OSU’s Open Source Lab is becoming a focal point for Open Source software development at the university and beyond.

Open source development is growing in popularity
Open source development is growing in popularity

With his enthusiasm about the potential of open source software, Scott Kveton relishes the challenge of helping OSU become a critical worldwide center for open source development.

Kveton, program director for OSU’s Open Source Lab, says the university got into open source because it was a great way to solve computing problems inexpensively.

“Open source software is free and open, so we are able to use and modify whatever is out there,” he says. “Because we are a large university with a lot of specialized needs, open source meets our needs in many cases better than shrink-wrap software.”

The basic idea behind open source is that any programmer can freely read, redistribute, modify, and improve the source code for a piece of software, making it evolve much more rapidly than conventional software.

“Open source fits in well with the university mentality of open research,” Kveton says. “We say, ‘Here are our results, take a look at them, test them, and make them better if you want.'”

Some of the better-known open source projects are the Linux operating system and the Mozilla web browser, and OSU has become an open source player by hosting some of the major projects.

Over half of OSU’s infrastructure is operating on open source tools, Kveton says, and open source is being used in a number of areas, including e-mail, web servers, and domain name space management.

One of the biggest areas of growth for open source software use may well be on the computer desktop. “Open source solutions can provide a fantastic alternative to Windows, something that is more secure and more resistant to viruses and can be tweaked to meet our needs,” he says.

OSU Open Source Lab

Open source initiative website

Graduate student Jeff Bender won a prestigious Intel Foundation Ph.D. fellowship for his involvement in OSU’s groundbreaking transparent electronics research.
Electrical Engineering has developed the world's first see-through transistor
Electrical Engineering has developed the world's first see-through transistor

When OSU scientists developed the world’s first see-through transistor earlier this year, it was another step toward the next generation of electronics components.

“This is a significant new advance in basic electronics and materials science,” says John Wager, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at OSU. “There’s no doubt it will open the door to some interesting new products and businesses, but we’re not sure what all they might be.

“It’s a little bit like lasers when they were first developed in the 1960s,” Wager says. “People at first thought they were an interesting novelty, but no one was quite sure what they could be used for. Later on, lasers became the foundation of dozens of products and multi-billion dollar industries. Right now, we’re just beginning to think about what you could do with a transistor you can see through.”

OSU’s efforts in this area have been interdisciplinary, featuring researchers in chemistry, physics, and chemical engineering, as well as Wager’s department.

The research has been reported in the journals “Science” and “Applied Physics Letters” and even earned Wager an invitation to appear on the National Public Radio show “Science Friday.”

Jeff Bender, who co-authored the article in “Science,” says OSU’s approach to engineering education allowed him to be so deeply involved in the project.

“A new grad student here can be in the clean room doing research right from the get-go.” Bender says. In many other major universities, graduate students don’t get deeply involved for their first year and may not have much control over what they can do. “OSU is very different from that,” he says. “It’s a lot more hands-on and there is a lot more collaboration with industry on research projects.”

News release, first transparent transistor

Graduate student co-authors “Science” article

Wager appears on “Science Friday”

OSU Alum Don Pettit has gone a long way in his career. All the way to the International Space Station and back, in fact.

Pettit in his spacesuit
Pettit in his spacesuit

Donald Pettit has had a lifetime of adventures packed into the past six months. Initially a backup member of the Expedition 6 International Space Station crew, Pettit was chosen to go last November when another astronaut was medically disqualified.

Once at the station, Pettit did two space walks that he hadn’t anticipated. Then his stay was increased from four months to six months when the U.S. Shuttle fleet was grounded following the Columbia disaster Feb. 1. Finally, the trip was capped off by returning to Earth in a Russian Soyuz capsule that dropped steeply to Earth and missed its landing site by 290 miles.

For Pettit, who has been in the astronaut program since 1996, the experience was the culmination of a lifelong goal. “I have wanted to fly in space ever since I was a kid,” he said. “I remember John Glenn flying in space and wanted to be like him.”

Pettit, a 1978 OSU chemical engineering graduate, remembered his alma mater during the trip, engaging in a high-tech conversation from space with two of his professors, Octave Levenspiel and Goran Jovanovic, and a group of engineering students.

Pettit told the group that a typical workday for the space station crew started at 7:30 a.m. and ended about 12 hours later. Except, he said, when a shuttle is docked at the station. Then, he said, the astronauts work around the clock. “It’s kind of like what you do down there during finals week,” he told the students.

Don Pettit’s space chronicles

News articles about Pettit’s space journey