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UNM Engineering Hosts 2013 Annual Awards on Friday, May 3

May 6, 2013

The UNM School of Engineering hosted its Annual Awards on Friday, May 3 in the courtyard of the Centennial Engineering Center. The event consisted of a catered lunch and an awards ceremony celebrating outstanding students, staff and faculty.

Awards were given to 19 students, 5 faculty members, and 3 staff. Congratulations, 2013 Annual Awardees!

Civil Engineering Chair John Stormont shakes hands with Civil Engineering Outstanding Junior Erin Twitchell.

2013 Annual Awards

Engineering Student Services Director Steve Peralta presents the Outstanding Freshman award to Amanda Lokke.

2013 Annual Awards

The catered lunch was a big hit.

2013 Annual Awards

All students, staff and faculty of the UNM School of Engineering were invited to the event.

2013 Annual Awards

Music was provided by Spankey's Lights & Sound Co.

2013 Annual Awards - 2013 FSAE

The LOBOmotorsports team and Professor John Russell, who teaches the 3-semester FSAE program, unveil the 2013 formula race car.


2013 Award Recipients

Outstanding Student Awards

Engineering Student Services

2013 Annual Awards - Engineering Student Services

Freshman: Amanda Lokke
Sophomore: Tamas Gyalay
MEP Leadership Award: Nicole Baty


Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering 

2013 Annual Awards - Chemical and Nuclear Engineering

Junior: Melissa J. Hernandez
Senior: Daniel T. Birdsell
Graduate: Pearlson Prashanth Austin Suthanthiraraj

Melissa HernandezChNE Outstanding Junior: Melissa Hernandez
Melissa is pursuing the Bioengineering concentration in the Chemical Engineering program. She is already actively participating in research as an intern with Prof. Eva Chi, working on biochemical interactions that affect proteins and biological membranes.  Melissa also participated in a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) program at Rice University in 2012. 

She holds a UNM Presidential Scholarship and received a Citgo Scholarship in 2012.  Melissa plans to go into a doctoral program in chemical engineering or biomedical engineering. 


Danny BirdsellChNE Outstanding Senior: Danny Birdsell
Danny has worked several summers at LANL as a student intern and participated in a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) program at the University of Colorado last summer.  He is currently working on a departmental honors thesis with Professor Han on electrochemical deposition of metal oxide films onto graphene sheets to increase the capacitance of electrochemical capacitors. 

Danny will be entering a doctoral program in environmental engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder in Fall 2013. 


Pearlson SuthhanthirajjChNE Outstanding Graduate Student: Pearlson Austin Suthanthiraraj
Pearlson’s research is oriented toward development of high capacity flow cytometry systems based on acoustic focusing for use in applications such as detection of tumor cells.  He is co-inventor on a patent application that has been optioned for development into a startup company.  Pearlson was selected as one of five finalists (from several hundred) for the Outstanding Student at the 2012 conference of the International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry. 

He has also participated in CBME outreach activities and mentoring and high school and undergraduate students. 


Department of Civil Engineering

2013 Annual Awards - Civil Engineering

Junior: Erin Williamson Twitchell
Senior: Catherine L. Lucero
Graduate: Ivan A. Campos Varela

Erin TwitchellCE Outstanding Junior: Erin Twitchell 
Erin comes from Carlsbad, NM where she was born and raised.   She has a very diverse set of skills, including nun-chucks skills, bowhunting skills, and computer hacking skills, as well as more conventional interests of photography, cycling, and Lisa Frank stickers.She also likes school and is an excellent student.   

She's currently employed at UNIRAC and works on the Product Development team. 
She loves structures and hopes to become a structural engineer one day.



Catherine LuceroCE Outstanding Senior: Catherine Lucero 
Catherine has a legacy connection to the department – both of her parents are graduates of the UNM CE department.   She was raised in California, but followed her parents’ footsteps to our department where she has been an outstanding student.   

Beyond academics, she has also been a leader in our ASCE student group, serving as secretary.   She has been a member of the marching band and pep band. 

Catherine is heading to Purdue University for graduate school this fall, where she will study concrete materials. 


Ivan Campos VarelaCE Outstanding Graduate Student – Ivan Campos
Ivan came to UNM from Chihuahua, Mexico to study as a graduate student with Prof. Walter Gerstle.  Ivan has recently defended his Master’s thesis, entitled “Reconsidering Composite Action on Strength of Wood Roof Systems”.   He has produced a high quality journal paper based on his research and presented his work at local and regional professional meetings.   
Ivan has provided assistance to other students, including the CE undergraduate bridge building team.  

Ivan has recently taken a structural engineering job here in Albuquerque. After gaining practical experience as a structural designer for a few years, he plans to come back to the university to pursue a PhD.




Department of Computer Science 

2013 Annual Awards - Computer Science

Junior:Natalie Krista Swanteson-Franz
 Joseph Collard
Graduate: Jeffrey A. Knockel

Natalie Swantensen-FranzCS Outstanding Junior Award – Natalie Swantensen-Franz
Natalie Swanteson-Franz is majoring in computer science with a minor in art studio. She enjoys learning new programming languages and techniques, particularly anything related to genetic algorithms. She also loves photography, which she is focusing on in her art studio minor.

She currently works at Sandia National Laboratories as an intern.

In her free time, Natalie enjoys camping, hiking, kayaking, biking, and just about any other outdoor activity.


Joseph CollardCS Outstanding Senior Award – Joseph Collard 
Joseph has enjoyed his time as a TA for the intermediate programming course and a as a tutor for the CS program. He is an intern at Sandia National Laboratories, researching Neural and Social Networks, Game Theory, and Population Models. 

Joseph has been accepted to the doctoral program at the University of Amherst in Massachusetts where he intends to focus his research on Human-Centered Computing. In particular, he wants to develop Intelligent Tutoring Systems for young children.


Jeff KnockelCS Outstanding Graduate Award – Jeffrey Knockel 
Jeff’s research focuses on how to measure Internet censorship and how to circumvent it. He has published work on measuring keyword censorship on Chinese chat clients such as TOM-Skype, and that got him a lot of publicity in the popular press.

He is working with Prof. Jed Crandall on achieving better measurements of where, in the Internet, the Great Firewall of China is geographically located.  He also works with Prof. Jared Saia on designing robust, efficient censorship-resistant networks useful for censorship evasion.


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering 

2013 Annual Awards - Electrical & Computer Engineering

Junior: Alexandria Haddad
Senior: Reymundo J. Rael
Graduate: Mahshid Rahnamay-Naeini

Alexandria HaddadECE Outstanding Junior, Computer Engineering Alexandria Haddad 
After raising four children as a single mother, Alexandria decided to pursue her passion in engineering. With 15 successful years of experience as a software instructor and technical writer, Alex was well prepared and determined to jump into the ECE department. She became a teaching assistant for the Computer Logic Design course and assisted her peers with specific VHDL applications and computer organization.

Alex has become an asset to not only her peers, but the entire department with community outreach programs and curriculum transformations.


Reymundo RaelECE Outstanding Senior, Computer Engineering Reymundo Rael 
Reymundo came to ECE after 12 years of experience in the engineering industry with an associate’s degree in computer aided drafting. He knew that if he wanted to excel within the company he was working for, he would need a bachelor’s degree.

This Spring, he will be the first person in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree and he credits much of that to the support from his wife, Jillian and daughter, Addison.

He recently completed his term as the IEEE student chair for 2012-2013 school years and will be recognized as the IEEE Albuquerque Section “Student of the Year”.


Mashid Rahnamay-NaeiniECE Outstanding Graduate Student –  Mashid Rahnamay-Naeini
Overall, Mahshid is an exceptionally gifted and extremely hard-working graduate student. Her work has been published in some top-tier conferences, including the 2011 IEEE International Conference on Computer Communication Networks (acceptance rate under 25%) as well as the 2012 Proceedings of the IEEE Power and Energy Society General Meeting.

Mashid is is a true team player, and has taken the lead in organizing and conducting weekly research group meetings and training new students. She served as the Section President for the Society of Women Engineers at UNM and as an outreach volunteer for the Girl Scouts and some local schools.


Department of Mechanical Engineering 

2013 Annual Awards - Mechanical Engineering

Junior: Helene N. Beauchamp
Senior: Kirby A. Witte
Graduate: C. Birk Jones

Helene BeauchampME Outstanding Junior, Computer Engineering Helene Beauchamp 
After graduating from La Cueva High School, Helene went to the University of Michigan and then transferred to the University of Geneva in Switzerland.  She earned a BS in Biology and an MS in Environmental Science.  Her MS thesis analyzed the use of the Rhone River as a heat sink for air conditioning systems, and that got her interested in Environmental Engineering. 

Here at UNM, she is instrumental in leading the mechanical systems work with the solar decathlon.


Kirby WitteME Outstanding Senior - Kirby Ann Witte
Kirby Ann grew up in Carlsbad and came to UNM as a National Merit Scholar. Initially she majored in business, then changed to mechanical engineering and also enrolled in film classes.

She is the project manager for the Formula SAE Race Car project.  Kirby Ann has produced two films and directed an award winning short.

After leading the FSAE program to victory in Lincoln Nebraska in June, Kirby Ann will begin her graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University in the fall.


Birk JonesME Outstanding Grad Student - Birk Jones
Birk grew up in Santa Fe and received his BS in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Davis. After working as a structural engineer in Boston, he spent some time doing undercover research on the life of a ski bum in Colorado, moved to Spain to learn Spanish, and then returned to New Mexico.

Birk earned his MS at UNM in Construction Engineering, and went to work for Yearout Mechanical, where he became interested in building energy retrofit projects. 

He is now pursuing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, leading the Building Energy Retrofit Testbed project in the Mechanical Engineering Building.


QForma Computational Thesis Award: Mark Olah, Ph.D., 2012, Computer Science

2013 Annual Awards - QFormaDr. Roger Jones, Qforma Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer,QForma presented the QForma “Most Outstanding Computational Thesis” to Mark Olah for his dissertation titled, “Multivalent Random Walkers: A computational model of superdiffusive transport at the nanoscale.”

Mark's dissertation presents a “stochastic model and numerical simulation framework for a synthetic nanoscale walker that can be used to transport materials and information at superdiffusive rates in artificial molecular systems.” His innovative model shows that multivalent random walkers are a new type of molecular motor, useful for directional transport in nanoscale systems.

Jones explains, “This is like having little factories and computers the size of molecules. How cool is that?!”


Faculty Awards


Junior Faculty Teaching Excellence 
Melanie Moses, Computer Science

Junior Faculty Research Excellence 
Ganesh Balakrishnan, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Senior Faculty Teaching Excellence 
Tariq Khraishi, Mechanical Engineering

Senior Faculty Research Excellence 
Andrea Mammoli, Mechanical Engineering

Harrison Faculty Recognition 
Susan Bogus Halter, Civil Engineering

Staff Awards

2013 Annual Awards - Staff

Outstanding Staff Award
Elsa Maria Castillo, Engineering Student Services

Outstanding Staff Award
Christina Garcia, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Outstanding Staff Award
Travis Woods, Center for Biomedical Engineering

Award Criteria

Outstanding students are selected based on a variety of criteria such as GPA, research, and service to the School, depending on the department.

The $5,000 QForma Computational Thesis or Dissertation Award is given to the best computational MS thesis or Ph.D. dissertation each academic year. QForma funds this award and is a Santa Fe-based provider of advanced analytics and predictive modeling technologies for the health sciences industry. 

Outstanding faculty are nominated by their Departmental Chair and are selected by the previous year's winners.

Staff awardees are nominated by faculty and staff from the school and are selected by the previous year's winners. The criteria include but are not limited to attitude, performance, contribution, and initiative.