy—which is a critical underpinning for how we live— but to improve the lives of people of the Tennessee Valley and the United States through economic development and environmental stewardship,” said Lyash in the press release.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies. It serves nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity, according to the press release. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.

Lyash joined TVA in early April and operates from its Knoxville, TN headquarters. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the College of Engineering, and was inducted into the College of Engineering Alumni Circle of Distinction in 2009. Lyash will relocate to Knoxville with his wife Tracy. Jeff enjoys fly fishing and golfing; together the Lyashes enjoy cooking, skiing, reading, and charitable work. They have two married children and nine grandchildren.

Drexel Sailing Team Participates in Int’l Regatta

The Drexel Sailing Team – which includes six CoE students as regular members – placed 16th out of 31 teams in one of the world’s largest collegiate offshore races, the 51st edition of the EDHEC Offshore Regatta in Les Sables d’Olonne and Port Olona, France this spring.

Sponsored in part by the College of Engineering, the Drexel team braved rainy and foggy weather, 30 hours on the water, seven days of sailing, 8.7 knots, a ripped spinnaker, and one “man overboard” maneuver (to pick up an item) sailing the 30-foot Flibustier, a boat they didn’t “meet” until their arrival in France.

Team members who participated in the regatta include Frederick Piasecki, Lindsey Winter, Paula Jaume Cabot, Jacob Nantz, James Giebel, Tyler Kaplan, Stephen Young, and Haley Clemson.

Skipper Fredrick Piasecki kept a daily log of the event. Day Three proved especially compelling, with 6.5 hours on the water: “After a long postponement, the team watched as the five-minute start flag went up. Trimming hard with a really good boat start, the Flibustier flew up the course. Arriving up the windward mark around mid-fleet, it was time for our first racing spinnaker set of the week, a pivotal moment that can determine where you place the entire race.

“Rounding the mark, the boat sprung into action, the spin pole went up, the lines were fed, and the spinnaker shot out of the hatch, filling fast and propelling the boat forward,” Piasecki wrote. “With a quick glance behind us, we saw many other boats struggling to match our speed and efficiency in the spinnaker set.”

The team was pleased with their finish.

First held in 1969, the EDHEC Offshore Regatta has involved more than 160 universities over the years.

Drexel NSBE Attends National Conference

The Drexel Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) sent a record 42 members to the NSBE 45th Annual National Conference in Detroit, Michigan this spring, providing them with the opportunity to connect with other NSBE members, companies, and employers nationwide.

“The workshops, fairs, activities, and other opportunities offered at NSBE 45 served to enrich our members with skills and connections useful for their futures, as well as the much-needed community to support them in their academic and professional careers,” said DeShaye Carter, chapter president for 2018-2019. “We surely had an amazing experience.”

Here are a few chapter accomplishments from the convention:

  • The Drexel chapter was awarded the Most Distinguished Chapter of the Year in NSBE Region 2;
  • Oluwadamilola Bolarin presented research and displayed his poster on Isosorbide Methacrylate as a key building-block in thermally & UV cured bio-based polymer systems (under Dr. Guiseppe R. Palmese);
  • Ledornubari Ann Nwilene and Debjyoti Ghosh placed first and third in the Google Hackathon;
  • Salimah Hussian and Alicia Clark were presented with $2,000 Graduate Fellows scholarships and recognized onstage.

“Attending national conventions is proven to give our members a chance to display their skills, learn, and network,” said Carter. “Overall, this convention places students in an environment with endless opportunities.”

Girls STEM Camp Faculty Volunteers Needed

The College of Engineering will again host an intensive experiential summer camp for Philadelphia-area girls interested in learning about STEM subjects. But this year the camp – now part of the Eureka! program – will run for a full month. The demand for increased programming drove the expansion of this celebrated outreach event pioneered by Dr. Simi Hoque, associate professor in the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering (CAEE).

Girls STEM camp

The program will run from July 5 to August 2 at the Innovation Studio and in labs and classrooms across the college. Participating girls gain first-hand knowledge through a variety of compelling activities that explore the cutting-edge world of STEM through experiences in a college campus environment. With complementary activities in healthy living, social justice, and financial literacy, Eureka!'s approach fosters educational, professional, and personal development.

“It is an honor for Drexel to be a part of these young girls’ STEM journeys,” said Hoque. “The program will expose Eureka girls to a diversity of science and engineering subjects, to build relationships with faculty, and to be mentored by undergraduate and graduate students. I think this is a huge opportunity for us to give back to our community by being a part of the growth of the next generation of women scientists and engineers.”

Volunteers who can design and lead workshops that are hands-on, engaging, and enhance STEM motivation and interest are strongly urged to contact Simi Hoque at or Kim Spina at for more information.

Ito Aghayere, Daughter of CAEE Prof, to Appear in “Carol’s Second Act”

Actress Ito Aghayere, daughter of CAEE Professor Dr. Abi Aghayere, is starring in the CBS show “Carol’s Second Act,” as a season regular alongside Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton. The comedy sitcom premiers this fall.

Ito Aghayere
Ito Aghayere

“Carol’s Second Act,” written by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, is about a woman who has retired from teaching and finished raised her two children, and is finally pursuing her dream to become a doctor. Aghayere will play the part of Dr. Maya, the demanding chief resident in charge of Carol and the other three interns.

The show airs beginning this fall on Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

Ito graduated from Duke University with a BA in political science, and with a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University.

PhD Student Berman Receives Pipes Award

Bryan Berman
Bryan Berman

Bryan Berman, a CAEE PhD student, was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Professor Wesley O. Pipes Environmental Engineering Student Award. The award for $1,000 is given to a graduate student in environmental engineering whose research shows the most innovative potential, demonstrates an understanding of “giving back” after graduation, and represents a deep personal commitment to enhancing the environment.

Berman has implemented a novel method for sensitivity analysis for a thermodynamic model for aerosol. He has demonstrated a commitment to “giving back” by mentoring students from underprivileged neighborhoods in triathlons while in graduate school, and is committed to addressing environmental issues with a special interest in indoor air quality.

Berman’s advisor is Dr. Shannon Capps, assistant professor, CAEE.

Dr. Montalto on a Joint “Climate Proofing Cities” Project with Venice

Dr. Franco Montalto, associate professor, CAEE, has been working for the past several years with the Universita luav di Venezia in Venice on a project called “Climate Proofing Cities.” His counterpart, Dr. Francesco Musco, brings his urban planning and architecture students to Philadelphia in May each year; Montalto will take his engineering students to Venice in September.

Franco Montalto
Dr. Franco Montalto

Montalto and Musco are interested in developing new strategies to prepare urban populations and urban infrastructure for climate variability and change, and in embedding in their students on-the-ground decision-making skills around this topic. Urban resilience and sustainable development are only achievable through grassroots and participatory engagement and are needed in places that have historically been the most vulnerable. In recent years, Montalto has brought IAUV students to West Philadelphia, the Eastwick section of Philadelphia, and Southeast Queens, New York. Last year, they started working in the Cramer Hill section of Camden; this year, they are continuing in Camden.

The goal is to develop a multifunctional Green Infrastructure Master Plan for Cramer Hill. This plan will divert storm water to green spaces to reduce local flooding (projected to worsen as a result of climate change) and will also provide meaningful co-benefits for the local community. To determine which co-benefits would be most valuable locally, the team has been interacting with Camden’s Power Corps. Montalto’s students conducted semi-structured interviews of 14 Power Corps members as part of the Spring 2019 CIVE 564 class. In addition, Drexel MS student Joseph McGovern, who is using this project as his thesis, and Montalto held a meeting with Power Corps members in Camden to review what they had learned and to jointly develop guidelines for the development of the Master Plan.

CoE to Host ASEM Conference

This October, the College of Engineering will host the International Annual Conference for the American Society of Engineering Management (ASEM). ASEM is a global professional society dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the engineering and technical management profession.

The conference will be held from October 23 to 26. This year’s theme is “A Systems Approach to Engineering Management Solutions.” Everyone in the Drexel Engineering community with an interest in the management of technological and engineering activities is invited to attend.

For more information or to register, you can visit the ASEM website.

(Contributions from Kim Spina and Chris Morse.)