Meet the Faculty

Meet the Faculty


Dr. Thomas Alberts

pastedimageDr. Thomas E. Alberts is a full Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University and a frequent engineering consultant. His most recent teaching and research emphasis is focused on drones. He is also a drone hobbyist. Dr. Alberts has performed funded research and published in a number of applied research areas including magnetically levitated transportation systems, robotics, smart structures, active noise control, internal combustion engine control, sensor design, spacecraft control, flight control, and active and passive control of flexible structures.

Fred Briggs


Fred Briggs is a proven technology entrepreneur and is currently the CEO of Vektortek LLC which focuses on developing prototype technology. Working with the latest sensor technology and manufacturing techniques Fred has developed projects that range from wearables to drone solutions for the Navy. He was a lead on the Nova Labs RhinoHawk project which was an effort to develop low cost Drone technology to help stop Rhino Poaching in South Africa. Fred also serves on the Board of Directors for DC Drone Area User Group which promotes drone safety and using drone technology for social innovation.

Dr. Kevin Giovanetti


Dr. Kevin Giovanetti is a Professor of Physics at James Madison University.  Dr. Giovanetti has been running a successful research program in Particle and Nuclear physics for more than 30 years.  His interests in understanding the basic ingredients and significant parameters of the Standard Model, which is the current best theory of fundamental physics, have involved him in important experiments at national and international laboratories, presently Jefferson Lab and Fermi Lab.  His expertise in experimental instrumentation have prompted him in recent years to focus on electronics and robotics primarily through his teaching and outreach.  Dr. Giovanetti is committed to an educational environment that provides students with exceptional research opportunities, as well as interesting and relevant technical challenges. His JMU experimental team has always relied heavily on the contribution of undergraduate students.

Dr. Patrice Ludwig


Patrice Ludwig’s formal training is in conservation and population ecology from James Madison University and the University of Virginia, but she regularly ventures into concepts that are tangentially related, such as using artificial substrates to restore oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay. Patrice focuses much of her teaching in JMU’s Department of Biology on facilitating student development of critical and creative thinking by designing opportunities for students to work in teams both within and across disciplines. She is a self-described educational entrepreneur and “door-opener”. When she isn’t juggling projects, she is juggling three daughters and her husband.

Dr. Seán McCarthy


Seán is an assistant professor in the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication at James Madison University. His teaching and research are situated at the intersection of community engagement and digital literacy studies, and he is particularly interested in how writing and digital media production inform and transform transdisciplinary university-community partnerships in local, national, and international contexts. He has served as a faculty associate with JMU’s Center for Instructional Technology (now Innovation Services) and is currently a university Entrepreneurship Faculty Fellow. Seán co-designed and co-teaches an annual institute for faculty in digital humanities pedagogy at JMU and is involved in several university-wide initiatives that promote community and civic engagement.

Sang Nam


Prof. Sang Nam teaches technology-intensive courses in Computer Game Design at George Mason University. He holds a M.F.A. in Electronic Integrated Arts from NYSCC at Alfred University and a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Computing and the Arts and a B.S. in Molecular Biology from the University of California, San Diego. Nam’s work metaphorically explores how technologies are used in various art disciplines and how people perceive these art products in various dynamics. Nam has explored new possibilities when art and technology merge, and his work has been exhibited worldwide, including the US, UK, Korea, and Hungary. As a teacher-scholar, Nam was selected as 2010 National Teaching Scholar by Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning, 2010-2012 Elon Teaching Scholar by Elon University, and 2008 Wisconsin Teaching Fellow by the University of Wisconsin Systems, and he has actively pursued his research on the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning.

Bo Pollett Wernick


Bo Pollett Wernick is an aerospace engineer with 10 years experience in structures design, software development, and systems integration. He has worked with many prime suppliers to the US Military, including Northrup Grumman, Sikorsky, DARPA, and Aurora Flight Sciences. He currently runs the business Theta Composites, which supports new business in the process of going from prototype to manufacturing.


Dr. Christopher Vo


Christopher Vo is a robotics scientist. During his career, he developed significant technical experience in scalable, robust, and efficient algorithms for artificial intelligence and robot motion planning. He has developed many robots, ranging from humanoids and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), to more recently, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). He currently serves as co-founder and Chief Scientist for Sentien Robotics, a research and development firm focused on autonomous planning, command and control algorithms for ground and aerial robotic systems. He has also served as the Drones and Robotics Program Manager for The AES Corporation, a Fortune 200 global developer of energy projects; and has served for more than 12 years as the Director of Information Technology for the Altos Group, a healthcare staffing services provider. In the academic world, Christopher holds a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from George Mason University. Christopher has also co-founded and serves as the Vice President of the Drone User Group Network, and is President of one of its chapters, the DC Area Drone User Group. With over 16,000 members, the Drone User Group Network forms the largest educational nonprofit network of civilian drone users in the United States, focused on promoting positive uses of unmanned aircraft for the benefit of humanity.

Associate Faculty & Project Mentors

Audrey Barnes


Audrey Barnes is a designer, educator, maker and instigator. She is Assistant Professor and Area Head of Industrial Design (ID) at JMU. Audrey teaches students to tackle complex problems by seeking inspiration in unexpected places, collaborating with diverse partners and taking risks. As a practitioner, Audrey works with clients ranging from start-ups to multi-national corporations to innovate solutions at the intersection of business, culture and the environment. Audrey holds a Master of ID degree from Rhode Island School of Design and a Bachelor of ID degree from NC State. You can often find her covered in sawdust in the wood shop or playing drums with her band The Hook & Bullet.

Christine Donovan


Christine Donovan works as an Digital Project Specialist for Innovation Services at James Madison University. She helps faculty integrate a variety of technologies into their classrooms and loves introducing people to WordPress. Christine has a passion for higher education and loves being a part of innovative projects that impact the future of learning.

Dr. Kenneth R. Rutherford

234091-ken-rutherford-croppedKenneth R. Rutherford, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) and Professor of Political Science at James Madison University. In his capacity as Director he leads fundraising and strategic planning for CISR, which is recognized as a global leader in international efforts to combat the effects of landmines and explosive remnants of war, including rehabilitating post-conflict societies. He oversees a budget of nearly two million dollars funded almost entirely by contracts and grants and a full-time staff of thirteen, around ten student researchers and employing professors on specific overseas projects.

Nick Swayne

swayneNick Swayne, LTC (R), MPA, is the Executive Director of 4-Virginia, the 4-VA Campus Coordinator at JMU, and faculty in Learning Technology and Leadership Education at James Madison University. In his capacity as Director, he leads the coordination of the five partner institutions (GMU, JMU, UVA, ODU, VT) in meeting the mission to promote collaborations that leverage the strengths of each partner university and improve the efficiency and economic impact of higher education across the Commonwealth. He is particularly interested in developing cutting edge, applied courses that bring multiple disciplines and institutions together to solve real-world problems. He is a retired Army officer with 26 years of service, the founder of the JMU X-Labs, faculty advisor for the University Innovation Fellows, the Executive Director of Virginia-DC FIRST LEGO League, a doctoral candidate in the School of Strategic Leadership, and was recently elected to his third term on the Harrisonburg City School Board where he serves as Vice-Chair.

Asa Taylor


A retired Naval Officer with nearly 25 years of service, Asa is a commercially rated pilot in both fixed and rotary wing aircraft and recently obtained a new UAS pilot’s license as well.  He holds a BS in Aviation Human Factors from The Ohio State University, as well as, a MS in Aerospace Operations from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.

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