Virginia Tech Magazine
Virginia Tech

Alumna receives governor's award for service

by CHAD O'KANE M.A. '11

Helen He '04
Helen He '04
Helen He (M.S. natural resources '04) is undeniably committed to the Virginia Tech motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). Involved in community service for more than 16 years, He received the Maryland Governor's Volunteer Service Award in April 2010 for her tireless dedication to volunteer work with the Chinese community.

After completing an undergraduate program in civil engineering in China, He moved with her husband to the United States and spent the next 10 years raising two sons. She also began to devote herself to volunteer work, supporting and promoting a variety of projects and events, including Community Service Day and Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, as well as clothing and food drives for low-income families.

During her time as a Virginia Tech student, He began to expand her service repertoire beyond the Asian-American community. "As I went through the program at Virginia Tech, I began to realize that service is so important, not just to one country or one community of people, but to the entire world," she said. "For teaching me that lesson, I love Virginia Tech—and I love giving back to the community."

He brings that same spirit and enthusiasm to her current position as a program specialist with the College of Natural Resources and Environment at the Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church, Va., where she has helped to expand the relatively young graduate program.

In addition to her role with Tech, He remains committed to community service as president of the Coordinating Council of Chinese-American Associations in Washington, D.C. She was an advocate for the 2010 Census, connecting census staff with Chinese communities to encourage stronger participation. From 2003-07, she served on the board of directors for the International Fund for China's Environment. In short, He has left a trail of service, from China to Tech to D.C.

Chad O'Kane (M.A. communication '11) is a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech Magazine.

50 years of space exploration

Edward M. "Mack" Henderson '65
Edward M. "Mack" Henderson '65
Looking at Edward M. "Mack" Henderson's long and distinguished career in space exploration, it's natural to wonder if there's any aspect of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) history in which he hasn't played a role. Henderson (aerospace engineering '65), who recently received the U.S. government's 50-year service award, was involved in some of the earliest NASA projects.

Originally from Salem, Va., Henderson received a naval scholarship but was unhappy with the lack of aeronautical engineering courses at the school he chose to attend. He reached out to his uncle, a math professor at Virginia Tech, who recommended the university's co-op program in aerospace engineering. Henderson eagerly joined.

Henderson's first co-op position with the space program was in Alabama, where he worked on rocket-guided missiles for the U.S. Army. Following graduation, he joined the newly developed Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston and, during his tenure there, worked in a variety of capacities for the Gemini, Apollo, and space shuttle programs.

Henderson credits much of his personal success to the cooperative education he received at Virginia Tech. "I can't say enough about the preparation I received at Virginia Tech," he said. He also pointed out that Tech graduates have been instrumental in the growth of the world's No. 1 space program. The "Hokie Nation is very well represented," he said. [Go HERE for a summer 2003 Virginia Tech Magazine story on NASA's Hokies.]

Recently, Henderson helped set up the transition team charged with safely retiring the space shuttle. While he believes the commercialization of spaceflight has great potential, he is sad to see the shuttle program end. He said he fears that a gap in viable U.S. spaceflight that could have dire consequences for the nation's educational system.

"The space program inspires young people to get interested in technology," Henderson said, "and inspires them to go to universities such as Virginia Tech that are committed to harnessing that enthusiasm and educating the best and the brightest minds to lead us into the future."

Chad O'Kane (M.A. communication '11) is a graduate assistant with Virginia Tech Magazine.

Alumnus changes the way we "Google"


Manas Tungare '09
Manas Tungare '09
The Internet just became a little more instantaneous. To bring users the live results of Google Instant, Manas Tungare (Ph.D. computer science '09) worked for more than a year developing prototypes and performing experiments. Not only was he a member of the Search User Interfaces team, but he was also the first engineer on the Google Instant project.

The Google Blog describes Google Instant as a search that "takes what you have typed already, predicts the most likely completion, and streams results in real time for those predictions."

"Being able to take an idea and build a prototype is one of the key skills that the real world finds valuable, and my experience at Virginia Tech directly helped me with that goal," Tungare said.

He explained that working with his advisor, computer science Associate Professor Manuel Pérez-Quiñones, helped reinforce his decision to work in industry because of the combination of real-world scenarios and research angles.

Tungare interned at Google for several years while at Tech before joining the company professionally. He praised his coworkers' creativity and the sense of teamwork. "It's fun getting up in the morning and looking forward to cooking up new user-interface ideas," he said.

His personal website,, represents the creativity he brings to his field. It showcases a variety of software projects he has developed on the side—from a handy script that allows users to add discussion forums on their websites to a program that indicates if a phone number spells a recognizable word.

The before-you-type search completion may seem like the fastest a search can be, but Tungare and his team are still developing new ideas after Instant's Sept. 8, 2010, launch. Although he cannot discuss what they are working on, he notes that the team regularly comes up with new ideas to benefit users. "I look forward to being part of the next big thing," he said.

Hillary May (English '12) is an intern with Virginia Tech Magazine.


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Winter 2010-11