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The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Zollars Named Fellow of ASEE

Richard Zollars
Richard Zollars

Richard Zollars, professor in the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering has been named a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). The award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education, according to the ASEE website.

With WSU since 1978, Zollars served as department chair and then interim director of the school for 14 years. He has received several department teaching awards and has been involved in engineering education efforts.

In the area of K–12 teacher development, Zollars led the development of SWEET, or Summer at WSU Engineering Experiences for Teachers. The program, which has subsequently been established at a national level, invites middle and high school teachers to an intensive, six-week course that introduces them to engineering research and encourages development of curricula that they can bring back into their classrooms.

In the university engineering classroom, Zollars helped to develop a software environment called ChemProV (Chemical Process Visualizer). The software presents chemical engineering students with dynamically-generated feedback on their process flow diagrams and equations, guiding them toward correct solutions. Students using the program do a better job of problem-solving than those using traditional learning methods.

He has recently received support from the National Science Foundation’s Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES) program on a project to use ChemProV to facilitate studio-based learning in chemical engineering classes. The idea is to develop a learning environment similar to what one finds in architecture design studios, so that students present solutions to their peers and instructor for critical review and discussion. Faculty at 10 institutions around the U.S. are experimenting with and documenting the software and the studio-based effort in their material/energy balance courses.

Zollars’ research areas include interfacial phenomena, polymer science and engineering, and surface and colloid science. He also serves as advisor for the WSU student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). Zollars and the student group several years ago developed the idea for the society’s national chemical car competition, in which student teams design, build, and race miniature cars that run off of a chemical reaction.

Zollars will be honored at the ASEE annual conference, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, in June.

Voiland Study Examines Neck Pain Related to Tablet PCs

Dr. Anita Vasaveda and Dr. David Lin discuss tablet neck strain with graduate student Derek Nevins
Dr. Anita Vasaveda and Dr. David Lin work with graduate student Derek Nevins

PULLMAN, Wash. – IPad and other tablet PC users increasingly report neck pain associated with use of the popular hand-held devices. Two Washington State University researchers have received funding to investigate how different tablet PC usage patterns potentially affect neck pain.

Anita Vasavada and David Lin, both bioengineering associate professors, were awarded $25,890 from the Office Ergonomics Research Committee. Ergonomics is the study of design of workplace equipment that fits the human body, its movements and abilities. The committee includes representatives from Apple, Microsoft, HP, Dell and many other companies.

Giving industry, consumers knowledge they need

Results from the study could help develop guidelines for consumers on how best to use the devices.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration already has guidelines for computer monitors and their height adjustments, Lin said. Data from the WSU study will become part of the literature OSHA could use to make similar decisions concerning tablet PCs.

Tablet use on the rise

Professors and students looking at tablet PC
(l to r) Steven Monda (junior, Bioengineering), Dr. Anita Vasavada, Derek Nevins (BS Bioengineering, 2009; MS Engineering 2012), and Dr. David Lin
Within the last three years, tablet PCs have reached the hands of 11 percent of Americans, according to a report published in October 2011 by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

By 2014, one in five Americans plan to own or purchase a tablet PC, according to Fuze Box, a provider of Internet and mobile based unified communications solutions. One-third of those owners plan to use the device for business.

Tablet PCs generally are used in business environments for emails, note taking, messaging, viewing and creating, Lin said.

Increasing sales and use of tablet PCs in the home and workplace have brought anecdotal association between neck pain, neck muscle fatigue and use of the devices.

“We can’t say definitively that chronic neck pain is caused by use of the devices,” Vasavada said. “However, it is likely that abnormal postures adopted while using tablet PCs increase mechanical loads in the neck; but no studies have examined the mechanical demands on neck muscles while using tablet PCs.”

Calculating muscle demand

Participants in the WSU study will use the tablet PCs in a workplace-like manner, completing reading and keyboarding tasks in different positions—handheld, on a table and in the lap—both with and without stands.

X-rays will be taken to document the neck posture during these tasks. The data will be used in a computer model to estimate how much muscle force is needed for participants to hold their necks in each posture, Vasavada said.

Excessive forward head positioning can lead to muscle fatigue and compression of joints and tissues, she said. Eventually, this can damage discs, nerve endings and joints.

Study participants sought

About 30 people, with an age range of 18–45, will take part in the study. The age is limited because older people tend to have a higher incidence of neck pain from other causes, Vasavada said.

The researchers are recruiting subjects who have at least one month experience using a tablet PC for the study. To participate, please contact them at or 335-7533.

David Lin, associate professor/scientist, Chemical Engineering & Bioengineering, 509-335-7534,
Anita Vasavada, associate professor/scientist, Chemical Engineering & Bioengineering, 509-335-7533,

Read this article at WSU News