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More than 300 receive degrees during spring Convocation

May 11, 2015 - By Kim Delker

The University of New Mexico School of Engineering held its spring 2015 Convocation ceremony Saturday, May 9 for students receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees from the school.

The ceremony took place at WisePies Area (the Pit). A total of 338 students were eligible to graduate, which includes 302 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students for spring 2015, and 36 bachelor's, master's, and doctoral students for summer 2015.

The keynote speaker was Julie Coonrod, who received a master's degree in civil engineering in 1991. She is a professor of civil engineering and the dean of UNM’s Graduate School.

coonrodCoonrod has been on the civil engineering faculty since 1996 and is the first woman to hold the rank of professor in the department. She’s taught multiple undergraduate and graduate courses in hydrology and hydraulics. Her research has focused on issues relating to the Middle Rio Grande, including bosque evapotranspiration estimates, climate change impacts on stream flow, and the intersection of restoration and flood control goals. She directed the hydraulics lab for 15 years, building physical models of storm water structures for the local flood control authority, the Department of Transportation, and the Army Corps of Engineers.

Coonrod has served as principal investigator for over $4 million in research with support from 15 different sponsors at the national, state, and local levels. She has participated in contracts totaling over $10 million.

Since January 2013, Coonrod has been dean of graduate studies for UNM. The role gives her broad oversight for all graduate programs at UNM. While the role of dean takes her away from her research, she still teaches one graduate-level class: GIS in Water Resources, which typically has about 25 students, representing as many as 8 different graduate programs.

In addition to her UNM degree, she holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

martinezThe undergraduate speaker was Kimberly Martinez, who received her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering.

Martinez always was an excellent student, earning one of the highest GPAs in her Bernalillo High School. She has always persevered no matter what difficulties came her way. When times got tough, she worked full time while pursuing her high school diploma. After much consideration, she eventually chose to get her GED in 1990 and earned her associate's degree in paralegal studies. For over 10 years, she worked in that field, but moved on in 2004 to one become one of the highest-selling insurance agents in Albuquerque. However, she knew that her calling had still not been reached.

In 2010, she decided to return to her roots and pursue a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, a dream she had since high school. Although getting back into the swing of school was difficult at first, she persevered. Since 2013, she has been working as an intern at Sandia, and she has several options for a full-time career in the chemical engineering industry.

The graduate student speaker was Birk Jones, who received a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

Santa Fe native Jones started out as a civil engineer, earning a bachelor's degree in the subject from the University of California – Davis, then worked as a civil engineer for two years in Boston, then two years in Lake Tahoe.

But in the course of working in the field, he discovered an interest in making buildings energy-efficient and decided to pursue that field more directly. He earned his master’s degree in construction engineering from UNM, then switched into mechanical engineering for his Ph.D., where he was able to link up with local contractor Yearout Mechanical, which paid for his doctoral studies. He also worked with Yearout and Andrea Mammoli, a UNM mechanical engineering professor, on making the UNM Mechanical Engineering Building more energy-efficient.

He has started a postdoctoral researcher position at Sandia National Laboratories in the area of renewable energy and grid integration.