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School of Engineering holds Spring 2014 Convocation

May 19, 2014 - By Kim Delker

Several hundred family and friends gathered at the Kiva Auditorium in the Albuquerque Convention Center on Saturday, May 17 to congratulate University of New Mexico School of Engineering graduates at the Spring 2014 Convocation.

Keynote speakers were Kathryn Naassan, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1987, and Michael Emerson, who received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1986.

Naassan is Vice President of Space and Defense Operations with ARES Corporation, a technology and engineering services firm in Albuquerque that conducts software design, risk analysis, project management, facility and equipment design, and system engineering for the defense, aerospace, chemical, and energy industries.

Previously, she has been a consultant with PLG Inc., Yankee Engineering Services, and Ogden Energy and Environment Services. She also was an engineer with Applied Technology Associates, Correa Enterprises Inc., Rockwell International, and New Mexico Engineering Research Institute. In addition to her degree from UNM, she holds an M.S. degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

Mike Emerson is Senior Vice President of Space and Defense Operations with ARES Corporation in Albuquerque. Mike established, with Kathy, the Albuquerque office for ARES in 1997 and oversees operations nationally, including those in Houston; Huntsville, Ohio; EmersonColorado, and Washington, D.C. From 2010 to 2012, he served as Vice President of Strategic Business Services at New Mexico Community Capital, a local venture capital firm focused on economic development.

He is the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Advisory Council at the UNM School of Engineering. He also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tamarind Institute. He served on the UNM Foundation Board of Trustees and the Anderson School of Management Foundation Board of Directors. In addition to his UNM degree, he holds an M.S. in nuclear engineering from the University of Washington.

Undergraduate student speaker was Alan David Kuntz, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and the graduate student speaker was Matthew N. Rush, who earned a Kuntzmaster’s degree in nanoscience and microsystems.

Kuntz earned his undergraduate degree in computer science, but to look at his accomplishments, one might think he is already a graduate student.

He has been very active in research, working with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Lydia Tapia on molecular aggregation simulation and analysis. This year, he was a finalist in the 2014 Computing Research Association Undergraduate Researcher Award competition. In 2013, he received an honorable mention in the competition.

Getting so much research experience was an unexpected benefit of his time at UNM. “I got a taste of research and paper writing, and I enjoyed it very much,” Kuntz said. “It’s definitely influenced my decision to go to graduate school.”

Kuntz will attend the University of North Carolina to pursue his Ph.D. in computer science in the fall, and this summer, he will begin research there in robotics. His career goal is to continue doing research at the university level.

Rush knew he wanted to be an engineer since middle school. Always excelling in math and science, he took an early interest in engineering, despite coming from a modest background. His father is a butcher, but his mother is an art teacher, which contributed to his love of the aesthetic side of engineering design.

He earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. He enjoyed mechanical engineering, but soon developed an interest in materials science and biology. His real engineering passion is in biomedical applications. He even considered going to medical school before deciding to pursue his graduate studies in biomedical engineering.

Rush researches tissue engineering — specifically heart valve tissue — with Assistant Professor of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Elizabeth Dirk at the Center for Biomedical Engineering.

"I love the idea of taking cells from tissues and having them repair themselves," he said.

Rush is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering, continuing his research on the effect of cell fate due to surface adhesion. This month, he will begin a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnology.