The Michigan Engineer News Center

ECE celebrates African American Engineers

The impact of these gifted individuals spans many fields and industries.| Long Read

In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month, ECE would like to draw attention to the many contributions made by its African American faculty, students, and alumni. The impact of these gifted individuals spans many fields and industries. Included in the list is the first African American woman to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering, and the first African American faculty member in the College of Engineering.



Enlargeherbert winful
IMAGE:  Prof. Herbert Winful

Prof. Herbert Winful‘s creative approach to life fuels the energy needed to support his varied contributions to education and to his fellow man. He has been praised for his tireless efforts as PI on a major USAID project to help rebuild Liberia’s universities and infrastructure. He serves on the STEM-Africa Steering Committee in the African Studies Center in the U-M International Institute, a program that he was instrumental in developing and has since co-chaired twice. He also serves as faculty advisor to the U-M Society of Minority Engineers and Scientists – Graduate Component.

Prof. Winful played a major role in creating the interdisciplinary course, UARTS 250: The Creative Process, and is highly regarded as a teacher, receiving both the Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu Teacher of the Year awards. He is also an outstanding researcher of theoretical nonlinear optics.

Watch Prof. Winful’s talk at the 2015 TEDxUofM event.




Enlargeprof leo mcafee

Prof. Leo McAfee, the first African American professor hired by the College of Engineering in 1971, served the EECS department for 40 years before his retirement in 2010.As Education Thrust Leader for the Center for Wireless Integrated MicroSystems (WIMS), he influenced the lives of hundreds of future engineers during his tenure. In partnership with Michigan State University, he and his colleagues produced more than 80 summer and academic year courses, attended by more than 4,000 students. He personally attended almost every Saturday morning Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program outreach event. Prof. Ken Wise, former Director of the WIMS Center, stated in his remarks, “Over 60% of those students were minorities and over 50% were women. And of those graduating from high school, over 60% have gone on to college careers in science and engineering. That is having impact–and that is changing lives.”

Prof. McAfee conducted research in the area of numerical and circuit modeling of integrated circuits, networks for automated semiconductor manufacturing, and computer network devices. He and his group were important contributors to the SECS Message Service (SMS) protocol, which was adopted as a standard by SEMI (Semiconductor Equipment and Materials, Inc.) in 1989. This standard had a significant impact on semiconductor factory automation.

Read more about Prof. McAfee’s retirement, including photos from the ceremony.



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Dr. Kevin M. Carter (MSE PhD EE ’06 ’09) is an Associate Leader in the Cyber Analytics and Decision Systems Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. He joined the Laboratory in February of 2009 and has been working on problems of network security, situational awareness, and anomaly detection. His focus lies in large-scale network traffic analysis, identifying patterns of interest in the midst of overwhelming noise. The emphasis on cyber modeling is part of a larger need for a “Science of Cyber,” focusing less on ad hoc and one-off solutions and applying sound scientific principles to understand cyber environments.Dr. Carter developed several algorithms that took an information geometric approach to dimensionality reduction using the properties of statistical manifolds. These methods were applied to many practical applications, the most noteworthy of which is flow cytometry analysis.



Prof. Todd Coleman (BS EE CE ’00) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California, San Diego. He leads the Neural Interaction Lab, working on such projects as brain-machine interfaces and machine learning.

One of Prof. Coleman’s biggest research goals is to make measuring health and sensing inside the body possible at home. Rather than choose between costly time at the hospital and unreliable data, he wants patients to have the technical advantages of medical monitoring devices in small, convenient packages. Some of his work in this space has resulted in thin, flexible sensors for monitoring pregnancies, smaller brain measurement sensors, and groundbreaking sensors for gastro-intestinal health.

Beginning Fall 2009, Prof. Coleman has served as a co-Principal Investigator on a 5-year NSF IGERT interdisciplinary training grant for graduate students, titled “Neuro-engineering: A Unified Educational Program for Systems Engineering and Neuroscience”. He was a Fellow with the University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study for the 2010-2011 academic year.  He served on the DARPA ISAT study group from 2009-2012, and since 2012 has served as a science advisor for the Science & Entertainment Exchange (National Academy of Sciences).  He has been named a 2015 Gilbreth Lecturer by the National Academy of Engineering; a “Root 100″ list member as one of 100 African Americans, ages 25 to 45, responsible for the year’s most significant moments, movements and ideas; and a speaker for the 2015 TEDMED annual event. His research has been featured on CNNBBC, and the New York Times.

Read “Sensors from Head to Toe – Todd Coleman Makes Measuring Health Simpler.”



Enlargedarryl conlife

Darryl Conliffe (BSE EE ’72, MSE CICE ’73) is a financial needs analyst and owner of Conliffe and Associates in the Greater Detroit area. Currently, he recruits, trains, and develops individuals to assist families in getting out of debt, becoming financially independent, and repairing the damage the recent economic downturn has done to retirement finances.


Enlargemary crosby

Mary Crosby (BS EE ’87, MBA Marketing and Entrepreneurial Management ’94) is Managing Editor of and founder of FruitfulWorks, Inc. This company develops internet marketing strategies designed to reach a faith-based market. Previously, Mary had many years of experience in engineering and management at Chrysler.


Enlargecharlotte decker

Charlotte Decker (BSE MSE CE ’85 ’86, MBA Business Administration ’91) is an information technology executive with over 21 years of experience across three major industries: specialty retail, automotive OEM, and tier-one automotive parts supply. She’s led large- and medium-sized technology organizations, and managed capital and expense budgets ranging from $3 million to $50 million.Read Charlotte’s thoughts on women in STEM fields.



Douglas Densmore (BSE CE ’01) is an Associate Professor of ECE at Boston University, and the director of Boston’s Cross-disciplinary Integration of Design Automation Research (CIDAR) group. He and his team develop computational and experimental tools for synthetic biology.Dr. Densmore’s research area is in the development of System Level Design methodologies for electronic systems; specifically architecture modeling and refinement verification. His background and interests are in Computer Architecture, Logic Synthesis, and Digital Logic Design. Dr. Densmore’s industry experience includes four+ summers with Intel Corporation where he was involved in pre-silicon design efforts regarding chipset development, post-silicon validation of the Pentium 4 microprocessor, and chipset software validation. He has also worked as a researcher at Cypress Semiconductor and Xilinx Research Labs. Dr. Densmore is currently a member of the Gigascale Systems Research Center (GSRC) and the Center for Hybrid and Embedded Software Systems (CHESS) at UC Berkeley, and has a US patent pending regarding data characterization of programmable devices.

Check out Dr. Densmore’s research at Boston University’s CIDAR Lab.

Read about Dr. Densmore’s NSF-funded project to quantify synthetic biology with a computer engineering approach.


Enlargerhonda franklin

Rhonda Franklin Drayton (MS PhD EE ’90 ’95) is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests focus on exploring the use of Microelectronic Mechanical Structures (MEMS) in radio frequency (RF) and microwave applications related to wireless, mobile, and satellite communications systems. She leads the Microwave Packaging and Circuit Technology Group.

Prof. Franklin uses her influence to attract a diverse student population to the STEM field, and her own field of applied electromagnetics. She believes the best research results are achieved from a diversity of backgrounds, something she learned as a graduate student at Michigan and fosters in her own research group at Minnesota.

Prof. Franklin was on campus to take part in the 2016 NextProf Workshop, which brings highly qualified participants to campus to explore and prepare for a faculty position in engineering. This year’s Workshop focused on increasing diversity in engineering, and included undergraduate and first year graduate students to give them an introduction to academia.

Read a Q&A with Prof. Franklin about her work connecting with diverse students.



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Matthew Forsythe (BSE CE ’01, MS Information Economics, Management, and Policy ’03; also MA Education and MBA, Stanford University) has several years of experience as a senior product manager for a variety of companies, including Target, Groupon, and RetailMeNot. He now serves as Senior Director of Digital Product Management at GapLabs, where he works on innovating customer experiences.


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Garlin Gilchrist (BSE CE ’05) is the Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement for the City of Detroit, where he works to make city services accessible to its citizens through innovative technology. Garlin’s had a long career in tech that has allowed him to focus more and more on political and social activism. He previously worked as the Washington state social media manager for the Obama campaign, and later the National Campaign Director at

He’s also built a presence online as a voice for African American issues. He was a founder and co-contributor to SuperSpade, a blog on issues pertinent to African Americans, and a co-host of the Win Report on The Good Fight. The podcast debuted as the overall #1 podcast in iTunes and was named one of Apple’s “Best of 2013” podcasts.

Read more about Garlin’s career.

Watch Garlin’s 2015 talk on campus, “Unavailable Innovation.”



Enlargelydia gillius

Lydia Gillus (BSE CE ’96; also MBA, Loyola University) develops programs to get youth interested in STEM careers. She serves as the supervisor for the Chicao Field Museum’s Green Ambassadors Program, which introduces area students to antrhopological research methods through workshops and environmental stewardship activities. Additionally, Lydia is chapter advisor to the Chicagoland chapter of NSBE Jr, where she coordinates activities with local youth to give them hands-on experience with STEM fields.Prior to this, Lydia worked for nearly 20 years as a solutions engineer at Sprint.


Enlargeprof rashuanda henderson

Prof. Rashaunda Henderson (MSE PhD EE ’94 ’99) is an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Texas, Dallas. She is one of the establishing members of the High Frequency Circuits and Systems Laboratory, and conducts research in microwave and millimeter wave passive circuits, fabrication and process development of thin-film circuits, and enabling passives for high performance communication systems. She has spoken at the IEEE Frontiers of Engineering Education conference, where she described her experiments in splitting her lecture courses into one segment for teaching and one for interactive modules and experiments.Prof. Henderson worked at Motorola and Freescale Semiconductor before joining UT Dallas in 2007. She is a senior member of the IEEE and a member of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society, Women in Engineering, and Antennas and Propagation Society, Components, Packaging and Manufacturing Technology Society.

Read about Prof. Henderson’s innovating teaching techniques.


Enlargedr angelique johnson

Dr. Angelique Johnson (MSE PhD EE ’07 ’11) is the founder of MEMStim, a company that intends to disrupt the neurostimulator market with a new automated nanofabrication manufacturing method to replace hand assembly.

MEMStim make customizable micro-fabricated stimulators. The company sells MEMS electrode leads to medical device companies for integration into their targeted nerve stimulation devices. Tthe company is committed to improving the standard of patient care in neurostimulation. MEMStim is based in Kentucky, where Dr. Johnson leverages the expertise of a wide range of consultants, and is continuing to develop the technology in the cleanroom of the University of Louisville.

Additionally, Dr. Johnson teaches entrepreneurship courses in the University of Louisville’s business school, and takes on informal mentoring of students interested in grad school, research, or entrepreneurship.

Dr. Johnson won first prize in the 2011 Michigan Business Challenge, kickstarting her company’s early growth. She studied under Prof. Ken Wise, and conducted research as a member of the Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS).

Read how Dr. Johnson is “Cutting the Cost of Hearing”


Enlargejason johnson
Jason Johnson (BSE EE ’02) is an accomplished product manager and user interface engineer working as Director of User Experience at HARMAN International’s Connected Car project. The Connected Car is an interface for networking a variety of user interface and infotainment features in a car, including 3D and augmented navigation, multimedia support and smart apps for device integration, and high speed connectivity. Prior to his time at HARMAN, Jason had several years of experience with user interface engineering at Ford and General Motors.


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Tychaun Jones (BSE CE ’00) has served for over four years as a software engineer manager at Intel. Some of the projects he’s worked on include programming Windows drivers for Intel GPUs and leading tests on Xbox Live in his previous position with Microsoft. He’s also worked as test lead for Windows Mobile and Windows Presentation Foundation.


Enlargejibreel lockhart

Jibreel-Malik Lockhart (BSE EE ’02) is Vice President of Global Business Travel at American Express. In this position he supports a variety of Fortune 500 companies with travel and expenses needs, including global business planning, financial management, and technology integration. He’s worked at American Express in a variety of capacities for over 10 years, focusing on business development and innovation

Enlargejibreel received awards
IMAGE:  Jibreel was named one of NSBE's "50 Sexiest Engineers of 2008."


EnlargeWillie Hobbs Moore
IMAGE:  Willie Hobbs Moore.

Willie Hobbs Moore (1934–1994) made history as the first African American woman at Michigan to earn a BS and MS in Electrical Engineering (’58 and ’61). She then followed up on this record as the first African American woman in the country to earn a PhD in physics. She went on to work as a research scientist at U-M until 1977, researching spectroscopic work on proteins. In 1977, she became an assembly engineer at Ford, where she expanded Ford’s use of Japanese engineering and manufacturing methods. She was named one of the 100 “most promising black women in corporate America” by Ebony magazine in 1991.The University of Michigan established the Willie Hobbs Moore: Aspire, Advance, Achieve Award to recognize individuals who have served as formal or informal mentors to students in fields related to Science, Technology, and Engineering. It is sponsored by the Center for Engineering Diversity & Outreach and Women in Science & Engineering.

Read more about her career.


Enlargejames norman

James Norman (BSE EE ’05) is the founder and CEO of Pilotly, consumer insights platform that enables media companies to test content against targeted audiences at scale. Prior to this company, James founded and ran a number of other businesses. Most recently, he founded GroupFlix, an a la carte TV service that enables TV fans to choose their favorite shows and put in them into a monthly pass.Before that he founded or co-founded Ubi Video, a video sharing, viewing, and curating service; F1RST Motoring Apparel, an automotive lifestyle fashion label; Shift Marketing Solutions, an automotive marketing firm that developed concept vehicles and marketing strategies; and MJH, one of  the first online retailers for car and home audio.


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Steven Perkins (BSE EE ’83) has worked for many years as an instructor and training program analyst at Parkland Hospital. His current position of Measurement and Evaluation Analyst has him designing and maintaining Corporate and departmental surveys to be used to increase efficiency and effectiveness of training, business processes and employee related relationships.


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Darlene Phillips (BSE EE ’93, MBA Business Administration ’98) is Director, Strategic Policy Communications at PJM Interconnection, where she supports their regulatory, legislative, and stakeholder outreach efforts. She has worked for over 20 years in communication strategy and policy in the energy industry in companies such as Consumers Energy, Arthur Andersen Business Consulting, and Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). At MISO, she was Senior Director, Policy and Strategic Issues Management, Communications, and External Training.


Enlargeceehl phillips
Ceehl Phillips (BSE CE ’95, MBA Management Information Systems, U-M Dearborn ’05) is a commissioned officer in the Air Force and a manager of IT delivery at Toyota Financial Services. Previously, he worked for over 13 years as an IT manager at Ford Motor Company, and director of network operations at the Air Force Reserve.


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Seun Phillips (BSE EE ’06) is the vice president of education and engagement at the Michigan Science Center (MiSci), where he advances their educational initiatives and programs.Prior to joining MiSci, Phillips founded and served as executive director of STEMNETICS in Grand Blanc, Michigan, where he was responsible for securing contracts, grant funding, and strategic partnerships for schools and non-profits. Before this, Phillips co-founded directed program development at Project SYNCERE in Chicago, where he assisted in the effort to graduate 100 percent of high school student participants.

Read about Seun’s appointment at MiSci.


Enlargeisaac porche

Isaac Porche (PhD EE:S 1998) is a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, where he leads research to help Homeland Security and the government adopt proper cyber security tactics.Porche began his career working at GM on the EV1’s shifting and ignition systems. He moved into modeling and simulation work in graduate school, which included counting cars in downtown Ann Arbor. And finally, ended up working for the government modeling how communication networks could help defense forces.

Read more about Porche’s role in cyber warfare.


Enlargeleon pryor

Leon Pryor (BSE EE ’97) is a Senior Technical Program Manager at Amazon. Prior to this position, he has many years of experience as a game developer, account manager, and program manager at SOAR Technology and Microsoft.As an account manager, Leon participated in the launch of the Xbox and Xbox 360 game consoles and managed the commercial release of many software titles including Mass EffectVanguard, and Asheron’s Call.  He has managed strategic and technical partnerships with companies such as Electronic Arts, Lucas film, Walt Disney, and Valve software.

Check out Leon’s web magazine, Digital Leon, where he writes about the culture of technology, digital entertainment, and photography.


Enlargeadrienne roberts

Adrienne Stiff-Roberts (MSE EE ’01, PhD Applied Physics ’04) is an Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Duke University. While studying at Michigan, she investigated high-temperature quantum dot infrared photodetectors. Prof. Stiff-Roberts’current research focuses on developing new synthetic organic-inorganic materials using a novel approach to organic-based thin film deposition that combines solution and vacuum-processing.She received the IEEE Early Career Award in Nanotechnology for “contributions to the development of nanoscale quantum dots for infrared detection” in 2009, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2008, an ONR Young Investigator Award in 2007, and an NSF CAREER AWARD. National Science Foundation in 2006.

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William David Tarver (BSE MSE EE ‘75 ‘76) studied network simulation at Bell Research Labs after graduation, and eventually went on to co-found Telecom Analysis Systems in 1983. The company became a successful international firm. He sold Telecom in 1995 for $30 million.David now leads the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative and serves as an undergraduate lecturer at the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship. In these capacities, he supports local student entrepreneurs in projects geared towards solving important urban problems.

Watch David’s talk at “Entrepreneruship Hour” and read a bio from the College of Engineering

Read more about David’s success


Enlargeerin teague

Erin Teague (BSE CE ’04) is responsible for the new user experience product development and management for Yahoo!’s products worldwide. Prior to Yahoo!, Erin worked as a Product Manager at Path and Twitter where she focused on user growth, product strategy, and analytics. Erin began her career at Morgan Stanley, where she designed algorithms embedded in electronic trading applications as a Software Engineer and Product Manager in the firm’s Algorithmic Trading Technology group. In 2014, she was named one of Business Insider’s “Silicon Valley 100.” She was also recognized as one of “19 Extraordinary Women in Silicon Valley Tech” and one of the “52 Hottest New Stars In Silicon Valley.” Erin is honored to serve on the board of several Silicon Valley startups as well as the Wells Fargo Advisory Board and Code 2040, a non-profit organization.Read a Q&A with Erin following her new position at Yahoo!.


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Khürt Williams (MSE EE:S ’94) is an information security consultant for the state of New Jersey’s administrative office of the courts. Previously, he worked as the Principal Consultant for Monkey Hill, LLC, an independent security consultancy working with governmental and industry organizations developing and maintaining the security of computer systems and applications. With his 20 years of Information Systems and Cyber Security experience, Khürt determines the most effective way to protect computers, networks, software, data and information systems against any possible attacks to government and civilian clientèle.




Iverson Bell is a doctoral student in electrical engineering working on launching small satellites and other space projects. His current work is on electrodynamic tethers, a concept that could send objects into space without any fuel propellant. The objects Iverson focuses on are a new class of smartphone-sized satellites, called picosatellites and femtosatellites. With this new technique, launching such devices could be done entirely with solar power.

Working with Prof. Brian Gilchrist, Iverson was able to develop an experimental facility to simulate key characteristics of the space environment. His work on the project won him $7500 at the 2014 Small Satellite Conference.

Read more about Iverson’s projects and his success in the Small Satellite Conference student competition.

Read about Iverson’s NSF Fellowship.


Enlargechristopher boyd

Christopher Boyd is a doctoral student in electrical engineering who specializes in chip design and control for MEMS intertial sensors. As part of Prof. Khalil Najafi’s research group, Chris develops, implements, and tests control systems for these sensors, which are used to detect acceleration, vibration, rotation, tilt, and other attributes related to motion sensing. His goal is to implement these control systems using integrated circuits.Chris’ group is researching how sensors can be used for navigation in GPS denied zones. However, Chris sees the potential for many other applications, including detecting if a patient has fallen, environmental sensing, tracking people, advancing the field of robotics, or even sensing the vibrations of an earthquake.

Read more about Chris and his projects.


Enlargeabdi zeynu

Abdi Zeynu is a graduate student in EE:Sys working on power and control problems that face developing countries. He studies with Prof. Heath Hofmann, and had the opportunity to travel to his home country of Ethiopia to aid in developing Control Systems and Power coursework at the Addis Ababa Institute of Technology. Together with Prof. Hoffman, he oversaw the purchase and installation of new lab equipment, including electric drives and controllers.

Abdi plans to continue his work with Ethiopia in some capacity for the foreseeable future.

Read about Abdi’s work with engineering students in Ethiopia.

herbert winful
prof leo mcafee
dr kevin carter
darryl conlife
mary crosby
charlotte decker
rhonda franklin
matthew forsythe
garlin gilchrist
lydia gillius
prof rashuanda henderson
dr angelique johnson
jason johnson
tychaun jones
jibreel lockhart
jibreel received awards
Willie Hobbs Moore
james norman
steven perkins
darlene phillips
ceehl phillips
seun phillips
isaac porche
leon pryor
adrienne roberts
william tarver
erin teague
khurt williams
christopher boyd
abdi zeynu
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