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Outstanding students, professor recognized at 2014 Ring Ceremony

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San Diego, Calif. July 3, 2014 -- More than 340 of this year’s 700 graduating seniors attended this year’s Ring Ceremony at the Jacobs School of Engineering. They heard from Qualcomm CEO Steven Mollenkopf, who served as the keynote speaker, as well as from student speakers Pooja Makhijani, former president of the Triton Engineering Student Council and bioengineering major, and Neha Shekhar, also a bioengineering major. Kevin Yin, TESC’s vice president of finance, served as master of ceremonies.

“You are engineers; you hold the power to do great things,” Yin said. “Let the ring that you receive today be a reminder of that. This ring is not only a symbol of your responsibility as an engineer, but your permanent connection to the Jacobs School. You have gained more than an education here; you have gained a family that you will continue to be part of as UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Alumni.”

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Justin Opatkiewicz, a teaching professor in the Department of NanoEngineering received the Professor of the Year Award. 
 

Both faculty and students received awards during the event, which is in its eighth year.

Justin Opatkiewicz, a teaching professor in the Department of NanoEngineering received the Professor of the Year Award. It’s been a good year for Opatkiewicz, who has won the Teacher of the Year award for the Department of NanoEngineering and was voted both teacher of the year for seniors at Sixth College and one of the teachers of the year for the graduating seniors in the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. Here’s what one of his students said of him: “He woke me up to really understanding engineering and fully being compelled by it. Through his patience and caring for students, he has helped me become a better engineer.”

Meanwhile, seven students received awards for their service to the Jacobs School during the ceremony. More about them below, as well as some fantastic pictures of the ceremony. You can see a complete set on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1pRm8v7

Undergraduate Student Leadership Award: Pooja Makhijani

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Pooja Makhijani, former TESC president, received the undergraduate student leadership award. She is shaking hands with Dean Al Pisano.

Makhijani has shown superior commitment to her academics as well as student life here at the Jacobs School. She is a Jacobs School Scholar and has maintained an outstanding GPA of 3.98 while attaining her degree in bioengineering (Biotechnology). She also has been a leader within the engineering community by serving as president of the Triton Engineering Student Council for the past two years, implementing programs and services for the entire engineering student body. Makhijani was also an officer in Engineering World Health where she developed medical devices for areas with limited resources. She has been working Professor Robert Sah's Cartilage Tissue Engineering Lab for four years.  She also participated in the Pacific Rim Experience for Undergraduates program where she continued this research in Japan. Makhijani is a Gordon Scholar in the Bernard and Sophia Gordon Engineering Leadership Center. After graduating Suma cum laude, she will be attending medical school at Stanford University.  

Awards for Excellence in Leadership and Service

·         Department of Bioengineering: Neil Gandhi

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Neil Gandhi sits with fellow award winners before the ceremony began.

Gandhi has maintained a 3.99 GPA as a bioengineering major and served as co-president of the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering, where he worked to expand the Mentor-Mentee program that connects industry mentors with students. He also participated in the annual San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering and has worked with elementary and high school students at various outreach activities. He organized workshops, info sessions and company tours to help build students’ understanding of career options. He is a Gordon Scholar and a prestigious Gordon Fellow in the Bernard and Sophia Gordon Engineering Leadership Center.  After graduation, Gandhi plans to attend medical school.

·         Department of Computer Science and Engineering: Kirsten Koa

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Kirsten Koa is about the receive an award of excellence from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Kevin Yin, the master of ceremony, stands behind her with the award.

Koa has maintained a 3.78 GPA as a computer science major and is a great advocate for in Women In Computing (WIC). She participated in the Grace Hopper Conference and was a mentor for freshman students. She also served as a tutor in the CSE Department and is a champion athlete as a member of the UCSD Lacrosse team. Upon graduation, Koa will be working full-time at Google

·         Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: Roger Huang

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Roger Huang, who received an excellence award from the ECE Department, shakes hands with Dean Pisano.

Huang maintained a 3.52 GPA as an electrical engineering major and held various leadership positions in Eta Kappa Nu and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, including chapter president for IEEE-HKN as well as the team lead for the IEEE Grand PrIEEE autonomous vehicle project. He is a Gordon Scholar in the Bernard and Sophia Gordon Engineering Leadership Center and has given back to the community by hosting workshops, tutoring the IDEA Center’s Study Lab, as well mentoring other students in IEEE and IEEE-HKN.  Mentoring other students is a passion of his and he wants to continue mentoring future ECE students as an alumnus.  This summer, he will be interning at Cisco and will return to UC San Diego in the fall to earn his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

·         Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering: Tyler Stears

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Tyler Sears receives his award.

Stears has maintained a GPA of 3.91 as an environmental engineering major and served as the financial officer in the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi.  Last year, he was an Executive Officer in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship where he served in many community groups and outreach projects. Through this organization, he participated in discussions about the importance of each person's ethnic identity to the UC San Diego campus and engaged as an agent of racial reconciliation. He is excited to give back to future students and be a mentor as a professional. After graduation, he hopes to work as a consultant on renewable energy projects before starting graduate school.

·         Department of Nanoengineering: Allen Pei

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Allan Pei receives his award.

Pei is a Jacobs School Scholar, the most prestigious scholarship offered here at the Jacobs School and has maintained a GPA of 3.92 as a double major in nanoengineering and applied mathematics. He has held various leadership positions in the NanoEngineering and Technology Society for the past two years, including serving as president this year. He has worked in the lab of Nanoengineering Professor Joseph Wang for over three years, is the co-author of four publications in peer-reviewed journals and won the 2nd place prize in the Life & Physical Sciences category for UC San Diego’s Undergraduate Library Research Prize in 2013. He also worked at the Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in summer 2013 where he investigated the self-assembly of biological materials into nanoscale structures. After graduation, Pei will begin a Ph.D. program in materials science and engineering at Stanford University.

·         Department of Structural Engineering: Jackrin Vipatapat

Vipatapat has maintained a GPA of 3.53 as a structural engineering major. This year, he served as president of the Society of Civil and Structural Engineering (SCSE), acting with integrity, intelligence, and leading with the best interest of all structural engineering students at heart. He has the skills and natural ability, and desire, to be an excellent leader in all of his future endeavors, including as a UC San Diego alumni. As acting President of SCSE, Vipatapat has been a representative of all structural engineering students, frequently reporting to the department any concerns that students' have and following up to make sure the department addressed these concerns, as well as making suggestions of his own to improve student life in the department. He is currently seeking employment in the vertical construction industry.

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Jackrin Vipatapat reacts to receiving an excellence award from the Department of Structural Engineering.
 
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Remle Deinla, graduating senior, shakes hands with Dean Pisano.

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Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-822-0899
ipatrin@ucsd.edu

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