Published April 3, 2017
by Christian Miller
When Lavone Rodolph was laid off by the major defense contractor that had employed him for five years, he took it as a blessing. It was his chance to come back to UB to earn his PhD.
Today, Lavone invents innovative ways to speed data transfer in computer networks. The goal is to optimize network efficiency and hasten data traffic rates; the means is building multipath overlay virtual networks on existing physical networks and writing software that minimizes network traffic bottlenecks. He is advised by Tevfik Kosar.
His other passion is stepping out of the lab and into the community, personifying STEM achievement for Buffalo schoolchildren and post-secondary students.
In high school, Lavone himself was a beneficiary of UB's STEM community outreach programs. During sophomore year at Buffalo's Hutch Tech (Hutchinson Central Technical) high school, UB's Science and Technology Enrichment Program (STEP) and Buffalo Engineering Awareness for Minorities (BEAM) programs guided him into STEM, specifically computer engineering.
At UB, he joined the university-level version of STEP, the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). Junior year, he won the Computer Science and Engineering Mathematics (CSEMS) Scholarship; senior year, the Kaplan Scholarship.
After his years in industry, it was time to give back, to assume the leadership role that he'd been preparing for, maybe inadvertently, his entire life. Now on the other side of the desk, he teaches the CSTEP summer research methods seminar and BEAM tutorials on engineering fundamentals such as UNIX, HTML, and the mathematical engine Maple.
In 2012, he got involved with Joseph Gardella's Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), an NSF-funded collaborative that brings together the Buffalo Public Schools, UB, Buff State, and the Buffalo Science Museum to engage middle school and high school students in STEM. "Students need to be exposed to basic, preliminary concepts before high school. You've got to get them in the pipeline in middle school," Lavone said. "Make it fun, creative, exciting." One of the projects he leads is development of an Android app whose "bottom line is to give them exposure to programming."
He cites two favorite quotes that guide and inspire him: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13) and "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed." (Booker T. Washington)
As for the future, Lavone has had his fill of defense contractors, at which stable employment depends on uninterrupted streams of federal dollars. "I'd love to be a tenured university professor someday," to realize his dual mission of research and outreach.