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David IcoveUT students will soon be able to take part in a first-of-its-kind offering thanks to a new partnership between the College of Engineering and Underwriters Laboratories, known to many for their familiar “UL” mark on a variety of products.

A “professor of practice” position, the first so named at UT, is being established with the goal of offering a course in fire engineering forensics that could change the way many things, from appliances to residences, are built.

The UL Professor of Practice has been made possible with $250,000 in support from the company and will be led by research professor and registered Professional Engineer David Icove through the College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Icove, who has been certified as a fire and explosion investigator by the National Association of Fire Investigators, hopes to help turn years of data into research that can then be applied in new standards, textbooks, and understanding of fires and how to fight them.

The graduate-level certificate course will help students explore new ideas related to fire prevention and safety—especially as related to electrical use—and is set to run for five years, at which point it can be extended for another five. The course will be made available to students as well as industry professionals.

“This presents a great chance for us to partner with one of the world’s leading authorities in safety testing and establish ourselves at the forefront of fire engineering forensics,” said College of Engineering Dean Wayne Davis. “Having UL take part in this and invest in us is a strong testament to our reputation, and is a great example of the kind of forward thinking we embrace.”

The company was founded in 1894 at a time when there was a growing need to assess new innovations coming on the market for safety, including the then-emerging field of electricity.

Now, 120 years later, their mission remains “Working for a safer world,” and that’s just what they hope to accomplish with their support of the program at UT.

Underwriters Laboratories“We’re a company that works on problems in need of a solution, and UT is a place with experts seeking out problems,” said UL Vice President of Research Tom Chapin. “The engineering, technology, and science based there are a great foundation to allow us to advance further in our field. We’re thrilled to establish this partnership.”

“Dr. Icove is a really remarkable individual, and he’s very highly thought of at UL,” said Chapin. “His past work and expertise, as well as his dedication to public safety, make us delighted that he’s leading this effort.”

“What this will allow us to do is get instant feedback on what we are doing from both UL and from the Fire Advisory Council,” said Icove. “We can then take that feedback and put it to practical use on everything from better smoke detectors to fire modeling.”

The partnership will allow UT engineering students to demonstrate their abilities and expertise to UL along the way, paving the road for future employment.

“Certainly, as much as we in the College of Engineering benefit by having our name associated with theirs, they also get the benefit to see what we’re all about, to see our students in a real-world environment,” said Icove. “And for us, having the chance to partner with someone who is a leading presence in places like China and India is attractive to the students we hope to encourage to attend from there, as well as a possible inroad to employment in those countries after they finish the course.”

The pace of the program will be tailored to fit the needs of professionals who work full time.

“We’ve got the course load for each class boiled down to one week per ‘semester’ of class,” said Icove. “What that means is that students can take an entire semester’s worth of classes over one week, like on spring break, while businesses and agencies that want to get their people certified can do so in a matter of weeks.”

Icove explained that the hope was that the four courses—Introduction to Fire Protection Engineering, Enclosure Fire Dynamics, Forensic Engineering, and High Performance Computer Modeling and Visualization—could eventually be taken two at a time, meaning any potential student or professional could be certified within two weeks of starting the course.

The course material offered is relevant to students and professionals across a broad spectrum, from architects to local fire departments, and has a goal of starting in the fall 2014 semester.

“Certainly electrical, mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering majors would be interested,” said Icove. “But it also applies to architects, to design, to math majors interested in computer models. It really crosses a lot of boundaries.”

For more on the College of Engineering, click here.

For more on UL, click here.


David Goddard (865-974-0683,