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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Wyoming resident excels at ocean engineering at URI
Graduates in May at the top of her class

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 2, 2002 -- When Wilson, Wy. resident Lanie Williams set off for the University of Rhode Island, she had only seen the Atlantic Ocean once before. Yet when she graduates in May, she’ll be the top student in the URI ocean engineering program.

"Even though I’m from a land-locked state, my dad was a marine engineer on container ships and my mom was originally from Rhode Island, so I always knew about the ocean," Williams explained. "And I always had the desire to come to the East Coast to school."

Williams said she knew she wanted to study engineering, a subject that seemed to come naturally to her, and she chose ocean engineering in part because "it’s a small department and has a lot to offer. I figured I could get more hands-on experience in smaller classes."

The hands-on lessons she received sparked an interest in underwater acoustics, which led her to work with a local company on her senior project to develop software to automatically recognize whale calls. She describes it as "a mathematical model of sound."

"The Navy does a lot of underwater testing, and some people believe the testing is harming whales and other animals. With my model you can see where the whales are and track them to see if they alter their behavior while the testing is going on."

URI ocean engineering Professor James Miller said, "Lanie’s algorithm was presented in a paper to an important conference and was extremely well received. This algorithm became a key component of a large proposal to the federal government to study the effects of manmade sound on marine mammals."

In addition to engineering, Williams also majored in German as part of URI’s International Engineering Program. She spent her junior year living in Germany, studying for one semester at Technische Universitat Braunschweig, the oldest technical university in Germany, and working for six months at an automotive products company ZF Friedrichshafen, where she conducted acoustical testing on automobile transmissions.

"Going to Germany was definitely one of my greatest experiences," Williams said. "It was my ticket to travel all over Europe for a year."

Her studies in Rhode Island weren’t all work and no play, however. Williams competed on the URI ski team for three years, making weekly trips to Vermont and New Hampshire to compete in slalom and giant slalom races against a dozen other universities in the region.

Immediately following graduation, Williams will start work as an ocean engineer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, where she’ll work in its torpedo division on guidance systems and other signal processing projects.

It’s a long way from her family’s home in Wyoming, but it’s much easier for Williams to move to the ocean than to move the ocean to Wyoming.

For Information: Todd McLeish 401-874-7892

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