Editorial Team
Leading Digital Innovation to Empower Future Resilient Engineering Workforce 

SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering in Dallas, Texas, is on the cusp of an extraordinary new era. Over the past year, the school has undertaken a journey toward transforming into a world-class, research-focused and student-centric educational experience for future engineers.

Through digital innovation and modular paradigm in both teaching and research, the school is not just shaping the future; it is molding the future of engineering.  Our goal is to produce future engineers who will not only excel as a resilient workforce but also emerge as innovative and forward-thinking leaders in their respective fields.

“Technologies like artificial intelligence in all modes of learning including narrative, collaborative and equitable, augmented and mixed reality, data science and quantum computing are fundamentally reshaping the way engineers work,” said Nadar Jalili, Mary and Richard Templeton Dean of SMU Lyle. “Lyle is at the forefront of this transformation.”

From pioneering a brand-new Center for Digital and Human-Augmented Manufacturing to serving a pivotal role in the SMU-led Texoma Tech Hub that will unify the semiconductor supply chain, SMU Lyle is poised to provide an education that prepares students for the challenges of today and equips them with the skills and knowledge to excel in the engineering world of tomorrow.

Nadar Jalili, Mary and Richard Templeton Dean of SMU Lyle

Pioneering Digital Manufacturing

When Dean Jalili joined SMU in the spring of 2023, he realized SMU Lyle needed more room for growth with traditional and experimental manufacturing. Previously, he led the creation of the Alabama Initiative on Manufacturing Development and Education at the University of Alabama, designed to better prepare future highly skilled workers and guide research on automation, human-robot collaboration and augmentation.

He envisioned a new center uniquely positioned for research innovation that integrated digital modeling, simulations, augmented/mixed reality, robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence in manufacturing processes, and that leveraged collaboration with industry partners in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It would also benefit from the computational research power of one of the top high-performance computing clusters in the Southeast.

“Instead of investing in million-dollar equipment, we’re utilizing our high-performance computing power to create the most sophisticated virtual version, which is this digital twin concept,” Dean Jalili said. “You would build a digital model in virtual reality with interactive and continuous connections with the physical plant, and start experimenting in your imagination. This is now becoming a trend in many industries – aerospace, manufacturing, healthcare and finance, to just name a few.”

The new Center for Digital and Human-Augmented Manufacturing, spanning 5,000 square feet and slated to open in April, will serve as a nexus for students, researchers, and industry partners to explore the evolving realms of engineering and Industry 4.0+.

“Through digital transformation and innovation, we are preparing both Lyle and the Dallas-Fort Worth tech landscape for the future,” Dean Jalili said.

The Center for Digital and Human-Augmented Manufacturing is part of SMU Lyle’s broader vision for digital innovation, which includes:

Cultivating Innovation in Research and Transformative Industry Partnerships: The new center will serve as a beacon for innovation, empowering students and researchers to drive transformative advancements in engineering.

Empowering Student Leadership and Enriching Learning Environments: Through digital twin initiatives and engagement with industry partners, students will have unique opportunities to cultivate essential leadership skills and connect with the business community.

Leading Digital Innovation in Education and Research: SMU Lyle’s innovative approach, including the LyleAnywhere™ platform, provides students with flexible learning options tailored to diverse needs and circumstances, ensuring a dynamic and inclusive educational experience.

“Our commitment to digital innovation extends beyond the classroom, empowering students to thrive in an ever-evolving technological landscape, being able to become their more agile and resilient version ” Dean Jalili said.

Leading Semiconductor Innovation

SMU has been designated the lead agency for a federally funded economic development initiative to strengthen, build on and drive innovation in the existing semiconductor supply chain in 29 counties in North Texas and Oklahoma through regional collaboration and workforce development.

The initiative, announced by The White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce in October 2023, is designed to develop and grow innovative industries in regions across the country. The SMU-led Texoma Semiconductor Hub, one of 31 announced across the country, is the only hub designated in Texas and includes a consortium of members from private industry, local governments, colleges and universities, tribal communities and nonprofit organizations.

The 41- member Texoma Semiconductor Innovation Consortium is eligible to compete for up to $75 million in funding through The CHIPS and Science Act, signed into law in August 2022. The consortium now begins the planning and development phase to build the model to promote enhanced collaboration, expand the region’s technical workforce and catalyze the commercialization of technological advancements through the development of:

  • “Fablets” – sophisticated, targeted and accessible labs with equipment for electronic design, semiconductor manufacturing, packaging and/or testing throughout the region, specifically addressing the needs in underserved areas.
  • Commercialization Councils link innovators, venture capitalists and industry representatives throughout the supply chain to commercialize and manufacture new ideas and products.
  • Workforce Development Councils promote opportunities at multiple skill levels for students and adult learners to enter the workforce, acquire new knowledge and obtain advanced degrees and certifications while minimizing the time it takes to do so. The outreach education will begin at the K-12 level while adult learners can find a pathway to advance their careers in semiconductor industry.

Under the leadership of the SMU Office of Research and Innovation, the Tech Hub consortium was organized by Dr. Jennifer Dworak, Dr. Scott Douglas, and Dr. J.-C. Chiao, professors in the SMU Lyle School’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The consortium’s goal is to support national security and impact many industries directly, including the automobile, energy, healthcare and communications industries.

Mastering the Next Quantum Revolution

A new Master of Science in Quantum Engineering program offered at SMU Lyle delves deep into the realms of quantum informatics and engineering, empowering students to innovate and refine advanced processes, systems, and devices. This comprehensive program exposes students to a myriad of quantum engineering domains, ranging from sensing and computation to communications and customized systems. By embracing both established principles and emerging technologies, students are equipped to thrive in a rapidly evolving landscape.

At SMU Lyle, the undergraduate engineering curriculum is designed with a blend of traditional credit-bearing coursework and non-traditional project-based modular learning experiences, ensuring that graduates emerge as highly proficient individuals ready to tackle real-world challenges. By integrating opportunities from various centers and institutes into the curriculum, such as the Hart Center for Engineering Leadership, the Hart Institute for Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Deason Innovation Gym, and the Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity, students are not only equipped with technical prowess but also imbued with innovation, mentorship, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills. Our differentiating signature lies in our resilient engineering workforce, characterized by lifelong learners and forward-thinking leaders.

Throughout their undergraduate journey, students at SMU Lyle engage with world-renowned scholars and industry leaders who bring with them a wealth of teaching and research experiences from esteemed institutions like MIT, Berkeley, Cambridge, Brown, and the University of Texas at Austin. This close interaction fosters a culture of communication and accessibility between faculty and students, ensuring personalized attention and maximizing learning experiences. With a remarkable graduate student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, SMU Lyle cultivates enduring relationships between students and instructors, facilitating a conducive environment for academic growth and development.

“Our commitment to nurturing well-rounded engineers extends beyond the classroom, ensuring that every student receives personalized attention and guidance to excel in their chosen field,” Dean Jalili said.

Fostering Cutting-Edge Research

From advancing AI capabilities to improving infrastructure inequities in low-income neighborhoods, researchers at SMU Lyle are at the forefront of diverse and groundbreaking projects.

Focus areas include:

AI and machine learning: Dr. Digvijay Boob leads efforts to advance AI capabilities, focusing on enhancing machine learning efficiency to promote fairness in algorithms, optimize inventory management, and improve decision-making processes in power plant control. Dr. Jia Zhang collaborates with NASA on MATA, an intelligent assistant for Earth science research. Dr. Corey Clark addresses bias in facial recognition technology by generating synthetic datasets to tackle fairness issues and ethical concerns.

Data and cybersecurity: Dr. Klyne Smith’s expertise lies in datacenter systems, where he contributes insights into cybersecurity challenges posed by quantum computers and explores potential military applications for quantum-safe communication technology.

Biomedical and human health: Dr. Janille Smith-Colin investigates the impact of transportation improvements on health outcomes for vulnerable populations, while Dr. J.-C. Chiao explores medical applications of electromagnetic waves, particularly in pain management and gastric motility. Additionally, Ph.D. student Khengdauliu Chawang developed a miniature pH sensor for real-time monitoring of food freshness. Dr. MinJun Kim contributed to a cost-effective method for detecting nuclease digestion, crucial for applications like COVID-19 testing.

Infrastructure equity: Dr. Barbara Minsker developed an Infrastructure Dashboard Prototype to identify areas lacking essential infrastructure in Dallas, aiding scientists, policymakers, and residents in enhancing neighborhood conditions. Dr. Khaled Abdelghany is working on PANORAMA, an AI-based program to improve intersection safety and efficiency nationwide.

Responsible mining: Dr. Kate Smits examined mercury emission estimates worldwide, emphasizing the need for comprehensive reporting to facilitate effective reduction efforts under the Minamata Convention.

These diverse projects epitomize the innovative research happening at SMU Lyle, addressing critical challenges across various fields with the aim of creating a positive impact on society.

“Our commitment to fostering cutting-edge research not only propels academic excellence but also drives innovation and societal advancement,” Dean Jalili said.

Empowering Future Engineers

The Hart Center for Engineering Leadership at SMU Lyle integrates elite technical education with exceptional leadership and professional development skills, nurturing world-changing engineers. With a focus on leveraging Dallas-Fort Worth’s thriving business environment, the center provides students with the necessary foundation to cultivate leadership skills and achieve their professional aspirations.

“With expert guidance from the Hart Center team, Lyle students are engineered to lead and programmed to succeed,” Dean Jalili said.

The Darwin Deason Institute for Cyber Security drives advancements in cyber security through problem-driven, interdisciplinary research open to student participation. Committed to emerging as a world-class research center, the Institute innovates, develops, and delivers solutions to the nation’s most challenging cyber security problems.

The Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity is dedicated to developing and scaling sustainable and affordable technologies and solutions to address challenges in all communities. Serving as a hub for collaboration among business, academia, and governmental organizations, the institute fosters market-based sustainable mechanisms to create equitable and inclusive opportunities worldwide.

Lyle’s Career Services offers a comprehensive range of programs and services focused on career exploration and professional development for students at all levels. Unique networking opportunities, such as Mock Interview Day and the Engineering Connections Career Fair, equip Lyle students with the tools needed for success in the workforce.

The SMU Lyle Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program provides students with hands-on research experience alongside faculty members, preparing them for graduate school or careers in engineering research.

“These initiatives underscore SMU Lyle’s commitment to empowering students with the resources and support needed to excel in their academic and professional pursuits,” Dean Jalili said.

Ensuring All Students Thrive

To provide an inclusive and supportive environment at SMU Lyle, the Thrive Scholars peer-mentoring program was formulated to offer academic and social support to first-year and transfer students who are traditionally underrepresented in engineering and computer science fields. Through one-on-one support from upper-class peer mentors, mentees receive guidance and assistance during their initial year at SMU.

The program, which sets a profound example of what peer mentorship should be across university campuses, has grown by roughly 150% over the past two years.

“The Thrive Scholars Program embodies our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion within the engineering community, ensuring that all students have the resources they need to succeed,” Dean Jalili said.

Student clubs and organizations also play a vital role in enhancing diversity, equity, and inclusion capabilities at Lyle. With over 22 engineering student organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and Society of Women Engineers, students have ample opportunities for involvement and support. The Lyle Industry Mentorship Program and the Lyle Undergraduate Advising and Academic Support Program further connect students to mentors, tutors, and other resources.

Cultivating Engineering Leaders

At SMU Lyle, every student is empowered to create innovative solutions to change the world.​

Our goal is to provide leadership training for every student. Employers consistently highlight the readiness of Lyle graduates to engage with customers and lead teams early in their careers. It’s a testament to our commitment to cultivating leadership skills from day one.

Through personalized leadership assessments, one-on-one mentorship, and immersive entrepreneurial experiences, every student at Lyle is afforded the opportunity to develop the leadership skills that are essential for their success.

“The Lyle School of Engineering has unmatched potential to lead superior quality research and education programs as well as to prepare students to become leaders and innovators in solving the rapidly challenging problems of the 21st century,” Dean Jalili said. “We are advancing our institution to become one of the most innovative engineering schools, known for producing engineers who are agile, resilient, technically strong, multidisciplinary and capable of innovations to lead and develop solutions to meet society’s needs.”

For More Info: https://www.smu.edu/lyle

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