The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Engineering Students Score a Host of Honors

Talented and accomplished students from all four departments at the College of Engineering have won numerous awards, scholarships, fellowships, and other distinctions this semester on the national, regional, and campus level. They range from the prestigious National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, competing against the best undergraduates in the nation, to a host of awards presented by the chancellor. Chemical engineering undergraduates Kathryn Geldart and Sarena Horava have both received one of the country’s most highly sought-after fellowships, the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, worth more than $40,000 annually for three years.

The NSF fellowship is based on each candidate’s overall undergraduate record, including academics, research experience, internships, awards, publications, college activities, and a research proposal based on the kind of work that might be conducted in graduate school. Geldart will use her NSF fellowship at either the University of Minnesota or the University of Wisconsin, while Horava will be attending the University of Texas Austin.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department placed two teams of student innovators in the final field of 24 from across the nation that competed in the Cornell Cup competition on May 4 and 5 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. One ECE team of Adib Khozouee, Christopher Brennan, Edmar Gonçalves, and Ejiroghene Urhiafe designed and built an “Automated Aero-Painting System,” a model “quadrocopter” (helicopter with four propellers) that can spray-paint. The other team of To Chong, Ryan Offir, James Kestyn, and Matt Ferrante created an “Augmented Reality Head-Up Display,” a wearable augmented-reality system, displayed on the lenses of goggles and capable of creating an immersive 3-D environment. Cornell Cup USA, presented by Intel, is a college-level competition created so student teams can design and invent the newest innovative applications of embedded technology.

Two engineering students were among the 13 graduating UMass seniors named 21st Century Leaders, honored for far-ranging achievement, initiative, and social awareness. One was Andrew Erwin, a mechanical engineering major, runner, and resident assistant who, as a first-year student, was part of a team that modified a Faraday flashlight so that it could charge a battery on a user's shoe to recharge an electronic device with energy generated by walking. Erwin was also presented with a Senior Leadership Award by the UMass Alumni Association, recognizing graduating seniors at UMass Amherst who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the university community in areas such as athletics, academic excellence, student organizations, campus jobs, or volunteerism.  In addition, Erwin was one of a select number of undergrads throughout the Commonwealth to present his research at the 18th Annual Undergraduate Research Conference held on April 27th at the Campus Center. 

Our second 21st Century Leader was Jose Enrique Torres-Cooban, who majored in civil and environmental engineering and minored in geology after receiving a bachelor's degree in music from New York University and completing the first year of a master's degree program at the New England Conservatory of Music. He was also deeply involved in Engineers Without Borders.

Four highly accomplished engineering students received William F. Field Alumni Scholarships, established in 1976 by the UMass Amherst Alumni Association to recognize and honor third-year students for their academic achievements at UMass Amherst. They were chemical engineering major Aidan Gilchrist, electrical engineering major Dustin Lagoy, civil engineering major Timothy Light, and mechanical engineering major Natalie Zucker.

In addition, engineering students were selected as three of the six graduating UMass seniors recognized for their leadership and executive ability as Jack Welch Scholars. One was Kevin Cunningham, a chemical engineering major who has conducted materials engineering research at UMass Amherst, MIT, and Harvard and who, as a brother in Pi Kappa Phi, helped build wheelchair ramps throughout the Amherst area. Another Welch Scholar was Rebecca F. Guihan, a civil and environmental engineering major whose independent research honors thesis evaluated the quality of the Climate Forecast System model and its usefulness in systems operational planning, and who, elected to the board of the Society of Women Engineers, created a mentoring program for first-year and transfer women students. The third was Nicholas Jacek, a computer systems engineering major, whose senior thesis on vehicular networks and collision-warning systems helped to develop an adaptive algorithm for driver-reaction time.

Jenn Badylak-Reals, a junior industrial engineering major and the vice president of the campus Society of Women Engineers, was awarded a scholarship from the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IEE) entitled the Marvin Mundel Memorial Scholarship. IIE’s scholarship program is in place to recognize undergraduate industrial engineering students for academic excellence and campus leadership. She was competing against many other candidates across the northern hemisphere.

Two teams that included engineering students picked up honors and prize money at the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge. Sweet Seat, a team from the MIE department pitching a premium bicycle seat that delivers comfort through design, took home an $8,000 prize. Sweet Seat’s brain trust includes John Woodward, an undergraduate mechanical engineering student.

Not to be outdone, Sneakers for Success, a non-profit organization which uses the so-called “sneaker culture” of urban lifestyle to motivate under-privileged youth toward academic success, won three prizes totaling $8,250 at the Innovation Challenge. Those awards included the Audience Choice Prize, chosen via a poll of the spectators, and the first annual David Wolf Prize of $5,000, sponsored by the intellectual property law firm of Wolf, Greenfield & Sacks, P.C. The mastermind behind Sneakers for Success is Samuel del Pilar, an undergraduate mechanical engineering major.

Chemical engineering major Alexandria Ahlstedt earned one of 10 Scanlon Student Employee of the Year Awards, meant to recognize and honor UMass students who have demonstrated exceptional performance by contributing their time and/or skills to help the university achieve its goals and objectives.

Civil engineering undergraduate Alex Lovejoy will receive the HNTB/SAME Endowed Scholarship of $1,324 plus a $1,676 scholarship from the Society of American Military Engineers Boston Post, while civil engineering undergraduate Michael MacInnis will receive the Don Martin Memorial Endowed Scholarship of $1,246 , plus a $1,754 scholarship from the Society of American Military Engineers Boston Post.

Chemical engineering major Brittany Forkus, also of the Commonwealth Honors College, won a $500 scholarship from the William H. Ross Memorial Fund.

Graduate student Alan Levin of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department won the best poster presentation at the 2012 New England Numerical Analysis Day ( The title of his poster (co-authored with his advisor Eric Polizzi) was "Reformulation of the muffin-tin problem in electronic structure calculations within the FEAST framework."

Radhameris Gomez, a doctoral transportation engineering student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, was named Outstanding Student of the Year by the New England University Transportation Center. The award honors the center’s most outstanding student for his or her achievements and promise for future contributions to the transportation field. Ms. Gomez had previously received an Eno Transportation Foundation Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Science Foundation Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, a Thomas E. Desjardins Memorial Scholarship from the New England Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and a Best Research Presentation Award from the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, among other honors. (May 2012)

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